While women and African American voters pushed Joe Biden into the White House, the Democratic Party’s traditional allies in organized labor, such as the United Auto Workers, were also critical in reversing losses Democrats suffered across the rust belt in 2016.
In Michigan, the UAW’s home state, Biden defeated the incumbent Donald Trump by more than roughly 150,000, according to the unofficial election returns. The Biden win in Michigan reversed Trump’s surprise victory in 2016, when he narrowly carried the state by about 10,000 votes. In the meantime, the UAW was quick to reaffirm its ties to the president-elect.
“UAW members look forward to working with President-elect Joe Biden, who has been a friend of UAW members and labor since his earliest days as a Senator in Delaware,” Gamble said after Biden was declared the winner by several national news outlets.
“Our members, our families and our communities are hurting in this pandemic and with economic challenges, health care challenges and workplace rights and safety challenges as union members. These are the issues that unite us as union members regardless of who is in power in the White House, in Congress or our Courts,” he said.
This time around, Biden carried Michigan by a strong showing among African American and Muslim voters in Wayne County. But Biden also did well in the so-called I-75 corridor north of Detroit, a traditional Democratic area where the Clinton campaign stumbled in 2016 — locations heavily populated with auto workers.
In addition, while turnout was up in across the state among both Democratic- and Republican-leaning voters, Biden was able to pull in and pile up votes in a number of blue-collar counties.
For example, in Macomb County, north of Detroit, was once a Democratic stronghold. However, in the past decade or so, it has become more conservative as more working-class voters without college degrees move into the Republican column. Trump shocked Democrats by beating Hillary Clinton by more than 11 points or more than 48,000 votes.
This time around, the Democratic candidate fared better, drawing 9,000 more votes than Hillary Clinton did in the 2016 contest. In the other areas around Michigan that went for Trump in 2016, where the union influence is strong, such as the cities of Flint and Saginaw, Biden managed to secure significant increases as well.
Unions also helped pile up for Biden in other rust belt states such as Wisconsin and Pennsylvania as well as Nevada where the UAW combined with other unions to secure victory for the President-elect.
The UAW helped build Biden momentum around Madison, Wisconsin, where it represents healthcare workers and even succeeded in holding on to traditional union strongholds around Toledo and Dayton, Ohio in a state where the Biden effort fell short.
In other areas, such as Erie Pennsylvania unions and a pro-union local culture provided an antidote to the Republican appeal to blue-collar families, which emphasizes guns and religion rather than worker rights and the economic safety net.
Brian Rothenberg, the UAW’s communications director, said the COVID-19 curtailed some union traditional election-year efforts at persuasion such as worker to worker contact on the shop floor and door-knocking union neighborhoods. The UAW and other unions, however, were able to get their message out using social media, text messaging and other types of communication.