Trump Courts Michigan Union Support Despite Anti-Union Stance History


Donald Trump’s anticipated arrival in Michigan Wednesday is bolstered by considerable backing from blue collar union members, more so than previous Republican presidential candidates have garnered. Nevertheless, his presidential track record stands in contrast to this support, expressing a demonstrable anti-union direction.

In a rally staged in Detroit earlier Wednesday, the former president claimed his determination for safeguarding American labor rather than foreign, a speech he commenced by extolling the virtues of blue collar workers. However, his actions during his presidency reflect another picture entirely. His court appointments, particularly to the Supreme Court, have dealt significant blows to unions since his inauguration in 2017, a trend mirrored by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), which pursues labor relations at most businesses.

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According to Cathy Creighton, a Clinton era NLRB attorney and current head of the Buffalo, New York, office at Cornell University’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations, Trump shows little support for workers’ right to organize, strike, or bargain collectively. Creighton stated that during Trump’s presidency NLRB appointees complicated the procedure for unions to gain representation at nonunion workplaces. This included extending the period between a union filing for representation and the election, affording management increased opportunities to rally against unionization amongst employees.

With the advent of the Biden administration, the NLRB rolled back such restrictive measures as they crumbled under court scrutiny and is now moving towards facilitating union organization. Furthermore, the Trump-appointed Supreme Court delivered a damning blow against public sector unions, a decision that enables employees nationwide to sidestep union dues, regardless of whether their workplace is unionized.

Trump, throughout his term, openly promised to hold back businesses from moving operations overseas or closing their doors. A prime example of his failure to achieve this was his inability to prevent GM’s closure of their colossal assembly plant in Lordstown, Ohio. Despite his assurances to local residents that manufacturing jobs would return, GM closed the facility, delivering a harsh blow to the region’s economy.

Moreover, Trump’s well-publicized promise to impose severe tariffs on vehicles imported from Mexico, a promise he continues to make on the campaign trail, did not materialize. The renegotiated North American Free Trade Agreement under Trump in 2020 failed to incorporate any such tariffs on Mexican vehicles, leading to virtually no change in the flow of vehicles across the US borders.

As Trump tours Michigan amidst a strike led by the United Auto Workers union, he faces constant criticism. Speaking at a non-union auto parts manufacturer, his visit holds no potential support for the striking autoworkers. Trump shares a contentious history with unions, characterized by frequent clashes well before his initial election to president, a theme that continues with his ongoing dispute with UAW leadership.

During his recent campaign rally, Trump warned that the move towards electric vehicles under Biden would devastate the US auto industry. However, labor professors, such as Todd Vachon of Rutgers University, suggest that this rhetoric, although appreciated by many union members for taking a strong line on imports, does not erase the fact that his record towards labour is fundamentally anti-union.

Regardless, Trump continues to garner support from many rank-and-file members, drawn not just by labor issues but by traditional values, making his visit to Michigan a significant moment in the ongoing saga of American labor relations.