Union members fly to Washington to lobby lawmakers on ‘fiscal cliff’

Hundreds of union members will be on Capitol Hill this week to lobby lawmakers to leave entitlements alone and let tax cuts for the wealthy expire.

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Starting Tuesday, AFL-CIO members from across the country will come to Washington to keep pressure on Congress as it enters negotiations regarding the “fiscal cliff” — a set of massive tax increases and budget cuts that will go into effect early next year barring action from lawmakers. 

Union members from the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), the National Education Association (NEA) and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) will also be on Capitol Hill this week to lobby lawmakers.

During their lobbying visits, union members will have an open letter sent to Congress from AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka. 

The head of the nation’s largest labor federation cites this month’s election results — specifically Mitt Romney’s loss to President Obama — as reason not to cut into entitlement programs or keep tax cuts for the country’s wealthy.

“We just had an election in which one candidate proposed to lower tax rates for the richest 2% of Americans and cut benefits for Social Security, Medicaid, and Medicare. He lost,” Trumka says in the letter. “We ask you to respect the will of the voters and promise to (1) let Bush tax rates for the richest 2% of Americans expire in December and (2) oppose benefit cuts to Social Security, Medicare, or Medicaid.”

Further, union members will have fact sheets for their specific home states. 

Those fact sheets will detail how many people in their state are on Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. In addition, they will criticize the Bowles-Simpson plan and the 2012 House Republican budget proposal, among other items.

The coordinated fly-in visits come after the AFSCME, NEA and SEIU sponsored a series of radio and television ads during the Thanksgiving break. Those ads targeted Senate Democrats and House Republicans who are expected to play key roles during fiscal cliff negotiations.

Days after the election, labor also organized more than 100 events aimed at lawmakers during this lame-duck session.

A final compromise between Democrats and Republicans could include some tax hikes and spending cuts, including to entitlements.

Such a deal would likely anger labor, which was an important Democratic ally for this campaign season as unions helped to turn out voters for the party’s candidates, including Obama. 

In turn, unions have not let up since Election Day in an attempt to keep pressure on the president, as well as push Republicans towards the left in fiscal cliff negotiations.