The head of the nation’s largest labor group argued Wednesday that voters were “duped” into supporting GOP candidates in the midterm elections.

Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO, said that voters headed to the polls with major concerns about their economic health. Republicans delivered a strong economic message, he said, and Democrats didn’t.


“More people heard an economic message from Republicans than Democrats. It was a lousy message,” he told reporters. “But it was presented clearly and strongly, and in tough times, some people responded to that.

“They wanted to hear people talk about solutions to their economic problems and they didn’t hear it enough, obviously,” he added.

Though Republicans posted strong electoral gains across the board, Trumka argued polling shows it did not necessarily mean that voters wanted a GOP agenda.

He noted that ballot measures in several states to boost the minimum wage passed Tuesday without exception, as did a measure in Massachusetts boosting paid sick leave.

And polling done by the AFL-CIO in Senate battleground states found that voters may have selected Republicans, but most still favored left-leaning policies. The poll found strong majority support for policies like increasing taxes on the wealthy, boosting Social Security benefits and hiking the minimum wage.

“They may have been duped into voting for people who won’t give them that,” he said.

Their poll also found most voters opposed GOP-centric ideas like easing financial regulations, raising the retirement age and reducing Medicaid.

In an attempt to explain how voters could have voted for Republicans while favoring Democratic policies, Trumka pointed to lingering concern about the economy, despite steady gains in recent months. The AFL-CIO poll found that 54 percent of voters said their income was falling behind their cost of living.

Trumka argued that Democrats easily held Senate seats in Minnesota, Oregon and Michigan because those candidates had a sharp, working-class economic message.

“Hopefully candidates in the future will understand that if you clearly focus on the economy, and you talk about solutions to everyday working people’s issues, you’re going to win,” said Trumka.

He urged Republicans to pursue some of these policies with their newfound power, but if they refuse or fail to do so, he called on President Obama to serve as a firewall against the GOP agenda.

“The president has veto power. He can shape a lot of things with that, and I hope he uses it,” he said.