Labor and the 2012 elections
It's a holiday designed to honor workers. But in a hotly contested election season, Labor Day is also a chance to gauge worker sympathies, especially unionized workers. YNN's Bill Carey says the major question is whether those union members are ready for battle heading into November.
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NEW YORK STATE FAIR -- It is tradition at the New York State Fair. Labor unions gather, on foot and on motorcycle, to mark Labor Day.
The tradition continues, even as membership in unions has been on the decline. Down nearly half in the past 30 years as factories and other businesses have closed.
Organizers say there is a new intensity among their members this year, claiming the country is moving in the wrong direction.
“It's very important that people get out there and vote to keep jobs in this country. Create more jobs. And stop off-shoring jobs just because, in a global economy, you can find other corners of the world where it's cheaper to produce things,” said Dr. Dennis Nave, Greater Syracuse Labor Council President.
In 2010, in an economic downturn, there were claims the unions failed to show the energy necessary to get voters to the polls in congressional races. In 2012 they're claiming the story will be different.
At this rally, the unions make it clear they will back democrat Dan Maffei in his effort to win back his seat in Congress. Maffei, too, says 2012 is not 2010.
“Definitely feels different than two years ago, but it actually feels more energetic than almost any of my campaigns. People are upset with Congresswoman Buerkle because they just don't feel like they've been represented and they don't feel like she represents the middle class,” Maffei said.
As Maffei rails against Ann Marie Buerkle and the policies of the House majority, the incumbent Congresswoman sits nearby with aides and friends enjoying lunch. She dismisses any effort to write off the labor support for republicans.
Buerkle said, “Well, unfortunately, in politics, people stereotype and they don't look. You know, these union folks want jobs and the republican policies will create those jobs.”
Buerkle says she may not have union leaders' support, but is backed by many rank and file members. It's a similar claim being made by the Green Party candidate who says her party's jobs and economic policies have worker support.
“One on one, people agree with that. But then the organizers aren't always on the same page as the Green Party,” Congressional candidate Ursula Rozum said.
The Labor Day tradition goes on. Democrats are hoping labor follows another tradition: Voting democratic in November.
Organized labor can prove important to candidates in tight election races. In addition to financial contributions, unions often provide a substantial amount of manpower for important "get out the vote" efforts on Election Day.