The AFL-CIO is launching an aggressive grassroots mobilization over Labor Day weekend, with events in more than 200 communities intended to distribute information and to get workers excited for the 2010 elections. This "Labor 2010" push will also include TV and radio ads in key markets tied to Major League Baseball games, NASCAR, and college football games.
Speaking to reporters today at the AFL-CIO, President Richard Trumka refused to say how much the union conglomerate is going to spend on this Labor Day mobilization, although he said that corporate America will still outspend them. "In total, we're engaged in a massive mobilization in 26 states, and we will work on Senate races, governor races, over 70 House races, and when you include state legislatures, we'll be involved in over 400 elections in this cycle," he said.
During his remarks to reporters at the AFL-CIO today, President Richard Trumka specifically called out House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio), saying that last week he "outlined a plan that would move us right back to the Bush-era corporate agenda that created the economic morass we are still trying to escape. His plan would privatize and cut Social Security, protect corporations that ship American jobs overseas, and cut taxes for the wealthiest Americans." When asked later about a potential Republican Congress, Trumka smiled and replied, "We absolutely believe that when workers get the votes, there will be no Speaker Boehner."
Boehner Spokesman Michael Steel responded in an e-mail statement to the Huffington Post, writing, "Rather than spending their members' hard-earned money to push Washington Democrats' job-killing agenda -- which their members oppose -- labor leaders should help the American people, who want to end the spending spree, stop the tax hikes, and create jobs."
In his speech, Trumka added that the labor union will be pushing a message of "economic patriotism" and highlighting the "corporate traitors" who are betraying America's workers:
TRUMKA: I've just come off the road. ... And what I heard decisively is that people are looking for economic patriotism. Patriotism has traditionally been defined by foreign affairs, but patriotism should begin in our own backyard, in our own communities. In this election, working people are looking for economic heroes, champions who will put themselves on the line to create a better future for our children. We're looking for leaders who will call out corporations that ship our jobs overseas, leaders who will reject unfair trade deals, leaders who will fight for a middle class economy and put us on a path to make things in America again. This election is about economic patriots, and it's also about corporate traitors.
On several occasions, Trumka and the other speakers at the event -- which included two AFL-CIO members from Ohio and Missouri, Secretary-Treasurer Elizabeth Shuler, and Executive Vice President Arlene Holt Baker -- invoked the Tea Parties and their influence on the political debate. Holt Baker said that with this political push, the AFL-CIO wants to make sure "the Tea Party and its corporate backers are not going to get the final word." During the question and answer session later, Trumka added that the Tea Party isn't a "threat to workers" on its own, but if it's "geared toward hatred and anger -- which some of it has been -- I see that as a threat to America and democracy. That's why we're trying to change the frustration and prevent it from being turned into anger and hatred, channeled into constructive action."
In response to a question after the event from the Huffington Post about the message of "economic patriotism" and the patriotic themes the Tea Party has adopted, Trumka replied: "Patriotism is more than just waving a flag and saying, 'I'm a patriot.' It means actually supporting your country. Corporate America, it used to make decisions that were in the best interest of the country. Now they make decisions that are in the best interest of the corporation, even if they are not in the best interest of the country, and we have to realign those interests for the best outcome for the country."
As the Huffington Post's Sam Stein reported on Aug. 31, President Obama will be addressing a picnic of workers organized by the AFL-CIO in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Trumka will also be in attendance.
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