United Trump Workers?
By Olivia Grady
At a November 10th press conference in Detroit about the election, United Auto Workers’ (UAW) President Dennis Williams said that he wants to meet with President-elect Donald Trump to discuss trade deals.
His particular focus is overturning the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
“NAFTA is a problem, and I’ve said this long before the election. It’s a huge problem to the American people. I’m prepared to sit down with President-Elect Trump any time he wants,” said Williams.
Despite the UAW’s hatred of NAFTA, it has endorsed and supported politicians who are in favor of these trade deals. UAW for example endorsed Hillary Clinton this election cycle even though she spoke positively about NAFTA and the Trans-Pacific Partnership. And the union spent over $1 million this election; all of the money went to Democrats who support policies that kill union jobs. The UAW also supported President Obama in 2008 and 2012 and even President Clinton in 1996 after he had signed NAFTA.
In contrast to Ms. Clinton, Donald Trump made manufacturing and trade an integral part of his campaign.
On June 28, 2016, Trump spoke about trade at a campaign rally in Pennsylvania:
“Hillary Clinton unleashed a trade war against the American worker when she supported one terrible trade deal after another – from NAFTA to China to South Korea. A Trump Administration will end that war by getting a fair deal for the American people. The era of economic surrender will finally be over.”
UAW President Williams however has not always been as supportive of Trump.
Williams responded to Trump’s comments about moving automotive jobs from Michigan to right-to-work states instead of Mexico at a media roundtable on May 19, 2016:
"I don't know how that's helping the middle class or how that's helping American workers, and it's certainly not helping UAW members. That's the wrong kind of leadership. So we ruled him out real quick."
While stating his desire to work with Trump on trade deals, Williams however said that the union would keep its progressive views.
He reiterated this point in a statement on November 13, 2016:
I want to make clear as I did at the press conference, the UAW is a progressive organization of working people with vast differences with the president-elect and we will continue to fight for our core values.
Despite this statement, union members might not be the progressives Williams and other union leaders think they are. Williams even admitted that a pre-election internal poll showed that one third of his members were planning on voting for Trump. Exit polls though show that Clinton only won union household votes in Michigan by 13 percentage points. That is a gain of 20 percentage points for Trump from the 2012 election.