Trump sup­port strong among many la­bor­ers

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY S.A. MILLER

La­bor lead­ers have moved ag­gres­sively to tamp down rank-and-file mem­bers’ sup­port for Don­ald Trump, but the likely Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee con­tin­ues to split the la­bor move­ment.

The unions have high­lighted busi­ness prac­tices at Mr. Trump’s ho­tels and re­sorts that they deem anti-union, in­clud­ing ef­forts against union­iz­ing Trump In­ter­na­tional Ho­tel in Las Ve­gas and the hir­ing of for­eign work­ers at Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach, Florida.

But the real es­tate mogul’s pop­u­lar­ity with the union’s white, blue-col­lar base has per­sisted.

“We are split,” said Keven M. Bar­ber, pres­i­dent of Iron­work­ers Local 397 in Tampa, Florida. “We have some who like Hil­lary and some who like Trump. It’s split be­tween them two.”

The na­tional Iron­work­ers Union en­dorsed likely Demo­cratic nom­i­nee Hil­lary Clin­ton.

A local union leader in Day­ton, Ohio, gave a sim­i­lar as­sess­ment of di­vided mem­ber­ship, ex­cept he de­scribed a three-way split among Mr. Trump, Mrs. Clin­ton and her far-left ri­val, Sen. Bernard San­ders.

He said the level of sup­port for Mr. Trump among mem­bers in his con­struc­tion trades union was “more than you think.”

“There’s a lot of peo­ple fed up with Wash­ing­ton pol­i­tics al­to­gether,” said the union of­fi­cial, who asked to re­main anony­mous when talk­ing about in­ter­nal po­lit­i­cal di­vi­sions. “It’s an ex­tra­or­di­nary elec­tion. I just don’t know how it is go­ing to go.”

His na­tional or­ga­ni­za­tion also en­dorsed Mrs. Clin­ton.

The only trade unions that have en­dorsed Mr. Trump are the Na­tional Bor­der Pa­trol Coun­cil and the New Eng­land Po­lice Benev­o­lent As­so­ci­a­tion. Yet rankand-file mem­bers from through­out the union move­ment flock to Mr. Trump, even from or­ga­ni­za­tions such as Ser­vice Em­ploy­ees In­ter­na­tional Union, whose ac­tivists have been at the fore­front of street protests de­nounc­ing the bil­lion­aire busi­ness­man.

The attraction of Mr. Trump’s pop­ulist, tough-on-trade mes­sage for union mem­bers who tra­di­tion­ally vote Demo­crat isn’t the only prob­lem vex­ing union lead­ers in the un­pre­dictable 2016 race. They also are strug­gling to mend the rift be­tween na­tional or­ga­ni­za­tions that over­whelm­ingly back Mrs. Clin­ton and local unions that have sided with Mr. San­ders, who, like Mr. Trump, has tapped into a pow­er­ful anti-estab­lish­ment strain in the elec­torate.

“Right now those vot­ers are co­a­lesc­ing around San­ders as much as they are co­a­lesc­ing around Clin­ton. The prob­lem still has to be worked out,” said Kate Bron­fen­bren­ner, di­rec­tor of La­bor Ed­u­ca­tion Re­search at the Cor­nell Uni­ver­sity School of In­dus­trial and La­bor Re­la­tions.

She pre­dicted union vot­ers would ul­ti­mately come home to the Demo­cratic Party in No­vem­ber.

“What­ever gets worked out be­tween Clin­ton and San­ders, they are not go­ing to go Trump,” said Ms. Bron­fen­bren­ner. “But Trump is a force to be reck­oned with, and it’s not go­ing to be an easy elec­tion … be­cause he has stirred up hate and he’s stirred up this racist el­e­ments, and he’s stirred up these eco­nomic fears in this coun­try and this idea that maybe some guy can come along and make ev­ery­thing bet­ter again.”

Mr. Trump has boasted that his pop­u­lar­ity with blue-col­lar work­ers or “Rea­gan Democrats” will ex­pand the elec­toral map for the GOP by putting in play union strongholds such as Penn­syl­va­nia and Michi­gan.

He has struck a chord with work­ing­class vot­ers by promis­ing to ne­go­ti­ate bet­ter trade deals, pun­ish com­pa­nies that move man­u­fac­tur­ing op­er­a­tions to Mex­ico or other cheap-la­bor des­ti­na­tions and to end Pres­i­dent Obama’s anti-coal poli­cies.

