The nation's largest labor group bashed Donald TrumpDonald TrumpTrump files paperwork to transfer businesses EPA freezes grant programs: reports Kellyanne Conway gets Secret Service protection MORE on Thursday, accusing the GOP front-runner of injecting xenophobia into the presidential race.
During an AFL-CIO event on racism in politics, President Richard Trumka said the union has had "a number of conversations" with Trump supporters in its efforts to convert them.
“'Why do you support the guy?’” he asks them.
"They say immediately, 'I’m attracted to him because he ain’t one of these politicians. He speaks his mind and he tells it like it is.' "
"The next question is, 'What does he tell?' " Trumka went on.
The answers, he said, have been "pretty dismal and pretty obnoxious."
Trump is playing into people's fears about race, said Ian Haney-Lopez, a law professor at the University of California, Berkeley, who also spoke at the AFL-CIO event.
“This is the dynamic that Trump has been capitalizing on,” Haney-Lopez said.
"Donald Trump is engaged in poisonous, racial politics, where he’s trying to generate, trying to stimulate rising racial anxiety about Mexicans as illegal aliens, about Muslims as terrorists,” he continued.
"Win or lose, Trump has changed the nature of American politics and American society,” he added. "He has allowed a new speech of racial fear and racial anxiety, and he’s increased the amount of fear, the amount of anger, the amount of hatred in our society.”
But Trump wasn't the only person who caught Trumka's ire. The labor leader said he has also confronted racism in his own family.
"I’m going to point the finger at me," Trumka said. "In the past, someone would say something that was racist or bigotry and it was easier for me to say nothing and walk away. Members of my family, people at the water cooler, a group of people out having a beer and someone tells an off-color joke."
"I’ll tell you one story about my cousin," he continued. "We were together and he started railing about immigrants. I said, 'You know, I’m first generation, and so are you.' It wasn’t very many years ago they were saying the same thing about my parents and grandparents. 'They’re stealing our jobs, it’s a threat to us.' Here you are a generation later, and you’re talking that way. You ought to be ashamed of yourself."