Now that 2017 is over, it is time for us to evaluate and review the first year of the Trump administration and this Congress. At times, it was hard to tune out the relentless distractions of tweets and scandals, but behind the drama were significant changes in regulations and policies. Unfortunately, I can’t say that I have found much that will benefit the working people — the very people that our leaders are so fond of talking about. For example, I could point to the repeated attempts to kill or undermine the Affordable Care Act. Or to President Trump’s Department of Labor giving up on expanding overtime to more workers, thereby denying millions a pay raise. Or we could look at the regulations at OSHA and EPA that protected workers, but are now gone.
Trade is another area where the hard working people of this country have been let down, save for the one win we got with the end of U.S. participation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal. And let’s not forget the courts. They are being stacked with right-wing, anti-worker judges (we will be living with the effects of this for decades). And let’s not forget about the attacks on organizing and collective bargaining coming out of the Republican led National Labor Relations Board. We at the UAW were very troubled about all of these developments and diminishments in strength and equity for the working class — and then came the tax bill.
The Great Tax Cut of 2017. The crowning achievement of Trump and this Republican Congress.
So, what is in this tax bill for the working people that this administration so loves to talk about? Not much; most significantly a tax increase in 2025. And despite claims that this tax bill will bring manufacturing jobs back to the U.S., the reality is that this piece of legislation actually provides an incentive for U.S. companies to locate production overseas. My summary of this tax bill: The rich get more, we get less.
So, what have we learned from our first year under Republican control of all branches of government? Elections matter. The mid-term election is critically important. And when we vote, we must not be taken in by hollow promises. We must not be distracted or deterred from our course by the peculiar distractions of this government. We must insist on something better from Washington. We do not want more politicians who forget about working families after Election Day. We need leaders who will represent working families and who understand that a healthy democracy represents all Americans rather than the wealthy few.
Union members must not assume they are immune from politics because we can negotiate with an employer for higher wages or good benefits. What happens when taxes go up? What happens when a politician casts the deciding vote to gut Medicare? What happens if your community is hit with a natural disaster? Many elected leaders in Washington have made it clear that their priorities are the interests of the wealthy who fund their campaigns, not the rights and needs of working families.
Our charge in the coming year is clear. We must support strong, pro-worker candidates and get out the vote across this nation. All citizens — not only those with the money — should have a powerful voice in the political process. Only then can we address the great discontent and growing economic inequalities spreading through the country. Your vote will matter in 2018. Use it to elect strong leaders, not just more politicians.
Dennis Williams is president of the UAW.
Labor Voices columns are written on a rotating basis by United Auto Workers President Dennis Williams, Teamsters President James Hoffa, Michigan AFL-CIO President Ron Bieber and Michigan Education Association President Paula Herbart.