The AFL-CIO, the largest U.S. labor federation, unanimously endorsed President Barack Obama for re- election, citing his efforts to overhaul Wall Street after the financial collapse and bail out the auto industry.
While the labor “has sometimes differed with the president and often pushed his administration to do more and do it faster,” President Richard Trumka told reporters today, “we have never doubted his commitment to working families.”
Leaders of the group’s affiliated unions reached the decision today at an executive council meeting in Orlando, Florida. The federation also may adopt strategies for congressional elections while seeking to resolve disagreements over Canada’s Keystone XL pipeline. The AFL-CIO, representing 12 million workers in 57 unions, backed Obama in 2008.
Labor unions spent a record $450 million in 2008 electing Obama and Democrats to Congress. Obama is relying on labor’s get-out-the-vote effort for his re-election bid.
Obama efforts to rewrite U.S. health-care laws and steps to rein in the financial-services industry won praise from the labor groups, Trumka told reporters today. Obama’s Republican opponents, such as Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, are beholden to the wealthy, he said.
“Mitt Romney doesn’t have a have a clue what people go through every day,” Trumka said.
The federation cited Obama’s role in leading an $82 billion federal bailout for General Motors Corp. (GM) and Chrysler Group LLC. Both companies have emerged from bankruptcy. In his statement today, Trumka gave credit to Obama for “a move that saved hundreds of thousands of jobs and is helping to revive the economy.”
Congress in 2010 passed the Dodd-Frank Act, which required hundreds of rules to revamp how the financial industry does business. Republicans in the U.S. House are proposing to repeal some provisions of the law, enacted after the collapse of global financial markets.
The law is “beginning to reverse decades of financial deregulation that put our entire economy at risk,” Trumka said.
The federation’s endorsement may signal a warming towards Obama less than a year after Trumka said workers’ enthusiasm had waned. In June, Trumka said union members were frustrated by “wasted energy” in Washington on issues that don’t help workers, and said Obama reneged on pledges to labor in pushing free-trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia and Panama.
“During the campaign, he made significant promises to do an inventory of the trade agreements” to be certain they protected worker rights, Trumka said in the June interview. “He’s obviously forgotten that promise.”
Congress passed the agreements in October, and Trumka said the deal with Colombia was “immoral” because it failed to protect workers in the nation seeking to organize for better wages. He said the Panama and South Korea agreements were flawed and might cost U.S. jobs.
This year, labor groups praised Obama for bypassing the U.S. Senate and appointing three members to fill vacancies on the National Labor Relations Board, reviving the agency that mediates labor disputes that is reviled by business groups.
In response, Republicans vowed stepped up oversight of the board. The NLRB has been a Republican target since it sued aerospace giant Boeing Co. (BA) last year for opening a plant in South Carolina, where workers aren’t required to join a union. That case was settled in December.
Obama in September proposed spending $447 billion for construction on highways and bridges, subsidies to local governments to stem teacher layoffs and reducing by half the payroll taxes paid by workers and small-business owners. Trumka said Obama’s proposals were a first step. Focusing on needs to rebuild schools, roads and bridges and avoiding layoffs of state and local workers are needed for the economy, he said.
In 2008, the AFL-CIO backed Obama in June, as he wrapped up a Democratic primary battle with Senator Hillary Clinton of New York, who is Obama’s secretary of State.
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