Perhaps coincidentally, leaders of organized labor endorsed Bill Clinton's candidacy last Monday, and President Bush signed an executive order that will reduce the amount of money labor will have available to it for political purposes. Taken together, the two events suggest how weakened organized labor's political clout has become.
The AFL-CIO would really prefer not to have to endorse the moderate governor of a right-to-work Southern state like Arkansas. Its heart belonged to Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa, but his candidacy was a flop. And the AFL-CIO would certainly prefer that its component unions not face the record-keeping burdens and loss of funds for political use that the presidential order will produce.
The president's order requires federal contractors to post in prominent places notices to the effect that non-union workers paying agency fees to unions may demand a refund of any money spent on non-representational purposes (such as, for example, election phone banks). The order also requires the unions to report to the Labor Department how much dues money is spent for what. The administration says the order will lead to unions' losing $2.4 billion annually, which is an absurd exaggeration, meant to make anti-union conservatives who have been pressuring Mr. Bush for this for the past three years feel good, we imagine.