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More Thuggish Unions, Please

This is the kind of thing the Democrats need more of right now:

In what seems intended as a shot across the bow of House Dems wavering on health reform, top officials with the labor powerhouse SEIU have bluntly told a Democratic member that they will pull their support for him — and will likely field a challenger against him — if he votes No on the Senate bill.
Dem Rep Mike McMahon of New York met yesterday with a top SEIU official and told him he’s likely to vote No, the official tells me. The official: Mike Fishman, president of SEIU 32bj, the largest property workers union in the country, with 120,000 members in eight states.
Fishman told McMahon that the union would not support him if he voted No — and suggested the hunt for a primary or third-party challenger would follow.

From the liberal perspective, unions play a two-sided role in the political process. The downside is that they often have parochial concerns that can run counter to good public policy -- on education reform, the excise tax, and many others. The upside, which I think is generally larger, is that they provide a vital counterweight to the power of business and favor egalitarian policies even if they don't have an especially strong financial stake in them.

In the instance of health care reform, the uninsured are an almost totally unorganized bloc of voters who have almost no political clout. (Congress is far less attentive to the concerns of the 46 million uninsured than the tiny handful of heirs to multimillion dollar estates.) In this case, labor --and especially the SEIU -- is speaking on behalf of that constituency. The Republican base has terrified Republicans in Congress into abandoning any negotiations on health care reform, using the threat of primary challenges and other opposition, and whipped them into a united partisan front. The Democratic base needs to do the same thing.

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