Labor Groups Continue to Only Partly Return Clinton’s Embrace

Screen Shot 2015-09-30 at 9.00.20 AMMAGGIE HABERMAN  Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Good Wednesday morning. It has been a week of details and bargaining as Congress approaches the so-called fiscal cliff confident that it will avoid the sudden drop on the other side, and as campaigns have offered policy proposals among the usual politics. But a policy hint by Hillary Rodham Clinton, in an effort to reach out to unions, has still not slowed the groups flirtations with other candidates.

The last five years have been difficult for organized labor. The rise of Govs. Chris Christie of New Jersey and Scott Walker of Wisconsin, who made their political bones as union-busting leaders, coincided with an economic recovery in which many states saw their pension mandates and their debt grow.

And yet, despite waning influence on the left in recent years and a shift in the party’s demographic base, organized labor is playing a pivotal role in the Democratic nominating contest so far.

Support in a number of unions for the populist Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont have kept many of them from making the early endorsements that Mrs. Clinton’s campaign has sought. Concern about her position on the trans-Pacific trade deal that President Obama has pushed for has also kept some back.

So Mrs. Clinton’s support on Tuesday for repealing the so-called Cadillac tax on certain health care plans under the Affordable Care Act, a move urged by many unions, was welcomed by labor, after others in the Democratic field had taken that position.

Yet many labor groups still plan to try to send her a message.

The Teamsters, for instance, is said to be seeking a meeting with Donald J. Trump, whose comments on illegal immigrants and about Mr. Obama’s birthplace are well noted.

That a major union, in such a racially charged election, would seek to meet with Mr. Trump is striking.