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A Look Back At The 2012 Election: Organized Labor Plays Huge Role In Re-Election Of President Obama, Now Sets Sites On Bigger & Better Results For Working People

Even Though Labor-Endorsed Congressional Candidates Kathy Hochul & Nate Shinagawa Lost Close Area Battles, The Union Community Made It Razor Close By Initiating A Massive GOTV/Boots-On-The-Ground Effort Across Western New York

Published Sunday, November 11, 2012 9:00 am
by Tom Campbell/Editor-Publisher
A Look Back At The 2012 Election: Organized Labor Plays Huge Role In Re-Election Of President Obama, Now Sets Sites On Bigger & Better Results For Working People

If anyone had thought Organized Labor was on its way out, then they need to think again.

The role Labor played in the National and Western New York Elections was extremely important in helping Re-Elect President Obama to a second term and just missing out in getting two Union-Endorsed U.S. Congressional Candidates - Kathy Hochul and Nate Shinagawa - elected in two extremely and heavily-weighted Local Republican Districts.

“I think (Labor) acquitted itself very well,” Western New York AFL-CIO Area Labor Federation President Richard Lipsitz told WNYLaborToday.com, while also making it a point to underscore Labor-Assisted Re-Election Victories posted by Congressional Representatives Brian Higgins and Louise Slaughter.  “This (year’s) effort was the most extensive ever, locally, in terms of the number of (Unions and Union Members) that were involved.  While we wished we’d won with Hochul and Shinagawa, overall, I feel very good because of such a strong and united effort.  There’s nothing here that’s going to get me down in the dumps.  Now with the Re-Election of President Obama, (Organized Labor) has four years to fight for Workers’ Rights (under a Democratic President).  We will be even more united with even more purpose.”

The Presidential Race had those in the National Labor Movement concerned, especially with Polls during the last few weeks of the Campaign showing Republican Candidate Mitt Romney holding a small lead over the President.  Labor knew if the Romney-(Vice Presidential Candidate Paul) Ryan Ticket was elected, it would have spelled extremely hard times for Labor Unions and its efforts to Organize Workers across the United States in the years to come.  With the bad taste of Republican Governors in Wisconsin and Ohio setting the tone, Romney unabashedly shared his thoughts and plans during the Presidential Campaign as to what he would to make it harder for Unions to Collectively Bargain, as well as moving forward on a host of Anti-Union/Anti-Worker Initiatives, such as doing away with Project Labor Agreements for starters, that would have further eroded the Membership of Labor Unions and – what some in the Movement were most worried about – work to bring about its eventual demise.

But what was thought to be a nail-biter turned out to be a landslide for President Obama both through the Electoral College and with the Popular Vote, besting Romney 332-to-206 and by enjoying a margin of more than two million votes than his Republican Challenger.  In the end, the major role Organized Labor played helped provide Obama with wins in eight of nine Swing States, losing only to Romney in North Carolina.  Unbelievably, the President won Florida, Ohio, Iowa, New Hampshire, Wisconsin, Virginia, Colorado and Nevada.

Over the weekend, the Associated Press ran a story with the following lead: After two years of getting pummeled in Wisconsin, Indiana and other Battleground States, Leaders of the Nation's Big Labor Unions were beaming on Election Night.  Labor's Massive Voter Turnout effort played a major role in helping President Obama win and its Leaders are now looking for a more Liberal, Pro-Union Agenda from the White House.

According to the AP, topping Labor's Wish List is a push to Raise Taxes on Wealthy Americans and discouraging Obama from agreeing to any deal with Republicans over the looming Fiscal Cliff that cuts into Social Security and Medicare.  Unions are also pressing for new measures that might help boost their sagging Membership Rolls (Overall, about 11.8% of all Workers across the United States are Represented by a Union, but in the Private Sector, Union Membership is only 6.9%): New Investment in Infrastructure, which would create hundreds of thousands of Construction Jobs for Building Trades Unions; Immigration Reform - a path to Citizenship for as many as 11 million Undocumented Latino Immigrants, which would help to create a vast new pool of Potential Union Members; and a host of New Regulations that could remove some obstacles to Union Organizing.  For example, the AP reported a New Rule is expected from the U.S. Labor Department that would force Companies to reveal relationships with so-called Union-Busting Consulting Companies, even if the Companies have no contact with Workers.  The National Labor Relations Board is also expected to start work on a New Rule that would force Businesses to turn over Workers' Phone Numbers, E-mails and Shift Times to Union Organizers.  The Obama Administration, the AP Reports, might even consider a plan that would give an advantage in bidding on Government Contracts to Companies that offer Workers a Higher Living Wage and Generous Benefits.

