THE ANTI-WORKER AGENDA OF THE TRUMP ADMINISTRATION

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 (http://billmoyers.com/story/trump-corporations-over-labor/)

[2]      Olen, H., 9/1/17, “The rollback of pro-worker policies since Trump took office is staggering,” The Nation (https://www.thenation.com/article/the-rollback-of-pro-worker-policies-since-trump-took-office-is-staggering/)

[3]      Miller, K., 8/30/17, “Keep on truckin’ – No, seriously, Trump wants you to,” Moyers & Company (http://billmoyers.com/story/keep-truckin-no-seriously-trump-wants/)

[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 (http://www.epi.org/blog/policy-watch-two-more-foxes-nominated-to-run-hen-houses-in-the-trump-administration/)

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