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‘You’d have thought he knew me for years’

“The best union president of my lifetime.”

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Kentucky State AFL-CIO President Dustin Reinstedler has crossed paths with political figures from “Hillary Clinton to congresspeople, state and local politicians. and Joe Biden.”

When he met the president, he added, “you’d have thought he knew me for years.” He characterized Biden as “genuine,” “easygoing” and “easy to talk and laugh with.”

Reinstedler was among attendees at North America’s Building Trades Unions’ Legislative Conference in Washington today when the president dropped by to thank the group for endorsing his reelection.

“It’s ‘almost like the perfect leader was sent at the perfect time for working people,’” CNN's Edward-Isaac Dovere quoted NABTU President Sean McGarvey in an interview announcing the Biden nod.

Dovere wrote that union leaders aimed for Biden’s appearance “to be seen as a stark rebuff of Trump, who eagerly solicited support from union members and leaders during his time in office – but, their leaders say, didn’t deliver. NABTU had called for Trump to resign after the January 6, 2021, insurrection.”

Biden didn’t pull punches in his remarks, according to Dovere. “Biden delivered some of his harshest and most personal critiques of his predecessor and political rival yet. He referenced Trump’s infamous remarks at a news conference almost four years ago, when he suggested that injecting disinfectants might be a way to help protect people against Covid-19.”

He quoted the president: “By the way, remember when he was trying to deal with Covid, he said just inject a little bleach in your veins? He missed. It all went to his hair.”

Biden also called on the crowd to “think about the guys you grew up with who you’d like to get into a corner and just give them a straight left.” But he quickly added, “I’m not suggesting we hit the president.”

Dovere also quoted McGarvey: “They think now Joe Biden and Trump are running again, they think it’s just two politicians, ‘Same old, same old,’” McGarvey said. “Lo and behold, it’s not the same old, same old.”

Explained Dovere: “The building trades union has a long history with Trump in the private sector, going back to working on projects together directly and even partially financing, through a union-owned financial services company, several of them in the 1980s and 1990s.

Again quoting McGarvey: “He was one of the worst clients we ever had, because he rarely kept his word and it was a fight to get him to pay us back.”

Reinstedler said a hot topic at the conference is “the same as it has been since Biden has been in office – what a great president he’s been” for the union movement, but the building trades in particular. The buzz also included praise for the “great impact” the president’s politics have had on communities – “from the infrastructure money to the green money, everything. He’s the best union president and best building trades president I've had in my lifetime.” 

Reinstedler said “for a good while, a lot of the working class felt like the Democrats turned their back on them. I don’t know why. I never felt that way, but you’ve got to admit there were a lot of people. But, again, right now there is no doubt that the Democrats and the working class are aligned.”

Reinstedler offered advice to union members leaning toward voting the other way. “Numbers don’t lie. Look at the numbers; look at the data. It’s right there in your face. If I can be blunt, you’d have to be a fool to vote against your interests, to vote against the way you are making a living. We’ve never seen times this good in union construction.”

Reinstedler said the conference brought together representatives from the building trades in the U.S. and Canada. “There was also a lot of AFL-CIO leadership here including President Liz Shuler. You meet with lots of people and you have side meetings and listen to people speak, take a few classes. You conduct more business than people realize.”

Today, Reinstedler spoke to a breakfast meeting hosted by the Kentucky State Building and Construction Trades Council. “I also spent some time over at the national AFL headquarters,” he said. “I got some good programs that we are ready to start and bring back to Kentucky. It’s been a productive trip.”

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Berry Craig

Berry Craig is a professor emeritus of history at West KY Community College, and an author of seven books and co-author of two more. (Read the rest on the Contributors page.)

Arlington, KY

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