APWU Web News Article 134-12, Nov. 7 , 2012
Working people across the country are celebrating the re-election of President Barack Obama — and breathing a sigh of relief. After two years of relentless obstruction by Tea Party Republicans, Obama won a decisive victory that averted a potential disaster for union members and other middle-class Americans.
“Obama’s win is a triumph for working people,” said APWU President Cliff Guffey, “and the labor movement played a significant role in the campaign. APWU members worked tirelessly for this victory, along with tens of thousands of others in the labor movement and every walk of life,” he said.
Hundreds of APWU volunteers fanned out across the country to make phone calls and knock on doors to get out the vote. “This was a tremendous advance over our efforts in previous elections and we plan to expand our work in the future,” Guffey said.
Working people won important victories in the Senate on Election Day as well, he noted. Elizabeth Warren, a champion of workers and consumers against the power of Wall Street, won a hotly-contested election in Massachusetts; Sen. Sherrod Brown, an outspoken advocate of working people, won re-election in Ohio despite an onslaught of outside funds spent against him; Tammy Baldwin, a friend of working people, defeated a well-known opponent in Wisconsin; Joe Donnelly triumphed over an extremist in Indiana; pro-worker Chris Murphy beat a wealthy right-wing sports mogul in Connecticut; Heidi Heitkamp won a tight race in North Dakota; Sen. Claire McCaskill, a moderate Democrat who campaigned, in part, on her support for postal services, won re-election over a right-wing extremist in Missouri; Sen. Jon Tester, a moderate Democrat beat a well-financed Republican challenger in Montana, and Tim Kaine, a moderate Democrat, won an open Senate seat in Virginia.
Democrats retained a slim majority in the Senate, defying predictions of just a few months ago that Republicans would take control of the chamber. Republicans had just 10 Senate seats to defend, while 23 Democratic seats were up for grabs. The efforts of unions and other progressive organizations dashed Republican hopes to retake the Senate this cycle.
What Has Changed?
Despite these wins, however, much remains the same. Republicans retained a large majority in the House of Representatives, and the Democratic majority in the Senate will not be big enough to overcome partisan obstructionism.
“Divided government” continues, and congressional stalemates remain a real possibility. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-TN) and House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) issued post-election statements that reinforce concerns about gridlock.
But the labor movement has vowed to remain mobilized after the election to advocate on issues of concern to working people. The AFL-CIO is gearing up to speak out for interests of workers in the upcoming battle over deficit reduction.
“We are ready to work together with the president and all willing parties to win greater equality and economic opportunity for all – starting with ending the Bush tax cuts for the rich and opposing any cuts to Social Security, Medicare, or Medicaid benefits,” said Rich Trumka, president of the labor federation.
Postal Reform Fight Continues
“APWU members will support these efforts – while we continue to advocate for a solution to the Postal Service’s congressionally-manufactured financial crisis,” Guffey said. “Postal unions will have our work cut out for us as we try to get a favorable postal reform bill passed,” he added.
“The APWU will continue to advocate for legislation that preserves the USPS as a public institution that serves the American people and we will defend our middle-class, unionized jobs” he said.
On the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, former Democrat-turned-Independent Chairman Joe Lieberman is retiring and is likely to be replaced by Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE). While supporting postal reform that would help alleviate the Postal Service’s “fiscal crisis,” Sen. Carper has also been an outspoken advocate of downsizing the USPS. Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) was not up for re-election, but Republican rules prevent her from maintaining her leadership role on the committee. Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) is expected to become the committee’s ranking minority member.
In the House, Republicans Darrel Issa and Dennis Ross will likely retain control the Government Reform and Oversight Committee.
But for now, “we should relish this victory,” Guffey said.
“I particularly want to thank those members and officers who volunteered to make phone calls and knock on doors to get out the vote. Your participation, and the participation of tens of thousands of other Labor 2012 volunteers across the United States, contributed greatly to this victory. I can’t thank you enough,” he said.
“I also want to thank the thousands of APWU members who made contributions to COPA, the union’s Committee on Political Action, during this important election cycle,” Guffey said.
“We’ve got our work cut out for us. We have to get busy!”