AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka put Members of Congress on notice Friday that union and liberal activists would not take a break during the August recess.
Trumka said activists, fired up over a lackluster job market and Congressional fighting over the debt ceiling and a Federal Aviation Administration bill, were organizing rallies and events across the nation. Union backers, he added, planned to team up with groups such as MoveOn.org and Rebuild the Dream.
"It's going to be a long, hot summer for Members of Congress," the union chief said during a Friday conference call with reporters.
Kara Hutchason, a unionized employee at an AT&T call center in Missouri, said she plans to step up the pressure on her state's Members, such as Sen. Roy Blunt (R).
"We'll be showing up when there's a town hall or fundraiser," she said on the Trumka press call.
Trumka blamed the debt debate and a two-week furlough of some FAA employees on Capitol Hill politics. Members on Friday did agree to a temporary extension of the FAA reauthorization bill so furloughed employees could get back to work during the Congressional recess.
"It looks increasingly like tea party Republicans are actually trying to make our government dysfunctional in order to tear it down," Trumka said.
Republicans, including House Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman John Mica (Fla.), place the blame on the Democratic-controlled Senate. "The House of Representatives successfully passed the FAA extension bill the week of July 22nd and submitted it to the Senate for its approval, " said a fact sheet on Mica's website.
But the FAA and debt ceiling issues aren't the only ones that union activists plan to focus on. Trumka said his side is also spreading the word that a trio of trade deals that Congress is expected to consider after the recess would be another job-killer.
Business Behind Trade Pacts
Union activists won't be the only voices Members hear over the recess on the trade pacts. Spearheaded by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the business community plans to have its own supporters at town halls.
Friends of the U.S. Chamber today is launching America's Town Hall, an online resource that allows people to keep track of their Members' town hall meetings and to send letters to Congress. And this week, the big business lobby is launching an op-ed campaign targeted to undecided or pivotal Members to vote "yes" on the pacts with Korea, Colombia and Panama.
The chamber itself is also hosting more than 40 events across the country during recess.
While union leaders such as AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka say the trade deals will hurt U.S. jobs, the chamber's vice president for international affairs, John Murphy, says the opposite is true and noted that President Barack Obama has estimated that the Korea FTA will add more than 70,000 jobs.
"The message to Congress is one of urgency," Murphy said. "By standing still we're falling behind."
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.