Despite Trump’s pro-American worker rhetoric, his administration’s anti-worker actions speak louder than his words. His administration’s rollback of regulations protecting workers’ health, safety, and pay has been called “stunning” and “staggering” by labor policy experts.

One example is the Trump Administration’s decision not to follow through and update the Overtime Rule as proposed by the Obama Administration. The Overtime Rule sets the minimum amount salaried employees can be paid and not be eligible for overtime pay when they work more than 40 hours in a week. The intent of the Overtime Rule was to identify employees who were managers or professionals who could reasonably be expected to work more than 40 hours in a week and not get additional pay for overtime. The current overtime cutoff amount is only $23,660 and has not been updated for over a decade. It’s actually below the poverty line for a family of four. This lets employers pay low-wage workers a salary, rather than on an hourly basis, and thereby avoid having to pay overtime. The failure to update this dollar amount is an important contributor to the stagnation of wages for low- and middle-income workers.

There appeared to be bi-partisan agreement that the dollar amount should be increased when the Obama administration proposed a new rule raising the threshold to $47,476. Over 4.2 million low-wage workers would have seen an increase in pay or possibly a reduction in work hours as a result. The Trump Administration has abandoned the implementation of the proposed rule. [1]

This will cost low- and middle-wage workers an estimated $1 billion a year in pay.

The Trump Administration has stopped collecting data from large corporations on pay by gender, race, and ethnic background. This data would have allowed the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to examine pay patterns and look for discriminatory practices. The failure to collect this data will make it harder to document and reduce the stubborn inequities in pay in the US. [2]

Data collection on workplace injuries and deaths has been weakened and made less accessible to the public. This will make it harder for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and others to identify and respond to unsafe working conditions.

The Trump Administration is rolling back regulation of the trucking industry. Driving a truck is one of the most dangerous jobs in the country; truck accidents account for more than a quarter of all workplace deaths. The Obama Administration had begun an effort to study sleep issues among truckers, given that falling asleep at the wheel is a major cause of accidents. The Trump Administration has halted the study.

The Trump Administration and Congress are also considering allowing federal regulations that require a 30-minute break after 8 hours of driving to override stricter state regulations. For example, California, Colorado, and Kentucky require a 30-minute break every 5 hours. [3]

(Please see my blog post, Repealing or delaying regulations harms workers and the public, here for more examples of the Trump Administration’s rollbacks of regulations that protect workers.)

Trump is nominating people who do not have records of protecting workers to key posts in his Administration that are responsible for worker protections. He has nominated Cheryl Stanton to be the administrator of the Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division, which is responsible for enforcing wage protection laws. In the past, she has represented corporations accused of under-paying workers. Stanton has also been sued for failing to pay her house cleaners. [4]

Trump has nominated David Zatezalo to be the head of the Mine Safety and Health Administration. Zatezalo is a former coal mining executive whose company was identified as having numerous health and safety violations.

Trump appears to be trying to hide or minimize attention to these nominations and some of his other anti-worker actions by announcing them on Friday afternoons when attention from the media and the public is at its low point for the week.

The Trump Administration’s actions are clearly anti-worker, despite his sometimes contradictory rhetoric. And actions do speak louder than words, even when you announce them at times when you hope people won’t be paying attention.

[1]      Block, S., 9/13/17, “The Trump Administration will always side with corporations over labor,” Moyers & Company (

[2]      Olen, H., 9/1/17, “The rollback of pro-worker policies since Trump took office is staggering,” The Nation (

[3]      Miller, K., 8/30/17, “Keep on truckin’ – No, seriously, Trump wants you to,” Moyers & Company (

[4]      McNicholas, C., & Sanders, S., 9/8/17, “Policy watch: Two more foxes nominated to run hen houses in the Trump administration,” Economic Policy Institute (



Congressional Democrats recently announced a package of policy proposals they are calling “A Better Deal.” It is apparently their policy platform for the 2018 Congressional elections and it seeks to re-establish Democrats as the party that stands up for working people. There is much in it for workers to like. (See my previous post here for a summary of it.)

