AFL-CIO’s Samuel: Expect congressional attacks on workers rights

WASHINGTON (PAI) — Expect wide and various attacks on workers rights from a totally Republican-run 114h Congress, AFL-CIO Legislative Director Bill Samuel warns.

But don’t expect much GOP success, he believes, as Democratic President Barack Obama will kill the anti-labor moves with his veto pen in the next two years.

Samuel’s outlook comes from the results of the Nov. 4 election, which strengthened GOP control of the House – already run by its anti-labor Tea Party’ites – and the handover of the U.S. Senate to the Republicans as well. GOP lawmakers have led anti-worker moves for the last six years, and plan more, such as emasculation of the already weak National Labor Relations Board.

“We expect accelerated attacks on the NLRB, Davis-Bacon” prevailing wage laws, overtime pay and “probably significant difficulty in getting (Obama’s) judicial nominations through” a GOP-run Senate, he said in a telephone interview on Nov. 5. The judges are important, since their rulings, especially in federal appeals courts, can overturn pro-worker legislation, contract settlements and more.

Samuel also predicted lawmakers could try tackling tax reform, but that if they do so, it would be a measure that benefits corporations rather than individuals. He said extremist lawmakers could try to “freeze the Labor Department” and particularly money for enforcing wage and hour and health and safety laws.

And if lawmakers even try again to pass comprehensive immigration reform – as a bipartisan Senate coalition did in 2013 – the new version “would benefit corporations, if it passes at all.” Tea Partyites and GOP nativists strong-armed the Republican House leaders into deep-sixing the Senate’s immigration bill.

The Senate’s comprehensive reform bill benefited all workers, not just the undocumented. That’s because it immediately made undocumented workers eligible for applying for “blue cards,” authorizing them to work in the U.S. while awaiting the years-long torturous process needed to become fully legal.

And the blue cards would have immediately brought them under U.S. labor law, cutting down on the opportunity venal and vicious employers now use to exploit the undocumented workers – while using the threat of hiring them to force down native workers’ wages and benefits and to halt organizing drives.

But there is a bright lining to the gloomy scenario on Capitol Hill for the next two years, Samuel believes: Obama’s vetoes.

“I don’t think they’ll get much of what they want,” he says of the Republicans. “The president will have little hesitancy in vetoing it, so Congress will be frozen.”

Photo: Worker rights advocates expect Republicans to mount attacks on labor rights in Washington similar to the kinds of state-level attacks that drew massive protests in Wisconsin a few years ago. Barbara Rodriguez/AP


CONTRIBUTOR

Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of Press Associates Inc. (PAI), a union news service in Washington, D.C. that he has headed since 1999. Previously, he worked as Washington correspondent for the Ottaway News Service, as Port Jervis bureau chief for the Middletown, NY Times Herald Record, and as a researcher and writer for Congressional Quarterly. Mark obtained his BA in public policy from the University of Chicago and worked as the University of Chicago correspondent for the Chicago Daily News.

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