They were happy, very happy, at the headquarters of the AFL-CIO this morning. They had backed President Obama heavily and it had paid off.  But there was one topic they didn’t bring up during a morning news conference: the defeat of Michigan’s Proposal #2, which would have changed the state constitution to ensure collective bargaining as a right. When asked, they struggled to explain it.

The proposal would have prevented the Michigan from ever becoming right to work state or otherwise enacting any law construed as limiting collective bargaining rights.

This was part of an ambitious effort by organized labor to head off any future challenges to union power at the state level, such as Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s rollback of public sector union rights. Michigan was to be the test case. Other states would follow if it was successful.

Instead it lost 58-42 percent on what was otherwise a very good night for unions and Democrats.

AFL-CIO political director Michael Podhorzer said the result showed that people are “reticent about (amending) the state constitution.” He also said the law may have been too broadly-written and that opened up the proposal to attacks. “There were a lot of negative ads.”

Lee Saunders, president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees and chairman of the AFL-CIO’s political committee, said the problem was “confusion.”

“I think there was some confusion and people believed they already had collective bargaining rights in Michigan so it didn’t need to be in the constitution,” he said.

Asked how there could be such a level of confusion in a state with such a strong union history, Saunders reiterated his previous comment: “Again, I think that people believe that employees in both the public and private sector have the right to collective bargaining in that state.”