Labor issues ‘fiscal cliff’ demands for Obama after helping him win reelection

The leader of the nation’s largest labor federation issued “fiscal cliff” demands for President Obama on Wednesday after touting the role that unions played in his reelection.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said Democratic lawmakers and the president need to rule out changes to entitlements and insist on tax hikes on the wealthy as they begin year-end negotiations with Republicans over fiscal policy.

“One, say no to benefits cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. That’s step No. 1,” Trumka told reporters. “And say yes to taxes on the wealthiest 2 percent. They can do that very, very quickly in the lame-duck session.”

Union officials also took credit for three of Obama’s swing-state wins, claiming their ground game was a difference-maker in Nevada, Ohio and Wisconsin. 

“We did deliver those states [for Obama],” Trumka said. “I think without the efforts of organized labor, those three states would have been different. None of the three would have been in the president’s column.”

The AFL-CIO’s pressure campaign on the fiscal cliff began as soon as the election results were known. 

A little more than an hour after the election was called in Obama’s favor, the AFL-CIO blasted out an email signed by Trumka asking supporters to sign a petition telling Congress to protect entitlement benefits and raise taxes on the wealthy.

“Washington, D.C. is going to start talking about extending the Bush tax cuts for the richest 2% and turning the focus back to the deficit again. And there’s a very real danger that cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and other programs Americans rely on will be on the table. Those cuts would affect all of us — the very people that elected President Obama, Vice President Biden, and other working family candidates tonight,” Trumka said in the email.  

The lobbying effort will continue on Thursday, when the AFL-CIO — along with its community affiliate, Working America, and its super-PAC, Workers’ Voice — plans to host roughly 100 events across the nation to talk to lawmakers and voters about shielding entitlement benefits and raising taxes.

Trumka cited election-night polling commissioned by the AFL-CIO as proof that voters back their demands. Labor has been planning to keep its campaign infrastructure in place past Election Day to campaign on the issues that they care about, including the fiscal cliff.

“Our having our structure in place would allow us to energize those people — some in unions, some outside of unions — to make sure that the will of the public is not overlooked or actually have a nose thumbed at,” Trumka said. “We will continue to use that network to hold people accountable — people in both parties, Democrats and Republicans, to hold them accountable.”

More union members backed Obama than Romney this election, according to the labor federation's polling. 

An election night survey by Hart Research Associates showed that 65 percent of union members nationwide voted for Obama, compared to 33 percent for Romney.

That figure was bolstered in the key state of Ohio, according to the poll. Seventy percent of union members in Ohio voted for the president, compared to 29 percent for Romney.