Linda McMahon wasn’t pandering Monday as she addressed the Connecticut AFL-CIO political convention and though members of the labor community clapped politely as she wrapped up her stump speech, don’t expect an endorsement.
McMahon, a Republican candidate for U.S. Senate, stuck to familiar talking points during her around 10-minute address to union members. She talked about what she thought it takes to create jobs creation, her humble upbringings, and past financial troubles.
“Our economy is really in a mess and it’s old-school thinking to think that we cannot come together to straighten this out. I am the only candidate in this race who’s built a business and comes from the private sector. I know what it’s like to put your own money at risk,” she said.
After the speech, McMahon said she wanted to reinforce the ideas she’s been stressing throughout her campaign, specifically her jobs plan. Though she did not talk specifically about labor relations, McMahon said she dealt with some unions throughout her career as the former CEO of World Wrestling Entertainment. For instance, some stagehands at performance venues were unionized, she said.
“We’ve always worked very cooperatively with the unions in those buildings and never had issues with them,” she said.
But while most union leaders and rank-and-file members gave McMahon credit for taking the time to speak with them, many said it’s unlikely she will get much support from the labor community.
Matt O’Connor, political director for 32BJ, said that’s partly because union members learned during McMahon’s 2010 Senate campaign that she stood on the opposite side of labor issues that are important to them.
Union members also perceive McMahon as someone who hasn’t taken care of her workforce, O’Connor said, citing suicides and early deaths of some former wrestlers. And in an election cycle where many left-leaning candidates frame themselves as fighting for the “99 percent,” O’Connor said McMahon—with her CEO background—doesn’t fit the bill.
“They see her as representative of the 1 percent,” he said.
John Harrity, president of the Connecticut State Council of Machinists, described McMahon as “articulate,” but he echoed the sentiment.
“She spoke with the confidence that comes from being a multi-millionaire,” he said. “It was all well said but it was typical.”
Though McMahon spoke of financial stresses she and her husband Vince experienced early in their marriage, Harrity said he didn’t believe she would have the interests of working families at heart if she were elected to the U.S. Senate.
“She was cordial and we were cordial to her but there’s nothing that leads me to believe she would be helpful to our members. Frankly, I think it would be disastrous if she were elected,” Harrity said. “Even though she had a smile, she’s not our friend.”
Talking with reporters, McMahon acknowledged she likely disagreed with the labor community on many issues.
“I’m sure there are tons and tons of things,” she said. “I’m going to talk about making sure we get folks back to work and making sure we have fair wages.”
O’Connor did credit McMahon with not trying to pass herself off as something she’s not for the benefit of her audience, a tactic he said would have been transparent. He also wasn’t surprised by the respectful welcome she received.
“If there’s one thing we know how to do in organized labor, it’s run a meeting,” he said.
Though McMahon is unlikely to come away from the convention with an endorsement, Rep. Bruce “Zeke” Zalaski, a retiring lawmaker and current union member, said she will likely find support among a minority of members.
“I think there’s 40 percent of the membership in unions that, you know, vote for guns or certain issues and there always will be. Forty percent in unions voted for Reagan and I think they will for her. She’s a pleasant enough person,” Zalaski said.