Much has been made of President Trump’s sweeping comments and random tweets. But now that he’s been officially sworn in, the consequences for American workers are much more tangible.
Donald Trump will soon decide whether or not to repeal a number of pro-worker regulations that make a real difference in the lives of working people.
Regulations make sure our food is inspected, and Wall Street firms from bleeding our retirement funds. They help us stay safe on the job, and to prevent airplanes from falling apart in the sky.
The push for removing regulations has always come from those in the millionaire and billionaire class, who want to line their pockets at the expense of everyday Americans. They prefer rules that maximize their wealth — a trickle-down approach that has failed our nation time and time again.
Overtime pay is one example. If you make $47,476 or less, a new rule says your employer must pay you fairly if you work more than 40 hours a week. This is a necessary step to restore overtime protections that have been eroding for decades.
But now a U.S. district court in Texas has halted the rule, and the man Trump has tapped to lead the Labor Department is openly hostile to it.
Abandoning the overtime rule would amount to a pay cut for workers like Lora McCrary, who manages a profitable national auto supply chain where the demands of her job require approximately 70 hours a week. Even though she makes a little over $24,000 a year, like many other modestly paid “managers,” she doesn’t get a cent in overtime.
With the new rule, the company would have to provide time and a half for each hour of overtime worked. Without the rule, Lora and millions of others will be forced to continue living on partial paychecks, leaving less money for gas, groceries and rent.
Here’s another example: After decades of deliberation and delay, the Obama administration instituted long overdue controls on deadly silica dust, which literally suffocates workers to death. Repealing the silica rule would make life more dangerous for millions of people who work in construction, foundries, shipyards and oil and gas.
Trump could also dismantle an executive order that ensures federal contracts go to employers that respect workers’ rights and obey wage and workplace safety laws, resuming the flow of taxpayer dollars to corporations that exploit and marginalize working people. This essentially rewards bad actors. Working people are rightly concerned about what lies ahead.
The debate over regulations is more than talk show chatter. Government rules and standards help shape our daily lives. Over the last eight years, the Obama administration has taken numerous important, commonsense actions with the aim of building an economy that is fairer for working people. President Trump should not spend his first days in office dismantling this progress. The result would be an all-out assault on our paychecks, safety and economic security.
“Burdensome regulation” is one of the great lies in American politics. It is not a burden to be paid for the hours you work. It is not a burden to be safe on the job from illness, injury or death. The American dream is not a burden.
Trump promised to make life better for American workers. Now, as president, he has a chance to honor those promises with action. His Cabinet nominations — including a Labor Secretary who routinely violates labor law — are a bad start. But Trump can help stop the bleeding by leaving hard-won, pro-worker regulations in place.
If not, millions of Americans will be dramatically worse off.
Richard Trumka is president of the 12.5 million member AFL-CIO, America’s labor federation.