The following is an excerpt from Dan Kaufman | March 12, 2016 | Nytimes.com |
“We’ve got to stand up for unions,” Hillary Clinton declared in her closing statement during the Democratic debate in Milwaukee last month. The line offered the labor-friendly audience a comforting rebuke to Gov. Scott Walker’s relentless attacks on Wisconsin’s unions. It generated passionate applause.
But Mrs. Clinton’s show of support contrasted with her long indifference to the concerns of organized labor. The results of Michigan’s primary last week highlighted this problem; exit polls showed that Mrs. Clinton narrowly lost union households to Senator Bernie Sanders. Over all, nearly 60 percent of Democratic voters thought free-trade agreements, which Mrs. Clinton has generally supported, caused job losses. Mr. Sanders won a majority of those voters, too, which raises the possibility of further upsets on Tuesday in primaries in Illinois and Ohio, where opposition to free-trade pacts is strong.
Mrs. Clinton’s troubles with labor began before she arrived in Washington. From 1986 to 1992, as a corporate lawyer in Arkansas, she served on the board of Walmart. By then, Sam Walton, the company’s founder, was notorious for his anti-union fervor; in the early 1970s, Mr. Walton hired an attorney named John E. Tate to break up an organizing campaign at two Missouri Walmart stores. For decades afterward, Mr. Tate drove Walmart’s successful anti-union strategy. In 1988, Mr. Tate joined Walmart’s board, where he served alongside Mrs. Clinton.
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