Former President Donald Trump held a meeting with leaders of the Teamsters Union in Washington on Wednesday, aiming to diminish President Joe Biden’s support from organized labor as they anticipate a potential general election rematch.
Participating in a roundtable discussion with the union’s executive board, president, and members, Trump sought to garner support from blue-collar workers, a crucial demographic that contributed to his 2016 victory and is expected to play a significant role in the upcoming election, especially in key Midwestern swing states like Wisconsin and Michigan.
After the meeting, Trump spoke to reporters, characterizing it as “a very productive meeting.” Despite the union’s historical support for Democrats, Trump expressed openness to a possible endorsement, noting, “Stranger things have happened.” He highlighted his unique relationship with the Teamsters, having employed thousands of their members in the past.
Union members typically lean Democratic, with 56% supporting Biden in 2020. Biden has already received substantial backing from organized labor, including early endorsements from the AFL-CIO. Trump aims to undermine this support by positioning himself as a pro-worker and exploiting divisions between union leaders and some rank-and-file members.
Before the meeting, Trump urged members of the United Auto Workers to replace their president, Shawn Fain, after the group endorsed Biden. Trump’s aides considered the meeting itself a victory, as it marked the first time the union engaged in roundtable discussions with candidates from both parties.
Teamsters president Sean O’Brien described the conversation with Trump as “pleasant” and “direct” but emphasized that the union is far from making a decision. He acknowledged Trump’s support among union members but underscored the importance of knowing candidates’ plans for the future.
While Biden has portrayed himself as the most labor-friendly president in history, the Teamsters, with a diverse membership, are demanding candidates to outline their positions to secure their endorsement.
The meeting with Trump followed a private discussion between O’Brien and the former president at Mar-a-Lago earlier this month. O’Brien stated that Trump claimed 100% support for unions, but the union president pointed out past issues they had with him.
Trump’s presidency saw changes in labor policies, including reversals by the National Labor Relations Board and decisions by the Supreme Court’s conservative majority, impacting union dynamics. Despite the Teamsters endorsing Biden in 2020, O’Brien stressed the union’s diverse membership and the need for candidates to demonstrate support for rank-and-file workers.
Overall union membership rates fell in 2023, but major unions, including the Teamsters, maintain substantial get-out-the-vote efforts. Biden is relying on these efforts to mobilize support in crucial swing states.
While Trump actively seeks union support, it remains to be seen how other candidates, such as Nikki Haley, will engage with the Teamsters. O’Brien noted that they hadn’t received a response from Haley, citing her past anti-union comments.