Even in its diminished state, organized labor plays a visible role in national elections, mostly from within the Democratic Party.
So Hillary Clinton and running mate Tim Kaine are scheduled to be in Pennsylvania, Ohio and the Quad Cities of northwest Illinois and southeast Iowa today to mark Labor Day and make promises about expanding the economy.
Endorsed by the 12-million-member AFL-CIO, Clinton and Kaine are due to campaign together in Cleveland, where Republicans in July nominated Donald Trump.
Ohio is considered a key battleground state with 18 electoral votes, seventh-highest in the nation. Trump may have the edge there, given the state’s higher-than-average percentage of white voters and lower-than-average percentage of Latinos.
Reflecting his departure from his party’s previous nominees, Trump has blasted so-called trade deals as job giveaways. Last week he visited Wilmington, Ohio, which lost 9,500 jobs in 2008 when the big shipping company DHL left town.
Billionaire Trump said in May that “five, 10 years from now” the GOP would be a “different party. You’re going to have a worker’s party, a party of people that haven’t had a real wage increase in 18 years, that are angry.”
Despite that pitch, the campaign coincided with a raucous summer strike against the Trump Taj Mahal casino in Atlantic City. Local 54 of the Unite-HERE union drew crowds of pickets from elsewhere.
This week, billionaire investor Carl Icahn, a Trump booster, rejected a union pact proposal and reaffirmed he will close the troubled casino, killing 3,000 jobs.
Clinton has faced criticism from her left on labor issues.
As her Democratic primary rival Bernie Sanders, who was due to campaign for her in New Hampshire on Monday, questioned her commitment to a $15-an-hour minimum wage.
Clinton critics also noted that Kaine, as Virginia governor, kept a “right-to-work” law intact and that she awkwardly came to oppose the Trans-Pacific Partnership backed by President Barack Obama after first supporting it.
Trump’s courtship of unionized workers seems to clash with the record of running mate Mike Pence, the Indiana governor, who’s also defended his state’s “right-to-work” statute. Pence also voted in Congress against a minimum-wage increase.
In accepting the nomination July 21, Trump expressed a kind of arm’s-length appreciation for blue-collar employees.
“I learned from my youngest age to respect the dignity of work and the dignity of working people,” he said.
He added that his father “was a guy most comfortable in the company of bricklayers and carpenters and electricians, and I have a lot of that in me also. ”
“I love those people.”