In a shot across the bow of political moderates, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka threatened Monday to use Big Labor's resources to unseat any Democrat who supports entitlement reform.
Trumka made the comments in a speech at the annual meeting International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans in Las Vegas.
He was reacting to reports that lawmakers may pursue some type of restraint in the ever-rising costs of programs like Social Security and Medicare.
"Let me just say this one for the record. No politician — I don’t care the political party — will get away with cutting Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid benefits. Don’t try it. And this warning goes double for Democrats. We will never forget. We will never forgive. And we will never stop working to end your career," Trumka said.
He denied that there was any real economic problem related to entitlement growth: "We live in a time of self-imposed scarcity. Our American economy produces far more than enough wealth to go around, but, as working people, we see less and less of the wealth we produce."
His comments indicate the AFL-CIO will invest heavily in primary challenges against Democrats who back a deal. That's a tactic today usually associated with the Tea Party and the Republican office-holders it opposes, but Big Labor has often used the strategy, too.
In 2010, organized labor spent heavily to defeat then-Arkansas Democratic Sen. Blanche Lincoln. Labor leaders were upset Lincoln had opposed union lawyer Craig Becker's nomination to the National Labor Relations Board. Becker was recess-appointed to the NLRB by President Obama. He now serves as the AFL-CIO's top lawyer.
Lincoln won a bruising primary but lost the general election to Republican John Boozman.