AFL-CIO Seeks New Strategy to Gain Political Leverage

The nation's most powerful union organization has been getting heat lately from both sides of the political aisle. Such pressure is making it harder for AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka to achieve his organization’s aggressive political goals.

This new strategy is designed to make the AFL-CIO more politically independent.

“We are going to be more focused on building up our own institution. We want to build a voice for the working people rather than building up a certain political party,” Jeff Hauser, media outreach specialist at AFL-CIO, told The Christian Post.

“This is about building inward and building support for our goals. This shift in strategy has nothing to do with a particular politician or party.”

The new strategy will include year-round political mobilizations. In the past, AFL-CIO has acted like a “procrastinating student” and began mobilizations 6 months out from the election cycle. Now, they plan to do that year-round in order to build relationships.

“In the past, we would go outward and give money but we wouldn't build anything permanent. With this strategy, we will establish and maintain better connections, better relationships, throughout the entire year. This will build support for our goals and increase our ability to provide assistance to the working people.”

Trumka told The Huffington Post that the group plans to organize a new Super PAC (political action committee) that will allow it to raise unlimited funds from corporations, individuals and other unions. The goal is not to only extend its political engagement but to hyper-localize it as well.

"One of the most important aspects of the labor movement, which is different than other entities, is that we have an enormous network of local community workers who are responsible for talking to people after their election," one top union official said to The Huffington Post.

"The experience of the last six years should teach progressives a great deal about the difference between elected people who say the right thing in their candidate questionnaires and the people who are there voting for workers, voting for jobs and advocating our positions."

Although AFL-CIO claims that this new strategy has nothing to do with any politician or party, many speculate that the organization has become disenchanted with President Obama and some of his policies.

For example, the AFL-CIO clashed with the president on major issues such as the Employee Free Choice Act and the public health insurance option and the renewal of the Bush tax cuts and the consistent push for free trade deals. Obama also recently proposed raising the Medicare eligibility age from 65 to 67 during the debt negotiations, something the AFL-CIO strongly opposes.

Despite this, Trumka maintains that Obama is a good friend and the organization insists it has nothing to do with the president's policies.

However, the Daily Caller reports that at a press breakfast hosted by The Christian Science Monitor, Trumka was noted as saying Obama should abandon his strategy of “promoting little nibbly things,” such as a patent-update law.

 “That’s not going to get the job done,” he said, as quoted by The Daily Caller, “Everybody knows that.”

“If he continues to do as some of his staff is urging, to focus on those little things that others can accept, he doesn’t become a leader. He becomes a follower.”

The AFL-CIO has been a major ally to the Democratic Party, the party who claims to be on the side of the working people.

In 2008, Trumka donated $1.2 million to Democrats and $900,000 in 2010. By these numbers it is clear to see that the Democratic Party has the most to lose with this new political strategy.

Unions aren’t losing support from Democrats, Chris Edwards, editor at and fellow at the CATO Institute, told The Christian Post.

“Just 7 percent of private employees are members of unions. Americans have rejected unions in the private sector, so therefore, as a whole the union organization has lost political ground.”

“It’s not conservatives or republicans that have fought back and are diminishing the power of unions, its individuals.”

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