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Est. April 5, 2002
July 12, 2018 - Issue 750

The President has Taken the Lead
America's War on the Working-Class


"Right now, the country is headed back
to the  time before the NLRA, a time when
disputes  in the workplace were settled by
work stoppages,  strikes, and street battles. 
Often, organizations  of workers (including unions)
were considered  criminal enterprises or the
workers involved were aliens or worse."

Generalissimo Donald Trump has moved to the head of the army that has been waging war against the working-class for more than six decades, with his executive order this week in his attempt to weaken, then destroy, the unions of some 2.1 million federal workers.

Although Trump issued his edict a few months ago, he ordered his lieutenants to begin the onslaught just this week. Union leaders have said that his move is simply to weaken the bargaining power of their unions and to make it easier to fire workers.

Streamlining the federal bureaucracy to make it more efficient is a worthwhile goal, but, since it is Trump at the helm, no one should mistake his order as anything but an attempt to further destroy the union movement in the U.S.

This is the president who, as a Republican candidate for the nomination, said very clearly that American wages are too high. It follows from that remark that he thinks that wage workers in the U.S. are living too high and their demands need to be reined in. That remark and hundreds more that he has made in the last 18 months show that he is competely detached from the lives of the masses of Americans, and especially the workers and working poor.

Trump's attack this week begins with an attempt to abrogate the collective bargaining agreements, so the on-duty time that union representatives spend on grievances and other matters under the contracts can be reduced or eliminated, and the small spaces that are used by the unions within the government buildings can be eliminated. At the least, he wants to charge the workers and their unions for use of that space for official union-management business. That's just the beginning.

In doing that, he is interfering with the process that makes government more efficient. When there is a problem in the workplace, it is settled most efficiently with representatives of the worker or workers, their union, and members of lower or middle management. Without the formal process of resolution of grievances or other, more serious, problems, it stands to reason that the workplace would give rise to more testy relationships. Antagonistic relationships in government agencies are not conducive to a smooth operation, but the way Trump has conducted himself throughout his life, whether in business or now, government, is to create chaos, an atmosphere in which he revels. He uses chaos to confuse and overcome his opposition, in this case, the American people.

The president's contempt for the working-class shows in his actions, other than attempting to destroy wholesale what's left of their union movement, but in moving his Congress to destroy what exists of a so-called health care system and replacing it with a Republican-Trump system that says to workers and the poor: “If you have money to pay for health insurance and drugs, you can get them, but if you haven't got the money, tough.” In this way, he has betrayed the people who voted for him because he promised to “take care of them.” He hasn't and he won't. It would be worthwhile to remember that it was not just wage workers who put him in office, but large numbers of the middle class, who believed that he would take care of them, too. He hasn't and he won't.

According to a report in the Washington Post this week, since his 2016 election, Trump “has made clear that he considers unions to be major contributors in driving up costs and paralyzing agencies in their attempts to discipline poor performers.” The paper also reported, “President Trump has been very clear since the campaign trail that he wants to go after waste and fraud in government. Reforming the federal workforce is a giant step in ensuring more accountability for the government's use of American taxpayer dollars,' White House spokesman Raj Shah said in a statement.”

Leave it to this president, whose longtime driver is suing the president for six years of unpaid overtime. He could sue only for six years because of the statute of limitations. Even worse, Trump is blaming workers for inefficiency in government, while on his watch, the federal government is paying $10,000 for a toilet seat cover, according to the Program On Government Oversight. His “core supporters” should be paying attention, because whatever he does, it is in favor of the rich and the corporations, not them.

Seeking the demise of federal workers' unions is just a precursor to turning his attention to workers and their unions, in general, as if severe damage already has not been done to worker rights in the U.S. Unions are the manifestation of democratic rights that all citizens should enjoy, but in recent years, the effort to eradicate unions has become a professional trade, often overseen by batteries of lawyers. The batteries of lawyers are such that only the rich, like Trump, and Corporate America can afford to send them into the workplaces of America to doom wage workers to ever-declining living standards. That's what the country and its people are up against.

