Working people are watching, Mr. President

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To Washington, D.C. insiders, this month’s budget negotiations are just the latest partisan exercise in a series of manufactured crises that too often result in short-term solutions. But for those who live and work outside of the Beltway bubble, much more is at stake.

What happens in the coming days has the potential to fundamentally shift the balance of power in the workplace. Nothing less than the right to dream, live, work and retire in security is on the table as Congress faces key decisions and deadlines.

{mosads}It is hard to be optimistic given the House and Senate’s last major action: a budget-busting, worker-bashing tax cut designed to further enrich big corporations, concentrate wealth in the hands of the few and ship jobs overseas.


The bill President Trump signed into law is a moral and economic abomination, which is why poll after poll show the vast majority of Americans oppose it. If there was ever a time to change course and start governing on behalf of working people, this is it.

Immigration has become the key sticking point on legislation to keep the federal government open. The labor movement knows firsthand that policies like Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and Temporary Protected Status (TPS) protect a vital part of our workforce and help raise wages and standards across the board.

President Trump’s decision to phase out these protections is needlessly putting working people at risk. What’s more, his hostile rhetoric and enforcement is making workplaces less safe. In California alone, retaliation claims based on immigration status have increased nearly five-fold over the past year, leading fewer workers to speak up about stolen pay and dangerous working conditions.

President Trump has spent much of his first year doubling down on an enforcement-only approach that criminalizes work and harms immigrant and native-born workers alike. Every day that Congress fails to pass the DREAM Act, more than 100 young people lose their work permits.

With each announcement terminating Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for another country, including El Salvador on Jan. 8, the Trump administration is directly threatening the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of men and women who have been working in our country and playing by the rules for decades.

Congress should pass a clean DREAM Act at once, create a pathway to citizenship for working people with TPS and abandon ill-advised and dangerous plans to slash permanent immigration, increase captive work and wall off the southern border. 

Beyond immigration, we’ll be watching closely to see whether Congress is willing to fund at-risk pensions, provide fair and equitable disaster relief and ensure children have basic health coverage. And we are ready to hold them accountable if they fail to do so. 

Clearly, our elected leaders have the power to enact policies that lift us up. They can fund our government, preserve our retirement, aid our recovery, protect our young and ensure our rights, regardless of where we were born.

The clock is ticking, and the consequences are enormous. Working people are united in these fights, and we are ready to mobilize and organize in defense of our freedoms. To put it another way: No matter what happens this January, we will remember in November.

Richard Trumka is president of the 12.5 million member AFL-CIO, America’s labor federation.

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