This is a tricky election for Pat Dujakovich.
He’s the president of the Greater Kansas City AFL-CIO. And this year, he’s noticed disgruntled Republicans unwilling to support Donald Trump and hard-core Democrats who won’t vote for Hillary Clinton.
To him, whichever group can hold their noses long enough and vote could pick the winner. But he also worries that the major candidates’ unpopularity with union workers like those in the AFL-CIO may keep people at home come Election Day.
And that’s why days like Saturday happen, where union workers came to the group’s Labor Day picnic at Longview Lake in suburban Kansas City. Even a picnic can help communication among the members. It might be more challenging in a unique election year like this, but the unions can still help drive voter turnout, Dujakovich said.
The goal, he said, is to show people how candidates will affect their lives and their paychecks.
“A lot of my members are not excited about Hillary,” he said. “…I was telling somebody earlier today, ‘If you don’t hate Hillary, you’re just not trying hard enough.’ There’s enough stuff out there to upset the membership.”
Though the Greater Kansas City AFL-CIO is supporting Clinton, the group’s president said he understands that some union members may struggle to vote for Clinton.
“I know I’ve got some of my members that are not going to support Hillary,” Dujakovich said. “She’s got a lot of negatives. But Donald Trump is just terrible. He has not been good for working people anywhere.”
A tradition like the picnic is important for organized labor, said Judy Ancel, director of UMKC’s Worker Education and Labor Studies program, but the event can take on a new meaning in important election years.
“It’s good for building solidarity, which makes labor strong,” Ancel said. “And I suppose that’s especially true in an election year where candidates, particularly at the local level, depend a lot on union volunteers.”
But not all of the union workers in the area support Clinton’s campaign.
David Coleman, with the iron workers of Local 10, said he expects around 20 percent of the union’s members to vote for Trump. The candidate’s social views appeal to them, and they support his views on gun rights and stricter immigration laws, Coleman said.
“When they’re going with Trump, they know it’s not good for unions,” said Coleman, who plans to support Clinton.
If there were Trump supporters at the picnic, they were few and far between. Historically, unions tend to support Democratic candidates. Several people laughed at the notion a union Trump supporter would want to be quoted about their support for the GOP nominee.
“I want labor to get a fair shake,” said Fred Voigt, a retired business agent for the operating engineers. “I don’t want them to be a target, which they will be with Trump.”
The lack of vocal support for Trump didn’t mean that the workers at the picnic were thrilled with the idea of voting for Clinton. Even as they ate barbecue, drank beer and mingled with Russ Carnahan, the Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor in Missouri, the labor workers’ apathy toward Clinton came across loud and clear.
Laura Fuller, a heavy-equipment operator, said she’s still undecided. The more she listens, the worse she feels about the presidential election.
“Everybody hates them both,” she said.