Tags: | AFL-CIO | labor | midterms | Democrats

AFL-CIO Chief Struggling to Get Out Labor Vote

Image: AFL-CIO Chief Struggling to Get Out Labor Vote
Head of AFL-CIO Richard Trumka. (Kevin Dietsch/UPI/Landov)

By    |   Wednesday, 08 Oct 2014 02:15 PM

To labor leader Richard Trumka, Democratic and labor chances in the midterm November elections depend on stirring up union voter turnout, but for this year, getting out the pro-labor vote has been a hard row to hoe.

Trumka, president of the massive AFL-CIO, is finding it difficult to stir up election interest among the union's faithful when major issues like the Ebola epidemic, the Islamic State (ISIS), Russia's muscle-flexing in Ukraine and immigration are occupying both the headlines and voters' worries, and putting labor's issues on the back burner, The Wall Street Journal reports.

"I feel a sense of urgency that we still have a lot of work to do. Voter turnout is going to be the deciding factor,” The Journal quoted Trumka as saying.

Union voter apathy could hardly come at a worse time for the AFL-CIO, which counts 12.5 million members in the 56 unions it represents.

In the 11 state elections in which the AFL-CIO has become heavily involved in endorsing candidates, races are "very tight," Trumka noted. He cited, for example, the battle between Gov. Scott Walker, R-Wisconsin, viewed as anti-labor for pushing through a law lessening bargaining power among public employee unions, and Democrat Mary Burke; and the Kentucky struggle between Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, and his challenger, Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes.

Election polls are calling the races virtually neck-and-neck.

While the AFL-CIO is expected to spend $250 million to $300 million on the races, winning them is nowhere near a sure thing.

"We are playing in state legislative races at a level we haven't before," Trumka said at a recent meeting, The Washington Post reported. "Partly that's because we can get things done — like increases in the minimum wage — there that we can't at the federal level."

He sees the Democratic Party as not sufficiently emphasizing economic matters important to union members, which makes getting out the vote that much more difficult.

"I think more populism, or more focus on the economic issues, would be helpful," he told The Nation, noting that union members constantly ask him why their votes matter this year.
"I think it would help drive turnout as well. I think the candidates that focus only on negative things, doing everything negative, have a real danger of having their base go flat.”

No candidates are talking about dismantling unions in this election, Trumka said, but he added, "Right after the election, it will raise its ugly head. If certain governors win, they'll use it as a false mandate to say, 'See, going after workers is what this populace wants me to do.'

"I wish all of them would say their real agenda; then the American public would really get to vote on which agenda you want."

He told the Journal, "We have our work cut out for us," and added, "I think we’re doing ok."


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To AFL-CIO leader Richard Trumka, Democratic and labor chances in the midterm November elections depend on stirring up union voter turnout, but for this year, getting out the pro-labor vote has been a hard row to hoe.
AFL-CIO, labor, midterms, Democrats
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2014-15-08
Wednesday, 08 Oct 2014 02:15 PM
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