Trumka calls on Pa. unions to support Obama
March 27, 2012|Jane M. Von Bergen INQUIRER STAFF WRITER
While acknowledging the “ups and downs we’ve had over the past three years,” the national head of the U.S. labor movement called on Pennsylvania union members Tuesday to mobilize to keep President Obama in office.
“President Obama stands on our side,” AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka told hundreds of AFL-CIO union delegates gathered at the Sheraton Philadelphia Downtown in Philadelphia at the start of the Pennsylvania Federation of the AFL-CIO’s three-day convention.
Much of the convention will consist of union administrative business, heavily underscored with politics. But on Thursday, the AFL-CIO will also unveil a new effort to connect start-up companies with union workers before sending delegates to attend a noon rally in support of a drive to unionize 3,000 security guards working in Philadelphia’s office towers and major institutions including the University of Pennsylvania.
Trumka, who worked as a coal miner in Western Pennsylvania and earned his law degree at Villanova University, expressed disappointment that Obama’s pledge to work for a law that would make it easier for unions to organize never came to fruition. But he mentioned it almost in passing, while crediting Obama with creating or saving 3.6 million jobs during the recession. He also praised the president for expanding access to health care and tightening up the banking industry.
Union members, he said, need to push back against politicians who are “less interested in doing the right thing than they are in doing the far-right thing” and against right-wing donors who are making a “blatant bid to buy our democracy. It’s pretty ugly, and it’s very corrupt.”
Trumka urged the convention’s attendees, who represent the leaders of unions around the state, to register at least 20 percent of their unregistered members and to commit to a full-court two-week intensive push prior to the November election.
Pennsylvania “is a must-win state for President Obama on his path to the White House,” said Christopher Borick, director of Muhlenberg College’s Institute of Public Opinion in Allentown. The Republicans can lose Pennsylvania, he said, and still win the White House, but the Democrats need Pennsylvania, and unions are key to that party’s success.
“They provide the structure and the personnel” for get-out-the-vote efforts, he said.