By Don McIntosh
“The AFL-CIO accepts the outcome of this election, and offers our congratulations to President-elect Trump.” So wrote national AFL-CIO president Rich Trumka the morning after.
Many union members and members of union households voted for Trump — despite enormous effort by the labor movement to elect Hillary Clinton. CNN exit polls showed that 43 percent of voters in union households cast ballots for Trump, compared to 51 percent for Clinton. And union household support for Trump was even higher in key battleground states: In Wisconsin and Michigan, union households split 50-50, CNN reported. And in Ohio, Trump won 52 percent of union households, says North America’s Building Trades President Sean McGarvey.
“It’s 30 years of getting screwed by both parties, Democrats and Republicans,” McGarvey said. “They were willing to take a chance on anything.”
In his morning-after statement, Trumka tried to put the best possible face on the results: “More than anything, this election is an indictment of politics as usual. For too long, the political elites have embraced economic policies that hold down wages, increase inequality, diminish opportunity, and ship American jobs overseas. Voters in both the primary and general election have delivered a clear message: Enough.”
There are things that organized labor and Trump agree on, like NAFTA. Trump has called it the “worst trade deal in history.” As president, Trump will have the authority to withdraw the United States from NAFTA – after giving six months notice. But he has said he would only withdraw if he can’t renegotiate the terms of the agreement to get a better deal.
“The President-elect made promises in this campaign—on trade, on restoring manufacturing, on reviving our communities,” Trumka said. “We will work to make many of those promises a reality. If he is willing to work with us, consistent with our values, we are ready to work with him. But make no mistake, we can never back down from our values. The presence of racism, misogyny, and anti-immigrant appeals caused damage in this campaign and we must all try to repair it with inclusion, decency and honesty.”
Trump won’t be sworn in until Jan. 20, but his election has already had an impact on trade policy. Earlier this year, President Obama and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce had hopes of ratifying the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) during a lame-duck post-election session of Congress. Now, Republican leaders of the House and Senate say they won’t hold such a vote. There’s more: Obama had also conducted secret negotiations with the European Union on a trade deal called Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) that he saw as a companion to the TPP. After the election, the EU trade minister admitted the talks are likely moot for now.
It’s hard to know yet what a Trump presidency will mean, because his campaign pledges so often lacked detail or consistency. He said both that he was for and against a minimum wage increase. He called for tax cuts, particularly on investment income, but never published a detailed plan. He’s also said he supports right-to-work, and the Republican Party platform calls for a national right-to-work law. But since the election, he appears to have backpedaled on some of his pledges: His Mexican border wall now might be in part a Mexican border fence (which already exists.) And he now says he’d keep some popular parts of Obamacare.
“The fundamental duty of America’s president, symbolized by swearing to uphold our Constitution, is to protect and preserve our democracy and the institutions that make it real,” Trumka said. “We hope to work with President Elect Trump to help him carry out this solemn responsibility.”
-PAI Union News Service contributed to this report