Trump II would mean another dose of snake oil for American workers Skip to content

Trump II would mean another dose of snake oil for American workers

He says he’s for the “working man” – but don’t pay attention to what he says; look at what he does.

9 min read
Caricature of Donald Trump by DonkeyHotey

The old saying “many a truth is spoken in jest” reminds me of a sign in a Paducah union hall from 1980: “A union member voting for Ronald Reagan is like a chicken voting for Col. Sanders.”

The same goes for Donald Trump, who, barring indictment — and maybe not even then — looks like the favorite to win next year’s GOP presidential nod. (Trump says he’ll run even if he’s indicted and  predicts “potential death & destruction” is coming if he’s charged with paying hush money to adult film star Stephanie Clifford, a.k.a. Stormy Daniels. He is facing at least three more investigations.)

Reagan and Trump, two peas in a union-busting pod

Elected almost 43 years ago, Reagan was the most anti-union president since Herbert Hoover. Trump was the most anti-union president since Reagan. Yet Republicans Reagan and Trump claimed to be champions of everyday working folks.

Reagan was a con artist who talked blue collar but walked corporate. So is Trump. They differ only in style: Reagan came off as the affable “morning in America” guy; Trump is a snarling, foul-mouthed bigot. (Reagan preferred the “dog whistle” in pandering to prejudice; Trump is partial to the bullhorn.)

The late AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka called out Trump for proving to be just another union-buster in the White House. “Broken promises are bad enough,” The New York Times quoted Trumka. “But President Trump has also used his office to actively hurt working people. He has joined with corporations and their political allies to undermine the right of workers to bargain collectively. He has taken money out of our pockets and made our workplace less safe. He has divided our country, abandoned our values, and given cover to racism and other forms of bigotry.”

The big liar

Trump didn’t lie just to workers. He lied about anything or anybody any time it suited him. He made 30,573 false or misleading claims while he was president, according to a Washington Post tally. Evidently, no American president lied more bigly than Trump.

His biggest lie is still the one where he claims Joe Biden and the Democrats cheated him out of a second term. But the whopper that he’s pro-union comes in a close second.

Trump loves “right to work”

If you pack a union card like I do, you know that “right to work” laws are some of the oldest union-busting tools around. (Unions, for good reason, call them “right to work for less” laws.)

But on the campaign trail in 2016, Trump said he was “100 percent” for “right to work.”

In right-to-work states like Kentucky, all hourly workers in a unionized workplace can enjoy union-won wages and benefits without joining the union or paying the union a fee to represent them to management. (Under federal law, if a worksite has a union, the union must equally represent all hourly workers.)

PATCO,  and turning the labor department into the anti-labor department

Reagan smashed the Professional Air Traffic Controllers union during his first year in office, a move that “was the first huge offensive in a war that corporate America has been waging on this country’s middle class ever since,” Jon Schwarz wrote in The Intercept.

While Trump avoided the draft and military service during the Vietnam War, he volunteered for the corporate war against working people. Like Reagan, he turned the U.S. labor department into the anti-labor department. Both presidents nominated labor secretaries who had proved their hostility to unions.

The National Labor Relations Board is supposed to protect workers’ rights to unionize. Reagan and Trump packed the panel with pro-business and anti-union appointees. In a Laborers International Union of North America report on Trump’s NLRB, the report includes a list of “50 Reasons the Trump Administration is Bad for Workers.”

“Trump appointed fast food executive and union critic Andrew Puzder and [later] Eugene Scalia to be secretary of labor,” said Kirk Gillenwaters, a United Auto Workers Local 862 retiree and president of the Kentucky branch of the Alliance for Retired Americans. “Scalia [the son of right-wing Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia] was a union avoidance attorney who had made a living fighting labor regulations and workers trying to organize.”

The Carrier snake oil

Added Gillenwaters: “Trump personally attacked USW Local 1999 President Chuck Jones when Jones called Trump a liar over jobs to be saved at his Indiana plant.”

Gillenwaters was a delegate to the 2017 Kentucky State AFL-CIO convention in Lexington where Jones, who headed the union at a Carrier HVAC plant in Indianapolis, was a featured speaker.

“There are few better examples of how much of a snake oil salesman Donald Trump is than the latest news of even more layoffs at Carrier,” Oliver Willis wrote in The American Independent on Nov. 9, 2017.

“The company just announced that over 200 employees will lose their jobs at the Indianapolis plant in January. That follows Carrier’s decision earlier in the year to fire 300 workers at the same facility.”

Explained Willis: “Carrier has been able to do this because Trump and then-Gov. Mike Pence put together a $7 million bribe to the company.

“Before being sworn in to the presidency and vice presidency, the two put together a sweetheart deal of tax cuts to induce Carrier to keep jobs in Indiana, where Pence was governor. After negotiating the deal, Trump patted himself on the back and claimed he had saved jobs that would be shipped overseas.

“But Trump and Pence did not secure any agreement that would require Carrier to keep those jobs. Instead, they negotiated away revenue from the people of Indiana in exchange for a few days of headlines. The mainstream press unfortunately played along with Trump’s game, and Carrier has now shown how much it played Trump and Pence for absolute suckers.

