President-elect Donald Trump is an enemy of organized labor.
He favors “right to work” laws, by which employees can enjoy the benefits of a union contract without having to pay union dues.
He once said that the U.S. economy is un-competitive because wages are too high, although he later backtracked.
He promised to appoint a Supreme Court Justice with the same philosophy as the anti-union Antonin Scalia.
He promised to revoke every executive order issued by President Barack Obama, which presumably includes orders enforcing wage standards for federal contractors and new rules for overtime pay.
So it’s not surprising that American labor unions made an all-out effort to defeat him in the recent. Labor unions donated $135 million to anti-Trump political action committees, and spent an additional $35 million to get out the vote and other political activities. AFSCME, the NEA and other unions sent out nearly 4,000 canvassers, who knocked on an estimated 9.5 million doors.
Exit polls indicate that Hillary Clinton carried the vote of union families by an 8 percent margin. But this is not as good as it seems. Four years before, Barack Obama won the vote of union households by an 18 percent margin. In other words, Clinton was down by 10 percentage points.
Donald Trump did better than Mitt Romney among union voters, but his gains were less than Clinton’s losses. A large number of union families either didn’t vote or voted for small-party candidates.
What wasn’t Clinton able to hold more of the union vote? First, Trump made a direct appeal to them for votes of union members, which Republicans haven’t done in recent elections. Clinton tried to appeal to college-educated moderate Republicans, which she did with some success, but not enough to offset the erosion of majorities from traditional Democratic constituencies.
Second, Trump made an issue of the Trans Pacific Partnership agreement, North American Free Trade Agreement and other trade agreements. Clinton promoted the TPP as Secretary of State, but opposed it as a candidate. Many factory workers blame the TPP, NAFTA and other trade agreements for loss of jobs to foreign countries.
I did not vote for Trump, but I think he is right about the TPP. If he hopes to be re-elected, he’d better not break his word about opposing the TPP as he has so many other campaign promises.
The lesson for leaders of organized labor is that lesser evil-ism is not a good long-range strategy. Unless they can offer realistic hope for the future, their members will drift away from them as well as from the Democrats.
Of course that’s easier for me to say than for them to do. There are tough times ahead, for almost all of us.
It Looks Like Donald Trump Did Really Well With Union Households | That’s a Bad Sign for Unions by Dave Jamieson for The Huffington Post.
Labor Unions Spent A Record Amount On The Elections | But Not As Much As These Five People by Dave Jamieson and Paul Blumenthal for The Huffington Post.
Unions investigate their poor showing for Clinton by Ted Hesson and Marianne Levine for POLITICO.
These Rust Belt Democrats Saw the Trump Wave Coming by Pema Levy for Mother Jones.
This Is Not a Drill: Labor Braces for the Trump Era by Mark Brenner for Counterpunch.
Labor After Bernie, an interview of Rand Wilson for Jacobin.
How the Democrats could win again, if they wanted by Thomas Frank for The Guardian.