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Trump's Four Year War on Labor

A look back at some of Trump's biggest attacks on workers

Brian Young's picture
Nov 02, 2020

For nearly four years, Trump has waged a war on labor. Readers of UCOMM Blog might remember when he went after federal pensions, or cut OSHA inspections, or put a PATCO strikebreaker in charge of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). Below are some of the highlights or in this case lowlights of Trump’s four years.

  • Trump signed the Tax Cut and Jobs Act in December 2017. Corporations have used their tax savings on over $1 trillion in stock buybacks, but only 4% of workers have received a raise or bonuses as a result.
  • In May 2018, his Executive Orders limited union time, removed union representatives from government property, and unilaterally changed disciplinary procedures for federal employees. It also kicked unions out of their offices that were in federal buildings. The offices were collectively bargained into the federal contracts to allow for better representation and to create a more efficient grievance process.
  • He locked out thousands of federal workers from December 2018 to January 2019. The federal government shutdown effectively locked out the federal workforce during the holidays and froze public services and payments that millions of people depend on to survive. It only ended after the AFA-CWA, which represents flight attendants, and other aviation-related workers threatened to shut down air travel if the lockout didn’t end.
  • In June 2019, Trump’s Department of Labor proposed the implementation of Industry-Recognized Apprenticeship Programs (IRAPs) in the construction industry. This was overwhelmingly opposed by the members of America’s building trades unions because it would have lowered standards and compensation for apprenticeships.
  • In August 2020, Trump ordered the Treasury Department to cease collecting payroll deductions for the next four months, which, if extended in 2021, would threaten the viability of Social Security payments to disabled and retired workers.
  • The president’s power of appointment has been used against workers over the past 4 years more than any other time in history. Trump’s first nominee to the Supreme Court, Justice Neil Gorsuch, was the deciding vote in the Janus v. AFSCME decision that everybody saw coming. He also nominated conservatives, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett. All three justices will be on the court for decades and could play a vital role in important decisions regarding Right to Work for private-sector employees, forcing unions to pay back dues collected before the Janus decision, as well as a number of other labor-related cases that are slowly making their way through the lower courts.
  • Trump has further entrenched anti-union policy in the federal government with his appointments to the Department of Labor, Environmental Protection Agency, and National Labor Relations Board. Due to a delay in reconfirming a Democratic member’s term between December 2019 and August 2020, the NLRB was all-Republican for the first time in its history.

Before Trump was elected, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce had ten priorities to weaken unions' power. Below is a graphic laying out these priorities.

As you can see above all ten were accomplished in Trump’s first term by the Republican-held NLRB. These decisions have significantly hurt unions' ability to organize, represent their members, and made it easier for bosses to fire members for speaking up.

Election Day is Tuesday, November 3rd and union members should remember who the real Donald Trump is when they head to the polls.

Dan Hinton contributed to this story.


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