For the first time, the AFL-CIO will now be able to reach out to the 89 percent of American workers who do not belong to unions with a clear message about the advantages of joining a labor organization.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the Citizens United case (2010) that corporations could fund independent political broadcasts in candidate elections without limiting the amount of financial contributions or revealing the names of the donors. Union leaders, who originally opposed the ruling, changed their minds when they learned they would have the same rights as corporations.
Previously, unions were banned from using the dues money of their members for political campaigns. The tens of thousands of labor volunteers for "house calls" campaigning could visit only the homes of union members and unionized workplaces in election contests.
To take advantage of its expanded outreach opportunities, the AFL-CIO has decided to use Super PAC (Political Action Committee) to help it build an independent political organization, free from its domination by the Democratic Party. Super PAC will enable the Federation to establish contact with millions of unorganized workers throughout the United States. It will also promote fund-raising on a larger scale, while keeping the names of donors secret.
Labor Still Undecided on Strategy for the 2012 Election
With the presidential election only 13 months away, the AFL-CIO has not publicly indicated how it intends to deploy its members to achieve maximum voter support. There is strong sentiment for focusing on state and local elections where unionists can have direct contact with candidates and the voting public, and can be influential on local issues.
Supporters of this strategy say it is the best way to build an independent political voice for labor. Unions may challenge Democratic candidates in primaries or may decide to run their own candidates in certain situations.
On the other hand, many union members want the AFL-CIO to concentrate on the presidential elections where the Democrats expect to elect Obama and reclaim the House of Representatives, which is crucial to end the paralysis of a divided government.