Campaign 2016: Cleveland building trades rally for Clinton part of big labor blitz in Ohio

CLEVELAND –Union pride was on display at the West Campus of Cuyahoga Community College in Cleveland during a Columbus Day rally, hosted by the Cleveland Building and Construction Trades Council, to support Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Rodham Clinton.

But the Cuyahoga College rally was one of many in the key swing state. Elsewhere in Cleveland, Steelworkers President Leo Gerard and AFSCME President Lee Saunders campaigned to make sure that union workers, and voters in general, cast ballots for Clinton and other pro-worker candidates.

At the community college rally, a crowd filled with members from nearly a dozen building trades unions were decked out in “Hillary” shirts, many holding signs and enthusiastically responding to each speaker’s prompts.

David Wondolowski, Cleveland Building Trades Executive Secretary, said the event was intended to educate the affiliate members of the union construction trades.

“In order for our members to know exactly who we support and why we support them, we need to communicate with them in any way we can,” he told the Labor Citizen. “The rally is really a great forum for our members to hear directly from us in person.” Parma Mayor Tim DeGeeter, Reps. Tim Ryan and Marcia Fudge, both D-Ohio, Painters President Kenneth Rigmaiden and North America’s Building Trades President Sean McGarvey also spoke.

In other, later rally, at an the overflowing Plumbers Local 979 hall, Gerard and Saunders – a Cleveland native – exhorted the crowd to get out and vote for Clinton, for other pro-worker candidates and against GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump.

“Just a couple things you need to know, you need to make sure everyone you know and care for knows is that, while Donald Trump talks of bringing jobs home, everything he produces with his businesses is being done overseas, in low wage nations like South Korea, Thailand, Bangladesh and El Salvador,” Gerard said, according to the Peoples World.

“While the whole nation has agreed that we need a raise in the minimum wage, Donald Trump says we shouldn’t even have one, and that ‘you make too much!’

“If he wanted to bring jobs home, he could be doing that anytime, just by bringing his business back to our nation!  We know this guy,” Gerard stated. “We know what he and other corrupt billionaires have done to steal our pensions, health care. He’s turned stealing retirees’

benefits and destroying our communities into an art form! When he says that ‘bankruptcy law has been very lucrative,’ this is what he’s talking about!”

Urging Steelworkers to help defeat Trump and elect Clinton, Gerard said he “couldn’t believe that union workers would elect the most anti-union, most openly racist, misogynist, homophobic, openly corrupt candidate for that office in our nation’s history!”

Most recent polling seemed to support Gerard’s claim. Major media polls over the past week, reflecting organized labor’s ‘get out the vote’ effort and the powerful tapes of numerous women claiming sexual abuse by Trump, showed general, overall support for Trump declining quickly and Clinton’s poll numbers rising in Ohio, a bellwether state in general elections for the last 40 years.

Internal AFL-CIO polls show that among Ohio unionists, those pro-Trump numbers declined – a 12 percentage point drop, to below 20 percent, among Ohio union members and their families, in backing Trump. Overall, Trump and Clinton are tied in Ohio opinion polls.

Wondolowski reminded the crowd at the college that continued progress for unions and the country can only be achieved with one candidate. “Nobody on this podium is going to tell you that we’re perfect,” he explained.  “But, in order to carry on the progress we’ve made throughout the history of this country, and we have made progress, we need to put Hillary Clinton in the White House so that she can continue to improve our economy and create jobs.”

Parma Mayor DeGeeter reiterated Wondolowski’s sentiment, telling the audience that cuts suffered under Gov. John Kasich, R-Ohio, changed the way he, and mayors across the state, are able to govern on the local level. To be able to govern and get things done, “We need a partner in Washington, D.C.,” the mayor explained.

Clinton has the endorsement of almost all unions, including the Steelworkers, the Electrical Workers, the Painters, the Bricklayers, the Teachers, the Service Employees, the Teamsters, the Laborers, the Heat and Frost Insulators and the national AFL-CIO, a federation of over 12 million people. The Mine Workers, angered over Clinton’s coal policies, are neutral.

Each endorsement pointed to Clinton’s 30-plus years of defending labor and working families. On her website,, Clinton outlines her labor priorities: Investing in infrastructure and manufacturing, restoring collective bargaining rights, defending workers against partisan attacks on their rights, raising the minimum wage, strengthening overtime rules, and investing in high-quality training, apprenticeships, and skill-building.

Speakers also endorsed another hopeful, former Gov. Ted Strickland (D), who is challenging incumbent GOP Sen. Rob Portman – and trailing badly. Unions are split on the Portman-Strickland race. So the unionists concentrated on urging members to vote Clinton.

Ryan, a self-proclaimed and proud pro-labor Democrat, said the Trump rhetoric sounds all too familiar and plays on the hopes and aspirations for a better, stronger economy without any plans to fulfill the lofty campaign promises or care for the American worker.

“Hey, Donald Trump. I’m not impressed. I’m not impressed with you at all. You don’t impress me in the least bit,” the congressman said.  “And now he wants to come and represent you?” he asked the crowd. “This guy would gut you. He would gut you, he would walk over your cold body with his Gucci shoes, he would get on his helicopter, and he wouldn’t even think twice about you.”

The 2016 Republican platform advocates hourly wages “should be handled at the state and local level,” endorses the anti-union ‘Right-to-Work’ laws, and calls for taking the anti-union agenda to the national level, calling for a national law along the ‘Right-to-Work’ lines, the congressman noted.

The GOP platform also would weaken the Fair Labor Standard Act’s worker protections, rails against Project Labor Agreements to raise wages and improve working conditions and proposes to gut the Davis-Bacon Act, which guarantees prevailing wages on federal projects.

Despite a national Republican platform aims directly at workers and unions, Trump continues to court labor’s vote. At recent campaign stops, Trump told crowds that he’s proud of the fact he has always treated blue-collar workers with dignity and respect, adding, “I consider myself in a certain way to be a blue-collar worker.”

McGarvey, head of the Building Trades, disputed that. He’s had personal experience with Trump stiffing contractors and workers. “I’ve got to tell you, the way he treated people, the way he treated contractors, the way ultimately it affected us when our contractors couldn’t pay their health and welfare contributions, and couldn’t pay their pension contributions because he didn’t pay them, affected thousands of members in Atlantic City,” McGarvey explained.

As for Clinton, “I can tell you that despite 40 years of incessant lies and attacks, innuendos and conspiracy theories, she (Clinton) just keeps on getting on. She doesn’t back down. She doesn’t backup.  She’s got a vision for this country where everybody wins, not some people win, everybody wins.”

Fudge reminded the workers that they – not Trump – made America great. “You cannot make America great if you do not believe in a living wage. You cannot make America great when you make all your clothes overseas. You cannot make America great when you don’t respect the people who do make America great. That’s you…So how can he [Trump] not respect you? It is time for labor to stand up and show its chops.”

“If not for every other reason we’ve talked about here, the real, overwhelming reason to assure Hillary is elected and Trump defeated, is for our kids, our grandchildren,” AFSCME President Lee Saunders told the other rally. “The next president will appoint three, possibly four, Supreme Court judges. If nothing else punches your button, this one has to! The next president will concretely affect the lives of future generations!

“We know this guy. We supported workers at his casinos in Atlantic City and in Vegas who’ve trying to join a union of their choice. He ignored, broke, labor laws. He continues to violate workers’ rights even as he runs for our nation’s highest office. That’s what he really thinks of you!”

Source: PAI