Union Protectionism

In my previous essay I argued from historical political trends that the Democrats’ pro-union, pro-immigration ideology was not a particularly tenable one:

What I am saying here is that the Democratic Party is the party of unions, but unions and immigration are historically contentious partners at best.  To be immigration maximalist while dismissing nativist concerns as uneducated bigotry costs Democrats support among the worker demographic they argue should be theirs.

I am pleased to say that I now have some evidence for this from current trends as well, namely the positive statements by some major union figures as Trump launches into his promised anti-globalization campaign.

Today, President Trump made good on his campaign promise to withdraw the United States from the Trans-Pacific Partnership. With this decision, the president has taken the first step toward fixing 30 years of bad trade policies that have cost working Americans millions of good-paying jobs.

– James P. Hoffa, Teamsters Union

Both groups endorsed Hillary Clinton for president in 2015, but their presidents were effusive in praising Mr. Trump’s knowledge of the building and construction industry.

Union Leaders Meet With Trump, New York Times

“He intends to do the work on the issues he discussed on the campaign trail,” McGarvey [President of said. “It was by far the best meeting I’ve had [in Washington].”

– Sean McGarvey, North America’s Building Trade’s Union, via Washington Post

Reuters has a summary as well, which notes that not all unions were invited to this meeting Trump set up, and that Clinton still won the union vote, apparently (42% to 51% of union households).  However, the headlines and positive union responses suggest that Trump is working hard to change this pattern of affiliation and that it is a definite possibility that he will succeed in doing so.  Or, as I previously described, unions are the historical allies of nativism.  Thus, as I also implied, Democrats may soon need to decide whether they are the party of globalization/immigration, or the party of unions.  The combination was only strongly viable back when anti-globalization wasn’t actually a live option.

That unions voted against Trump is not immediately apparent in the NYTimes’ take on the meeting, which simply states that “many [unions’] members appear to have voted for Mr. Trump last fall.”  While 42% of the country is certainly ‘many’ in a literal sense, ‘many’ is not a word that, in the build up and reporting on the recent “Women’s March”, I’ve seen used applied to the fact that 42% of women voted for Trump.  Though perhaps reading far too much into rushed reporters’ writings, the usage suggests to me that the Democrats (as represented by the New York Times) have on some level already given up the union vote.  We shall see.


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