The Building Tradesman Newspaper

Friday, December 02, 2016

Trump Administration, meet organized labor: mix of good, bad likely

By The Building Tradesman

By Mark Gruenberg

PAI Staff Writer

Though Republican president-elect Donald Trump has often been vague about his legislative goals, one key recent speech and the 2016 Republican platform offer clues about specific worker policies Trump and the GOP plan to pursue when they take complete control of the executive and legislative branches this coming January.

There's good news with the opposition to bad trade agreements, and pushing work in the energy sector, but the signs on workers' rights are not good.

While Trump drew union voters with his stand against job-losing so-called “free trade” pacts – racking up half or more of the union votes in the key swing states of Ohio, Michigan and Pennsylvania on November 8 – his other policies are another matter.

In particular, in a speech in Gettysburg, Pa., late in the campaign, he laid out an agenda that may give his supporters among workers pause. Ditto the Republican platform, written by the right wing, plus Trump’s minions, before and during the GOP convention in Cleveland:

• In the speech, Trump said he would impose “a hiring freeze on all federal employees to reduce the federal workforce through attrition, exempting the military, public safety, and public health.”

• The Republican platform pledges to reverse the Obama administration’s decision to let the nation’s 45,000 airport screeners, formally Transportation Security Officers, unionize. The screeners then voted to join the Government Employees (AFGE).

• The GOP platform also calls for cuts in federal workers’ pay and benefits – and questions whether federal workers should be unionized at all.

“Unionization of the federal workforce, first per­mitted by Democrat presidents in the 1960s, should be reviewed by the appropriate congressional com­mittees to examine its effects on the cost, quality, and performance of the civil service. Union repre­sentatives in the federal workforce should not be paid to conduct union business on the public’s time,” the platform declares.

• Trump pledged to “cancel every unconstitutional executive action, memorandum and order issued by President Obama.” In Gettysburg, he was not specific about which orders would go, but the GOP and its business puppeteers hate several pro-worker executive orders.

One Obama order mandated a higher minimum wage for employees working for federal contractors, such as fast food workers in federal agency food courts. A second required anti-labor “consultants” -- aka union-busters -- to disclose their spending and contacts with firms.

A third Obama Executive Order that's at risk is the Labor Department’s recent Fair Play and Safe Workplaces rules, which put into effect an Obama order telling federal contracting officers to take a firm’s worker rights violations – of job safety and health laws, minimum wage and overtime laws and federal labor laws – into account when awarding contracts. And a fourth, due to have taken effect Dec. 1, but stalled by a business-sought nationwide injunction, expands eligibility for overtime pay.

• While Trump did not mention labor law in his speech, the Republican platform supports a national right-to-work law, which unions call “right to work for less,” noting that states with such laws have lower wages and fewer job safety protections.

Instead, the platform demands the right of workers to “accept merit pay without a veto from union officials.” Firms use merit pay to divide and conquer workers, by playing favorites.

• Obeying the cut-rate nonunion sector of the construction industry, the GOP platform wants to eliminate project labor agreements, which protect construction workers while guaranteeing projects get done on time. PLAs “discriminate against the overwhelming majority of workers by barring them from jobs on taxpayer-funded proj­ects,” the platform says.

The Republican platform renews "our call for repeal of the Davis-Bacon law, which limits employment and drives up construction and main­tenance costs for the benefit of unions,” it adds. Davis-Bacon guarantees locally prevailing wages on federally funded construction.

• On the plus side for the construction trades, but not so much for the environmental movement, in his Gettysburg speech, Trump declared he would “lift the Obama-Clinton roadblocks and allow vital energy infrastructure projects, like the Keystone Pipeline, to move forward” and would “cancel billions in payments to U.N. climate change programs and use the money to fix America's water and environmental infrastructure.”

Transportation and infrastructure are two of the few areas where Trump and workers may agree. But the GOP-run 115th Congress may be the stumbling block there, as they have never supported major infrastructure projects in recent years, much less the $1 trillion plan talked about by Trump.

Trump got specific in his speech about the “free trade” issue, and more:

"First, I will announce my intention to renegotiate NAFTA or withdraw from the deal under Article 2205.

• “Second, I will announce our withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

• “Third, I will direct my Secretary of the Treasury to label China a currency manipulator.

• “Fourth, I will direct the Secretary of Commerce and U.S. Trade Representative to identify all foreign trading abuses that unfairly impact American workers and direct them to use every tool under American and international law to end those abuses immediately,” he said.