Cleveland labor leaders build opposition to Trump’s anti-worker policies

CLEVELAND, OHIO – According to Harriet Applegate, executive secretary of the North Shore Federation of Labor, a lot of Clevelanders have left town until Trump’s Republican National Convention is over. They just couldn’t stomach the Republican invasion.

However, labor leaders, union members, and many others are using the presence of the convention as an occasion for building opposition to the GOP’s right wing, anti-worker platform and policies.

For example, unions here have launched a long range get-out-the-vote campaign for presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and senatorial candidate Ted Strickland.

Meanwhile, yesterday the Code Pink organization marched down a major road with signs saying “Immigrants Welcome.”

“We want people to know the real Cleveland,” a Code Pink leader said. “Just because the Republicans spew hatred here doesn’t mean they are speaking for us.”

Today, Cleveland State University, located in the heart of town, is sponsoring a forum on voting rights with Congresswoman Marcia Fudge, D. – Ohio, a discussion on black women voting with Ohio AFL-CIO Secretary Treasurer Petee Tallee, and a panel discussion on Opportunity, Poverty and National Policy moderated by Amy Hanauer, executive director of Policy Matters Ohio and CNN Political Editor Juana Summers.

“What would you like to say to the Republican leadership?” Summers asked the four panelists.

Panelist Baldemar Velasquez, president of the Farm Labor Organizing Committee, answered “I would like to point out to them that workers must have a chance to have a collective voice so that we can have a chance to get enough to feed, clothe and house our families.

“Capitalism strives to marginalize workers,” he said. “But we must have the courage to implement workers’ wishes to have an economy that works for all people.”

Cleveland State Professor Ronnie Dunn told Summers, “We must invest in rebuilding our country and creating good jobs.”

Colleeen Cotter, executive director of the Legal Aid Society of Greater Cleveland, answered “Poverty can’t be effectively addressed unless we guarantee rights and dignity to everybody.”

Finally, John Corlett, president of the Center for Community Solutions, said simply, “The Republicans should at least talk about it,” they should list poverty as a problem.

This past weekend, members belonging to North Shore Federation of Labor unions, went door to door “targeting white working class neighborhoods,” Executive Secretary Applegate reported. “We spoke to people about voting for Ted Strickland for Senate.”

Strickland, a former Ohio governor, is challenging Republican incumbent, Senator Rob Portman.

The canvassers distributed a leaflet saying, “Tell Rob Portman to oppose bad trade deals like the Trans Pacific Partnership.”

“We also began a campaign to explain how bad a Trump presidency would be for workers,” Applegate said.

“We tell workers Trump talks tough on trade and protecting jobs, but he produces many of his products overseas,” Applegate said. “He’s against having a minimum wage and tries to prevent his own employees from joining unions.”

“Trump: an outsourcing, union-busting hypocrite,” a federation leaflet says.

“We started canvassing and phone-banking this weekend,” Applegate said, “but we are going to stress a campaign of union leaders meeting with members face-to-face at work sites.

“We know that person-to-person contact, people talking to people they know and trust, is the most powerful communication method there is. It trumps any number of TV ads.”

Cleveland area union leaders are also planning to mail letters to their members saying that the Republican Party holding their national convention in Cleveland “will bring a lot of attention to Ohio, not just as host of the event, but also because of the pivotal role our state will play in the coming election…

“Simply put, a Donald Trump presidency would make life harder for working people. Mr. Trump believes that wages are too high for American workers. This fact alone shows how detached he is from reality…”

Applegate said that “our first job is to show all working people, not just union members, just how bad Trump is.”

The fact that the Republican convention is being held here gives labor leaders a unique opportunity to shine a spotlight on Trump, Applegate said.

“But in future weeks,” she said, “we will stress our positive campaign for Hillary Clinton. We will point out that as a senator, she opposed job-robbing trade deals. And she has a life long record of supporting labor.”

However, Applegate said, probably the most important job of all facing Ohio organized labor is to wrench the state out of the hands of Republicans.

“They hold every statewide office,” Applegate said. “And they have a super majority in both houses of the state legislature.”

For Ohio workers to make gains, Applegate said, Hillary Clinton must win the White House; but putting the state in the hands of pro-worker representatives is just as important.

Photo: Protestors yell during a rally against Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump on Monday, July 18, 2016, in Cleveland.  |  Patrick Semansky/AP


Larry Rubin
Larry Rubin

Larry Rubin has been a union organizer, a speechwriter and an editor of union publications. He was a civil rights organizer in the Deep South and is often invited to speak on applying Movement lessons to today's challenges. He has produced several folk music shows.