Now that the election dust has settled, it's clear that organized labor was a big winner, nationally
and in several states.
Labor's campaigning nationally was done largely – and extensively – for
victorious President Obama and Democrats who had hoped to substantially increase the party's narrow margin in the Senate
and even regain control of the House.
But though they failed to elect enough labor friendly congressional Democrats
who would back labor's political agenda, unions can correctly assume that Obama will be as friendly to labor in his second
term as he was in his first four years in office. Pro-labor measures that unions might fail to push through Congress
could very well be enacted through presidential executive orders, if not through presidential pressures on Congress.
Labor also backed measures that increased the minimum wage rates in Albuquerque, San Jose and Long Beach; helped pass a
California measure that provided new education funds through taxes on the wealthy, and soundly defeated a measure that would
have all but silenced labor's political voice in California and set a dangerous precedent for other states.
defeated was a measure in Illinois that would have changed the state's constitution to require a three-fifths majority
vote by the legislature to increase public employee pensions, while requiring only a simple majority to make pension cuts.
That would have supplanted collective bargaining over pension improvements at the state and local levels.
played a major role in helping groups fighting voter suppression in Ohio and elsewhere, and in the successful re-election
campaign of Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown, one of the Senate's most labor-friendly members.
efforts obviously didn't end with the election. Unions already are planning drives to protect Social Security, Medicare
and Medicaid from threatened benefit cuts.
AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka says some Republican legislators and
their Wall Street backers will be trying over the next two months to mobilize behind an attempt to raise the retirement age
for Social Security and the eligibility requirements for Medicare and Medicaid.
Trumka has a better idea. He says
Congress must let the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest two percent of Americans expire, and "make no cuts to Social Security,
Medicare or Medicaid."
Those are among the most important of the many tough political issues facing unions
and their supporters nationwide who, as Trumka says, will pit labor against "the same corporations and right-wing billionaires
who spent record amounts trying to buy the election for Mitt Romney."
It certainly won't be easy. But,
as the election proved beyond doubt, unions have what's needed to seriously challenge their opponents and in the process
provide important help to us all.
Copyright © 2012 Dick Meister