Trump’s Tricks to Deceive Workers and the Task of Unionists

President Trump yelled for the press pool to return to a meeting with union leaders on Monday after one of the leaders praised his Inaugural Address. Credit Doug Mills/The New York Times

By La Voz/Workers’ Voice
Trump Wants to Divide Working People to Defeat Us
Trump’s arrival to the White House began with an accumulation of executive orders that brutally targeted the most vulnerable sectors of the working class, starting with Muslim immigrants. The new U.S. president is in fact implementing an extremely vicious and reactionary strategy to divide our class and decimate our rights: on the one hand, he is attacking women, immigrants, Muslim and indigenous peoples in order to create chaos, fear and a feeling of disempowerment among those sectors; on the other, he is pretending to defend the interests of the “white blue-collar” working class with false promises of more jobs and economic security.
To defeat this assault on our democratic rights and living conditions, we need to unite our class. This means unity and solidarity in action, standing for each other’s rights under attack, and calling out the farce that Trump’s economic policies will benefit workers. We must be very clear to the sector of workers Trump is trying to fool: no advantage whatsoever will be gained by any sector of workers by supporting this government, or even Trump’s “good policies” that Sanders, Warren and others from the Democratic Party and labor leadership are promoting. There is no true, long term support coming from this government, no possible deals to make with a corporate boss that fuels white supremacy.
After this first round of divisive attacks and the GOP announcement of a new “right-to-work” legislation, it is clear that we need to combat the most brutal face of corporate power and imperialist terror. We must organize actions and mobilizations leading towards a real general strike for May 1st.
The Truth Behind Trump’s Promises to Bring Back Jobs
During the campaign, Trump promised he would create 25 million new jobs. He is trying to sell his rejection of the TPP and his demand to renegotiate NAFTA and impose tariffs on Chinese-made imported products as a commitment to “bring back jobs” to the U.S. The problem is that the jobs coming back -if any- are not the jobs corporations took away. They are “low cost” jobs- meaning low wages, no benefits, non-union jobs, where workers are “at will employees” at the mercy of the boss.
Trump says he will “force” corporations to relocate jobs back to the U.S. using tariffs and taxes as retaliation. Yet, Trump is not forcing corporations to do anything. He is working with them. This is why one of his first moves in late January was to assemble a 28-member group task force to help advise the White House, called the Manufacturing Jobs Initiative, composed of top business and union leaders, with the goal to work “on how best to promote job growth and get Americans back to work again.”[1] Trump promised corporations that he would lower corporate taxes from the current 35% to 20% and to “cut 75% of the regulations” – whatever that might mean in his mind. Furthermore, in that task force we find the CEOs of Ford, Caterpillar, Intel, Dow Chemical, U.S. Steel, Dell, General Electric, Boeing, Tesla, Lockheed Martin’s among others on the boss’s side, and sadly, Richard Trumka and Thea Lee on the AFL-CIO side.[2] Just to be clear: 26 CEOs of the most powerful U.S. corporations and… 2 union leaders. This joke of a “balance of forces” makes the intention clear. Trump has created a think tank of major manufacturing corporations to continue increasing profits and assaulting workers.
Therefore, the fact that CEOs were unanimously pleased about the initiative should not surprise us. What is appalling is to hear Trumka saying in a statement to The Detroit News that he “looks forward to working on this bipartisan issue to ensure that our country continues to be a leader on manufacturing innovation, as well as the creation of good jobs,” Later, he blames “trade policies” for job destruction, a scandalous move for a union leader since they should not buy into the national chauvinist fervor of pitting U.S. workers with against other countries workers: “For too long, American manufacturing workers have seen their industries and communities decimated by misguided trade policies and inadequate investments in skills and infrastructure”.
