The Democratic National Convention focused heavily on working families from its first night, when six prominent labor leaders addressed the crowd, to its last.
In her speech accepting the party’s nomination, Hillary Clinton promised, “My primary mission as president will be to create more opportunity and more good jobs with rising wages right here in the United States, from my first day in office to my last.”
She said that, despite 15 million new jobs created under President Barack Obama since the economic recovery began, the economy is still not working the way it should. Clinton spoke of the hardest-hit places, like coal country and “regions hollowed out by plant closures,” and promised, “America thrives when the middle class thrives.”
Clinton also addressed trade, an important issue that her Republican opponent, Donald Trump, has attempted to use to drive a wedge between the Democratic nominee and working people.
“If you believe that we should say ‘no’ to unfair trade deals,” Clinton said, “that we should stand up to China, that we should support our steelworkers and autoworkers and homegrown manufacturers, join us.”
Clinton’s record on trade aligns well with working families. As a senator, she voted against the Central American Free Trade Agreement, and she and running mate Tim Kaine are both on the record against the Trans Pacific Partnership. In 2004, she and 20 other senators sent a letter to then-President George W. Bush urging him to reject a right-wing economic report that encouraged sending jobs overseas as a way to improve the U.S. economy.
“Trump’s claims about Hillary Clinton’s record on trade just don’t hold up to scrutiny,” said International President Lonnie R. Stephenson. “She voted against the only trade deal she ever had a chance to reject, and she’s fought with us to stop outsourcing many, many times. There’s only one candidate in this race who’s made money sending American jobs overseas, and that’s Donald Trump.”
That theme came up again and again during the Democratic Convention, as speakers, including Clinton herself, made the case against Trump’s business practices.
“[Trump] talks a big game about putting America first,” Clinton said. “Please explain to me what part of ‘America first’ leads him to make Trump ties in China, not Colorado; Trump suits in Mexico, not Michigan; Trump furniture in Turkey, not Ohio; Trump picture frames in India, not Wisconsin.
“Donald Trump says he wants to make America great again -- well, he could start by actually making things in America again.”
Clinton was backed up by some of working families’ staunchest allies, former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm, Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan and Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown, who discussed jobs, unions, and trade.
On behalf of Ohio’s blue-collar voters, Brown also called out Trump on trade. “I've been fighting for a trade agenda for more than 20 years that puts American workers first,” he said. “And I can tell you, in all those years, I've never even seen Donald Trump. No – the only thing I've seen Donald Trump do when it comes to U.S. trade policy is run his mouth and line his pockets.”
Ryan told a story about shopping as a child with his grandfather, who taught him during a meat cutter strike that you never, ever cross a picket line. “That's how I was raised. That's how many of you were raised,” he said. “When in doubt, we are on the side of the worker. Because we respect the men and women who punch a clock, the ones who shower after they get home from the job. We respect the fighters who go to work early, stay late, and pour their hearts into what they do.”
Trump, on the other hand, “got rich ripping people off, stiffing small businesses and contractors. Now he says he's gonna bring back our jobs? … Don't buy it,” Ryan said.
At the end of the night, delegate Richard Ray, former president of the Georgia AFL-CIO and a retired Atlanta Local 84 member, marveled at the differences between the Republican Convention the previous week in Cleveland and the Democratic week wrapping up in Philadelphia.
“It’s just not even a question,” he said. “Here, we heard so much from people who have stood shoulder to shoulder with us for decades fighting for jobs and policies that serve working families. Donald Trump made a lot of claims, but everything he has ever done shows us exactly where he stands. He doesn’t care about working people. He just wants their votes because he’s alienated everyone else. Hillary has fought with us before, and I believe her when she says she’ll keep doing it as president.”
Photo used under a Creative Commons license from Flickr user Disney|ABC Television Group.