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AFL-CIO president: How working people defined the midterm election

In this April 4, 2017 file photo, AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka listens at the National Press Club in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
In this April 4, 2017 file photo, AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka listens at the National Press Club in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

This is an opinion piece from Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO. Trumka will appear at Yahoo Finance’s All Markets Summit on November 13.

There was plenty of punditry plastered across cable news last week. But, as the dust settles, there is one story that has come to define this election: working people standing together to make a difference. The labor movement unleashed an unprecedented political program this year. Across the country, union members made the difference, fighting for our issues, for union candidates and for our proven allies.

Over the last few months, we knocked on more than 2.3 million doors and distributed 5 million fliers at more than 4,600 worksites. That represents millions of conversations between fellow union members, talking earnestly about the opportunity we embraced in this election—a chance to stand up and demand the fairer economy and more just society that we deserve.

That issue-focused, member-to-member communication extended to every part of our organizing operation, from a 12-million-piece direct mail program to the largest digital ad campaign in our history.

At the heart of every effort we made, there was a powerful advantage unique to the labor movement: working people trust our unions. In fact, persuadable voters trust unions more than any other source of political information, including friends and family. We earned that trust and built on it, mobilizing our members to the polls.

The result was game changing. We’re filling the halls of power with our own. More than 900 union members were elected to office last week, including a U.S. Senator, two governors and at least 18 U.S. House members.

We’re also tossing out the hand-picked politicians who have dutifully served corporate interests at the expense of working families. It gave me no small pleasure waking up last Wednesday knowing that Scott Walker and Bruce Rauner will be packing their bags in the coming weeks. But, it gives me even greater confidence knowing that we elected an army of pro-worker governors all across America, not just in Wisconsin and Illinois, but Nevada, Maine and even Kansas.

Working people took an important step forward last week. From state houses and governor’s mansions to Capitol Hill, we are building the foundation for a brighter future. And we are ready to hold our elected leaders accountable to their promises, and do our part to win a pro-worker policy agenda.

We’re tired of a corporate-controlled government and a corporate-run economy. We aren’t standing for politicians who listen to the whispers of a few CEOs and ignore the voices of working families. We’re dismantling a broken system that expects us to work harder and longer and produce more wealth than ever before—but take home the same or even less.

We’re doing the work of ending that injustice. There’s an energy unlike anything I’ve seen in my 50 years in the labor movement—an urgency to demand something better. We’re organizing. We’re marching. We’re striking. We’re fighting for our most fundamental rights and dignities on the job. And, as we made clear last week, we’re making ourselves heard loud and clear at the ballot box.

Richard L. Trumka is the president of the AFL-CIO, the largest labor federation in the United States with over 12.5 million members and 55 affiliated unions.