(Dis)Honoring Workers

By Bill Mefford, photo by Steve Pavey

After sending a letter to Congress declaring his intent to cancel raises for federal employees, trump on Friday said he is going to “study it” over Labor Day weekend. He has taken a lot of political fire, particularly from vulnerable Republican House members in Northern Virginia and Republican Senate candidate Corey Stewart of Virginia, all of whom oppose the canceled pay raises for nearly 2 million federal workers.

This is not the first time donald trump has tried to hurt federal workers though. In the Spring trump signed executive orders opposing collective bargaining and making it easier for workers to be fired. And we all should remember the numerous charges brought against trump in the presidential campaign that he mistreated workers and even refused to pay them often throughout his business career.

Canceling the raises for workers who live in the one of most expensive places to live in the United States should come as no surprise after a lifetime of mistreating workers. What would be surprising is if trump actually does study the issue.

If he were to study, perhaps trump would reflect on the massive tax cuts he and the Republican-controlled Congress gave to millionaires and billionaires, or the appointments of Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, both of whom have records of favoring big business over the rights of workers, or the attempt being made by Secretary of Education DeVos who is trying to make student loan forgiveness harder to attain.

Further, in recently updating a study that was originally published earlier this year, the Center for American Progress released a study detailing how donald trump, who campaigned on making life easier for working families, has fundamentally and repeatedly betrayed that promise. I hope you will read the study, but to summarize, the report shows that the current administration “has rolled back protections to ensure that American workers can be safe on the job, receive fair pay and benefits, save for retirement, access high-quality training programs, have a voice in their workplace, and not be discriminated against at work.”

Some of the other lowlights of this report include:

  • An attempt by a division in the Department of Labor to roll back protections for sixteen and seventeen year-olds who work around heavy machinery.
  • A plan created by Senator Marco Rubio and Ivanka Trump to force workers to borrow from their Social Security benefits to pay for any extra leave they might need to take once they have children. In essence, workers will have to work longer if they want to have kids.
  • An executive order, signed by trump, cuts the amount of time federal workers can take to conduct union business. It also forces unions to pay rent to their employers for any use of building space they might use to conduct union business.
  • Taken straight from the report, “the Department of Labor announced the Payroll Audit Independent Determination program, which allows employers who violate wage and hour laws to avoid paying penalties by volunteering to investigate themselves. Under this program, businesses calculate the back wages they owe their workers and with DOL supervision pay the money owed without any interest, liquidated damages, or penalties.”
  • The administration attempted to propose a rule that would force employees to share their tips with management so long as the workers earned minimum wage. In the Department of Labor report, it showed that this could result in a massive transfer of between $523 and $13.2 billion from workers to management. When the report was released the head of the DOL, along with the Director of Office Management and Budget, Mick Mulvaney, tried to have these numbers stripped from the report. 

And these are just a few of the lowlights. There are many more. 

trump and his administration are going out of their way to hurt workers and their families, and they are finding creative and sneaky ways to do so. These are the actions that do not garnish the same kind of headlines that porn stars and attacks on the Justice Department do. In fact, these actions garnish no headlines in most instances. But these actions cause tremendous harm to real people. The canceled raises is just the latest in a long series of a lifetime of mistreating workers.

Today, on Labor Day, when we should remember the plight of the worker, we would do well to also remember how the current administration is hurting workers and their families. The Bible is replete of stories and commands of treating workers with dignity and respect. The Bible tells us how mistreatment of the workers is often paid with a heavy price by those who commit such offenses. I say let the price be paid, and the sooner the better. 

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