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By Michael Rose
Sept. 8 — Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump isn’t very popular among union members, despite some common misconceptions, an AFL-CIO official told reporters Sept. 8.
“We really think it’s important for people to understand that Trump may have excited some union members more than previous Republican candidates, but he hasn’t extended the number of union members who support him, despite what he claims,” said Michael Podhorzer, AFL-CIO political director.
The labor federation said its most recent internal polling shows that support for Trump stands at 36 percent among union members in Florida, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, a figure that fell 5 percentage points since June.
Podhorzer also pointed to other polls that showed union members’ and union households’ support for Trump hovering around 35 percent. By comparison, he said, exit polls conducted in 2012 put then-Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney at 41 percent support among union members, he said.
“There’s no basis for the idea that Trump is making inroads in the union community,” Podhorzer said. “Quite the contrary.”
It’s unusual for the AFL-CIO to release any individual data points from its polling of its members. But Podhorzer and Eric Hauser, the federation’s strategic communications director, at a roundtable with reporters said they wanted to counter a narrative that union members are defecting to Trump, drawn by his opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal and various other factors.
The AFL-CIO endorsed Democrat Hillary Clinton in June. At the time, Trump released a statement saying the federation “has become part of the rigged system in Washington, D.C. that benefits only the insiders” and insisting that union members would support him. In July 2015, when the federation invited all declared presidential candidates of both parties to answer questionnaires and meet with its executive council, Trump declined to do so.
Although union officials concede that there have always been Republicans among rank-and-file union members and will continue to be, the difference between union members and voters who otherwise fit similar demographics who may vote for Trump is that union members receive a lot more information about Trump’s views on issues important to workers, Podhorzer said.
Voters who aren’t in unions who may like Trump “hear his rhetoric about trade deals, which resonates with people,” Podhorzer said. “But they don’t know that he outsources his production” of products bearing his name and has said that wages are “too high,” he said.
“That’s the difference between union members and their families, and other people in the working class,” Podhorzer said. In its targeting of union members over the next two months, the AFL-CIO will seek to highlight Trump’s record, he said.
Although many voters may be familiar with Donald Trump as a “figure in American cultural life” for several decades, Hauser said, “I believe Americans look at their presidential candidates differently than they look at other cultural icons.”
“Evaluating a presidential candidate” is different from deciding whether one “likes” Trump, Hauser said. “We think that as people really evaluate Donald Trump as a presidential candidate and a potential president, they will take a longer, deeper, harder look, and see that this is dangerous, not what I want, and bad for America.”
Podhorzer and Hauser also emphasized that in addition to highlighting what they see as Trump’s faults, they also are promoting the candidacy of Clinton. The federation’s top officers, including President Richard Trumka, will campaign on behalf of Clinton in battleground states in the coming weeks, they said.
The AFL-CIO also announced that Sept. 10 will be a “national day of action” during which it will mobilize thousands of union members and staff to campaign for Clinton and other candidates it supports by canvassing and phone-banking.
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Copyright © 2016 The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
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