Unions to Counter Tea Party in November Campaigns, AFL-CIO Says

Sept. 1 (Bloomberg) -- Labor leaders said today they will take on the Tea Party movement in November’s congressional elections with a pro-union message for voters hurt by the recession.

“The AFL-CIO is determined that the Tea Party and its corporate backers are not going to get the final word,” Arlene Holt Baker, vice president of the 11-million member union federation, said today at a media briefing in Washington.

Activists in the Tea Party, a loose coalition of voters seeking limits on government spending, taxes and debt, are mounting a nationwide effort to get voters to the polls in the midterm elections as Democrats, struggling to keep majorities in Congress, argue that the fiscally conservative candidates will alienate many voters.

Unions plan to concentrate their campaigns on 26 states to keep “the forces of hate” from “exploiting our economic frustration,” AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said at the briefing on organized labor’s efforts.

Unions will target about 70 of the 435 races for the House of Representatives, Trumka said.

“We are looking for leaders who will reject unfair trade deals” and fight for job-creation measures, Trumka said.

Fox News commentator Glenn Beck and 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin on Aug. 28 rallied fans and activists in Washington, many involved with the Tea Party.

Unions are planning a rally next month on the National Mall in Washington, Trumka said. The Oct. 2 event will counter “false rhetoric,” he said.

“The union is a trusted messenger that will reach 17 million working-class voters,” he said.

Last week, Trumka delivered a speech in Palin’s home state of Alaska in which he called her campaign rhetoric “poisonous.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Holly Rosenkrantz in Washington at hrosenkrantz@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Larry Liebert at lleibert@bloomberg.net