AFL-CIO kicks off Labor Day with detailed political plan
AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler | Tom Cook/Oregon AFL-CIO

WASHINGTON—The AFL-CIO kicked off the Labor Day weekend, in advance, with a detailed political plan for the fall elections and beyond, released August 24 in a nationwide zoom call.

The plan features massive from-the-ground-up member-driven involvement, including a feedback loop where workers’ recommendations will adjust the federation’s issue priorities between now and Election Day, and afterwards, President Liz Shuler said.

“What we need to be thinking about is how we’re taking these (issues) out into the field, listening to our members, talking about what matters to them and what matters locally,” and changing accordingly, Shuler explained.

“We start with worksite communications, then to local unions, then connecting back to state federations and local labor councils” and finally the national headquarters. Then the issues members decide on locally would be applied to campaigns “from school boards to the U.S. Senate,” she elaborated.

The plan also envisions a permanent political framework for beyond Election Day itself. Shuler said politics can no longer be just a temporary pre-election priority. That’s because of the massive right-wing threat to democracy itself, and the labor movement with it, Shuler said. The response is “an organizing approach” to elections.

“Our freedom is on the ballot,” she declared.

The plan also sets out specific goals for unionists to meet in the fall campaign, including ensuring at least 90% of each local’s members are registered to vote. It sets a goal of monthly listening sessions by local union leaders with at least 10% of members, and recruiting that share to be election volunteers—including poll watchers on Election Day to prevent right-wing “shenanigans,” as Shuler put it.

The potential for rightist disruption already looms, she warned. “Fifty-four of the 87 Republican nominees who have the actual role in certifying election results,” serving in positions such as state Secretaries of State “are also election deniers,” adopting the lies uttered by former Oval Office occupant Donald Trump, whom Shuler did not name.

“If they had been in office, our votes would have been tossed out” in 2020.

The AFL-CIO headquarters plans to produce materials for massive issue education campaigns. The objectives are to get “trusted information” into workers’ hands, especially meeting them one-on-one at worksites, to preserve and build on the gains workers have won during the Democratic Biden administration, and to prevent the labor-hostile takeover of Congress by anti-worker forces.

“This is why we went to the mat in 2020” to elect Democratic President Joe Biden and worker-friendly congressional candidates, said Shuler. “Look at all the accomplishments“—she ran through a long list—“and all the tools. It’s up to us to get the word out.”

By contrast, “just the other day, the Republicans said that if they win control, the labor movement will be their top target.”

Communications and accountability will be big parts of the plan, Shuler said. That goes not just for holding candidates accountable for supporting workers’ positions in return for endorsements, but also “holding ourselves and our feet to the fire.”

The federation’s plan was accompanied by a rollout of the U.S. Labor Department’s new organizing toolkit, Biden administration Labor Secretary Marty Walsh—a Laborers Local 223 member—unveiled it and Lynn Rhinehart, a former AFL-CIO General Counsel who now is a top Walsh staffer, added details.

Toolkit available August 29

That toolkit, available on August 29 and after, includes flyers, posters, explanations of workers’ rights, recommendations on best methods for organizing—garnered from discussions with workers—and ways for workers to defend themselves against anti-union bosses, among other items.

It will be at, on the DOL website. “It’s a ‘Know Your Rights,’ campaign” covering not only the right to organize, but job safety and health, wages and hours and more, Rhinehart said.

“My team is ready to help organizations on the ground,” Walsh told Nashville Central Labor Council President Vonda McDaniel in a later q-and-a. “We’re getting information to 800 organizations already about grants and information available” for organizing.

The federation also released summaries of polling of 1800 registered voters from July 11-20 asking what issues topped their list. Inflation finished first, at 41% (63% of Republicans, 46% of independents and 20% of Democrats), with health care second at 27%, fair wages at 23% and abortion rights and voting rights tied at 20%.

The top issues for Democratic respondents alone were health care, safe workplaces, “fixing broken labor laws and making it easier for citizens to vote,” federation data specialist Beth Handy elaborated

Polling also showed “positive framing” of issues “is more effective, especially on the issues of retirement security, cutting health care costs and promoting domestic production, she added.


Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Award-winning journalist Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of the union news service Press Associates Inc. (PAI). Known for his reporting skills, sharp wit, and voluminous knowledge of history, Mark is a compassionate interviewer but tough when going after big corporations and their billionaire owners.