AFL-CIO President to Obama: Go to the Mat for Workers

Sep 8, 2011 3:28pm
Hours before President Obama’s joint address to Congress, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka told ABC’s “Top Line” that workers need something big from the President of the United States.

“They want to see that this president is willing to go to the mat for policies that are going to benefit them, that are going to help create jobs,” said Trumka.

ABC News has learned that Obama’s job plan will outline about $400 billion worth of stimulus — though he’s unlikely to use the ‘s’ word tonight. The plan is expected to contain a lot of tax cuts, but Trumka says he would like to see money injected into infrastructure, aid to state and local governments, and unemployment insurance.

“We need to extend unemployment insurance so we don’t have 3.5 million people that are about to lose their unemployment insurance stop consuming,” said Trumka. “If 3.5 million people stop consuming it’ll be a big hit on the economy that’s already teetering.”

The AFL-CIO is also in the process of forming a super PAC, a move that could change the fundraising landscape for candidates.

The super PAC, said Trumka, will give the union group more flexibility.

“For those people that are friends it’ll allow us to be stronger advocates for them and for those that aren’t we’ll probably be less advocates for them,” he said.

Democrats have traditionally relied on union movements and organized labor for support. But an AFL-CIO super PAC could change that dynamic.

“We’re not going to build the structure for any party or candidate,” said Trumka. The goal, he continued, is to support candidates who will reliably advocate for workers.

“For those people that agree with that, we’ll be able to help them more. For those that don’t agree with it,” said Trumka, shurgging his shoulders, “You know, they’ll get less help.”

As for the nation’s top Democrat, Trumka reiterated that he wants to hear fighting words.  Tonight, said Trumka, Obama needs to convince workers that he is “willing to fight for them no matter who stands in his way,” and lay out policies that will create jobs.

If he does that, “then I think it will be a success for him tonight,” said the AFL-CIO leader.

“If he doesn’t I think it’ll be a long night.”

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