By TIM ROWDEN
Washington – Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO, delivered a scathing critique of President Trump’s first year, saying he had used the White House “to actively hurt working people” and favor corporate interests.
“Broken promises are bad enough,” Trumka said during a meeting with reporters. “But President Trump has also used his office to actively hurt working people. He has joined with corporations and their political allies to undermine the right of workers to bargain collectively. He has taken money out of our pockets and made our workplace less safe. He has divided our country, abandoned our values and given cover to racism and other forms of bigotry.”
It’s not as if Trumka hasn’t given the president a chance. He endured criticism from some Democrats and union members for his early efforts to form a working alliance with the Trump White House.
Trumka said the president had been generous with access to the Oval Office and administration officials, but those meetings, and the president’s affability, failed to yield results.
Still, Trumka said he remained willing to work with the president.
“If President Trump wants to change course and join us in the fight to raise wages and standards, and strengthen our democracy and build better lives, then we’ll be ready,” he said.
“But if he continues down his current path, workers will be looking for a new president in 2020.”
Trumka said internal union surveys show the president is losing favor among workers, some of whom helped elect him.
When Trump was inaugurated last January, an internal survey found that 45 percent of union members approved of him and 55 percent disapproved, according to AFL-CIO Political Director Mike Podhorzer. Now, he said, only 37 percent of members approve of the president while 63 percent disapprove, mirroring a rise in support among union members for Democratic candidates, including those in Rust Belt states.
An upswing in the support of working-class voters in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin helped deliver Trump the White House in 2016. If support among working-class voters is eroding, the president’s hold on the Rust Belt could be shaky.
“What we are seeing in these numbers is that most of the people who went to third parties are rejecting what the Republicans are doing nationally and coming back toward the Democrats,” he said.
BROKEN PROMISES, BAD POLICY
Trumka criticized Trump for failing to “label China as a currency manipulator” and said the president had rejected plans to “revitalize our coal communities.”
“Despite calling himself a ‘builder president,’” Trumka said, “he’s done nothing to invest in America’s infrastructure.
“He promised a trillion dollars to rebuild the nation’s crumbling roads, bridges and other infrastructure,” Trumka said, “and we’ve seen nothing so far.”
Trump and House and Senate Republican leaders’ tax plan was their signature (read only) legislative achievement of 2017, but Trumka noted the plan favored companies over workers, and “rewards outsourcing” of jobs.
Instead of delivering change, Trumka said of the president’s tax and economic policies, he is “doubling down on everything that got us to this point.”
MIDTERM ELECTIONS, NO FREE RIDE
Trumka said the AFL-CIO would participate aggressively in the midterm elections, focusing political funding on House and Senate races in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Illinois, New Mexico, Arizona, Florida and Missouri.
Although historically, Labor has aligned strongly with the Democratic Party, Trump’s election showed many rank-and-file union members were open to a Republican candidate. Trumka said union members were willing to vote for Trump because they felt establishment candidates in both parties had failed them, and they were ready to give the first-time politician “a chance.”
Now, he said, workers are far less enthusiastic.
“What he’s doing hasn’t matched up with what he’s said,” Trumka said.
That doesn’t mean Democrats will be getting a free ride.
Trumka cautioned Democrats to outline an agenda that will appeal to union workers or risk losing their votes again in the midterm elections.
At the AFL-CIO’s national convention in St. Louis last October, delegates approved a Workers Bill of Rights based on extensive talks with union and non-union workers across the country about what they need and want.
“Those who support that bill of rights will get our support,” Trumka said at the convention. “Those that don’t – we’re sorry.
“Democrats will help themselves if they have an economic agenda that rings true with working people and they will hurt themselves if they don’t,” Trumka said last week.
(Information from The Hill, the New York Times and the Labor Tribune.)