Labor Roundup: Election's Over, Here Comes the Fiscal Cliff

The big news this week, of course, was the election. And while attention is now turning to the nation's financial picture and the so-called fiscal cliff that looms if Congress fails to strike a deal averting automatic tax increases and spending cuts, labor unions took some time on November 7 to talk about their contributions to the election results.

At a news conference the morning after President Obama was re-elected and the balance of power in Congress remained the same, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka told reporters that the labor federation's election efforts had contributed to Obama's wins in Ohio, Nevada, and Wisconsin, and that the results would have turned out differently if not for union efforts.

The AFL-CIO also released the results of a survey showing that 65 percent of all union members voted for Obama, compared with about half of the overall voting population. While 48 percent of voters supported Mitt Romney, only 33 percent of union members voted for him, the survey results showed.

"By a huge majority, people believe President Obama will help working people while they saw Mitt Romney as more interested in helping the wealthy," Trumka said. "They believe that President Obama will work to build a strong middle class and invest in America."

Trumka also drew attention to the federation's efforts to press issues important to middle class families during the lame-duck session of Congress. As lawmakers' attention turns to nation's financial situation and the fiscal cliff, the AFL-CIO, along with various other organizations, ran a full-page ad in the Washington Post, urging Obama and Congress to "ask all Americans to pay their fair share of taxes," prioritize job creation, minimize cuts to social programs, and avoid the automatic spending cuts and tax increases that will take place if a deal is not struck by January.

Business leaders stand opposed to the automatic cuts and tax increases too, although their approaches are likely to cause friction as a deal is hammered out. U.S. Chamber of Commerce President Thomas Donohue said Obama and Congress "must act to prevent this fiscal cliffnext hit, while committing to negotiate a Big Deal to control the national debt by reforming entitlements and taxes and boosting American energy production."

Of course, Obama favors raising taxes on higher-income Americans, while Republicans in Congress generally are opposed to tax increases. As the fiscal cliff looms, it's anyone's guess as to how the situation plays out over the next few weeks, but it's a good bet that organized labor will continue to be vocal.