Mich. Union Leader Warn Clinton On Trade

Democratic Presidential hopeful, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y. shake hands with Martin McGuinness, as his fellow Northern Ireland leader Ian Paisley looks, Friday Dec. 7, 2007, on Capitol Hill in Washington.(AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)
AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana
Some Michigan AFL-CIO members may be reluctant to vote for Hillary Rodham Clinton if she won't back changing some of the trade deals they say have cost jobs, President Mark Gaffney said Friday.

"Hillary needs to be stronger on trade," Gaffney said during the taping of public television's "Off the Record" program. "We're not opposed to trade. We've never been opposed to free trade. We understand selling products overseas. But we want to ship products overseas, not ship jobs overseas."

A request for comment was left Friday with the Clinton campaign.

Clinton's husband, former President Bill Clinton, pushed to approve pacts such as the North American Free Trade Agreement over the bitter objections of labor leaders, who complained the deals would put U.S. workers in competition with cheap foreign labor.

Last month, Hillary Rodham Clinton tried to address lingering concerns over those trade agreements. She told a United Auto Workers regional conference in Iowa that she would call a "time out" on such agreements if she wins the White House to see if the deals are draining jobs from the United States.

"I am going to do everything I can to move toward smart trade," she said. She promised to appoint an official to ensure that trade agreement provisions designed to protect labor and environmental standards are enforced by groups such as the World Trade Organization and the International Labor Organization.

Gaffney says he thinks John Edwards and some of the other Democratic presidential candidates are more in line than Clinton with union members when it comes to trade.

But he also says if Clinton is the Democratic nominee and changes her stance, union members will back her.

During a recent chat, Gaffney said, "I made her understand union members in Michigan don't like NAFTA, want it to be renegotiated - some would like to see it thrown out - and we've got to get her to that position. I don't think she's there yet, but I think she's headed there."

It's unclear how union members' trade issues with Clinton will affect the results of Michigan's Jan. 15 presidential primary, where Clinton is the only major Democratic candidate on the ballot.

Edwards, Barack Obama, Bill Richardson and Joe Biden took their names off the ballot to satisfy Iowa and New Hampshire, which were unhappy Michigan was challenging their leadoff status on the primary calendar. That left Clinton facing only Chris Dodd, Dennis Kucinich and Mike Gravel.

Gaffney said he could see some union members crossing over to vote in the Republican primary for Mike Huckabee or "a couple of other Republicans who are saying the right things on trade. But I don't think you're going to see a great big crossover."