Himes Clearly Not Intimidated by Threats from Labor

In this Sept. 2, 2009, file photo, U.S. Rep. Jim Himes, D-Conn., speaks during a health care reform town hall meeting at Norwalk High School.

US Rep. Jim Himes seems to be ahead of the curve when it comes to staking out positions on important policy issues. He has forged ahead with his support of President Obama’s quest to fast track negotiations for a trade deal with Pacific Rim countries. Labor is buggin’ and using their typical intimidation tactics to try to get to Himes. Newsflash to labor: Himes’ position on this issue is going to help him in his district despite your strong-arm efforts.

Labor’s influence is declining in Connecticut, no doubt. It can still be the difference in tight races when it comes to organizing and fundraising for campaigns but its membership ranks continues to decline. In 1995, union members accounted for 20.2 percent of the state’s workforce. In 2012, it was 14 percent in 2012.

AFL-CIO Connecticut chief Lori Pelletier says people are “stunned,” “frustrated” and “angry” over Himes’ position on the free trade issue. CTMirror.org reports that Pelletier says, “This is one of those watershed moments” for Himes, and “people are already voicing” the idea of backing a primary challenger to Himes next year.

The Shad says, “Good luck.” The Himes camp is likely saying, “Bring it on.”

AFL-CIO's Lori Pelletier
AFL-CIO’s Lori Pelletier

Labor leaders sometimes misjudge the voters’ sentiment in particular congressional districts. It turns out Himes is only concerned with the people of his district! The Fourth District’s voter registration numbers show: Democrats – 36 percent, Republicans – 25 percent and unaffiliated – 38 percent (minor parties less than one percent).

Himes’ position on the free trade issue is unlikely to alienate a substantial number of Democrats. Labor’s threat will fall on deaf ears if in fact it follows through. It will help him with the unaffiliated voters and with Republicans. The fourth CD also has exporters who would benefit from the fast tracking of free trade. Himes has cited this as a reason for supporting it.

A little perspective for Pelletier and other labor leaders is needed. There is no clear path for Himes to be defeated.