Alarmed by reports that the Joint Committee on Deficit Reduction is mulling substantial cuts to entitlement programs, the AFL-CIO has asked 700,000 activists to contact Capitol Hill as part of a lobbying campaign.
Labor leaders are “deeply troubled about the possible direction” of the super committee based on media reports, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said in a conference call today.
Also known as the super committee, the panel is “reportedly ready to propose hundreds of billions of dollars in cuts to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security benefits,” Trumka said, “and that is simply unacceptable.”
The AFL-CIO is working with about two dozen liberal organizations to protect entitlement programs, including the NAACP and MoveOn.org, and is preparing a community mobilization campaign that could include ads, phone banks and worksite leafleting, Trumka said.
“This is one of the most important issues out there,” Trumka said, adding that it would be “difficult” for the union to support candidates who vote for entitlements cuts. If necessary, the AFL-CIO will temporarily suspend its jobs campaign to pick up the fight to protect entitlements, Trumka said.
In August, Trumka announced that the federation would launch an unrestricted super PAC to broaden the AFL-CIO’s year-round focus on policy issues. At that time, Trumka had harsh words for President Barack Obama, whom he accused of failing to lead on job creation.
On Monday, amid a string of executive actions aimed at implementing parts of the Obama jobs bill without legislative action, Trumka took a more conciliatory tone, stating that “the president has done a good job talking about jobs and job creation.”
But Trumka said that politicians should look at the Occupy Wall Street movement as evidence that working families intend to make their voices heard and that cutting entitlements is the wrong way to balance the budget. Asked about alternatives, Trumka cited a surtax on millionaires, taxing capital gains as ordinary income and letting the Bush-era tax rates — extended in 2010 by Obama and the Democratic Congress — expire.
“Today marks the beginning of a critically important time for Congress, where our elected leaders are faced with a defining choice to stand up for the 99 percent of America or to continue with the business-as-usual approach for the top 1 percent,” Trumka said.
Vice President Joe Biden waits to conduct a mock swearing-in ceremony with Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, in the Capitol's Old Senate Chamber, December 2, 2014. Schatz was sworn in to serve the remainder of his term since he was appointed to the seat after Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, passed away.