Clinton Staffers Agree: AFL-CIO Honcho Is 'Annoying'

Campaign officials begrudged labor leader's cozy relationship with Biden

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka / AP
October 28, 2016

Clinton campaign staffers became fed up with the friendly relationship between one of the Democratic Party's staunchest labor allies and Vice President Joe Biden.

Several senior advisers to the former secretary of state called AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka "annoying" for his effusive praise of Biden in a September 2015—months before Biden ruled out a 2016 presidential run. Senior policy adviser Ann O'Leary kvetched that Trumka had praised Biden as a champion of union members on a Sept. 6 episode of Meet the Press. In the same interview he said that Clinton would have to repudiate her previous praise for the Trans Pacific Partnership free trade deal that she had once described as the "gold standard."

"This Trumpka [sic] line about Joe Biden really annoys me whenever I hear him say it - that Biden has been fighting for working people his whole life. It implies that HRC has not," O'Leary said in an email posted to Wikileaks. "I think it will help the perception that there is a labor contrast between the two."

O'Leary asked the campaign's labor outreach coordinator Nikki Budzinski to get in touch with the AFL-CIO to ask Trumka to "get him to add something nice about HRC" in his media appearances. Budzinski shared O'Leary's frustration.

"I agree. He is annoying," she said, adding that she would get in touch with a senior official at the union.
National political director Amanda Renteria said that appealing to Trumka personally would not likely sway him. She noted that the union leader has a special relationship with Biden, adding that the White House support for the TPP could end up undermining him.

"Fine to call. But don't think it will make a difference w trumka. They've always had a special relationship," Renteria said. "Tumka's [sic] comments do undermine his strong push that the biggest thing for labor is TPA/TPP."

Neither the Clinton campaign, nor the AFL-CIO returned requests for comment.

The AFL-CIO waited for Clinton to safely beat back the insurgent candidacy of socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., VT) before endorsing the former secretary of state in June 2016. Trumka pledged that the union's 12.5 million members would unite around Clinton.

"Hillary Clinton is a proven leader who shares our values," Trumka said in a release. "The activism of working people has already been a major force in this election and is now poised to elect Hillary Clinton and move America forward."

The AFL-CIO has been one of the largest spenders in the 2016, contributing more than $11.5 million to aid Democratic candidates, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. The top recipient is Hillary Clinton with more than $20,000 in donations. The union's super PAC, AFL-CIO Worker's Voices PAC, has spent an additional $7.3 million.

Several national security agencies suspect that the Russian government is behind the hack of Clinton campaign Chairman John Podesta's email account.