And yet, Trumka’s most dangerous statement was, once again, the now ritual and disgusting reinforcement of White chauvinism in the labor movement, or the “America First” version of unionism: “I know that American workers are the best, the brightest and the hardest working.” Instead of promoting working class solidarity and unity across borders, Trumka gave in to the ridiculous nationalist rhetoric that “American workers” are “the best”, and thus they deserve jobs at the expense of other workers. Is he considering the 26 million immigrants in the labor force?[3] Does he consider Indigenous nations “American”? Why do we need the boss to set workers in competition with each other across the globe if we already have our union leaders to do so? We all know that if we want good jobs for all, we need to unite, through renewed and fighting unions, across borders in order to defeat U.S. multinationals and get what we need and deserve![4]
Trump is Helping Corporations to Deepen the Divide Between the Two Americas of Labor
What Trump and this corporate sector are aiming at is to sharply deepen the divide between the pro-union and the anti-union Americas, a project that’s been ongoing for decades, so they can boost their profits without taking the risks and costs of further outsourcing. His twitter circus of criticizing some employers and shaking hands with others is no more than a political cover for top U.S. and foreign manufacturers to keep destroying good paying industrial jobs in this country, and replace them with cheap labor in “right-to-work” states. Trump will enable the darkest dream of U.S. multinationals: to lowers wages, eliminate benefits, and destroy unions. And the most appalling of it all, is that the union leadership has agreed to collaborate with that.
In order to do that, they must destroy the “unionized America”, i.e. the union jobs with pay scales, seniority, protections and benefits which have been slowly acquired over decades and unfortunately, only benefit a very small number of workers. And while the government does that, Trump will grow and glorify the “Wild West America” where bosses can fire workers for no reason, where there is no right to collective bargaining, where poverty wages, sexual harassment, racism and no benefits is the new norm. This is why Trump is taking pictures with the CEO of Intel and congratulating him for opening a new factory in Arizona, a “right-to-work” state, with a 6% union rate and a minimum wage of $8/hour – below the poverty line which is $10.10/hour.[5]
The best example of the kind of jobs an industrial America Trump cherishes is what just happened with the relocation of Boeing’s 3,000 worker 787 Dreamliner plant from pro-union Washington State to union-busting “right-to-work” state South Carolina this mid February. In fact, the unionization rate of South Carolina is one of the lowest of the country, only 2% workers have a union with a median hourly wage of $15, while Washington state has a 18% union rate (above the national average which stalls at 11%) and a median hourly wage of $20.[6]
The Industrial Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM), which represents around 30,000 Boeing workers in the state of Washington lost the unionization vote of the new plant 2,097 to 731, largely because of the aggressive anti-union tactics of management: “Management forced workers to attend captive-audience meetings where, according to Bloomberg News, supervisors claimed that production could be moved to China if the plant unionized. They even installed in the plant’s break room an enormous display of $800 worth of diapers and baby clothes, representing the amount that workers would pay in yearly dues.[7]
Trump will not “bring back” jobs. He will qualitatively degrade the living and working conditions of all working people and accelerate the destruction of the environment with low cost, dangerous, bad jobs. We will not see America become “great again” (despite the fact that it never was), instead we will see American labor get cheaper, powerless, and more oppressed.
The Auto-Industry Scam
One strong piece of evidence to the ongoing scam is already visible in how Trump is managing the crisis of the auto industry. Corporate media had a frenzy with Trump’s Jan. 3 tweet targeting GM: “General Motors is sending Mexican made model of Chevy Cruze to U.S. car dealers-tax free across border. Make it U.S.A. or pay big border tax.” Two weeks later, as if they had arranged this little spectacle, GM announced grandiose plans to invest $1 billion in U.S. factories, and creating or “retaining” around 7,000 jobs in the U.S., mostly in the finance and technology area (5,000 of those), and bringing 450 from supplier plants in Mexico back to the U.S.[8] It’s outrageous, to say the least, that U.S. corporations get a pat on the back for not destroying (i.e. “retaining”) jobs here given the huge amount of tax breaks they get and the benefits they make from our labor. It is also misleading because the Wall Street Journal revealed that GM’s decision to bring back the 450 jobs of the American Axle & Manufacturing Mexico plant to the U.S. was a decision that predated Trump’s election by at least 18 months.[9] So, in which way has Trump “forced” GM to do anything for U.S. workers? This is a pre-planned television commercial where both parties are winning and workers are losing.
