Democrats running for president in 2020 are doing a better job of keeping workers' issues front-and-center in their campaigns than Hillary Clinton did against Donald Trump in 2016, the AFL-CIO president said Thursday.
"They’re talking about changing the rules of the economy to make the country work for workers. Her primary address was ‘I’m better than him’ and the economic rules, the economic costs were secondary," said Richard Trumka at a breakfast hosted by the Christian Science Monitor. "Now, kitchen-table economics are first and foremost and workers are starting to listen."
As he has done in the past, Trumka made clear that Democrats shouldn't take the support of labor for granted.
"How many times did [Clinton] go to Wisconsin? How many times did she go to Michigan? How many times did she go to Pennsylvania?" he asked, referring to Midwestern states Clinton lost in the election.
"You’re a candidate. People have to see you, you have to talk to them. No one should ever take working peoples' votes for granted," he said.
Clinton won labor union members by nearly 20 percentage points in 2016, but performed 10 points worse than President Obama did when he was reelected in 2012. Trump also outperformed Mitt Romney, Obama's opponent by 4 percentage points, and did as well as any Republican with union households since President Ronald Reagan in 1984, according to a Washington Post analysis.
"It wasn’t labor. It was voters who didn’t come out. Some didn’t believe her on trade, some didn’t vote," he said referring to Clinton. "Others voted for a third party candidate because they didn’t want him and didn’t want her."
Representatives for Clinton did not immediately respond to ABC News' request for comment.
Trumka was reluctant to wade too far into the 2020 Democratic primary when asked about former Vice President Joe Biden's appeal to union members.
"I think his long history or working with labor, gives him a legitimacy with workers, but you also have other candidates there that have a legitimacy with workers as well. It doesn’t give him a monopoly," he said.
"He’s a great person, he’s a great friend. There are a number of great friends running."
Trumka said the AFL-CIO is focusing on more "member-to-member contact" ahead of the general election next year.
"We’re going to do it better than we’ve ever done it before," he said.