UAW: 1 in 4 union members support Trump

Michael Wayland
The Detroit News

Detroit — Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump continues to resonate with roughly one in four union autoworkers.

United Auto Workers President Dennis Williams said in the union’s most recent internal survey, about 25 percent of its members support Trump.

“It’s going down,” Williams said Friday during a roundtable with media. The support for Trump, he said, increased when Democrat presidential candidate Hillary Clinton took time off campaigning to recover from pneumonia.

That current pro-Trump numbers for the union are up from 19 percent from a previous internal union survey during the summer, but down 3 percentage points from one during the primary election.

“The more and more we educate our members, the more they’re understanding why we endorsed Hillary Clinton,” Williams said.

Although not as influential as it once was at its peak of 1.5 million in 1979, the UAW has membership and retirees of more than 1 million, including about 412,000 active workers.

Williams argued the support for Trump is lower than previous Republican presidential candidates. Union member support for Mitt Romney was about 28 percent in 2012, and John McCain got 30-32 percent of votes.

The UAW endorsed Clinton on May 26, even though former President Bill Clinton ushered in the North American Free Trade Agreement, which opened the door for automakers to invest billions in Mexico instead of the United States.

Williams previously said Hillary Clinton — during a one-on-one meeting prior to the UAW endorsing the Democratic candidate — said “she would dig into NAFTA” and “made every indication that she would sit down and try to redo NAFTA.”

As Secretary of State, Clinton also appeared to support President Barack Obama’s Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement. Since then she has criticized and opposed the deal.

The UAW has adamantly condemned the new trade deal, which it sees as a flawed job-killer for the U.S. The Trans-Pacific Partnership is a proposed trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim countries, including the United States.

Williams said the union is prepared to “spend whatever it costs to fight” the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Trade is one area in which Trump seems to be resonating with union members. He several times has called for a 35 percent tariff on cars produced in Mexico that are imported to the U.S.

Williams said in theory he agrees with the tax, but said “the problem is he as a president don’t have that authority.” Citing the World Trade Organization, Williams said a president cannot enforce tariffs on one country.

“Trump’s idea is just to throw out one-liners; it doesn’t matter if he can do it or not. It doesn’t matter what the process is,” Williams said.

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Twitter: @MikeWayland