Union workers gathered for a demonstration on the second day of the California Democratic Convention harshly criticized President Obama, giving voice to the grassroots angst that has turned much of the president’s own party against him on a signature trade deal.
Supporters of the deal, known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership, say it would strengthen commerce in the Pacific Rim by lowering barriers to trade and standardizing some areas of regulation among the U.S. and countries such as Japan, Singapore and Vietnam.
Obama has lobbied hard for the agreement, seeking a home-stretch legislative victory in what many say has been a largely unfruitful second term in the White House.
But powerful figures in the president’s own party have undermined the pact, including firebrand Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who is scheduled to address convention delegates Saturday morning. Obama came under criticism this week for lashing out at Warren because of her opposition to the trade deal, saying she was “a politician like everybody else.”
“It was offensive,” John Hanna, government affairs director of the Southwest Regional Council of Carpenters, said amid throngs of protesting union workers outside the convention center in Anaheim. “It was clearly his frustration because he’s getting no traction on these issues with Democrats.”
Echoing what has been a frequent criticism of the president on Capitol Hill, Hanna said the president had himself to blame for the impasse, having “spent the last six years not really building relationships” with fellow Democrats in Congress.
Manny Salcido, a 52-year-old carpenter from West Covina, said he believed the interests of American workers had taken a back seat to the president’s effort to burnish a foreign-policy legacy.
“What he should be doing is helping the American people and our agenda,” Salcido said. “I kind of feel like he’s putting us in second place.”