Labor unions adjust to new reality under Obama

By SAM HANANEL | September 4, 2011 | 5:05 AM EDT

In this March 5, 2011, file photo, people protest against legislative efforts to do away with teachers' collective bargaining rights in Nashville, Tenn. The measure passed in Tennessee this year and ended collective bargaining for teachers unions in the state. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) — In the early days of the Obama administration, organized labor had grand visions of pushing through a sweeping agenda that would help boost sagging membership and help revive union strength.

Now labor faces this reality: Public employee unions are in a drawn-out fight for their very survival in Wisconsin, Ohio and other states where Republican lawmakers have curbed collective bargaining rights.

Many union leaders are grousing that Obama hasn't focused enough on job creation and bold plans to get their members back to work. And there's a move for labor to build an independent voice separate from the Democratic Party.

Labor remains a core Democratic constituency, and union leaders will stand with Obama in Detroit on Labor Day when he addresses thousands of union members during the city's annual parade.