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Unions Will Unite to Win Back Congressional Seats

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Aside from the Republican presidential sideshow making a brief appearance here in Illinois, the biggest story in Tuesday's primary came the day after when Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Steve Israel announced five Illinois districts will be heavily targeted in the committee's 'Red to Blue' campaign to win back the House in November.

Chicago's unions were among those who picked sides in the primary, putting some organizations at odds with others in efforts to help their candidates advance to the general election. However, the chance to put a dent in the Republican control of the House and run up the score for hometown President Barack Obama gives local unions more than enough reason to unite around candidates who can win back seats in a favorably-drawn map.

In particular, two important Democratic primaries in the Chicago area, the 8th and 10th Congressional District races, had labor groups on both sides and the Illinois AFL-CIO remaining neutral.

In the 8th District, both Raja Krishnamoorthi and Tammy Duckworth had notable support from organized labor. Both candidates benefited from relationships built on previous runs for office, with Krishnamoorthi running statewide in 2010 and Duckworth running for Congress in 2006, both unsuccessfully.

Krishnamoorthi had the support of at least seven different unions, including several from the building trades and a suburban teachers union, while Duckworth had the support of nearly twenty unions ranging from service employees to musicians to teamsters.

With Duckworth prevailing on Tuesday, she will face Tea-Party activist and freshman Republican Congressman Joe Walsh. This will be a top-tier and expensive race in the battle for the House. Duckworth already has the backing of major party leaders and will be able to raise the funds necessary to win this expensive race. It will be easy for all of organized labor to rally behind her and activate ground support for vital get-out-the-vote efforts come November.

In the 10th District, Brad Schneider and Ilya Sheyman both had support from unions in their bid to challenge yet another freshman Congressman, Robert Dold, in what is one of the most favorable districts for Democrats challenging Republicans in the entire country.

According to the DCCC, voters in the redistricted IL-10 would have voted 63.7 percent for President Obama in 2008, the highest percentage of the five targeted districts that also include the 11th, 12th and 17th.

Labor was united behind candidates in those other districts, with the state AFL-CIO endorsing Foster, Harriman and Bustos, respectively.

With all four Democratic candidates in the 8th and 10th viewed as favorable to working men and women, organized labor will have no problem rallying behind Tuesday's winners with such a prime opportunity at hand.

Low turnout on Tuesday for Republican presidential candidates poses another problem for the incumbents, as does exit polling showing Romney failed to connect with lower and middle class voters.

The AFL-CIO recently endorsed President Obama and will again work to mobilize middle class and blue-collar workers to re-elect him. In announcing the endorsement, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said President Obama has put America's economy -- and America's working men and women -- on the path toward recovery.

"Barack Obama has placed his faith in America's working men and women to lead our country to economic recovery and to our full potential as a nation," Trumka said in a statement.

It's a theme the president has been playing up in recent events, starting with his State of the Union speech in January and including Vice President Biden's recent speech to UAW members in Toldeo, Ohio. Voters in Illinois are seeing how jobs in industries like auto manufacturing are slowly coming back, with Ford and Chrysler announcing thousands of new jobs at assembly plants in the Chicago and Rockford areas.

This kind of positive momentum will be critical to labor's effort in November. For Chicago area unions, they have a chance to help win back control of the chamber that has put a brick on major legislation pushed by President Obama and labor to create jobs, help the unemployed and give working families tax relief. That's motivation to not only unite behind Democratic Congressional candidates, but to invest heavily here in Illinois to make a difference on the national stage.