AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said Thursday the labor movement will flex more of its political muscle in Texas this upcoming election cycle amid controversy over the state's voter ID laws.
“We will be in Texas in a bigger way than we have in the past,” Trumka said, speaking to reporters at a Christian Science Monitor breakfast.
The head of the nation’s largest labor federation said minorities “are denied effectively the voice that they should be entitled to” in the state, where the Justice Department has sued to block new voter ID laws.
In addition, union membership is low in the state and Trumka said labor is dismayed by the fact that the state does not have a fire code.
“We also think that there needs to be more union people in the state of Texas so we are going to give that a try. We think that people in Texas with the wages and some of the conditions they face are anxious,” Trumka said. “We have not given it the proper attention it deserves, so we will be giving it more attention in the future.”
For 2012, union members made up 5.7 percent of the workforce in Texas, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Democrats are excited by possible gains in the state after state Sen. Wendy Davis, a Democrat, grabbed national attention for filibustering anti-abortion rights legislation earlier this year.
But Texas is one of the most Republican states in the union, having last chosen a Democratic presidential nominee in 1976 with Jimmy Carter.
Opposing the reelection of several Republican governors — such as John Kasich of Ohio, Rick Snyder of Michigan and Scott Walker of Wisconsin — will be huge priorities for labor in 2014. Congressional elections, however, will also be a focus for unions.
Trumka said labor will build “a firewall” around the Senate to protect “progressive candidates.”
He noted that the House is important too, considering “the only thing standing between us and immigration reform is John Boehner and the House Republicans.”
“We have the capability to play in 50 states. We will play in as many areas as we can,” Trumka said.