There are a lot of reasons why it doesn’t make sense for union members to have voted for Donald Trump. From his support of right-to-work laws to refusing to bargain with his workers in Las Vegas, from using foreign steel and aluminum for his construction projects to stiffing contractors multiple times on work they did to completion and with competence, the list goes on and on.
Folks with union cards cast their ballot for Trump in relatively large numbers and in mostly red, Rust Belt states because of the candidate’s tough talk on trade. He says he is going to make America great, that he’s going to make things here again, that he’s going to make China pay.
But amidst a boisterous campaign by a man who did and said anything to get working class people’s votes, those union supporters he wooed missed one very dire consequence even as labor leaders begged them to see it.
As the president-elect begins to appoint members to his administration, the focus has been on the well-known positions like the White House Chief Strategist, Secretary of State, and Attorney General. Important posts that are vital to the labor movement and that are going widely unmentioned are the judges of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).
Formed during the Great Depression, the NLRB enforces the rights guaranteed by the National Labor Relations Act, which provides the legal framework for private-sector employees to organize bargaining units in their workplaces. They also rule on charges filed by unions on behalf of their members in cases involving lockouts, bargaining disputes, strikes, and other grievances.
The board consists of five members who are appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate. Over the last eight years, the labor movement has had several victories because of the board under President Obama. These members have been on the side of workers, as they are supposed to be.
But under a President Trump, that will likely not be the case.
The union members who voted for the billionaire and self-proclaimed “champion” of the middle class are looking to him to save their jobs like he says he will. But when a group of factory workers gets illegally locked out like those at Allegheny Technologies Inc. in 2015, Trump’s NLRB buddies aren’t probable to show them much sympathy.
They will end up without jobs, or with incredibly low-paying ones. They would also likely find themselves in a country, like the rest of us, with a national right-to-work (RTW) law if Trump’s NLRB has its way.
Right-to-work legislation, which already exists in 26 states and which is a deceptively worded term itself, dictates that you can work at a union site and reap all of the benefits the union provides you without paying any dues. This would be like living in the United States and benefiting from our military and infrastructure and social services without paying taxes. You know, like Trump does.
If something like a national RTW law passed, which is likely under the anti-union Trump regime, unions could become extinct as their bargaining power gets chewed away at like a flesh-eating virus. Right-to-work states already have lower wages and less safe workplaces for all workers, not just union workers, so we would find ourselves in a nation in financial distress from sea to shining sea.
The same people who voted for Trump will then be drastically hurt and looking for someone else to fix their problems all over again. And they would likely blame their own unions that warned them against this disaster of a president.
Now, I cannot blame Americans for being angry right now. We’re all on the same page there. We watched CEOs get bonuses in 2008 while everyone else lost their homes and jobs. We’ve seen factories shuttered as products are made more and more overseas (products like Trump’s own ties and hats).
What I do blame them for, however, is looking to a billionaire elitist, an elitist like the kind they say they are against who has had 70 years to prove he cares about the well-being of workers, to save them. And I do blame them for turning their backs on themselves and for putting more faith in fake news on social media than in their labor leaders who have had decades of experience working with Hillary Clinton on union and trade issues.
It is incredibly sad to know that many of the union workers who devoted their vote to Trump could end up without their jobs a few years from now as a result of an anti-worker labor board.
The NLRB is the life support of the labor movement. And union Trump supporters just pulled their own plug.