Ford was also called out by Trump as it was intending to open  an assembly plant in San Luis Potosi (Mexico) employing 2,600 workers for the Ford Focus model. After Trump’s “warning,” automakers announced they will not open that plant and instead add 700 jobs at the Michigan plant.[10] Mark Fields, Ford’s CEO stated: “This is a vote of confidence for President-elect Trump and some of the policies he may be pursuing.[11] The blackmail by corporations here is very clear: if you cut our taxes and get rid of the unions so we can lower wages and cut benefits, we might stay.
Now, let’s look at the real behavior of the auto-industry in this country, which goes unreported by Trump’s spectacular tweets. On January 18th, GM announced 2,000 workers will lose their jobs in the U.S.: 1,200 in the Lordstown plant in Ohio and 800 in Lansing in Michigan. For most workers these are good paying jobs, of $25 an hour, while the surrounding factories pay $9-$12[12] One of the most disappointing things is that the two UAW locals 1112 and 1714 representing these workers did not put up a fight against the layoffs, nor did they call on the government to intervene. Furthermore, another 1,300 GM workers are scheduled to be fired in Detroit in March. Speaking of “fake news”, did Trump tweet about those jobs and imposed sanctions on GM? Did Trump get outraged that just a few days after GM promised to create jobs the company fired 2,000 workers? Of course not, because his plan is GM’s plan: to eliminate the $25 hour union jobs and replace them with the $9 hour non-union jobs. And he wants us to be quiet about that!
The lies and hypocrisy of the Trump administration go even further. Trump has made populist tweets “targeting” GM and Ford. But interestingly, he has not yet mentioned Chrysler. Even the Wall Street Journal pointed harshly at the inconsistency of the President on this matter of “bringing back jobs” and “playing tough with the bosses”: “Ford makes the equivalent of 95% of the cars it sells in the U.S. locally, according to WardsAuto data for the first 11 months of 2016. For GM, the figure is 83%. The company Mr. Trump should really be picking on, according to this measure, is Fiat Chrysler: The number of cars it makes in the U.S. works out at just 69% of its U.S. sales.[13] Why hasn’t Trump already sanctioned Chrysler and imposed higher corporate taxes on them for not producing in the U.S.? Because Trump’s intention is not to stop Mexican car production. The latter is on the rise, as “Mexican light-vehicle assembly capacity is projected to double in size between 2010 and 2020” because it has to do with the restriction of manufacturing in the neoliberal period.[14] In the six years that followed the 2011 bailout, the Big Three opened 11 new assembly plants, 9 of them south of the U.S. border. Trump knows that under the capitalist system he cherishes and benefits from, these changes cannot be made. Only workers can force these changes if they unite and fight internationally and bring all of GM’s and others production to a halt. His goal is to increase the capacity of U.S. industries to make profits at home by lowering U.S. working conditions to that of Mexico, Brazil, and other countries that U.S. companies occupy.
The Oil and Auto-Industries Will Aggravate the Environmental Crisis
The heads of the oil and auto-industries don’t care that they are accelerating the global environmental crisis, and Trump is there to help them. There is a divide between the industrial sectors: the growing clean energy and zero emission corporations on the one hand (which pretend to defend the environment but any environmental advance is just a marketing trick in their race for more profits), and on the other are the old-school oil based industry and oil extraction corporations. It is clear that Trump represents the interests of industry, given his appointment of Rex Tillerson (CEO of Exxon-Mobile) and the climate change denier Scott Pruitt to lead the Environmental Protection Agency.
