HomeBusinessWhy are Democrats sticking with Biden? Ask the unions.

Why are Democrats sticking with Biden? Ask the unions.

Many of the nation’s most powerful unions confirm they are continuing to back President Biden, despite faltering support among some top Democrats, pointing to his willingness to support their priorities on almost every issue during his first term.

The United Steelworkers, Communications Workers of America, Laborers’ International Union of North America and Unite Here, among other unions, confirmed to The Washington Post that they plan to continue to support Biden, despite his disastrous debate performance last month.

“Put us in the group of doubling down unequivocally,” said Brent Booker, president of the Laborers’ International Union of North America, which represents some 400,000 U.S. workers in construction and other sectors. “He’s done more for our members than any president in my lifetime.”

This week, Biden appears to be shoring up the support of various parts of the Democratic Party. He will drop in Wednesday on a meeting of the nation’s top labor leaders at the AFL-CIO in Washington, although that invitation was extended before the debate.


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“I have not seen any indication that any of our union leaders have at all backed off from [their] support [for Biden],” said Steve Smith, a spokesperson for the AFL-CIO, the nation’s largest federation of labor unions, which has affiliates representing some 12.5 million members.

Seth Schuster, a spokesperson for the Biden campaign, said in a statement that the president “has always had union workers’ backs — and he’s grateful to know they have his.”

Organized labor’s solid support for the president comes as key constituencies appear to be coming to Biden’s defense after several days of high-profile internal turmoil. Biden met Monday on a Zoom call with members of the Congressional Black Caucus, which has also bolstered Biden.

“There are some important power centers in the party Biden has spent decades cultivating loyalty with, and the support he’s seen this week — not just from unions, but also other groups, like the Congressional Black Caucus — is a culmination of those efforts,” said Tobin Marcus, head of U.S. policy and politics at Wolfe Research and an economic policy staffer to Biden when he was vice president under President Barack Obama.

Biden’s efforts to support unions may be particularly important in bolstering his case among the Whiter and more politically conservative building trades, which see him as an easier political sell to their membership than some of the alternatives, such as Vice President Harris.

“Most of my members are already pretty well-attuned to how Joe Biden feels about labor unions. I don’t doubt [Harris] would support labor unions, but I don’t think she would stand a chance” at winning the election, said Dave Fashbaugh, 59, the business manager of a local chapter of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers in Michigan.

Despite the panic set off in much of the party over Biden’s debate performance, union support has not wavered for the president even at the moments of maximum uncertainty. Union endorsements have taken care to stress support for both Biden and Harris, often endorsing the two jointly, and many union officials say publicly they would be as confident in Harris as in Biden.

As Democrats on Capitol Hill convened to discuss their way forward, the AFL-CIO last week put out a statement saying it “Stands in Strong Solidarity With Biden-Harris Ticket.” The nation’s preeminent labor organization endorsed Biden in June 2022, the earliest it has ever weighed in on a presidential race.

Biden’s Wednesday meeting with the executive council of the AFL-CIO will focus on “how do we mobilize our members and union households to deliver the states Joe Biden needs to win,” particularly given the high density of members in key battleground states, spokesman Smith said.

The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, International Union of Painters and Allied Trades, and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers also either reinforced their support for Biden to The Post or have issued statements in recent days doing so.

Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, which represents some 1.7 million members, posted on X last week, “first act today — putting up the sign,” with an image of a Biden-Harris poster on her front lawn.

Neither the Teamsters nor the American Postal Workers Union has endorsed yet in the race.

Kara Deniz, a spokesperson for the Teamsters, told The Post that the transportation workers’ union, with some 1.3 million members, will not be endorsing until after the conventions. Teamsters President Sean O’Brien plans to speak at the Republican National Convention later this month at the invitation of former president Donald Trump. O’Brien has also requested to speak at the Democratic National Convention.

Labor unions also continue to be among Biden’s biggest donors, according to OpenSecrets, a Washington nonprofit that tracks campaign finance and lobbying data.

The Biden administration has gone to enormous lengths to make good on his promise to be the “most pro-union president in history.”

He pushed for key legislation that poured billions of dollars into the creation of union jobs in clean energy, semiconductors and other industries. He has appointed labor allies to key leadership positions and offered unions pension bailouts, apprenticeship funds and policies that have made it easier for workers to organize.

Republicans have criticized Biden’s support for organized labor, saying that his pro-union policies have driven up costs for federal taxpayers and led to greater inflation. Conservatives say this alliance may have helped Biden’s stature within the Democratic Party coalition while hurting the country overall.

“Biden understands that all politics, especially in the Democratic Party, is about catering to the powerful interest groups, and none are more powerful than the unions,” said Stephen Moore, an economic adviser to Trump. “Biden has clearly been in the hip pocket of teachers unions and the government employee unions, so they will stick with him through thick or thin.”

Several union officials and analysts downplayed the idea that Harris would be better than Biden at winning over union votes in November.

In 2020, Biden improved Democrats’ performance among blue-collar union voters relative to Hillary Clinton’s presidential bid in 2016. But Democrats overall have made greater strides toward winning over union voters after Trump’s surprising strength among that cohort.

“It’s true Biden has concentrated on making a bigger connection, and at least had an argument he had a connection, with those unions,” said Matt Grossmann, a political scientist at Michigan State University. “But I don’t know if we can say how Harris would do.”

Unions are much more diverse on racial and gender lines than they once were. While the building trades may be Whiter than other unions, Harris might prove more effective at energizing more diverse and younger unions, some analysts say.

“Harris would be as, if not more, effective in key swing states,” said Larry Cohen, a former president of the Communications Workers of America.

“Union leaders and activists I think realize that at worst she would be as effective as turning out the core union vote as Biden, because the alternative is Trump.”

Still, there is no doubt that the unions themselves have proved exceptionally loyal to Biden at his moment of political need.

“President Biden’s record of delivering for working people stands for itself,” David McCall, president of the United Steelworkers, said Tuesday in a written statement. His “transformative infrastructure investments … are creating good, union jobs” and “his worker-centered trade policy … is rebuilding supply chains.”

Harris has “had some support with labor but there’s no doubt she doesn’t have the standing with the unions that Biden does,” said Dean Baker, an economist at the Center for Economic and Policy Research, a left-leaning think tank. “The unions have allies and they stick by them, and Biden has been a solid ally. So I think they’re going to stick by them.”

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