Roving Reporter Sherry alerts us to another instance of our X/AntiX formula. In the latest instance reported in the NY Times by Nicholas Kristof, Trump Finds a Brawler for His War on Workers. America’s working class is in desperate shape, and its longtime protectors — unions — have lost much of their power.
President Trump talks a good game about helping American workers but has pursued arguably the most anti-labor agenda of any modern president. Now he has doubled down by choosing for secretary of labor a corporate lawyer who has spent his career battling workers.
This is a bit like nominating Typhoid Mary to be health secretary.
The official mission of the Labor Department emphasizes the promotion of “the welfare of the wage earners,” but Trump’s mission has been to promote the exploitation of wage earners.
So Eugene Scalia is a perfect fit. Scalia, a son of the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia who has fought unions on behalf of Walmart and other companies, is a talented and experienced litigator who upon assuming office will be in a position to disembowel labor.
… it’s now clear that the collapse of unions — the share of employees belonging to unions has plunged to 10 percent in 2018 from 35 percent in the mid–1950s — has been accompanied by a rise of unchecked corporate power, a surge in income inequality and a decline in the well-being of working Americans.
For all their shortcomings, unions midwifed the birth of the middle class in the United States. The period of greatest union strength from the late 1940s through the 1950s was the time when economic growth was particularly robust and broadly shared. Most studies find that at least one-fifth of the rise in income inequality in the United States is attributable to the decline of labor unions.
Labor unions, and their ability to create a powerful collective voice for workers, played a huge role in building the world’s largest, richest middle class,” notes Steven Greenhouse in his superb, important and eminently readable new book about the labor movement, “Beaten Down, Worked Up.”
“Unions also played a crucial role,” Greenhouse adds, “in achieving many things that most Americans now take for granted: the eight-hour workday, employer-backed health coverage, paid vacations, paid sick days, safe workplaces. Indeed, unions were the major force in ending sweatshops, making coal mines safer, and eliminating many of the worst, most dangerous working conditions in the United States.”
[Consider this example:] … manufacturing workers in Germany are unionized and earn $10 more an hour than their American counterparts. Mercedes-Benz autoworkers earn $67 an hour in wages and benefits, and German workers are guaranteed a presence on corporate boards. Unions don’t detract from Germany’s economic system and competitiveness but are a pillar of it.
In contrast, the American worker’s wages are now disconnected from their productivity.
The bigger picture is that America’s working class is in desperate shape. Average hourly wages are actually lower today, after inflation, than they were in 1973, and the bottom 90 percent of Americans have seen incomes grow more slowly than the overall economy over the last four decades. The reasons are complex, but one is the decline of unions — for unions benefit not only their own members but also raise wage levels for workers generally.
So I’ve come to believe that we need stronger private-sector unions — yet the Trump administration continues to fight them. Greenhouse notes that nearly 20 percent of rank-and-file union activists are fired during organizing drives, because the penalties for doing so are so weak: A corporation may eventually be fined $5,000 or $10,000 for such a wrongful dismissal, but that is a negligible cost of doing business if it averts unionization.
That’s why we need a secretary of labor who cares about laborers. Trump campaigned in 2016 as a voice for forgotten workers, but he consistently sides with large corporations against workers, and his nomination of Scalia would amplify the sad and damaging war on unions.
As I’ve said before, if you would destroy agency X, select a leader who is fiercely AntiX. Then sit back and revel in your carnage. That’s Trump’s gift to the American worker, many of whom belong to the base that elected and sustains Trump. There’s room for learning here, but will the American worker take the opportunity?