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Remarks by AFL-CIO President Richard L. Trumka, Post-Election Press Conference, AFL-CIO, Washington, DC

Richard Trumka • November 8, 2012

Good morning and thank you all for joining us after what I’m sure was a very long night. 

Working people across the country are waking up today with a renewed sense of faith in our future. 

After a year-long, all-in campaign to elect working family champions, we are waking up to a future with those champions at the helm – President Obama, Vice President Biden, Sherrod Brown, Elizabeth Warren, Tammy Baldwin, and so many more newly elected leaders at every level—all guiding our nation toward a new era of prosperity for all. 

And last night you saw what our nation is – Latinos, young people, African Americans, union families…– a vibrant, multi-racial, multi-ethnic and multi-generational country whose electorate and leaders are slowly becoming more representative of who we are. 

From the day President Obama took office four years ago, leaders of the Republican Party made clear that their goal was to defeat him rather than invest time in getting the country back on track. They dragged their feet and dragged down the American economy, all in the service of the same failed vision that brought about the Great Recession. 

Working people soundly rejected those tactics and that vision yesterday. There was a very precise message from this election. 

With their votes, working families made clear they want solutions that respect hard work, strengthen the middle class, invest in America and build upon working together, not driving people apart.  That’s the leadership we’ve seen from President Obama for the last four years, and by the way, it’s the lip service we got from Mitt Romney the last couple of weeks – a big reason this race was so close. Now working families are ready to be full partners in making it happen. 

There are things a president can do alone, and we will be expecting that leadership from President Obama.  But winning big change will require the work of an entire country—and we’re in.  We’re in as an enthusiastic, independent voice for all working people. 

I know we can do it when I look at the impact union members had on this election.  I was on the road for the last three weeks and I’ve never seen so much energy. 

Despite the tidal wave of secret corporate cash, this election proved there is no match for the strength of grassroots people power – of personal relationships and conversations in communities.  And this year the labor program was able to reach beyond union members, powering a person-to-person ground effort that reached out to other working families in our communities through our community affiliate Working America and the labor SuperPAC Workers’ Voice. 

Nationwide, 65 percent of union members voted for Barack Obama, according to a survey conducted last night by Hart Research, and that big margin was decisive in states like Ohio, Wisconsin and Nevada.  Fully 70 percent of union members voted for Barack Obama in Ohio, where our membership is 83 percent white, 40 percent Evangelical and 53 percent gun owners. 

And among our community affiliate WORKING AMERICA whose members are largely working-class moderates, 66 percent supported President Obama nationally and 69 percent in Ohio, where 1 out of every 10 voters is a member of Working America. 

Why?  By a huge majority, people believe President Obama will help working people while they saw Mitt Romney as more interested in helping the wealthy. They believe that President Obama will work to build a strong middle class and invest in America. 

They rejected Romney-Ryan economics.  Voters strongly believe that we should make sure the wealthy start paying their fair share of taxes.  They believe that we should protect Medicare and Social Security benefits from cuts.  And voters reject the idea that bringing down the federal budget deficit is the over-riding priority:  Voters say we should maintain public investments that create jobs, and bring down the deficit more gradually.  Guy will give you the details in a few minutes. 

Voters in California—shored up by 40,000 union volunteers—stood against a $50 million avalanche of contributions from corporate special interests to silence the voice of working people by soundly rejecting Prop 32. 

At the end of the day, 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—and voters got it. 

Now it’s our job to make sure the lessons from this election stick. We have no illusions that it will be easy. 

Almost two years ago, the American labor movement began building a long-term mobilization structure to talk to all working families about issues as well as candidates. We and others created Workers’ Voice to reach out beyond our membership and innovated with sophisticated technology and digital tools like Friends and Neighbors and rePurpose, to let volunteers truly own our program.  We’re proud to see what a difference our efforts made in key states like Ohio, Wisconsin and Nevada. But the work doesn’t stop with elections. 

Starting tomorrow—yes, I said tomorrow!—working families across the country will be out in communities at close to one hundred events to talk to members of Congress about the coming lame duck session and fiscal showdown. Activists will send the message to our elected leaders that it’s time we say “NO to benefit cuts for Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid and YES to fair taxes on the wealthiest 2 %.” 

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.  Working people will not pay the price for tax cuts for the rich. 

It’s time for a renewed investment in manufacturing, education and our basic infrastructure—to create good jobs here at home and increase our competitiveness, working together. 

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. Thank you.

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