Trump showing solidarity with workers (for promotional use only).
Photo: Jeff Swensen/Getty Images
Donald Trump loves the working class as a mascot, but despises it as a class. The president will gladly take the side of the archetypal working man in his (largely imaginary) conflicts with environmentalists, welfare cheats, immigrants, and liberal elites — but never that of actual working people in their material conflicts with their bosses. Trump has great affection for coal miners when they’re posing silently behind him, putting a populist face on his plans for inflating their employers’ profits, but feels nothing for them when they die in workplace accidents. He adores factory workers when they’re thanking him for saving their jobs, but hates them when they inform reporters that he actually did not. And he adores union leaders when they ignore this dissonance (for the sake of short-term pragmatism), but hates them when they don’t.
And on Sunday, Richard Trumka didn’t. In an interview with Fox News’ Chris Wallace, the AFL-CIO president said of Trump’s record, “Unfortunately, to date, the things that he has done to hurt workers outpace what he’s done to help workers.” The populist president — who had once promised to transform the GOP into a “workers’ party” — proceeded to spend his Labor Day berating the nation’s largest federation of unions for its ingratitude.
And yet, Trumka’s remarks were actually far too charitable. To say that Trump’s affronts to workers have “outpaced” his aid to them is akin to saying that photons “outpace” snails as they each move across the universe.
Here’s a quick post–Labor Day reminder of 15 things the Trump administration has done to make the U.S. a worse place for ordinary workers.
1) Denied guaranteed overtime pay to 12.5 million workers, effectively transferring $1.2 billion from their paychecks to their bosses’ bank accounts.
2) Proposed a rule allowing companies with less than 250 workers to cease reporting workplace injuries and illness statistics to Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) — and removed a list of Americans killed in workplace accidents from OSHA’s home page.
3) Refused to ban a pesticide that’s been linked to birth defects in the children of farmworkers, in defiance of EPA scientists’ advice.
4) Asked the Supreme Court to uphold the right of employers to include forced arbitration clauses in contracts, thereby denying workers the capacity to press complaints against their bosses in open court.
5) Tried to throw millions of working-poor people off of Medicaid, then, once that failed, deliberately engineered a spike in health-insurance premiums, out of sheer spite.
6) Appointed one Supreme Court justice who had ruled that a trucker could be justly fired for abandoning his broken-down vehicle, instead of honoring his contractual obligation to freeze to death with his cargo, and nominated another who’d found that San Diego SeaWorld could not be held liable in the death of an employee who was killed by a killer whale. (The former pick ended up producing a landmark decision that gutted funding for public-sector unions, in defiance of decades-old precedent.)
7) Repealed a rule that required retirement advisers to prioritize their clients’ financial interests over their own (thereby giving investment advisers permission to secretly gamble with aging workers’ savings).
8) Repealed a rule that had required companies to inspect mines for safety hazards (such as loose pieces of rock that might crumble and fall as they work) before workers began their shifts.
9) Proposed allowing hog-processing plants to run their lines at a speed greater than “1,100 hogs per hour,” a move that is all but certain to increase worker injuries.
10) Appointed two attorneys — who had made careers representing management in disputes with workers — to the National Labor Relations Board. Those appointees proceeded to overturn a series of pro-labor decisions, including ones that had buttressed workers’ rights to organize unions without their employers’ unlawful interference; guaranteed the right of unions to bargain over changes in employment conditions; and required parent companies to bargain with unions employed at their franchise locations (that ruling was subsequently thrown out on conflict-of-interest grounds).
11) Passed giant, regressive tax cuts that were written specifically to allow owners of capital to pay lower rates on their passive income than workers do on their hard-earned wages.
12) Canceled a scheduled pay “increase” for federal workers that would have merely allowed their existing salaries to keep pace with inflation.
13) Reduced oversight of abusive payday lenders and scam colleges.
14) Proposed a rule that would allow restaurant owners to steal their workers’ tips, and hid a study showing that this could cost waiters and waitresses billions of dollars.
15) Restored the right of serial labor-law violators to compete for government contracts.
This is an odd record for a populist champion of the “forgotten man and woman” to amass, but it’s also precisely what you’d expect from a real-estate heir who routinely stiffed his company’s contractors, defrauded customers, fleeced small investors, and suggested, in public remarks, that the owners of capital are genetically superior to coal miners, who consign themselves to “black-lung disease” because they’re born too unimaginative to consider leaving “the damn mines.”