Labor leader Kevin Brown of Millburn returned from last week’s Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia fired up to campaign for Hillary Clinton.
“We are going to have to work very hard across the country to make sure Hillary wins,” he told NJ Jewish News in an Aug. 1 phone interview. He acknowledged “the buzz out there that she can’t be trusted,” and the scandals about her e-mails, but said, “she has proven repeatedly that she is extremely smart and hard working and is committed to making an America that is working for all of us, not just some of us.”
Brown, the New Jersey state director of Local 32BJ of the Service Employees International Union, is a member of the Community Relations Committee of the Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ, and is active in the Jewish Labor Committee.
A first-time delegate to the DNC who was pledged to support Clinton, Brown said his voice reflected the votes of his union’s two million-plus members across the country who endorsed her last November. “Our members were strongly supportive of Hillary from the beginning,” he said.
Asked about backers of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump who believe their candidate is a stronger supporter of Israel than Clinton, Brown dissented. “I do not think that’s true, and Donald Trump can’t be trusted in any way, shape, or form.”
He noted that “the Democratic Party platform supports a two-state solution and ‘upholds Palestinian dignity and sovereignty.’ I think that is incredibly important for achieving lasting peace for Israel.”
(In contrast, the Republican platform omits any mention of a two-state solution. Instead, it “oppose(s) any measures intended to impose an agreement or to dictate borders or other terms and is proud to stand with Israel now and always.”)
Brown said he “didn’t really want to think about” Trump’s winning the election. “The civil strife that would result would be harmful to our country. We are at a moment in our country where the differences among blacks and whites and Latinos are more exacerbated than they have been in 50-plus years, and Donald Trump will further exacerbate those differences and create more racial tension in this country.”
If Trump were to win in November, Brown said, “Certain people would feel emboldened to go back to an era when there was more racism and sexism. That would be destructive to our country.”
Questioned about the “angry white guys” who are said to be the backbone of Trump’s support, Brown told NJJN that he thinks much of their bitterness happened because “the Republicans have had a very effective strategy of weakening the American labor movement over the past 40 years, and as a result, the labor movement is not organizing as many white workers as it once did.
“The white working class,” Brown continued, “is not hearing a message other than the one on Fox News,” which generally supports Trump and the Republican Party. “Since the labor movement is not representing these folks as much as we used to, it is hurting America, and the Republican governors of Michigan and Wisconsin and New Jersey knew exactly what they were doing” by passing legislation that has weakened their state’s trade unions.
Arguing that the workers’ support should logically go to the Democrats, Brown said that “the fight for the $15-an-hour minimum wage has resonated greatly among all workers — black, brown, white, or yellow. Income inequality in this country is a real issue. If we advocate for our party to fight for those issues, the country will be stronger.”
Brown noted that two United States Supreme Court decisions could hamper Democratic efforts to elect Clinton. One is the Citizens United case, which allowed corporations to make unlimited political donations. The other weakened the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which could inhibit black and Latino voting in many areas of the country.
“Yeah, they could hurt, absolutely,” he said. “But we know how to organize better than Republicans do, and our two million members and millions of others need to get out and vote.”
Brown said his union “will be spending a lot of money, not only in registering people but on massive voter education and voter turnout in support of Hillary Clinton throughout the country.”
He said he “watched little pieces of the Republican convention when I could tolerate it. It was a convention of exclusion, a convention of ‘Let’s turn the clock back’ to a time that wasn’t a good time in a lot of ways.”
Then Brown added: “We need to appeal to our better angels. President Obama said it really well: ‘Donald Trump is not who we are as a people.’”