Polls also have shown that among white union house­holds, sup­port is evenly split be­tween Mr. Trump and Mrs. Clin­ton, a sharp break from re­cent elec­tions. Pres­i­dent Obama won 59 per­cent and 58 per­cent of the vote of union house­holds in his 2008 and 2012 pres­i­den­tial runs, re­spec­tively. Even Ron­ald Rea­gan lost union house­holds to Wal­ter Mon­dale by a nar­rower 54 per­cent to 46 per­cent in his 1984 land­slide win, ac­cord­ing to the New York-based Roper Cen­ter for Pub­lic Opin­ion Re­search.

That ex­plains why AFL-CIO Pres­i­dent Richard L. Trumka im­plored work­ers to re­sist Mr. Trump at the fed­er­a­tion’s April con­ven­tion in Philadel­phia.

“We can’t be fooled. Trump isn’t in­ter­ested in solv­ing the prob­lems he yells and swears about,” he said. “He de­liv­ers punch lines, but there’s noth­ing funny about them.”

Mr. Trumka said the bil­lion­aire busi­ness­man loves right-to-work laws, rou­tinely mis­treats work­ers at his own com­pa­nies and cheered Wis­con­sin Gov­er­nor Scott Walker’s state pen­sion sys­tem re­forms.

“And he says our wages are too high. Let me re­peat that: He says our wages are too high,” he said. “These facts get too lit­tle at­ten­tion, and that’s why we’ve got to con­stantly ex­pose Don­ald Trump for what he is: dan­ger­ous, delu­sional and a demagogue.”

The AFL-CIO is re­vamp­ing its an­tiTrump cam­paign with a re­newed fo­cus on the real es­tate mogul’s com­ment dur­ing a GOP can­di­date’s de­bate in No­vem­ber that Amer­i­can work­ers’ wa­gers are “too high.”

Kent Wong, di­rec­tor of the La­bor Cen­ter at the Uni­ver­sity of Cal­i­for­nia, Los Angeles, said he ex­pected the na­tional union lead­er­ship would es­ca­late the an­tiTrump cam­paign to an un­prece­dented level of ac­tivism.

“There is tremen­dous op­po­si­tion to Trump’s mes­sage, and a lot of the racist and sex­ist re­marks that Don­ald Trump has made on the cam­paign trail have very much been op­posed by union lead­ers,” he said. “I do think there will be more ac­tivism this year if he pro­ceeds as the nom­i­nee.”

Some union of­fi­cials in­sisted that the ef­fort is suc­ceed­ing at de­flat­ing Mr. Trump and uni­fy­ing the party be­hind Mrs. Clin­ton.

“In western Penn­syl­va­nia I see that hap­pen­ing,” said Larry Nel­son, an or­ga­nizer for the Build­ing and Con­struc­tion Trade Coun­cil in Beaver County, which bor­ders the Ohio River about 35 miles north­west of Pittsburgh. “The peo­ple are def­i­nitely go­ing to­ward Hil­lary. For the rest of the coun­try I’m re­ally not sure.”

Mr. Trump’s own rhetoric was more re­spon­si­ble than union lead­ers’ call for mem­bers to stick with the Demo­cratic can­di­date.

“The way he speaks — I think it kind of puts peo­ple off a lit­tle bit,” said Mr. Nel­son.

Mean­while, other Repub­li­can can­di­dates are gar­ner­ing sup­port from unions.

Sen. Rob Port­man picked up the en­dorse­ment of the United Mine Work­ers of Amer­ica’s po­lit­i­cal ac­tion com­mit­tee in his tough re­elec­tion run in Ohio.

The union said that it rec­og­nized the sup­port Mr. Port­man had “given both ac­tive and re­tired coal min­ers and their fam­i­lies, es­pe­cially in such dif­fi­cult times as the coal in­dus­try is ex­pe­ri­enc­ing to­day.”

UMW’s de­ci­sion to pick Mr. Port­man over the Demo­cratic chal­lenger, for­mer Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland, whom the union pre­vi­ously en­dorsed for gov­er­nor, un­der­scored the dam­age Mr. Obama’s en­vi­ron­men­tal poli­cies have in­flicted on the Demo­cratic Party’s re­la­tion­ship with the union.

AS­SO­CIATED PRESS

De­spite wide­spread sup­port for Democrats and Hil­lary Clin­ton, rank-and-file mem­bers from through­out the union move­ment are flock­ing to Don­ald Trump’s pop­ulist, tough-on-trade mes­sage.

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