Government

Labor Leaders Respond to Biden’s Push for Clinton

LORDSTOWN, Ohio – Officers in labor unions at Vice President Joe Biden’s campaign appearance for Hillary Clinton said Thursday they’re ready to do their part to elect her president.

A crowd of about 250 heard Biden speak at the United Auto Workers Local 1714 Hall, according to Tim O’Hara, Local 1112 vice president. That included UAW members as well as representatives of the United Food and Commercial Workers, the American Federation of Teachers and other unions.

The hall was a little over half full.

Besides calling on the rank and file to back Clinton, Biden, who campaigned in the Mahoning Valley nearly four years ago to the day in support of his and Barack Obama’s reelection, forcefully pressed the case against the Republican nominee, Donald Trump. (READ STORY)

“Do you actually think Donald Trump cares about raising the average wages of working people,” the vice president said.

“This election is about who we are as a people. It’s about the stuff we’re made of. It’s about our values. And for all the criticism of Hillary Clinton, she gets it. She gets it,” Biden said.

So does Lori Fisher, benefits representative with Local 1714, who’s actively campaigning for Clinton. “It’s important to support [Clinton] because she represents working class America. She supports the middle class,” she said following Biden’s speech. “History shows that without a good, healthy middle class, the economy doesn’t grow and we don’t prosper as much.”

Organized labor’s efforts on behalf of the Democratic nominee include phone banks and literature drops, Fisher reported.

“We’ve already started our phone banking,” said Sherry Gaunt, Local 1714 vice president. “It’s going to be two days a week in September and go to four to five days every week until Election Day.” Members also will canvass and go to other unions as well.

Biden, she believes, was “right on target” particularly when he addressed the younger people at the event about the role unions played in building the middle class and the efforts of the vice president, Obama and other Democrats to save the domestic auto industry.

Biden’s comments regarding the auto industry and the administration’s role in saving it also pleased Patty Tsagaris of Warren, a retired teacher and Clinton supporter. “And I thought he had some good things to say about how we’re viewed around the world and how important this election is,” she said.

Tsagaris, who wore a shirt with the slogan, “Madam President — Get Used to It”, says she has volunteered at the Clinton campaign’s Warren office, made calls and canvassed on Clinton’s behalf.

“Grassroots is the way you get to the people. No job is too small and I’m willing to do it,” she said. ”I’ve stood on street corners holding up signs for her and I will continue to do it until we have Hillary as president.”

Tsagaris says her husband has coffee every morning with several retired union members who support Trump.

“They don’t really tell you why they like Trump,” she said. “They just say they like him and they’re voting for him.”

If she could, she would like to tell them that if Obama hadn’t “bailed out the auto industry” they might not be receiving checks now.

“It’s important for us to support the people that support us,” said Rob Nichols of Cortland, on Local 1714’s health and safety committee. “The Democrats were a big part of saving General Motors. If it wasn’t for their push, we would not be employed today and General Motors may not be a company, or certainly not the company it is today.”

“A lot of [Trump supporters] feel like it’s been business as usual and they’re just really frustrated because of the crunch on the middle class,” said Lonnie Stacy of Akron, an organizer with UFCW Local 880, which encompasses the Cleveland, Youngstown and Akron markets. “It’s our job as union people to educate our neighbors and union members as to who actually represents them once they get into office.”

Bill Padisak, president of Mahoning-Trumbull AFL-CIO Labor Council, said Biden’s message about the auto rescue resonated with the audience. Had the General Motors Lordstown Complex closed, “It’s clear Donald Trump would not have helped us in this situation.”

Many union members in the Mahoning Valley voted for Trump because they didn’t like Gov. John Kasich, Padisak said.

Kasich earned organized labor’s ire when, shortly after taking office in 2011, he signed legislation that severely curtailed collective bargaining rights for state and local public employees. Voters overturned Senate Bill 5 later that year in a state referendum.

Padisak is confident those union voters who crossed over to the GOP are returning to the fold. “Our members don’t like to be told how to vote. They like to be informed,” he said. “Once we educate them and inform them, they will vote for the candidate that serves their own interest and in this Valley that is not Donald Trump. It’s Hillary Clinton.”

Trump carried Trumbull and Mahoning counties in the primary and is expected to significantly reduce Clinton’s vote here come Nov. 8.

“Most of the people that are concerned about Hillary are worried about their gun rights,” said Todd Kinderdine of Boardman, an industrial technologist and ergonomics technician with Local 1714.

Trump’s appeal is also derived from his willingness to “shoot from the hip” and ability to “get away with saying things the average person doesn’t,” Local 1714’s Fisher remarked.

“People are frustrated with politics and people are frustrated with the state of the country and where we’re heading,” she continued.

Following the Lordstown rally, Biden made an unscheduled stop the Canfield Fair followed by a visit to a neighborhood on Youngstown’s south side.

At the fairgrounds, where he spent nearly an hour, Biden greeted fairgoers and grabbed lunch at a food booth. He ate under an Antone’s tent with Mahoning County Democratic Party Chairman David Betras and former Gov. Ted Strickland, who is running against U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, a Republican.

“I wish they weren’t making me leave,” Biden said as he entered a Cadillac preparing to depart.

Biden’s motorcade then headed to Youngstown’s south side for a pair of stops.

At the first, where he spent about 10 minutes, he spoke with a pair of homeowners on Glenaven Avenue, a neighborhood with a mix of improved and decaying houses.

He then spent a little more than a half-hour touring Lanterman Avenue between Rogers Road and Billingsgate Avenue in the Idora Neighborhood. The Youngstown Neighborhood Development Corp. is contributing to efforts to revitalize that neighborhood and others.

Biden was accompanied by former Mayor Jay Williams, now director of the U.S. Economic Development Agency, and Ian Beniston, YNDC executive director.

Pictured: United Auto Workers Local 1714’s union hall was half-filled for Biden’s speech.

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Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.