AFL-CIO ‘hope to work with President-elect Trump’

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AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka released the following statement on the results of the 2016 presidential election in which he declared his willingness to work with President Trump.

Donald Trump has been elected president. America is a democratic nation, and the voters have spoken. ”The AFL-CIO accepts the outcome of this election and offers our congratulations to President-elect Trump. 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.

‘The President-elect made promises in this campaign – on trade, on restoring manufacturing, on reviving our communities. 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. As we move forward, the labour movement is committed to defending our American democracy. Ultimately, the fundamental duty of America’s President, symbolised by swearing to uphold our Constitution, is to protect and preserve our democracy and the institutions that make it real.

‘We hope to work with President-elect Trump to help him carry out this solemn responsibility. Regardless, America’s labour movement will protect our democracy and safeguard the most vulnerable among us. This election is a statement about our broken economic and political rules. Therefore, the work of the labour movement continues with fresh urgency. The change voters cried out for in this campaign can be found by standing together in unions.

The election is over. But we are more committed than ever to helping working people win a voice on the job and in our democracy. We will never stop striving to represent everyone, fighting for basic human dignity, expanding our diversity and growing our ranks to give working people a strong, united voice.’

• Organised labour’s get-out-the-vote effort this year was every bit as robust in 2016 as in previous recent elections, said Peter Olney, former organising director for the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, who advised several national unions on electoral efforts this year. ‘Labour put its shoulder to the wheel and worked hard to elect Clinton,’ Olney said. ‘The AFL-CIO put together a very strong ground game.’

That included extensive communications to members explaining the federation’s endorsement of the Democratic ticket. Individual unions mobilised tens of thousands of volunteers nationwide for phone banking and door-to-door canvassing aimed at fellow union members, friends and family, and the general public.

Still, said Olney, ‘labour was not able to convince its members – in the significant ways it had done for Obama – to vote for the Democratic nominee. And that’s particularly true in the hard-hit Rust Belt states like Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.’

Exit polls from Edison Research and CNN show that Hillary Clinton won union households nationwide – by 51 per cent to 43 per cent. She won union households by even larger margins in Michigan (53 per cent to 40 per cent) and Wisconsin (53 per cent to 43 per cent), though she lost that vote to Trump in Ohio (by 42 per cent to 54 per cent).

In 2008 and 2012, Obama won union households by nearly 60 per cent, according to exit polls. Trump, meanwhile, improved on the performance of his recent Republican predecessors. His 43 per cent share of union households beat the union vote gained by George W Bush, John McCain and Mitt Romney.

Olney said a more progressive Democratic message from the Clinton-Kaine ticket – including more aggressive attacks on Wall Street and free trade – would have cut into Trump’s appeal with union voters.’

Jan Soltys, a former UAW autoworker at a Chrysler plant in Northern Illinois, agreed.

‘I’m angry, just like everybody else,’ Soltys said. ‘I’m still hurting from the recession. You hear about everything being great – it’s really not for everybody.’

Soltys supported Bernie Sanders in the primaries, and didn’t support either major-party candidate in the general election. She said a lot of union autoworkers she knows bucked the UAW’s endorsement of Hillary Clinton and backed Trump. She said even though Obama rescued the auto industry, many UAW workers experienced pay and benefit cuts. It’s symbolic of this whole new economy,’ she said. ‘Even if you’re at Chrysler – you work twice as hard at what was once a really good job, and you aren’t going to make the same money as the people before you.’

That’s just the kind of blue-collar backsliding that Trump promised to fix as he went after traditionally Democratic voters in the election. Economist Michael Strain at the conservative American Enterprise Institute said Democrats must now be asking themselves ‘whether the traditional coalition and traditional allies – of which labour unions were a huge part – came through and are enough’ to achieve victory in national elections. And Strain said the Democrats’ problem is heightened by the precipitous decline of union membership in recent decades.

But Lawrence Mishel, president of the progressive Economic Policy Institute, said the defeat of Hillary Clinton and her allies sends a different message: that the neoliberal, pro-free-trade wing of the Democratic Party can’t attract enough working-class votes to win national elections. There needs to be a populist, progressive policy agenda,’ Mishel said, ‘and that’s the agenda of labour.’

• Buzz Malone writing in ‘In These Times’ stated: ‘Many years ago, I spoke to a group of labour leaders. I talked about labour history, and how we all love and revere the movement of yesteryear.

‘I talked about how we worship and adore the era of workers rising up against the machinery of the status quo and the heroes who emerged as leaders of those movements. And then I told them that if we are not cautious, that the next worker uprising will be against us.

‘I warned them of the dangers of becoming so intertwined into the fabric of the establishment that the working class may not readily be able to discern the difference between the two …

‘Tuesday night’s election win, in my mind, is a sign of such an uprising. There is no need to try and dissect the entire election. There are enough “experts” doing that today already. And time will tell soon enough what it means for organised labour to live under the new all-Republican regime. But there has been a lot of talk about white America, and that is something I know a little something about …

‘More than anything, this election (in my mind) was about people who are disgusted with the status quo. People who have little or no interest in ever voting before came out and voted because their healthcare premiums have skyrocketed (they blame Obamacare), or they remember losing their factory jobs when Bill Clinton’s NAFTA took effect. Many of them were Democrats once (or still are).

‘They voted in overwhelming numbers, not for Trump, so much as against what they perceive to be the preordained establishment candidate being crammed down their throats. Even among union members, the disgust for this cycle was palpable. And despite populist movements in both anti-establishment directions (Trump and Bernie Sanders), most union leadership inside the beltway seemingly further embraced the establishment candidates, further alienating membership on both sides of the aisle.’

In fact the US trade unions must break completely with the Democrats and form a Labour Party based on the trade unions to fight for workers’ rights and a socialist USA.

The more far-sighted workers and youth must form a section of the International Committee of the Fourth International to guide the American socialist revolution to its victory.