So the Democrats are finally pushing back against the unions as they cobble together their massive health care monster. Or that’s how the story is being told, anyway: Democrats are bravely championing a tax on the most generous health insurance plans, in spite of the fact that their biggest supporters-the labor unions-oppose such a tax.

Call me a cynic, but I can’t imagine that the unions are really going to come away from these negotiations empty handed. The answer to what is really going on might lie in the recent claim by AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka that he thinks the “Employee Free Choice Act” – yes, that’s the bill that takes away workers’ right to a secret ballot among other things-will pass early this year.

As the Union Label blog details, this Orwellian provision is hugely unpopular with the American people (though we know that doesn’t matter to this Congress) as well as terrible economic policy in a time of high unemployment. Yet it might be just the ticket for Congressional leaders, panicked about their 2010 election prospects, who need unions working for them in important races.

Americans will be paying a big price for health care – and it won’t just be through higher health care taxes and a more dysfunctional health care system.