Monday 3 September was Labor Day in the US; a national public holiday observed in recognition of the contributions of the country’s workers. President Donald Trump lauded his administration’s ‘achievements’ in helping the nation’s millions of working families. But senator Bernie Sanders and other progressives were quick to call him out for his hypocrisy and disingenuous posturing.
Lauding his own record
In a ‘Labor Day Proclamation’, Trump described workers as the “bulwark of our national prosperity”. In an unusual move for a Republican, he also paid tribute to labor unions for “advocating for the interests of the American worker and wage-earner”. He cited tax cuts, deregulation, renegotiating trade agreements, and strict anti-immigration policies as “historic action to advance prosperity for the American worker”. In a reference to statistics showing decreasing unemployment and increasing labor force participation, the statement added:
Thousands of Americans have found a renewed sense of purpose in our resurgent economy.
In response, Sanders and other progressives pushed back fiercely against this misleading triumphalism. Speaking to a breakfast gathering of the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), the US’s largest labor federation, Sanders was scathing in his attack on the Trump administration’s record on workers’ rights. Sanders said that, far from advancing the interests of the nation’s workers, Trump has been working:
night and day on behalf of his fellow billionaires.
Describing Trump as a “pathological liar”, he added that:
we have a president who for cheap political reasons is trying to divide us up.
Sanders’ comments follow a high-profile rift between Trump and the AFL-CIO’s president, Richard Trumka. On Sunday 2 September, Trumka attacked the Trump administration’s labor policies during an interview with Fox News Sunday.
The leader of the 12.5 million strong labor federation said, “unfortunately, to date, the things that he has done to hurt workers outpace what he’s done to help workers”. He added that, although unemployment is down, so are wages, while petrol prices remain high. And he argued, rather than advancing “an infrastructure program that could put a lot of us back to work”, Trump has instead “overturned some health and safety regulations that will hurt us on the job”.
Trump tried to hit back at Trumka’s remarks the following day in a string of tweets. He said that Trumka “represented his union poorly on television this weekend”, adding that: “It is easy to see why unions are doing so poorly.” He also dismissed Trumka’s view that Canada will have to be included in a new NAFTA negotiation, stating that there is “no political necessity”.
But progressives on Twitter were quick to point out Trump’s hypocrisy in attacking the country’s most senior union leader on the same day he claimed to be pro-union in his ‘Labor Day Proclamation’. One Twitter user, for instance, stated:
What is this? Some kind of lame attempt to be able to say you 'celebrated' Labor Day before you started attacking labor unions to get political points?
Deleting your original tweet and reposting it won't change anything. The Internet is forever Unindicted Co-conspirator. pic.twitter.com/PoBJsCNrqa
— Deacon Blues 💦 🇨🇦🇺🇸 (@Phreaddie) September 3, 2018
Others pointed out how Trump’s claim to be a supporter of unions is contradicted by the evidence. The Donald J. Treason parody account, for example, tweeted:
AT&T’s CEO praised @realDonaldTrump corporate tax cuts, promising to create 7,000 jobs with the savings. Instead, the company is laying off 7,000 employees, according to union representatives. Call centers are being moved outside the US. #LaborDay https://t.co/R9s9grJ1kE
— Donald J. Treason (@POTUS_Don45) September 3, 2018
Another Twitter user pointed to the wider Republican Party record on workers’ issues:
Friendly reminder that Republicans have voted 9 times in favor of raising their own salary, and in that same time they’ve also voted 14 times against raising the minimum wage. #LaborDay
— Andrea Junker (@Strandjunker) September 3, 2018
Genuine voices for workers
Clearly, Trump’s self-congratulation as a champion of workers has been exposed for the preposterous posturing that it is. Although he might make token gestures and falsely present his administration as pro-worker, progressives like Sanders have long been the genuine voice in US politics for workers and a strong labor movement. Indeed, during his address to the ALF-CIO on Monday, Sanders said the country owes a “debt of gratitude” to union activists’ tireless advocacy for workers. He added:
The union movement today is the last line of resistance to the reactionary corporate agenda.
In his remarks on Sunday, Trumka said he predicts a surge of progressive Democrats in the coming mid-term elections this November. He said, “Democrats support working people more than Republicans.” And there are growing signs that this will come to pass. In five out of the last six polls on the upcoming congressional race, respondents have favored Democrats by at least an 11 percentage point margin. Democrats also have a fundraising advantage this year, and have had higher turnout in their primary elections.
In short, there is cause for optimism that more genuine defenders of workers’ rights will soon enter the fray to resist Trump and the Republicans’ pro-corporate and anti-worker agenda.
– For information on truly progressive candidates in the US, see Our Revolution and Justice Democrats. If you’re a US resident, you can also join and participate in the activities of the Democratic Socialists of America.
– Join one of the AFL-CIO’s many member unions and other affiliated groups.
– Support The Canary if you appreciate the work we do.