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Friday, August 19, 2016

For many union members, voting for Trump will be their first time ever voting for a Republican. Workers say Democrats have sold them out by pushing international free trade deals. 'We didn't see a damn thing in return for NAFTA'. Trump supporter and local steelworkers union official says, I don't know what Trump would do, but I know what Hillary would do-Washington Post

"China’s 2000 admission to the World Trade Organization and the 2004 Dominican Republic-Central American Free Trade Agreement inundated U.S. markets with cheap foreign metal."
8/18/16, "Why these diehard Democrats are rooting for Trump," Washington Post, Jacob Bogage, Weirton, West Virginia

"The Ohio Valley is filled with registered Democrats, the kind that hung portraits of Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry S. Truman and John F. Kennedy on their living room walls. It is made of coal and steel towns and union workers, and stretches from the Pittsburgh exurbs across West Virginia’s panhandle into Ohio.
But here in Weirton — where Weirton Steel Company employed 12,000 people and now only 900 — many say they will cast their ballots for Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump. They talk about him over beers at local taverns and at church socials. For many of those in the unions, he’s the first Republican for whom they’ll vote — even as national unions, including the United Steelworkers and the AFL-CIO, have endorsed Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.

“When the steel industry was going good and the coal was good, it was blue,” said George Psaros, 76, a retired Weirton Steel engineer who voted for President Obama in 2008 and 2012 and is undecided in this contest. “Well, the world has changed.”

Ever since Democrats like Bill Clinton embraced free trade, West Virginia has voted for the Republican presidential nominee in greater margins. West Virginians sided with Democrat Michael Dukakis instead of George H. W. Bush in 1988, only one of 10 states to vote blue. But by 2000, George W. Bush won the state by 6 percent of the vote, and in 2012, Mitt Romney won by more than 20 percent.

Now even one of the most reliably Democratic groups — union members — may be turning red, drawn by Trump’s free-trade bashing and resentful of Clinton’s past support for certain international trade agreements.

“I don’t know what Trump would do if he’s elected,” said Mark Glyptis, president of the United Steelworkers Local 2911 and a Trump supporter, who voted for Obama in the past two elections. “But I know what Hillary would do.”

If Trump wants to flip the electoral map and win in November, this may be his most promising strategy. His critique of trade deals may not only help him win Weirton and the rest of West Virginia, but also other, more critical industrial belt states such as Pennsylvania and Ohio.

Nationally, union households have increasingly voted for conservative candidates, data show. In 1996, only 30 percent of union households voted for Republican candidates. In 2012, that increased to 40 percent, and political analysts expect that rise this election cycle.

Trump appears to be accelerating that schism between unions and Democrats, especially in pockets of the country where blue-collar manufacturing jobs once drove local economies....

And increasingly, these distressed workers are associating free trade with the Democrats. In Glyptis’s office hangs a poster that says “Free Traders are Traitors.” To many this election season, that means Democrats
“If you’re working in a state with a tangible part of its economy in manufacturing, you’re going to be pretty concerned about Hillary Clinton and especially a Democratic Senate,” said Joel Kotkin, a presidential fellow at Chapman University in Southern California.

Trump this month in Detroit reinforced his bid to win over blue-collar voters by proclaiming: “Americanism, not globalism, will be our new credo.

“American steel will send new skyscrapers soaring,” he said in an economic address in Detroit. “We will put new American metal into the spine of this nation. It will be American hands that rebuild this country, and it will be American energy — mined from American sources — that powers this country. It will be American workers who are hired to do the job.”

Some people in this part of West Virginia said in interviews they are angry about their community’s condition and blame the Democratic Party, which for generations has called itself “of the working class.” At the heart of that discontent is economic disillusionment and a feeling that Washington Democrats have sacrificed their well-being to push through more international agreements.

Take the end of Weirton’s Main Street. It has been swallowed up over the years by tires weighed down by coils of tin and beams of steel. The road is undriveable, not that anyone drives this part of town anymore. Brown water fills potholes in the street, and when it rains, water pours down the side of ruffled roofs into hollowed-out blast furnaces.
Workers here — Democratic, union-dues-paying workers — are tired of that economic stagnancy, and many say Trump will do something about it. He’ll revitalize their towns throughout the valley and Appalachia, he’ll bring back coal and steel, he’ll return jobs lost over decades of globalization and modernization.

“You have to get a decent-paying job, that’s the first step of anything,” said John Balzano, 78, and the Local 2911 benefits coordinator, who said he is undecided about for whom to vote. He has worked at the mill since age 21. “And it branches out, whether you’re going to be a good family man, whether you’re going to get a divorce, whether you’re going to live in the community, whether you’re going to become a good, community-minded person, the job will dictate that. We don’t have them around here.”

Six or seven workers at one point manned each blast furnace in Weirton. Residents brag that those fires produced the world’s best steel. Separate machines poured the molten metal into square molds, while still others took those molds and flattened them into sheets....

A flood of imports from Mexico and China over the past two decades meant that Weirton didn’t need to make as much steel. Mill owners downsized slowly at first, then rapidly to keep up with international competition.
In its heyday, the plant filled with 12,000 workers and its employees from three states — West Virginia, Ohio and Pennsylvania — ran the community center and plowed snow from the streets.

Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel had mills in Steubenville, Ohio, directly across the Ohio River, and Mingo Junction, Ohio, four miles west. Both have shuttered.

Weirton Mayor Harold E. “Bubba” Miller ran for office a year ago on a campaign of economic diversification. He worked in the mill for 33 years before retiring and soon after saw his pension sliced in half and his benefits evaporate. He owns a hall in town where he sells buffalo wings on weeknights and rents the space out for weddings and other gatherings on weekends.

During his election bid, he felt the same anger voters are taking out now on Clinton. They feel spurned by trade deals, he said as he sipped coffee at the union hall.

We didn’t see a damn thing in return,” he said of the North American Free Trade Agreement. China’s 2000 admission to the World Trade Organization and the 2004 Dominican Republic-Central American Free Trade Agreement inundated U.S. markets with cheap foreign metal.

Voters here, many of them union members and nearly all with personal ties to Local 2911, see the valley’s economic straits as a social issue that requires Trump’s “Make America Great Again” ethos.

Unemployment in the valley reached 15 percent in 2010 and did not get 10 percent for three years, according to federal data. The region is still struggling to add jobs.

In nearby Ohio, blocks on end in downtown Steubenville are without ground-level shops. Mingo Junction has two viable businesses on its Main Street....

Weirton and the valley are economically transitioning, and there are signs of success here, economic development officials point out. Weirton is buying up abandoned mill sites and pitching them to other businesses....

And the local organized labor community has embraced “business friendly” regulations, and protectionist trade policies, to speed up that transition.

Although Trump’s rhetoric has been divisive and egotistical, residents prefer his economic approach, even as it lacks detail.

“I’ve never been a fan of his,” said Miller, Weirton’s mayor, but he’ll look at the economy a little different and jobs a little differently than Hillary, because he’s put together deals that have worked.""


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