Dear Commons Community,
Steven Greenhouse, a former labor and workplace reporter for The New York Times, has an op-ed piece today examining Donald Trump’s relationship with labor unions. While conventional thinking is that the unions are at odds with Trump, Greenhouse separates the unions into three categories as follows:
“The nation’s unions are divided into three camps regarding Mr. Trump.
The construction trades are the most pro-Trump. Many liberals have criticized Mr. Sean McGarvey, president of North America’s Building Trades Unions, [for his] enthusiastic words for the president, but he said it’s smart to work with politicians. “We’re working on creating a building trades majority, Democratic and Republican, whether state or national,” he said. “We never want to be in a position where losing an election changes the economic trajectory of our membership.”
The strongly anti-Trump camp includes the Service Employees International Union, the National Education Association and several federal, state and municipal employees’ unions. These unions oppose the federal hiring freeze, the proposed budget cuts and repealing Obamacare and are aghast at Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’s antagonism toward traditional public schools. “The budget they’ve put forward is horrible, and DeVos is on a path to destroy public education,” said Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers.
Then there’s the ambivalent, middle camp, including the autoworkers, steelworkers and machinists unions. They applaud Mr. Trump’s withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact and his vows to bring back factory jobs and renegotiate Nafta. Dennis Williams, the U.A.W.’s president, applauds Mr. Trump’s tough stance on Mexican trade — “We’ve been hollering about this for 20 years” — and at the same time slams his policies on immigration and Obamacare.”
Greenhouse comments that:
“Like Ronald Reagan, Donald Trump racked up the support of millions of blue-collar white voters in Midwestern swing states, and like Mr. Reagan, the 45th president is pushing to nail down more blue-collar support to ensure a lasting Republican majority. In doing so, Mr. Trump has championed many issues straight out of organized labor’s wish list — he is pressing manufacturers not to ship jobs overseas, he has promised $1 trillion in infrastructure spending, he has threatened a 35 percent tariff to slow Mexican imports and he has vowed to overhaul Nafta.
While Mr. Reagan lined up support from only a few unions, Mr. Trump is seeking to go him one better; he is wooing many unions and their members directly, from carpenters to coal miners to autoworkers. At a recent discussion on how to expand auto industry jobs, Mr. Trump invited the president of the United Auto Workers to sit close to him on the dais.
Mr. Trump and his advisers know that his “America First” message resonates with autoworkers and other blue-collar workers. The Trump team also knows that if it can win over some of the nation’s major labor unions — they’re usually a pillar of Democratic campaigns — that will badly weaken the Democrats for years to come.
“Trump is working to be the blue-collar president — you’re already seeing that in his outreach to unions,” said F. Vincent Vernuccio, director of labor policy at the Mackinac Center, a free-market think tank in Michigan. “Some unions are warming up to Trump because labor leaders are following their members. They saw that in some states a majority of union members voted for Trump.”
Excellent analysis and an important concern for Democrats as they prepare for the 2018 elections.