During the 2008 presidential campaign, organized labor manned phone banks, went door to door, and gave significant sums of money to help elect Obama.
During the past four years, union officials say, Obama has repaid their hard work: He has gotten tougher on trade infractions by China, he has stocked the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) with officials whom union leaders call “fair,” and he supported the auto industry – and auto workers' jobs – during its darkest hour after the US went into a deep recession.
“Absolutely, unequivocally, he has been friendly to labor,” says Gary Hubbard, public affairs director at the United Steelworkers in Washington.
Still, the unions are not totally happy with Obama. For example, the Democrats are holding their convention in Charlotte, N.C., a right-to-work state that many union members feel is hostile to them. As a result, union leaders say they won’t be big spenders at the convention.
"We won't be buying skyboxes, hosting events other than the labor delegates' meeting, or bringing a big staff contingent to the convention," said Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO, the nation’s largest trade-union federation, in a letter to members in July.
But the unions expect to be out this fall working for Obama. “We'll have over 400,000 activists trying to get votes, knocking on doors...." he said in August at a Monitor-hosted breakfast with reporters.
To Romney, unions are part of the problem in providing jobs, not the solution. After recognizing the important contributions that unions made in the past, his “Believe in America” document says, “Too often, unions drive up costs and introduce rigidities that harm competitiveness and frustrate innovation.”
Romney says he would try to fire Obama’s choices for the NRLB and would guarantee workers the right to choose to join a union or not. To that end, Romney says he would submit to Congress legislation to require use of secret ballots in all union elections.
In addition, he would push Congress to pass legislation to prohibit the use of mandatory union dues for political purposes. And he says he would use the “bully pulpit” to support "right to work" legislation, which prohibits an agreement between unions and employers for payment of union dues as a condition of employment.