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Unions reach beyond their base for election help

July 12, 2012|By Alana Semuels
  • AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka holds a news conference to announce the "Workers Stand for America" campaign and event at the National Press Club in Washington.
AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka holds a news conference to announce the… (Chip Somodevilla / Getty…)

Unions intend to make workers’ rights a big issue in November, and are reaching beyond their traditional membership base to rally workers ahead of an election that’s projected to be very close.

“Are you with us? Are you with the American people?”AFL-CIOpresident Richard Trumka asked at a press conference today, as he announced an Aug. 11 rally in Philadelphia  for workers rights alongside Edwin D. Hill, president of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. Both said they hoped that non-union members and workers would attend the event as well.

The Workers Stand for America campaign plans to introduce a “Second Bill of Rights” that unions will present to politicians and workers and ask them to sign. Those politicians include President Obama and presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney.

“I’m hoping they will sign it,” Trumka said. “But you’ll see that people won’t sign this pledge, I can promise you that.”

The union plan includes five planks, Trumka said. They are: the right to full employment and a living wage, the right to full participation in the electoral process, the right to a quality education, the right to a voice at work, and the right to a secure and healthy future, which covers (regarding benefits and health care.

“America’s Second Bill of Rights is a broad-based statement of what the American people need and what they deserve,” Trumka said. “There was a time when the broadest swath of our population and our elected leaders and even our corporate CEOs would have supported it.”

The campaign’s August rally is meant to draw attention to labor issues ahead of the national conventions of the Republican and Democratic parties. Unions are hoping to get 20,000 to 30,000 attendees.

“Republicans and Democrats need to hear what people are saying and break through the gridlock,” Hill said.

The rally is part of a larger effort by unions such as theAFL-CIO to reach out to non-union members and workers as membership declines. That effort could help their grassroots electoral efforts as well. As Trumka admitted at the press conference, unions don’t have as much money to spend on advertising as corporations do, given relaxed campaign finance rules, so they’ll have to focus on the ground game to win. 

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alana.semuels@latimes.com

Twitter: @alanasemuels

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