Workers didn't wear a union label at polls

Workers again demonstrated on election day that while they accept unions and collective action in relations with employers, they are on their own at the polls.

Union members and their families contributed to Ronald Reagan's election in 1980 (with 489 electoral votes), despite union urgings to reelect Jimmy Carter. Called upon Tuesday to oust Reagan from the White House and elect Walter Mondale , blue-collar workers, teachers, and other unionists again turned their backs on leaders, choosing four more years for the Reagan administration.

Analysts are still breaking down the vote cast for Reagan, but it is apparent that the union vote on the presidency was a major setback for AFL-CIO, almost all of its 96 unions, and such major groups as the National Education Association.

Organized labor was more deeply involved in Democratic politics this year than ever before. Prodded by its president, Lane Kirkland, the AFL-CIO endorsed Mr. Mondale last fall, before the start of state primaries and caucuses to select a Democratic candidate. Mr. Kirkland told the federation that this break from AFL-CIO tradition was necessary to ensure labor solidarity.

AFL-CIO and almost all other unions spent more money and manpower in this campaign than in any other, and engaged in sophisticated, computerized registration and voting efforts.

Analysis of the labor vote is expected to show that despite union efforts, more than 35 percent of members and their families gave President Reagan their votes. The pro-Reagan voting this year showed up even in economically hard-hit industrial states of the Northeast and Midwest, where labor campaigned the hardest.

In exit polls, labor voters cited economic gains, the lower jobless rate, concerns about taxes, and Reagan's optimism about the future as reasons they voted for the President.

of 5 stories this month > Get unlimited stories
You've read 5 of 5 free stories

Only $1 for your first month.

Get unlimited Monitor journalism.