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Gerald McEntee Headshot

Sailing on a Deep Sea of Blue

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Yesterday voters created a wave of change and today we are sailing on a deep blue sea.

This election was a clear message from the American people that they want their leaders to stand up against the lobbyists and big corporations that have controlled our government for too long.

Voters said "no" to the Republican Party for turning its back on the middle class. Too many hard-working Americans are struggling to get by, and not getting one bit of help from the politicians elected to serve them.

In overwhelming numbers, they turned out to vote for change--and union workers played a decisive role in delivering those votes.

Voters want their leaders to take real action to help families keep up and even get ahead. They want their elected officials to make our public schools great and make college tuition more affordable. To strengthen Social Security and Medicare. To make health care more affordable--and available to everyone. To adequately fund critical services. And to lower the cost of medicine for our seniors instead of raising the profits of the mega-pharmaceutical companies.

For six years, President Bush has pushed an anti-working class agenda that enriched corporations and the wealthy, while neglecting--even punishing--working families. The Republican Congress has been complicit in this horrific national sellout. Well, their rubber stamp has been revoked.

Yesterday's sweeping mandate also sent shock waves through the states. The Democrats picked up six governorships, including the election of Martin O'Malley in Maryland and Ted Strickland in Ohio. And we hung on to important governorships, like Jennifer Granholm in Michigan, Jim Doyle in Wisconsin and the election of Chet Culver in Iowa.

The Democratic Party posted major gains in state legislatures, winning at least nine new state legislative chamber majorities. In Iowa, the Democrats now control the House, Senate and governor's mansion for the first time in 40 years. These victories are critically important to our progressive movement's long-term strength. The more state legislators we have, the deeper our bench for federal candidates. It also means a stronger hand in redistricting, which is just around the corner.

Voters also raised the minimum wage in all six states where it was on the ballot. And the so-called Taxpayer Bill of Wrongs measures --which would slash the vital public services that people depend on--were defeated everywhere they were on the ballot.

Because the stakes were so high, our union conducted an unprecedented "get out the vote" effort. We put more of our members on the street, recruited more volunteers, and spent more money than we ever had in a midterm election. All told, AFSCME spent $35 million, including $4.8 million on federal races as part of a strategic independent expenditure campaign.

And union members, as part of the AFL-CIO's great program, carried out a "labor-to-neighbor" program to mobilize union members and non-union households.

This strategy was an enormous success. Our exit polls show that union families made up 23 percent of the total vote last night, and voted 74-26 for Democratic candidates. Non-union households, by comparison, voted for Democrats by a 5 percent margin.

The House of Labor is proud to be an anchor of the progressive movement. Now let's stay united to chart a new direction for America.