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The Union 'Thumping'

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You know the "thumping" President Bush acknowledged Wednesday? Union voters delivered it.

A close look at exit polling shows the rest of the country split evenly, 49-49 percent, between votes for Democrats and Republicans. But Democrats won the union vote by huge margins--by 30 percentage points among union household voters and by 50 percentage points among AFL-CIO union members.

Our election-night survey by Peter D. Hart Research Associates shows members of AFL-CIO unions supported Democratic candidates by a 74-percent to 26-percent margin in House races and by 73 percent to 27 percent in battleground Senate races.

Unions are not an arm of the Democratic Party, and we base our endorsements not on party affiliation but on individual candidates' records on working family issues. This year's election, however, pitted Democratic candidates against a congressional majority that has a record of downright hostility to regular working people, rubber-stamping the anti-worker policies of the Bush administration. They had to go.

Members of union households--and of our community affiliate for nonunion workers, Working America--were intensely aware that under Bush and the Republican Congress, this country was heading in the wrong direction and their well-being was deteriorating. On election night, 69 percent of AFL-CIO union voters told us they disapproved of Bush's job performance, 64 percent said they were dissatisfied with the country's economy and 57 percent said the decision to go to war in Iraq made America less safe.

So when their unions reached out to them with information about candidates' records, they listened. The AFL-CIO union movement's Labor 2006 program engaged more than 200,000 volunteers who knocked on the doors of 8.25 million union voters, made 30 million phones calls to union voters and distributed 14 million worksite fliers. In all, we reached an unprecedented 13.4 million voters in 32 states--and the outreach worked. Some 76 percent of union members who reported receiving a lot of information from their unions on working family issues voted for the union-endorsed candidates.

Part of the Labor 2006 roadmap to success was mobilizing and turning out "drop-off" voters--union household members who voted in the presidential election but not in the last midterm balloting. That effort worked, too. Some 79 percent of union drop-off voters in battleground states reported they voted this time around. Among Working America drop-offs, 80 percent voted.

Hundreds of thousands of union and Working America members worked together day and night for months on this election. And the work isn't over by a long shot--now we're going to keep working together to ensure that our newly elected leaders get this country and our states headed in the right direction. We're going to push for immediate action the 110th Congress to raise the minimum wage to $7.25 an hour, restore workers' freedom to form unions, enable Medicare to negotiate with drug companies for lower prescription prices, stop rewarding companies for exporting U.S. jobs and restore cuts in student loan funding.

We're also going to push the new Congress to get to work immediately on urgent longer-term priorities: affordable health care, retirement security, fair trade policies, world-class public education, reasonable and fair immigration reform--and bringing our troops home rapidly.

Nov. 7 was a victory for all of us who believe that hard work should be rewarded with a living wage, that shipping jobs overseas is not good for America's economy and that the fundamental values of fairness, compassion and tolerance are compatible with--and define--liberty, patriotism and what it means to be Americans.