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Trump’s Pro-Worker Rhetoric – and Anti-Worker Agenda

As Labor Day approaches, my CBPP colleagues Jared Bernstein and Ben Spielberg detail in the Washington Post how — notwithstanding his pro-worker rhetoric — President Trump is pursuing an agenda that at nearly every turn would undercut workers’ wages, health, and financial security.

Much of this activity is taking place behind the scenes. Little-reported administrative actions have delayed or scaled back the implementation of safeguards that the Obama Administration adopted to:

  • boost overtime pay for workers with low or modest salaries;
  • ensure that financial advisers place workers’ retirement funds in the best investments instead of those giving advisers the highest fees;
  • protect shipyard and construction workers from lung disease due to exposure to beryllium;
  • reduce the exposure to harmful crystalline silica for 2 million construction workers; and
  • require mine owners to identify and inform miners of potential hazards before sending them into a given area.

It’s unclear to what extent the Trump Administration will further extend the various delays that it’s put in place, some of which are already as long as 18 months, or even make those delays the first step towards killing the new rules altogether. But at a minimum, workers’ wages, health, and safety will suffer in the meantime.

The Trump Administration has also taken aim at labor laws and labor unions. It supported a successful Republican congressional effort to block a new regulation that would have made it harder for federal contractors that violate federal laws over wages and hours, safety and health, and collective bargaining to receive further contracts. It’s also taken steps that further undercut collective bargaining and the benefits to workers that it typically produces. For example, the President’s 2018 budget proposes to cut funding for the National Labor Relations Board, which was formed to protect the rights of unions, while raising funding for the Office of Labor-Management Standards, which “goes to bat for employers” (as my colleagues aptly put it).

The Administration is also guilty of sins of omission. Notably, President Trump hasn’t spoken about raising the federal minimum wage, which has been frozen for eight years and has fallen far below its historical average after adjusting for inflation or in comparison to other wages. Millions of workers receive lower wages as a result.

Lastly, the budget and health care proposals that President Trump has endorsed would seriously harm workers. The Trump budget hits programs that help workers advance exceptionally hard, proposing to cut core job training grants by two-fifths in 2018 alone, for example. And the House bill that Trump endorsed to repeal the Affordable Care Act would have ended coverage for millions of low-wage workers and weakened coverage for millions more.

This quick list only begins to capture the emptiness of President Trump’s repeated promises to fight for American workers. We’ll likely hear more such promises in the coming days. I recommend Jared and Ben’s piece to see how Trump’s rhetoric clashes with his policy reality.