AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton needs to take a position on a proposed trade deal with Pacific Rim nations, warning that the wrong stance could cost her the organizing power of the labor group and saying his group might not endorse a candidate at all in the 2016 presidential election.
Asked where he thinks Mrs. Clinton stands on the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership, Mr. Trumka said in a new interview with USA Today’s “Capital Download:” “I don’t know. I think she’s going to have to answer that. I think she won’t be able to go through a campaign without answering that, and people take it seriously, and it will affect whether they vote for her or don’t vote for her.”
The deal has pitted President Obama against members of his own party on Capitol Hill, as well as people like Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Mrs. Clinton’s only declared rival in the 2016 race on the Democratic side thus far.
Asked what would happen if she takes a similar position as she has on past trade deals, Mr. Trumka said that it would be “tougher to mobilize working people.” As first lady, Mrs. Clinton supported the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) at the time.
“It’ll be tougher to get them to come out excited and work, to do door-knocking and leafletting and phone-banking and all the things [that are] going to be necessary for her if she’s the candidate and we would endorse her to get elected,” he said. “It’ll make it far more difficult.”
Mr. Trumka said it’s “conceivable” that the group would not endorse for president.
“If both candidates weren’t interested in raising wages and creating jobs,” he said. “If neither one had a problem that we were convinced that they would fight for — not just a poll-tested slogan, but an actual agenda that they will fight for. If we’re convinced that neither candidate has that, then I think we would spend our money elsewhere, probably on Senate candidates and congressional candidates and governors and statehouses and things of that sort where we’d have a much greater effect.”
Mr. Trumka said he does respect Mrs. Clinton’s campaign so far for actually going out and asking Americans what they want and what they need.
• David Sherfinski can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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