A union family helped propel Minnesota senator and 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Amy Klobuchar from the Minneapolis suburb of Plymouth, Minnesota, to Yale University and Chicago Law School.
Union members helped make her the Hennepin County Attorney and a United States senator.
Now running for president, Klobuchar has made labor issues a central part of her campaign.
“I come from a union family,” Klobuchar told Starting Line, at the Iowa Federation of Labor AFL-CIO Conference in Des Moines.
“I stand before you today because of unions,” Klobuchar said to the crowd of union members earlier that day. “I stand before you today as the granddaughter of a union iron ore miner, as a daughter of a union newspaperman, as the daughter of a union teacher, as the first woman elected to the United States Senate from the state of Minnesota and a candidate for president of the United States.
“That is what unions are about,” she continued. “Unions are about this idea that no matter where you come from or who you know, or if you don’t have a lot of money and you’re running for office, that you can make it in this country.”
Running On Where The People Are At
Though her proposals don’t bend as far left as those of Sens. Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren, Klobuchar said she offered voters bold proposals that align with “where the American people are.”
Unions have worked hard to negotiate health care benefits, she noted, and she knew union jobs generally were well-paying and only required one- and two-year college degrees, so she didn’t feel the need to offer free, four-year tuition packages.
“My first argument is policy. I think I have the better policy to — yes — make it easier to afford college,” Klobuchar said. “I have a bold proposal to double the amount of Pell grants. I show how I’m going to pay for it with the Buffett Rule.”
“I have the bold proposal, which Barack Obama also made, to make community college free and certifications free. I think that’s more and more doable as the years go by,” Klobuchar added. “And I think they are both bold proposals, but they are the right proposals for America. I don’t think we want to waste money, nor do I think we will ever get the votes to spend money on rich kids’ college. It’s not going to happen. That won’t go through.”
She also didn’t believe people wanted to be kicked off their current insurance plans, so she advocated for a public health insurance option, instead of Medicare for All.
“I really truly believe this stuff. That’s the first thing,” Klobuchar said. “The second part of this is just political, is that we want to win. And to do that, you have to bring in people who are not interested in every interest group in the Democratic Party. And as I’ve always said, I’m not running for chair of the Democratic National Committee. I’m running for the president of the United States.
“So, that’s about how you run a campaign,” Klobuchar said. “It’s also about how you govern, and you aren’t going to be able to govern if you don’t have the people with you.”
Winning Back The Midwest
Klobuchar also has a plan to paint the Midwest blue again.
Her favorite question is whether she thinks the Midwest is possible to flip. When asked, she answers with these four words: “Former Governor Scott Walker.”
The union-busting Republican governor of Wisconsin was voted out of office in 2018.
“I want to make you think about this because you are the ambassadors to so many of those workers out there, some of whom voted for Donald Trump,” Klobuchar said.
She first talked about the Supreme Court’s Janus decision, which stripped unions of the ability to collect fees from non-union workers.
“This president has stood with his wealthy friends. Me — I will stand with you,” Klobuchar said. “This president has put his cronies in positions of power, I will bring decency back to our government. He is talking about everything every day that has nothing to do with these promises that he has made to our workers.”
Klobuchar often likes to remind audiences of the many promises that Trump has broken during his presidency, including ones that sounded particularly good to working-class voters.
“[Trump] went on Fox News after he got elected and he said he would bring down the cost of pharmaceuticals so fast it would make your head spin,” she noted. “Well, it has made our head spin because for over 2,000 of them, they have gone up in multiple digits … He has made us promises on infrastructure, jobs for all of you, but he has never delivered the big infrastructure project.”
Off stage, Klobuchar said she uses examples of improving storm water systems and roads to the airports because they’re specific examples of how Trump never followed through on his promises to unions.
“You have workers who are a part of unions who voted for Donald Trump because they thought, ‘Oh, he’s going to. I believe him,’ when he said he’s going to invest in infrastructure and that’ll mean my job,” Klobuchar said. “Or that he’s going to make things better for me for wages. Or that he’s going to bring down the cost of pharmaceuticals. Those things haven’t happened.”
Defeating Donald Trump
The big question everyone is asking is: Who can defeat Donald Trump?
Klobuchar has a plan to do just that.
“This is how you beat this guy,” Klobuchar said. “You beat him by having an optimistic economic agenda for this country like you have and like we have.
“You beat him by standing up and protecting us and making sure that we are making our views clear,” Klobuchar said. “Sometimes you just ignore him, but you also beat him by showing him how absurd the things he says are and by being able to have the presence of mind to do it when it happens.”
“When I announced in the middle of that snowstorm, he made fun of me and he gave me a nickname. He called me ‘snow woman,’” Klobuchar said. “So I wrote back, ‘Mr. President, I’d like to see how your hair would fair in a blizzard.”
By Paige Godden