Union Leaders Fret About Trump’s Populist Message Siphoning Votes Away From Democrats

Matt Vespa
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Posted: May 08, 2016 3:01 PM
Union Leaders Fret About Trump’s Populist Message Siphoning Votes Away From Democrats

Love him or hate him—Donald Trump’s populist message seems to be resonating with America’s labor unions to the point where its leaders are worried that it could derail Hillary Clinton come Election Day. They’re planning a prolonged assault against the billionaire. One worker, who works seven days a week, picked up a copy The Art of the Deal and instantaneously got his vote. In a survey of 1,689 working class households, Trump turned out to be the candidate who they want to see Make America Great Again (via the Guardian):

The majority of America’s almost 15 million unionized workers can be usually be relied upon to back the Democratic candidate in a presidential year, but leaders are concerned by Trump’s populist message on trade and jobs – and his insistence that union workers are just one of many groups on a long list of those he claims “love” him.

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As Hillary Clinton looks to push away the threat from Bernie Sanders with further wins in a slate of Democratic primaries across the north-east on Tuesday, organized labor is planning a multi-pronged assault on Trump in an effort to undercut his appeal and derail his presidential bid to the White House.

“Trump has some appeal at this point, there’s no question about that,” said Steve Rosenthal, former political director for AFL-CIO. “But when you cut through it and begin to focus on his record – from his talk about trade agreements, to manufacturing abroad to offshoring jobs – Donald Trump is not going to appeal to union members.”

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Yet Trump is resonating with voters who are struggling to make ends meet and who are seeing their friends’ jobs shipped abroad, says John Cakmakci, president of United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 951 in Michigan. And some of those voters are union members. Trump’s populist positions on trade and his rejection of Washington politics have earned him votes across the Rust Belt, where several battleground states are key to winning the election in November.

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Working America, the political organizing arm of AFL-CIO, wanted to find out whether Trump’s “rightwing” message appealed to workers outside Cleveland and Pittsburgh. After interviewing about 1,689 working-class Americans living in households earning less than $75,000, they found out that Trump was in fact the favored candidate. Of the 800 voters who had decided on a candidate at the time of the interview, about 300 favored Trump. Combined, the two Democratic candidates appealed to fewer workers – 174 chose Clinton and 95 chose Sanders.

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…Jared Szczesny, a card-carrying member of the United Automobile, Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Workers of America Union (UAW), will cast his vote for Trump in Pennsylvania’s primary. In 2008 and 2012, UAW endorsed President Obama. This time UAW has yet to endorse a candidate, but is likely to back a Democrat.

Szczesny, 31, has never attended a Trump rally. He works seven days a week and has not been able to find the time. However, back in October, he picked up Trump’s book The Art of the Deal. When he finished it, he knew that Trump had his vote.

Trump begins his fight with Hillary with a huge deficit in the polls and among the various demographics with the electorate, but there’s no doubt that he’s beginning to establish support across party lines. Then again, not every voting bloc is uniform. The Guardian did mention that 39 percent of union households voted for McCain in 2008—and 40 percent broke for Romney in 2012. Regardless, Trumps’ incessant, months-long attack on the North American Free Trade Agreement seems to be a rallying cry among America’s struggling manufacturing class. It could be an effective attack against Hillary, besides calling her “crooked,” given that this agreement was signed into law under her husband’s administration. And it was done with her support. In 1996, three years after NAFTA was agreed upon, she said, “I think everybody is in favor of free and fair trade. I think NAFTA is proving its worth.” Now, she feels it was a flawed deal. She was against the Colombian Free Trade Agreement during the 2008 campaign, but soon changed her tune—especially when a few petro checks from the oil company Pacific Rubiales were written to the Clinton Foundation from Canadian financier Frank Giustra. Giustra founded Rubiales and now sits on the Clinton Foundation’s board of directors. He’s also given millions to the Foundation from his own personal fortune.

Again, we see a problem that Clinton has grappled with her whole political career. She flip-flops with the political winds, making her untrustworthy and inauthentic. When her opponent, Sen. Bernie Sanders, is defeated—I think her support with labor unions will shoot up a bit, given that there’s just one Democratic candidate. Yet, the more she speaks, the more unfavorable she becomes with American voters. That’s not to say that Trump is adored; he isn’t at present. But his brand of populism seems to be more favorable to Clinton’s pragmatic centrism on trade. Keep in mind, that Trump has done and said things without any regard to the consequences and all but one the Republican nomination. Clinton has shifted thanks to a disheveled self-described Democratic socialist, who she still has yet to deliver the deathblow. These folks seem to be looking at Trump as a different kind of politician, which is more appealing than this swan song from the Clintons.