AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka and United Steelworkers President Leo Gerard said Thursday they would reward Democrats in November for their healthcare reform victory.
Trumka and Gerard rallied union members on Capitol Hill as Democratic congressional leaders and vulnerable members thanked organized labor for supporting healthcare reform. Democrats will need motivated union support to fend off a Republican takeover in November.
"We thank them for supporting us, and we want them to know it’s payback time. You supported us, now it’s our turn," Trumka said. "We will work harder than ever. We will work smarter than ever. And we will win in November."
Today's rally showed that the labor is returning to the fold as Democrats gear up for 2010. There had been a drift between unions and the party over the direction of the healthcare reform bill. Labor groups were unhappy that the legislation did not have a government-run insurance plan, known as "the public option," but did have a tax on high-cost insurance plans. (Labor leaders were able to soften the tax during negotiations with lawmakers.) Unions officials ended up supporting the bill.
Present at the rally were House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) and Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.). Also there were lawmakers facing tough races in 2010, such as Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.), Reps. Nick Rahall (D-W.Va.) and Pete Visclosky (D-Ind.).
Durbin painted a stark picture if Republicans made significant gains this November. He said Democrats stood with "working families" and much of labor's agenda would have no chance in a GOP-controlled Congress.
"We are just six months away from an election that is going to make history one way or the other," Durbin said. "Let's keep moving forward. We need your help in November. Let's win it."
Hoyer was even more explicit, saying Demorats must hold a majority to prevent Republicans from repealing healthcare reform.
"The work is not over," Hoyer said. "To keep this bill in place, we need to keep our majority in place. We need to work for every member of our majority."