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Union members at Indiana statehouse protesting anti-union bill.
Aside from pushing for better wages and working conditions and lobbying for worker-friendly legislation like raising the minimum wage and improved workplace safety laws, one of the big ways unions can have a broad impact is in elections. While union members make up a much smaller percentage of the population than they once did, they and their families still make up about 17 percent of voters in recent elections. FiveThirtyEight's Harry Enten looks at how union households have voted—isolating the effect of being a union member vs. being African American or LGBT or a range of other variables—and breaks down how much of a difference that makes:
In the ANES data set, 58 percent of union members or those living with a union member voted for Obama. If every union member or member of a union household voted as if they were not one and every other characteristic was kept constant, 51.1 percent of them still would have voted Democratic.

Obama would have lost 1.4 percentage points off his vote share in 2012 without unions. Instead of his margin of victory over Romney being 3.9 percentage points, it would have been 1.1 points.

While Obama still would have won, Enten points out that the 2.8 point difference union members made is "larger than the margin in two of the past four elections, and it’s about the same as it was in 2008." That's important context when you consider a Supreme Court case like Harris v. Quinn, which perhaps hinted at future damage this Court would consider inflicting on unions. And of course, that national percentage of the vote made up by union households isn't distributed evenly across the states—it's a lot smaller in Louisiana, for instance, and bigger in Michigan and Ohio. So as far as the electoral vote in presidential races, or Senate races, unions can help tip the scales. (Additionally, unions have worked to expand their electoral reach by organizing non-union workers in their communities through programs like Working America.)

And, of course, if you're looking for another reason—beyond simple hostility to workers—for the Supreme Court justices that installed George W. Bush in the White House, or were subsequently appointed by Bush, to be making decisions that harm unions, there it is.

Originally posted to Daily Kos Labor on Wed Jul 02, 2014 at 07:45 AM PDT.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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Comment Preferences

  •  It's not just how we vote individually ........ (5+ / 0-)

    We is boots-on-da-ground.

    Every election cycle is a major work load increase for Local Union Business Managers. Door-to-door messaging/literature drops, rallies, meet-and-greet events .... the list is longer. And its all volunteer (if you discount t-shirt cost).

    Effectiveness comes from the eye-to-eye personal contact with actual humans. Word-of-Mouth should never be discounted, even if it's difficult to quantify.

    21st Century America: The distracted, superficial perception of a virtual reality. Gettov Milawn

    by geez53 on Wed Jul 02, 2014 at 08:22:05 AM PDT

    •  Unless GS starts running phone banks, not sure who (5+ / 0-)

      Dems plan on providing shoe leather for GOTV efforts if union density continues to decline.  It's not an accident that period of labor's ascendancy (mid-30's to mid-70's) roughly coincides w/ sole period of Dem dominance since 1860.

      Feeding your foot soldiers is essential to any organization involved in a competitive effort.

      Some men see things as they are and ask why. I dream of things that never were and ask why not?

      by RFK Lives on Wed Jul 02, 2014 at 08:58:03 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  The best that could happen, I think, is for unions (4+ / 0-)

      to allow us dem non-union folks to door-to-door with them for the coming elections.  I'd be happy to team up with someone for this November and for 2016.

      I think that is a win/win combo, especially for someone like me that is so pro-union (though never been in one...).

      The only hawk I like is the kind that has feathers. My birding blogs: and

      by cany on Wed Jul 02, 2014 at 10:48:18 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I'm not a union member either (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        cany, JamieG from Md, jbsoul, Dirtandiron

        right now but what I did do is find the state-level AFL-CIO website (in my case, WI),  and signed up to get their e-mails. I also went to the South-Central WI Federation of Labor web site and signed up to get their e-mails. Both places keep me apprised of what they're doing and I've signed petitions to legislators on their behalf as well. I also follow the WI AFL-CIO on Twitter.

        I would encourage you to contact any local labor organization near you to indicate your interest in supporting them. I doubt they'd turn you down if you offered to help them. I got on the e-mail lists for the two organizations I mentioned up above because they represent groups of labor unions and I wanted to support all of labor rather than a single union.

