The rift between President Obama and Big Labor has been growing for some time, and it may come to a head during the president’s upcoming jobs speech. While the AFL-CIO hasn’t explicitly announced it will cut off Obama’s reelection campaign, its leader Richard Trumka fired a few more warning shots this week.
The labor union says it’s pursuing a new campaign strategy, focused more on strengthening its own grassroots support and political influence than electing Democratic politicians, Politico’s Byron Tau reports:
“We’re going to use a lot of our money to build structures that work for working people,” Trumka said. “You’re going to see us give less money to build structures for others and more of our money will be used to build our own structure.”
Union anger toward Obama is reaching a critical point. Labor spent hundreds of millions to help elect him in 2008, and leaders believe they received little in return. In an interview with the Huffington Post’s Sam Stein, Trumka complains Democrats have taken union support for granted:
Trumka called the current climate “absolutely” the worst he has seen during the course of his 40-year career in organized labor. …
“In the past we’ve spent a significant amount of resources on candidates and party structures, and the day after election, workers were no stronger than they were the day before,” Trumka said, during a sit down at his Washington, D.C. office slightly more than a week ago.
This is some of the strongest public criticism yet from Trumka, and it comes at an interesting time. The AFL-CIO said this week it is moving forward on its plan to form a super PAC, which could raise unlimited funds for politicians – as long as they play by Labor’s rules.
One major test for Obama will be his jobs speech. Union leaders will be watching closely to see if their preferred policies make it into the plan:
“He’s going to give a speech in a couple of weeks on job creation,” Trumka told reporters. “If he’s talking about another percent or two break from a tax here and doing something with patent control, and doing three years down the road something with infrastructure bank, that’s not going to get the job done.”
Of course, that leaves Obama in a tough spot. If he goes too far to the left to appease the unions, he risks alienating the centrists to whom the speech is meant to appeal.