SOTU: The State of America’s Workers, One Year Later

Washington, DC. Following is a statement by Christine Owens, Executive Director, National Employment Law Project:

One year into his presidency, Donald Trump has made crystal clear whose interests his administration puts first: big corporations and the wealthy elite, at the expense of working people.

Over the past year, the administration’s actions have repeatedly proven that the promise President Trump made in his inaugural address—to put workers first—was empty rhetoric. In fact, the Trump administration has sided with wealthy corporations and Wall Street over working families at virtually every turn.

The administration also has made it abundantly clear that it opposes policies that lift the economic and social status of workers of color, immigrants and refugees, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people, and other communities that have not benefited from the wealth accumulated by Mr. Trump and the corporations his administration puts first.

With help from the GOP-led Congress, the Trump administration has made numerous regrettable moves to rig the rules in favor of corporate interests and against low-wage workers and middle-class families.

It has moved to take money out of workers’ paychecks, for example, by rolling back an Obama-era rule that would’ve made millions more workers eligible for overtime pay. Most recently, the administration proposed a ‘tip stealing’ rule allowing business owners to take their workers’ tips—a policy that restaurant industry lobbyists have long sought but that voters overwhelmingly oppose.

This administration has rolled back on-the-job protections that keep workers safe; made it harder for workers to safeguard their own hard-earned retirement savings; sided with corporations in a Supreme Court case about denying workers their day in court through forced arbitration clauses; made it harder for workers to hold ‘joint employers’ accountable when their rights have been violated; and much more.

The administration’s immigration policies and its treatment of undocumented immigrants have simply been disgraceful. These immigrant workers and families, including the Dreamers, have built productive lives in the United States and are contributing to their communities and our nation. They deserve legal status and a path to citizenship but are instead threatened with raids and deportation.

While job growth remains strong, the state of our union is fractured, divided, and polarized to a degree not seen in decades. Workers are still struggling to climb out of the economic ditch following the Great Recession and decades of pro-corporate, anti-labor policies that left them with lower wages, fewer benefits and protections, and less bargaining power than ever before. The upcoming Supreme Court Janus case poses another grave threat to workers’ power to join together and demand better.

But if there’s one lesson we can draw from the remarkable #MeToo movement, it’s that a turning point—a reckoning—will come to those who misuse their power. That includes our elected leaders and policymakers who abuse the public trust to push arbitrary and capricious policies that harm our nation. We—all of us—will hold them accountable in the end.


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