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AFL-CIO Lends Its Support to Joe Biden

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AFL-CIO Lends Its Support to Joe Biden

2020-05-27 12:07:57

By Laura Tucker, Staff writer; Image: Joe Biden (Image source: Screenshot)



Former Vice President Joe Biden picked up another key endorsement on Tuesday. The largest coalition of labor unions, the AFL-CIO, threw its support behind him. Even more than that, the top official with the organization is pledging to put forth an aggressive effort to help him beat Donald Trump. 

A vote of the AFL-CIO's general board agreed in a vote to officially support Biden, the presumptive nominee. AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, in an interview with The Washington Post, said the organization will be "playing hard" in about a dozen swing states, encouraging its members to support him in November.


"Joe Biden has demonstrated his character," explained Trumka. "We look forward to helping him get elected president and changing the direction of the country." 

While this is yet another endorsement from union leaders, it will also show how the other endorsements could influence members of the organization. President of the Kenosha County AFL-CIO Central Labor Council in Wisconsin, Richard M. "Rick" Gallo, believes there will be some members who will still support Trump, even if they say they aren't going to.


"That is the reality. Some of them aren't going to tell you," he said. On the whole, he believes the majority will back Biden, yet there's still concern that some are still a part of Trump's base. 

The AFL-CIO has always been a strong Democratic ally, and it had been expected that it would endorse Biden. It endorsed former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in 2016.


Trump made labor part of his campaign, though, in 2016, stressing his support for workers. He promised to protect and restore jobs and oppose international trade agreements and had a platform that promised to keep immigrants out of the country and away from U.S. jobs. It led him to win in the blue-collar states of Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin where he wasn't expected to.  

Still, 18 percent of voters in 2016 said someone in their household belonged to a union, and Clinton beat Trump to win their vote, 51 to 42 percent. Yet, this was a smaller margin than former President Barack Obama's 58 percent in 2012. Trump won white voters without college degrees 64 to 28 percent.


Recent polls are showing he still holds a small advantage with these voters. He has a similar platform as last time and is hoping the union members will once again go against leaders to back him. 

Trump is targeting Minnesota, New Mexico, Florida, and Arizona in this election. Clinton won in Minnesota and New Mexico, while Trump won the others.


"We'll be educating and mobilizing our members," said Trumka. His group will be "talking to them, using new methods to educate them, to get them out to vote, to encourage them to vote by mail." 

Biden said in a statement via his campaign that he was "honored and humbled to have earned the endorsement" of the AFL-CIO, noting how the coronavirus pandemic had affected the lives of workers.


"In the face of COVID-19, we're seeing without any doubt how important unions are to this country — fighting for their workers to have personal protective equipment, for paid leave, and for safer workplaces," read the statement. "As we come out of this crisis, there is an incredible need and opportunity to create good-paying, union jobs across the country and ensure the United States owns the 21st Century." 

Despite organized labor declining over the years, labor is still an important part of the Democratic Party. Labor leaders see their groups as having an important role in the 2020 election. "I think the road to the White House goes through the labor movement," noted Trumka.


Democrats are aiming to show Trump as being led by the wealthy and more powerful individuals and lean heavily on the mistakes he made with the pandemic. Trumka said they plan to make that an integral focus of their efforts. 

"Now the president has a record. The record that he has shows that he was willing to do a number of things to hurt workers," opined Trumka. He blamed the president's slow response to COVID-19, as well as his actions for harming the health and financial standing of the workers on the front-line.


Democrats credit Biden with making them confident they can take back some of the working class they lost to Trump in 2016. The former vice president has longstanding relationships with unions, talks often about his upbringing in Pennsylvania, and refers to himself as "Middle-Class Joe," despite acquiring more wealth in his later years. 

While Clinton was very qualified, Trumka pointed out, "30 years of being attacked by the right wing took a toll on her." Biden, however, "talks to you like a working person. He comes from working-class people."


Not surprisingly, the Trump campaign disagrees. "Blue-collar workers know President Trump always puts America first, that his policies built the greatest economy in history before it was artificially interrupted by coronavirus, and that he is the only one who can restore us to that position again," said Erin Perrine, Trump spokeswoman. 

"When faced with the choice of President Trump's record of accomplishment or Biden's abysmal record and far-left agenda, the choice for American workers is clear."


A video was released that shows union leaders trying to persuade Trump voters to join them in backing Biden. Trumka says in the video, "Some working people, desperate for a rapid departure from business as usual, took a chance on Trump. Look, I get it. And then, over the past four years, the president showed his true colors." 

Yet, regarding the former vice president, he says, "I think he's going to comply with all the safety rules and guidelines that have been out," adding, "He'll get out to the people."

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