However, some important pieces are missing from A Better Deal. [1] For example, it doesn’t clearly address:

  • Making it easier for workers to unionize and harder for employers to eliminate or prevent unionization. This would strengthen the collective bargaining power of workers so they could better balance the growing power of employers in negotiations over pay and benefits.
  • Creating a more progressive, fairer tax system to address economic inequality and provide the revenue needed for A Better Deal’s programs.
  • Reducing the power of the huge Wall Street financial corporations and the threat they represent to our economy. [2]
  • Reforming the health care system and its out-of-control costs. It doesn’t call for a Medicare-for-All type single-payer insurance system, despite strong evidence that this is the only way to both control costs and improve quality, and despite broad support for Medicare-for-All among the public and from over 100 members of Congress. (See my post here for why single-payer is the only way to address the problems with our health insurance system.)
  • Increasing the transparency of the process for developing trade agreements and eliminating the trade dispute resolution system that favors multi-national corporations and undermines workers, the public, and even national sovereignty. [3]

A Better Deal is viewed by many as timid and underwhelming. It doesn’t clearly renounce growing economic inequality and the greed of corporate executives. It could, for example, propose penalties and/or taxes on corporations where executive pay is over 20 times that of a corporation’s lowest-paid worker or over 20 times the national median wage. This is what the Labour Party in the United Kingdom has proposed. [4] In the US, this would mean penalties or taxes on corporations where an executive is paid over $290,000 and the corporation has a minimum wage employee, or where any executive is paid was over $605,000 (based on 20 times the national median personal income of $30,240). [5]

A Better Deal is a step toward counteracting the frustration of workers and the middle class and the resultant losses Democrats have sustained in recent state and national elections. However, it is not generating much grassroots enthusiasm. Although it is clearly targeting some of the issues raised by Senator Bernie Sanders in his presidential campaign, it is not generating anywhere near the groundswell of grassroots support that Senator Sanders, or for that matter President Trump’s campaign, stimulated. Part of the lack of excitement about A Better Deal has to do with the shortcomings of its policy content and part of it has to do with its presentation.

Calling the proposal “A Better Deal” is not inspiring or visionary, which is what the Democratic Party needs to be if it wants to win elections. Simply saying that its proposal is better than what the Republicans are proposing or than the current status quo is not saying much. “Better” is not enough to get voters excited and enthusiastic enough to turn out and vote. Hillary Clinton lost the presidency because she did not inspire and excite voters. Turnout in the 2016 presidential election was only 53% of eligible voters! If it wants to win the 2018 or subsequent elections, the Democratic Party needs a strong, inspiring message and a good media strategy that will energize people to get out and vote for its candidates.

I’m surprised the Democratic Party didn’t build A Better Deal and its 2018 election strategy on the People’s Budget that has been developed by its Progressive Caucus in the US House. (See my posts on the People’s Budget here and here.) The People’s Budget includes specific proposals for reforming our tax system to increase fairness and to generate the revenue needed to fund the programs it and A Better Deal recommend. The People’s Budget includes a larger program to build the infrastructure America needs and is specific about increases in domestic spending that are needed to support workers and the middle class, as well as to mend our safety net for people who fall on hard times. It also is specific about the need to strengthen workers’ ability to unionize and negotiate with employers for better pay and benefits.

On the other hand, A Better Deal has more specific proposals than the People’s Budget for rolling back provisions in trade treaties that favor multi-national corporations and undermine workers. It also is more specific about the need to restrict foreign countries’ currency manipulation and monopolistic behavior by large corporations (by strengthening anti-trust laws and their enforcement).

If the Democrats could unify in support of a proposal that combined the best elements of A Better Deal and the People’s Budget, and added an unequivocal call for a Medicare-for-All type, single-payer health insurance system, they would have a policy and election agenda that would be truly visionary and inspiring. The country needs leadership focused on a clear commitment to supporting workers and the middle class. The Democrats have a golden opportunity to provide it, but it isn’t yet clear whether they will seize the opportunity.

Clear, consistent promotion of A Better Deal is not yet evident. And actions will speak louder than its words. However, no action on its promises is yet evident in Washington. Its impact, both practically and politically, will depend on:

  • Clearly spelling out the details of its policy proposals and adding missing pieces,
  • Developing a strong message promoting its goals,
  • Taking definitive actions to move its agenda forward, and
  • Generating consistent and enthusiastic support for it from all Democratic members of Congress and the Party leadership.

[1]      Reich, R., 7/28/17, “How much better is the Democrats’ ‘Better Deal’?” Yahoo! News (2 min. video) (

[2]      Carney, E.N., 7/27/17, “Is the Democratic Party’s ‘Better Deal’ good enough?” The American Prospect (

[3]      Bernstein, J., & Spielberg, B., 8/17/17, “Democrats’ ‘Better Deal’ on trade is better than what we have now,” The American Prospect (

[4]      Pizzigati, S., 7/26/17, “Will Democrats in Congress go bolder or backwards?” (

[5]      Wikipedia, retrieved 9/7/17, “Personal income in the United States” (