AFL-CIO Touts Its Impact on Key Obama Wins

AFL-CIO Touts Its Impact on Key Obama Wins

By Alexis Simendinger - November 7, 2012

On his way to re-election, President Obama won in Ohio, Wisconsin and Nevada thanks to the toeholds he gained from union field operations in those states, said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka during a news conference in Washington on Wednesday.

“We did deliver those states,” he said. “I think without the efforts of organized labor, those three states would have been different -- none of those three would have been in the president’s column.”

The outreach machine Big Labor built for 2012 will remain in place in key parts of the country to help union and non-union workers advocate for their state and national agendas going forward, and to be ready for the next election cycle, he added. Labor also plans to encourage working Americans to press members of Congress for a fair compromise in addressing the statutory fiscal cliff that looms on Dec. 31, he added, arguing that Romney-Ryan economic proposals were decisively rejected by voters on Election Day, according to exit polling and the AFL’s own survey.

“If people want to work with us, and they want to do what they were elected to do -- and that’s to fix the economy, create jobs and help us build an infrastructure that’s world class -- we’re willing to work with them,” Trumka said, referring to Republican lawmakers. “They can’t continue to be obstructionists and expect people to simply comply.”

The AFL released the findings of a poll commissioned from Hart Research Associates and conducted Nov. 5-6 showing that 70 percent of union members in Ohio backed the president, and 62 percent of working Ohioans not covered by labor contracts followed suit.

Nationwide, 65 percent of union members supported Obama, down two points from 2008 (but a smaller decline than seen among all voters this year). Non-union working Americans backed the president by 66 percent, according to the survey among 802 AFL-CIO members who voted this time, plus 827 non-union workers in 11 important states.

Hart’s research showed that “Democrats had won the tax issue in this election cycle,” pollster Guy Molyneaux said. That means voters support asking the wealthy to “start paying their fair share of taxes” (62 percent). They also want Washington to “protect Medicare and Social Security benefits from cuts” (73 percent).

Thanks in part to union outreach and sophisticated friend-to-friend contacts, workers who are not in unions received the same information about Mitt Romney and the Republican agenda as their unionized peers did, thus expanding labor’s megaphone in this election cycle.

“People don’t want cuts to Social Security and Medicare and Medicaid -- even the people who voted for Mitt Romney don’t want that,” Trumka asserted. “That’s a consensus. They don’t want to continue to tax the middle class to give more tax breaks to the rich.”

Republicans in Congress have not tried to persuade Americans to support their proposed substitutes for the fiscal-cliff triggers, he added. Instead, they’ve blocked legislation while accusing Democrats of gridlock.

And as Obama turns to Congress to help resolve long-term budget challenges, Trumka noted, “we’ll continue to use [AFL’s field] network to hold people accountable, people of both parties.”

(According to a White House pool report, the president telephoned Speaker of the House John Boehner, Senator Majority Leader Harry Reid, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi Tuesday night and Wednesday morning to talk about the legislative agenda for the remainder of the year. Obama reiterated his commitment to finding bipartisan solutions, the report said, to reduce the deficit in a "balanced way,” cut taxes for middle-class families and small businesses and create jobs.)

Trumka said labor’s agenda, working with White House and Congress, includes opposing benefit cuts to Medicare and Medicaid in this year’s discussions about deficit reduction; rebuilding the middle class, in part through initiatives in Obama’s American Jobs Act that were not passed; ensuring that working people will not shoulder more than their fair share of deficit reduction initiatives; seeking more federal resources to bolster America manufacturing and innovation; pushing for immigration reform; and protecting union rights. 

Alexis Simendinger covers the White House for RealClearPolitics. She can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @ASimendinger.

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