So last week, I looked at Trump and Social Security. Let’s check out how he’s doing with the unions.
But before I begin, let’s check in with my top referrers!
- Pension Tsunami for chock loads of pension links
- The Other McCain – thanks, wombat-socho!
- Wirepoints – check out Mark Glennon and all things Chicago/Illinois
- BenefitsLink with its multiemployer plan feed
As a reminder, I’ll be delving into my particular blogging interests using the “Trump filter” on Fridays. I think too many people are driven to react to whatever the latest thing Trump tweeted, and I like to take a long term view.
Of course, to me, 4 years is a very short term view.
UNIONS REACT TO TRUMP
Embattled movement wrestles with collaboration and resistance
Long-running divisions offer chance to ‘divide and conquer’
Donald Trump’s presidency presents unions with the threat that unified Republican governance will bring sweeping, hostile changes to laws they hold dear. Labor has responded with a muddle of denunciation, cautious quiet and, in some cases, even exultation.
Randi Weingarten, head of the American Federation of Teachers and a speaker at the Women’s March on Washington, said last week that “we’ve got to be whistle-blowers for righteousness.” Just the day before, the Laborers’ International Union of North America was gushing over the new president: “He has shown that he respects laborers who build our great nation, and that they will be abandoned no more.”
Long divided over how to save themselves, unions can’t agree on how to handle Trump. The stakes are high: Membership last year slipped to a record-low 10.7 percent of workers — and just 6.4 percent in the private sector. While making promises that resonated with many members, Trump has tapped as his labor secretary Andrew Puzder, a fast-food executive who has blasted efforts to increase employee protections and talked favorably about replacing workers with robots. The president could be the key decider of anti-union proposals like a national “Right to Work” bill, which House Republicans introduced Wednesday.
Puzder, the chief executive officer of CKE Restaurants Inc., has been vociferously opposed by organized labor and Senate Democrats, who’ve highlighted alleged labor law violations at Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s stores. His confirmation hearing was delayed for a fourth time Tuesday so that he’d have more time to submit conflicts-of-interest and ethics paperwork. But with 52 Republicans in the Senate, he’s still likely to be approved.
More on Puzder later. There’s loads more in the linked article.
America’s blue-collar unions just had their best week in years. On his first Monday as president, Donald Trump formally withdrew the United States from what union leaders considered a jobs-killing trade deal, the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP). Later in the week, labor honchos met in the White House with Trump to discuss his plans for a massive infrastructure-building program that will likely employ tens of thousands of workers. Trump also signed orders that potentially revived the Keystone XL and Dakota pipelines—two projects that trade unions have heavily backed but that the Obama administration had refused to approve.
The union leaders, whose membership once constituted the core of the Democratic Party, were effusive in their praise of a president who knows their business perhaps better than anyone who’s ever held the office. “We believe that President Trump really is going to put America first,” said Sean McGarvey, president of North America’s Building Trades Unions, after the White House meeting.
Behind the trade unions’ dissatisfaction is a simple fact: the modern Democratic Party no longer resembles the one that nurtured the union movement when it was largely composed of blue-collar, private-sector workers. In 1955, George Meany, who was in the process of completing the merger that created the AFL-CIO, wrote in the New York Times that business leaders’ fears that the labor movement was driving the country toward collectivism were overblown. In response to claims that he and his fellow labor leaders were in favor of big government or nationalization, he answered, “Nothing could be further from the truth.” Years later, Meany led a contingent of pro-growth labor leaders to the Kennedy White House to urge the president to stimulate the economy and create jobs by cutting taxes.
Today, however, the union movement pushes a different agenda. Nearly half of all members are government workers, unsympathetic to the concerns of trade unions and favoring bigger government and more regulation. Many other union members are nominally private-sector workers employed in industries, such as health care, that government heavily subsidizes. Of the 14.7 million union members in America, only 4.1 million, or about 28 percent, work in blue-collar industries: construction, manufacturing, transportation, and repair and maintenance. Some of these unions have gradually decided to go their own way. After the disastrous experience with Obamacare, trade unions representing carpenters and operating engineers backed dozens of Republican candidates in the 2014 midterm elections. Republican governors like John Kasich and Chris Christie also won support in their reelection bids from blue-collar unions, even as their public-sector counterparts worked furiously to defeat them.
But none of these departures was as striking as the lavish praise heaped on Trump last week. “The details we just heard from the president, we’re very excited about,” McGarvey said. That Trump managed to elicit such enthusiasm by formally killing TPP, and without repudiating his own party’s domestic economic policies, illustrates how little the new Democratic Party has to offer members of blue-collar trade unions.
Something to keep in mind: not all unions are created equal.
In particular, public employee unions have precious little in common with private unions, as much as the public unions would like to squawk.
For one, private unions don’t have the ability to contribute to the campaigns to elect their bosses. Because that’s not how private industry works.
But it is how government works.
Or, rather, worked. Unions are finding that money & GOTV efforts haven’t done much re: elections in recent years.
TRUMP’S LABOR PICK
There’s not much here on unions, really. Or pensions. Or benefits. Jeez.
WASHINGTON • After weeks of delays, a Senate panel is scheduled to question President Donald Trump’s nominee to lead the Labor Department, Andrew Puzder, next week.
Puzder, a fast food executive and former St. Louis attorney who graduated from Washington University, will face senators at a time when the upper chamber is taking its time with many of Trump’s Cabinet picks. Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer on Thursday called on Trump to withdraw the nomination over Puzder’s business record.
