Embittered unions may seek revenge at polls

This fall Robin Rich will try to convince her fellow Gary, Ind., union members to vote for candidates who have been loyal to the causes of the United Steelworkers of America. After the House approved the China trade bill, she says it will be "real hard" to explain why anyone should vote for Al Gore.

Losing the vote has left US trade unions with a sour taste. Now many are talking about revenge at the ballot box this fall. At the very least, union leaders say, it will be difficult to get activists excited enough to mobilize other voters.

"There is no question about it: A substantial number of our activists are going to be very angry...," says Gary Hubbard of the United Steelworkers (USW).

For Democratic candidates, especially Vice President Gore, this will not be a welcome development. Although there are only 13 million union members, many man phone banks, knock on doors, and run van pools to get voters to the polls.

The AFL-CIO has already endorsed Gore. So has the USW, but in three weeks it plans to reassess its strategy. Two other powerful unions, the Teamsters and United Auto Workers, have yet to issue endorsements. This week, the UAW said it is "exploring alternative options," including the possibility of backing Ralph Nader, the Green Party candidate. Such an endorsement could matter in key states like Michigan, where the UAW has more than 450,000 members.

Some of this, to be sure, may just be rhetoric. Although unions talk about President Clinton's "betrayal," they are rushing to endorse his wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton, in her Senate campaign. In the end, say many analysts, if the unions want to have a say this fall, they may have no choice but to support the Democrats.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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