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At various junctures during the 2010 cycle, the lack of enthusiasm among labor organizations and, more specifically, union workers, appeared like it would seriously hamper the Democratic Party’s chances. Labor itself fed the notion, cognizant that lawmakers would be more attentive to their needs if their political help wasn’t taken for granted.
Well, unions didn’t sit out the election. They spent big money. And while the checks and campaign efforts came up short, on Wednesday morning one of the leading figures in the movement made the case that if Democrats wanted a scapegoat it wasn’t labor.
“We did our job,” Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO, told the Huffington Post. “No matter what demographic, you look at our membership, we had large margins for progressive candidates approaching 30, with Harry Reid it was higher. We voted 69 to 29 for him which is a 40 percent margin. So we educated out people we got them out to the polls and they voted in large numbers. Unfortunately, the rest of society was over-large in the other way.”
Speaking earlier at a breakfast organized by the National Journal, the AFL-CIO header made a similar case. In some of the high-profile races that Democrats did win (namely, a group of them in the Senate) some of their best turnout margins came from the union vote.
“There was an enthusiasm gap early on with our members,” Trumka acknowledged, addressing, specifically, Congress’ inability to pass the pro-union Employee Free Choice Act. “But the more information we gave them… it had less effect.”
Touting the electoral impact of the AFL-CIO is, of course, a preliminary function of its president’s job. And while Trumka’s remarks served, in a way, as a preemptive defense of his organization before the recriminations begin on the Democratic side of the aisle, it also was a flag planting of sorts for future elections and policy-making.
“I think [Democrats] are cognizant of what we did and if they aren’t they should pay heed to it,” he said.