AFL-CIO Prez Says Union Members Backed Biden Over Trump

Law360 (November 5, 2020, 6:16 PM EST) -- AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka credited organized labor with putting Joe Biden "on track to be our next president" on Thursday, touting a survey showing that union members backed the former vice president over President Donald Trump by a wider margin than they did Hillary Clinton four years ago.

The labor federation's post-election poll found that members favored Joe Biden over Donald Trump by 21 percentage points, up from a plus-17 margin the federation found in its 2016 survey, Trumka said. Unions' efforts to get out the vote in key swing states including Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania also played a role, he added.

"Joe Biden's firewall was union made," Trumka said.

The AFL-CIO's survey of 1,001 affiliate union members found that 58% supported Biden and 37% supported Trump, a representative said.

Trumka spoke Thursday afternoon as vote counting continued in Pennsylvania, where the president's sizable election night lead had dwindled to around 90,000 votes following the addition of mail-in ballots, with many more left to count. After voters backed Biden in Michigan and Wisconsin, a win in Pennsylvania would secure the White House for the former vice president.

This picture of the so-called blue wall looked different four years ago when Hillary Clinton narrowly lost these union-dense midwestern states to Trump — and the presidency with them. While the outcome of the election was uncertain as of Thursday's call, Trumka signaled confidence.

"With a few final states still counting ballots, this is a moment to exercise patience," Trumka said.

Trumka said the labor federation would look to a Biden administration to protect the health and safety of its members by directing the U.S. Department of Labor to issue an emergency rule forcing employers to protect workers during the pandemic. But Congress must act sooner to shore up the economy by passing an additional aid bill, he added.

Talks for a fourth federal pandemic aid package had stalled in the lead-up to the election. They should not wait for a Biden administration, Trumka said.

"The sooner we get that done, the better off we are," he said. "Do we want to get it done in the lame duck? I want to get it done before the lame duck."

In addition to backing the Democrats' pandemic aid proposal, the AFL-CIO has thrown its weight behind the Protecting the Right to Organize Act, a sweeping labor law overhaul that would make it easier for workers to form unions and impose penalties when employers infringe their labor rights.

Organized labor's hopes of passing the PRO Act depend on Democrats at least splitting the Senate, Trumka said. That outcome was still in play Thursday with the possibility of runoff elections for Georgia's two seats. The AFL-CIO will "be investing heavily in Georgia" should those races continue, Trumka said.

Absent a Senate majority, the Biden administration would have to make its mark on federal labor law through the National Labor Relations Board. The labor board has taken a business-friendly stance in numerous cases since 2017 under its Republican majority, which includes two members who previously represented businesses in labor disputes.

"That's like putting the fox in charge of the henhouse," Trumka said. "What we need are people who are going to be pro-worker, they're going to enforce the law and give workers a fair shake."

--Editing by Steven Edelstone.

For a reprint of this article, please contact reprints@law360.com.

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