"There are things the President can do and we'll be expecting that leadership from President Obama," National AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka was quoted as saying in the AP Story.  "We did deliver those States.  Without Organized Labor, none of those would have been in the President's column."

The AP went on to report that Unions expected to spend big in the Elections - more than $400 million - to help Obama and other Union-Friendly Candidates at the Federal, State and Local Levels. The Country's Largest Public Workers Union, the American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees (AFSCME), spent about $100 million, while the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) spent $85 million, the AP Reported. As an interesting side note, an Analysis conducted by the Sunlight Foundation, which tracks money in Politics, found Unions and other Democratic-Leaning Groups were far more successful than Outside Conservative Groups in targeting money towards winning House and Senate Campaigns.  For example, the SEIU spent more than 70% of its funds on eventual winners, while Republican Operative Karl Rove's American Crossroads and its Non-Profit Affiliate had only a 6% success rate.

But the AP Story noted Labor's Election Success hinged in large part on its extensive Union Member Ground Game, with thousands and thousands of volunteers making personal contact with Union and Non-Union Voters.  Labor also took advantage of new rules on Super PACs, funneling at least $77 million to the groups, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.  As a result, Labor Unions, the AP Story reported, showed they still wield Considerable Political Muscle, despite Declining Membership and having to spend millions fighting efforts in dozens of State Legislatures to curb their Bargaining Rights or limit their Political Clout.  Exit Polls showed Obama won 58% of Voters from Union Households, compared with 40% for Republican Romney.  That margin rose to 60% in Ohio and 66% in Wisconsin.

“More Union Members than ever volunteered in Campaigns coordinated by the New York State AFL-CIO,” said the Statewide Labor Federation’s President, Mario Cilento.  “Throughout the State, Union Members spoke with their Co-Workers, knocked on hundreds of thousands of doors, and most of all - made sure their ‘voice’ was heard at the Polls.  They proved, once again, that when we come together to fight for the issues that matter most to New York’s Hard-Working Families, we can accomplish great things as a Movement.  Labor’s Endorsed Candidates were overwhelmingly successful, and as a result, New York’s Working Families are the ‘real winners.’”

New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) President Richard Iannuzzi - whose Statewide Union represents more than 600,000 Teachers, School-Related Professionals, Academic and Professional Faculty in Higher Education, Professionals in Education and Health Care and Retirees – congratulated President Barack Obama and U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York on both winning Re-Election, and said his Union looks forward to working in a bi-partisan fashion with Congress and the State Legislature toward solutions that benefit all New Yorkers: “The Election is over and now is the time for our State and our Nation to come together.  We must begin looking forward and working, in the spirit of collaboration and bi-partisanship, toward solutions to the challenges that await us. As Hurricane Sandy showed, we can come together as a State and a Nation to work as partners in the best interests of our communities.  That’s what we at NYSUT intend to do in the days and months ahead.”

Both Hochul, who lost to Republican Challenger and former Erie County Executive Chris Collins in a newly-drawn 27th District by a margin of 50.7% to 40.3%, and Shinagawa, who lost 51% to 48% to Republican Incumbent Tom Reed in the Southern Tier, did extremely well despite, again, running in heavily-weighted GOP Districts.  In the end, it showed the role Labor can and does play in an Election, even in a heavily populated Republican Area.

