Emanuel has a good relationship with AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka. Stern, the former SEIU president, is close to White House Political Director Patrick Gaspard, who once worked for him. Both Trumka and Stern reportedly are on good terms with Emanuel’s deputy Jim Messina.
But the departure of Stern, Obama’s highest-profile labor backer, has robbed the administration of an important emissary, and Emanuel’s relationship with labor has been strained over his willingness to scrap the public option to pass health care reform.
Emanuel, who engineered Democrats’ majority in the House by recruiting conservatives during his tenure as chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, remains obsessed with reelecting endangered freshmen and sophomore members.
Emanuel also has told Trumka and other labor leaders in no uncertain terms that their strategy is counterproductive, according to individuals familiar with the situation.
But despite that admonition, anti-Lincoln Democrats say the union assault on the Agriculture Committee chairwoman has paid real-world dividends — in the form of tough new derivatives reforms championed by Lincoln after it became clear she would face a challenge from the left.
“I don’t understand how the White House can say that all this pressure on Lincoln hasn’t helped,” said one Democratic political consultant. “They would have a much weaker financial reform bill if labor hadn’t gotten behind Bill Halter.”