In his first 100 hours in office, President Donald Trump appears to have accomplished more for union households and working Americans than former President Barack Obama did in 8 years.
And in the process, he may be shaking up the electoral map in ways that could reshape American politics for decades to come.
With Trump’s rapid actions to withdraw the U.S. from the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade pact, meet with senior private sector labor leaders in the Oval Office and to approve the building Keystone XL and Dakota Access oil pipelines — requiring that they built with American steel — the President is signaling strongly to blue collar Americans that he’s their guy.
Still on the horizon are the President’s still to be revealed plans on infrastructure building, something not normally considered a Republican issue, yet it was certainly one on which Trump campaigned heavily.
It was Trump’s working class appeal over vigorous opposition of organized labor leaders that led to his Rust Belt sweep of Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin and Ohio. Those combined 64 Electoral College votes provided more than his margin of victory.
Trump broke down the Democrats’ seemingly unbreakable Blue Wall by attracting a diverse coalition of conservative and blue collar households.
Now, Trump appears to be building on that victory with policies designed to appeal to those constituencies, earning him plaudits from union leaders that virulently opposed Trump in 2016.
For example, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters has given almost exclusively to Democrats running for public office, and 2016 was no different.
But upon Trump approving the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines overriding the previous Administration’s obstruction, Teamsters General President Jim Hoffa issued a statement praising Trump: “The construction of the K[eystone] XL and Dakota pipelines will help put thousands of Americans, including Teamster members, to work. We are pleased with this decision to move forward on these long overdue projects that will support working families and increase our energy security.”
After his meeting with labor leaders on Jan. 23, including Laborers’ International Union of North America President Terry O’Sullivan, SMART sheet metal workers’ union President Joseph Sellers, United Brotherhood of Carpenters President Doug McCarron and United Association President Mark McManus, Trump earned more plaudits.
“It hit home for the people who have been hurting,” declared the Carpenters’ McCarron.
North America’s Building Trades Unions President Sean McGarvey told reporters was his impression “that the American citizenry and the American Treasury will be invested in building public infrastructure” as Trump touted his plans for public-private partnerships for construction.
Trump also issued an executive order aimed at cutting costs and red tape in federal construction projects by reducing environmental regulatory burdens, giving taxpayers more bang for their bucks and resulting in more jobs because of lower costs. That order stated, “it is the policy of the executive branch to streamline and expedite, in a manner consistent with law, environmental reviews and approvals for all infrastructure projects, especially projects that are a high priority for the Nation, such as improving the U.S. electric grid and telecommunications systems and repairing and upgrading critical port facilities, airports, pipelines, bridges, and highways.”
Again, these are not issues one would normally expect from a Republican president, still, it is easy to see both the political and economic rationale for these policies.
Take the play on mandatory American steel to build the pipelines. To make American steel will mean it will have to be fired by American coal taken out of the ground by American miners. Now, the pipelines might be built at lower cost if foreign materials and labor were used, but Trump is expressly rejecting that, so all of the economic impacts will occur inside the U.S., creating more jobs and fewer Americans underemployed and dependent on government.
Politically, conservatives are getting what they want with the pipelines being built while blue collar union workers and unions will see an immediate impact with increased U.S. production of steel and the jobs created on the projects.
Americans for Limited Government President Rick Manning noted the benefits of the arrangement, stating, “Although it does not fit neatly in the traditional limited government view, these policies may be just the political tradeoff that is needed to fully realize the economic potential of these energy pipelines. In a world of give and take, creating North American energy independence is critical to restoring our nation’s economic vibrancy.”
Manning concluded, “It is Trump’s unique ability to bring groups as diverse as Americans for Limited Government and big labor in support of his initiatives. Politically, Trump is simply catering to the base that got him elected through marrying expedited approvals with demands that they benefit U.S. workers. It should not shock anyone that a President who prides himself as a deal maker would engage in a political balancing act that pulls together the diverse coalition which elected him.”