AFL-CIO Federal Voting Report

The AFL-CIO’s annual study of lawmakers’ key votes showed a highly partisan split last year on issues workers really cared about: Democrats, and the Senate’s three independents, for; Republicans against—really against.

As just one contrast, consider the scores of Sen. Bernie Sanders, Ind-Vt., the chamber’s longest and strongest supporter of workers and their causes, who now chairs the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, versus the panel’s top Republican, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana. 

Last year Sanders voted in agreement with organized labor every time, and his lifetime score is 98%. Cassidy hit zero, one of 35 Senate Republicans to do so. His lifetime score is 13%.

As for their House counterparts, Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Va., who chaired the House Education and Labor Committee until Democrats narrowly lost control in 2022, had a perfect score on all votes the AFL-CIO used for its 2023 ratings. His lifetime score is 98%.

His counterpart, union- and worker-hating committee chair Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., agreed with the AFL-CIO on one vote, giving her a 10% score, above her career mark of 8%. Republicans, who hate unions and even the word “labor,” changed the panel’s name, again, to Education and the Workforce.

“Working people fought to elect champions in Congress who together with President Biden have delivered on key priorities, including ensuring we have the freedom to organize and form unions,” AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler said in a statement about the voting study. 

“The scorecard puts the numbers directly into union members’ hands so they can see how their elected representatives are performing on the issues that impact workers' lives every day.”

Among House Republicans, Foxx actually outdid Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La. He hit zero last year and his lifetime agreement with the AFL-CIO stands at 9%. There were 42 Republicans who scored zero in 2023 and another 27 who registered a “double zero”—never having voted in agreement with organized labor either in 2023 or in their entire careers.

Notable among the double zeros: Some of the party’s most fervent MAGA followers, such as Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., and Lauren Boebert, R-Colo. Sen. MarkWayne Mullin, R-Okla., who challenged Teamsters President Sean O’Brien to a brawl during a Senate committee hearing, also hit zero last year.

Also among the double zeroes: Rep. Harriet Hageman, R-Wyo., whom former Republican Oval Office occupant Donald Trump virtually handpicked to oust former Rep. Liz Cheney in the party primary in 2022. He did that after Cheney, a down-the-line conservative who almost always opposed workers, voted to impeach Trump for ordering and aiding the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol riot. 

By contrast, Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, the House Democratic leader, had a perfect score last year and a 99% lifetime score. His predecessor, former Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., had a perfect score in 2023 and 97% lifetime. 

Even House Republicans who often voted with workers in past years didn’t on the 10 key votes the AFL-CIO used to evaluate records in 2023. The average Republican score last year was 6%, and nobody topped 30%. That includes Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Pa., whose 10% last year still left his lifetime score at 61%. Ditto for Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J.: 10% in 2023, 52% lifetime. 

There is invariably a renegade or two from each party. Last year, it was West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin. The veteran lawmaker, whose campaign cash comes from the fossil fuel industries—coal, oil and natural gas—had a 57% AFL-CIO Senate voting score last year. The next lowest Democratic senator was then-Democrat Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, 86%.

Not coincidentally, Manchin opposed Democratic President Joe Biden’s nomination of Deputy Labor Secretary Julie Su last year to become labor secretary. Manchin called her anti-business and complained about her support of workers. Sinema did not comment. Su continues to serve in the top job but in an acting capacity. 

Unions use the scores as part of their evaluations of candidates for endorsements. But the scores are not the be-all and end-all of such decisions. For example, Ohio Republican  J.D. Vance, in his first year in office last year, scored a double-zero. And his Democratic colleague, Sherrod Brown scored 100% both last year and for his career.

Yet the two are cooperating on Brown’s legislation to reregulate the nation’s freight railroads. Brown crafted it after the catastrophic crash in East Palestine, Ohio, which set loose a cloud of toxic gases, poisoned the town’s river and drove property values into the tank, among other harms. Vance’s role could figure into unions’ future decisions on backing him if he seeks reelection in four years.

Ohio unions have swung behind Brown, who narrowly leads polls in the Buckeye State, which is turning pink. Brown is probably second only to Sanders as an outspoken union supporter. He helped lead opposition to NAFTA and CAFTA, for example. His spouse, Connie Schultz, a Pulitzer Prize winning former reporter, is a News Guild member and former TNG activist.

Photo Credit: C-SPAN