By Ross Lenihan
On Tuesday night, the five leading candidates for the Democratic nomination for the presidency faced off in Las Vegas for the first of six planned debates. The debate, which focused on frontrunner Hillary Clinton and top challenger Bernie Sanders, covered a wide range of topics from economic inequality and regulation of Wall Street to gun control and foreign policy in the Middle East. Largely absent from the debate, however, were any specifics on the state of organized labor in America or the possible role of unions in helping to re-establish a strong middle class.
Both Clinton and Sanders did discuss their opposition to the recently finalized Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal, which AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka has said would harm American workers by omitting currency rules, promoting corporate courts above national laws, potentially harming U.S. automakers by lowering tariffs on Japanese autos, and including potentially unenforceable labor protections.
In light of last week’s White House Summit on Worker Voice (see Labor 411’s write-ups on the event here and here) it would not have been unusual to see some references to the state of organized labor in America. However, there were zero mentions of “union” during the debate and only a few indirect references to labor generally. It will be interesting to see if labor gets more attention in future debates, especially as the race for union endorsements continues to heat up.
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