Parade of Dems warn UAW of perils of continuing Republican rule
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi | AP

WASHINGTON – A parade of prominent Democrats have warned delegates to the Auto Workers Legislative/Political Conference of the perils of continuing Republican rule in Washington. Led by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., they challenged the unionists to undertake an all-out effort from now through November to wrest the White House and the Senate from anti-worker forces, while keeping the Democratic-run House in pro-worker hands.

And it wasn’t just economics that imperils workers, they warned during the conference, in the first week of February. Speaking in the midst of the Senate impeachment trial of GOP President Donald Trump, the Democrats said their foes – and Trump in particular – are a threat to U.S. values and constitutional norms, too.

That was the same argument House-named impeachment managers made to the Senate. But only one Republican, Utah Sen. Mitt Romney, agreed.

Romney joined all 45 Senate Democrats and both Democratic-leaning independents in voting for the impeachment article charging Trump with abuse of power. The other 52 Republicans voted “no,” and the article died. All 53 defeated the other impeachment article, which detailed how Trump successfully obstructed legitimate congressional investigations.

Pelosi’s remarks were important, as the UAW is known for past political savvy and activism, particularly in the key swing state of Michigan, its headquarters. But in an indication of the threat she cited, its former GOP governor and then-GOP legislature successfully enacted anti-union so-called “right to work” laws there.

Pelosi drew an analogy of peril between the current times featuring Trump and the U.S. Revolutionary War.

“With the impeachment of a lawless president who has dishonored the Constitution — and the Senate’s failure to act upon it — Americans face another critical juncture in the country’s future,” she said.

“There’s nothing that compares to this,” Pelosi said. Quoting Revolutionary author Tom Paine, she added: “We face the times that have found us.” Her solution: Ousting Trump from the White House and electing a Democratic Senate majority.

The GOP holds 53 of 100 Senate seats, but must defend 22 of the 35 on this fall’s ballots. That means “the times have found each and every one of you,” Pelosi explained.

In the meantime, she said, the House Democrats are passing a raft of pro-worker bills, led by the Protect The Right To Organize (Pro) Act, the most worker-friendly labor law in decades. The House OKd the Pro Act on a virtual party-line vote –almost all Democrats for, almost all GOPers against – on Feb. 6. “By passing the Pro Act, we will hold employers responsible for violating workers’ rights,” Pelosi said (see separate Pro Act stories).

But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., will deep-six the Pro Act, just as he’s pigeonholed 400 other pro-people pro-worker measures. He won’t even allow hearings.

The Speaker wasn’t the only prominent Dem to address the delegates. Sen. Sherrod Brown and Rep. Tim Ryan, both D-Ohio, preceded her to the podium in a D.C. hotel. So did Reps. Conor Lamb, D-Pa., and first-termer Abby Finkenauer, D-Iowa, one of the many successful Democratic female candidates in 2018 who flipped 43 GOP-held House seats and returned the chamber’s gavel and control to Pelosi.

Facing a Republican who could fund his own campaign, Finkenauer turned to UAW and other unions, and she publicly thanked them for their support.

Ryan reminded the crowd Trump promised in 2016 that GM’s iconic Lordstown factory, in Ryan’s district, would stay open. But just after Trump pushed legislation implementing the new U.S.-Mexico-Canada “free trade” pact through the House last year, GM shut Lordstown, moving its jobs to Mexico.

Dave Green, president of UAW Local 1112 at Lordstown –- who now must commute to Indiana to work — was Brown’s guest for Trump’s Feb. 4 State of the Union address. Then, Green too said Trump broke that promise and others the GOPer made to blue-collar factory workers, including UAW members (see union reaction story).

“Trump is trying to portray himself as a friend of workers. Are you freaking kidding me?” Ryan asked. And Trump’s USMCA lacked strong and enforceable worker protections, he noted, until Brown and House Democrats forced them on Trump. The president’s trade rep had to re-re-negotiate the legislation implementing the trade pact.

Not only that, but Trump’s tax cut for the rich blew a $2.3 billion deficit hole in the U.S. budget, Ryan said. He then reminded the crowd of Trump’s statement last month that he wants to close that gap by cutting Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid at the end of 2020.

“UAW members need to remind everyone of the countless lies President Trump has made to the American people, particularly workers. This is our moment in time. We cannot back down. We have got to win this election. We have got to win the U.S. Senate so we can send Mitch McConnell back to Kentucky,” Ryan said. McConnell seeks re-election this fall.

Brown said Senate Republicans privately tell him Trump is a liar and a racist, but they’re afraid to cross him politically. Though Brown did not say so, several GOP senators who did – notably Arizona’s Floyd Flake and Tennessee’s Bob Corker – were forced into retirement before a flood of Trumpite votes would have beaten them in 2018 GOP party primaries.

“The fear I see in the eyes of so many Republican senators – they just can’t stand up to him,” Brown said. He told the UAW delegates that individual one-on-one contact with voters about Trump, the GOP and their record is the key to winning in November. As for Trump, “He’s betrayed the people you fight for every day.”


CONTRIBUTOR

Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of Press Associates Inc. (PAI), a union news service in Washington, D.C. that he has headed since 1999. Previously, he worked as Washington correspondent for the Ottaway News Service, as Port Jervis bureau chief for the Middletown, NY Times Herald Record, and as a researcher and writer for Congressional Quarterly. Mark obtained his BA in public policy from the University of Chicago and worked as the University of Chicago correspondent for the Chicago Daily News.

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