        "A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more." - from the prophet Jeremiah

        by 3goldens on Wed Jul 02, 2014 at 11:10:35 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Working America link provided in the diary (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        cany, jbsoul, Dirtandiron

        will take you to their website. WA is a an allied organization of the AFL-CIO. I really encourage you, cany, to take a look at that website. It's a great way to get involved and it's geared specifically to non-union folks.

        "A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more." - from the prophet Jeremiah

        by 3goldens on Wed Jul 02, 2014 at 11:20:38 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  should they? Do Dems care? (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    RFK Lives, 3goldens, dallasdunlap, jbsoul

    Far as I can tell, the Democrats have long ago abandoned Labor in favor of Management. Is it good enough for Labor that they should support the party that is merely mildly rather than rabidly hostile to Unions?

    "Tell the truth and run." -- Yugoslav proverb

    by quill on Wed Jul 02, 2014 at 09:16:08 AM PDT

  •  Labor does seem to be taken for granted (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    RFK Lives, quill, jbsoul, Dirtandiron

    by the Democratic Party. As harmful trade deals got passed and with a couple more being feverishly worked on behind the scenes, it seems as though the Democrats are bent on ignoring the harm they are actively fostering via these deals against Labor. The labor unions have been for decades the most stalwart of Democratic supporters when it comes to GOTV. I have to wonder if it ever occurs to the DNC that without Labor's support, the Democratic Party could very well start losing elections because Labor will either be too weakened to support it OR, perhaps, one day Labor will simply walk away. If/when that happens, the Democrats will have no one to blame but themselves. Labor has been taken for granted for far too long by the current crop of "Democrats". Their forbears would never have allowed this to happen.

    "A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more." - from the prophet Jeremiah

    by 3goldens on Wed Jul 02, 2014 at 11:51:37 AM PDT

  •  The short answer: (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jbsoul, Dirtandiron


    New York - and the recent WFP kerfuffle where Andrew Cuomo walked away with the WFP nod regardless of most everyone at the convention not liking him much - is an example of that.  Rank and file members are disgusted with Andrew Cuomo, while leadership twisted arms to give the nod to a disgusting corporatist snot.

    If things are like this in New York - the state with the highest percentage of union members in the nation - I can only imagine it's even worse elsewhere.

    Rank and file union members are disheartened.  They feel beat-down by anti-labor forces, and they feel abandoned by the Democrats that they bust their asses to support.  It feels like fewer and fewer of them each cycle decide to help out with boots-on-the-ground activity, and more and more don't even bother going to the polls out of apathy caused by their feeling of abandonment from the Democratic establishment.

    Do unions have the manpower to get the job done?  Yes.  But members no longer have the motivation.  That will continue until either the Democratic party stops taking them for granted, or a new major Leftist/Labor party is formed to replace the Democratic party.

    "There was no such thing as a "wealthy" hunter-gatherer. It is the creation of human society that has allowed the wealthy to become wealthy. As such, they have an obligation to pay a bit more to sustain that society than the not-so-wealthy." - Me

    by Darth Stateworker on Wed Jul 02, 2014 at 02:41:24 PM PDT

  •  Who are the men in that picture? It looks like (0+ / 0-)

    Michael Moore and Sam Jackson!

    "Privatize to Profitize" explains every single Republican economic, social and governing philosophy. Take every taxpayer dollar from defense, education, health care, public lands, retirement - privatize it, and profit from it.

    by mumtaznepal on Sat Jul 05, 2014 at 08:10:26 PM PDT

  •  Pivotal Power (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    chrisa1, jfdunphy

    Is pivotal power.  Just takes a few to tip the balance.  The key is to identify the opportunities where pivotal power can play a role.  I see someone is doing math.  

  •  Today's public employee unions are influential... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    chrisa1, jfdunphy

    ...mostly for the good (SEIU) some not so good (prison guards).

