Federation: Election Day Was About Jobs

December 2010

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Hours after Election Day, AFL-CIO President Rich Trumka said the fight for working families begins again immediately, calling the 2010 election “a mandate tocreate jobs and fix the economy.”


“We are asking the president and every member of Congress to have the courage to act to create jobs – to stand up to corporate influence in our democracy, and to take bold steps to build an economy that works for everyone,” Trumka said.


Voters suffering from high unemployment, home foreclosures and a faltering economy rejected business as usual in Washington, D.C., and demanded action. “Let’s be clear,” Trumka said. “Working people think there wasn’t enough done to help average people, not that there was over-reach. They wanted results and they didn’t see them.”


By far, jobs and the economy was the top issue for voters – among union members and nonmembers –according to exit polls and an AFL-CIO survey conducted the night of Nov. 2 by Hart Research Associates.


“The election results were extremely disappointing for the millions of union families who voted in this election, and for the hundreds of thousands of union volunteers who spent hours working for working family candidates,” Trumka said.


But Trumka pointed to union voters as the firewall in crucial Senate victories in Nevada, California and West Virginia. With an extraordinary ground campaign, union members voted 64 percent – 36 percent for union-endorsed working family candidates in the House. They voted for the re-election of Sen. Harry Reid by a 40 point margin, for Gov. Joe Manchin by a 24 point margin and for Sen. Barbara Boxer by a 44 point margin.


“This election was about the economy and jobs, plain and simple,” Trumka said.


For the maritime industry, while many supporters in Congress won their respective elections, longtime backers U.S. Reps. James Oberstar, Ike Skelton and Gene Taylor were defeated. Notwithstanding the anti-incumbent sentiment across the country, those losses arguably were stunning.


“As we all know, elections have consequences and this year was certainly no exception,” said SIU Political Director Terry Turner. “We lost some good friends: Ike Skelton, Chairman of Armed Services; Jim Oberstar, Chairman of Transportation and Infrastructure; Gene Taylor, Chairman of Seapower, just to name a few. But, at the same time, we have continued to build our Republican relationships with the new incoming Chairmen like Buck McKeon of Armed Services, John Mica on Transportation and Industry and Frank LoBiondo on Coast Guard. However, with at least 60 new freshmen coming to Congress we have our work cut out for us.”


Meanwhile, the AFL-CIO poll, conducted in the top 100 swing congressional districts, shows that voters overwhelmingly reject privatizing Social Security and raising the Social Security retirement age. They reject abolishing the Department of Education and they oppose reducing or eliminating the minimum wage.


Voters in the swing congressional districts support a strong investment agenda to create jobs as well as an extension of unemployment benefits for jobless Americans. Fully 89 percent want to see tax credits for companies that create jobs in this country. An extraordinary 77 percent favor investing in rebuilding roads, bridges, schools and energy systems to create jobs. And 76 percent endorse investing in jobs to maintain U.S. competitiveness with China, India and Germany.


The AFL-CIO grassroots campaign was extensive: 200,000 union volunteers knocked on 8.5 million doors, distributed 19.4 million flyers while talking to workers at their work sites and made tens of millions of phone calls. Members received 24.6 million pieces of union mail. Additionally, Working America, the community affiliate of the AFL-CIO, was active in 13 cities, nine states and more than 80 electoral races around the country.


But union volunteers’ efforts came up against a flood of anonymous corporate spending through front groups that ran television ads attacking pro-worker candidates. News reports estimate that almost 75 percent of all contributions in this election cycle were by corporations.


Trumka said immediate priorities of union members include stepping up the fight to end outsourcing, supporting jobless workers, asking multi-millionaires to pay their fair share and putting that money to work to create good jobs and security for working families, and investing to build a 21st century infrastructure.


“We have an energized membership that’s ready to fight, and we’re going to give it everything we have,” he said.

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