If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. That seems to be the tactic taken by labor unions following last year’s watershed Citizens United ruling.
Unions have seized on the decision which changed the landscape for labor’s participation in elections in addition to opening the doors to unlimited corporate cash. One of the changes to the world of campaign finance ushered in by the decision is an end to prohibitions on unions from outreach to nonunion members. Now unions can use their internal organization to reach out to sympathetic nonunion households by door knocking, campaign calls and get out the vote efforts.
With these limitations lifted, unions are developing ambitious plans to influence nonunion households in the 2012 election and to counter corporate money flowing from outside conservative groups. Beyond those traditional get-out-the-vote efforts, they can also create their own Super PAC. This is a move Richard Trumpka, president of the A.F.L.-C.I.O. says will help make organized labor more independent of the Democratic Party and more able to fully back those candidates who are union supporters, including Republicans, provided they promote policy that aligns with the interest of working class Americans, including union members.
It’s good that the unions are finding a way to push policy that benefits the working class since so many Blue Dog Democrats have left those constituents behind. It is also good that there is some ability to push back against the Koch Brothers and other significant corporate influences.
But is this really the direction we want our campaigns to head? Toward unlimited spending, irrespective of interest? There is no denying the corrupting power of money on our elections, and it’s time to shut off the valve for good. In the meantime though, unions may provide the only hope working class Americans have in keeping any influence in the electoral process.
Photo from tracyo via flickr.