Labor Law: Did Trump Keep His Promise to Workers?

During the 2016 campaign, Donald Trump promised that if he was elected he would be a champion for workers. This promise led many union members to support President Trump, including many UWUA members. After nearly four years in office we now have a record to judge whether President Trump has kept his promise.

From the very beginning of his term, Trump’s administration has sided with corporations and anti-union forces against workers and their unions.

Worker rights threatened

Trump’s appointments to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), the agency that enforces the law giving workers the right to organize and bargain with employers, are the most anti-union appointments in the NLRB’s 85-year history. The Trump NLRB has attacked unions at every turn. It has made it harder for workers to organize, harder for unions to bargain good contracts, limited the right to strike and ruled again and again for “management rights” to allow employers to unilaterally do what they want without union negotiations or input. Four more years of a Trump presidency will effectively put an end to worker rights before the NLRB.

A real example of how the anti-union NLRB affects the UWUA occurred recently when an employer took unilateral action against a UWUA local by changing conditions of employment without union involvement. That action would have violated the National Labor Relations Act before the Trump presidency, but the Trump Board changed precedent going back decades to give management the right to make the unilateral change without negotiating with the union. As a result, the UWUA lost the right to bargain over the change or take its case to the NLRB.

Trump opposes PRO Act

In 2019, the House passed the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act, the most comprehensive pro-worker legislation since The New Deal. The Senate, controlled by Republicans, refused to even allow a hearing on the legislation. The PRO Act would give workers the right to form a union without intimidation or interference; ban so-called “right-to-work” laws; provide substantial penalties for employers who break the law; and allow workers and their unions to exercise their full First Amendment rights under the Constitution. Donald Trump will veto the PRO Act. Joe Biden has promised that he will sign the PRO Act if elected president.

President Trump often boasts that the right-wing judges he has appointed, including the Supreme Court’s Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, are anti-abortion or pro-gun rights, but these judges also have views on unions and workers. It is often because they oppose unions and workers that these lawyers are chosen for the federal bench.

Another example of Trump’s anti-worker appointments is Eugene Scalia to head the Department of Labor (DOL). In this role, Scalia is charged with protecting workers from unsafe workplaces, wage theft, overtime violations, and employee misclassification. But Scalia has spent his entire career attacking workers and unions. As head of the DOL, he has implemented Trump’s anti-worker agenda at the very agency set up to protect workers.

OSHA, which is part of the DOL, decided to sit out safety issues during the COVID-19 pandemic and refused to investigate or prosecute employers who are not following safety procedures and putting workers at risk of illness or death. Even with respect to the legislation passed to assist workers who have lost jobs because of the pandemic, the DOL has sought to limit the ability of those laid off workers from getting the full benefits they are entitled to.

Trump’s broken promise

After nearly four years, the answer to the question is obvious — President Trump has broken his promise to America’s workers.

The choice of which candidate to support is personal and everyone has their own issues that are important to themselves in making that decision. If one of the issues you value is union and workers’ rights, then the choice in 2020 is clear. Joe Biden will protect and enhance the rights of unions and workers, Donald Trump will not.

— David Radtke, UWUA General Counsel