When Donald Trump was first running for office in 2016, his bravado, working man posturing, and talk of “America first” had a certain appeal for workers who felt forgotten, displaced by trade deals that hurt manufacturing and cost U.S. jobs. Trump was able to tap into working people’s frustration and desire for a fresh start, but his policies have been nothing short of an attack on workers, their unions and their families. His executive orders and agency appointments have made clear that the tough talk is just a distraction; he sees workers as pawns, and their unions, as a problem to be eliminated. Before you vote on Nov. 3, take a look at where Trump really stands for workers and their families.
IMPACT ON WORKERS’ PAY
1. Trump supports ‘right-to-work’
Trump-backed “right-to-work” as a candidate in 2016 and has said he would sign a National Right-to-Work law introduced in the Senate if it reaches his desk. He frequently attacks union dues (paid by union members, not the companies they work for) as the cause of job losses and issued a memo earlier this year calling for the abolition of federal workers’ bargaining rights.
2. Failed to support second stimulus round during the coronavirus pandemic
The Trump administration vehemently opposed extending the temporary $600 increase in unemployment benefits and $150 billion in aid to state and local governments included in the CARES Act. Failing to extend the aid will cost millions of jobs – including 5.3 million due to insufficient federal aid to state and local governments and 5.1 million from the expiration of the temporary boost in unemployment insurance for workers waylaid by the pandemic.
3. Hid economic analysis on ‘tip stealing’ rule
Trump’s Department of Labor proposed a rule that would allow employers to pocket the tips of their employees as long as workers are paid the minimum wage. The department’s economic analysis showed the rule would have cost workers $5.8 billion in wages each year.
4. Blocked overtime for millions of workers
Instead of defending a proposed 2016 rule that would have raised the overtime salary threshold from $23,660 to $47,476 ($913 a week) – which would have strengthened overtime protections for 12.5 million workers – the Trump administration issued its own rule setting the threshold at $35,568 ($684 a week) before employers are required to pay overtime, leaving roughly 8.2 million workers behind.
5. Denied workers a minimum wage increase
In July 2019, the Democratic controlled House of Representatives voted to increase the federal minimum wage to $15 by 2025, increasing wages for over 33 million workers and lifting 1.3 million people out of poverty – nearly half of them children. It died before going to the Senate when Trump said he would veto the bill.
6. Excluded millions of workers from paid leave
The Trump DOL issued a temporary rule exempting certain employers from the paid leave provisions in the Families First Coronavirus Relief Act, including an estimated 9 million health care workers and 4.4 million first responders.
7. Proposed lowering tipped workers earnings
In December 2019, the Trump Labor Department proposed letting employers assign tipped employees more “side tasks” – tasks for which they do not receive tips, such as restocking and cleaning – while continuing to pay them the subminimum tipped-worker wage. If finalized, the proposed rule would cost tipped workers more than $700 million annually.
8. Expanded rule to reduce overtime pay
In November 2019, the Trump Labor Department proposed a rule making it easier for employers to use the “fluctuating workweek method” for calculating overtime pay. This would let employers pay workers half of their regular rate for hours worked over 40, rather than the usual time-and-a-half.
9. Allowed misclassification of gig workers
In April 2019, Trump Administration stripped tens of thousands of workers of protections under the National Labor Relations Act by deciding that platform-based drivers for Uber and Lyft are not employees covered by the NLRA, setting a precedent that undermines employee status for other misclassified workers.
10. Pushed to lower farmworkers wages
Although some 10 percent of 200,000 temporary crop farm workforces are migrant visa workers – some of the lowest paid workers in the labor market – the Trump administration proposed changing the way all temporary farmworkers workers’ wage rates are calculated, resulting in lowering their wages to benefit employers.
IMPACT ON JOBS
11. Tax plan that encouraged outsourcing
Trump’s signature legislative achievement, the so-called Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), is mostly a large tax cut for corporations. Far from being a “worker-friendly” tax reform bill, it actually provided huge financial incentives for companies to send jobs overseas. Since Trump took office, an estimated 200,000 jobs have gone overseas.
12. Tax benefit for firms that outsource
An under-noticed and particularly bad part of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act provides a tax benefit for firms that “fissure” their operations by outsourcing work to subcontracted firms (anywhere in the world). This fissuring of the workplace will only be accelerated by the TCJA.
13. Encouraged offshoring of jobs, profits
• Job losses: The TCJA has encouraged offshoring of both corporate profits and real production, resulting in a net loss of nearly 1,800 factories between 2016 and 2018 alone and 740,000 manufacturing jobs just since February 2020.
