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One of the un-heralded aspects of turning Virginia blue has been the efforts of labor unions in Virginia.  Yes, Virginia they do exist.   See below the squiggle to learn about one of "silent engines" of Obama's victory:

Ohio’s Not the Only State with Unions – A Secret Weapon in Virginia

I’m writing this at 3 pm on Election Day so the results for the Virginia elections are not yet known.  What is known is that turn-out is heavy, and one thing that has been reported fairly extensively is about the OFA ground game advantage compared to the Romney campaign.  Here’s one such story: Ground Game: Obama Campaign Opens Up a Big Lead in Field Offices:   As both a participant and observer, the OFA ground game is impressive.

There is an additional factor at work in Virginia as well.   What’s been under-reported, and I actually think it hasn’t been reported on at all is the strength of the labor union Obama re-election effort in Virginia.   Since Virginia is a “right-to-work” state it’s not usually thought of as a strong union state, and indeed the percentage of Virginia workers who are union members (4.6%) is historically lower than the national average of 11.8% according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The problem with this statistic is that it doesn’t recognize one of the unique characteristics of the population of Virginia, which is that it has a lot of public sector employees, including federal, state, and local employees as well as teachers, many of whom belong to unions.    Another quirk of the BLS statistic is that the numbers are for workers in Virginia, meaning that their place of employment is in Virginia, but what is not captured (I don’t think) are the Federal employees who work in Washington, D.C. but live and VOTE in Virginia.  For example an employee of the U.S. Treasury may be a member of the National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU) in Washington, D.C. but live in northern Virginia.

Believe it or not, there are actually 79 unions are either entirely public sector (local, state or Federal) or have a Federal or public sector component within their union structure.  An example of the first type is the largest government union, the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) which has 600,000 members worldwide.   I use the term “worldwide”  because a number of voters who are overseas for U.S. government (including Defense Dept., State Dept, USAID, etc. ) vote absentee in Virginia.     An example of the second type of union with a Federal section is the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), because the Federal government has a number of electricians who are Federal employees, whether they are working for the Defense Department, the National Park Service, or many other agencies.

In addition, there are seven other unions that have postal employees as members, as well as 40 affiliated trade unions that may have Federal members, e.g.  “The Operative Plumbing and Pipe Fitting Industry of the United States and Canada” to name just one, but they don’t have an official relationship with the government.   Here’s the link to the entire “Directory of Unions and Associations with Exclusive Recognition in the Federal Service”:

I mentioned teachers.   Virginia has a lot of them, including ones that don’t teach in the Commonwealth but instead are part of the education associations, or the military’s overseas teaching program, or work at any number of non-profits, but no longer in the classroom.   The National Education Association (NEA) has 3 million members nationwide, and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) has 1.5 million members.   I don’t have the number of Virginia members of these totals, but there are 60,000 members of the Virginia Education Association (VEA).  

As you can see, this is starting to add up, and I just wanted to mention one other type of unions in the Commonwealth which are the maritime related trades.  Do remember that Norfolk is the home to the U.S. Navy’s Atlantic Fleet and there are a lot of ship related trades in the Norfolk/Hampton Roads area.

In the course of my career I have been a union member at two different organizations, most recently about five years ago.   However, I was still on their mailing list and what all the AFL-CIO related unions did in Virginia this campaign was to run a re-elect Obama campaign completely separate from the OFA effort.   I don’t remember when I was first contacted, but they sent multiple pieces of literature (union specific, not OFA) during the summer, and I was visited once in October, once in November (the day before election day), called on election to see if I had voted) and this is all separate from the OFA campaign effort.

I use this as just one small personal example about the level of effort from the Virginia AFL-CIO organization, which I think has been “flying under the radar” for the entire campaign, and I think has been impressive, and certainly deserves some of the credit for what I believe will be an Obama win.

Virginia Common Sense

Originally posted to VACommonsense on Tue Nov 06, 2012 at 02:53 PM PST.

Also republished by Virginia Kos.

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