Today is Veterans Day.
Donald Trump made veterans, trade and jobs the cornerstones of his campaign. Veterans turned out en masse to support his candidacy, and now candidate Trump is President-elect Trump. But not all veterans cast their votes for him. I didn’t. In fact, I spent most of the last year actively campaigning against him. But the voters have spoken and it’s time to come together, accepting of the work we have ahead. Veterans and the working class are ready to work with President-elect Trump to make some of his campaign promises a reality, in the right way and in line with our belief system and values.
Donald Trump will be inaugurated as the 45th president of the United States in 70 days. Between today and the inauguration, I’m hopeful we’ll begin hearing more concrete plans for veterans from the Trump administration and transition team. It is time to come together and call on our new leadership to present concrete policy proposals that support the veteran and working class.
There are 22 million veterans in the United States, and, indeed, nearly all of us are part of the working class. The simple reality is that one cannot walk into any factory or mill, VA hospital or post office, or onto any job site and there not be a veteran working. If Mr. Trump really wants to work with veterans, he should focus his energy on connecting veterans with what we need more than any public acknowledgment or praise: good jobs. It’s only through having access to a good job that a veteran is able to return to society and live a life with dignity. It’s only through having access to a good job—a career—that a veteran is enabled to live out the American Dream we fought to protect and defend.
Here are some simple steps the Trump administration can take that would help veterans:
1) Kill the job-killing Trans-Pacific Partnership that would rip jobs away from veterans and send them overseas;
2) Heavily invest in our nation’s infrastructure, and connect hundreds of thousands of veterans who are journeymen and women and apprentices with good jobs;
3) Heavily invest in job training programs for veterans about to leave active service;
4) Fully fund and fully staff the Department of Veterans Affairs, which not only provides excellent health care and benefits to veterans but also has a workforce that is more than one-third veteran;
5) Respect workers’ (and veterans’) right to collectively bargain and negotiate fair wages for the work we do.
The veteran population is not a homogenous one. Veterans are white, black, Latino and every race in between. Veterans are straight and LGBTQ. Veterans are native born and immigrants. Veterans are men and women. As the president of the United States, it is now Trump’s duty to protect, defend and preserve our democracy. That includes the diverse faces and needs of veterans. We are prepared to work with President-elect Trump if he’s serious about following through with his promises to pursue policies that improve the lives of working people and veterans.
When I was serving in Iraq, General James Mattis gave us the passwords of “No Better Friend, No Worse Enemy.” Donald Trump will soon be the president of the United States. When he’s with veterans, we’ll be with him. When he’s against veterans, we’ll be against him.
As we reflect today, most commentary will focus on actions we veterans undertook in our past. Let’s instead focus on the successes veterans, the working class and President-elect Trump can have in the future, together.
Will Fischer is the executive director of the Union Veterans Council, AFL-CIO. He's a Marine and a veteran of the war in Iraq. He's also a member of the Painters and Allied Trades (IUPAT) DC 51 in Washington, D.C.