• Tax losses: The TCJA has also accelerated profits being shifted to overseas tax havens, which deprives the United States of roughly $100 billion in revenue each year to benefit Americans.
14. Undermined job security for service workers
In October 2019, Trump repealed Executive Order 13495, which required successor contractors to retain workers on federally funded service contracts for a set period of time.
15. Allowed states to privatize employment services
A Trump Labor Department rule allows states to privatize employment services that use outside contractors instead of unemployed public employees in the administration of the employment services program.
16. Undercut workers’ freedom to organize
Trump Supreme Court appointee Neil Gorsuch was the deciding vote on the already pro-business court’s disastrous Janus v. AFSCME decision imposing “right-to-work” conditions on all public employees. Trump has since appointed another anti-worker justice, Brett Kavanaugh, and has nominated extreme right-wing Judge Amy Coney Barrett to replace the late Ruth Bader Ginsberg, setting the stage for decades of anti-worker rulings by the high court, including possibly a case involving a national anti-union “right-to-work” law.
17. Allowed overvaluation of U.S. dollar, hurting jobs
Dollar overvaluation is the single largest cause of growing U.S. trade deficits, causing the loss of five million U.S. manufacturing jobs and the closing of 91,000 plants since 1998. More than half of this negative increase has occurred since the Trump administration began imposing tariffs on China in March 2018.
IMPACT ON HEALTH
18. Persistent effort to kill workers’ health care
As millions of workers were losing their employer-sponsored insurance due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s worth noting the Trump administration and its Republican allies have:
- Asked the Supreme Court to rule the Affordable Care Act (ACA) unconstitutional.
- Weakened the ACA as part of the 2017 tax cut for corporations.
- Done nothing to make it easier for workers who lost employer-sponsored insurance due to the pandemic to slide into coverage under the ACA marketplace exchanges, even though an administrative fix to do so was easily available.
19. Failed to protect workers’ health
Despite the continued spread of COVID-19 in the workplace and over 210,000 U.S. deaths, the Trump administration’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA):
- Refused to issue an emergency temporary standard for infectious disease to protect workers from the virus.
- Rejected a union petition for mandatory rules to protect workers from exposure to the coronavirus on the job.
- Halted all work on a permanent infectious disease standard in 2017 that would have protected workers from diseases like COVID-19 and mitigated the spread of the disease at workplaces and back into the community.
- Issued dangerous guidelines allowing essential workers to continue working even if they may have been exposed to the coronavirus — as long as they appear to be asymptomatic and the employers implement additional limited precautions – in stark contrast to stricter public guidelines that include quarantining exposed individuals.
20. Intimidated local health departments
In April 2020, Trump issued an executive order that claimed to require the nation’s meat production plants to remain open. The executive order did not actually prevent public health departments from closing plants, but it has been used to intimidate local agencies against closing plants with multiple deaths and huge outbreaks. State and local agencies mistakenly thought that their hands were tied and they could not demand that the meat industry implement the most basic CDC guidance of providing masks and social distancing. As a result, 40,000 meat and poultry workers have become sick and hundreds died.
IMPACT ON WORKERS SAFETY
21. Made it more dangerous to go to work
Trump has killed OSHA safety standards and gutted its enforcement ability by reducing the number of safety and health inspectors to the lowest level in its 50-year history. There are so few inspectors now that it would take the agency 165 years to visit every U.S. workplace just once.
22. Allowed young workers to perform unsafe tasks
In September 2018, the Labor Department proposed a rule to allow 16- and 17-year-olds to independently operate power-driven patient lifts, putting these young workers at risk and endangering patients.
23. Eliminated pay and safety rules
The Trump administration blocked the implementation of the Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces rule ensuring that taxpayer dollars are not awarded to contractors who cut corners on workplace safety and other labor protections.
24. Encouraged denying unemployment benefits
The Trump Labor Department issued temporary guidance that encourages state unemployment insurance agencies to push employers to report workers who fail to return to work over concerns about coronavirus infection – so the workers can be disqualified from receiving further unemployment assistance, forcing them to put their and their families’ health at risk or risk poverty and hunger.
25. Repealed workplace injury reporting
In 2017, Trump repealed the requirement that corporations maintain accurate injury and illness records. He then signed an executive order mandating agencies repeal two worker protections for every new one they adopt, and directed agencies to identify existing worker safeguards that can be labeled “burdensome” and therefore subject to repeal.
26. Halted planning for future pandemics
Trump administration officials halted implementation of an Obama-era rule requiring hospitals and nursing homes to adopt plans, provide staff training and stockpile equipment (respirators, masks, etc.) to protect health workers and patients from future outbreaks of airborne infectious diseases – yes, specifically like COVID-19.
