Richard Ray Wonders How a Unionist Could Vote for “Me-Me-Me” Trump

Leo W. Gerard USW President Emeriti

Retired USW member Richard Ray became a shop steward six months after he began his apprenticeship at Owens-Illinois Inc., in North Carolina and held elected union offices for the next 49 years, all the way up to president of the Georgia State AFL-CIO.

In the not-so-union-friendly South, that takes a pretty strong personal commitment to the union ideal of concerted action to benefit the majority. To this day, even in retirement, Richard Ray is living out that commitment by pushing for election of labor-friendly candidates and attending the Democratic National Convention this week in Philadelphia as a super delegate because, he told me, he believes Hillary Clinton would be best for working people and labor unions.

Ray came to the USW through the American Flint Glass Workers when the two unions merged in 2003.  In his efforts as a union officer over the years, and later as president of the Atlanta Labor Council and secretary-treasurer of the Georgia State AFL-CIO before he was elected the organization’s president, he repeatedly saw the significance of workers banding together to support each other.

It was always about doing the best for the group. The most vital value to union members, he explains, is “the we.”

“With Trump, though, it is always, me, me, me,” Ray said. What is most important to Donald Trump is Donald Trump.

It is true, Ray noted, that Donald Trump is very rich, that he has done very well for himself. For the “me.” But he has also gone bankrupt repeatedly. And when he did, he protected himself at the expense of working guys and small contractors. Trump paid pennies on the dollar to electricians and bricklayers and other skilled laborers. Lots of small contractors in New Jersey lost their family businesses because Trump didn’t pay what he owed them.

“He is the only one who came out smelling like a rose,” Ray told me. Trump wasn’t thinking of the other guy like a union man would. He was just thinking of Donald Trump.

The same is true with Trump’s signature products like suits and ties. Trump could have thought of the “we” and made a little bit less money for himself by manufacturing those products in America. But he didn’t. He makes them off shore with exploited foreign labor.

And right now Trump could be helping unemployed Americans, caring about the American “we,” but instead he is applying for 78 visas to bring in foreign nationals to work at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida.

Ray told me that, by contrast, when he listens to Hillary Clinton, he hears the opposite. Even her slogan is “stronger together.”

He noted that when Hillary Clinton left an Ivy League law school, she could have taken a high-paid job with a law firm and just made money for herself, the way Donald Trump did when he left the Ivy League Wharton School. But instead, Hillary Clinton began working for children with disabilities. And she has been laboring to help people ever since, including securing health insurance for low income children when she was First Lady.

“I don’t think it has ever been about ‘me’ for Hillary Clinton,” Ray told me. “It has always been about we.”

Leo W. Gerard also is a member of the AFL-CIO Executive Committee and chairs the labor federation’s Public Policy Committee. President Barack Obama appointed him to the President’s Advisory Committee on Trade Policy and Negotiation and the President's Advanced Manufacturing Partnership Steering Committee 2.0. He serves as co-chairman of the BlueGreen Alliance and on the boards of Campaign for America’s Future and the Economic Policy Institute.  He is a member of the executive committee for IndustriALL Global Labor federation and was instrumental in creating Workers Uniting, the first global union. Follow @USWBlogger

Posted In: From the USW International President