AFL-CIO chief warns of election consequences for pro-filibuster Democrats


AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler warned Tuesday that Democrats could face consequences at the ballot box if they don’t support nixing the legislative filibuster to pass a sweeping pro-union bill and other Democratic priorities.  

“Workers want to hold elected officials accountable on an agenda that they voted for. Right now that agenda is being blocked by arcane rules in the Senate. We believe that voters will take that into consideration for the next election,” Shuler told reporters during a Tuesday event hosted by the Christian Science Monitor. 

“Elected officials, if they’re not listening, that’s when elections end up having consequences,” she added.

The Richard L. Trumka PRO Act — a bill renamed for the longtime AFL-CIO chief following his death earlier this month — is the labor federation’s top priority. The bill would make it easier for workers to organize and was passed by the House in March.

However, it doesn’t yet have enough Democratic votes to pass in the 50-50 Senate amid GOP opposition.  

Moderate Senate Democrats such as Sens. Joe Manchin (W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.) have insisted that they will not move to change the 60-vote legislative filibuster to pass Democratic priorities by a simple majority. Instead, they argue that the party should work with Republicans to pass bipartisan legislation. 

Their unwillingness to budge on that issue has caused tension between moderates and liberal Democrats in the upper chamber who have called to nix the filibuster to pass bills that would overhaul union organizing and voting rights. 

The Democratic holdouts are facing immense pressure from labor advocates in Washington, D.C., and in their home states, Shuler said. 

Sinema isn’t up for reelection until 2024, but progressive activists have already discussed mounting a primary challenge. Just 22 percent of Arizona Democratic primary voters said they would support Sinema’s reelection if she maintains her stance on the filibuster, according to a July poll from progressive think tank Data for Progress.

Shuler is urging Democrats to pass the PRO Act alongside another pro-union bill that would give government workers the federal right to unionize. The federation is also backing Democrats’ $3.5 trillion reconciliation package, which aims to enact a portion of the PRO Act that places penalties on corporations that interfere with union organizing efforts. 

The AFL-CIO’s executive council elected Shuler as its president on Aug. 20, a few weeks after Trumka, her longtime mentor, passed away. Shuler previously served as the federation’s secretary-treasurer since 2009. She is the first woman to lead the AFL-CIO in the organization’s history.

–Updated at 6:21 p.m.

Tags Filibuster Joe Manchin Kyrsten Sinema Labor Liz Shuler PRO Act Richard Trumka Union voting rights

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