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AFL-CIO Asks, "Who's On Our Side?"

Seeking to reassert itself as a political force following a year of internal turmoil, the AFL-CIO is launching a campaign aimed at bringing grassroots pressure to bear on Republicans in 10 statewide races.

The "Who's On Our Side" program kicked off this morning with a press conference by AFL-CIO secretary-treasurer Richard Trumka. He said the effort will formally launch in early 2006 with a major speech by AFL-CIO President John Sweeney.

Field organizers with significant political background have been hired in the targeted states to coordinate with the heads of state parties to release "report cards" on a handful of members of Congress. The grades document how the lawmakers voted on issues important to workers, according to the AFL-CIO.

The specific targets, according to sources close to the campaign, are:

* Sen. Conrad Burns (R-Mont.)
* Sen. Mike DeWine (R-Ohio)
* Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.)
* Sen. Jim Talent (R-Mo.)
* Rep. Bob Beauprez (R-Co.) -- gubernatorial candidate
* Rep. Mark Green (R-Wis.) -- gubernatorial candidate
* Rep. Katherine Harris (R-Fla.) -- Senate candidate
* Rep. Mark Kennedy (R-Minn.) -- Senate candidate
* Rep. Jim Nussle (R-Iowa) -- gubernatorial candidate

Additional targets include two Maryland officials -- Gov. Bob Erhlich (R), who is seeking reelection, and Lt. Gov. Michael Steele (R), who is running for the open Senate seat.

The AFL-CIO's reemergence in the political world comes approximately five months after the Service Employees International Union and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters left the group in protest of how the umbrella organization was responding to the decline in the number of unionized workers nationally and labor's influence in Washington. The two unions joined with several smaller labor organizations to form the Change to Win coalition.

Sources close to the new AFL-CIO effort insist it will once again establish the organization as the dominant political force within the labor movement and put the split in its past.

What do you think? Is the AFL-CIO still a major player national politics?. Post your thoughts in the comment section below.

By Chris Cillizza  |  December 13, 2005; 12:40 PM ET
Categories:  Governors , House , Senate  
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Comments

Posted by: Jill | August 26, 2006 1:23 AM | Report abuse

Only about 13-14% of US workers are in unions anymore. Compare that to 28% in Canada and 45% in Quebec--a level the US hasn't seen since the 50s. The unions are still important in US politics, but not as important in Canada where workers enjoy a higher standard of living. Regular strikes are tolerated as a way of life here.

Posted by: Sandwich Repairman | December 15, 2005 4:29 PM | Report abuse

Sam Douthit needs to read history. The AFL was at about the same place when the CIO came along as unio9ns are today . The new creation brought all workers together, not just skilled workers. The challenge is just the opposite--getting the skilled workers (ie high tech people at the low end) to realize they too are workers. B.

Posted by: Bill | December 14, 2005 5:06 PM | Report abuse

Sam Douthit needs to read history. The AFL was at about the same place when the CIO came along. The new creation brought all workers together, not just skilled workers. The challenge is just the opposite--getting the skilled workers (ie high tech people at the low end) to realize they too are workers. B.

Posted by: Bill | December 14, 2005 5:05 PM | Report abuse

The union's demise is it's success. It brougt living wages to the worker, who now feel they got those wages because of their worth. With their duimished health benefits, fringes, wages they still feel since they are such worthy people, business will reaqlize it was wrong. I'd suggest that you don't hold youyr breath. Individuals cannot deal with the corporation, it takes united action. When today's workers get tired of taking it in the chin(or bank-book) they will have to turn to united action and be willing to fight in the trenches and sacrifice, as did those (in the 40') who got you the level you now take for granted and are now loosing. Read the Jungle to see where you are headed if business and Republican's have their way.Bill Beals

Posted by: Anonymous | December 14, 2005 4:53 PM | Report abuse

The AFL-CIO has some power to help in an election. BUT if the present electronic rigged voting and vote counting eqipment are allowed nation-wide, the machines will decide the election as the did in 2004.
It would be nice to have an election by the American folks votes instead by the Supreme Court or RIGGED VOTING EQUIPMENT.

Posted by: Bern Paddock | December 14, 2005 2:21 PM | Report abuse

My grandfather who was a member of the A F of L as they called it rued the day that the CIO might combine with the AFL. He took great pride in his union and as a businessman, who lost his business in the great depression, felt that the AFofL actually was a benefit to the employer and assured a qualified journeyman worker for a fair wage. The CIO pandered more to the great unwashed and the advantage of numbers to extort business. It is ever so.Luckily he died in 1945 before the CIO took over his union.

Posted by: Sam Douthit | December 14, 2005 1:11 PM | Report abuse

Hopefully no one is behind the unions anymore; unless they are pushing them the rest of the way over the cliff.

