Unions' Support for Al Gore Is No Labor of Love
By David Shribman

(FORTUNE Magazine) – What is Big Labor expecting for the millions that it is pouring into Al Gore's presidential campaign? Not a whole lot.

Labor is a resurgent political force. Insiders estimate that unions could throw as much as $40 million into Campaign 2000. But as unions regain the power they once wielded in presidential elections, they are being wiser about their demands. Their wish list is indistinguishable from that of most politicians: Protect Social Security, improve education, spread prosperity, and bring HMOs under control.

This time labor's minimalist agenda is behind a candidate for which it has minimal enthusiasm. Labor lost two huge, costly battles in the past decade, the first over the North American Free Trade Agreement and the second over full trading rights for China. In both those battles, labor butted heads against...Vice President Gore. Says a top labor official: "We're not going to pretend Gore is good on trade." Even one of labor's pro-Gore fliers rails about the Vice President, explaining that he supported treaties "opposed by unions because of their impact on jobs and workers' rights."

But union leaders will stick with Gore because he will assure them federal contracts, minimum-wage increases, and discussions on environmental and human rights as part of new trade pacts. The Vice President has already picked up labor's talk about a "reindustrialization policy," the trendy new term for training workers displaced from manufacturing jobs. That phrase will tumble off Gore's lips as he campaigns in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Illinois, Michigan, and Missouri. Those are the states with the old manufacturing centers. They're also the biggest swing states for the November election.