The schism between the environmental left and blue-collar union Democrats is growing, with the New York Times reporting on the latest iteration of this divide.
At issue: Democrats are trying to raise money to increase voter turnout, mobilizing the electorate against Donald Trump. But that money comes from two special-interest groups that are, increasingly diametrically opposed:
The rift developed after some in the labor movement, whose cash flow has dwindled and whose political clout has been increasingly imperiled, announced a partnership last week with a wealthy environmentalist, Tom Steyer, to help bankroll a new fund dedicated to electing Democrats.
That joint initiative enraged members of the nation’s biggest construction unions, already on edge about the rising influence of climate-change activists. The building-trades unions view Mr. Steyer’s environmental agenda as a threat to the jobs that can be created through infrastructure projects like new gas pipelines.
The dispute, laid bare in a pair of blistering letters sent on Monday to Richard L. Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO, underscored the tensions between the two pillars of the Democratic coalition.
As the New York Times notes, “nowhere was this more evident than during the tense debate over the Keystone XL pipeline.” As early as 2011, TransCanada had already inked deals with four major U.S. unions, preparing to create thousands of new, high-paying jobs for organized labor, even as the construction sector struggled through an economic rut.
Tom Steyer and other rich environmentalists vocally opposed the project, however, and putting their money where their mouths were. In 2014 alone, Steyer announced plans to spend at least $100 million to advance his environmental agenda, and killing Keystone was a centerpiece.
Rightly so, the labor left sees a threat to their livelihood from green activists with deep pockets.
“It saddens us that the very labor movement we have fought for and supported for over a century seems to have lost sight of its core mission and has moved away from us and our membership in the interest of headline-grabbing political expediency,” the leaders several construction unions wrote in a letter this week.
Conservatives, despite their reservations about organized labor, could easily capitalize on this division.