PHILADELPHIA, Colo. (CBS4) – Donald Trump has made opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal a centerpiece of his campaign. That emphasis has resonated with blue collar workers. The Republican presidential nominee counting on them to help offset his lack of support with traditional swing voters — women, Hispanics and millenials — especially in swing state Colorado.
From the AFL-CIO to the NEA and UAW, the presence of organized labor at the Democratic National Convention is pervasive this week.
“For working families, the 2016 election is the most consequential of our lifetime,” said Luisa Blue, a member of the SEIU Local 521.
Blue spoke to Colorado’s delegation at the convention this week, saying the union has the backs of Democrats.
In addition to being anti-trade, Trump’s aggressive play for support from union membership also includes anti-immigration stances. The effort is working to some degree in Rust Belt states, and it could help him in Colorado, too.
“Well, Donald could make a play for it, but it will fall on deaf ears,” said state Rep. Crisanta Duran, a Colorado Democratic delegate.
Duran knows the voters Trump is courting intimately. She’s the daughter of a union president and she said her grandfather “worked in the CF&I steel mill in Pueblo for 33 years.”
Duran said Trump’s anti-trade rhetoric doesn’t square with his own business practice of shipping jobs out of the country. She says Colorado’s blue collar voters are onto him.
“Who is going to strengthen the middle class in Colorado? It’s not going to be Donald Trump. It’s going to be Hillary Clinton,” Duran said.
SEIU Local 105 member Wendy Howell, a union organizer, told CBS4 an army of volunteers across the state have been deployed to keep Trump from making inroads.
“The unions of America are united in saying ‘Hell no,'” Howell said. “I could not think of a single steward in all of SEIU Local 105 that thinks that Trump is not dangerous.”
Polls tell a different story, however. Trump is connecting with displaced workers who feel they don’t have a voice. Tim Kaine, Clinton’s pick for her running mate, will be hard pressed to be that voice. He supported the trade deal those workers blame for killing jobs.
“Whether that’s trade deals abroad or whether it’s increasing minimum wage or making sure people have a place to live, if Tim Kaine can’t talk about those things in ways that really relate to the average citizen, then the Democratic party’s in trouble,” said state Rep. Jonathan Singer of Longmont, also a Colorado Democratic delegate, before Kaine’s speech as the DNC Wednesday night.
While Kaine’s center-left record on economic issues may turn off some working class voters, his social justice record should appeal to them.
CBS4 Democratic analyst Penfield Tate said that while Trump is connecting with some blue collar workers now, his record will eventually catch up with him.
“Unions will begin to look at his track record and his companies with union workers and look at his track record with employees in general and look at his track record in terms of all of the lawsuits and the bankruptcies and the impact it’s had on workers in general and begin to realize that despite the rhetoric in the context of a presidential campaign, his track record is decidedly different,” Tate said.