A natural question: If Obamacare has so many provisions bad for unions, why did most of them support passage?
It's a bit of a mystery. The answer seems to be that Obamacare was a progressive goal, unions are progressive, ergo unions were for Obamacare.
They did negotiate changes, such as a lower "Cadillac tax" with a later start date. Perhaps labor thought it could go back to Congress after the bill passed for relief on the tax and other issues, such as Taft-Hartley plans. If so, that became impossible after the GOP took back the House by campaigning against Obamacare.
Labor was blindsided this summer by President Obama's decision to delay the employer mandate by a year, to 2015.
Having the employer and individual mandates start simultaneously was crucial to labor's support for the bill, as it kept the employer-based system — from which unions benefit — on an equal footing with Obamacare's new individual-based market.
Now, however, there's only an individual mandate until 2015. Employers are under no mandate to provide health care, and some may abandon their coverage, knowing that their workers must go to the exchanges.
Again, a worker insured by the exchange is one who doesn't need a union to get insurance.
In truth, there was always tension between the interests of organized labor and the goal of universal health coverage, regardless of employment status.
A 2009 AFL-CIO resolution backed government-run single-payer health care — as long as it did "not diminish the hard-fought benefits currently enjoyed by our members" and permitted unions "to collectively bargain supplemental coverage." Translation: Unions want health care for all, plus more for them.
In reaction to the unions' clash with Obamacare, Republicans offer little but rhetoric, the gist of which is "we told you so," and continue demanding total repeal, as if the unions' objections were additional valid reasons to oppose the law.
What they seem not to grasp is that the features of the law that the unions hate are those that many Americans, including many who do not currently vote Republican, might like: the end of health insurance "job lock," say, or bending the cost curve through limits on Cadillac plans.
If Republicans were smart, they might support those aspects of the law, instead of total repeal.
But, as we have seen in recent days, that is a very big "if."
Charles Lane is a member of The Washington Post's editorial board.