AFL-CIO Executive Council statement
Participation in the National Elections
August 08, 2007
Last night, nearly 20,000 trade unionists met with the next president of the United States and six other candidates. We heard from these candidates on issues important to working people in this country. More importantly, we heard directly from working people about the challenges they face every day—about making ends meet, about good jobs and secure retirement, about growing inequality and declining opportunity, about the lack of health care. And about the need to once again build strong unions in our nation.
America is at a tipping point. Our country is not working the way it should, and the challenges and the opportunities for our next president are substantial. We need a leader who will bring us together to face these enormous challenges and lead the change our country needs.
In five months, the nomination process for these decisive elections will formally begin. During the early months of 2008, Americans in scores of states will participate in caucuses and primary elections to choose a nominee for president of the United States from each major political party. Next fall, voters will go to the polls to choose one of the nominees to lead our nation for four decisive years.
These national elections will be the first in decades in which no incumbent president or vice president will be running. This scenario has opened up the competition in both parties to a wide range of candidates. We view this as a healthy sign that our democracy is strong and vibrant.
Since early this year, America's union members and our families have examined these candidates—meeting with them in town halls, reading their position papers and responses to candidate questionnaires, reviewing their records and videos of their remarks on our websites and witnessing a national debate here in Chicago. These months of evaluation and debate within our movement have been educational—and have allowed us to discuss with the candidates the critical issues facing working families today.
While there are differences among the candidates on a number of issues, we found that the candidates competing for the nomination of the Democratic Party are far more likely to advocate positions in support of working families than are the candidates seeking the nomination of the Republican Party.
The Democratic candidates are strong on the issues most central to working people’s lives. Nonetheless, continued engagement with them is essential to promote full understanding of workers’ difficulties and dreams. It is clear that a number of the Democratic candidates have the experience and the credentials to lead our nation. And it is equally clear that our members support a number of the candidates—many union members have told us all the candidates are impressive and they are eager to support many of them.
For this reason, the AFL-CIO has decided not to proceed with a decision process that would lead to support for a single candidate at this time.
Rather, we will continue to ensure that workers’ issues are foremost in the national debate and union families are informed on the issues and the positions of the candidates—and we will focus on preparations for the greatest involvement ever by working voters in the crucial 2008 elections.
We encourage all our affiliated unions to continue this education and mobilization process—not only to hear from the candidates, but to ensure that the candidates hear from America’s workers.
We recognize that every national union affiliate may decide for itself
if it wishes to support a candidate in the primaries, and that different
unions will be ready to make decisions at different times. We encourage
all the unions to focus on promoting working families’ issues in the national
debate and preparing for the most important national elections in our lifetimes.
August 08, 2007
Calls for Greatest Involvement Ever by Working Voters in the Crucial 2008 Elections
“It is clear that a number of the Democratic candidates have the experience and the credentials to lead our nation,” wrote the Executive Council. “And it is equally clear that our members support a number of the candidates - - many union members have told us all the candidates are impressive and they are eager to support many of them.”
“The issues affecting our nation’s working families took front and center last night,” said AFL-CIO President John Sweeney. “We will make absolutely sure that the spotlight remains on working people’s concerns, like good jobs, affordable health care, and the freedom to join and form unions to improve their lives.”
In 2004, the AFL-CIO made an endorsement for John Kerry in February.
The AFL-CIO’s “Working Families Vote 2008” campaign is the broadest effort yet to involve working people in the selection of president. In addition to hosting last night’s Presidential Forum, the 10-million member union federation held town hall forums with each candidate and union members over the last four months, and 20,000 people voted on the questions to be posed at last night’s forum on the group’s interactive website (www.workingfamiliesvote08.org).
Rather than endorsing at this time, the Executive Council pledged that
unions “will focus on preparations for the greatest involvement ever by
working voters in the crucial 2008 elections.” In 2006, the AFL-CIO’s
massive union mobilization proved key to shifting the balance of power
in Congress when it mobilized more than 13.6 million voters in 32 states.
In recent national elections, one in four voters have been union household
Contact: Steve Smith