Unions pulling support from pro-TPP Democratic lawmakers

SAN DIEGO – One of the many things union leaders discussed here Tuesday at a closed session of the AFL-CIO’s executive council was a decision to pull labor support from Democratic lawmakers who double-cross labor on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) international trade agreement.

“It’s a question of, ‘do you have a Democrat who votes like a Republican or a Republican who votes like a Republican,” retired International Association of Machinists President Tom Buffenbarger told the People’s World during a break in the session yesterday.

Union leaders reportedly discussed how lawmakers from coast to coast are already feeling the heat for voting the wrong way on trade. At least three unions–the Communications Workers, the Painters and the Machinists–said they have already totally cut support for the errant Dems who voted for passage of presidential fast track authority, paving the way for congressional consideration of what labor considers the job-killing TPP.

At least one such Democrat, Rep. Scott Peters of California, told Politico last week that his punishment has already been upwards of $200,000 fewer dollars in his campaign coffers and far fewer ground troops in his campaign. “It’s painful,” he said.

With lawmakers like Peters, Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), and Rep. Annie Bear (D – Calif.), unions are punishing people who said they would back labor and vote against fast track but later switched. In other cases, including those of Rep. Gerry Connolly and Rep. Dan Beyer in northern Virginia, unions are punishing even Democrats who say they will back TPP despite having otherwise 85 percent pro-labor voting records.

Dan Duncan, president of the northern Virginia Central Labor Council, told the People’s World that the anger of his local unions about lawmakers who vote the wrong way on trade is so strong that unions will no longer give assistance to these Democrats, even if it means sitting out those local elections in Virginia’s northern suburbs.

Buffenbarger, however, said “the proper way to do this” is not to sit out elections but “to primary them.” This means backing another candidate to challenge the errant lawmakers in the primary election.

He was quick to add that there was also talk of assisting people who have backed the labor movement and noted that this was why unions are supporting Maryland Rep. Donna Edwards in her campaign for the U.S. Senate. “She was with us on trade even without having to be asked to support us,” he said “so we will be behind her 100 percent.”

Duncan noted that in all the political discussions at the AFL-CIO meeting yesterday it was issues, rather than candidates, that were stressed. He said this was particularly true when it came to discussions about the presidential contest between former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. “When anybody started commenting on any of the two presidential candidates Rich (Trumka, the AFL-CIO’s president) would pull the mic,” cutting off the speaker, Duncan said.

The federation announced last week that it was holding off on a presidential endorsement at this time.

Photo: Flush the TPP Facebook page


John Wojcik
John Wojcik

John Wojcik is Editor-in-Chief of People's World. He joined the staff as Labor Editor in May 2007 after working as a union meat cutter in northern New Jersey. There, he served as a shop steward and a member of a UFCW contract negotiating committee. In the 1970s and '80s, he was a political action reporter for the Daily World, this newspaper's predecessor, and was active in electoral politics in Brooklyn, New York.