After pouring millions of dollars and many man-hours into the election, the behemoth AFL-CIO is gearing up for a new campaign--one to push lawmakers to protect entitlement benefits from potential cuts and to raise taxes on the wealthy during Congress' end-of-year session.
"We're not just about electing politicians to keep their seats warm until the next election," said Bill Samuel, the labor union federation's top lobbyist. "We want to make sure that our members continue the conversation. It doesn't end on Election Day. In fact, we have to sort of kick it up a notch and we intend to do that later this week."
The Democratic-leaning organization, he said, is asking its paid and volunteer staff nationwide to urge supporters to speak out on key issues, including protecting Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid benefits and allowing tax cuts implemented under President Bush to expire for upper-income households.
Republicans insist that cuts to entitlements such as Medicare and Medicaid be a part of any major deficit-reduction deal. The AFL-CIO agrees that entitlement spending can and should be reined in, but it shouldn't come at the expense of benefit payments
"Of course we have to bring down health care costs, but not by cutting benefits and not by shifting more costs to individuals," AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka wrote in an op-ed last month. "The right way to bring down health care costs is to make our health care system more cost-effective."
The post-election campaign will include "a whole wide spectrum of events," Samuel said, and will likely resemble the group's past lobbying efforts, with members reaching out to lawmakers, both at home and in D.C.
"We may bring local leaders into town to lobby directly on Capitol Hill," he said. "There are a lot of alternative ways to communicate the message, which we'll use."
The shift from election campaigning to advocacy "should surprise none of our allies," an AFL-CIO spokesman said. Trumka, he said, has been talking about a seamless transition between the two since mid-2011.