Teamsters to quiz presidential hopefuls on three top issues
Teamster website.

WASHINGTON —Armed with detailed question cards on three top issues – pensions and retirement security, collective bargaining rights, and fair trade in that order – Teamsters nationwide will fan out to presidential hopefuls’ events and rallies to quiz candidates and collect information on their stands, the union announced.

And the data they garner will determine whom, if anyone, Teamsters, both individually and overall, endorse in the 2020 presidential election.

The Teamsters endorsement is notable because the union has supported presidential nominees from both parties and because its 1.4 million members are considered the prototypical blue-collar workforce – a group that current GOP incumbent Donald Trump heavily wooed and won in 2016.

The union unveiled the results of a poll of tens of thousands of its members about what they think the top issues in next year’s race. The union asked responders to rank five issues – pensions, collective bargaining, fair trade, affordable health care and infrastructure investment – on a 1-to-5 scale.

Pensions drew 79% of votes among the top three, followed by collective bargaining (67%) and fair trade (65%). Those three are the ones members “want this union to focus on as it moves forward with its 2020 outreach efforts,” the Teamsters said.

The union is already contacting the hopefuls, asking for pledges to support workers’ stands on the three issues and also asking them to provide video statements.

Pensions is a particularly heavy issue: The cards the union is distributing include statements about the giant Central and Southern States Pension, a Teamsters multi-employer plan that faces financial problems.

The Teamsters aren’t just demanding stands from the leaders, Democratic Sens. Bernie Sanders (Vt.), Kamala Harris (Calif.), Elizabeth Warren (Mass.), along with former Vice President Joe Biden. They’re quizzing 16 other Democrats, from Sens. Michael Bennet (Colo.), Cory Booker (N.J.) and Amy Klobuchar (Minn.) to businessman Andrew Yang.

They also asked GOP President Donald Trump and his three lesser-known challengers – former Govs. Mark Sanford (S.C.) and William Weld (Mass.) and talk-show host and former Rep. Joe Walsh (Ill.) — to respond, too.

The union will post the hopefuls’ pledges, written statements, and videos on its website. A separate section will show which candidates walked picket lines or participated in Teamster-sponsored pro-union actions. Sanders and Warren have walked picket lines, with other unions.

The Teamsters are one of several unions who are massively surveying their members before making an endorsement for next year’s race. Others include the American Federation of Teachers.


CONTRIBUTOR

Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of Press Associates Inc. (PAI), a union news service in Washington, D.C. that he has headed since 1999. Previously, he worked as Washington correspondent for the Ottaway News Service, as Port Jervis bureau chief for the Middletown, NY Times Herald Record, and as a researcher and writer for Congressional Quarterly. Mark obtained his BA in public policy from the University of Chicago and worked as the University of Chicago correspondent for the Chicago Daily News.

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