They served a very good purpose 50-100 years ago when they helped push labor issues and worker treatment to the forefront.

Now, their bloated wage/benefit packages and refusal to compromise threatens hundreds of thousands of jobs at UAW plants, and in the airline industry.

http://crazypolitics.blogspot.com

Posted by: Crazy Politico | December 14, 2005 10:48 AM | Report abuse

Unions have a terrible image right now, thanks to the tireless bashing they get from Republican elites. The single most effective way to organize the workers is to show some f'ing pride. Union workers are the most consistently competent and hard working group of people in the country. Right now, they need to push that message, and appeal to people's sense of pride, rather than economic interests. Make people wish they were in a union.

Posted by: jf | December 14, 2005 8:34 AM | Report abuse

AFL-CI WHO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Posted by: Paul | December 14, 2005 2:28 AM | Report abuse

i was in the union 40 years. ran for office. supported a republican for county commission {non-partisan office}. so i was blackballed with all unions. and some county democatic office holders also blackballed me although i am a strong lifetime democrate. the afl-cio has no political power because half are republicans and half are democrates . which negates each others vote .

Posted by: gary | December 13, 2005 10:17 PM | Report abuse

While I believe in my soul that the future of the Democratic Party lies in its return to being the "working people's" party, I don't know that "union" is synonomous with "working people" anymore. And when the AFL-CIO talks about $80K auto workers as being part of the "labor movement", you do have to snicker. The first Dem who can separate "workers" from "union" wins.

Posted by: squibs | December 13, 2005 5:57 PM | Report abuse

I am very pleased to see in Tiffany's and Caspar's posts that the idea of spreading labor ideas and union principles throughout the world. Many labor unions already label themselves as international organizations, such as the International Brotherhood of Electircal Workers or Teamsters and so on. Yet they have failed to actually promote unions outside of this country. Many third-world naitons already have nascent labor organizations, such as in China. It is time for the unions in the U.S. and Europe that have had such great success throughout the 20th century to lend a hand to these future unions.
Yet the globalization of business is not the only thing that has hurt the power of the unions and the AFL-CIO. The failure of the UCFW's fight against the supermarkets in California. Many issues therefore confront unions in the United States, including the ridiculous "right to work" laws and workers that are constantly shifting into different industries.
Yet I think the influence of labor in America can be seen in the rejection of Gov. Arnold's anti-labor initiatives. Those initiatives fell due to the successful advocacy of labor. With more than 13 million members who consistently vote, labor can not be ignored, but they have to worry about losing their influence to various global, national and local issues.

Posted by: Noah | December 13, 2005 5:27 PM | Report abuse

Is the AFL-CIO still effective? The answer to that isn't as simple as a "yes" or "no". Are they one of the largest and influencial organizations in politics today? Yes. Has their influence been steadily declining for decades? You betcha.

Are they anywhere in the same solar system of political power as a group like the Christian Coalition? Not a chance.

Posted by: J. Crozier | December 13, 2005 4:20 PM | Report abuse

SDM-- I realize that we will not be able to just send American labor/union advocates into a country and be welcomed by the workers. It will have to be up to indigenous grassroots campaigns to fight those battles. However, the US and European labor movements don't have to stand on the sidelines and wait and see what happens. They can and should actively support indigenous labor movements. That support could be given through sharing ideas, resources, money, man-power (perhaps labor's version of a missionary trip?), petitions, boycotts, etc.

At this point, it does not look as though the AFL-CIO, or Change to Win for that matter, have put much emphasis on helping their brothers and sisters outside of US borders.

Not to say that there aren't any individual unions currently engaged in helping indigenous movements, just saying that more needs to be done as a whole.

Posted by: Tiffany | December 13, 2005 4:02 PM | Report abuse

Well, -we- won't "build a transnational labor movement" -- indigenous grassroots campaigns will fight their own battles, and we will watch from the sidelines to see how that affects us. We aren't in control, it's not up to us.

Posted by: SDM | December 13, 2005 3:41 PM | Report abuse

Tiffany put his/her finger right on the problem, the labor movement must be international in scope. But what else is new? Marx/Engels advised the workers of the world to unite over 150 years ago. Unfortunately, they didn't tell us how to go about it, and , as you point out, Tiffany, it's proved damnably hard.

And the great irony of our time is that it's the capitalists of the world who've united iin order to more efficiently exploit the divided workers of the world.
No more wasteful and unprofitable imperialist wars such as WWI and WWII, we now live in a world governed not by nation states but by the trans=nationall corporation. And workers, whether in the "developed" (rich) or the "undeveloped" (poor) world are virtually helpless against the power of globalized capitalism. American workers are blackmailed by the threat of outsourcing, 3rd World workers are held to virtual slavery by fascistic regimes bankrolled by
"entrpreneurs" both domestic and foreign.

