11.13.2003

WHY THE JOURNAL KICKS ASS

Every once in a while, everything the Journal prints is fit for framing. Today is one of those days.

The McEntee Primary

Yesterday's splashy endorsement of Howard Dean by two major unions may or may not be a turning point in the Democratic race for President, but it certainly is for the labor movement. Public-sector unions have clearly consigned private-sector industrial unions to second-rate political status.

SEIU and AFSCME are now the two largest unions in the AFL-CIO. They are dominated by public-sector and health-care workers, not the electricians, plumbers, machinists and auto workers who once populated the union movement. The latter unions have by and large stood by Dick Gephardt, who has fought their battles on trade for decades. But they are a shrinking political force, as the unionized share of the national private work force has declined (to a mere 8.5% last year).

Today's Walter Reuther is Gerald McEntee, the AFSCME chief who cares far more about taxes and entitlements than about free trade. Like the teachers unions, Mr. McEntee has as his main priority the care and feeding of the public sector. In this sense, these endorsements are a signal that Mr. Dean may not be the flinty "fiscal conservative" of his own advertising. By endorsing at this pivotal campaign moment, Mr. McEntee and SEIU kingpin Andy Stern know they are gaining long-term leverage if the former Vermont Governor ends up in the White House. Taxpayers may want to notice the company Mr. Dean is keeping.

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