- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 17, 2016

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Donald Trump has said he has “tremendous support within unions,” and, well, there’s reason to believe he does.

Mr. Trump’s path to the White House depends on attracting white-working class voters within the Rust Belt, who have either traditionally aligned themselves with Democrats or haven’t voted in the general election since Ronald Reagan.

In March, Working America, the nonunion affiliate of the AFL-CIO labor federation, did internal canvassing in blue-collar areas of Pittsburgh and Cleveland and found there was a lot of support for Mr. Trump, The Huffington Post reported.

“In terms of his message, it is really resonating. Particularly if you are talking [about] union people, he is speaking our language,” Josh Goldstein, deputy national media director for the AFL-CIO told the Huffington Post. “We can’t let that go unattended, because people have been doing that with Trump for a long time, and his numbers have only gone up. … It is our job to go out and educate people now, so it doesn’t cross that threshold and become a threat.”

This week, Mr. Trump’s threat to the union base became more real.

The building trade unions denounced a partnership between billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer and the AFL-CIO to mobilize Democratic votes come November.

The presidents of eight building trade organizations demanded the AFL-CIO cut ties with Mr. Steyer, who they blame for taking away jobs because his opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline.

“A growing trend within the federation seems to consistently minimize the importance of building trades jobs and our members’ livelihoods in the pursuit of a coalition strategy with outside organizations that has produced mixed results at best and disastrous results at worst for our members and their employment prospects in many instances throughout the country,” the building trade presidents wrote in a letter to AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, which was obtained by The Washington Post and reported on Monday.

“The AFL-CIO has now officially become infiltrated by financial and political interests that work in direct conflict to many of our members’— and yes, AFL-CIO dues-paying members’ lives,” the letter said. “This is a disturbing development and one that requires a further explanation.”

As for Mr. Trump, he says the building unions love him.

“I work in areas where we have unions, we don’t have unions,” Mr. Trump said at a town-hall meeting in February. “Manhattan is a hundred percent - you’re building a building, it’s essentially a hundred percent union. So I’ve worked with unions over the years — I’ve done very well with unions.”

“I mean, my support is really with those workers, those people,” he said. “That’s it — the policemen, the firemen, the construction workers, the lathers, the Sheetrock workers, the electricians, the plumbers. That’s where my support is — every poll shows it.”

Mr. Trump said that union groups are almost all aligned with Democrats, though he pointed out how the powerful Teamsters union put off endorsing in the presidential race last fall.

“The men and women of the Teamsters are with Trump,” he said. “The workers of this country are going to vote for me, [because] I’m going to create jobs.”

The Teamsters still have yet to endorse, and the AFL-CIO decided to stay neutral in the Democratic primary, in what many called a win for Vermont Sen. Bernard Sanders, who preaches a similar jobs message as Mr. Trump.


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