27. Delayed silica dust exposure rule
In April 2017, OSHA delayed enforcement of a rule limiting workers’ exposure to deadly silica dust that can cause an incurable, often fatal, lung disease and is associated with an increased risk of lung cancer. This will cause an estimated 160 more worker deaths.
28. Removed record of worker deaths from OSHA homepage
In August 2017, OSHA moved the list of workplace fatalities to an internal page, posting less information and burying information that could save workers’ lives.
29. Weakened standards for mine safety inspections
In April 2018, the Mine Safety and Health Administration finalized a rule that weakened mine safety inspection requirements and withdrew more than a dozen rules protecting mineworkers from major hazards such as explosive coal dust and mining chemicals.
30. Allowed increase of line speeds during pandemic
In April 2020, the Trump Department of Agriculture allowed 15 large poultry plants to increase their line speeds in the middle of the pandemic, despite many of the plants being sites of COVID-19 outbreaks. Poultry workers already faced high risk of work-related COVID-19 infections and serious injuries; this decision only exacerbated that risk.
IMPACT ON SENIORS
31. Stopped funding for Social Security
Under the guise of pandemic relief, Trump signed an executive order suspending funding for Social Security by allowing employers to defer withholding and paying the 6.2 percent employee share of the Social Security payroll tax for workers making less than $2,000 per week. This election-year bait-and-switch will provide a small boost for most workers, but will do nothing for unemployed workers, and workers will have to pay all of the deferred taxes back in January 2021. Trump even suggested making the tax cuts permanent but has not offered an alternative to replace the funding.
32. Restricted disabled Social Security benefits
The Trump administration reinstated a Reagan-era rule that allows denial of Social Security benefits to people with disabilities by severely tightening disability requirements. It has also closed many Social Security offices, making it harder for the disabled to access their earned benefits.
IMPACT ON WORKERS’ RIGHTS
33. Obstructed workers’ right to fair union elections
Between March 19 and March 31, 2020, the Trump NLRB suspended all union elections, including mail ballot elections, and then allowed mail ballot elections, but only if the employer agreed.
34. Restricted on-the-job free speech
The Trump administration and its agency heads have pursued an anti-union agenda by:
- Forcing more disputes into arbitration, rather than engaging in open bargaining with employees.
- Allowing executives to gag employees by banning them from talking with each other about internal investigations into corporate violations of worker rights and other work-related issues.
- Preventing employees from using cafeterias and other open-to-the-public company spaces to discuss workplace matters.
- Expanding “management rights” to let bosses make unilateral changes that undermine the collective bargaining process.
- Denying worker access to the company email system to communicate with co-workers about workplace issues.
35. Actively union-busting
Trump agencies have attempted to break federal unions:
- Social Security and Veterans Administration Agency heads went into open warfare with their unions.
- The Federal Labor Relations Authority
was ordered by Trump not to recognize the staff union.
- Department of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos was found guilty of union-busting after she attempted to violate the union contract.
36. Denied workers the right to class action claims
The Trump Justice Department urged the U.S. Supreme Court to find it legal for employers to require workers to waive their rights to class action claims, siding with employers.
37. Eroded workers’ bargaining rights
The Trump administration launched a multifaceted attack on the collective bargaining rights of federal workers, including limiting the use of official time for collective bargaining activities, weakening due process protections for federal workers subject to discipline and undermining the U.S. Postal Service.
IMPACT ON WORKERS
38. Rejected protecting workers’ bargaining power
On February 6, 2020, the Democratic controlled House of Representatives passed the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act to significantly restore workers’ right to organize and bargain collectively. Trump said he would veto the bill if it reached his desk, and the Republican controlled Senate refused to consider it.
39. Hindered worker organizing
The Trump Labor Board gave employers more power to prevent union organizers and off-duty employees from talking with employees at the workplace about forming a union, even during non-work time. While employers retain the ability to hold mandatory anti-union meetings on the job, opportunities for workers to have pro-union meetings were eliminated.
40. Narrowed ‘joint-employer’ standard to benefit employers
The Trump Labor Department passed a rule narrowing when a firm is deemed a “joint employer” (i.e. McDonald’s and its franchisees) substantially limiting employers’ liability for wage and hour violations and making it harder for workers to hold accountable all those who set their employment terms. The Economic Policy Institute estimated the ruling would cost workers more than $1 billion annually. A federal court struck down most of the rule.
41. Dismantled fiduciary protections for retirement savers
The Trump Labor Department scrapped an Obama administration fiduciary rule requiring financial advisors to give investment advice that was in the best interest of the saver. Now, brokers and other salespeople can steer savers to higher-cost, lower-quality investments that are more beneficial to the advisor than the saver.
