“The defining narrative of this election was confirmation, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that Americans are desperate for a new economic life,” said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka on Wednesday. After a disappointing election night, Trumka held a press conference to discuss the election and release the results of a poll conducted by Hart Research Associates that looked into the story behind the headlines. He said voters made it clear they want an economy that works for everyone.
But the fact of the matter is that people are disillusioned by endless political bickering and eyed these elections with great dispirit. In way too many elections, they got a false choice. In these very difficult times, they did not get a genuine economic alternative to their unhappiness and very real fear of the future. But when voters did have a chance to choose their future directly—through ballot measures—their decisions are unmistakable.
The Hart Research poll found that voters heavily support working family issues. Voters overwhelmingly support most of the issues that the labor federation has championed in recent years: 75% support increased funding for public schools, 73% favor taxing American corporations on profits they make overseas, 62% support raising the federal minimum wage and 61% support increasing Social Security benefits. Meanwhile, only 27% support raising the Social Security retirement age and only 18% support raising the Medicare eligibility age.
These opinions were expressed at the ballot box when voters had the chance to vote directly on the issues and not through the filter of candidates and billions of campaign dollars. Minimum wage increases passed by large margins in Alaska, Arkansas, Illinois, Nebraska and South Dakota. San Francisco and Oakland likely did the same. Four ballot initiatives supporting paid sick days passed.
It’s clear that American workers and their families are way ahead of the political elite when it comes to envisioning the next American chapter. I was out there all fall. I was in almost every contested state. I spoke to hundreds and hundreds of workers. Their desire for bold, comprehensive and lasting economic change is the most real thing I’ve ever heard.
He also said that the AFL-CIO was building upon that public support for working family issues by pushing forward with a long-term, year-round mobilization structure that won't stop with elections. The labor federation also will continue its outreach to like-minded organizations to build coalitions to press the interests of working people in the lame-duck session, with a particular focus on raising wages, immigration reform and making sure that international trade deals work for working families.