“The entire deal, playing out over the first year of Trump's presidency, has been a microcosm of his fraudulent approach to governing.”

Jones told the convention that all along he doubted Trump’s promise to bring outsourced jobs home and to keep other jobs stateside. But he conceded that Trump’s pledge “resonated with a lot of working people.”

He recalled that on the campaign trail, Trump never said, “‘I’m going to bring my business back in this country’ or ‘I’m going to bring my daughter’s business back in this country.’ ... I thought he was full of s--t at the time, and ... times went on to prove [that] without a doubt he is.”

In a November 29, 2017, Washington Post op-ed article, Jones wrote that “Beyond Indiana, workers across the country feel like they too are victims of a false Trumpian bargain, in which they were invited to trade their votes to keep their jobs. In fact, according to new research conducted by Good Jobs Nation, more than 91,000 jobs have been sent overseas since Trump was elected, the highest rate of jobs lost to outsourcing in five years.”


Resources on Trump and unions

President Trump has attacked workers’ safety, wages, and rights since Day One
From President Trump’s first day on the job, his administration has systematically promoted the interests of corporate executives and shareholders over those of working people. The current administration has rolled back worker protections, proposed budgets that slash funding for agencies that safegu…
Trump Administration Sides With Corporations in Janus v. AFSCME
WASHINGTON—The following statement was issued by members and leaders of AFSCME, AFT, NEA, and SEIU—the nation’s four largest public sector unions—in response to the U.S. Solicitor General’s Amicus Brief in support of Janus in the corporate-backed Supreme Court Case, Janus v. AFSCME Council 31:
A clear choice on labor and workers’ rights in November
There are many reasons nurses believe President Trump is hazardous to our health. And from his abysmal failure to stop the spread of COVID-19 and his authoritarian behavior — to racial justice and police violence, health care, the climate crisis, gender justice, and immigration — critical issues for…
These 2020 Anti-Union NLRB Decisions Show That We Must Vote Out Trump To Restore Fairness
The National Relations Board has been on a rampage in 2020, issuing decision after decision against workers and unions. And that’s no surprise given that three of the four members on the NLRB are…
50 ways Donald Trump has hurt workers and their families - The Labor Tribune
When Donald Trump was first running for office in 2016, his bravado, working man posturing, and talk of “America first” had a certain appeal for workers who felt forgotten, displaced by trade deals that hurt manufacturing and cost U.S. jobs. Trump was able to tap into working people’s frustration an…
Trump’s Anti-Worker Record
At every turn Donald Trump and his appointees have made increasing the power of corporations over working people their top priority. The list of the damage done to working people by the Trump Administration is long, and growing every day.
The Trump administration’s attacks on workplace union voting rights forewarned of the broader threats to voting rights in the upcoming election
Introduction As we enter the final weeks of the presidential election, much attention will be focused on our nation’s electoral system and democracy. The COVID-19 pandemic has already caused disruptions in primary elections and the looming crisis with funding of the United States Postal Service (USP…
The Worker’s Friend? Here’s How Trump Has Waged His War on Workers
A Labor Day look at the president’s continual attacks on America’s working men and women
Four years of Trump: The record speaks for itself - nwLaborPress
He pledged to rewrite NAFTA, invest $1 trillion in infrastructure, and slash taxes for the rich. Now there’s a 4-year record to judge him by.
By a thousand cuts, Trump trying to exterminate unions
The author is president of the United Steelworkers. When Dan Hoskins tried to organize colleagues at an Oregon plant last year, vindictive managers marched him past as many workers as possible en route to a disciplinary meeting in the human resources office.
President Trump’s Anti-Worker Agenda
President Trump promised to defend “forgotten workers,” but his administration has instead advanced an anti-worker agenda that favors corporate interests at the expense of working-class Americans.
New Attacks on Federal Workers Part of Administration’s Anti-Worker Agenda
The Federal Labor Relations Authority has issued three new rulings regarding federal employee unions. What’s not new is their disregard for the rights of union members.
President Trump’s Union Busting Executive Orders: What You Need To Know | National Federation of Federal Employees
Last week, President Donald Trump issued three Executive Orders aimed at degrading the rights of federal sector employees. At NFFE-IAM, we understand that the existence of unions in the federal sector…
The Myth of a Pro-Union Trump
Following this budget proposal, there should be no lingering doubt about which side Trump is really on.
Under Trump the NLRB Has Gone Completely Rogue
An agency founded to defend workers’ rights is dismantling them just when workers need them most.

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Berry Craig

Berry Craig is a professor emeritus of history at West KY Community College, and an author of seven books and co-author of two more. (Read the rest on the Contributors page.)

Arlington, KY



The Daily Wrap for Thursday, 5/23

The Daily Wrap for Thursday, 5/23

Still some wrap-up from Tuesday’s primary, including late calls of winners and possible recounts. Plus, some breaking news in the tweets below, and a cool story about a possible billboard (or billboards!) in west Kentucky.

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