Congress got whacked by voters who felt they were being ignored or abused. Now it might be Big Labor's turn to face the ire of its audience: dues-paying union members. "The trend is the same," says pollster Frank Luntz. "Union employees feel their representatives just don't represent them."
Luntz's group, The Word Doctors, has completed a new poll that finds union members angry with their labor bosses over several issues. Sixty percent say it's a "wasteful and unnecessary use" of union dues to support Democrats; 72 percent say union leaders must be held more accountable; big majorities disagreed with union leaders backing health reform, Wall Street's bailout, and stimulus spending; and 52 percent said the best days of unions in America are "behind us."
And after unions spent some $53 million on Democrats in the 2010 midterms, which failed to hold off a Republican wave that put the House in GOP hands, Luntz predicts there will be a labor backlash. "They'll ask, 'How did we waste so much of our money? How did we have so little influence?' "
Luntz, who has ties to the House Republican leadership, is even suggesting that Congress probe unions' political spending, on behalf of the angry membership. "Union leaders be warned," he tells Whispers. "You are next." His idea: Hold hearings and ask union leaders why they spent political contributions from union members on candidates the members don't support. "It would give Republicans a unique and unprecedented opportunity to break bread with the union rank and file" while punishing labor bosses, says Luntz.
Not so fast, says the AFL-CIO. "Wow, this is a complete load of dribble!" barks spokesman Eddie Vale, who says that union members aren't taxed to pay for political activities, but sign up to support the political action committee COPE. "Very small amounts of dues can be used as well, but any member can exempt all of their dues from any political activity simply by checking a box on a form," he adds.
And Vale dismisses suggestions that labor bosses aren't accountable. "At the local, state, and national level, all leadership is elected by a majority vote. On the issues, the AFL-CIO's election poll found support for Democrats and demands that Republicans compromise.
Still, the survey is worrisome for labor because it parallels the election results. Angry voters broke form and even tossed out their local lawmakers.