AFL-CIO President Rich Trumka will make political targets next year out of the Republican governors in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Ohio and — in a surprise move — said "we'll be in Texas in a bigger way than we were."
During a Thursday breakfast in Washington, D.C., hosted by the Christian Science Monitor, Newsmax asked Trumka — inarguably the nation's most powerful figure in organized labor — whether he would continue in the tradition of his legendary predecessor George Meany in using the AFL-CIO's considerable resources to target and defeat Republican opponents in 2014.
"We are still are going to hold everyone accountable — in both parties," Trumka replied without hesitation.
As to whether that included Republican Govs. Rick Snyder of Michigan and Scott Walker of Wisconsin — both of whom oversaw enactment of measures strongly opposed by unions — the AFL-CIO chieftain told us that there will be "heightened focus on the names you mention and several others hostile toward working people."
Pressed for names, Trumka offered Republican Gov. John Kasich of Ohio. As for others, he simply said "we have the capability to play in 50 states."
Then he volunteered some surprise political news: "We'll be in Texas in a bigger way than we were."
Why would organized labor make a priority out of a state that has been solidly Republican for nearly two decades and where unions have historically been weak?
Trumka explained that "it's a majority-minority state, and minorities are denied the effective voice they are entitled to."
"We're going to try [to provide that voice] by giving it more attention."
Recalling his own background as chairman of the health and safety committee for the United Mine Workers (of which he went on to be president), Trumka said that Texas is "the one state that has no fire code and prohibits counties from having fire codes."
That is something that needs to be changed, he added.
Trumka also dismissed Republican Gov. Rick Perry's claim about the Lone Star State being a mecca for jobs. Trumka insisted there is a lower quality of jobs and education in Texas than in other states.
When employers are allowed to oversee jobs without regulation, he said, "It gets nasty in the workplace." "Laissez faire at the workplace" almost always means "a higher case of injury," he said.
The AFL-CIO's heightened interest in Texas comes at a time when state and national Democrats are encouraging state Sen. Wendy Davis — famed for her marathon filibuster against pro-life legislation — to run for governor in 2014.
Trumka also made clear that in hitting the campaign trail in 2014, he and his allies in the labor movement would be fully embracing two causes which polls show voters nationwide are definitely not enamored with: comprehensive immigration reform and Obamacare.
"They are doing everything they can to stop immigration reform," said Trumka, referring to House Republicans calls for dealing with border security before addressing the issue of those in the U.S. illegally. "This is one of a number of ploys meant to stop" the comprehensive immigration package enacted by the Senate."
Trumka added that he believes the issue of people crossing the border illegally is "overstated," saying that "40 percent of those who are in the U.S. as undocumented aliens didn't come here illegally. They came legally to work and overstayed the time allowed on their visas."
Trumka charged that House Republicans are the sole roadblock to enactment of immigration reform in Congress and warned that if their current attitude on this issue continues, "they will pay a major political price."
Newsmax asked the labor chieftain what he thought of the House Republicans' position of enacting measures dealing with border security and other immigration-related issues incrementally and then dealing separately with the problem of illegal aliens in the U.S.
"The only thing standing between us and immigration reform is John Boehner and House Republicans," he told us, "And if they continue in this way, they will pay a major political price."
Turning to states that are trying to put off compliance with Obamacare, Trumka said he would urge Democrats to ask Republican opponents of the controversial measure: "What do you propose? … They can't answer this. And they'll lose."
Conceding that Obamacare has flaws and needs what he called "tweaking," Trumka said that healthcare legislation “won’t be finished until every American has healthcare."
John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax.
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