The Teamsters union executive board made big headlines with its unanimous decision this week to withhold a presidential endorsement at this time.
According to Fox News’ James Rosen, the move was intended as a snub to Hillary Clinton, who came out against construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, the construction of which the union supports.
But it was also to see if Vice President Joe Biden might enter the race on the Democrat side, and so that the union could meet with Republican presidential candidates, most notably Donald Trump, who has staked out some key positions the union supports.
Besides supporting the construction of Keystone, Trump was among Republicans who came out against granting trade promotion authority to Barack Obama to negotiate the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
In a radio advertisement against the trade deal sponsored by Americans for Limited Government that ran in New Hampshire and South Carolina in May, Trump said, “I learned a long time ago, a bad deal is far worse than no deal at all, and the Obama Trans-Pacific Partnership is a bad, bad deal — for American businesses, for workers, for taxpayers.”
Yet some Washington, D.C. insiders privately worry that there might be more to the Trump-Teamster meeting than simply Keystone and fast track. That, the union might want to put its endorsement on the table — in exchange for Trump coming out against state right to work laws.
Those laws, in effect in 25 states, protect the right of employees to work without being compelled to financially support a labor union. They were made possible by the Taft-Hartley Act of 1947, which rolled back some Depression-era labor laws, then allowing states to decide for themselves if workers would have a choice to financially support a labor union or not.
Admittedly, such worries about Trump at this stage are pure speculation. Yet, we are certain labor unions such as the Teamsters would love it if every presidential contender were to come out against Taft-Hartley, so let us examine its implications, even if the possibility is in fact outlandish.
Currently right to work laws are in effect in Alabama (1953), Arizona (1946), Arkansas (1947), Florida (1968), Georgia (1947), Idaho (1985), Indiana (2012), Iowa (1947), Kansas (1958), Louisiana (1976), Michigan (2012), Mississippi (1954), Nebraska (1946), Nevada (1951), North Carolina (1947), North Dakota (1947), Oklahoma (2001), South Carolina (1954), South Dakota (1946), Tennessee (1947), Texas (1947), Utah (1955), Virginia (1947), Wisconsin (2015), and Wyoming (1963).
Most of those are Republican strongholds, and two of them, early-voting Iowa and South Carolina, could be key to any candidate becoming the party’s nominee.
The other early state, New Hampshire, passed a right to work law in its state legislature in 2011 that nearly became law but could not overcome then-Democrat Governor John Lynch’s veto.
It is fair to say, then, that among Republican voters in some of the most important early contests, the right to choose whether or not to join a union is a huge issue. And telling half the country that they are wrong — that is, the half he needs to win the nomination and prevail in the general election — and promising to repeal those laws that have been on the books for more than 60 years could be fatal to Trump’s chances.
Would Trump trade the endorsement of the Teamsters for a promise to repeal Taft-Hartley? If he did, it might cost him the nomination.
And that would be, in Trump’s own words, a bad, bad deal.
This is a guest post by Robert Romano senior editor of Americans for Limited Government.