Big labor is more worried about defections to Trump than supporting Hillary

The support of big labor is never very much in question when election time rolls around. Labor unions remain the quintessential Super PACs of the Democrats, just as they have for generations. This season has had a few bumps and blemishes along the way as the various unions debated whether they would support Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders, but when the dust finally settles there is nobody with any experience in this area who is worried they’ll suddenly be supporting Ted Cruz. Still, the job of union honcho Richard Trumka has become increasingly complicated by the presence of Donald Trump on the opposite side of the field. He’s not so much worried about raising money for Hillary as he is the possibility that his own members will bolt the stables and wind up supporting The Donald if he secures the nomination. (Washington Post)

Richard Trumka, the president of the AFL-CIO, thought he’d have a pretty simple job in 2016: turn out his 12.7 million union members to support the Democratic presidential nominee.

But it turns out Trumka’s task may be very different and perhaps more difficult: preventing a significant share of union households — which typically favor Democrats in elections — from defecting to Donald Trump if he’s the GOP standard-bearer.

“If left unattended, the anger and the frustration [Trump has] tapped into will carry the day,” Trumka warned Monday in an interview with the Washington Post. “But when you give working-class people the facts, I think he falls apart. He’s a house of cards.”

Trumka has an anti-Trump plan, the first parts of which will roll out next week: educate voters about what he says is Trump’s history of anti-worker, anti-union policies.

Trumka’s situation isn’t really as unusual as the media coverage would lead you to believe. There’s no question that union leadership always supports the Democrats up and down the line, nor that they extract dues from all their members and pour that into Democratic campaigns rather than spending it on providing benefits to the workers they ostensibly represent. This is all well known.

But living where I do I have some history with this particular subject and the number of votes they generate is never quite as substantial as they like to announce. Yes, I’m sure they get a majority of union members to vote with the union label by brainwashing them with constant propaganda and social pressure, but it’s nowhere near as monolithic as they would have you believe. I personally know quite a few union members in our area who consistently vote Republican, but they only speak of it quietly in small, trusted groups of friends. You won’t see any GOP bumper stickers on their trucks or find them showing up at Republican candidate rallies because they value their jobs. (And disloyalty to the union Democratic line will see you on a very different line – at the unemployment office – in short order.) But in the privacy of the voting booth they wind up voting with their heads, not their time cards.

The curious aspect of this phenomenon is that these are a subset of voters who never show up in the primaries, don’t add to the GOP registered voter totals and rarely answer the calls of pollsters with their actual intentions. It’s not a huge volume, but they certainly exist. Trumpka has reason to be worried and I would suggest that it’s not just Trump who should be on his mind. There are plenty of them who would vote for Cruz or Rubio or Kasich as well.


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