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Working-Class Voters Put the Economy First

Union members support populist economic agendas despite anti-worker attacks

WASHINGTON, DC – Despite some disappointing political results for millions of union members and all working families, the vast majority of Americans made clear that they want an economy that works for everyone. Months of unprecedented spending by corporate billionaires on television ads failed to turn voters against the idea of an economy that is built on a foundation of raising wages. This fact transcended simple Democratic and Republican political labels.

“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. “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 a 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”

An election-night survey conducted by Peter D. Hart Research Associates found that while Republicans won many races on political grounds, voters heavily support working family issues. Voters favor increasing Social Security benefits by 61%-30%; raising the federal minimum wage by 62%-34%; taxing American corporations on profits they make overseas by 73%-21%; and increasing funding for public schools by 75%-21%. Additionally, voters opposed many traditional Republican issues such as raising the Social Security retirement age (27%-66%) and raising the Medicare eligibility age (18%-76).

Voters sounded the loudest economic message in Alaska, Arkansas, Illinois, Nebraska and South Dakota, where minimum wage increases were overwhelmingly approved. San Francisco and Oakland also will likely raise minimum wage, and all four ballot initiatives supporting paid sick days passed. Successes such as these pave the way forward for a host of new ideas, ranging from how worker schedules are formulated to living wage legislation, paid sick leave and equal pay.

Trumka said, “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.”

Where it counted, workers and their unions led intense, grassroots organizing on the ground. These efforts resulted in union members supporting working family governor candidates by 64%-32% and U.S. Senate candidates by 61%-35%.

Since its last convention, the AFL-CIO has been working to build a long-term, year-round mobilization structure that won’t stop with elections. Already the AFL-CIO and allies are gearing up to press the interests of working people in the coming lame duck session of Congress, from immigration reform to trade deals that work for working families, while leading a national conversation on raising wages.

Contact: Josh Goldstein (202) 637-5018

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