President Donald Trump criticized former Vice President Joe Biden and union leaders on April 29 ahead of Biden’s debut presidential campaign speech in front of union members in Pittsburgh.
“Sleepy Joe Biden is having his first rally in the Great State of Pennsylvania. He obviously doesn’t know that Pennsylvania is having one of the best economic years in its history, with lowest unemployment EVER, a now thriving Steel Industry (that was dead) & great future!” Trump wrote on Twitter.
Biden announced his bid for the presidency on April 25, entering a crowded field of 20 Democratic contenders. Before announcing his bid, Biden held a comfortable lead over the rest of the Democratic field in an average of polls maintained by Real Clear Politics.
Biden, who is counting on the support of organized labor, was scheduled to address the International Brotherhood of Teamsters in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
While Democrats see organized labor as a reliable source of support in elections, several moves by the Obama-Biden administration angered union leaders ahead of the 2016 election. Labor unions opposed the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) backed by Obama and Biden. Trump promised to end the TPP on the campaign trail and followed through once he took office.
Biden and NAFTA
Unions also view the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) as detrimental to the interests of unionized workers. Biden supported NAFTA as the senator from Delaware. Trump promised to scrap or improve NAFTA and followed through by replacing the deal with the United States Mexico and Canada Agreement, which still has to be ratified by Congress.
In the same string of messages, the president took a shot at the leadership of the International Association of Firefighters (IAFF), which endorsed Biden’s candidacy earlier in the day.
“The Dues Sucking firefighters leadership will always support Democrats, even though the membership wants me. Some things never change!” Trump wrote.
IAFF represents some 300,000 members. A union endorsement is a signal to members, but not all members vote for a candidate endorsed by the union.
“I’ll never get the support of Dues Crazy union leadership, those people who rip off their membership with ridiculously high dues, medical and other expenses while being paid a fortune,” the president wrote in another message. “But the members love Trump. They look at our record economy, tax & reg cuts, military etc. WIN!”
Biden’s closest runner-up in opinion polls is Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), a socialist. Sanders has railed against free-trade agreements, showed surprising strength among rank-and-file union members during his 2016 presidential primary challenge to Hillary Clinton even though she received the formal endorsement of most national unions.
Biden will also have to reckon with a hard-left turn within the Democratic Party. Socialist policy proposals by Sanders, which had little-to-no support several years ago are now virtually endorsed by every leading 2020 contender. The socialist “Medicare for All” bill by Sanders had no co-sponsors six years ago but is now embraced by two-thirds of the Democrats in the House and one-third of the Democrats in the Senate.
Trump received the support of two unions ahead of the 2016 election: the Fraternal Order of Police and the National Border Patrol Council.
Reuters contributed to this report.