Election About Jobs, Not Republican Mandate

Image: Mike HallLast night’s election, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka told reporters today in a conference call, “was about jobs, plain and simple. It was a mandate to fix the economy and create jobs. But here’s what it wasn’t”:

It wasn’t a mandate for the policies most Republicans campaigned on.

An election night survey of voters in 100 swing congressional district bears that out. That survey, Trumka says:

shows clearly that the election wasn’t an endorsement of tax cuts for the wealthy—or for undermining Social Security or the minimum wage. It wasn’t a rejection of building a middle class economy. And it wasn’t an ideological purge—as many Blue Dogs lost as progressives.

Overall, union members voted for the union-endorsed candidate by 64 percent. The union movement’s mobilization included 200,000 union volunteers who distributed 19.4 million fliers while talking with workers one on one at the workplace. They knocked on 8.5 million doors and made millions of  phone calls.

Members of Working America, the AFL-CIO community affiliate for people without a union, was in 13 cities, nine states and more than 80 electoral races around the country and knocked on nearly 800,000 doors and made half a million phone calls to voters around the country.

While Republicans today are claiming a mandate for their “Pledge to America” agenda—more or less a return to Bush-era economic policies—the survey numbers show a different story. When asked about specific Pledge to America agenda items, just 34 percent of all voters and 49 percent of Republicans support extending the tax cuts for the wealthy. By almost the same small numbers, they support rolling back Wall Street reform.

Among other proposals from Republican candidates this fall, only 29 percent of all voters and 35 percent of Republicans back raising the Social Security retirement age, while only 28 percent of all voters and 45 percent of Republicans back privatizing Social Security.

Reducing or eliminating the minimum wage draws the support of just 18 percent of all voters and 25 percent of Republicans.

Instead, the voters surveyed are big supporters of many of the economic proposals the AFL-CIO and most Democrats have called for and want Congress to invest money in job creation and help for the unemployed. Voters say they want:

  • A major job creation tax credit for business to create jobs in the United States—89 percent of all voters and 87 percent of Republicans.
  • Job creation by rebuilding the nation’s infrastructure of roads, bridges, schools and energy systems—77 percent of all voters and 63 percent of Republicans.
  • Job investment to maintain U.S. competitiveness with China, India and Germany—77 percent of all voters and 74 percent of Republicans.
  • Federal unemployment insurance benefits extended for those who have lost their jobs and are unable to find new ones—65 percent of all voters and 47 of Republicans.

Trumka also said voters were angry and rightfully so because, “They’ve felt the pain of economic collapse, and paid for it with their jobs, their homes and often their hope.”

That anger is directed at everyone in Washington. Our election night survey showed that, quite frankly, voters don’t make a distinction between Democrats and Republicans on having a plan to strengthen the economy.

The survey shows that just 35 percent of the voters believe the Republicans have a clear economic plan to rebuild the economy and create a jobs plan. Those numbers are just slightly better than the 30 percent who believe Democrats have an economic fix it plan.

While Republicans picked up huge gains in the House and some Senate seats, Trumka told reporters:

The months of intense, grassroots organizing on the ground by working people and their unions prevented yesterday from being even worse—particularly in places like Nevada, West Virginia, and California. In those states and many House districts, union members voted for our endorsed candidates by huge margins—40 percent in Nevada, for example—and we were the firewall.

Trumka also pointed to the huge amount of corporate money that played a major influence in the election.

According to Open Secrets, 74.2 percent of ALL money spent in the elections was spent by corporations—and their spending started well before the elections. In 2009 alone, the top three business industries—the health care and pharmaceutical industry, business associations like the Chamber of Commerce, and the oil and gas industry, spent $626 million on lobbying to defeat and distort President Obama’s agenda.

But, despite last night’s outcome, Trumka promised the fight

begins all over again for working families—for jobs, for building the middle class, for protecting retirement security and more.

That includes stepping up efforts to end corporate outsourcing of U.S. jobs, strengthening Social Security and Medicare, fighting to help jobless workers, asking multimillionaires to pay their fair share in taxes and investing in a 21st century infrastructure.

This article was originally posted on AFL-CIO Now Blog.

About The Author: Mike Hall is a former West Virginia newspaper reporter, staff writer for the United Mine Workers Journal and managing editor of the Seafarers Log. He came to the AFL- CIO in 1989 and have written for several federation publications, focusing on legislation and politics, especially grassroots mobilization and workplace safety.

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Madeline Messa

Madeline Messa is a 3L at Syracuse University College of Law. She graduated from Penn State with a degree in journalism. With her legal research and writing for Workplace Fairness, she strives to equip people with the information they need to be their own best advocate.