Unions in the Trump era

trump_right_to_work_0The 2016 Election brought more changes and surprises than any election in recent memory, filled with events from electoral meddling by foreign entities, scandals, and mudslinging, to the bombastic style of Donald Trump. While the election is over and Trump has been inaugurated as President, many people have been examining the future of labor under a Donald Trump presidency. Many believe that the future looks pretty grim for the labor movement in an era dominated by a Republican president and a Republican majority Congress.

It is no secret that traditionally, the biggest advocates for Labor unions and the working class have tended to reside in the Democratic party. However, the Democrats also have not always been labor’s greatest ally either. In 1976, Unions backed Jimmy Carter for President. Carter and the Democratic Congress deregulated a number of industries, including trucking, airlines, and railroads, as well as passed bankruptcy guidelines that allowed breaking of union contracts and pension obligations. In 1992, Bill Clinton backed the NAFTA trade deal, which led to outsourcing many manufacturing jobs union workers had depended on. And then, under President Obama, Democrats bailed out Wall Street banks and the auto industry under the premise of saving jobs when millions were fired and millions more lost their homes. To top it off, Obama has also pushed for the TPP (Trans- Pacific Patrnership) trade deal that could lead to still more outsourcing.

By the same token, a number of proposals Trump is considering are worrisome to workers’ rights, collective bargaining, and fair wages. Not the least of these could include Right-To-Work legislation on a nationwide level. There are multiple studies showing that wages in right-to-work states can be as much as 3.2% lower. This equates to $1,550 in lost wages and benefits per worker per year. This hurts union abilities to bargain for higher wages and benefits in many places. Already lawmakers are considering anti-union legislation in Kentucky, with proposals also likely in New Hampshire and Missouri. Trump has also critiqued efforts to raise the minimum wage, and nominated anti-labor corporate CEO Andrew Puzder to run the Department of Labor. The Republican party platform also states a desire “to attack the use of the Fair Labor Standard Act to protect workers; rips the use of Project Labor Agreements to raise wages and improve working conditions; and proposes to gut the 85-year-old Davis-Bacon Act, which guarantees ‘prevailing wage’ pay for workers on federal projects”.

The news is not all bad, however. The AFL-CIO has recently floated a proposal to renegotiate NAFTA, protect worker’s rights, and ensure fair wages be passed on to workers. The deal will potentially bring about better relations with Canada and Mexico, but will also keep more good paying jobs in the US. Whether or not such legislation can pass in a volatile political environment is anyone’s guess.

Making labor unions a force to be reckoned with again will not come from either of the two major parties. It must come from within, and be composed of individuals prepared to sacrifice and make a case for better wages and benefits rather than stagnation despite increased productivity. It must be a movement that unites all, Conservative and Liberal, forward to success and innovation in a prosperous economy. The ascent of Trumpism, while it looks grim on the exterior, may in fact, be our greatest boon. For, it will allow us a real opportunity to restructure the labor movement, re-assess our path, bring it back to the people in a grassroots fashion, and push back from the difficulties that are certain to ensue from a Trump administration. We will need a new labor movement much in the spirit of our forebears from a century ago.

Read more about this topic at : http://www.commondreams.org/views/2017/01/03/unions-trump-era