Protesters call Reagan’s induction into Labor Hall of Honor a “shame”
The labor movement in the US notes that Ronald Reagan was an anti-labor president who has no place of honor among labor heroes. | Dennis Cook/AP

WASHINGTON – “What’s a crying shame? Ronald Reagan in the hall of fame!” chanted two dozen American Federation of Government Employee (AFGE) members and supporters on an impromptu picket line March 1 outside the U.S. Labor Department.

The picketers braved wind and rain to protest the former Republican president’s induction into the Hall of Honor alongside labor giants like Frances Perkins, FDR’s Labor Secretary and the first female Cabinet member, and Cesar Chavez, the legendary United Farm Workers co-founder and leader.

“Reagan was a disgrace,” said one Department of Labor employee. “The union movement suffered because of him.” “What he did to worker safety and health standards was abysmal,” said another.

Protesters took turns leading chants, and one AFGE member even impersonated the former president, asking GOP Trump administration Labor Secretary Alex Acosta to “take my name off this wall!”

DOL political appointees named Reagan to the hall, which is not to be confused with Labor’s Hall of Fame elsewhere. The citation conveniently mentioned Reagan’s presidency of the Screen Actors Guild, where he played two prominent roles. One was getting good contracts for SAG members. The other was “singing” about alleged Communists in the entertainment industry during the witch-hunting McCarthy era. His plaque cites only the first.

It also does not mention Reagan is known for firing the Air Traffic Controllers in 1981 after they struck over unsafe work conditions. The PATCO strike left up to 14,000 people without jobs and, more importantly, gave a green light to corporate chieftains to declare war upon workers and unions, which they have waged ever since.

All that prompted former Obama administration Occupational Safety and Health Administration Deputy Secretary Jordan Barab, a former union safety and health official, to include the Reagan induction in what he called “Kill the Labor Movement Week,” following the Feb. 26 U.S. Supreme Court hearing on the Janus case, which would make every state and local government worker a potential “free rider.”

“Inducting Reagan into the Labor Hall of Honor is equivalent to inducting Colonel Sanders into the Poultry Hall of Honor,” Barab said.

“An e-mail from Bryan Slater, DOL’s Assistant Secretary for Administration, inviting all DOL employees to attend the ceremony,” cites Reagan’s SAG leadership, Barab noted. “Not one mention of fired air traffic controllers, nor any fond memories of destroying OSHA’s cotton dust publications because the cover displayed a photo of a worker with brown lung disease, nor any mention of Reagan devastating OSHA’s enforcement program.”


CONTRIBUTOR

Chris Garlock
Chris Garlock

Chris Garlock is coordinator, Union Cities Program, and director, D.C. Labor FilmFest, for the Metro Washington D.C. Council AFL-CIO.

Comments

comments

MOST POPULAR