Half of all union members in the U.S. live in just six states: California, New York, Illinois, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey. But even in most of those states, Democrats are having trouble. In California, Republican Meg Whitman and Democrat Jerry Brown are virtually tied in the governor's race, and Democratic incumbent Sen. Barbara Boxer holds a razor-thin lead over Republican challenger Carly Fiorina.
In Pennsylvania's Senate race, Republican Pat Toomey holds a comfortable 8-point advantage over Democrat Joe Sestak, who beat longtime incumbent and party-switcher Arlen Specter in the primary. In Illinois -- despite some major missteps, including exaggerating his military record -- Republican senatorial candidate Mark Kirk is still slightly ahead of his Democratic opponent. And the Republican gubernatorial nominee, Bill Brady, leads his Democratic opponent by about 5 points in recent polls. And, of course, in New Jersey, the Republican victory in last year's gubernatorial race, when Chris Christie beat out multi-millionaire Jon Corzine, was ample evidence that Democrats were in big trouble despite their sweep in 2008.
Labor Day traditionally marks the beginning of the fall campaign when voters start to pay close attention to upcoming elections. The AFL-CIO announced months ago that it will spend $100 million to try to keep the Democrats in office. One government union alone -- the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees -- will spend another $50 million trying to protect Democrat incumbents; and the Service Employees International Union will spend nearly $45 million.
But voters -- even union members -- won't be bought this time around. If labor unions ever hope to win the hearts and minds of American workers again, they could start by listening to their members.
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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