Monday, November 14, 2016

The GOP's War on Labor Unions Helped Elect Trump

While there is no single explanation for how and why Donald Trump, despite losing the popular vote by a still growing margin, managed to win the Electoral College.   One, as previously noted in a post on this blog, was the rage of evangelical Christians against modernity in states like Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan that led them to support Trump even though I suspect a year or two from now they will be questioning their votes as Trump fails to return jobs to rust belt states. A second reason is that the GOP's relentless war on labor unions is now bearing fruit.  The decline in labor unions accomplished several goals for the GOP: (i) it significantly decreased union ability to get out the vote for Democrats, and (ii) it accelerated the decline in wages that caused the blue collar works to swing to Trump in desperation.  Thankfully, a right to work effort in Virginia was defeated last Tuesday as Virginia remained blue for the third presidential cycle.  A piece in The Atlantic looks at this insidious agenda of the GOP.  Here are excerpts:
One of the biggest surprises on election night occurred as Americans watched Democratic strongholds in the Rust Belt turn red. A few in particular—Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Ohio—were especially shocking. These states—once thriving manufacturing centers with powerful labor unions—had voted for Democratic presidents for decades. This election, they chose Trump.
It’s no coincidence that these states, with their large percentages of blue-collar workers, were also the backdrop for contentious, Republican-led battles to weaken labor unions, battles that the labor movement ultimately lost in Michigan in Wisconsin.  . . . . This means that unions wind up with less less money and thus wield less influence to get out the vote for Democrats, the party with which they’ve long been allies.  
“Republicans knew this would decimate unions, and now we can see the impact,” says Erik Loomis, a labor historian at the University of Rhode Island.
Back in the 1980s, unions represented 22 percent of private-sector workers, he says. Now they represent only about 8 percent. Loomis points to two major historical shifts that inflicted major damage to the labor movement: the drying up of manufacturing jobs in the late 1970s as factories moved overseas, and more recently, Republican-led movements to pass laws restricting unionization. This year, West Virginia became the 26th state to pass right-to-work laws, which went into effect this summer.
But it’s not just right-to-work laws that have weakened the labor movement. Unions had tried to stop the impacts of globalization and automatization, Loomis says, but “they were overwhelmed by a bipartisan belief in globalized trade and nobody has taken long-term unemployment and community decline seriously.” Neither Ohio nor Pennsylvania has passed right-to-work legislation, but their industries—and the chance that they would vote Democratic—have fallen nevertheless.
The election results in Nevada reflect a stark contrast. Hillary Clinton won the state with the help of the labor movement, and in particular, with the help of Culinary Workers Union, which put on an aggressive campaign to mobilize its 57,000 members to vote for Democrats. Clinton won by a large margin in Nevada and so did the state’s Democratic Senate candidate, Catherine Cortez Masto. “The key difference is that they were able to organize working-class people to get their votes,” says Loomis.
There is also another key difference: The Culinary Union is mostly made up of Latino workers in the hotel and service industry, a different demographic from the predominantly white factory workers in the Rust Belt who made up the base of the labor movement there and have since seen their jobs disappear.
In the end, it may have been a combination of a weakening labor movement and Trump’s strong anti-trade, anti-globalization message that helped him win the White House.
As I have said, it will be interesting to see if and when Trump's blue collar, low information supporters turn on him when he fails to magically bring jobs back to the rust belt.   

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