Clarion Masthead

Unions See Election Gains: Labor’s Ground Game Trumps GOP Money

Sean Mackell (left) of the NYC Central Labor Council and Joel Kuszai of the PSC Legislative Committee make plans for getting out the vote in this year’s elections.
.
05-Addabbo-Labor-Walk-10-13-12-001-Sean-Mackell-CLC-and-Joel-Kuszai-QCC-by-Kate-Pfordresher_0.jpg

The 2012 election saw President Barack Obama re-elected by a solid margin and a string of victories for progressive candidates across the nation. Similar trends prevailed in New York, where Democrats made gains in both the State Legislature and the US House of Representatives.

In the battle for the State Senate, PSC activists helped shift control to the Democrats. State Senator Joseph Addabbo Jr., an incumbent from Queens endorsed by NY State United Teachers (NYSUT) and the PSC, beat back a GOP push to retain his seat. George Latimer, a PSC/NYSUT-endorsed challenger, won his race for a State Senate seat in Westchester. Both Addabbo and Latimer have long track records of support for working families and full funding for CUNY.

Undecided Races

As Clarion went to press, two upstate Senate races remained undecided. In the 46th District, which includes parts of Albany, Democrat Cecilia Tkaczyk went into a recount holding a 139-vote lead over her challenger, Republican George Amedore. In the other race, Democratic challenger Terry Gipson leads incumbent Republican Stephen Saland of Poughkeepsie by 1,600 votes, with 10,000 absentee votes still to be counted. If Tkacyzk and Gipson prevail, the Democrats will hold a 33-32 majority in the Senate. Final control of the State Senate, however, may still be decided by a more conservative caucus of four “independent Democrat” state senators, who have sought to make their own deals with Republicans in the past.

“The PSC’s strategy in this election was to contribute to the reelection of the president, increase Democratic control of the House and Senate, and help the Democrats retake the New York State Senate,” said PSC First Vice President Steve London. “Our goals were to protect the federal social safety net programs and to deny Governor Cuomo a partner – the Republican Senate leadership – in advancing anti-labor legislation. The results look promising and we have made important gains, but we will have to continue the pressure to achieve our our goals.”

In federal contests in New York, labor-backed challengers Grace Meng, Sean Patrick Maloney and incumbent Tim Bishop won their elections for seats in the House of Representatives. Democrats posted a net gain of one House seat in New York State, as Democrats nationally trimmed the Republican majority in the House.

Senate Gains

In the United States Senate, Democrats gained two seats and saw their majority increase to 55-45. With Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s re-election a foregone conclusion, PSC members helped secure two important progressive victories in other states: Elizabeth Warren’s win over GOP Sen. Scott Brown in Massachusetts, and Chris Murphy’s win over Republican wrestling magnate Linda McMahon in Connecticut.

PSC members made hundreds of get-out-the vote calls in both races, and teamed up with members of the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) and other unions on a bus trip to Connecticut for a door-to-door labor walk to get out the vote for Murphy.

Warren, a former law professor, author and consumer advocate, emerged as a forceful critic of Wall Street in her role as chair of a congressionally appointed oversight committee monitoring the bailout of big banks after the 2008 financial collapse. Working in the Obama administration, she played a leading role in the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, but was denied a position as its first head in the face of determined opposition from Senate Republicans. Murphy takes over the seat of retiring Connecticut Senator Joseph Lieberman, defeating McMahon, a right-wing businesswoman who had put $97 million of her own fortune into two successive campaigns to win a Senate seat.

Clincher

Polling by Hart Research showed 65 percent of union members nationwide voting for Obama with that number increasing to 70 percent in Ohio – the state where Obama’s victory clinched the election.

According to the AFL-CIO, union members and their community partners contacted 800,000 voters in Ohio in the last four days of the campaign and made 10.7 million door knocks and phone calls nationwide. PSC members did their part, phone-banking union households to mobilize support for Obama in New Hampshire, a state the president won by a 52-46 margin.

If it had not been for the unions’ efforts, including those of PSC members, the election’s outcome would have been very different, PSC leaders said. “I was on the ground in Ohio in the final days of the campaign and I saw first-hand how an army of labor organizers and volunteers got Obama supporters to the polls,” said London. “Without that effort, many important federal, state and local races would have been lost, and President Obama would not have been reelected. Now, we have to continue to mobilize our forces so the politicians we elected advance our interests.”

______________________________

RELATED COVERAGE:

Labor Wins Key Ballot Measures