Trumka predicts election wins, replacing broken Trump promises
Richard Trumka |

DETROIT—Predicting political gains for workers this November, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka told the Auto Workers convention that they’ll lead to subsequent gains for workers – gains that replace broken promises from President Trump.

“Let’s fight for those who fight for us, since the corporate right-wing is going all out for our blood,” Trumka declared.

Trumka’s stem-winding address to the UAW’s delegates in Detroit capped a trio of speakers to the four-day convention. The earlier two were NAACP President and CEO Derrick Johnson and Teamsters President Jim Hoffa, a fellow Detroiter.

“After the election, we’ll use our wins to win more organizing fights and a better America,” Trumka declared, without specifying how labor will achieve that goal.

“That’s what Trump promised us – a better America. But that’s not what he delivered. He delivered budget-busting tax cuts, new efforts to dynamite the Affordable Care Act” and anti-worker actions from Trump’s Labor Department, from the Trump-named majority on the National Labor Relations Board, from the GOP-run Congress and from his own executive orders.

“And we’re still staring down the barrel of a wholly unfair tax on health care plans,” Trumka said, referring to the ACA’s tax – currently suspended – on people who do not have health care coverage.

Most importantly, Trumka said the U.S. Supreme Court “is likely to side, any day now, with (Mark) Janus” in a case that will make every single state and local government worker nationwide a potential free rider, able to use union services and enjoy a contract’s benefits without paying one red cent for them. Trumka reminded the crowd Trump named a key U.S. Supreme Court justice, Neil Gorsuch, whose vote means a win for the anti-union anti-worker forces backing Janus.

“That whole case is nothing but a dark web of corporate interests using it to attack the political power of unions.” That won’t stop organized labor. Nor will anything else, Trumka vowed.

“We don’t fear right-to-work, the Janus case or the special interests – because our solidarity is bigger than any judge, any politician or any corporation. When they attack our ability, we will fight back. We will fight hard and I promise you we will win.”

But Trumka again warned Democrats not to take organized labor for granted. Instead, he reiterated labor would roll out its independent pro-worker agenda and challenge politicians of both parties to endorse it. “We want to work for more Republicans who work for working people, and fewer Democrats who take our dollars and work for the corporate agenda,” he added.

“We don’t work for any party, but for working people…We will work for politicians who say the word ‘union,’ and not just on Labor Day,” Trumka said.

Those politicians must “write new economic rules so working folks can choose unions without being terrorized or terrified,” Trumka said. But the pols must also work for new economic rules that lift up workers worldwide, notably in Mexico, to end the race to the bottom and the trend of U.S. corporations to transfer factories and jobs to low-wage, high-exploitation nations, Trumka said.

But it won’t be easy to elect pro-worker candidates, the AFL-CIO leader warned. The “rich and ruthless” right-wingers plan to throw millions of dollars into the fall campaign, with nine-figure spending from the extremist Koch brothers alone. The right-wing and their business allies “want to leave us begging for scraps, Trumka warned. “Well, guess what? Their time is up!”

Trumka, however, did not get into details of labor’s political plans. Those may be hashed out at the federation’s Executive Council meeting in D.C., July 24-26.

Retiring UAW President Dennis Williams, immediately following Trumka to the podium for a valedictory address, took other potshots at Trump and other political foes of workers. “When you have a president of the United States who says he’s on our side and guts our rights under the National Labor Relations Act, we’ve gotta call him out and say ‘b—s—,’” said Williams, who started his UAW career with the union local in Rock Island, Ill.

Hoffa hit some of the same themes, but had a different solution.

“They pass right-to-work, and paycheck deception and they repeal the prevailing wage, and the Janus case is coming down the pike,” he said. “They know we’re a threat…But we’re ready for them – and organizing is the key to everything we’re doing. That has to be our future.”

He also suggested themes for that organizing: Bread and butter issues. “Some of these TV stars talk about equal pay for equal work. Where have they been? You want equal pay for equal work. Join a union.”

Hoffa added the right-wing thought passage of right-to-work” in Michigan “would put us out of business. They don’t know the Teamsters and they don’t know the UAW.” Labor Department data on union density back him up. Michigan density increased from 14.4 percent in 2016 to 15.6 percent last year. And the number of unionists in the Wolverine State rose by 52,000, to 658,000.

Johnson of the NAACP re-emphasized the historic alliance between African-American civil rights groups and organized labor – and pledged his organization would stand with labor in its campaign for the right to organize.  “The necessity of our relationship is at the ballot box,” he said.

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Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Award-winning journalist Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of the union news service Press Associates Inc. (PAI). Known for his reporting skills, sharp wit, and voluminous knowledge of history, Mark is a compassionate interviewer but tough when going after big corporations and their billionaire owners.