A prominent labor leader is asking American workers to channel their anger over the nation’s dire economic circumstance to help, not hurt, Democrats in the coming midterm elections.
Anxiety over protracted unemployment, slow wage growth, housing foreclosures, and other financial woes have generated a rising tide of hostility among voters which, in turn, has created a sharply anti-incumbent sentiment not seen in more than a decade. Democrats this year will be defending their congressional majorities in the House and Senate as Republicans make a hard run to take control of at least one chamber.
AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka acknowledges the bleak employment picture workers face, noting that unemployment is as high as an astounding 45 percent in the city of Detroit, Mich.
Trumka, however, aims to turn blame for the current downturn toward corporate CEOs who, he says, “have been waging war against workers.”
“I know you’re frustrated. I know you’re angry. I am, too. I’m angry as hell!” Trumka says in a recent union speech in Minneapolis, Minn.
Rather than blame President Obama, who has seen his approval ratings sag over the last year, American workers should thank him, Trumka says, for his economic stimulus program and other pro-union actions such as prohibiting federal contractors from using funds to block union organizing.
“Without the Obama recovery plan, we’d be in a full-blown depression. The Obama administration has already created more jobs — even in this weak recovery — than were created during the entire eight years of George W. Bush,” Trumka says.
“Many of your members are working today on bridges, highways and other projects funded by recovery dollars,” he adds.
Unions, including Trumka’s, worked hard to elect Obama in 2008.
While praising Obama’s record, Trumka acknowledges frustration with the slow pace of Congress.
“But let’s be clear about why we haven’t seen more. Most of what we see is Republicans fighting Democrats — and sometimes they’re joined by a few Democrats –and we’re living the fall-out,” he says. “Here’s the problem. Every time the Democrats and President Obama have proposed jobs legislation, they’ve been blocked by crass maneuvers from the most politically motivated Republican minority we have ever seen –- and I really do mean ever.”
The GOP obstruction is rooted simply in not wanting to see the Democratic president succeed, Trumka says, referring to Republicans as “the party of ‘no.'”
“The Party of No doesn’t want workers to have the freedom to form unions and bargain for better lives—because they don’t want us to succeed,” he says. “And the Party of No doesn’t want the union vote — the working family vote. They want us all to stay at home out of frustration. They figure that if they can mobilize the rightwing radicals, the corporate conservatives, the Tea Party fanatics and the talk show fans, and if they can thoroughly disgust the rest of us, then they can win this election in a walk.”
Trumka asks workers to convince dispirited and angry colleagues to vote Democratic.
“Help your members get over their frustrations, get them hyped up and fighting back,” he urges. “Pull out all the stops. We need leaders in Washington and in the states who will be steadfast friends to workers, friends to families, leaders who will fight for good jobs in America.”
The publisher of the news site On The Hill, Scott Nance has covered Congress and the federal government for more than a decade.