4 weeks ago

Teamsters' leader lands speaking slot at GOP convention

Teamsters union General President Sean O'Brien will be a guest at the Republican National Convention next month, with a speaking role that sharply contrasts with other labor leaders' embrace of President Joe Biden.

Former President Donald Trump announced the appearance by O'Brien, whose union hasn't made an endorsement yet, on his social media platform.

“Our GREAT convention will unify Americans and demonstrate to the nation’s working families they come first,” Trump posted on Truth Social. “When I am back in the White House, the hardworking Teamsters, and all working Americans, will once again have a country they can afford to live in and be respected around the world.”

A spokesperson for the Teamsters confirmed that O’Brien will participate in the GOP convention and has made an identical request to appear at the Democrats’ convention in Chicago the following month in August.

“This is truly unprecedented since it will be the very first time a Teamsters General President has addressed the RNC,” Kara Deniz said in a statement. “Our 1.3 million members represent every political background, and their message needs to be heard by as wide an audience as possible, and that includes all political candidates running for elected office.

"We appreciate former President Trump's openness to inviting a labor leader to speak on behalf of working families.”

Long a Democratic mainstay, the Teamsters have sought to make inroads with the GOP this election cycle. The union held listening sessions with several Republican presidential candidates — including Trump, following a personal appeal from O’Brien — and the union’s political arm has given thousands to both the RNC and DNC.

At the same time, O’Brien has had heated exchanges with anti-union Republican lawmakers, most notably on multiple occasions during congressional hearings with Sen. Markwayne Mullin (R-Okla.) that risked turning physical.

The Teamsters are perhaps the most politically influential of the handful of national labor unions that have yet to endorse a presidential candidate, and O’Brien said that they intend to announce their choice sometime after this summer’s conventions.

Trump has been keen on cutting into Biden's — and other Democrats' — advantage with the union vote, and driving a wedge between labor leadership and rank-and-file members.

At times, Trump has traded barbs with high-profile union leaders like the United Auto Workers’ Shawn Fain — who endorsed Biden and was a guest at this year’s State of the Union address — while touting economic policies the former president believes would appeal to autoworkers and other working-class voters.

Ironically, the Teamsters has been one of the chief beneficiaries of the Biden administration's unabashed union boosterism. The American Rescue Plan, which was one of the administration’s first legislative priorities, included a bailout program for distressed pension funds that extended nearly $36 billion in assistance to one multi-employer pension plan mostly comprised of Teamsters members and their families.

Earlier on Friday the administration announced that pensions for a million workers and retirees — roughly half a million of whom are Teamsters — across more than 80 plans have been shielded from cutbacks due to the ARP.

“Whether it is Social Security, Medicare, or pensions, workers who earn a dignified retirement through decades of hard work and sacrifice should never see their benefits cut due to broken promises or policies that favor the wealthy over working families,” Biden said in a statement.

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