How Citizens United Could Help Workers
August 15, 2012 10:02 am
Last weekend’s Workers Stand for America rally was just the beginning of the AFL-CIO’s grassroots political program. Beginning August 25th, the labor federation aims to send 400,000 volunteers into the field to campaign for Obama and other Democrats. And thanks to the revolutionary and reviled Citizen’s United Supreme Court decision, for this election union volunteers will enjoy unprecedented freedom to solicit the votes of union and non-union households.
In previous election cycles, regulated union Political Action Committees (PACs) were limited to member-to-member outreach, and could not even distribute materials to people encountered while walking between members’ houses. For better or for worse, Citizens United has now blown the doors off traditional fundraising and campaigning. Through their superPAC, Workers’ Voice, AFL-CIO can mobilize scores of union members and volunteers to target entire neighborhoods. Unions are bringing the fight to the 20 battleground states, focusing on Florida, Michigan, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.
Speaking with Bloomberg Businessweek, Tim Burga, President of the Ohio AFL-CIO states: “We will be able to out-organize and have an advantage on the ground in terms of being able to talk to real voters directly. We’ll be in working-class neighborhoods where we want to be, where there are opportunities to have face to face conversations with working people.”
Despite deregulation, the money fight is still extremely lopsided. Businessweek reports:
“Workers’ Voice, the AFL-CIO’s super PAC that targets voter turnout and minorities, raised $3.4 million through six months this year. By comparison, American Crossroads, a group co- founded by Republican adviser Karl Rove, reported $16 million in five months this year.”
Yet Citizens United will give union volunteers the one degree of separation necessary to expand their political platform to issues facing the middle class, not just organized labor. The Workers’ Voice coffers are far more fortified than those of the Union PACs (AFL-CIO’s general PAC raised just $109,519 this cycle), and the motto is shaping up to be, “if you can’t outspend them, out organize them.”
AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka (pictured above) speaks to this effect in the Washington Times: “We turn out people at the grass-roots level, something [anti-union groups and candidates] can’t do. And this time, we’re going to try to do it even better.”
Excitement about the mobilization is tempered by the recent failed recall in Wisconsin. Workers and their advocates flooded the capital to protest the anti-union Act 10 and quickly gathered nearly one-million signatures in support of the recall. Despite the populist wage, Walker, unencumbered by campaign finance regulations, raked in out-of-state money from right wing billionaires like Sheldon Adelson and handily dispatched Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett.
Trumka spoke on the Wisconsin effort and referred to recall’s partial victory in denying Republicans control of that state’s Senate. He also stated he expects Dems to maintain control of the Senate and gain some seats in the house.
With hundreds of thousands speaking for workers on the ground and 5,000-6,000 AFL-CIO poll monitors, workers just might stand a chance in going up against the 1% to influence the nation’s voters.
Image from here