42. Narrowed ‘protected concerted activity’
The centerpiece of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) is workers’ right to engage in “protected concerted activity” — i.e. to protest, strike or organize a union — to improve their working conditions. The Trump National Labor Relations Board has systematically narrowed its interpretation of what counts as protected concerted activity, leaving workers unprotected against employer retaliation should there be a need to protest or strike over safety conditions or other employer rules that negatively impact working conditions.
43. Changed pandemic unemployment eligibility rules
The Trump Labor Department issued guidance allowing states to create more restrictive rules determining who is eligibility for, and the duration of, the $300 weekly Pandemic Unemployment Benefits, disproportionately excluding those who were new to the labor force, not consistently employed full-time in the previous year, or whose incomes were too low to meet income thresholds ––
exactly the types of workers most impacted by the virus.
IMPACT ON AMERICA
44. American prestige at an all-time low
According to a 25-nation survey conducted by the Pew Research Center, the world views America more negatively than ever before. To make matters worse, most of the world thinks the U.S. is in decline and China is on the rise. These numbers are a significant negative change from the results of similar surveys under previous administrations.
45. Forced government shutdown
One of Trump’s most damaging efforts to punish federal workers (and consequently all Americans relying on government services) was the 35-day government shutdown of 2018-19. Why this unnecessary shutdown and lockout of these workers over the Christmas holiday season? Because Trump didn’t feel he got enough funding for his border wall.
46. Allowing foreign intrusions into our government
While Trump openly praises dictators like Russia’s Vladimir Putin and North Korea’s Kim Jong-un, those relationships aren’t the only reason the world has concerns about who is influencing America’s foreign policy.
- Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort has a long history with Russia and Ukraine and other foreign leaders. .
- During the Mueller probe, investigators found at least 17 of Trump’s campaign officials and advisors had more than 100 contacts with Russians.
- Trump’s longtime personal lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen and former national security advisor Michael Flynn had numerous contacts with Russians throughout the 2016 campaign. Both went to jail for lying about those contacts.
- The Trump campaign gutted the Republican Party platform’s anti-Russian stance on Ukraine.
47. Diminished integrity, accuracy of 2020 Census
The 2020 Census plays a central role in allocating political representation and federal government resources across states and localities, a vital issue to American democracy. In 2019, the Trump administration proposed a failed effort to add a citizenship question to the 2020 Census questionnaire, which would have depressed response rates, cost taxpayers more money and diminished the accuracy of the Census. (The Supreme Court blocked it.) .
48. Attempting to deport DACA students, minors
Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) has been one of the most successful immigrant integration programs ever. It allows eligible migrants who entered the United States without authorization as minors to obtain a temporary reprieve from deportation, allowing them to work, pay taxes and attend college, giving them labor rights that have translated into wage gains and making it more difficult for employers to exploit immigrant workers and the U.S.-born workers who work alongside them. Despite legal challenges and the Supreme Court ruling against the administration’s previous attempts kill DACA, the Trump administration has vowed to continue its efforts to end the program.
49. Suspended issuance of green cards
In June 2020, Trump suspended the issuance of permanent immigrant visas – “green cards” – to migrants applying for them from abroad. Green cards grant lawful permanent resident status, which provides a path to citizenship for immigrants who wish to naturalize. While this effort was clearly an attempt to scapegoat immigrants and blame them for a crashing economy in the spring of 2020, it has had a hugely negative impact on agriculture that relies on immigrants to harvest fields across America, ultimately raising the price of products on American shelves.
NOT MADE IN AMERICA
50. American manufacturing
Trump constantly talks about bringing manufacturing back to America, but the Donald J. Trump Collection of hats, shirts, eyeglasses, perfume, cuff links and suits are made in Bangladesh, China, Honduras and other low-wage countries. His campaign’s “Make America Great Again” hats are made in China.
Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, a vice president at his company, presidential advisor and frequent campaign surrogate, markets hundreds of additional products under her own line of jewelry and clothing, 75 percent of which are imported, and 56 percent of which are made in China, the country Trump most often blames for the large U.S. trade deficit.
Less than a third of Trump’s products are made in the U.S.
It would be nice if President Trump followed his own advice to “Buy American, America First.”
(Sources: Edited from a detailed Sept. 16, 2020 report by the Economic Polity Institute “50 reasons The Trump Administration is Bad for Workers.” For detailed citations of the facts in this report go to epi.org/publication/50-reasons. Additional sources include Social Security Works, Ucomm blog, The Hightower Lowdown, Daily Kos, Quartz and the Brookings Institution.)