The passage of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) in 1935 expressed the intent of the law. On the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) website, the first thing one reads: “Congress enacted the National Labor Relations 1935 to protect the rights of employees and employers, to encourage collective bargaining, and to curtail certain private sector labor and management practices, which can harm the general welfare of workers, businesses and the U.S. economy.”

Section 1 of the act ordains the following: “...The denial by some employers of the right of employees to organize and the refusal by some employers to accept the procedure of collective bargaining lead to strikes and other forms of industrial strife or unrest, which have the intent or the necessary effect of burdening or obstructing commerce by (a) impairing the efficiency, safety, or operation of the instrumentalities of commerce; (b) occurring in the current of commerce; (c) materially affecting, restraining, or controlling the flow of raw materials or manufactured or processed goods from or into the channels of commerce, or the prices of such materials or goods in commerce; or (d) causing diminution of employment and wages in such volume as substantially to impair or disrupt the market for goods flowing from or into the channels of commerce.”

The NLRA makes it quite clear that workers and their unions play an integral part in the functioning of both the political and economic lives of the U.S. But it's just that part that the rich, like Trump and his corporate comrades want to stamp out, as they have been doing for decades. They do not want a cooperative electorate; they want a cowed and obedient American people, just the kind that make up the president's base. That includes the working-class and the middle class who voted for him in great numbers.

Economists and others have pointed out that there was less income inequality in the U.S. for the 30-year period that ended in about 1980. Coincidentally, those are the years that unionization of American workers was at its height and living standards for all workers began to climb and stabilize. It was during those years that Corporate America and the rich became alarmed that income inequality was shrinking and that something had to be done about the working-class and their unions. The war on workers was in progress long before that, but by 1980, the all-out assault began in earnest. It was the time when union-busting law firms began to sprout like so many toadstools.

Right now, the country is headed back to the time before the NLRA, a time when disputes in the workplace were settled by work stoppages, strikes, and street battles. Often, organizations of workers (including unions) were considered criminal enterprises or the workers involved were aliens or worse. Trump has made it clear that he thinks of organized workers in the same way the robber barons of old saw them: Any move on their part to organize for their families' and communities' benefit was to be crushed and the oppression of them and their communities to be intensified.

Trump and his sycophants are of the same ilk as Governor Scott Walker and his sycophants in Wisconsin. With the help of the billionaires, Walker did great damage to the rights of workers in his state, as Trump is setting out to do in the nation. According to Town and Country magazine, a 98-page disclosure form, which was signed by the president, covers January 2016 through April 15, 2017, and it reveals that Trump's assets are worth “at least $1.4 billion and that he made $288 million in income from his golf courses—including $19.8 million from his Bedminister golf club and $37.2 million from Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach.”

The magazine goes on to say, “His time as president seems to have boosted his income from Mar-a-Lago specifically: He reported more than $15 million in income from the resort in the 2015 report, followed by $29 million in the 2016 version, according to his last two financial disclosures with the FEC. While it's not possible to determine his exact net worth from the financial disclosures, we know it's $1.4 billion at a minimum—not quite the more than $10 billion Trump claimed he was worth during the election last year.”

Not bad for a president who promised to give away his $400,000 presidential salary, if he were elected president. Ever the business tycoon pretender, Trump has made money at the rate of tens of millions a year, even as he sits in the Oval Office. Any working man or woman who thinks that Trump is the least bit interested in the welfare of the people, including his “base,” is delusional. The preamble to the constituition of the Industrial Workers of the World never has been more relevant: “The working class and the employing class have nothing in common.” To workers everywhere: Don't look to Donald Trump to be the least concerned about you, your families, and your communities. His interest and passion is for his own accumulation of wealth. Columnist, John Funiciello, is a former newspaper reporter and labor organizer, who lives in the Mohawk Valley of New York State. In addition to labor work, he is organizing family farmers as they struggle to stay on the land under enormous pressure from factory food producers and land developers. Contact Mr. Funiciello and BC.




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