Teamsters chief, Trump meet as union weighs 2024 presidential race

By Susan Heavey

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Donald Trump met with the head of the Teamsters on Wednesday and made plans to meet with rank-and-file members later this month as he seeks the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, the former president and the union said in statements.

Sean O’Brien, president of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, and Trump had “an in-depth and productive discussion on worker issues most important to the Teamsters Union,” the labor group, which represents 1.3 million workers from truckers and police to nurses and film crews, said in a post on the X social media platform.

The meeting comes during a 2024 presidential campaign in which the economy is front and center, with unions seeking to capitalize on the historic shift in the U.S. labor market and securing a wave of recent labor deals with support from Democratic President Joe Biden’s administration.

Biden, who quashed Trump’s reelection bid in 2020 and has touted his union bona fides for decades, is likely to face Trump again in the November election if the Republican frontrunner secures his party’s nomination.

“There are serious issues that need to addressed to improve the lives of working people across the country, and the Teamsters Union is making sure our members’ voices are heard as we head into a critical election year,” O’Brien said in the statement on Wednesday night.

Trump, in a post on his Truth Social platform, called the dinner meeting “great,” adding, “Looking forward to more discussions about important issues in the near future!”

He also pledged to meet with union workers and other Teamsters officials at a January roundtable in Washington, the union said.

O’Brien, a self-described tough “SOB,” is part of a new generation of union leaders – including United Auto Workers (UAW) President Shawn Fain and Association of Flight Attendants-CWA President Sara Nelson – seeking to re-energize the fight for workers’ rights. Union members at Detroit’s Big Three automakers, major airline carrier pilots and UPS have all recently secured labor contracts with hefty pay increases and job protections.

Their endorsements could be crucial in a presidential race among a closely divided electorate where just a few thousand votes in several key states could have an outsized impact.

In the past, Trump has found support among blue-collar workers, particularly in conservative areas.

Like the Teamsters, the UAW has not yet endorsed a candidate. That union’s president, however, has been critical of Trump and invited Biden to a strike picket line last fall before winning record agreements with General Motors, Ford and Chrysler parent Stellantis. Trump did not visit a union picket line but did deliver a speech outside Detroit urging autoworkers to support him.

Government employee unions have also pushed back on Trump’s proposal to strip federal worker protections as part of his plan to gut the civil service and install loyalists.

(Reporting by Susan Heavey; additional reporting by David Shepardson; editing by Jonathan Oatis)