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Teamsters giving $45K to both Republican and Democratic convention funds

By Fredreka Schouten, David Wright and Steve Contorno, CNN

(CNN) — The Teamsters’ political arm is donating $45,000 to the Republican National Committee – as part of what union officials say is a push to ensure that elected officials in both political parties hear from rank-and-file workers at this year’s presidential nominating conventions.

In a filing this week with federal regulators, the Teamsters’ PAC reported making the contribution in late January to the RNC’s convention fund.

Union spokesperson Kara Deniz said the check was issued in January and will soon be sent to the RNC. The union reported making a similar $45,000 convention-related donation in December to the Democratic National Committee.

The Teamsters represent an estimated 1.3 million workers – nearly a third of them employed by UPS.

The RNC contribution immediately garnered attention in Washington since the union typically directs its political funds to Democrats, and it comes as Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump has sought to appeal to union workers in his bid to reclaim the White House.

But Deniz said the union has not yet made an endorsement in the 2024 presidential contest.

“It’s not since 2000 that our union has participated in both conventions,” she said in an email. “In the Teamsters, all our members’ voices will be heard, regardless of party. Rank-and-file members will be on the ground and active in both conventions this year to make sure elected officials know the Teamsters’ issues and are hearing the challenges that working people face in this country.”

Trump met with Teamsters leader Sean O’Brien at the former president’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida earlier this year and with union leaders and members at the organization’s Washington, DC, headquarters on January 31.

In a statement after the Mar-a-Lago meeting, O’Brien said that there were “serious issues that need to (be) addressed to improve the lives of working people across the country, and the Teamsters Union is making sure our members’ voices are heard as we head into a critical election year.”

Federal Election Commission records showed the union’s PAC reporting a $45,000 contribution to the RNC’s convention fund on January 25.  Deniz said the contribution had been approved in December before any meeting with Trump. An RNC official told CNN on Thursday morning that the committee had not yet received the Teamster’s donation.

President Joe Biden has committed to attend his own roundtable with members of the Teamsters, which said that the president had been invited to its headquarters on the same day as Trump.

A play for the union vote

The Teamsters have twice endorsed against Trump, backing Hillary Clinton in 2016 and Biden four years later. But that was under different leadership. The Trump campaign is now eyeing what it views as an opportunity to capitalize on divisions between labor leadership and the rank-and-file, many of whom supported him in 2016.

Trump rallied supporters over the weekend in Michigan, where union households are a key constituency, and made an explicit appeal to Teamsters’ members.

“The truth is, though, when you have millions of (undocumented) people coming in, they’re going to take your jobs. They’re going to take the Teamster jobs,” the former president said in Waterford Township. “We’re waiting because the Teamsters haven’t endorsed the Republican in many, many years. And they’re having a hard time with this.”

Trump’s appearance followed another trip to Michigan five months earlier for a rally centered on striking autoworkers. During that visit – in which he appeared at a nonunion factory amid the autoworker strike – Trump courted blue-collar workers by promising to reverse Biden-era policies that encouraged the auto industry’s move toward electric vehicles, insisting it would threaten American jobs.

In a play for Big Labor’s support, he told the crowd, “Do me a favor, just get your union guys, your leaders, to endorse me. And I’ll take care of the rest.”

Ultimately, the largest auto workers union – the United Auto Workers – endorsed Biden, who became the first president to join a picket line when he appeared with striking workers in Michigan the day before Trump’s visit.

The concerted effort by both candidates to appeal to union voters reflects the ongoing political shift in a once reliably Democratic voting bloc. In 2016, Clinton carried union households over Trump 51% to 42%, according to CNN exit polls. Biden expanded on that margin in 2020, winning union households over Trump 56% to 40%, exit polls show.

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