Democrats don’t like to talk about it, but it’s become obvious that more and more union members aren’t voting the way of organized labor these days.
Big labor, a Michigan Democratic Party cornerstone since about the 1930s, is still there at the leadership level. But members? Not as much.
State Rep. Dave Martin, R-Davison, told me that during his campaign in rural Genesee County last fall, he had several lifelong Democrats tell him on their doorstep that “I’m not leaving the party. The party has left me.”
Martin unseated a Democrat in a bit of an Election Day surprise. Up I-75 in Bay City, now-state Rep. Timmy Beson did the same thing.
Where is this coming from?
Teamsters President James Hoffa conceded on WKAR’s “Off The Record” that as many as 50% of his members are Republicans, led astray, in his opinion by the “wedge issues” exploited by former President Donald Trump.
Guns. Abortion. Illegal immigration. Personal property rights. Defunding police. This is their focus in 2021, not pocketbook issues.
But once you’re retired or knocking on retirement’s door, the pocketbook issues are settled ... as long as the pension checks are rolling in as promised.
Meanwhile, the national conversation in Democratic circles is around gun control as being the answer to stopping mass shootings. For your average 60-something GM retiree with 10 acres in Iosco County, that dog doesn’t hunt. That sounds an awful lot like “we’re coming to take your guns away” to him.
The historic union v. management grudge matches of the ‘50s aren’t as pronounced, either. Manufacturers and unions have learned their relationship in the 21st Century is more symbiotic than adversarial.
Unions realize their members can’t get paid if the company isn’t doing well. Companies realize you keep good employee by treating them well. Nobody wins when there are no jobs.
Which leads me to a couple more issues where the “big tent” Democrats have problems — Line 5 and expanded rooftop solar.
Environmentalists want an end to fossil fuels. Now! If not sooner. Line 5 is symbolic of the old-school philosophy that burning stuff pulled out of the earth is how energy is made. Burying Enbridge’s pipeline underneath the Straits of Mackinac isn’t the answer because fossil fuel isn’t the answer.
Meanwhile, the trades unions are waving their arms. People need the propane and light crude rolling through that pipeline for manufacturing other stuff, not to mention keeping homes warm. If Enbridge wants to spend $1 billion to dig a utility tunned under five miles of lakebed, there’s a bunch of union members signing up for that paycheck.
With rooftop solar, environmentalists are arguing the more the better. The Utility Workers Union of America agree with DTE and Consumers that until rooftop solar panel people pay their fair share to keep up the electrical grid, they’re not happy.
Once again, your traditional Democrat is conflicted. Do you stand with your union brothers and sisters or the environment?
And those who are siding with the workers on these types of issues are supporting Republicans more and more.
In 2012, U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee, D-Flint Twp., blew out former state Rep. Jim Slezak 65% to 31%. That’s a 2:1, 34-point blowout. In 2020, Kildee beat former state Rep. Tim Kelly 54% to 41%. That’s a 13-point win. Nothing notably has changed with Kildee in these eight years. It’s the people in the district that have changed.
The National Republican Campaign Committee announced this week that Kildee, for the first time ever, has been put on its watch list for the 2022 election. We have no idea what Kildee’s district is going to look like, but this should make Democrats at least a little uneasy for more reasons than one.
The union vote, a cornerstone upon which they’ve rested their party for nearly 100 years is shifting.
(Kyle Melinn of the Capitol newsletter MIRS is at firstname.lastname@example.org.)