On one side of Washington today, President Trump spoke to trade unionists at the 2017 North America’s Building Trades Unions National Legislative Conference to promote his $1 trillion package to rebuild the nation’s infrastructure, which he touted as a way to create lots of jobs.
He was received with a mix of applause and boos by the union members, many of whom did not vote for him as President.
On the other side of Washington, the head of the AFL-CIO, the largest American union organization, was talking about Trump in a very different tone.
AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said at the National Press Club that while Trump promised during his campaign to bring his members high paying jobs, he has instead hurt those in his union by trying to repeal Obamacare, rolling back health and safety protections, and pulling “the old switcheroozy.”
“If you pull a bait-and-switch on working people,” said Trumka, “if you say that you’re with us and then attack us, you’re going to fail.”
“When the president says, ‘I’m for you,’ and then he does the old switcheroozy and he pulls a health or safety regulation that hurts us, we’ll let him know.”
The AFL-CIO supported Hillary Clinton for President. In the future, Trumka promised not to be an “ATM for any political party. We’ll stand up to the corporate Republicans who attack working people and the neoliberal Democrats who take us for granted.”
Trumka said that his union would support a Republican if they could find one who is really on the side of the workers, but that is very difficult at present.
He doesn’t seem to hold out a lot of hope that a working class hero will emerge from the Trump administration.
“We’re closing in on the first 100 days of President Trump’s administration, and two very different factions have emerged. There’s a Wall Street wing that seeks to undermine Donald Trump’s promises to workers. And there’s a competition wing that could actually win some progress that working people need.”
“I’m concerned the Wall Street wing of the White House is starting to hijack the agenda.”
Only hours before he spoke to the unionist, Trump held a Town Hall with the CEO’s of many of the largest corporations and promised them he would roll back many of the regulations that he says hamper them from moving faster in the global market.
Many of those same regulations are designed to protect workers, ensure they get a fair living wage, insist on a safe working environment, provide a social net if they get injured or when they get old. Those are all on Trump’s chopping block.
Now, the best Trumka can hope from Trump is that he lives up to his campaign rhetoric to protect the workers, even as his agenda seems to be moving in a very different direction.
“President Trump needs to decide,” said Trumka, “who he stands with.”
So far, it is clear he stands with the rich, powerful and well-connected no matter what populist pablum he spoons to the masses in his stump speeches. It’s no surprise that as many union members booed him as he pandered to them in today’s speech.