Donald Trump rallied his supporters in Manheim, Pennsylvania, Saturday night with a call for union members to show their support. To the Republican presidential nominee’s surprise, his appeal was answered with silence.
“The AFL-CIO: How many members here are in the AFL-CIO?” Trump called out to the crowd. “Many?”
After an awkward pause, the billionaire “populist” responded to the non-response.
“All right, not too many,” observed a befuddled Trump. “Where are you?”
The American Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial Organizations had an explanation. The labor federation’s Twitter feed announced on Sunday morning: “Trump wonders where the union members are at his rally. Answer: with @hillaryclinton.”
The AFL-CIO and most major unions have endorsed Clinton, and there are plenty of union members who are enthusiastically on board with her candidacy. Others are less enthusiastic about the Democratic nominee, but they recognize that they cannot, as working men and women, as union members, back the most virulently anti-worker and anti-union ticket the Republican party has ever nominated.
At campaign stops in swing states such as Pennsylvania, Trump tries to portray himself as a champion of workers—promising that “we are going to protect our miners, we are going to protect our steelworkers, we are going to protect our factories and our manufacturing.” He even talks up Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders as a candidate who “was right” about trade policy in general and the Trans-Pacific Partnership in particular.
Yet Trump was a no-show in the trade debates of the past. He does not embrace Sanders’s structural critique of “race-to-the-bottom” free-trade policies that harm workers and communities; rather, he simply claims that he would negotiate better deals. His running-mate, Indiana Governor Mike Pence, has been a leading advocate for free trade and the TPP. The same goes for Trump’s most prominent supporter and chief enabler, House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin.
When he gets off the trade issue, Trump has a record that should, indeed, scare working men and women away from his rallies. Last year, the billionaire declared that: “Having a low minimum wage is not a bad thing for this country… We can’t have a situation where our labor is so much more expensive than other countries’ that we can no longer win.” He also complained in a GOP debate: “Taxes too high, wages too high, we’re not going to be able to compete against the world.”