Election 2016: The Presidency is the Top Race

Mike Mellott, an union Ironworker from Maine, discussed Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s appeal to blue-collar men in a recent comment to Politico.

First Mellott said he and many other blue-collar union men like him were attracted to the business mogul due to his “outsider” persona, his tough talk and his denunciation of “free trade” deals that have cost U.S. jobs.

But in the end, while not jumping up and down, Mellott decided to vote for Democratic nominee Hillary Rodham Clinton, the former Secretary of State, U.S. senator, and First Lady.

“I usually always voted Democratic, because they’re for unions and the Republicans aren’t. The Republicans just want the rich to get richer,” Mellott explained.

Nevertheless, Trump’s appeal rang a chord on the campaign trail, not only in Maine but especially in the industrial Midwest, including key swing states like Ohio and Michigan. And union leaders, activists and pro-Clinton union members were left to combat it.

How well they succeed seemed, until mid-October, to be the key to the presidential election. Other swing states where workers campaigned hard are Missouri, North Carolina, Nevada and Wisconsin. Union members in nearby “safe” states — such as deeply Democratic New Jersey and New York — constantly boarded buses to head for canvassing in swing states next door, such as Pennsylvania.

“Get on the bus to Philadelphia on Oct. 15!” AFT in New Jersey and its nursing affiliate, the Health Professionals, urged.

“Pennsylvania is a key battleground state and could be the keystone of the Electoral College determining Hillary Clinton’s race to the White House. In 2016, Pennsylvania has 20 electoral votes, which is 3.7percent of the 538 electoral votes up for grabs and 7.4 percent of the 270 electoral votes needed to win the general election.”

Polls show the activists were making headway, but male union members were voting for Clinton more out of a sense of duty and interest than out of enthusiasm. The story was different, and enthusiasm more obvious, among union women and minority-group members.

Then everything changed.

Trump’s brags of groping women and sexual predation, in prior years, hit the papers in mid-October, upending his candidacy for the Oval Office. Outrage against Trump added to the other factors working against his bid and for Clinton’s, despite voters’ distrust of her. Even top Republican officeholders started defecting from Trump, producing his angry responses.

Meanwhile, Trump’s boasts and brags, a decade ago on trash-talk-radio and videos, soured women and men on his candidacy nationwide.

But given the red tilt of states starting at the Rocky Mountains and sweeping east to the Mississippi River – except for Minnesota, Iowa, Colorado and New Mexico — plus hard-red right-wing states in the South, unionists did not let up on their campaign to ensure Trump stays out of the White House and Clinton goes in. One big reason: Her pro-worker, pro-union stands.

However, unionists out on the trail have other reasons for pushing Clinton. For the Steelworkers, for example, rebuilding U.S. infrastructure has become one of their key causes:

“We need a president who will rebuild our nation’s manufacturing base and push back against those who are destroying our jobs,” said union President Leo Gerard, introducing Clinton at a rally just after this year’s Democratic convention.  Clinton gets that, he adds.

“We need a president who understands that our infrastructure is critical, but that it is too old and too frail, crumbling beneath our feet, who’ll fight like there’s no tomorrow to rebuild our infrastructure and create millions of new jobs.”

Replied Clinton: “In my first 100 days, I’ll work to pass a comprehensive package to create millions of new jobs rebuilding our nation’s infrastructure.  We will create a national infrastructure bank, using private and public funds and putting tens of millions of manufacturing workers back to work.”

“This is a key issue for Steelworkers, their families and communities, devastated by plant closings,” explained Scott Marshall, the Illinois director for the Steelworkers’ retirees, who are part of the union’s labor movement-leading Rapid Response team as well.

“A comprehensive federal plan to rebuild our infrastructure will put millions back to work making steel to repair bridges, highways, transport systems, gas lines and electric grid,” said Marshall. “It’ll make our country safer, more energy efficient and greatly strengthen our economy. Besides all that, this fight can help Hillary Clinton win and expose Trump’s phony lies about ‘jobs!’”

The GOP’s overall anti-union and anti-worker stands also are a reason to get out the vote. Union leaders make the point that if Trump wins and the GOP hangs onto Congress, workers should expect a massive cascade of anti-worker legislation and executive actions, all designed to kill the labor movement. And Trump’s minions at his Las Vegas hotel are breaking labor law by refusing to bargain with the workers’ chosen unions, two Unite Here locals.

“Without unions, who speaks for workers in this country?” ULLICO Chairman Ed Smith, a former top Laborers official, told the Southwestern Illinois Central Labor Council. “Nobody! No one! They know if they can get rid of the unions, workers don’t have a voice.”

Working women pushed their agenda to the top of the list — and so did Clinton. The agenda includes affordable and available child care, equal pay for equal work, an end to sexual discrimination on the job and — to protect all other wins — the right to organize.

“Normally, our program can engage people in the election is pretty much on bread-and-butter labor issues. But this time we decided ‘Let’s put up an economic agenda that is specifically designed for women,’” says AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Liz Shuler, who is leading that campaign.

The Working America Coalition, a consortium of union and progressive groups that the AFL-CIO assembled, deployed at least 100,000 volunteers and staff nationwide to discuss with voters how to support “the candidates who will be their best advocates.”

The coalition, along with the AFL-CIO’s Working America affiliate for people who agree with workers’ priorities but who — for various reasons — can’t join unions, scheduled more than 1 million face-to-face conversations with voters in swing states. Key issues were supporting candidates, led by Clinton, who promote higher wages, better benefits and “a more just and representative economy,” the coalition said.

In many cases, especially in swing states, unionists are also trying to undo some of the anti-worker results of the 2010 and 2014 off-year elections. “This election, unlike any in the past, is going to be a confluence of more things,” AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka told Nevada media while campaigning there for Clinton and for pro-worker down-ballot hopefuls.

There, volunteers went door-to-door, contacting 40-60 voters each. “This is one tiny, tiny piece,” federation staffer Ryan Mims told local media.

In addition to door-knocking, leaflets and campaign rallies, the federation’s superPAC campaign finance committee, For Our Future, is funding ads designed to reach non-union workers. The committee, which does not have to disclose its contributors, aimed for a $50 million ad budget, with all its spots aimed at “taking down Donald Trump,” news reports said.

But in the end, it comes down to getting voters to compare Clinton vs. Trump.

“Listening to the things Donald Trump says, I find them to be poisonous to our com-munities. He brings out the worst in a lot of people, and we don’t need that,” Emir Hinojosa, a Shell Oil worker in Houston and member of Steelworkers Local 13-1, told the union.

“Trump’s position on unions would be a disaster for the union movement as a whole in this nation. His policy on right-to-work would put unions at a great disadvantage. If we have to represent people without funding, that could break us financially. I live in a right-to-work state, and we have free riders that we must represent even though they don’t pay union dues.

Besides Clinton’s opposition to the jobs-losing Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact, “I really like her plan to rebuild our infrastructure and bring jobs back here. It will put money back into workers’ pockets and into the community. With stronger unions we would have a stronger middle class, a more empowered middle class because of our voice in Washington,” he said.

Source: PAI