But why did unions push the public option in the first place? In addition to being wildly unpopular with all Americans, it wouldn't have helped union members one whit. Union workers already have health insurance -- and many have so-called Cadillac plans whose benefits are far more generous than any government program could offer. A public option would have meant higher taxes and no benefits for union members.
Even Big Labor's political allies are getting fed up with the unions' tactics. After Lincoln's victory against her labor-backed opponent, an anonymous White House spokesman told Politico newspaper, "Organized labor just flushed $10 million of their members' money down the toilet on a pointless exercise." Of course, that won't stop Democrats from continuing to use unions as cash cows for their political campaigns. Without union contributions, Democrats would not have won the White House and control of both houses of Congress.
According to the non-partisan Center for Responsive Government, six out of the top 10 donors in federal elections since 1989 are unions -- amounting to almost $191 million in direct contributions, more than 90 percent of which has gone to Democrats. But that is just the tip of the iceberg. Unions also spend money by organizing get-out-the-vote drives, printing and distributing campaign literature, and running their own advocacy ads. And they disburse thousands of campaign "volunteers" -- who are most often on union-paid vacation or administrative leave -- to provide shock troops for union-backed candidates.
But union members have little say about which candidates their unions support, and they don't always vote for the candidates their unions endorse. In the hotly contested Massachusetts Senate race earlier this year, 49 percent of union households backed Republican Scott Brown to 46 percent who backed the union-supported Democrat Martha Coakley.
Union dues still help fund Big Labor's political juggernaut by paying the political union operatives who run the show and paying for efforts to persuade union members how they should vote. So, while labor bosses may have egg on their face after their embarrassing losses this week, it is labor union members who foot the bill, whether they want to or not.
Linda Chavez is chairman of the Center for Equal Opportunity and author of Betrayal: How Union Bosses Shake Down Their Members and Corrupt American Politics .
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