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Biden Bromancing the Teamsters

But Trump is collecting some union endorsements, too.

by | Mar 13, 2024 | Articles, Opinion, Politics

Election 2024 is proving no candidate is a sure bet – not Joe Biden and not Donald Trump. For those political ideologues who may argue the point, consider this: The 1.3 million members of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters haven’t chosen a side yet. Both presidential candidates have courted the Teamsters – Trump started the volley, and Biden swung back on Tuesday, March 12, with an intimate roundtable at a union headquarters meeting in the Swamp.

On deck with the union leaders were rank-and-file members who ride the struggle bus in a failing economy. According to a statement released by the Teamsters, “UPS drivers, American Red Cross technicians, film and television workers, freight operators, law enforcement, and public employees” would have a say in the meeting. The organization is also polling members and holding townhalls across the country before backing a presidential nominee.

Teamsters President Sean O’Brien said after an earlier Trump encounter, “We’ve got a long way to go before we make a decision” about the better choice for members and their families.

We’ve Always Done It Like That

The Teamsters normally endorse Democrats – from dog catcher to president – and rarely acknowledge other candidates exist. Exit polling traditionally shows the Democratic candidate winning 55-60% of the vote from union households.

The powerful group has broken rank only twice in a couple of decades when union leadership voted to contribute to the nominating process of Republicans, as well as Democrats. The GOP received funds in 2000, when George W. Bush was on the ticket, and that was the last time Teamsters donated to the party’s national convention fund – until Feb. 2024, when it delivered $45,000 to the RNC’s campaign coffers. DRIVE – Democrat, Republican, Independent Voter Education – is the Teamsters’ political action committee of record.

(Photo by Michael Swensen/Getty Images)

Biden has secured powerful union support from the United Auto Workers (UAW). He became the first president to walk a picket line during its strike last fall, and the UAW paid the honor back with an endorsement of four more years for 46. Trump will not necessarily win the union vote, but chipping away a good margin could help put him over the top in swing states like Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan. In 2020, the former president, a huge supporter of first responders, secured the Philadelphia Firefighters’ and Paramedics’ Union. Moving toward 2024, the International Union of Police Associations has already committed to number 45’s quest.

Trump reached out to UAW members late last year. But immediately after, President Shawn Fain endorsed Biden, calling Trump a “scab,” a slur that refers to a worker who crosses a picket line. Fain stated, “This November, we can stand up and elect someone who stands with us and supports our cause, or we can elect someone who will divide us and fight us every step of the way.”

It is a sentiment that others describe as well. The AFL-CIO, the American Federation of Teachers, and the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees are on board early for the current president. But other union folks are hedging bets.

Is Biden Being Ghosted?

National unions – representing more than two million truck drivers, firefighters, postal workers, and others – have yet to declare their chosen one. “We just didn’t see a particular benefit for early endorsements or jumping in until we address some unfinished business with this current administration,” stated American Postal Workers Union President Mark Dimondstein.

O’Brien also admitted a lot of support for Trump among his Teamsters. “There’s no doubt about (it) there is union support for President Trump. And there’s always union support for President Biden,” O’Brien cautioned. “What you’ve done in the past doesn’t guarantee your future with us. We want to know what you’re going to do for our members moving forward.”

And, at this point, it’s anyone’s guess on who the rest of the union guys and gals will anoint. President Ronald Reagan was awarded the nod back in 1980 – and then he turned around and laid off air traffic controllers. But giving credit where due, O’Brien and his Teamsters have sat down with all candidates, including Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who is flirting with a third-party run. A lot of Americans and their union reps may have to wait until the national conventions are in the books before they know their man. Until then, this endorsement could be a bigger mystery than the disappearance of Jimmy Hoffa.

Read More From Sarah Cowgill

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