On January 24th, Trump met with the Big Three CEOs (Barra for GM, Fields for Ford, and Marchionne for Chrysler). He made public that his government was “going to make the process much more simple for the oil companies and everybody else that wants to do business in the United States.[15]” He continued “I have friends who want to build in the United States,” he said referring to the 3 leaders of outsourcing jobs, “They go many years, many years and they can’t get the environmental permits over something that nobody ever heard of before. It’s absolutely crazy.”[16]
It is clear that Trump wants to repeal the EPA rules that mandate that automobiles sold in the U.S. average 54.5 miles a gallon, or 40 mpg in real-world driving, by 2025,” as it really threatens the profits of the Big Three.[17] Their alliance is also directed at defeating or undermining the California rules for clean energy which have established that by 2025, zero-emission cars should represent 15% of the total sales. And even though Ford and GM are investing in hybrid vehicles, the success of Toyota in the hybrid light-vehicle market it dominates (with 73% of sales- followed by Honda) and Tesla electric cars in this area of growth are a big threat to the traditional auto-industry.[18] As workers, we are caught in this fight between different industrial sectors, but for us it is clear that only a planned economy, by and for working people, can solve the environmental crisis and make decisions on what to produce and how. As long as these decisions are in the hands of multinational corporations, the clock will continue to tick toward the destruction of our planet. What is clear is that in this fight, Trump is aligned with the bourgeois forces that don’t care about accelerating global warming and destroying every ecosystem on the planet. It is also for this, for the sake of the planet, that the labor movement must fight Trump’s alliance with GM, Ford and Chrysler to repeal any regulation.
We Need a New Labor Movement That Fights for Workers and the Environment
Given the current situation, we need to rebuild our movement from below, with the thousands of committed union activists, progressive locals and grassroots organizers that will stop any collaboration with Trump and organize a fight back against all of these attacks. The AFL-CIO leadership’s collaboration with the most anti-worker president, Trump, has crossed a line.
We cannot allow more jobs to be lost without putting up a fight and mobilizing solidarity across sectors. We cannot allow more privatization of schools, services and two-tier systems for the workforce. We cannot wait until right-to-work legislation has passed to lament the “sorry state of U.S. labor” and see the historic low of 10% unionization turn into zero. We need to mobilize for a national strike against Trump, to defend our unions, to defend our jobs and demand more jobs, to fight for a massive increase of the cost of living wage, to implement $15 an hour now everywhere, to demand full benefits for all with no contributions and universal healthcare, maternity leave, and paid vacations.
We also need a democratic labor movement that involves workers and listens to their concerns, instead of having staff organizers who report to the leadership and crush any genuine attempt to organize at the workplace. We need an independent labor movement that does not cut deals with the bosses or support any of the two corporate parties who have repeatedly betrayed labor, but instead uses its power and money to put on the table ballot initiatives supported across unions and communities to tax the rich, and organizes at the base with its members and community to bring working class and union politics to social movements.
Finally, we need a labor movement that takes a stand against the Muslim Ban (like the New York Taxi Alliance did) and the border wall, that supports an immediate end to raids, deportations and documentation to all. We need a labor movement that stands against the racist police murders as the UAW 2865 did, and that denounces all the neo-colonial projects backed by U.S. corporations, be it the Dakota Access Pipeline or the financing of the settler colonialist state of Israel. Many locals and union members are appalled that the AFL-CIO leadership remains silent on the role of police in protecting and enforcing the epidemic of racist murders against Black and Brown members of the working class, or who have sided with the companies building the pipeline in North Dakota. It is time to build something different, and to unite the local initiatives that have emerged, like Labor Rising Against Trump in the Bay Area (California) and many others.[19]
[1] Wall Street Journal, February 9th 2017.

Click to access LABOR%20EMPLOYMENT%20LAWS.pdf

[9] The Wall Street Journal, Jan. 20th 2016.
[11] The Wall Street Journal, Jan. 20th 2016.
[13] “U.S. Car Makers Unlikely Patriots”, Wall Street Journal, January 11th 2017.
[14]  “U.S. Car Makers Unlikely Patriots”, Wall Street Journal, January 11th 2017.
[15] Wall Street Journal, January 24th, 2017.
[17] Wall Street Journal, Feb 13th 2017.

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