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Est. April 5, 2002
Apr 09, 2020 - Issue 813
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Pandemic Good Cover
Trump to Move Against
Workers, Venezuela, The Environment


"It would be a shock if Trump were to say from that daily podium
that black Americans are suffering from COVID-19 more than any
others across the nation.  His xenophobia and racism will not allow
him to say the words, because his and his fellow Republicans'
policies have helped, over generations, to provide the fertile ground
for the virus to take hold in black and marginalized communities."

As horrendous as COVID-19 is as a pandemic, it is providing distraction enough that some are using it as a distraction for other actions that could be in the end just as bad as any other disease or disruption of economies worldwide.

Today, we're just considering three things that the Trump Administration is doing that will have longer term effects than even the coronavirus pandemic, namely Donald Trump's assault on the working class by attacking their ability to join together in unions; the dangerous lifting of environmental regulations that will result in dirtier air and water, and the threats and, ultimately, the attack on Venezuela, in the guise of halting the flow of drugs into the U.S. from that nation.

The lifting of environmental regulations, which are the result of generations of hard work by civic groups and non-governmental environmental organizations, will result in air that is unhealthy, drinking water that is not clean, and endangerment of communities that are closest to polluting industries. This week, the League of Conservation Voters stated: “The Trump administration has announced it would waive enforcement of almost all environmental laws...We know that this will most impact the air, drinking water and neighborhoods of communities of color and low-wealth communities that are already disproportionately impacted by toxic pollution. This is an unprecedented attack on the health and safety of our communities at the precise moment they are reeling from the economic and health impacts of the COVID-19 outbreak. The consequences will be devastating and will put communities on the frontlines of systemic racism and environmental injustice at an even greater risk.”

Trump's attack on workers and their unions was announced quietly as a memo in mid-February this year that grants Secretary Mark Esper, head of the Department of Defense that allows the secretary to abolish collective bargaining rights for some 750,000 civilian federal workers. It is yet another example of Trump's attempt to weaken organized labor, so that workers find it difficult or impossible to represent themselves in gaining better pay and benefits. Of course, these efforts of Trump affect every community where workers are able to negotiate for themselves and their families.

In a statement about a year ago, the Utility Workers Union of America, AFL-CIO, noted that Trump with great fanfare announced at the beginning of his presidential campaign that he would represent workers of America, the forgotten people. However, UWUA general counsel, David Radtke, noted in March 2019, “Sadly, halfway through Trump’s first term, the President has repeatedly and relentlessly attacked American workers and their Unions...The most blatant example of President Trump’s war on workers is the lifetime appointments of Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh to the United States Supreme Court. Both Gorsuch and Kavanaugh have a long history of anti-union decisions.” These and other lifetime appointments to judgeships will be operating against the working class for a very long time.

Not to be ignored is the catastrophe of Trump's appointments to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), which should decide disputes between capital and labor with an even hand. The president has appointed three anti-union members to the board and the board general counsel, Peter Robb, is considered to be the most anti-union general counsel in the history of the NLRB. So much for a board that was to encourage union organizing and be the defender of workers' union rights.

The NLRB also in the middle of Trump's term of office, misclassified a group of workers as “independent contractors,” which make them ineligible to collectively bargain for wages, benefits, and working conditions. Now, the trend for employers is to classify more workers as independent contractors, so they can be paid lower wages, skirt the labor laws, and dismiss them at will, even though they fit the legal description of “employees.” This, too, will be with the working class for a long time, and will hamper them in seeking to improve their lives and those of their communities. Economists have pointed out that the disparity between the 1 percent and the rest of the people is at the greatest disparity since the so-called Golden Age of the early 20th Century, the time of the earlier Robber Barons. There's a whole new crop of them in 2020. And, they (the 1 percent) own 40 percent of the nation's wealth. Much of the rest is left for the 325 million, after the military and “defense” take a little more than half of that 60 percent of the country's wealth. There's not much left for social programs that benefit the people, benefits such as single-payer universal health care. One important solution to close that gap is for workers to massively organize unions, but the actions of Republicans and other right-wingers have thwarted that for decades and will continue to do so under Trump.

The third thing, but by no means the only three things that are sliding under the cover of fighting the pandemic, is Trump's threats to invade Venezuela. He's tried everything else in trying to replace the duly elected Nicholas Maduros with a U.S.-educated puppet, Juan Guido, whose Trump-backed effort in that South American country failed when nobody came to his coup d'etat. Now, Trump has put a price on Maduro's head, $15 million to be exact. His rationale for doing so is that he wants to halt the movement of drugs into the U.S. Unfortunately, he isn't able to understand that the vast majority of drugs coming from South America comes from the Pacific side, not the Atlantic-Caribbean side.

Consortium News reported on April 2 the following:

In an article written for L’Antidiplomatico on Saturday, Pino Arlacchi, the former executive director of the UN’s Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention , wrote:

I was also dumbfounded because I have been dealing with anti-drugs for forty years, and I have never met Venezuela along my way. Before, during and after my position as UNODC Executive Director (1997-2002), the UN drug program, I have never had the opportunity to visit that country because Venezuela has always been outside the major traffic circuits. of cocaine between Colombia, the main country, producer, and the USA, the main consumer. Only in the sick fantasy of Trump and associates is there any illegal narcotic trade between Venezuela and the United States. Just consult the two most important sources on the subject, the latest UNODC report on drugs, and the latest document from the DEA, the American drug police, dated December 2019.”

Apparently, the Trump Administration has ignored the intelligence coming from its own drug enforcement arms and, to further the impulse of the American people to support yet another invasion of yet another country, for its natural resources, is willing to ignore reality and proceed based on another series of lies. Trump, as have others before him, wants Venezuela's oil and that nation has plenty. He has sent additional navy ships to the region, but he has declared that it was not in preparation for any invasion. But, we've heard that before.

As for the excuse for the preparations for “interdiction” of drugs from Venezuela, there are estimates from the U.S.'s own assessments that 87 percent of the drugs coming into the country from South America are from the Pacific, from Colombia, but that nation is an “ally” of the U.S. and its leaders are securely under the blanket of protection that allies are provided by the leader of the free world.

These are a few of the things that are being pursued by the Trump Administration, while most of the attention of the American people are focused on COVID-19 and the daily performance of Trump at his “press briefings,” which to much of the world seem to be nothing more than public relations opportunities for a president who requires constant attention, if not adulation.

For once, it would be a shock if he were to say from that daily podium that black Americans are suffering from COVID-19 more than any others across the nation. His xenophobia and racism will not allow him to say the words, because his and his fellow Republicans' policies have helped, over generations, to provide the fertile ground for the virus to take hold in black and marginalized communities. The magazine, The Week, reported a few days ago that in Louisiana, where black citizens make up about a third of the population, more than 70 percent of those who have died of the virus are black. In Chicago, where the black population is less than one-third black, 72 percent of those who have died of the virus are black. And, in the county around Milwaukee, the black population is about 27 percent, yet twice as many black citizens have tested positive for COVID-19.

Structural racism that has always existed in the U.S. can be pointed to as the primary cause of this disparity, along with bias and discrimination, lack of a national health care system, substandard housing, redlining by the banks...the usual suspects. The list is long and neither Trump nor his supporters nor many Democrats are willing to face that reality. Until they do, or a new and powerful third party arises, not much will change. 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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