Sen. Franken betrayed a key constituency of his when he stated his opposition to a merger between T-Mobile and AT&T:
“I have long believed that this merger would be a terrible deal for consumers, and I’m pleased the Department of Justice has taken the wise step of officially opposing it,” said DFL Sen. Al Franken in a statement.
Franken is concerned that if the the merger were to go through, AT&T and Verizon would control more than 80 percent of the wireless market and would raise prices on consumers and limit innovation.
In July, Franken had asked the Justice Department and the Federal Communications Commission to reject the merger.
But he’s taken heat from labor unions, which strongly backed his election in 2008, for his stand. AT&T is unionized and T-Mobile isn’t. A merged company could increase the number of union members at a time when the labor movement is struggling.
Sen. Franken’s opposition to this merger is a stick in the eye of his faithful union supporters. What’s worse is that he’s questioned the unions’ integrity:
Franken, though expressing sympathy for the unions’ position (“I totally understand their point of view”), ticked off rebuttals to the merger’s upside. “We know from their documents that some of their [AT&T’s] claims on jobs may not be accurate,” he said.
Saying that “some of their claims…might not be accurate” is a polite way of accusing them of exaggerating the numbers. That’s a foolish thing to say to important political allies. Without their enthusiastic financial and GOTV support in 2014, Sen. Franken will face an uphill fight for re-election.
It’s important to remember what AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka recently said:
The growing rift between labor and their Democratic allies was on full display Thursday, as AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka told reporters that labor groups are planning to scale back their involvement with the Democratic Party in advance of the 2012 elections.
Going forward, Trumka said, the labor movement will build up its own political structures and organizations rather than contribute to and depend on the Democratic Party’s political operation.
Trumka’s statement says that the AFL-CIO won’t tolerate people who pay lip service to the unions, then don’t deliver. Sen. Franken’s political consultants have a right to be worried about Sen. Franken’s decision to oppose a top union priority.
If Sen. Franken is intent on making his re-election fight more uphill, there aren’t alot of ways he could do better than crossing the AFL-CIO and the Communication Workers of America unions.