July 22, 2016
By Kenneth Quinnell
Cleveland, Ohio – In Cleveland, working people joined U.S. Senate candidate Ted Strickland to talk about important issues like trade policy, infrastructure investment and union-busting and how the top Republican candidates measure up on these important issues. Local workers like Michael "Iron Mike" Kilbane, a member of Ironworkers Local 17, shared their stories.
Here's Iron Mike's story, in his own words: Good afternoon. My name is Michael Kilbane and I am a lifelong Clevelander and proud, 26-year member of Structural Ironworkers Local 17, Cleveland, Ohio. Myself, along with my sisters and brothers in the Cleveland Building Trades, have built this great and beautiful city, including all of the venues that are being used for the Republican National Convention. Like all Clevelanders, I welcome the [Republican National Convention] to our fine city. I hope they all can see why we love it so much.
I am troubled, however, that the Republican Party has found its way to nominating Donald Trump as its candidate for president. We’ve all heard Trump’s attempted appeal to working people as the candidate that "has our back." It's a ruse. A smokescreen. It's faux populism. A sad attempt to divide the working-class vote of this country. The man is a card-carrying member of the American ruling-class and always has been. Someone who has only known privilege and entitlement his entire life. Someone who values his own personal gain and profit above any other consideration and will do anything to ensure it continues to grow. A close look at Trump’s record as a businessman shows that he would more quickly stab working people in the back than anything else.
First, as a union construction worker, I need to take issue with Trump’s relationship with union labor. It has been well-documented that Trump fights workers that try to organize at his casinos, hotels and restaurants, but what is less known is how he has stood against the very working people who built the buildings that house these businesses. Trump has come out recently and said that he is 100% right to work. The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) recently released some data on how often Trump has used union labor to construct his buildings, and the data shows that he has avoided hiring union labor as often as he could. And in strong union areas such as New York, New Jersey and other places where organized labor still dominates the workforce, and he is forced to use us, he has made a practice of stiffing our contractors for pay over and over again. He puts profits over people, time and again.
Trump is a complicated man, but in my view, this election is anything but complicated. I grew up in a home where trade-union negotiated wages, in exchange for hard and sometimes very dangerous work, put the roof over our heads, food on the table and afforded our family access to health care. I have supported my own children through the same means. I would really appreciate a candidate who supports and even encourages my right to negotiate for fair pay and a safe workplace. Trump’s support for right to work speaks volumes about his disrespect for working people. As he joins the extremist members of his party in trying to undermine unions and the working people who comprise them, he undermines his own argument that he is for the working men and women of America. The bottom line has been, and continues to be, that Trump is out for nobody but himself.
Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, is committed to investing in our country and our workforce. Her infrastructure plan will put us to work in a meaningful way that will improve our country physically and economically, as President Barack Obama's stimulus has done. Clinton is the candidate who does not view labor as a cost to be cut, rather she views working people as a worthy investment for the future. She understands what hardworking people are facing in this economy and I trust her to have my back when it counts. Clinton is committed to protecting our collective bargaining rights, a real contrast to Trump, who has assailed them, often only to enrich himself.
And the working people of Ohio have a true friend in Ted Strickland! He has always been right on matters of trade, workers’ rights and all the issues that matter most to working families. We need him in the U.S. Senate, fighting for us!
I consider myself lucky to be able to do what I do for a living. And my union card ensures that I can make a living doing it. All working people should be alarmed by Trump’s worldview and should not be taken in by his divisive rhetoric and half-baked logic. Trump represents a real danger for us and that’s why I intend to keep speaking out against his candidacy.
Again, welcome to Cleveland. I hope all the attention that RNC brings here will show how great this city really is, and I hope that at least some of the spotlight will be on the working men and women who built it and make it run every day. Thank you!