Labor Divided on Trump
By Olivia Grady
Union leaders are not sure what to make of President Donald Trump.
President Trump campaigned on issues that they approve of, like re-negotiating trade deals and bringing back American jobs. And he managed to win 37 percent of the votes of union members, despite unions spending over $100 million in the last election supporting Hillary Clinton and other Democrats.
On January 27, 2017, President Trump even announced that Richard Trumka, the head of the AFL-CIO (the largest federation of unions), would be a part of his “Manufacturing Jobs Initiative,” along with 27 other business leaders. These other business leaders include Tesla’s Elon Musk, Boeing’s Dennis Muilenburg and Under Armour’s Kevin Plank.
Trumka said after the meeting that he looks “forward to working on this bipartisan issue to ensure that our country continues to be a leader on manufacturing innovation, as well as the creation of good jobs.”
This was not the first time Trumka had met with President Trump. On January 13, 2017, President Trump met with Trumka at Trump Tower. Trumka said it was a very productive meeting in a tweet: A very honest and productive conversation this morning with @realDonaldTrump.
Teamsters General President James Hoffa released a statement also praising Trump after President Trump withdrew the United States from the Trans-Pacific Partnership:
“Today, President Trump made good on his campaign promise to withdraw the United States from the Trans-Pacific Partnership. With this decision, the president has taken the first step toward fixing 30 years of bad trade policies that have cost working Americans millions of good-paying jobs.”
Union leaders, however, were not as supportive on the campaign trail.
On March 3, 2016, AFL-CIO President Trumka called Trump a bigot and said:
“From his anti-American proposal to ban Muslims to his horrendous comments about women and immigrants, Trump is running on hate. It seems the only group he won’t criticize is the KKK.”
Union leaders have also criticized Trump’s cabinet members.
For example, American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten released a statement about Trump’s Education Secretary nominee, Betsy DeVos:
“DeVos has no meaningful experience in the classroom or in our schools. The sum total of her involvement has been spending her family’s wealth in an effort to dismantle public education in Michigan. Every American should be concerned that she would impose her reckless and extreme ideology on the nation.”
The Service Employees International Union also denounced Andrew Puzder, Trump’s Labor Secretary nominee:
Trump wants to put Puzder in charge of enforcing these very laws that he broke as CEO. He opposes the minimum wage. He thinks workers are overprotected. He is against unions. He even said he wants to fire workers and replace them with machines that can’t take vacations or sue their employers when they break the law. In fact, as a fast-food CEO, he regularly broke the laws he’d be responsible for enforcing if he gets the job.
How long will unions continue to praise Trump?
Probably not for very long because Trump supports pro-worker policies, like Right-to-Work. He has stated his support of Right-to-Work in the past and on February 3, 2017, Press Secretary Sean Spicer reiterated Trump’s support:
The President believes in right to work. He wants to give workers and companies the flexibility to do what's in the best interest for job creators.
If only the workers didn’t like it too.