“While I’m pleased with Labor’s overall effort and extremely happy the President won, I and many others in the Western New York Labor Movement are upset Kathy Hochul did not win.  She’s been a good Congressperson.  I was also disappointed David Schenk lost (the Erie County Comptroller’s Race to Republican Challenger Stefan Mychaljiw, who had no accounting credentials, by a 52% to 48% margin).  But, we have much to be proud of as we move forward,” Buffalo AFL-CIO Central Labor Council President Mike Hoffert told WNYLaborToday.com after the Election.

Other Snippets and Observations collected from the General Election:

·       National Press Reports had as much as a combined $6 billion spent on the Campaign by the two Parties, which left many in the know continuing to make a sound case for Campaign Financing Reform, and pointing to the fact how that great amount of money could be “better used” to help create Jobs and improve the American Economy.

·       IBEW (International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers) Local 41 Union Member Chuck Gilbert lost his bid to unseat long-time 140th District/New York State Assemblyman Robin Schimminger, who has served in the Seat for 36 years.  Gilbert, who lost by a final tally of 70% to 30%, posted - in part - the following statement after the Election on his Social Network/Facebook Page: After taking the day to decompress and look back on this entire Campaign, I wanted to say Thank You to everyone that was a part of it.  I want to thank my wife, Renee, daughters Victoria, Gabrielle, Jordyn, and my little buddy, Lucas.  Without them I could never have made this journey.  They allowed me the time to put into the Campaign and sacrificed a lot in doing so.  To my Union Brothers and Sisters who supported my campaign, I Thank You and wish we could have won.  Congrats to Robin Schimminger, I hope that you will live by your Campaign Promises and take care of our District.  Thank You to everyone again and with time comes choices.  We will see what the future has in store for me and my Family. God Bless.

·       The Radical Tea Party took it on the chin - big time - across the Country as several of its Incumbent Candidates were ousted from Federal Office by Democratic Challengers, including: Elizabeth Warren over Scott Brown in the Massachusetts U.S. Senate Race; Decorated Iraqi War Veteran Tammy Duckworth over Joe Walsh in the Illinois/U.S. Congressional Race; U.S. Representative Allen West lost to Patrick Murphy in Florida; and Missouri Incumbent U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill over Challenger Todd Aiken, whose unbelievable stance on Legitimate Rape doomed his Campaign.  However, Republican U.S. Representative Michelle Bachmann - a Tea Party Darling - retained her seat in Minnesota, where she won over the Democratic Challenger Jim Graves by a slight margin of 50.6% to 49.4%.

·       Back in Western New York, Collins’ close win over Hochul sends him to Congress, which should be interesting, in light of the fact he campaigned on the Republican Platform of getting rid of Obamacare (which is now not going to happen) and the message sent in some of his Campaign Lawn Signs: Stop Obama.  Vote Collins.  Many in the local Labor Community are saying Collins will “be used” by the Republican Machine in Washington for his Personal Wealth and connections to Wealthy Donors, while as the same time serve as “a lowly Congressional Freshman who be relegated by the Party as nothing more a silent minion that marches in line between House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.”

·       Republican Media Operatives such as the Fox TV Network and Rush Limbaugh, as well as Millionaire Donald Trump, appeared to do more damage to the GOP than help it when it came to getting Romney elected President.  Afterward, Fox’s Bill O’Reilly said both Minorities and Women chose to vote for Obama over Romney because they “want stuff,” referring to what O’Reilly has described as Government Entitlements.  Meanwhile, Limbaugh had predicted “the end of the Republican Party” if Obama was Re-Elected.  In the end, it appeared Republican New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who blasted the President just weeks earlier during a speech he gave at the GOP Convention, might have done the most at the end to help get Obama re-elected by publicly giving the President high praise for his involvement and help after Super-Storm Sandy devastated the New Jersey Shoreline.  In fact, Christie blasted Fox News when asked if he would make arrangements for Romney to visit the area for a first-hand inspection.  Christie said he had no plans to do so.  Instead, Christie said he was “more concerned” about New Jersey Residents then the Presidential Election.  Christie’s show of Public Bi-Partisanship and the ability for a Democratic President and Republican Governor to get along was a welcomed Political sight in light of the horrible polarization in Washington, which serves as home to an appropriately named a do-nothing Congress.

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