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US unions want election success payback


Diamond Member
Jul 11, 2004
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by Joe Szczesny
38 minutes ago

DETROIT, United States (AFP) - Unions believe they played a key role in the Democrats' success in the US elections this week and now they want a payback.

Organized labor leaders are demanding that the Democrats now forge ahead with promises to raise the minimum wage, take action about the cost of health care, and protect jobs.

The American Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) estimated that it put more than 200,000 volunteers into get-out-the vote campaigns across the country.

Volunteers knocked on the doors of 8.25 million union members, made more than 30 million phone calls and mailed 20 million pamphlets before Tuesday's election, which saw the Democrats take control of the House of Representatives and get close to taking the Senate.

The AFL-CIO said exit polls showed that union members in key Senate races broke 73 percent to 27 percent for Democrats against Republicans. The campaigns were especially effective in old industrial states such as Ohio and Pennsylvania where Democrats made key gains.

James P. Hoffa, president of International Brotherhood of Teamsters, said unions now expect the newly empowered Democrats to move on key issues such as health care.

"Today working families have new reason to believe in the ability of their government to better their lives," Hoffa said in a post-election statement.

"This election marks an opportunity to move our domestic agenda in a markedly different direction," he added.

"It is an opportunity to cease the global race to the bottom resulting from the endless series of job-killing trade pacts passed by Congress. It is an opportunity to give all working Americans access to affordable, quality healthcare. It is an opportunity to raise the minimum wage," Hoffa said.

Union influence has dwindled during President George W. Bush's two terms and unions now hope to reverse some of the damage done by outsourcing, restructuring and plant closings.

Hoffa said the Teamsters were willing to work overtime to help enact key provisions of a "First Hundred Hours" agenda proposed by Nancy Pelosi, who is expected to become the first female speaker of the House in January.

The plan includes an increase in the minimum wage and a changing of the Medicare prescription drug program that will lower the cost of medications.

Ron Gettelfinger, president of the United Auto Workers, which has lost thousands of members during the past two years as the US auto industry has massively restructured, said the election results contain a strong message for both political parties.

"Candidates endorsed by the UAW and other labor unions won key races because they campaigned on issues that matter to working Americans: good wages, decent health care, secure pensions and ending the failed trade policies that have sent hundreds of thousands of good-paying jobs overseas," said Gettelfinger.

"Members of our union worked hard during this election. Now we're going to work just as hard to make sure that the change we voted for means a change in direction in our nation's policy," Gettelfinger said.

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