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AFL-CIO Now

Trumka Says America's Workers Rejected a Vision for the Country That Attacks Working Families

Photo courtesy of Stijn Vogels

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said the key message of the 2012 elections is that working people have rejected the vision for the United States championed by the opponents of working families. The union movement’s unprecedented efforts to reach out to working families was decisive in the presidential election and down the ballot.

This election was about a choice between two very different visions for our nation. One vision rewards hard work and the people who do it, while the other benefits only those at the top. Voters rejected Romney economics. They made clear they want solutions that respect hard work, strengthen the middle class, invest in America and build upon working together instead of driving people apart. That’s the leadership we’ve seen from President Obama for the past four years.
Last night, you saw what our nation is—Latinos, young people, African Americans, union families—a vibrant, multiracial, multi-ethnic, multigenerational country whose electorate and leaders are slowly becoming more representative of who we are.

An election night survey conducted by Peter D. Hart Research Associates for the AFL-CIO strongly backs Trumka's claims. Among the key findings of the survey:

  • Union members preferred Obama 65% to 33% over Romney.
  • Members of Working America, the AFL-CIO's community affiliate, preferred Obama 66% to 32%.
  • Protecting Medicare and Social Security from benefit cuts is more important than bringing down the deficit (73% to 18%).
  • Overall, voters in the survey said making the wealthy start paying their fair share of taxes is more important than reducing tax rates across the board (62% to 33%).
  • 88% support allowing Medicare to negotiate with drug companies to lower costs.
  • 70% favor continuing extended federal unemployment insurance.
  • 64% support providing federal government funding to local governments.
  • 68% oppose raising the Medicare eligibility age.
  • 69% oppose reductions in Medicaid benefits.
  • 84% oppose reducing Social Security benefits.
  • 64% support addressing the deficit by increasing taxes on the rich.
  • 72% say that corporations and wealthy individuals have too much influence on the political system.

The results also showed that more than half of those surveyed also favor ending the Bush tax cuts for those making more than $250,000, a notable increase considering historical trends on tax-related issues.

Through the labor election program, 400,000 volunteers made more than 80 million phone calls to working-class households, knocked on more than 14 million doors, had conversations with more than 3 million workers in the workplace and sent more than 75 million pieces of mail. The program also was significant in expanding the electorate. Since August 2011, more than 450,000 new union members were registered to vote.

Through the labor super PAC Workers’ Voice, union volunteers were able to compete with unprecedented amounts of corporate cash by reaching beyond union voters to talk one on one with the public about candidates’ stands on issues of critical importance to working families.

Unions were also key in making sure that voters were able to exercise their right to vote and making sure that vote was counted. Through the My Vote, My Right voter protection program, unions worked closely with community partners to provide voting information for months, culminating in an Election Day rapid response operation with more than 2,000 poll monitors helping ensure voters’ rights.

Through Workers’ Voice, unions ran a cutting-edge targeting and online mobilization program, launching new digital tools to enable grassroots activists to contact their friends and neighbors and turn traditionally top-down political action into bottom-up mobilization. 

Trumka said that the election was just the beginning and that there are clear steps about what has to be done next. Unlike the past election cycles, the infrastructure built around the 2012 election is not being shut down until the next election. The labor movement is building a long-term, year-round mobilization structure. The AFL-CIO is immediately shifting focus to the lame-duck session of Congress. On Thursday, working family activists will be out in communities at nearly a hundred events to deliver a message to members of Congress about the fiscal showdown: No more tax breaks for the richest 2% and no benefit cuts to Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid.

It’s time to rebuild America’s middle class, not tear it down. It’s time for everyone in America to pay their fair share and that starts at the top. It’s time for a renewed investment in manufacturing, education and basic infrastructure—to create good jobs here at home. It’s time to fix our broken immigration system and create common-sense, humane solutions that respect families and communities. It’s time for all working people to be able to exercise our rights with confidence. Even after such a polarizing campaign, our nation can and will come together to move our country forward, and we’re ready to be a part of it.

Other labor leaders are echoing Trumka's words. “The American people sent a clear message that we will stand with a President who stands with all Americans. From the White House to the statehouses, we pulled together to elect leaders who believe that ‘we are all in this together,’ said Lee Saunders, president of AFSCME and chair of the AFL-CIO Political Committee.

Watch the full press conference here.

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