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Labor and Its Allies Make the Difference in Campaign 2012

by Cynthia McCabe  |  November 07, 2012

Pres. Lee Saunders
AFSCME Pres. Lee Saunders

Sixty-five percent of union members voted for Pres. Barack Obama in yesterday’s election, and their support, coupled with the 66 percent of the vote earned from households organized by a 3-million member pro-worker coalition, helped propel his re-election.

That’s one of the key findings in polling released today by the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO). Other findings of note include:

  • 62 percent of those polled said they used their vote to send a message that the wealthy must start paying their fair share of taxes.
  • 73 percent said they were sending a message that lawmakers have a responsibility to protect Medicare and Social Security.
  • 80 percent said Mitt Romney’s comments dismissing 47  percent of Americans – an attack AFSCME amplified with our immensely popular “Meet Richard” video featuring Romney’s trash collector Richard Hayes – were “very important” as they considered how to cast their vote.

AFSCME VotesAFSCME Pres. Lee Saunders joined AFL-CIO Pres. Richard Trumka this morning at an event highlighting voters’ rejection of Romney’s harmful vision for America and their call for labor and allies to rebuild the middle class.

Saunders, who is chair of AFL-CIO’s Political Committee, called this year’s campaign, “the smartest, biggest and broadest effort labor’s ever run.” That effort included 65,600 AFSCME activists who knocked on 385,000 doors, made 1.1 million phone calls, and 4,400 worksite visits on behalf of pro-worker candidates and ballot measures. (Click here to read AFSCME’s new report Main Street’s New Moment: What Election 2012 Means for America’s Working Families.)

Saunders pointed out that lawmakers who would target collective bargaining “might think twice about doing that,” given last night’s results. In Wisconsin and Ohio, where workers faced relentless attacks from governors and state lawmakers, support among AFSCME members for President Obama grew significantly from 2008 to 2012 and he won both states. In New Hampshire, voters elected Maggie Hassan as governor, rejecting an opponent who bragged he would be Wisconsin Gov. “Scott Walker on steroids” if elected.

Saunders acknowledged that the previous night’s sweeping victories at every level of government had not always seemed certain.

“Faced with a rotten economy, high unemployment, decimated public services and other consequences of the failed policies of the past, the fundamentals pointed to an extremely bumpy road for President Obama’s reelection bid,” he said. He added that AFSCME’s Executive Board jumped in and unanimously endorsed President Obama early in the election cycle and began an immediate campaign to define Romney for members and the general public.

Additionally, the efforts of Working America – a group dedicated to organizing non-union members to fight for workers’ rights – were also crucial in continuing to define Romney as hostile and indifferent to the realities of working people during his years as a vulture capitalist with Bain Capital and as Massachusetts governor. And through the Workers’ Voice coalition, union volunteers facing unprecedented right-wing spending were still able to penetrate the election noise and reach the general public with a message of rebuilding the middle class.

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