“The Democrats and their special interests — and particularly the unions — have taken their smear tactics to a new level of ugly,” Puzder spokesman George Thompson said in an email. He pointed to Puzder’s business experience as the right background for a job-creating Department of Labor secretary: “He understands how the right policies can spur economic growth and bring more opportunity for all Americans.”
Which unions? They’re not all the same.
Most of the Puzder stuff is on minimum wage (relation to unions: Unions And The Minimum Wage) and that he employed an illegal immigrant at some point (which is the supposed reason a bunch of labor unions oppose him, but that’s pretty laughable.)
I’m having a hard time finding anything much on unions or pensions at this point.
For example, in this long profile of Puzder on Bloomberg (with an odd image), I found no mentions of unions or pensions.
Maybe there will be more re: pensions or unions at his Thursday hearing.
SOME LIGHT FOR UNIONS: RIGHT-TO-WORK
Now, this may be a bit counterintuitive, but the current drive for right-to-work states may actually help private unions to grow.
Workers should have the right to decide for themselves whether or not they want to join or fund a union without fear of losing their jobs. With the recent adoption of a right-to-work law in Missouri, 28 states now protect that freedom.
Though lawmakers in Missouri moved quickly to accomplish this, Kentucky lawmakers already edged them out for the distinction of being the first state to adopt a right-to-work law in 2017. These achievements come on the heels of West Virginia, which adopted a right-to-work law in 2016. Over the past several years, states once considered to be union strongholds such as Michigan, Wisconsin and Indiana have all adopted their own right-to-work laws and states like New Hampshire are actively considering it.
This is the right-to-work watershed.
To most observers, this should be relatively unsurprising. A 2014 Gallup survey found that 71 percent of Americans support right to work, while just 22 percent oppose it. In a separate survey conducted by National Employee Freedom Week in 2016, nearly 30 percent of current union members said that they would opt-out of union membership if it were possible to do so without losing their job or any other sort of penalty.
I’m going to use an old argument, but this is like how freedom of religion + anti-establishmentarianism (i.e., not allowing for a State Church) has really made the U.S. a robust place for religion. In Old Europe, there has often been direct state support for religion, which did help the churches maintain property for a long time, though not membership, really. When you don’t have to depend on people actually showing up to keep your coffers full, you don’t make much of an effort to do so.
But to quote from the article:
Even some union leaders occasionally support right-to-work. Speaking with the Washington Post in 2014, then-southern regional director for the United Auto Workers, Gary Casteel, remarked that he preferred organizing union membership in right-to-work states:
“So if I go to an organizing drive, I can tell these workers, ‘If you don’t like this arrangement, you don’t have to belong.’ Versus, ‘If we get 50 percent of you, then all of you have to belong, whether you like to or not.’ I don’t even like the way that sounds, because it’s a voluntary system, and if you don’t think the system’s earning its keep, then you don’t have to pay.”
Without question, the issues of fairness and respect for individual choice were instrumental in creating the right-to-work watershed.
There’s all sorts of issues I have with unions, but it really boils down to two items: forced-to-be-a-member (or pay for bargaining that doesn’t represent your interests…i.e., my situation re: UConn) and public unions in collusion with politicians who boost pay/benefits at the expense of taxpayers.
Both those problems are diminishing, as more states are going right-to-work, and more crony politicians are reaching their limits to being able to give public unions what they want.
So yes, there’s a short-term hit to unions when a state goes right-to-work, but then they actually have to make arguments for providing value to members, and make it a broad-based appeal.
TRUMP TWEETS ON UNIONS
This twitter search was a little harder than last time, but I think i’ve gotten a good set of examples.
These are in no particular order.
Love seeing union & non-union members alike are defecting to Trump. I will create jobs like no one else. Their #Dem leaders can’t compete!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 8, 2016
Great evening last night in New Hampshire. Got the endorsement from the New England Police Union – big territory, great people! Thank you.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 11, 2015
John Menard of Menards home improvement stores in Midwest treats employees horribly — should they form a union? http://t.co/ETm9mxCash— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 28, 2013
I am honored that the great men and women of the
Teamsters</a> have created a movement from within called Teamsters for Trump! Thank you.</p>— Donald J. Trump (realDonaldTrump) May 7, 2016
I am going to keep our jobs in the U.S., and totally rebuild our crumbling infrastructure. Crooked Hillary has no clue!
Teamsters</a></p>— Donald J. Trump (realDonaldTrump) May 7, 2016
Obama’s coal regulations will destroy the coal industry, put Americans out of work, raise electricity prices & lead to blackouts.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 23, 2013
FWIW, I also went on a search re: pensions, and found a sum total of two tweets. Neither of which really had much to do with pensions as a whole.
You can see this is all focused on either maintaining or growing economically, re: union jobs. Not on protecting benefits, pensions, etc. All growth-oriented. Trump may think that’s enough, and will fix the pension problem. Or he’s not thinking about pensions/benefits at all. I’m going with that last one.
I don’t expect really much of anything from national politics here. Union pensions may be something of great interest to unions, but this is not really even on the Trump radar. And Congress hasn’t really shown any interest in dealing with this… not a priority.
My recommendation to unions and pension plans: just assume the cavalry ain’t swooping in to rescue you, a la the Ironworkers. You’re going to have to solve it yourself.
Related to jobs/growth: National Review article on free trade and ‘earned success’