    Some building trade unions have been cool toward environmentalists. They sometimes support Republicans in local elections because they're "pro-development" and nominally anti-immigrant. (I say "nominally" because the 'Pubs talk big, but won't lift a finger to stop employers from hiring low-wage undocumented labor).

    Prior to Bush/Cheney, my county central committee was dominated by union members and tended to be moribund outside of narrow union interests. The invasion of Iraq brought a lot of young progressives into local politics and that caused quite a struggle with the old guard. The union types who were resigned to "playing ball" with incumbent Republican legislators were displaced by the anti-war types with a much stronger allegiance to Democrats. That opened a rift that only started healing in 2008.

    We now have good alliances with local union activists. The county party and the local clubs are pro-union, but not run by unions. So we follow progressive policies on things like environmental issue, war & peace, and sustainable economies, while supporting union rights and broader workers rights.

    Today's unions are just one of many "affinity groups" that engage in politics. Not all union members "do politics", but those that do are effective because their work-oriented relationships make for strong affinities that bring out donations of time and money.

    As a Democratic club organizer, I look at unions with some envy, because my "affinity group" is comprised of people from many different age groups, occupations and neighborhoods. The social bonds that get people to pitch in at election time are weaker than what you find at the union hall.

    We still need the shoe leather on the ground, but advertising money remains king. Technology (like computerized phone banking) can also make a small groups of activists as influential as a large group of canvassers.

    “It is useless to attempt to reason a man out of a thing
    he was never reasoned into” - Jonathan Swift

    by jjohnjj on Sat Jul 05, 2014 at 10:39:18 PM PDT

  •  I don't know why unions would vote for the Dems... (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    quill, jfdunphy, Garthhh, Tentwenty

    Not only have the Dems taken unions for granted, they have taken money and lied to them in the bargain.   Dems just pay
    lip service to workers and in return receive undeserved loyalty.   That's been going on a long time now.  But people are waking up at long last.  The two party system has failed everyone except our corporate masters.  The next election might just be interesting...I hope.  The regular dog and pony show that the parties put on every 4 years will not be acceptable this time around.  It has become too transparent.  It is all smoke and mirrors signifying nothing.  We can only hope that people will not allow themselves to be manipulated again by less important distractions that cause us to miss the real issues that effect the entire world.

  •  Not sure. Look at teachers unions....and Arne. (6+ / 0-)

    People will vote individually as their conscience speaks to them.  But this has not been a very union friendly administration.

    Teachers' unions have paid a dear price.

  •  The time has come for the national teacher unions (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    quill, jfdunphy

    to abandon the national party and concentrate solely on local and state races.

    "You can't fix stupid" --Ron White -6.00, -5.18

    by zenbassoon on Sun Jul 06, 2014 at 12:01:52 AM PDT

  •  however, it would help a great deal if (3+ / 0-)

    Democrats in office actually did things that supported unions, such as stronger enforcement and investigation of what is actually rampant anti-union activities and anti-labor activities by corporations. In the push for jobs--any kind of jobs--to boost the unemployment numbers, the administration has not done enough to clamp down on the moves that cripple the middle class--wage theft by employers, turning full time jobs into per diem or independent contractor positions, companies such as Wal-Mart having workers come in for only 4 hour shifts, and keeping them to less than 20 hours per week, virtually ensuring that the worker is forced to use some sort of federal subsidy.
       In health care, some people are working three jobs just to keep afloat, in conditions that frequently violate health and labor laws, but keep silent as they see those that are whistle-blowers get canned, without the "on the books" protection offered by whistle-blower laws, but are very weakly enforced.
      Workman's compensation laws are violated by companies that self-insure, as they do have accidents, but fail to report them to themselves, and thus state regulators, to keep their premiums lower, thereby stiffing the workers with serious injuries sustained legitimately while on the job.
         The approach by the Justice Dept. has been "Corporate Integrity Agreements," where companies actually caught in the act promise to be good, since they were caught, and, once a minimal fine or penalty is paid, the agreement is filed with human resources and legal, and pretty soon it's back to violations as usual, until they get caught again.

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