It's a pretty grim picture, I know, and I wish I could see some bright spots in it but I can't. How can we build a transnational labor movement to deal on equal terms with trannational capital? I'm sure we'll find a way some day but at the rate we're going it may take another 150 years.

Posted by: Caspar | December 13, 2005 3:14 PM | Report abuse

They're down but not necessarily out. Yet. I say they get one more election year to prove that they are still politically relevant. After that, I'd write them off if they can't point to some results.

Bear in mind that most Democrats believe in fair working conditions and adequate salaries for workers. There's a current in favor of many union issues that runs through the Demoocratic party and it's leadership as a result of decades of sucessful union activity. My point being that even if the AFL-CIO is unable to politically assert it's self, their issues and ideas do not automatically collapse right away.

Posted by: Jackson Landers | December 13, 2005 3:09 PM | Report abuse

One out of four people who voted in the last two presidential elections have been from union households. You do the math in regard to political power. When did it suddenly become the American dream to work for less, have no health insurance and have your pension stolen by some greedy CEO? Hang on everyone as America races to the bottom. There will be no ownership society because none of us will be able to afford anything to own as we ask, "Do you want to super size your Big Mac meal?"

Posted by: Rich | December 13, 2005 2:50 PM | Report abuse

The AFL-CIO is a relic of yesteryear. They count for exactly nothing except a lot of Democratic Party rhetoric and churning. That will get them and the Democrats exactly nothing.

Posted by: Steve | December 13, 2005 2:35 PM | Report abuse

What the AFL-CIO is doing is a move in the right direction, for the short term.

Long term, they need to look towards an international effort. Even if labor had majority control of US government and in Europe, they'd still face the issues of the state of labor in the third world.

To truly make the labor movement at home more stable and a force to reckon with, they need to take the 40 (or 35) hour work week, over-time pay, living wage, and other benefits to the rest of the world. Thus taking away the claims that we can't hold to those rules at home, because big corporations can do the job cheaper elsewhere.

I realize that there are huge obstacles in the way of this idea, given the nature of some third world governments. Yet there were huge obstacles in the way of the labor movement when it began in the US and Europe. They found a way then, they need to find a way now.

Posted by: Tiffany | December 13, 2005 2:20 PM | Report abuse

The quoted list of targeted candidates says it all. It is patently obvious that the AFL-CIO is a front for the "labor unions at all costs" cabal and having been a complete and utter failure in either maintaing or increasing their "membership" (whether coerced or not), they are now on a PR campaign to resuscitate their irreparably diminished influence. Now, who do you suppose is listening to their wails?
I suppose there is only "one pig at the trough".

Posted by: Brad | December 13, 2005 2:15 PM | Report abuse

I think the labor movement's biggest problem is from the progressive movement in the Democratic party. As Dean showed in the last election if you get the progressives behind you the Labor Unions will follow just so it doesn't look like they keep picking the wrong horse. I think the downfall of the labor union's power was written years ago with the death of Soft Money.

Posted by: Andy | December 13, 2005 1:57 PM | Report abuse

Teasing reader comments, White Mule? I could be wrong, but isn't that the very purpose of a blog? Granted Chris can be a bit condescending in the way he does it, but it can't be easy to churn these things out multiple times a day.

Posted by: Mike 234 | December 13, 2005 1:45 PM | Report abuse

I think it's pretty sad, Chris, when you ask your readers' opinions instead of telling us what you think/know. I don't really care what most of your readers think. How the heck do I know if they know anything? Stop asking for opinions and keep on reporting. You are too good at that to waste your talents teasing reader comments.

Posted by: White Mule | December 13, 2005 1:34 PM | Report abuse

The AFL-CIO seems on the right track in their latest attempt to educate voters on issues vital to the continued existance of organized labor. America voters must wake up to the dangers of the possible loss of the labor movement and the fruits it bears for all workers and consumers alike.

Posted by: Charlie Williams | December 13, 2005 1:19 PM | Report abuse

Dear Folks,

Wake up AFL-CIO, neither party cares about your union. Stop being an acolyte of Clintion and Co. Listen to Mr. Stern.

Posted by: Peter Roach | December 13, 2005 1:17 PM | Report abuse

I think the work being done by Andy Stern of SEIU in tremendously expanding recruiting for the labor unions will be the definitive word on whether the unions can regain their strength. Stern is a really dedicated labor supporter and his union in California is cohesive and mainly victorious in whatever cause they pursue. His ideas are innovative, forward looking and based on reality. I believe he is the only one who can save the union cause in this country and, perhaps, worldwide.

Posted by: barbara | December 13, 2005 1:09 PM | Report abuse

How do you define "major" Chris? The AFL-CIO need only affect a few close races (e.g., Sangtorum) to be effective.

Posted by: Mike 234 | December 13, 2005 12:44 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
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