Unions Get Ready for Fighting to Protect Worker Rights Under the Trump Administration

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Local 154 member Vanessa Tirado joined two busloads of DC 37 activists who took part in a weekend trip in October for a union a get-out-to-vote campaign in Philadelphia. Photo  Clarence Ellie-Rivera

By ALFREDO ALVARADO

Lee Saunders, president of the 1.6 million member American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, has vowed to hold Donald J. Trump’s feet to the fire when the Republican president-elect moves into the White House on Jan. 20.

“We will do what we do best to hold President-elect Trump accountable on his promise to restore the American Dream,” said Saunders, the leader of District Council 37’s national union, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME).

“We will organize and advocate for solutions for all working people, from affordable health care for all, to reducing student debt, to rebuilding America’s infrastructure,” Saunders said.

Organizing to protect to the Affordable Care Act from being dismantled by Trump is a top priority. The ACA provides health care for 20 million Americans.

During a campaign stop in Philadelphia, where DC 37 activists traveled on two weekends to urge AFSCME members to support Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, Trump boasted of his plan to repeal the ACA. “When we win on Nov. 8 and elect and a Republican Congress, we will be able to immediately repeal and replace Obamacare,” he said.

The number of uninsured Americans is at an all-time low of 8.9 percent, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Even if the law is not repealed, Trump could destroy it by refusing to fund it in his budget and by not enforcing provisions in the ACA like the individual mandate, which requires everyone to buy health insurance.

Trump also plans to appoint a conservative pro-life judges to the U.S. Supreme Court. The president-elect, who began his presidential campaign with a racist rant calling Mexicans “rapists,” was one of the leading voices in favor of blocking President Barack Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland to fill the vacated Supreme Court seat resulting from the death of Antonin Scalia.

The choices Trump is considering for top Cabinet positions so far come mostly from fellow billionaires in the corporate world and private sector. He is considering his supporters from the Republican Party — New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, and former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich — for cabinet appointments.

DC 37’s Executive Director Henry Garrido, echoing Sanders, also made a commitment to step up the fight to protect the interests of workers under the new Republican administration.

“We will not quit!”

“We will not quit,” said Garrido. “Our union has come too far and won a lot of battles. This is a time for our members to regroup and get ready for what lies ahead.”

Unions expect the Trump administration and Republican-controlled U.S. Congress will support pro-business regulations and changes to labor laws. Trump has said he will throw out executive orders of President Obama that he believes are unconstitutional. Unable to pass legislation because of opposition from Republicans, Obama has used executive orders to support women’s rights, prevent the deportation of minor children of undocumented immigrants and give same-sex couples the right to take family medical leave.

Control of the National Labor Relations Board will be assumed by Republican nominees. Under the Barack administration, the NLRB made it easier for unions to organize and upheld worker protections.

Trump has expressed support for right-to-work laws, which financially harm unions by allowing workers to withhold dues that cover union services.

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