Democrats hoping to win back the House in 2012 will have to ride the wave of recent labor activism if they want to do so, the AFL-CIO's president told lawmakers on Tuesday.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka told House Democrats at a closed-door caucus meeting Tuesday morning to seize on the momentum built by pro-labor demonstrations in Madison, Wis., Columbus, Ohio, and beyond this spring, in reaction to state legislative efforts to curb collective bargaining.

"I firmly believe that if Democrats are to take back the House in 2012, it will be because they succeed in riding this wave, keeping that spark alive and closing the enthusiasm gap," Trumka said.

Labor leaders have loudly protested Republican efforts in Ohio, Wisconsin and Indiana to roll back some union rights. But at the same time, figures like Trumka have professed optimism because of the outcry prompted by these labor reforms, particularly the large demonstrations in state capitols.

"This is a spontaneous, bottom-up, grassroots movement, and it is truly a wonder," Trumka said. "Anybody who has been to any of these states can tell you that the energy of the protesters is infectious and their solidarity and commitment are inspiring. This has all the makings of a powerful, lasting political movement."

Labor, of course, is a traditional Democratic constituency that spent millions in 2010's midterm elections and just as much in 2008's effort to elect President Obama. It is just as likely to reprise that role in 2012.