May 31, 2016
By Larry Cary
Now that Donald Trump has obtained the delegates needed for winning the Republican nomination, the labor movement must do everything possible to defeat him in November. Whether Hillary Clinton or Bernie Saunders wins the Democratic nomination, we must face the truth: Trump’s election would unleash the very worst elements in our society, which will be used to divide workers, destroy unions and drive down the working class’s living standards and increase profits for the rich.
The very foundation of the labor movement rests on the idea that all workers, regardless of who they are, need to unite in order to fight for better wages and conditions. By contrast, Trump’s campaign is grounded in racism and discrimination. He seeks to divide the working class against itself.
Donald Trump has demonstrated he is comfortable calling for violence against protesters. He refuses to disassociate himself from neo-Nazi and white nationalist groups. He promotes racism by repeatedly circulating tweets falsely claiming that 87 percent of murdered white people are killed by blacks, when FBI statistics show that 85 percent of white murder victims are actually killed by white people.
Trump has called for the mass deportation of 11 million Spanish speaking men, women and children and explained that force will be needed to accomplish his goal. He has called for the registration of all Muslims in the United States, a population that numbers 2.75 million when you include the children. He encourages anti-Semitic sentiments with his repeated assertions that "I'm a good Christian; if I become president, we're gonna be saying Merry Christmas at every store.”
Regarding labor, Trump proudly says in his business life he “fight(s) the unions very hard.” Currently, he is refusing to recognize and negotiate with a union that won an NLRB election at Trump International Hotel in Las Vegas. Numerous unfair labor practice charges have been filed against his company because it tramples on workers’ rights.
While Trump claims he had a good relationship with unions in New York, “a Federal judge found that Mr. Trump, a group of his associates and a union official conspired to avoid paying pension and welfare-fund contributions by hiring … immigrants to demolish (a site) to make way for Trump Tower.” According to the New York Times, Trump exploited “Polish immigrants who suffered low wages and long hours, lived on junk food and sometimes slept at the work site -- all in the interest of meeting the deadline to build Trump Tower, the gilded centerpiece of Donald Trump's real-estate empire….”
If elected, Trump intends to cripple the ability of unions to represent workers. According to Trump, “I love the right to work. I like it better because it is lower. It is better for the people. You are not paying the big fees to the unions. The unions get big fees. A lot of people don't realize they have to pay a lot of fees. I am talking about the workers. They have to pay big fees to the union. I like it because it gives great flexibility to the people. It gives great flexibility to the companies." At the same time, Trump believes American workers’ “wages (are) too high.” He opposes any increase in the federal minimum wage, which is appallingly low – currently only $7.25 per hour.
There is a rising tide internationally of right wing extremism fostered by the devastation of the Great Recession. We are not immune to this disease. In the United States, while we didn’t feel the worst of it, millions of lives were ruined as millions of working people lost their homes and many millions more lost their jobs. Indicating how bad it has been, studies show white males in America are now dying at significantly earlier ages as drug use, alcoholism and suicide rates sky rocketed. And while this was happening, our government bailed out the banks, pumped up the stock market and left the working class of every race and color to fend for themselves.
In America we haven’t ever suffered a fascist or right wing dictatorship. Thank God! But our lack of experience could leave us vulnerable to not recognizing such a threat to our democracy before it is too late. We need to appreciate that Adolph Hitler and the Nazi Party came to power in Germany as the result of winning a democratic election, not a coup d'étator civil war. People voted for the Nazi Party. Once Nazi control of the state was established, free speech rights were suppressed, democracy abolished and real unions eliminated. Jews, “Gypsies,” gays, political opponents and others were rounded up, put into camps and eventually exterminated. And the road to World War II was paved.
In order to win the election, the Nazis called themselves a “workers party.” Hitler said he was a friend of the workers and railed not only against the Jews but also against the capitalists. He claimed that Germany had been betrayed by its leaders. Nazi propaganda was directed at getting people to believe that by voting for the Nazi Party, Germany could be made great again.
I am not saying that Trump is a fascist. I doubt that he has thought through what he preaches to its logical conclusion. But especially after he retweets a quote by Italian fascist dictator Benito Mussolini, there can be no doubt that his campaign puts the whiff of fascism in the air. His phony claims that he will bring jobs back to America appeals to the working class for obvious reasons. His seeming willingness to publicly bash corporations that do business oversees convinces many that he is on their side. His demagogic attacks on minorities and immigrants is clearly calculated to appeal to disaffected white workers. At the same time, his hatred of unions and his tax proposal for giving hundreds of billions of dollars of tax relief to the uber-rich shows whose side he is really on.
If elected, Donald Trump says he plans to remake the Republican Party into “a worker’s party. A party of people that haven’t had a real wage increase in 18 years, that are angry.” He intends to use this anger not to help the working class but to destroy it. We must recognize the threat. And we must engage union members and their families to get them to understand that Trump is bad for workers and unions and good only for the rich and big business. November will soon be upon us. The time to begin this effort is now.
As I write this, we celebrate Memorial Day and honor the ultimate sacrifice paid by many to defend democracy and our way of life. I’m reminded that over 183,000 American sailors, soldiers and airmen died in WW II fighting Italian Fascism and German Nazism. We lost over 400,000 in the entire war, and 50,000,000 people died around the planet. It’s disgraceful that we have a candidate for President from a major party retweeting quotations from Benito Mussolini.
*Larry Cary practices labor law on behalf of unions. His website can be found at www.carykane.com.