Last night, President Donald Trump gave his first State of the Union address. Working people were quick to point out that most of us don't live in the reality described in the president's speech and when it comes to the issues we care about, actions speak louder than words.
AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka responded to the speech:
Last night, President Trump painted an everything-being-great picture of America that while optimistic, is not the reality for most working families. That may be how his friends are living, but the working men and women we represent aren’t seeing the same America; and his policies are making it worse. The truth is many of the things he says are undermined by the actual policies he supports.
While he’s rightly acknowledged problems in trade, 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. And slashing regulations, one of his biggest applause lines, really means working people are denied wages and workplaces are less safe.
But, here's the truth: No matter who's sitting in the White House or what they're saying on TV or what they're tweeting, working people are moving forward. We are united around an agenda to secure our economic future—fighting for the freedom to have a voice on the job, share in the wealth we help create and live better lives.
AFGE National President J. David Cox Sr. said:
President Trump came into office preaching about the need for a safer America, but instead he is putting the lives of federal law enforcement officers and our communities at risk. The men and women who risk their lives guarding our prisons deserve proper staffing levels to ensure they can do their job and make it home safe. This mandate is bad for citizens, it's bad for prison staff, and it's bad for inmates.
AFSCME President Lee Saunders said:
If you’re among the wealthy and powerful corporate class, President Trump’s speech probably sounded pretty good. But for millions of working families, nothing that was said tonight—and nothing that’s happened over the first year of this administration—provided much reassurance or relief.
President Trump continues to pursue an agenda that rigs the economy even more in favor of millionaires and billionaires. It’s the same-old trickle-down scam—Davos elites get rewarded, while working people get a raw deal.
The Trump priorities are clear: lavish tax breaks on CEOs; outsource jobs while starving public services; take health care away from millions; cut education, Medicare and Medicaid; pass a so-called infrastructure plan that does more to enrich hedge fund managers than invest in communities, with working people paying the bill in the form of higher taxes and tolls; gut regulations in order to prioritize corporate profits over workers’ rights; and drive a cruel immigration policy that breaks up families and affronts human dignity.
President Trump has had a year to prove the sincerity of his campaign promises about ‘the forgotten man and woman.’ Instead, he’s done the bidding of wealthy special interests time and time again. AFSCME members—including Virginia State Del. Elizabeth Guzman of Local 3001, who is delivering tonight’s Spanish language response to the State of the Union–will never quit fighting for freedom for all working people.
AFT President Randi Weingarten said:
The test of any president is whether he can unite a country and enact policies that enable broad-based opportunity. On that measure, President Trump’s inaugural State of the Union failed. Sadly, the high points—of lifting up American stories, as every modern president has done; mentioning a litany of one-liners on promoting infrastructure, vocational education and paid leave; and taking on the opioid crisis and escalating drug prices—were overtaken by ugly fear-mongering about immigrants and federal workers.
For anyone who believes that America is a nation of immigrants, that Dreamers should have a home in this country, that workers’ wages should rise, that the rich should not be the biggest winners in the economy, that college and healthcare should be affordable, and that kids should have a ladder of opportunity, you didn’t get that tonight.
Alliance for Retired Americans Executive Director Richard Fiesta said:
There are several things that the President did not say tonight that are troubling for retirees.
He did not mention his campaign promises that he would not cut Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.
This is important because House Speaker Paul Ryan has made a promise time and time again to cut the ‘entitlements’ that millions rely on for basic necessities every day. Numerous Republican leaders have indicated their desire to enact Medicare and Medicaid cuts, and increased deficits from the tax cuts will provide Congress with excuses to make cuts to these programs. We need the president to make clear that his pledge was not just a campaign gimmick.
President Trump also did not mention that when his tax plan did away with the Affordable Care Act's individual mandate, he raised health insurance premiums for 3.3 million people between the ages of 50 and 64.
Nor did the president acknowledge that the Administration recently loosened regulations on accountability for long term care facilities. This scaled back the use of fines against nursing homes that harm residents or place them in grave risk of injury. It was a giveaway to the corporations that run many nursing homes, so it is no surprise that he did not refer to it.
The State of the Union speech that we heard tonight represents an alternate reality that does not reflect what older Americans are up against in 2018.
United Steelworkers (USW) International President Leo W. Gerard said:
Much like his time on the campaign trail and his first year in office, the president spent this address talking about how much he has done and will do for workers. Unfortunately, this rhetoric runs headlong into reality.
The president and congressional Republicans tried to take health care away from millions of families. They showered the wealthy and powerful with huge tax breaks and corporations with long-wanted roll backs in regulations. They’ve done nothing to curtail the outsourcing of good-paying American jobs or to ensure the safety of workers and their communities.
On trade, the president outlined an action plan that, if fully implemented, could begin to reform the failed policies of the past. That is promising, but in many areas we are still waiting for results.
Investigations were launched on steel and aluminum, but workers are still waiting to see what the president will do. NAFTA is being renegotiated, but we wait to see whether an updated agreement will rebalance the benefits so that working Americans gain greater job security and better wages.
The trade deficit with China and the world, fueled by protectionist and predatory practices, continues to rise, and action is long overdue. While some positive steps have been taken, they have been too few and too insignificant.
And now, congressional Republicans are talking about reversing the few good things that have been announced, including rolling back legitimate trade protections.
On infrastructure, the single most important job-creating proposal, workers are still waiting for action. Initial signals are that the Administration wants to pursue a plan that will line the pockets of Wall Street financiers and allow foreign producers to provide the products that will be used to rebuild our country. That is not what workers expect, not what they heard during the election, and it is not the right way to move forward.
On jobs, raising wages and many other issues, workers are still waiting for the campaign rhetoric to be matched by concrete action. They are becoming increasingly frustrated by a White House and Republican congressional majority more interested in looking out for their own self-interests than serving American families.