– AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka is challenging organized labor to go
on the offense, despite control of Washington and states by anti-union
fed leader issued his demand at the United Auto Workers political
conference in D.C., in early February. He headlined a parade of
speakers, including Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., and Rep. Pramila
spoke just days before GOP President Donald Trump proposed his federal
budget for fiscal 2019, which starts Oct. 1, but after the
Republican-run Congress – with some Democratic help – broke months of
budget deadlock and passed a 2-year budget blueprint.
blueprint ended the threat of another government shutdown, and avoided
a controversial vote on U.S. public debt. Pro-worker Democrats, in
exchange for their key support, got increases in domestic spending, but
not a solution – which both unions and they campaigned for – to keep
the 690,000 Dreamers in the U.S. for good.
budget blueprint also established a special commission, to report by
mid-November, with legislation solving the fiscal problems of troubled
multi-employer joint labor-management pension plans, pro-worker Sen.
Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, reported.
that came just after Trumka told the UAW “It’s time to drop our shield,
pick up our sword and go on offense for a while,” to campaign for
protecting pensions, Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, to rebuild
infrastructure and to “protect our water from becoming poisoned like it
was in Flint, Mich.”
investments will pay dividends for generations to come and will make
our country more competitive in the world,” he said.
in an indication of the uphill political battle workers and their
allies face, protecting pensions and Medicare run counter to the GOP’s
budget blueprint. GOP-run governments in Indiana and Kentucky are
forcing Medicaid recipients to work – or get cut off.
House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., has talked of cutting Social Security
increases and Trump EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt is rolling back
clean water regulations.
also touched on trade, saying workers “want trade deals that actually
work for people,” a key union cause in general and UAW cause in
particular. Trump promised to pull out of jobs-losing trade pacts, but
is “renegotiating” NAFTA, instead.
to those deals and the nation’s trade deficit, “More jobs were
outsourced in 2017 than any of the previous five years. And the new tax
law” – which Trump and the GOP pushed through Congress on party-line
votes – “gives corporations more reasons to ship jobs out of the U.S.,”
achieve such goals, Trumka urged more unionists to run for public
office. At least two are seeking governorships, in Iowa and Minnesota,
for example. But he also reminded delegates “we must hold each and
every elected official accountable — regardless of what party they
year, at its convention the AFL-CIO approved a Workers Bill of Rights,
and said it would be a virtual litmus test for political endorsements.
also criticized the Trump administration for killing federal rules to
protect overtime pay and worker health and safety, as 150 workers die
from injuries and occupational illnesses every day. “If 150 people died
each day from terrorism, the public would be screaming for action.
Nobody stands up and screams: 150 workers died today,” he said.
Jayapal and new NAACP President Derrick Johnson stressed other themes.
warned against “a house divided,” to use Abraham Lincoln’s phrase,
between labor and other progressive groups, and especially on civil
rights. He predicted the right wing would continue to use
divide-and-conquer tactics to try to pit white against black against
brown against any other “others.”
and civil rights organizations “are natural allies,” Johnson said. And
all the progressives “must stay sharply focused on the next five years
to turn the tide on the attacks from the right.”
is at stake is our democracy,” said the Detroit native who now lives in
Mississippi — where Nissan successfully split white and black workers
to defeat a UAW organizing drive. “We have to focus. We can only do
that when we have a clear message,” he explained.
a native of India who migrated to the U.S. at age 16, hit the Trump
administration’s use of the ugly term “chain migration,” to describe
how family members first become U.S. citizens or legal residents and
then apply to bring close relatives over. Trump demands an end to such
immigration as part of his price for legalizing the Dreamers.
president and his supporters in immigration have weaponized the term
chain migration to thwart a noble goal: Keeping families intact,” she
said. She noted the right accepted such migration as long as it was
restricted to whites, which it was until 1986. “We cannot change
our immigration system to make America white again,” she said.
slammed the Trump-GOP tax cut for the rich and corporations, as it
channels more than 80 percent of its cuts to them and the top 1
percent. “Corporate investors get millions; American workers get
Twinkies,” she said.