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Why is union support so important in politics?

Experts say there are two big reasons why union support is important to a political campaign: It's about money, and the unions' organizing power.
Why is union support so important in politics?
Posted at 4:03 PM, Mar 01, 2024

Across the country, over 14 million workers are members of unions, and that voting bloc is one politicians want to please. In Michigan, support from unions can make or break a presidential campaign, and that could be true again in 2024.

In January, President Joe Biden got a powerful endorsement from the United Auto Workers, a union representing 400,000 people around the country.

LaShawn English is the director for Region 1 of the UAW, and she said President Biden's support during their recent strike was critical.

"We just came out of a strike. So 70% of Americans supported our strike, and we had a president who came out and supported our strike. So his actions pretty much swayed us in the way we needed to support someone because we wouldn't have won the things that we have," said English.

English and her members have met with President Biden and had the opportunity to talk with him, and she said those interactions only solidified her support for the president. She has said she would "run through a wall" for him, and that there is nothing he could do that would change her support for the president.

Part of what makes unions politically powerful is where they're located. Of the top 15 states with employees represented by a union, three are expected to be major battlegrounds in November: Nevada, Pennsylvania and Michigan.

Experts say there are two big reasons why union support is important to a political campaign: it's about money, and the unions' organizing power.

English said the UAW plans to turn their endorsement of President Biden into action. "We will be actively doing whatever we can to get this man elected, to getting our president elected. And that includes rallies, that includes phone banks, that includes door-knocking, billboards, whatever it's going to take," she said.

Marick Masters is a professor of business at Wayne State University, and he said, "You have to have the endorsement in order to get money from the union itself. So the former, the endorsement, is a condition to getting the latter."

Even though industrial unions aren't the largest unions in the U.S., the work environment of industrial jobs gives their employees a greater sense of connection. The largest union is the National Education Association.

"The workplace is a place that people do coalesce. Unions tend to be not just workplace environments, but they tend to be broader communities. So they're good at rallying their troops," said Paul Frymer, a professor of politics at Princeton University.

But an endorsement from the union leaders doesn't mean all the rank-and-file members agree.

"There are a lot of UAW members who are not thrilled about electrical vehicles and the transition to electrical vehicles. And they worry about their jobs. And they are also supportive of Trump because of the way he handled relations with China and trade," Masters explained.

Michigan is on track to be one of just a handful of battleground states in 2024, making support from unions in that state even more important.

SEE MORE: UAW endorses Biden as field narrows in 2024 race for the White House


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