Will labor unions end blind devotion to one party?

Terry Bowman

Post-election is a data nerd’s dream. Reams of election data are sorted through and put into a semblance of coherence for the rest of us.

For labor unions, that information should shake their very foundations and convince their officials that a change in political thinking and action is in order. No longer can they ignore their workers and blindly follow the political party that they have pledged allegiance to for generations

The UAW spent millions of workers dues to force-feed Hillary Clinton on their membership. A constant barrage of mail pieces greeted workers in their homes, making biased and outrageous claims of support for Clinton. The union even claimed that according to an “internal survey,” only 25 percent of their workers supported President-elect Donald Trump.

The nonprofit organization I founded in 2010 has hundreds of UAW autoworkers in Michigan, and none of those I asked were ever polled. Not a single one. Selective sampling may have played a part in this “internal survey” that the UAW is now admitting may have been incorrect.

The fact is, the UAW owes a huge apology to their membership. Raising union dues by 25 percent in 2014 helped fund this political activity, all of which focused on a candidate and party that is both disconnected from and has shown contempt for union workers.

Trump, however, was a union worker’s dream candidate. Taking strong stands on China, harmful trade deals, and focusing on auto jobs being outsourced to other countries, Trump should have been the candidate supported by manufacturers and unions. Blind devotion to party, however, rendered a huge disservice to the rank and file.

A step in the right direction was taken by UAW president Dennis Williams when he announced recently that the UAW wants to work with president-elect Trump on defeating the North American Free Trade Agreement. The statement should have been made before the election, but partisanship kept them from reaching out. It was only after the election that Williams, talking about Trump’s position of NAFTA said, “I think his position on trade is right on.”

For the Republican Party, opportunity is knocking on their door. A strong and focused outreach directly to rank-and-file union members should not be passed up in Michigan or nationally. Trump has opened that door and party leaders should walk through to assure all blue-collar and union workers that they are the party of jobs, wage and economic growth, opportunity, and freedom.

The responsibility for change from the rank and file is just as important. Union workers in any right-to-work state must hold their union officials answerable and accountable for biased political activity and wasting of union dues.

Workers must be willing — even in the face of intimidation and fear — to withdraw their union membership and stop funding their union’s political prejudices. It is the only tool they have to protect themselves from the political bias of the people who claim to have their best interest at heart.

The 2016 election may come to be known as the election that finally united unions and their workers with the Republican Party and their platform. Only time will tell if that new relationship continues to grow and expand.

Terry Bowman is president of Union Conservatives Inc., and a co-chair of the Donald Trump for President campaign in Michigan.