The Heartbreak of Premature Evaluation

In the rough and tumble worlds of vote-for-me politics, few things are more embarrassing than premature evaluation. You can say it never happened before, and make a dozen excuses. But there it is.

All of the above may be why unions representing millions of postal and federal workers are playing it (relatively) cool this year. How bad can an endorsement be?

For some feds, whether they belong to a union or not, the issue of an endorsement is important. Consider: Most federal workers (outside the heavily-unionized U.S. Postal Service) do NOT belong to a union. Or pay dues. But most federal workers are “represented” by unions and, in the public eye that means they are card-carrying union members.

Whether you believe in them or not, endorsements can be interesting:

One union (the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization) endorsed a candidate (Ronald Reagan). He wound up firing most of PATCO’s members when they went out on an illegal strike. In that same election the President of the American Federation of Government Employees union, publicly chewed out his members because so many of them voted Republican. As it turns out, the chewer got chewed up himself in the next union election.

Endorsing a loser, especially a primary candidate who doesn’t make it through the first hurdle, is no fun for unions. Or their executive boards. Or for that matter, a lot of the union’s members. And it can mean some serious groveling later on when trying to crawl back in the good graces of a candidate who genuinely hated his/her opponents guts.

Although it lacks the right to strike, and the ability to openly campaign (like the UAW, Teamsters or other private sector unions), organized labor in the federal sector has a lot going for it. Most of the unions have very large PACs( political action committees) with lots of campaign contributions to spread around. Most have auxiliaries (made up of spouses or retirees) who can campaign 24/7 without limits. The National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association has a huge PAC that is actively courted by both Republican and Democratic incumbents and candidates.

Some union staffers say that populist former Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.) was the favorite of lots of members, and local leaders. But with his pullout, and because of the closeness of the Democratic primary contents, some bets are being hedged.

“We’ll endorse the Democratic candidate, whoever, in the end,” but for now the union leaders are loathe to choose between Sens. Hillary Clinton (N.Y.) and Barrack Obama (Ill.), according to a top union staffer.

The National Association of Letter Carriers late last year asked the dozen plus GOP and Democratic candidates a series of question. An NALC spokesman said none of the Republicans answered it. One Democrat (Mike Gravel of Alaska) also declined. The others answered. Members were told the results and sent a postage-paid reply postcard. It gave them a chance to vote for the candidates (all Democrats) who responded to their questionnaire. Although the final numbers have not been released, NALC says “Hillary won by a two to one margin. The NALC also has hundreds of groups of 10 carriers who, off-duty, campaign for national candidates at the local level.

The American Postal Workers Union isn’t endorsing a candidate. Yet. But once the Democratic standard bearer is picked it and most other federal unions are expected to go with him. Or her.

For more on the subject, click here.

Nearly Useless Factoid

(Unless you’re from Pittsburgh.) The pull-tab was first used by Iron City Brewery in 1962.

To reach me: mcausey@federalnewsradio.com

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