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Union Brass Making No Overtures to the GOP

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AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, who previewed his labor federation’s legislative agenda for the 112th Congress, said he would fight efforts to extend the President George W. Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthy. Trumka also plans to fight spending cuts proposed by the federal deficit commission.

“It is insane for some people to want to continue George Bush’s tax giveaways to millionaires,” he said.

Saying he was concerned about the “outsourcing of American jobs,” Trumka added that he could not support the South Korean trade pact as drafted. But he did leave open the possibility of switching his position if the president were able to negotiate changes to the trade deal. While unions have opposed nearly all trade pacts in the past, Trumka did not issue a blanket opposition of all such deals.

“We will look at every deal as they come out,” he said.

The union president would not address whether compromise by the administration on taxes, spending and trade might cause tension with organized labor. He would only say that the unions have been in discussions with the White House and Democratic leaders in Congress.

The political atmosphere for organized labor is chillier than two years ago, when Obama and Congressional Democrats, swept into office with strong support from unions, vowed to try to enact much of the labor agenda.

Some of those priorities, such as health care and financial reform, were approved after an expensive lobbying campaign, much of it underwritten by the unions.

But one top priority, the “card-check” measure that would make it easier for unions to organize, has stalled because of opposition from Republicans and centrist Democrats. Union officials said privately that if the current Congress, with strong Democratic majorities, could not pass card-check, it has no chance of passage next year.

Loyal to Pelosi

Despite the change in House leadership, the unions are remaining loyal to some of their traditional liberal allies, most notably Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). The major unions have backed her bid to be Minority Leader in the next Congress despite the opposition of some of her colleagues, who blame her for the party’s steep election losses.

“When others might chose to cut and run, Speaker Pelosi has decided to stay and fight,” Mary Kay Henry, president of the Service Employees International Union, said in a statement.

Henry cited Pelosi’s role in passing health care and financial services reform as well as fighting efforts by Bush to create private Social Security accounts.

Gerald McEntee, president of the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees, also issued a statement of support, calling Pelosi “the most effective speaker of the House in history.”

“AFSCME looks forward to working with her as she and other Democrats stand up to the destructive policies and delusional pronouncements we can expect from those who will temporarily be in control of the U.S. House,” he said.

As they have in the past, unions were among the top spenders in the recent elections, using the vast majority of their resources on Democrats.

The SEIU spent more than $15 million, AFSCME $12.4 million and the AFL-CIO almost $3 million during the 2009-2010 election cycle, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Organized labor also shelled out about $32.1 million in the first three quarters of this year on federal lobbying, according to a CQ MoneyLine analysis of lobbying disclosure reports filed with Congress.

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