Six Things You Didn’t Know Trump and Congress Are Working On

Celine McNicholas

Celine McNicholas Labor Counsel, Economic Policy Institute

For the first six months of Donald Trump’s presidency, what exactly have he and Congress been working on?
 
While the media and many advocacy groups have been focused on the Trump-Russia investigation and health care repeal, EPI’s Perkins Project is your watchdog unit monitoring, analyzing, and publicizing any attempts to dismantle the laws and regulations that protect working people and their families.

Here are six policies that you might have missed that Donald Trump and Congress are trying to enact while they think we’re not looking:
 
Wall Street vs. Retirees―Earlier this month, the “Fiduciary Rule”―passed by President Obama’s Department of Labor―went into effect. But Donald Trump’s Department of Labor is refusing to enforce it. The Fiduciary Rule requires Wall Street advisers to provide retirement investment advice that’s in your best interests, not the adviser’s. Stopping these conflicts of interest would save retirees $17 billion each year in charges and fees. Donald Trump is siding with Wall Street over current and future retirees.

Corporations vs. Working People―Last year, we worked hard to update the overtime pay rule, which would allow 12.5 million people to receive the overtime pay they deserve. But now, Donald Trump’s Department of Labor is preparing to open up a new comment period in an attempt to undermine and kill this new rule. Trump is siding with corporate lobbyists who are trying to rob working people of their right to overtime pay.

Union Busters in the White House and Congress―Donald Trump’s Department of Labor is rescinding the “persuader rule,” which previously required employers to disclose if they had hired a consultant to “persuade” employees against joining together in union. Scrapping this rule gives union-busting CEOs a break and robs working people of the freedom to make an informed choice in a union election. Donald Trump is turning his back on working people by allowing corporations—with no consequences or oversite—to stop their employees from joining together to improve their jobs.

And, while the President’s Department of Labor is giving union-busting CEOs a break, Congress is trying even harder to prevent working people from joining together to negotiate for a fair return on their work. This month, the U.S. House Subcommittee on Health, Labor, Employment and Pensions discussed three anti-union bills.

The Workforce Democracy and Fairness Act would enable employers to disrupt workers trying to organize in union by packing the vote with workers who do not share the interests of those who are organizing. This would make it very difficult for working people to win a union. And―in a true double standard―this bill would make it harder for working people to grow their power in numbers because it restricts the freedom to easily add new staff to an existing union. The true goal of the legislation has nothing to do with employee fairness. It’s to ensure that working people don’t have the freedom to come together and negotiate with their employers for a fair return on their work.

The Employee Privacy Protection Act, also being debated in Congress, would unfairly restrict people organizing a union from contacting employees. Under current law, a union has the right to a list of names, job classifications, work locations, shifts, and contact information for potential union members within two days after a group of working people decide to negotiate together. The EPPA would require that the voter information be provided to the union “not earlier than 7 days” after it is requested. However, the bill does not provide a maximum waiting time. So, the employees organizing in union could receive the information the day before the election. Further, the EPPA restricts the contact information that would be shared. The bill forces a worker to select, in writing, one form of contact information (telephone, email, or mailing address) to provide. If a worker wanted to provide multiple contacts, this bill would prohibit that.

The Employee Rights Act is the most far-reaching of the three measures considered by the committee. It requires that a union win the support of the majority of all employees eligible to vote in the union election—not just those workers who actually cast a ballot. Imagine if congressional elections worked that way! None of the members who sponsored this legislation would have been elected!
 
It’s clear that these rules aren’t about protecting working people or creating jobs—they’re about who gets to benefit from our hard work. When working people lose the freedom to speak up together, the rich and powerful will continue to rig the rules in their favor and at our expense.

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Reposted from the EPI.

Posted In: Allied Approaches

Union Matters

Freight can’t wait

From the USW

From tumbledown bridges to decrepit roads and failing water systems, crumbling infrastructure undermines America’s safety and prosperity. In coming weeks, Union Matters will delve into this neglect and the urgent need for a rebuilding campaign that creates jobs, fuels economic growth and revitalizes communities.

A freight train hauling lumber and nylon manufacturing chemicals derailed, caught fire and caused a 108-year-old bridge to collapse in Tempe, Ariz., this week, in the second accident on the same bridge within a month.

The bridge was damaged after the first incident, according to Union Pacific railroad that owns the rail bridge, and re-opened two days later. 

The official cause of the derailments is still under investigation, but it remains clear that the failure to modernize and maintain America’s railroad infrastructure is dangerous. 

In 2019, 499 trains that derailed were found to have defective or broken track, roadbed or structures, according to the Federal Railroad Administration’s database of safety analysis.

While railroad workers’ unions have called for increased safety improvements, rail companies have also used technology and automation as an excuse to downsize their work forces.

For example, rail companies have implemented a cost-saving measure known as Precision Scheduled Railroading (PSR), which has resulted in mass layoffs and shoddy safety protocols. 

Though privately-owned railroads have spent significantly to upgrade large, Class I trains, regional Class II trains and local, short-line Class III trains that carry important goods for farmers and businesses still rely on state and local funds for improvements. 

But cash-strapped states struggle to adequately inspect new technologies and fund safety improvements, and repairing or replacing the aging track and rail bridges will require significant public investment.

A true infrastructure commitment will not only strengthen the country’s railroad networks and increase U.S. global economic competitiveness. It will also create millions of family-sustaining jobs needed to inspect, repair and manufacture new parts for mass transit systems, all while helping to prevent future disasters.

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There is Dignity in All Work

There is Dignity in All Work