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The Guardian - US
The Guardian - US
Léonie Chao-Fong

Trump announces Teamsters union chief to speak at Republican convention

Man in blue polo shirt and glasses holds microphone up to his mouth at protest
Sean O’Brien at a picket outside a UPS centre in Brooklyn last summer. Photograph: Brendan McDermid/Reuters

Sean O’Brien, the president of the Teamsters union, will speak at the Republican national convention in Milwaukee next month, a move that could spell trouble for Joe Biden’s support among blue-collar workers ahead of the November election.

Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee, announced on Friday on his Truth Social platform that O’Brien had accepted his invitation to speak at the convention and that he was looking forward to seeing him represent the Teamsters.

“Our GREAT convention will unify Americans and demonstrate to the nation’s working families they come first,” Trump wrote. “When I am back in the White House, the hard-working Teamsters, and all working Americans, will once again have a country they can afford to live in and be respected around the world.”

A Teamsters spokesperson confirmed the news, saying it was “truly unprecedented since it will be the very first time a Teamsters general president has addressed the RNC”. The powerful union represents more than a million members across sectors such as trucking, packaging, manufacturing and logistics.

“Our 1.3 million members represent every political background, and their message needs to be heard by as wide an audience as possible, and that includes all political candidates running for elected office,” the spokesperson said. “We appreciate former President Trump’s openness to inviting a labor leader to speak on behalf of working families.”

The Republican national convention will kick off on 15 July, where Trump will once again be nominated as the GOP presidential candidate. The Teamsters spokesperson said O’Brien had made an identical request to appear at the Democratic national convention in Chicago the following month.

The Teamsters endorsed Biden over Trump in the 2020 presidential election. But O’Brien, who took over in March 2022, has yet to publicly back a candidate in this election cycle.

O’Brien has invited Biden, Trump and the independent presidential candidates Robert F Kennedy Jr and Cornel West to speak to his group. O’Brien drew anger from the union’s progressive members after he held a private meeting with Trump earlier this year. O’Brien later met Biden, who he described as having been “great” for workers. But he stressed there was “still a lot of work to be done” to bolster unions.

O’Brien’s appearance at the Republican national convention would challenge Biden’s historic alliance with organized labor and threatens to undercut his claim that he is the most pro-union president in US history.

Biden kicked off his re-election campaign last June at a union-backed rally, and has since been endorsed by the United Auto Workers (UAW) after he walked the picket line with union president Shawn Fain during its strike against America’s three biggest car manufacturers.

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