Kuhl to Labor: Show Me Some Respect

Randy Kuhl's actions of the last few weeks speak far more loudly than his words. Six days after the election, Kuhl withdrew his support of a bill that would reform the National Labor Relations Act. To date, he's the only one of the 215 original co-sponsors who's pulled out. Even defeated John Sweeney from nearby NY-20 is still listed as a supporter of this legislation.

While there's certainly a component of petty retribution in Kuhl's action, chalking this up as a parting shot would misread the complex relationship between labor and John R Kuhl Jr.

Rochesterturning and The Hill both identify the AFL-CIO as the likely target of Kuhl's ire, and they're probably right. That union endorsed Massa during the current cycle, reversing their trend of endorsements for Kuhl that began during his tenure as a state legislator and continued through his first run in 2004. Kuhl might have also wanted to send a message to the UAW, who complained loudly about one of Kuhl's ads that took credit for bringing a helicopter plant to the district.

But the AFL-CIO is not a monolith. Two weeks before the state AFL-CIO endorsed Kuhl's opponent, the Transportation Trades AFL-CIO PAC gave Kuhl $1,000. Six weeks after that endorsement, the Building and Construction Trades AFL-CIO PAC gave Kuhl another $1K. Both of those donations are probably because Randy sits on the Transportation committee, including the "Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings, and Emergency Management".

Even though he's a member of the new minority, Kuhl can expect to receive money from unions as long as he sits on committees that hold sway over union jobs. As the chief lobbyist for the United Transportation Union remarked, "Quite frankly, one game doesn’t make a season. We will examine him as the new Congress starts."

That examination will begin after committee assignments are handed out. Kuhl will probably retain his current seats. By pulling his support for one of labor's pet bills, Kuhl was signaling that he won't be bought easily. He wants some sugar in his bowl.