President-elect Donald Trump promised during his campaign “more jobs and better wages.” So on Wednesday several hundred workers gathered near the White House and challenged Trump to be true to his words.
Speaking at the New York Economic Club in September, Donald Trump promised that in his administration, “Every policy decision we make must pass a simple test: Does it create more jobs and better wages for Americans?”
Meanwhile, the U.S. Government is America’s top creator of low-wage jobs. The federal government pays for more than 2 million private sector poverty jobs through its contracts, loans, and grants – more than the number of low-wage workers at Walmart and McDonald’s combined. And already-low-paid federal contract workers lose up to $2.5 billion in pay each year to wage theft.
Trump has an opportunity to show he meant what he said. He can make sure federal government contractors at least stop stealing wages from contract workers.
Demos Study: Don’t Let Government Contractors Cheat Working Americans
For some time the federal government has “saved money” by outsourcing jobs to contractor firms. The money that as “saved,” of course, comes from converting good-paying government jobs to low-wage, low-or-no benefit jobs – while people at the top of the contractor firms raked in millions.
When public workers lose jobs or have to take lower wages to do the same work for a government contractor, the “saved” money ends up paying for food assistance and other poverty services for those workers. Communities pay further when businesses lose customers and homes are foreclosed. The now-low-wage workers pay little in taxes, while the contracting corporations and the few high-wage people at the top dodge their taxes. Welcome to the new economy.
What’s worse, a new Demos study, “Don’t Let Government Contractors Cheat Working Americans,” shows that on top of paying low wages with few-or-no benefits, Federal contractors steal an estimated $2.5 billion each year from their contract workers. They do this by paying less than the minimum wage, forcing people to work off the clock, and by misclassifying workers as “independent contractors” instead of employees.
The Demos study noted that from World War I, public officials of both political parties took responsibility for ensuring that the conditions of people working to produce goods and deliver services on behalf of the American people met a basic standard of fairness.
That commitment began to erode in earnest with the election of Ronald Reagan and the right-wing push to devalue government, disempower workers and relieve private corporations of public accountability. Fast-forward to today, and this is one consequence: Approximately 40 percent of all federal contracting dollars in 2013 went to contractors with health, safety or wage violations on their record, the Demos study says.
Which Side Will Trump Take?
If Trump means to live up to his promises to working people he can start by doing something about the federal government’s contractors. He can implement and enforce the existing Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces executive order. This requires corporations that want federal government contracts to disclose if they have violated rules about treating their workers fairly — such as rules against stealing their pay. The order also directs the government officers who issue these contracts to take these violations into account before awarding new contracts.
Federal contractors are trying to block the order.
Which side will Trump take?
At the rally, Sen. Bernie Sanders said of low-wage workers, “How dare you ask for a $15 minimum wage and a union, but you did it. And all across the country … states and cities and towns are raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour because of your efforts.”
— #Bernie2020 (@FeelTheBern11) December 7, 2016
Rep. Keith Ellison said, “It’s real easy to talk about patriotism and then hurt the American people. …Victory is within reach if we stick together!” He said of the gains that federal contract workers had made during the Obama administration through executive orders, “Ain’t no way we are going to roll back. And if they try to take away that executive order that you fought for, we will be here, we will be there, and if we have to sit in, we will sit in. And if we have to get arrested, we will get arrested.”
— Action Network Fund (@CorpAction) December 7, 2016
Actor and activist Danny Glover told the crowd, “We know that we have to support good jobs AND defend good jobs. … We’re ready to fight in the winter. We’re ready to fight in the summer.”
Joann Gutierrez, a Department of Justice interpreter, said, “When I exercised my fundamental right to organize, I was retaliated against by a Justice Department contractor.” Photo credit: Good Jobs Nation.
Bad Signs For Workers Under Trump
Will Trump live up to his campaign promises by helping working people? Unfortunately everything so far is pointing in a different direction. Last week’s post, “Tea Leaf Reading Forecasts A Coming Assault On Working People” warned,
Tea-leaf-readers are warning that what we are already seeing and hearing from the Trump crowd should, as Senator Bernie Sanders put it in a Washington Post op-ed titled “Carrier just showed corporations how to beat Donald Trump“, should send a shock wave of fear through all workers across the country.” Sanders explains, “who would pay for the high cost for tax cuts that go to the richest businessmen in America? The working class of America.”
[. . .] Billionaire oligarchs, anti-labor business leaders, foreclosure kings, Wall Street bankers and people on the boards of fraudster corporations. This is not quite the crowd you would think would usher in a new age of good jobs with good wages and benefits for working people.
The tea leaves — and that’s all we have from this already-secretive administration — are telling us that things are going to be very, very bad for America’s workers under a Donald “wages are too high” Trump administration.
This week, more bad news: “Donald Trump Reportedly Considering Fast Food CEO For Labor Secretary.”
For those who want to preserve President Barack Obama’s legacy on the labor front, Puzder would be an alarming choice to put atop the Labor Department. He’s been a loud critic of several of the president’s priorities and reforms, including raising the minimum wage and making more workers eligible for overtime pay.
… In an interview with Business Insider earlier this year, Puzder wasn’t too keen on the idea of hiking the minimum wage, either. He said that boosting the mandated wage floor would force fast-food executives like himself to look into replacing workers with robots.
Robots? Richard Eskow has more in Wednesday’s “Will Trump Bring the Robot Apocalypse?“:
It was also reported this week that President-elect Donald Trump is considering Andrew Puzder, CEO of the parent company to fast-food chains Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s, for Secretary of Labor. Puzder, who is already an influential Trump advisor, once boasted about the advantages of replacing human employees with machines.
“They’re always polite, they always upsell, they never take a vacation, they never show up late, there’s never a slip-and-fall, or an age, sex, or race discrimination case,” Puzder said.
The Hill reports that “GOP plans new assault on unions“:
Republicans in crucial states across the country are planning a renewed assault on the political power of labor unions after GOP victories in November’s elections handed the party control of states where Democrats have long defended union rights.
Reuters reports: “New House labor committee chair questions need for unions“:
The incoming chair of the congressional panel that oversees labor issues on Monday questioned the need for unions and said she wants to repeal various Obama administration labor policies.
You Can Help
You can help. Start by adding your name to this petition: “Trump: Keep Your Promises To Workers.”
Sign up here to “Become a Good Jobs Defender!”
Good Jobs Defenders will fight to hold Trump, the next CEO of America, accountable to his campaign promise that “Every policy decision we make must pass a simple test: Does it create MORE JOBS and BETTER WAGES for Americans?”