The country’s largest labor union will kick off its final general election push on Hillary Clinton’s behalf this week with a campaign that links Donald Trump to a rise in schoolyard bullying.
Citing a growing number of reports by its membership of Trump-like bullying in classrooms across the country, the National Education Association is planning to make the issue a centerpiece of its argument against Trump in ads and mailings in battleground states.
“We are going to do everything humanly possible to make sure that we have a president who will be a good role model for children,” NEA President Lily Eskelsen García said. “Donald Trump is not on that list, but Hillary Clinton is.”
Beginning on Monday, the union will hold conference calls and news conferences with teachers, principals and psychologists who link Trump’s comments on the national stage to a rise in bullying in the classroom. The union's outreach will also contrast Trump and Clinton's plans for education.
According to Eskelsen García, their members are reporting children threatening classmates that they might be deported by Trump or calling other classmates terrorists.
“Kids feel like they have been given permission, and they are invoking the name of Donald Trump,” she said.
The union’s efforts to drive home the point may have been aided by Trump himself, who in the last week attacked a former Miss Universe, Alicia Machado, for gaining weight after winning the contest. And over the weekend, Trump went on a mocking tirade against Clinton for, among other things, coming down with pneumonia several weeks ago.
“He’s one of two people in the world who will be the next president of the United States, and every time he opens his mouth he insults someone," Eskelsen García said. “He degrades someone because of their race, their religion, their weight.”
The push coincides with National Bullying Prevention Month in October, an effort that is normally part of NEA’s annual activities. But with Trump, the issue has gathered more steam.
Eskelsen García said that their concern about Trump’s impact on the younger generation extends beyond the election.
“What we’re seeing is not something that will go away after Election Day," she said. “We’re seeing millions of people who seem attracted to this message, and those folks are still going to be here.”
The union is preparing to ramp up its ground game efforts to aid Clinton in battleground states, including in places where members have outsized influence and where Clinton needs them the most.
In Iowa, for example, where Clinton remains locked in a tight race with Trump, NEA is the state’s largest labor union. And union members worked to help Clinton narrowly defeat Sen. Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primary there.
NEA plans to boost Clinton's ground game efforts by communicating with its membership through canvassing and phone banks, as well as targeting younger members with digital ads and voters over 50 through mail.
The six-figure commitment will reach voters in Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Wisconsin, Nebraska’s 2nd Congressional District and Maine’s 2nd Congressional District.
Overall, according to Eskelsen García, the more than 3 million member union reaches some 6.4 million voters through its households, creating a “ricochet effect” of outreach.
And NEA’s membership isn’t predominantly Democratic. A third identify as independent and another roughly one-third of its membership identifies as Republican. Critically for Clinton, the union’s membership is composed of about 75 percent women, voters with whom Trump has struggled.