In his 2004 book, “What’s the Matter with Kansas,” social critic Thomas Frank accuses conservatives of distracting blue-collar Americans from economic issues that matter to them with “the illusory threat of gay marriage.” Let’s stipulate for right now that Frank is right and that the issue of gay marriage is largely irrelevant to the lives of blue-collar workers. Why then, may we ask, is the California Teachers Association (CTA), one of the state’s largest unions, spending $1.25 million of its members’ dues to defeat Proposition 8, an initiative on the California ballot that would define marriage as between a man and a woman? How, pray tell, does Lindsay Lohan’s ability to marry her current girlfriend help California public school children learn?

The answer is that unions, as they exist today, have nothing to do with protecting the interests of those they supposedly represent. The Wall Street Journal reports: “The CTA and its parent organization, the National Education Association, have used tens of millions of dollars in mandatory teachers’ dues to advance all manner of left-wing political causes. … In some years barely a third of the NEA’s budget has gone toward improving the lot of teachers themselves. In addition to vigorously fighting school choice and other reforms that benefit underprivileged children but threaten the public education monopoly, the NEA has directly (or via state affiliates) bankrolled ACORN, the Democratic Leadership Council, the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation and, naturally, the Human Rights Campaign.”

Organized labor has become indistinguishable from the Democratic Party. Union-backed groups have given $52.3 million directly to Democrat campaigns this year and also spent about $6 million on advertisements in close Senate races since Labor Day. Their goal: a permanent leftist majority in Washington. And they may well have identified the tool to realize their dreams — the Orwellian named “Employee Free Choice Act.” This legislation, also known as card check, replaces secret ballot elections — the method by which most workers join unions — with publicly signed union cards. This is a recipe for intimidation and corruption. Just ask 1972 Democratic presidential nominee George McGovern:

As a longtime friend of labor unions, I must raise my voice against pending legislation I see as a disturbing and undemocratic overreach not in the interest of either management or labor. … The key provision of EFCA is a change in the mechanism by which unions are formed and recognized. Instead of a private election with a secret ballot overseen by an impartial federal board, union organizers would simply need to gather signatures from more than 50% of the employees in a workplace or bargaining unit, a system known as “card-check.” There are many documented cases where workers have been pressured, harassed, tricked and intimidated into signing cards that have led to mandatory payment of dues.

Under EFCA, workers could lose the freedom to express their will in private, the right to make a decision without anyone peering over their shoulder, free from fear of reprisal.

Recent polling shows that 71% of union members believe that the current private-ballot process is fair, versus only 13% who disagree. Fully 78% of union members favor keeping the current system in place rather than replacing it with one that provides less privacy. But union leadership does not care what their members want. They only want more union members and more union dues to funnel into the left’s crony capitalist machine.

Quick Hits:

  • The U.S. military on Thursday gave Iraqi authorities control of security in most of the “Triangle of Death,” an area south of Baghdad that has seen a dramatic turnaround in violence.
  • The Miami trial of a Venezuelan entrepreneur has exposed the kickbacks, bribes and secret payoffs Hugo Chavez used to spread his leftist ideology to Argentina.
  • The budget deficit may be exploding but EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson is wrapping up a 10-day jaunt to the apparently environmentally troubled Holy Land. It’s first such voyage for an EPA chief in 20 years, if not ever.
  • The British government is bringing sex education to kindergarten-age children.
  • According to CNN, a majority of U.S. registered voters don’t think most members of Congress deserve to be re-elected.