When Republican candidates ask Americans if they're better off than they were four years ago when President Obama was elected, here's what working people will be thinking about, according to AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka: Former President George W. Bush lost U.S. jobs during a good economy. Obama has created jobs during the disastrous economy he inherited.
Trumka, questioned on C-SPAN's "Newsmakers" program this morning by Peter Wallsten of The Washington Post and Melanie Trottman of the Wall Street Journal, challenged viewers to imagine how improved the economy could be today if Republicans in Congress had worked with Obama on job creation rather than pursuing their stated top priority of making him a one-term president.
Today, he said, Republicans "don't have any credibility on job creation." By embracing the dangerous budget plan of Rep. Paul Ryan, based on tax breaks for the wealthy and program cuts for the middle-class, likely Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney is following the same policies that sank our economy and would "take us right back into recession, if not a depression."
Trumka outlined an AFL-CIO political program that will focus not on supporting political parties or running attacks ads, but on educating and mobilizing the grassroots and building power for working families. Working people "are pretty savvy," he said, and can compare the two presidential candidates and judge who offers the better future for their families, who is more likely to create jobs and improve public education for their children.
Rather than engaging in politics for several months before an election, Trumka said, the AFL-CIO is building a permanent campaign structure based on outreach to union and nonunion working people and to communities and allies. The structure would allow working people to move from electoral politics to advocacy and then to accountability in a year-round program.
In the wide-ranging interview, Trumka said if the U.S. Supreme Court, which is reviewing the Affordable Care Act ("Obamacare"), overturns the law, "it would stand the country on its head." Health care would be in chaos and "a lot of people would be hurt." The Affordable Care Act, though, should be improved by adding a public insurance option and the ability of the government to use its massive buying power to negotiate lower drug costs from big pharmaceutical companies.
Trumka again called for the resignation of National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) member Terence Flynn, the target of two NLRB Inspector General reports revealing his Flynn's improper release of sensitive board information-including leaks to a then-adviser to Romney that were used to fuel attacks on the NLRB.
Regarding the recall elections of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and Republican state legislators who took away the collective bargaining rights of public employees, Trumka said Walker remains unpopular despite oil interests and the Koch Brothers network pouring millions of dollars into the state to support him. Voters are saying to themselves that Walker and company elected them to improve the economy and create jobs, not to attack working families, Trumka said.
The issues surrounding the Wisconsin recalls transcend politics, Trumka said, with "real live consequences for working people." And working families have made an impact even before the elections, Trumka said, because even if the out-of-state special interest campaign support keeps Walker in office, "he's a debilitated governor for the next two years. He's finished."
And Wisconsin's working families sent a message to other Republican politicians across the country who consider stripping workers of their rights.
"Would you like to be in this fight?" he asked, with Walker's seat at risk after two years in office and having lost the majority in the state Senate because of his attacks on workers' rights
This article by Donna Jablonski appeared today on the AFL-CIO's Now Blog.
Photo: Terry Hill/National Press Club