UAW chief says union to endorse either Clinton or Sanders ‘soon’
By Bernie Woodall and Joseph White
DETROIT (Reuters) – United Auto Workers President Dennis Williams said on Thursday the union will endorse either Democrat Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders for U.S. president “soon,” and called for unity among Democrats behind the eventual nominee.
Williams, head of the richest U.S. union, vowed that the labor group will be “all in” to support the eventual Democratic nominee. The UAW has more than 1 million current and retired members.
In a news conference at UAW headquarters, Williams did not say whether the UAW would endorse a candidate before the June 7 Democratic primary in California, but said he and top union leaders could decide quickly over the phone when the time comes to announce a decision.
In early polling of UAW members, 28 percent preferred Donald Trump, who is now the presumptive Republican nominee. Williams said the poll was conducted at a time when Trump talked about bringing jobs back to the United States and before the union distributed comments Trump made last August in a Detroit News interview when he said U.S. automakers should shift production from Michigan to states where wages could be lowered.
Williams would not reveal how Clinton or Sanders fared in the early polling among UAW members when Trump received about 28 percent of the support.
Williams said he did not know the current level of support among UAW members for Trump, but he indicated that he is confident most of the onetime Trump supporters would side with a Democratic candidate. Williams said the Republican Party is for “free trade” and not “fair trade” and that the result of a Republican presidency would be lower wages for U.S. workers.
“I don’t want a president that has a good line,” said the UAW chief. “I want to know what the detail is.”
Williams said, “It’s not a game show.”
Separately, he said he may seek a meeting with Tesla Motors Inc’s Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk when he calls on other corporate leaders.
Williams said he met twice with Musk five years ago, before he became UAW president in mid-2014. Tesla’s factory in Fremont, California, which is nonunion, has increased production and the number of employees greatly since then.
Williams said the UAW continues to work to organize the Tesla plant but he would not give any details on how intense that effort is.
“It’s still a priority,” he said.
(Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)