The Building Tradesman Newspaper

Friday, October 24, 2014

Among labor's biggest battles in '14: apathy

By The Building Tradesman

What’s the old saying? “When labor votes, labor wins.”

That’s still true nowadays, sort of.  In recent elections, labor isn’t voting. Or, they’re voting for candidates who are anti-labor. And that has led to Republican lawmakers completely taking over state governorships and state legislatures in 23 states – up from just nine in 2010 –  with union busting most prevalent in GOP strongholds Michigan, Indiana and Wisconsin.

AFL-CIO President Rich Trumka told an audience of union leaders in Michigan last month that with the nation’s non-public union workforce down to an historic low point of 6.7 percent, “we’re no longer big enough to win by ourselves. Not only do we need to get our members to the polls, we need to get their households to the polls.”

Voter turnout among labor union members and Democrats in recent midterm elections is not a promising harbinger for the 2014 vote.

Polling by the New York Times/CBS in early 2011 said in the 2010 midterm election, just 17 percent of voters nationwide were from a household that included at least one union member. That was down from 23 percent in the 2006 midterms. In 2010, polling found that voters from union households supported Democratic U.S. House candidates over Republican candidates by 24 percentage points, 61 to 37 percent.

“The Democratic Party’s worst fears about the midterm election look to be coming true,” said an article in The Hill on Oct. 11. “Polling in recent weeks suggests turnout on Election Day could be very low, even by the standards of recent midterms. That’s bad news for Democrats because core groups in the liberal base are more likely to stay home than are people in the demographic segments that lean Republican.”

An October poll by Pew Research found that only five percent of adults ages 18-29 were following the 2014 midterms very closely. And young people are a core demographic for the Democratic Party.

“Midterm elections present problems for Democrats,” said an Oct. 14 article inMother Jones. “The party’s most loyal voting blocs—young voters and minorities, in particular—tend to vote at lower rates than in presidential years.”

If organized labor in Michigan doesn’t get members and their families voting in the Nov. 4 election, Trumka said, “the attacks on labor will continue. “Let’s vote for a state House and Senate and governor who will stick up for us.”