In anticipation of Donald Trump’s address to workers at an auto parts factory Wednesday night — which the former president is using to steal oxygen from the GOP debate — there have been some … questionable takes published on a supposed shift in the Republican Party’s interest in supporting union workers’ rights.
To be sure, Trump won about four in 10 votes from union households in 2020, as he’s attempted to sow division in order to court rank-and-file union members separately from union leadership, which skews overwhelmingly Democratic.
In announcing his plans to address workers at Drake Enterprises in Clinton Township outside of Detroit earlier this month, he repeated a line he’s been using for years: that autoworkers are “being sold down the river by their leadership.”
But Republican antipathy toward labor rights has not shifted, despite what some Republican politicians have been attempting to project in recent days and weeks. Yes, Republicans such as Sens. Josh Hawley (R-MO), J.D. Vance (R-OH) and Rep. John James (R-MI) have been showing up for photo ops with striking workers and making public remarks about the rights of those autoworkers currently on the picket lines. But this is largely a manifestation of political opportunism as Republicans see a window into making inroads with the blue collar workers Trump has been able to rile up since 2016.
There’s also the matter of President Biden’s popularity within the labor community that Republicans are clearly queasy about. Even before he became the first sitting president in modern history to join striking workers on the picket lines this week, Biden has been cast as the most pro-union president for some time now as 800,000 manufacturing jobs have been added nationwide under his administration, on top of the successful passage of his massive $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure law.
Trump is seizing on the debate night counter-programming opportunity to address workers at an auto parts factory not just to grab back attention but to also pivot to the general election and appeal to workers during a big week for Biden. There’s just one problem: The factory, Drake Enterprises, is a nonunion shop.
The Trump campaign made no effort to recruit attendees through U.A.W. locals, according to the union. Nathan Stemple, president of Drake Enterprises, which his grandfather founded in 1952, said he was not involved in inviting attendees.
Hours after appearing with Mr. Biden on a picket line outside a G.M. facility in Belleville, Mich., Shawn Fain, the president of the U.A.W., told CNN: “I find a pathetic irony that the former president is going to hold a rally for union members at a nonunion business.”
Mr. Fain denounced Mr. Trump’s lack of support during a strike against G.M. in 2019 when he was in office and said he had no plans to meet with the former president during his visit.
The Best Of TPM Today
Here’s what you should read this evening:
Follow our live coverage of the debate tonight here: Republican Also-Rans Gear Up For Second Debate
New from Hunter Walker: Joe Kent Is The Most Extreme House Candidate You Haven’t Heard About