AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said in an interview on Bloomberg Television’s “Political Capital With Al Hunt,” airing this weekend, that JPMorgan Chase & Co.’s $2 billion trading loss shows that left unchecked, Wall Street will lead the U.S. economy “off a cliff, just like they tried to the last time.”
(This is not a legal transcript. Bloomberg LP cannot guarantee its accuracy.)
AL HUNT: We begin the show with AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, who joins us in the studio. Thank you for being here, Mr. President.
RICHARD TRUMKA: Al, thanks for having me on.
HUNT: Labor is backing Barack Obama, but isn’t this really more a vote against Republicans? There isn’t that much enthusiasm for the president, is there?
TRUMKA: No, that’s not true. Look, this is really a decision about whether we’re going to have stockbrokers and the financial world continue to run the country or whether we’re going to have an economy that’s a little more balanced and puts people back to work, rewards hard work and does things for that.
HUNT: Can you get the same enthusiasm from your workers that you had in 2008? I mean, because it -
TRUMKA: Yeah. It’s going to take a little more time, because of some issues in there, but in many sectors of our membership, they’re already enthusiastic and they’re already working, and we’re already out, and -
HUNT: You said there are a few issues there. What are the issues?
TRUMKA: Yeah, well, we disagreed with him on trade. We disagree with him on things like that. But by and large, when it comes to fighting for working people, the 99 percent, Obama’s on our side and Mitt Romney is on the other side, so -
HUNT: You have a big test coming up in less than a month in Wisconsin. You’re rallying behind Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, who beat the candidate who was backed by most of labor in the primary. But Republicans turned out in the primary in just as heavy numbers as Democrats. It’s going to be pretty tough to beat Scott Walker, isn’t it?
TRUMKA: Well, we’ve only recalled two governors in the history of the United States, so we didn’t think it was going to be an easy battle. However, he spent almost $20 million already, and he hasn’t been able to move his popularity up. He’s permanently unpopular because, instead of taking on job creation, he actually took on workers, and he misrepresented what he was doing.
And, by the way, because he did those extreme positions, Wisconsin is the only state in the union right now that didn’t create jobs last year. They lost jobs last year. Only state out there.
HUNT: Do you think you’ll win June 5?
TRUMKA: I do. We’ve tied up the Senate already in the last election, so I think we’ll take - flip a few more seats there, and working people will have the Senate on their side once again. And I think we’ll take - he’ll lose, because he’s - as I said, he’s - Koch brothers and the big oil interests from out of state have pumped in a lot of money, over $20 million, and he hasn’t been able to move his popularity up at all.
HUNT: Money and politics, you’ve always said the other side is going to have a lot more money. But there are reports that AFL-CIO is hurting. Your super PAC only raised $2.2 million in the first month - first three months of this year. Are you going to have even less than anticipated this year?
TRUMKA: We’ll be OK with money. We’ll have enough money to get the job done. And our campaign - unlike - unlike a lot of the super PACs, they spend their money on doing negative ads, ours is - we’re going to be using it to talk to workers, because in the past now, we weren’t allowed to use union dues money to talk to non-union workers. Now we can.
So our PAC we’re going to use to talk to non-union workers, the 99 percent. We’ll be hitting them. We’re also doing a different type of a campaign this time. We’re getting our members to get activated.
In addition to about 400,000 union activists and volunteers we’ll have in this election cycle, we’re getting our regular rank-and-file members committed to talking to 20 people, 20 of their friends, neighbors, and people along the -
HUNT: The Democratic convention is in Charlotte. You weren’t happy about that in the beginning. They’re $20 million short right now. Jim Rogers at Duke Power, who’s the chairman of the convention, says, look, labor is going to help us. They’re going to pony up money. It’s not a case of whether, it’s a case of when and how much. Is he right?
TRUMKA: Well, I think labor will do some help. I think it won’t be as much as it was in the past.
