As we reported last week , anti-worker ballot initiatives went before voters in five states (Arizona, Georgia, South Carolina, South Dakota, and Utah). All five passed by large margins, ranging from 60-40 to 80-20. However, the success of those measures should not be taken as a barometer of public support for workers' rights: all five utilized misleading or ambiguous language to undermine important but relatively obscure rights and protections.
Notably, exit-polls indicate a strong concern for basic economic security and labor standards among voters. Surveys by the Associated Press found that 62% of voters named the economy as their top concern - far more than any other issue (health care was second at 18%) - with a solid majority of those people voting Republican. Further analysis by the Center for American Progress Action Fund shows that voters who were "very worried" about the economy (50% of voters), who described the state of the economy as "poor" (37% of voters), and those whose financial situation is worse than in 2008 (41% of voters) all voted strongly Republican (70%, 71%, and 63%, respectively). And although more voters blamed the economy on Wall Street (35%) than any single political leader (29% Pres. George W. Bush, 23% Pres. Obama), those individuals preferred the GOP by a significant margin (56-42%).
Tuesday's results show clear indications that progressives have much to gain by embracing peoples' concerns about jobs and economic security. For instance, in Connecticut, presumptive gubernatorial winner Dan Malloy distinguished himself from his opponents in both the primary and general election through his concern for working-class issues and support for economic security issues like job creation and paid sick days.
"To be clear, making Connecticut more business friendly does not mean making it less worker friendly. As with so many other arguments I've heard over the years, I reject this false choice. We can and should do both, simultaneously. That's one of the reasons I support a smart mandatory paid sick days policy; studies have shown that implemented in the right fashion, this produces a healthier, more efficient, more effective workforce, and actually saves money."
Should he be declared the official winner, Malloy will have reversed a 24-year state trend of electing Republican governors in a year that heavily favored the GOP. While the new political composition of many legislatures will make it harder to enact pro-worker legislation in the next session, advocating strongly for jobs and economic security is essential to changing the political environment in the coming years.