Recent union endorsements provide clues about the direction of both organized labor and the two parties.

The carpenters and their 11,000 Minnesota members endorsed 48 DFL candidates and 30 Republican candidates for the Minnesota House, but the GOP can be happy that incumbents in key swing districts got the nod, like Reps. Sandy Layman, Jim Knob­lach, Randy Jessup and Keith Franke.

Jobs and a thriving economy “should transcend political parties and we are proud to support candidates from both parties,” said the union’s head of government affairs, Adam Duininck, who began his career as a DFL operative but is now navigating the bipartisan waters of the construction trades.

The International Union of Operating Engineers, Local 49, endorsed last week, and — coincidence? — also gave the nod to 48 DFL candidates and 30 Republicans.

Like the carpenters, the 49ers’ issue set doesn’t match up perfectly with either party, as spelled out in their news release. It said they have just two goals: building projects, and protecting collective bargaining rights.

In recent years, the DFL, which has “labor” in its name and is the natural home to unions, has opposed some private infrastructure and mining projects, creating friction with the hard hat unions. Republicans, meanwhile, have spent decades chipping away at the labor movement, both from ideological opposition and also at the behest of their business allies.

So what are the unions to do? Stick with incumbents with whom they’ve developed relationships and who will listen to pleas when the time comes for a tough vote at the Capitol.

Police unions face a similar quandary but in different circumstances. As a public worker union, they are even more endangered by Republican efforts to curtail collective bargaining rights of public sector workers, as in Wisconsin. On the other hand, police carry the patina of selfless service in harm’s way, which makes them a valuable political ally for Republicans.

For the DFL, the police unions are a particularly fraught issue: Minority groups are increasingly the base of the DFL, and often allege unfair targeting by police.

Just recently the Minnesota Fraternal Order of Police endorsed Republican state Sen. Karin Housley against U.S. Sen. Tina Smith, and Republican Pete Stauber, a retired police officer, in his race for Congress against Joe Radinovich. The Minneapolis Police Federation endorsed Republican Doug Wardlow in his race for attorney general against U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison.

Interpreting Swanson

Attorney General Lori Swanson, who lost in the DFL primary for governor, removed her running mate Rick Nolan from her — presumably now pointless — campaign website, setting Minnesota politicos aflutter at the end of last week. Never fails: If Swanson or her political ally Mike Hatch even sneeze, Minnesota politicos dream up a conspiracy.


J. Patrick Coolican 651-925-5042 Twitter: @jpcoolican