Speech | Better Pay and Benefits

Trumka: President Trump Has Used Office to Hurt Working People

Washington, D.C.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka today delvered the following remarks at a roundtable with reporters marking the one-year anniversary of President Trump's inauguration:

A week from today, President Trump will give his first state of the union address. In my experience, the best way to measure our country’s success is by talking directly to working people. Workers will tell you if we are winning or losing. Of course, economic indicators like wages, unemployment and union density are part of the story. But it is often the intangibles…those things that are harder to put a finger on...that truly define victory. When worker power is rising, you will feel it.

I’ll be perfectly frank. 2017 was a difficult year for working people. Corporations did everything in their power to hold down wages. Inequality grew. And politicians at the federal and state level launched a new wave of attacks on our dignity and rights.

Yet even in the face of these challenges, we stood strong. We organized. We elected union members to office. We raised wages. We passionately made our case for a new set of economic rules designed to achieve broadly shared prosperity. And America has taken notice. Our approval rating is more than 60 percent, the highest in almost two decades.

Our test of 2018…and beyond…will be to build on these successes, and that’s what we’ll do. Each election, each organizing drive, each legislative battle…will showcase our growing clout. But I believe you’ll see the impact of our momentum on an even broader level.

When more union members fill the halls of power…when wages rise and inequality shrinks…when we have more pro-labor Republicans and fewer corporate-beholden Democrats…when a growing number of young people see the value of democracy and that we can and will change the rules of this economy…when we stop defining victory as not losing...and most of all...when more workers realize their own value and the power of solidarity…that’s when you’ll know unions are on the rise.

That moment is close. I can feel it coming. I feel it in every union hall I visit and every picket line I stand on. I feel it in every politician who looks at us differently since we stopped the TPP. I feel it when I talk to brave immigrants ready to come out of the shadows and working women who are saying enough is enough.

And I feel it in the disappointment and determination of working people, one year into the Trump Administration.

When President Trump was elected, I made a commitment to give him every chance possible to deliver on his promises about trade, manufacturing and infrastructure. This angered some of my friends. But as a labor movement, we practice political independence. That means we always look for opportunities to advance the issues we care about, no matter what political party happens to be in power. And it also means we hold every elected leader accountable to our agenda and our values.

President Trump said a lot of the right things as a candidate. But his actions haven’t followed suit. There’s been no effort to label China as a currency manipulator. He’s rejected plans to revitalize our coal communities. And despite calling himself a “builder president,” he’s done nothing to invest in America’s infrastructure.

Broken promises are bad enough. But President Trump has also used his office to actively hurt working people. He has joined with corporations and their political allies to undermine the right of workers to bargain collectively. He has taken money out of our pockets and made our workplaces less safe. He has divided our country, abandoned our values and given cover to racism and other forms of bigotry.

At the end of the day, this is bigger than any politician or president. It’s about making progress for regular working people. If President Trump wants to change course and join us in the fight to raise wages and standards, strengthen our democracy and build better lives, we will be ready. But if he continues down his current path, workers will be looking for a new president in 2020. 

Regardless of who’s in the White House, we’re going to keep growing our movement and keep building our momentum, laser focused on true victories that bring a better day for regular working people all across this country.

Thank you.

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