The last two months have made it very clear that President Donald J. Trump and the Congressional leadership plan to wipe out all the rights workers have won from the days of the New Deal to today.
On election night, labor faced a stark reality: The Republican Party is more stridently opposed to unions and workers’ rights than when it last controlled both houses of Congress and a majority of state houses in 2006. It now controls Congress, the presidency and the majority of state houses, and is poised to dismantle the American labor movement. It began in Wisconsin when Gov. Scott Walker gutted the collective-bargaining rights of public-sector employees like us and now the threat looms in the federal government.
We could be on our way to becoming a “right to work” nation.
The next four years could see the repeal of the National Labor Relations Act and the Fair Labor Standards Act, as well as the reversal of the National Labor Relations Board decisions and the end of Obama’s Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces order mandating a $10.10 minimum wage and paid sick leave for federal contract workers.
“They could repeal the entire New Deal,” according to Catherine Fisk, a labor law professor at the University of California at Irvine. “There’s nothing to stop them except their own political strategy and fears of sparking a huge backlash.”
Part of that strategy will be to appoint anti-union members to the NLRB just as it will be to fill the Supreme Court with ultra conservatives.
Wilma Liebman, a former Democratic chair of the NLRB, foresees a Trump board that will expand management rights, employers’ property rights and employers’ free speech rights over the rights of workers and their unions. “I wouldn’t expect too much that would be pro-worker. The question is how bad, and how fast,” she said.
And following Trump’s nomination of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, The New York Times noted in an editorial:
“If Judge Gorsuch is confirmed, the court will once again have a majority of justices appointed by Republican presidents, as it has for nearly half a century. For starters that spells big trouble for public-sector labor unions, environmental regulations and women’s access to contraception. If Trump gets a chance to name another justice, the consequences could be much more dire.”
The death of Justice Antonin Scalia resulted in a deadlocked court unable to rule on the anti-teacher union Friedrichs case, but there are dozens of other cases intended to deny unions the right to collect dues that are making their way through the lower courts. Therefore, we will not escape next time one of those cases reaches the Supreme Court. With this appointment, the GOP will have succeeded in its campaign to eviscerate public-sector unions, the most heavily organized sector in the country.
Despite all the controversy surrounding Trump’s choice of Betsy DeVos to head the Department of Education she is now in charge. Her complete lack of familiarity with public schools and the laws governing public education and her total commitment to support vouchers and charter schools does not bode well for our public schools.
In addition to the harm she may cause, Trump has threatened — as part of his anti-immigration policies — to withhold education funding for sanctuary cities. That would mean a loss to New York City of $1.7 billion in 2018 — 8 percent of the city Department of Education budget.
Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña assured parents in a recent letter that the city will stand up for a student’s right to attend school regardless of his or her immigration status in light of Trump’s policies targeting undocumented immigrants.
“Your child is our top priority, and we will do everything in our power to protect that right and ensure all students get a quality education,” Fariña wrote.
In light of all these threats, and there are more I haven’t touched on, we have a lot to think about, to worry about and to do something about. Certainly RTC members attending annual meetings across the country and the spontaneous marches of millions of Americans indicate there is a growing opposition movement that we will be calling on you to be part of as it takes shape. Please be ready to do your part and become involved in the “backlash” professor Fisk mentioned. The stakes are extremely high.