February 7, 2017
By Joe Maniscalco
Brooklyn, NY - Eighteen days into the Trump administration finds the House of Labor playing a very dangerous game with the “Bully-in-Chief” — simultaneously standing on the very vanguard of the Trump resistance, while at the same time — whether through wishful thinking or staggering myopia — helping to legitimize it.
On January 20, Oakland, California dockworkers belonging to the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, staged a job action protesting Donald Trump’s presidential inauguration that shut down the Oakland International Container Terminal.
Here in New York City, DC 37, AFSCME, AFL-CIO, the town’s largest public employee union, launched “100 Days of Resistance” in opposition to Trump’s increasingly authoritarian agenda.
Harry Garrido, the organization’s executive director, recently blogged to members: “With the Republicans controlling the U.S. House and the U.S. Senate, we need to be fully committed to joining the millions of Americans who don’t support where our country is headed.”
And last week, when Trump's anti-American agenda manifested in a unilateral ban on seven predominately Muslim countries - with the notable exception of 9/11 spawning Saudi Arabia - Teamsters Joint Council 16 President George Miranda issued a statement denouncing Trump’s executive order.
“At our best, labor unions bring workers of all races together to fight for a better future for everyone,” Miranda said in a statement. “Union workers learn that the threat is not the immigrant working next to you, but the company exploiting both of you. Where labor unions are absent, as they increasingly are in this country, bigotry festers.”
But those actions come in stark contrast to the kinds of meetings the heads of some of the most powerful labor unions in the country have had with the chief executive since his much-opposed inauguration.
On January 23, Sean McGarvey, head of the North America’s Building Trades Unions, Terry O’Sullivan, general president of the Laborers’ International Union of North America, and several others reportedly exited a White House meeting with Trump sounding decidedly upbeat. While AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka described his own Trump Tower pow-wow with the new president as “very productive.”
At its best, the dual tract that organized labor as a whole appears to be taking in dealing with Donald Trump might be best epitomized by Vermont Bernie Sanders’ attitude toward Trump.
Early on, when faced with the reality of a Trump presidency, Sanders went on record saying, “To the degree that Mr. Trump is serious about pursuing policies that improve the lives of working families in this country, I and other progressives are prepared to work with him.” But Bernie also added, "To the degree that he pursues racist, sexist, xenophobic and anti-environment policies, we will vigorously oppose him.”
That approach can be seen as sober and pragmatic only if one considers Trump to be “serious” about anything other than completing the dismantling of our ailing democracy and using racism, jingoism and misogyny to consolidate autocratic power for himself and the rest of his corporatist pals.
Even the ever-diplomatic Sanders soon had to loosen his “inner Brooklyn guy” after Trump moved to scrap what meager financial regulations that were put into place following the Great Recession of 2008, recently telling CNN, “this guy [Trump] is a fraud.”
A few days ago, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker enjoyed a White House meeting with Trump administration officials. But was he there to talk about ways of improving the lives of working families? Of course not. He was there to talk about the best ways the new administration can gut workers' collective bargaining rights at the federal level.
In light of that, the billionaire cabinet appointments, the Scalia-incarnate Supreme Court pick, and all the rest that Trump has done in less than three weeks on the job — doesn’t it just seem incredible that the heads of the trade union movement would consider doing anything other than diligently work for Donny’s immediate dismissal from office?