HUNT: You gave them $8.6 million to Denver last time. How much do you think you’ll give to Charlotte this time?
TRUMKA: I have no idea. It will be less than that.
HUNT: You issued a statement very supportive of the president’s position on gay marriage.
HUNT: Some Republicans say, however, it’s going to really, really turn off some of the labor rank-and-file, that they’re going to have problems with that issue. Right?
TRUMKA: Well, you know, it could. It could turn off some labor people. It could turn off some business people. It could turn off a group of people. And, you know, I hope that we get past the point where the policies that we adopt in this country, all we care about is what it does to the polls and not what’s good for the country.
Look, I support that position. We support it as - as the labor movement because of discrimination. There are 1,128 obligations and benefits you get from being married, responsibilities and obligations, as well as some benefits. We think that everybody ought to be treated equally, so it’s marriage equality is what we’re looking at, and people shouldn’t be discriminated against.
When I saw people discriminating against Hillary Clinton because she was a woman, I spoke out against that. When I saw people discriminating against Barack Obama because of the color of his skin, I spoke out against that. And when I see people trying to deny people benefits and discriminate against them, I speak out against that, as well.
HUNT: Do you think the White House is right to sort of say Joe Biden forced this, he made a mistake, and he forced it on us?
TRUMKA: You know, Joe Biden has said a lot of things in the past, and they’ve been able to overcome things that they’ve agreed with or not agreed with. I mean, I don’t know if Joe led that parade or he was behind that parade, but -
HUNT: But you’re glad they got there, however he got there?
TRUMKA: Yeah, I’m glad, however he - if Joe did it, bully for Joe.
HUNT: Let me ask you about Jamie Dimon, the king of Wall Street, it was revealed first on Bloomberg that JPMorgan has lost $2 billion in risky trading. What does that do to Mr. Dimon? And what does it say or what does it do about financial regulation?
TRUMKA: Well, I think it says that financial regulation is more needed now than it ever was. And he’s been one of the chief opponents trying to lobby against it, dilute all the stuff in the Dodd-Frank bill, to try to dilute it, but everybody - I think every American knows that we need Wall Street reform. The lack of Wall Street regulation is what got us to the mess that we came to, and almost totally disrupted our economy.
So I think him losing money shows, one, he isn’t infallible, two, that he doesn’t really understand the market and no one else does, either, because it’s so fickle about stuff, and, three, that without regulations, they will lead us off a cliff, just like they tried to the last time, that we must have Wall Street in check to restore the balance between the financial economy and the real economy.
HUNT: And hurts his credibility as an opponent of Dodd-Frank?
TRUMKA: Well, it surely doesn’t help his credibility.
HUNT: One more question. Mitt Romney has been very critical of labor’s role in the economy, as you know, and he says he actually should get some credit for the recovery of the automobile industry.
TRUMKA: That’s - that’s almost laughable. Didn’t he oppose that? Didn’t he say that they should have let them go bankrupt? And here’s what he didn’t understand. This shows his lack of understanding for the economy. If we would have let the auto industry go bankrupt, one out of four manufacturing jobs in this country would have been gone. And we don’t have enough manufacturing jobs as it is. We need to increase those number of jobs.
We’d like to see it become, you know, 14 percent, 15 percent, 16 percent of the GDP. We’d like to see 4 million manufacturing jobs created over the next couple of years so that we can put people back to work and be a real power.
Because here’s what happens, Al. When you move the manufacturing jobs to another country, the research and development goes with them, so we lose our technological edge.
He doesn’t get it. He doesn’t realize how much innovation has come out of the auto industry, and he also doesn’t understand that right now the auto industry is growing, it is adding jobs, and it is becoming the technological leader once again of the world. That’s important for this country, because of quality workers, because of great research and development, and because of an industry that we essentially - we need, and we can’t live without.
HUNT: Mr. Trumka, thank you so much for joining us today.
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