Stevenson: What the Labor Movement Can Learn From Clinton’s Defeat

Labor News

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton steps down a staircase after making a concession speech following her defeat to Republican President-elect Donald Trump, in New York on November 9, 2016. JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images

Reprinted from Rewire by Carli Stevenson on December 22, 2016.

“Of the many surprises coming out of last month’s election, one has loomed particularly large for the labor movement: the fact that according to CNN exit polling, 42 percent of union households—defined as households in which at least one member belongs to a union—went for Donald Trump,” writes Carli Stevenson in Rewire. “In must-win Ohio, Clinton lost among union households by nine points. Call it the revenge of the Reagan Democrats, since 1984 was the last year union households went for a Republican presidential candidate in such high numbers. Adding insult to injury, unions around the country spent more than $108 million on Clinton contributions, a 38 percent jump from 2012. They spent more money this cycle than any other and got the worst return on their investment.

“As the dust settles, unions are searching for answers. I would submit when it comes to the labor vote, unions need to take a hard look at their own internal processes. If the labor movement wants to avoid wasting so much time and money again, unions need to completely shift their political programs. These changes should include reforming the endorsement process so rank-and-file members, not just union leadership, get a vote on whether and whom to endorse; providing numerous opportunities for members to discuss elections and campaigns with their union leaders, as well as to hear from and be heard by candidates; and restructuring union political departments so staffers are closer to the people they serve. …

Rewire 12/22

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Jeff Burman represents assistant editors on the Guild’s Board of Directors. He can be reached at

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