Obama Disapproval May Have Unions Sitting Out 2014

Obamacare, EPA, and Keystone drive split in Dem Coalition


The split between labor unions and the Obama administration may dampen the Labor Day celebrations of congressional Democrats, who are struggling to maintain their Senate majority.

Republicans are attempting to drive a wedge between union members and the Democratic Party by tying liberal candidates to President Obama’s unpopular stances on healthcare—Obamacare threatens to increase costs on union insurance plans; environmental issues—the administration has obstructed the Keystone Pipeline; and job creation—his EPA regulations threaten hundreds of thousands of coal-related jobs.

Union members make up an important piece of the liberal coalition, flooding Democrats with hundreds of millions of dollars in support, organization, and voter turn out efforts during election season. But unhappy union members and leaders may be sitting out this election cycle. The Washington Post reported in January that "a number of angry labor officials say their members are far less likely to campaign and turn out for Democratic candidates in the midterm elections. In March, the Hill reported that "Other union leaders plan to withhold resources from Democrats caught in competitive Senate races, saying they want hold their allies accountable for past actions."

The Washington Free Beacon highlighted the tensions between Democrats and union members heading into the midterm election in 2013. The discontent not only led to public breaks with the administration, but internal rebellion from prominent labor groups.

Health care reform and a flurry of Obama administration regulations have caused internal divisions within the labor movement and led one of the Democratic Party’s biggest supporters to publicly rebuke the president.

The implementation of Obamacare, which received major union support when it was passed in 2010, has soured relations between labor groups and the White House and splintered labor coalitions.

More than 40,000 workers with the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) left the AFL-CIO in August, blasting the union for being "in lockstep" with Obama on health care and immigration reform.

"We feel that the Federation has done a great disservice to the labor movement and all working people by going along to get along," ILWU President Robert McEllrath said in a letter announcing the split. "President Obama ran on a platform that he would not tax medical plans. … Yet the Federation later lobbied affiliates to support a bill [Obamacare] that taxed our health care plans."