Labor leader Richard Trumka, who heads the powerful AFL-CIO, will take a giant step away from the Democratic Party in a speech today, while slamming a Republican budget he says is aimed at breaking the middle class.
From Politico’s “Morning Score” Friday:
SNEAK PEEK – LABOR’S BIG PICTURE – AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka will outline his view of the 2012 landscape in an appearance at the National Press Club this afternoon, and pledge to “spend the summer holding elected leaders in Congress as well as the states accountable on one measure: Are they improving or degrading life for working families?” In his address, Trumka will amplify recent signals from organized labor that unions don’t just want to be an arm of the Democratic Party in 2012. “We are looking hard at how we work in the nation’s political arena,” Trumka will say, according to prepared remarks. “We have listened hard, and what workers want is an independent labor movement that builds the power of working people-in the workplace and in political life. Our role is not to build the power of a political party or a candidate. It is to improve the lives of working families and strengthen our country.”
MORE – TRUMKA VS. RYAN – Partisan or not, the labor leader will aim a rhetorical cannon blast at GOP leaders who he says want to make America “an ‘I’ve got mine’ nation.” Trumka: “Budget proposals unveiled in Washington and state capitals across our country revealed a despicable canvas of cruelty. And not just meanness. Destructiveness. A willful desire to block the road to the future. But the final outrage of these budgets is hidden in the fine print. In state after state, and here in Washington, these so called fiscal hawks are actually doing almost nothing to cut the deficit. Think about the message these budgets send: Sacrifice is for the weak. The powerful and well-connected get tax cuts.” … [Emphasis added]
The right is not likely to buy the idea that labor is independent of the Democratic Party (which after all, works in general for labor interests, while the GOP tends to push for corporate interests) – but the move could build’s Trumka’s influence in 2012, by forcing Democratic candidates to offer something up in exchange for labor’s crucial financial support. It’s possible Trumka is trying to get out ahead of several big spending independent groups, whose cash could dilute labor’s spending hegemony in what could be a billion-dollar presidential campaign.
On the latter part of the speech, blasting the Paul Ryan plan (whether or not he names him) and the efforts by Republican governors like Scott Walker, Mitch Daniels, John Kasich of Ohio, Chris Christie and Florida’s Rick Scott, who are pushing for deep cuts to programs that aid the poor and middle class, sharp reductions in pension benefits for police officers, firefighters, teachers and other public workers, and simultaneous, deep tax cuts, Trumka’s move could signal an all-out push for blue collar voters, who in recent elections have shifted toward Republicans.
Anger over austerity measures that target the middle class and exempt the rich are sparking anger from Michigan to Wisconsin, and even in North Carolina, where a PPP poll shows Democrats winning the generic ballot in a theoretical matchup over control of the state legislature. And public employee union workers could prove an important constituency for Democratic candidates in swing states in 2012.
It’s not clear how Republicans could gain from the macro trends shaping public opinion, but theoretically, Trumka wants his union to be flexible enough to back such a candidate should one emerge.
Trumka’s speech takes place at 1 p.m.