DETROIT—The United Auto Workers, which campaigned to defeat Donald Trump throughout 2016, said Thursday that it is looking forward to working with the US President-elect to reshape trade policy and other issues.
"We're going to find some common ground," UAW President Dennis Williams told reporters during a post-election roundtable at the headquarters of the country's main union for the auto industry.
"I think his position on trade is right on. I'm prepared to talk about that," said Williams, noting that the Republican billionaire wants to scuttle the proposed Trans Pacific Partnership and re-negotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
The 1994 NAFTA agreement between the United States, Mexico and Canada was instrumental in helping move manufacturing jobs from the Rust Belt in the Midwest to Mexico.
"Trade is a huge problem for the American people, who have seen their jobs and communities destroyed by these trade deals, and they're angry," Williams said.
More than a third of the UAW's 425,000 members voted for the Republican candidate, especially those over 50, he estimated, despite U.S. organized labor's traditional support for Democrats.
Trump upset his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton with a surprisingly strong showing in the Rust Belt states of Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin.
"I think Hillary Clinton got blamed for NAFTA," Williams said of the deal negotiated by her husband, former president Bill Clinton. "I think Donald Trump had a good message about how NAFTA destroyed jobs."
At the same time, Clinton appeared unable to capitalize on Democratic accomplishments such as President Barack Obama's crucial bailouts of General Motors and Chrysler, he added.
"When I look at the amount of money General Motors, Ford, Toyota and Nissan are putting into Mexico, that represents jobs walking away from our citizens."
Williams said he would like an opportunity to sit down and talk with Trump.
"I don't see him as traditional Republican," he said. "I see him as someone who made a lot of commitment to blue collar workers."
He also said he expects Trump to keep his promise to rebuild the country's basic infrastructure, which could also create many jobs.
"We're going to protect our traditional values and we'll try to raise the awareness of organized labor," Williams said.
"We're not going to change who we are as a union."
Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2016.