President Donald Trump has repeatedly said unions are supportive of the new North American trade pact, as he ramps up his push for Congress to approve the deal this summer. But the head of America’s largest labor organization thinks Trump’s claim is laughable.
“Maybe he’s talking about the unions in some other country?” AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka told POLITICO, laughing at Trump’s suggestion that unions are “in favor” of the deal his administration negotiated with Mexico and Canada to replace NAFTA.
“I don’t have a clue” where Trump gets that from, Trumka said, “because we’re pretty united.” Unions in the U.S., he warned, will not support the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement in its current form.
The AFL-CIO and other major unions like United Automobile Workers have said the USMCA features some improvements for workers compared with NAFTA, but the Trump administration still has work to do to earn their backing.
And while ratification of the USMCA is Trump’s top legislative priority this year, getting the deal approved in the Democrat-controlled House could hinge on the administration’s ability to address the shared concerns of House Democrats and organized labor, such as securing changes to bolster enforcement of the pact.
Trumka emphasized that labor unions want to support USMCA, but he cautioned the administration to allow time for negotiations with House Democrats to play out.
“We still have a lot of work to do and rushing this thing or trying to push it through to a vote will backfire, because if people were forced to vote on the current text, they would have to vote ‘no,'” Trumka said in an interview Monday, ahead of a three-day NAFTA town hall series the AFL-CIO is hosting in Pennsylvania, Ohio and Michigan.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Democrats have made clear that the administration must make changes to the deal’s provisions on enforcement, labor, the environment, and drug pricing before a final vote can be held. Last week, Pelosi appointed nine House Democrats to four committees that will negotiate proposed changes on those topics with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer.
Lighthizer has been active in courting congressional support for the deal. He has expressed a desire to get the pact approved with backing from a large number of Democrats and held numerous meetings with Democratic lawmakers in an effort to listen to their concerns.
The U.S. trade chief has repeatedly told Democrats he does not want to send Congress legislation to implement the trade deal until Pelosi gives her blessing.
But in recent weeks, House Democrats and insiders tracking the deal increasingly believe that other administration officials are growing impatient and want to move more quickly by sending the bill to Capitol Hill without Pelosi’s support.
“There are people in the Trump administration that are trying to rush this thing through and I think it’s a terrible, foolish strategy because it will blow up in their face,” Trumka said. “I think the reasonable people in the Trump administration know it’s more important to get this right than to do it tomorrow.”
If the administration decides to make a pressure play, Pelosi could short-circuit consideration of the deal by removing it from the so-called fast-track procedure Congress agreed to under the Trade Promotion Authority legislation. That process allows the deal to be approved in an up-or-down vote by a simple majority in both chambers, in an effort to provide for speedier approval of trade deals.
Per POLITICO Pro, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said today that “many of the things” President Donald Trump said in his State of the Union address “are undermined by the actual policies he supports.”
“While he’s rightly acknowledged problems in trade,” Trumka said in a written statement, “America’s workers are still victim to corporate-designed deals, and last night he offered no solutions to make NAFTA benefit working people. While he recognizes the crisis of outsourcing jobs, his tax bill actually encourages corporations to do it. While he promises to put America back to work building infrastructure, he actually wants to spend more on a border wall than investing in all of America’s infrastructure for an entire year. And he uses hardworking Dreamers and TPS recipients as a bargaining chip to do it.”
Trumka also said Trump’s regulatory rollback “really means working people are denied wages and workplaces are less safe.”
Washington Recess Almost Over
The summer recess is almost over in Washington, and politicians are preparing to head back into session and attack a slew of issues including tax reform, the government debt ceiling, and funding for a border wall along with many others. It’s no secret the Democrats and the Republicans are at odds over the issues, and are using every legislative tool possible to fight for their own positions. I’ve also heard from several updates inside the Beltway that the Democrats are doing everything possible to make each and every nominee confirmation take as long as possible. Coupling this with the slow pace at which the White House has been advancing nominees for some positions, and we have a lot of government slowdown at the Cabinet and Agency level.
Everybody Is Preparing For A Tough Fall in Washington D.C.
We also have the growing tension between President Trump and leaders in Congress which is increasing daily basis.
I requested that Mitch M & Paul R tie the Debt Ceiling legislation into the popular V.A. Bill (which just passed) for easy approval. They… — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 24, 2017
…didn’t do it so now we have a big deal with Dems holding them up (as usual) on Debt Ceiling approval. Could have been so easy-now a mess! — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 24, 2017
The only problem I have with Mitch McConnell is that, after hearing Repeal & Replace for 7 years, he failed!That should NEVER have happened! — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 24, 2017
If Senate Republicans don’t get rid of the Filibuster Rule and go to a 51% majority, few bills will be passed. 8 Dems control the Senate! — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 25, 2017
Tough to get anything done
This means it’s taking a lot longer to “get stuff done”. As Phil Wilson wrote today, it’s as if they are “running through a pool of oatmeal”. Still there are a couple of developments that impact CUE members directly.
Marvin Kaplan confirmed, New NLRB GC Nomination Close
Marvin Kaplan was confirmed to serve on the NLRB and there is actually now a photo of him available on the NLRB website, which may the first photo of the man ever published on the internet. I’m delighted to share it here so that you can recognize him if you ever encounter him an airport or on the streets of Washington D.C.!
Vermont Attorney Peter Robb is close to being named the next general counsel for the National Labor Relations Board, according to a source familiar with the decision.
Robb, a management-side attorney with the firm Downs Rachlin Martin in Brattleboro, Vt., specializes in “defending employers from unfair labor practice charges, age and sex discrimination charges, class action age claims, and wage/hour claims as well as bringing suits against labor organizations,” according to his online biography. He has represented companies in state-level union disputes and before the NLRB.
“With such vast experience and a no-nonsense approach, Peter’s clients look to him for sharp advice, rigorous representation and powerful litigation,” his biography says.
The NLRB general counsel plays the role of prosecutor, investigating and charging companies that may have violated the National Labor Relations Act. Robb is expected to be named to the post pending completion of an FBI background check.
Robb did not respond to requests for comment. He’s slated to replace the current general counsel, Richard Griffin, Jr., an Obama appointee whose four-year term ends Nov. 4, 2017.
As always, we’ll have updates on these developments and other labor issues at the Fall 2017 CUE Conference in Indianapolis, including a great labor law and policy update that will cover current legal developments in labor relations at the federal, state and local level including NLRB changes, joint employer, minimum wage, and work scheduling ordinances, and union organizing. Featured panelists will be Steve Wheeless, John Lovett, and Roger King. Check the full schedule and register here.
Perspective | Bend the trend: Reviving unionization in America
In advance of Labor Day, the Economic Policy Institute just released an important piece on the importance of unions as a force to push back on inequality, wage losses and a political system that fails to represent most Americans. I’ll get into some of the key points in a moment, but first there’s a tough contextual point to consider in this discussion.
It’s a labor side report, but it’s worth a read. — Michael