Trump’s Speeches, GOP Platform Offer Clues to Policies on Workers

Mark Gruenberg

Mark Gruenberg Editor, Press Associates Union News

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.

And outside of opposing bad trade agreements, the signs on worker 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 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. The sentence for “review” is a code word giving the GOP the go-ahead to try to outlaw unionization of federal workers.

            • 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 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 take effect December 1, but stalled by a business-sought nationwide injunction, expands eligibility for overtime pay.

            • Push public money for private and religious schools. In the Gettysburg speech, Trump said that within his first 100 days in office, he would propose a “School Choice And Education Opportunity Act” which “redirects education dollars to give parents the right to send their kid to the public, private, charter, magnet, religious or home school of their choice.” It would also end the common core curriculum. But Trump also wants to “expand vocational and technical education, and make 2-year and 4-year college more affordable,” without specifying how.  

The platform agrees with Trump on those goals and adds a few specifics: Supporting taxpayer-paid vouchers for parents of private school children, plus tuition tax credits and education savings accounts.

The Republicans also call for abolishing teacher tenure: “Rigid tenure systems should be replaced with a merit-based approach in order to attract the best talent to the classroom,” the platform says, leaving teachers open to political pressure and interference. At least two GOP-run state governments, in Michigan and Florida, have abolished tenure.

            • More money for fossil fuel projects. 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.”

            • While Trump did not mention labor law in his speech, the Republican platform slammed it – and the National Labor Relations Board. And the 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.

            • The Republicans plan “to challenge the anach­ronistic labor laws that limit workers’ freedom and lock them into the workplace rules of their great-grandfathers,” the platform says. It blasts the NLRB for “attacking the franchise model of business de­velopment, which is essential to the flexibility and creativity of the new economy” and for “wielding provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act from the 1930s, designed to fit a manufacturing workplace, to deny flexibility to both employers and employ­ees.”

The FLSA guarantees minimum wages and overtime pay. “Flexibility” is a code word for a favorite GOP and business cause for the last decade: To force workers to take comp time, not overtime, and only when the employer says so. The platform also charges the NLRB has “outlawed alterna­tives to unions even when they were favored by the workers.” It offered no proof for that statement. 

            • Obeying the cut-rate non-union sector of the construction industry, the 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. “Their patronizing and controlling approach leaves workers in a form of peonage to the NLRB. We intend to restore fairness and common sense to that agency.”

            • Transportation and infrastructure is one of the few areas where Trump and workers may agree. But the GOP-run 115th Congress may be the stumbling block there. That’s because the Republican platform would reserve federal Highway Trust Fund money just for highways, eliminating money for buses, subways, bikeways and everything else.

            “We propose to remove from the Highway Trust Fund pro­grams that should not be the business of the federal govern­ment,” it says. “More than a quarter of the fund’s spending is diverted from its original purpose. One fifth of its funds are spent on mass tran­sit, an inherently local affair that serves only a small portion of the population, con­centrated in six big cities.

            “We propose to phase out the federal transit program and reform provisions of the National En­vironmental Policy Act which can delay and drive up costs for transportation projects. We renew 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. The platform also opposes increasing the federal gas tax, the main source for highway and transit funding. The tax hasn’t changed since 1993 and its revenue is inadequate even for highways.

             • Trump, workers and the platform also all agree on establishing a public-private partnership to fund highway and other infrastructure projects. Trump said the partnership would “spur $1 trillion in infrastructure investment over 10 years,” though he did not say how.

Organized labor, especially building trades unions, and congressional Democrats have been pushing an infrastructure bank for close to a decade, over GOP resistance. The platform, however, now endorses something similar. “We will remove legal roadblocks to public-private partnership agreements that can save the taxpay­ers’ money and bring outside investment to meet a community’s needs,” it says.

 

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Posted In: Allied Approaches, From Press Associates

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