Trumka advocates strong bargaining rights for all, union and non-union

WASHINGTON—Expanding on a point he recently made in his one-on-one meeting with GOP President Donald Trump, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka advocated strong bargaining rights for all workers, union and non-union.

Trumka publicly laid out that position in a major speech on April 4 at the National Press Club in D.C., at the same time Trump was addressing North America’s Building Trades Unions elsewhere in downtown D.C. Trump did not mention collective bargaining, or even the word “union” in his address.

Expanding collective bargaining rights, Trumka says, could help right an economy that “is historically out of balance, tilted steeply against working people and in favor of corporations.”  Equal Pay Day, which happened to be on April 4, is a symptom and symbol of that gap, he added.

“In each of the last three years, corporate profits have reached record highs, one year after the other, yet workers haven’t gotten a real raise in half a century.  Corporate CEOs are making more than 300 times the average worker.  And despite living in the richest country in the world at its richest point in history, our overall standard of living is going down. This is a moral and an economic crisis,” he declared.

“Mothers and fathers are being forced to choose between paying the rent and paying the doctor.  Consumers are being cheated out of hard-earned money. Seniors are taking jobs instead of enjoying retirement. These are the realities for working people while corporations cart their riches to the bank.”

“In the end, it all comes down to this: Everybody deserves a good job and the power to win better wages, benefits and retirement security, whether you’re in a union or not.  That is how we build an economy that works.”

Trumka laid the blame for such conditions at the feet of corporate control of the GOP, with the agreement of “too many Democrats,” too. Under “the guise of creating jobs” the advocates of such conditions operate under “a fanatical economic theory that seeks to remove or destroy anything seen as a barrier to the free market, including unions.

“We see it in our trade deals that create special rights for corporations.  We see it in our health care system that is a windfall for insurance companies and a complicated, unaffordable mess for patients and families.  We see it in our financial sector that has become the master, not the servant, of the real economy.

“Above all, we see it in our outdated labor laws that allow employers to steal wages and unfairly restrict the freedom of workers to form unions,” he said.

His solution is to require employers to bargain with their workers over pay, benefits and working conditions, not just with workers organized into unions. Otherwise, “we will never solve the problem” of economic and income inequality,” Trumka said.

“Now it would seem that the Bill of Rights—with its freedoms of speech and assembly—affords every worker the right to bargain with our employer.  But that is not how the system works in practice.”

In the real world, employers can bargain only with unions whom their workers elect to represent them, he said. And even though Trumka did not say so, employers have used legal and procedural roadblocks to avoid bargaining with unions even after workers vote for them. Other employers misclassify millions of workers as “independent contractors” who lack bargaining rights and who aren’t even covered by Social Security, for example — unless they pay for it themselves.

But “when all workers have a say in our pay and working conditions, we will start to close the gap. We will lift up more families and communities.  We will build the America our founders envisioned, our parents built and our children deserve,” Trumka said.

Trumka told the crowd that he made those points in his two meetings with Trump. But he added that he fears “the Wall Street wing” of the Republicans is already taking over the Manhattan mogul’s administration.

“President Trump needs to decide who he stands with.  The coal miners, farmers, steelworkers and other regular Americans who he promised to help in the campaign, or the Wall Street tycoons who are rigging the economy at our expense.  This decision will be the single greatest test of his presidency.

“Even before taking office, President Trump used his bully pulpit to tell companies to stay put.  A few have listened.  And that’s a good thing.  Every president should fight to keep good jobs here, because every single job saved means one more family can pay down the mortgage, save for college or retire with dignity.

But it is not enough simply to demand companies stay in America if the jobs saved provide low wages and little voice. President Trump should use his office and influence to call for an end to workplace intimidation, reject ‘right to work’ once and for all and promote and protect the freedom of every single worker to form or join a union and bargain for a better life.”

Recognizing Trump’s means of communications, and his campaign slogan, Trumka urged: “Tweet that. Fight for that. Accomplish that. That’s how we’ll make America great!”

Organized labor will be “keeping score” to see if Trump’s actions match his words. That’s why unions were in the vanguard of opposing the American Health Care Act, which would have replaced the Obama administration’s Affordable Care Act, and why unions still campaign for comprehensive immigration reform, Trumka said.

The GOP’s health care bill, which went down the drain because of Republican intra-party opposition and outside public pressure “was an all-out attack on workers’ health care security, taking money away from Medicare and Medicaid, increasing the number of uninsured and taxing our health plans.  We want health care for all, not the few.

“By defeating this bad legislation, we sent a powerful message.  If you pull a bait and switch on working people, if you say you are with us and then attack us, you will fail,” Trumka declared. Trump backed, and lobbied hard for, the GOP health care bill

In other areas, Trumka criticized Trump for being beholden to the GOP Wall Streeters, particularly in executive orders and signing recent laws that roll back or eliminate federal rules protecting workers and consumers.

“By delaying the” Labor Department’s “fiduciary rule which says financial advisers must act in your best interest, working people could lose more than a quarter of our retirement money,” he warned.

That rule, promulgated by the Democratic President Barack Obama’s DOL several months before the end his presidency, was stalled by an executive order from Trump, who told DOL to look at it again, implying it should be trashed. Right wing Republicans in Congress want to kill it.

“Then there’s the president’s budget. In the end, a budget is more than a set of num-bers. It’s a values document. It’s how we know if you put your money where your mouth is.  And this budget fails that test,” Trumka said of the first part of Trump’s spending proposals.

Trump proposed adding $54 billion to military spending, while taking an equal amount away from domestic programs, notably the Environmental Protection Agency. The rest of Trump’s budget blueprint has yet to be released.

Winding up, Trumka issued a warning for both political parties.

“Building an economy that works for everyone requires putting our issues and our values first.  We will not be an ATM for any political party.  We will stand up to the corporate Republicans who attack working people and the neoliberal Democrats who take us for granted.  When our fidelity is to working people and fair economic rules, politicians will have to come to us.  That’s how we’ll stop choosing on Election Day between the lesser of two evils and start choosing between the better of two goods,” he said.

Source: PAI