The AFL-CIO’s bold announcement last week that it would withhold contributions to congressional Democrats in advance of votes on fast-track trade promotion authority thrilled labor supporters and annoyed many Democrats.
But it remains to be seen whether the move will impede the Obama administration’s trade agenda — or merely become the latest illustration of unions’ declining clout.
The AFL-CIO has tried such moves in the past — including during the 1993 fight over the North American Free Trade Agreement — only to be defeated and then resume funding Democrats again. Now, with a wide margin of pro-trade Republicans in the House and fervent lobbying from the White House and groups that support President Barack Obama’s trade agenda, labor is more marginalized on trade policy than it’s been in years, despite its growing influence with the president on other workplace issues.
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