Election 2016–Appelbaum: Election Results Show Unions ‘Must Begin Discussions on How to Reach Our Own People’

NEW YORK—High unionist support for Republican presidential nominee – and victor – Donald Trump shows unions “have to begin discussions on how to reach our own people” a veteran union president known for his organizing prowess says.

That’s the conclusion of Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, a prominent sector of UFCW, in a post-election telephone interview with Press Associates Union News Service. Some other unionists agree.

In defeating Democratic nominee Hillary Rodham Clinton in the electoral vote – though not the national popular vote – Trump rode economic angst, particularly over loss of U.S. jobs to low-paying exploitative nations via so-called “free trade” pacts. He won huge shares of union votes in key Midwestern swing states.

The shell-shock was so bad that AFL-CIO called off its post-election press conference to discuss its analysis and polling, but Cable News Network reported Trump won half of the unionist and union family votes in the key swing states of Michigan and Wisconsin. North America’s Building Trades President Sean McGarvey told PAI Trump won 52 percent in Ohio.

Trump also won all three states. Two of them, Wisconsin and Michigan, had been counted in the Democratic column. And Trump won those hefty union shares even though every major national union, with two exceptions, endorsed Clinton. The Mine Workers, an AFL-CIO union, stayed neutral, due to Clinton’s “war on coal.” The United Electrical Workers, an unaffiliated union, told its members not to vote for Trump, but didn’t recommend who to back.

Two small law-enforcement sectors within the Government Employees (AFGE), representing Border Patrol and Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents, backed Trump, while AFGE backed Clinton. But the exit polls show Trump’s union support was widespread.

“Trump was able to channel the anxiety of many working people, although he was not able to provide a solution that was meaningful for them,” explained Appelbaum, whose union has recently targeted organizing working-class plants in the anti-union South. “A lot of people felt their frustration was not being heard, and yesterday” – Election Day – “was the result.”

Those unionists also feel their unions don’t feel their pain and “we have to begin those discussions now” on how to do so, Appelbaum said. “Am I prepared to give a solution today? No. But we have to start.”

Appelbaum is not the only unionist who told PAI the movement needs to do a better job of reaching its members.

“The trade union movement has looked to the Democratic Party as an alternative to the Republicans,” says Ron Kaminkow of Railroad Workers United, a rank-and-file organization of Teamsters, Machinists, SMWIA/Smart members and other rail workers. “But they (the Democrats) have really moved further and further to the right, and they say to us, ‘Hey, vote for us because you have no alternative.’”

Trump, and, before him, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont – Clinton’s challenger in the Democratic primaries – provided that alternative on economic anxiety issues, said Kaminkow.

“Most elections are dog-and-pony shows, and neither” Democratic presidents “Barack Obama nor Bill Clinton nor Jimmy Carter have delivered for us” in that field, he added.  Bill Clinton, of course, is Hillary Clinton’s husband. He pushed NAFTA through as president.

Exit polls show white male unionists defected to Trump not in droves, but in hordes: Trump had a 49 percentage-point lead among white non-college-educated men.

And that may have understated the case. Nate Silver, author of the most accurate of the polls until now, fivethirtyeight.com, noted those respondents are tough to reach and poll by phone. And one retired unionist asked PAI: “How many white unionists were there whose unions endorsed Clinton, and they endorsed Trump?”

Source: PAI