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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Trumka: Unions Can’t Trust Racists and ‘Wall Streeters’ in White House

At a breakfast hosted by the Christian Science Monitor, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka explained why the labor movement won’t be finding much common ground with the white house anytime soon. As Don Gonyea reports at npr.org:

“You had one faction that actually had some of the policies that we would have supported on trade and infrastructure, but [it] turned out to be racist,” the union leader said….

…Trumka continued, describing the other faction inside the administration, “You had people who weren’t racist, but they were Wall Streeters.” He said that faction was gaining power, and moving the administration away from many of the things that Trump promised during the campaign that union members actually liked…”The Wall Street wing of his administration has won out and they’re doubling down on all the policies that got us here,” he said.

…As for Charlottesville and the president’s combative approach, Trumka described it as “a spirited defense of white nationalists, neo-Nazis and other groups of that sort, and we were not going to be associated with that.”

Ultimately, he says all of this left the AFL-CIO with no acceptable partner to try to work within the White House.

Jessica Corbett of commondreams.org quotes Trumka on the effects of Trump’s economic inaction:

“There’s no question that the optimism of a lot of people―our members, of all the sectors, not just the building trades, a lot of the optimism is fading,” Trumka said. “I think a significant amount of the optimism has faded away, because we haven’t seen an infrastructure bill, we haven’t seen the renewal of manufacturing, we haven’t seen the things that we were hopeful about that we could work with him on.”

Gonyea notes that “Labor endorsed Democrat Hillary Clinton. According to exit polls, she carried union households, but by just 9 percentage points. Compare that with President Barack Obama’s 18-point margin among labor voters four years earlier. The shift certainly helped Donald Trump secure victory in closely contested battleground states like Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.”

As for how organized labor is preparing for the 2018 midterm elections, Monitor staff writer Francine Keifer reports,

“For a long time, our program stopped focusing on our members and giving them the facts they needed,” Trumka explained, when asked about what’s new in their approach to the coming election. “Now we’re going back and doing it every day.” As workers hear “the simple facts” about Trump’s actions, as he put it, people are beginning to “come back across the bridge.”

Polling indicates that’s starting to happen. A plurality of non-college educated white voters in the Rust Belt battlegrounds of Wisconsin and Michigan disapprove of how the president is doing his job, according to new NBC/Marist polls. In those states plus Pennsylvania, a large plurality of voters say he has not kept his campaign promise to bring back manufacturing jobs, and they want to see Democrats take back Congress in 2018.

He said his organization would focus on the “blue wall” in 2018 – traditionally Democratic states such as Wisconsin and Michigan that went narrowly for Trump – and that it would, in a sense, come home to its members.

It sounds like some of Trump’s white working-class supporters are beginning to bail, and there is no reason to think they will support Republican midterm candidates, who clearly support Wall St. more than workers. But many may stay at home on election day, unless otherwise inspired. The challenge for Democratic candidates in 2018 is to make it clear to disillusioned Trump voters that they will fight for fair trade, a major infrastructure investment and other programs that benefit working families..

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