Donald Trump is within striking distance of winning Nevada and if he does, union members may well be the deciding factor.
For decades, one of the deep dark secrets of organized labor has been that roughly four in 10 union members are registered Republicans. Look no further than retired Southern Pacific/Union Pacific workers in the Rail City known as Sparks.
Union election canvassers learned years ago not to knock on their doors. If they see you’re campaigning for Democrats, most are likely to slam a door in your face.
To use an old Texas football term, they’ve done forgotten how to dance with who brung ‘em. They are very upper middle class and financially quite secure due to their union jobs and now suffer a common affliction: Brain damage from pulling the ladder up behind them.
“As polls are beginning to show that Biden’s advantage over Trump gets narrow in key states, Democratic union workers are worried about Biden’s chances of victory. Biden had a five-point advantage or a ‘likely Democrat’ odds of seizing Nevada over Trump, according to the University of Nevada-Las Vegas Lee Business School poll and the Cook Political Report, respectively. As time goes on, however, the very same Cook Political Report went from ‘likely’ to ‘lean Democrat.’ Florida, another battleground state with more delegates, went from leaning Democrat to a toss-up. For battleground union workers in Nevada, the state’s local election is shaping up to be in favor of Trump,” wrote Christian Spencer in TheGrio.com
“I think Nevada could end up very much like Michigan did in ‘16,” said D. Taylor, the head of Unite HERE, the powerful Culinary Workers Union’s national organization, Bloomberg News reported last month.
This explains why my old union has dispatched precinct canvassers north and south in the past few weeks.
“Hispanic Democratic voters in Nevada make up about 17 percent of the state’s eligible voters, Bloomberg reports. Former presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders defeated Biden in the Nevada caucuses after his Vermont challenger won half the Hispanic vote, according to CNN’s entrance polls of the January caucuses,” Spencer wrote.
Last Sunday, NBC News reported about Nevada Latinos worried that their mailed ballots won’t count and are thus uptight about voting in person.
In must-win Ohio, a poll released Sunday shows Trump and Biden tied. Zounds.
“Labor leaders have worked for months to sell their members on Biden, hoping to avoid a repeat of 2016 when Donald Trump outperformed among union members and won the White House. But despite a bevy of national union endorsements for Biden and years of what leaders call attacks on organized labor from the Trump administration, local officials in critical battleground states said support for Trump remains solid,” Politico reported on Sept. 22.
“ ‘We haven’t moved the needle here,’ said Mike Knisley, executive secretary-treasurer with the Ohio State Building and Construction Trades Council, who estimated that about half of his members voted for Trump in 2016 and will do so again. ‘Even if given all the information that’s been put out there, all the facts – just pick an issue that the president has had his hands in – it doesn’t make a difference,’ “ he stated.
“Among members of North America’s Building Trades Unions, there is a dead heat in six swing states, with Biden receiving 48 percent of the vote and Trump 47 percent, according to an internal poll shared with Politico.
“ ‘(Trump) has a very, very, very solid foundation of our members,’ said James Williams, a vice-president of the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades, whose surveys of members painted a similar picture.
“ ‘They connect with his messaging and a lot of the fear-mongering going all the way back to when he was first elected with “Be afraid of the immigrant. The immigrant’s here to take your job.”
“ ‘That resonated with our membership. They feel like their way of life and their way of living is under attack and without really understanding the dynamics at play. I mean, the immigrant worker is being abused by employers.’
“Trump’s support in some unions could provide an opening for him in the Midwest, particularly in the key Rust Belt states that powered Trump’s victory in 2016 – Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin – where union voters have a sizable impact. Roughly one in six voters nationwide is either a union member or comes from a union household, according to a (September) Gallup Poll , and that number rises to more than one in four in states like Michigan.
“Those voters, historically a bedrock of Democratic support, shifted away from the party in 2016, according to exit polls. Hillary Clinton won union voters by less than half as much as former President Barack Obama had four years earlier – and that swing alone may have been enough to account for her losses in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan, one analysis found. Even if Biden takes back the White House, there could be far-reaching impacts on the Democratic Party and labor movement if that trendline persists.
“The question this year is whether Biden can win those union members back, and by how much. Some labor leaders said there is cause for hope for Biden: While many Trump voters remain firm in their support, they said, Biden is winning over more of their members than Clinton did. They attributed that in part to Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
“ ‘We’re seeing a whole different attitude toward Joe Biden than we saw mostly because Trump has a record of failure. Biden has a record of being there for us,” said Rick Bloomingdale, president of the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO.
“ ‘ It’s just a different feel out there. Obviously, we still have members who support Trump. ‘ “
So what’s the temperature here in the High Desert Outback of the American Dream? Look no further than Carson City, home to a huge number state workers, many now unionized. Former U.S. Sen. Dean Heller and current Congresscritter Mark Amodei , both Republicans, graduated from Carson High. With the exception of revered ex-teacher Bonnie Parnell, Carson hasn’t elected a Democrat for more than two decades.
Some Nevada unions are hanging tough, others are split and their leaders are worried.
Why Trump? Well, he’s a guy, for starters. To use NBC reporter and author Katy Tur’s reasoning as to why Trump won in 2016: “He entertained people and he looked strong.”
The fake news NYTimes just did a long piece about Trump supporters who actually believe he will protect Obamacare’s pre-existing condition mandate once it’s repealed. Mama mia.
Union members supporting Trump are like any other Americans, easy to spook into voting against their own interests. Corporate America has invested billions to overturn Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal and they’ve done one helluva job.
Just keep the lower classes fighting for the crumbs that fall off the fatcat table so that they won’t look up at who’s eating their lunch.
Remember the old saying: Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.
Somebody cue The Who’s “Won’t Get Fooled Again.”
It’s crunch time. Which side are you on?
Take care of each other and be careful out there.
¡Sí se puede!
Be well. Raise hell. Esté bien. Haga infierno.
NevadaLabor.com Editor Andrew Barbano is a 51-year Nevadan whose reputation remains impervious to further augmentation or denigration. E-mail <firstname.lastname@example.org> Barbwire by Barbano has originated in the Tribune since 1988.