Big Labor at Odds with White House on Healthcare

Interesting read from Politico.com regarding the AFSCME’s opposition to the Baucus Healthcare bill.

The president of one of America’s largest labor unions, Gerry McEntee, has emerged as a major obstacle to the White House’s efforts to maintain a unified front in the health care debate.

 The veteran president of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) has crossed lines that few labor leaders – even those who quietly agree with him – would go near.

 McEntee led workers in chanting a barnyard epithet to describe Senate Finance Committee chairman Max Baucus’s health care bill, which would levy a new tax on expensive health care plans. He published an op-ed in U.S.A. Today warning, in terms that could be used against Democrats in the midterms, that the plan could tax the middle class and cost workers their health care. And he blew off a plea from White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and published an open letter promising to “oppose” legislation that contained the tax – published over the objections, several labor officials said, of other union presidents whose names appeared on the letter.

 “We have had just about enough of his gratuitous slaps,” said a senior White House official Friday, calling the politically charged language “outrageous and unacceptable” from an ally — even from one that had, the official noted, devoted substantial resources to health care efforts.

 “He’s doing his members a real disservice,” said the official, who said that while all other labor leaders had been careful to keep their opposition to elements of health care proposals modulated and largely inside the tent, McEntee was “beyond the pale.”

 But a spokesman for AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka stood by McEntee.

 “We work closely with the White House and count ourselves among their strongest supporters,” said the spokesman, Eddie Vale. “Sometimes being supportive means staking out a tough position, and nobody understands that better than President McEntee.”

 McEntee’s posture – and the fierce response from a White House determined to keep allies in line – reflects a broader dilemma on the left of the Democratic Party, which is feeling both lingering satisfaction at Obama’s victory and frustration at his caution.

 From labor to civil libertarians to anti-war activists, progressive organizers have had to choose between biting their tongues and losing the access and power that comes with friends in the White House. McEntee is among the most prominent leaders who has been willing to challenge the administration.

View the entire article here.

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