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AFL-CIO chief dismisses regrets in Wisconsin recall


With the labor movement reeling from the result of Tuesday's recall election in Wisconsin, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka sought to downplay the significance of Gov. Scott Walker's victory over a union-driven effort to unseat him. 

Trumka, the leader of one of the nation's largest labor groups, dismissed the notion that unions might look back upon their unsuccessful campaign against Walker with regret.

"We didn't decide on this recall. It was the workers in Wisconsin and the voters in Wisconsin who did," he said on a conference call with reporters. "Hell, I don't know if we'd do anything differently."

First Thoughts: Walker wins and labor loses

The AFL-CIO president highlighted instead two mitigating factors from Tuesday's recall, in which Walker beat out Democratic opponent Tom Barrett by 7 percentage points. 

Trumka pointed to Walker's sizable advantage in spending between his own campaign and allies who flooded the airwaves in Wisconsin. Trumka also stressed the recall of a Republican state senator, which flipped control of that chamber from Republicans to Democrats. 

"This isn't the crystal ball that predicts the future; this is a very unique circumstance," he said.

The AFL-CIO also circulated a poll of union members who voted on Tuesday that reflected strong support for collective bargaining rights and generally stingy opposition to Walker. 

Trumka noted — to his chagrin — that much of the debate during the closing weeks of the Walker-Barrett campaign had shifted away from the initial debate over organized labor.

The whole effort to recall Walker was prompted by the governor's pursuit of a controversial state law stripping public sector workers of that privilege. 

Walker emerges victorious in Wisconsin recall

Wednesday's call was just the opening wave of postmortems associated with the recall, and the effort by groups with a stake in the race to spin (favorably or unfavorably) the outcome. 

One of the biggest open questions for proponents of the recall will be whether President Barack Obama could have done more to aid the Barrett campaign. 

"I think there's probably some mixed feelings," Trumka acknowledged of Obama's distance from the race, noting also that he wasn't interested in second-guessing the president's participation.