A Sobering Reminder to Unions on the Critical Importance of Supreme Court Appointees

President Trump is looking for a surefire conservative for the Supreme Court. For all the escalating rancor, this round to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia could be the prelude to a more consequential battle. The possibility of a second Supreme Court vacancy in the near future is subtly affecting the strategy of the Republican Trump team in the final stages of selecting a candidate and of Democratic opponents girding for what could be years of political turmoil surrounding the composition of America’s highest court.

Scalia, who died last February, was a rigid conservative on social issues so Trump’s replacement would likely be a wash. But a Trump successor to either of the two eldest justices — liberal Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who will turn 84 in March, or centrist-conservative Anthony Kennedy, turning 81 in July — could truly transform the law in America.

How the Fate of Unions Fell Into The Hands of a Single Man

In Commonwealth v. Hunt, (1842), an American legal case in which the Massachusetts Supreme Court ruled that the common-law doctrine of criminal conspiracy did not apply to labor unions. Until then, workers’ attempts to establish closed shops had been subject to prosecution. Chief Justice Lemuel Shaw asserted, however, that trade unions were legal and that they had the right to strike or take other steps of peaceful coercion to raise wages and ban nonunion workers.

lemuel-shaw

The case stemmed from a demand by the Boston Journeymen Bootmakers’ Society that an employer fire one of its members who had disobeyed the society’s rules. The employer, fearing a strike, complied, but the dismissed employee complained to the district attorney, who then drew an indictment charging the society with conspiracy. The Boston Municipal Court found the union guilty.

Justice Shaw, hearing the case on appeal, altered the traditional criteria for conspiracy by holding that the mere act of combining for some purpose was not illegal. Only those combinations intended “to accomplish some criminal or unlawful purpose, or to accomplish some purpose, not in itself criminal or unlawful, by criminal or unlawful means” could be prosecuted.

Shaw, in effect, legalized the American labor union movement by this decision.

Let’s hope that the inevitable Democratic show of force on the first nomination serves as a warning to Trump not to put up an uncompromising conservative for a more consequential opening.

YOUR TURN

Prognosticators? What are your thoughts? Sound off on the Union Built PC Facebook Page or on our Twitter or LinkedIn feeds. And don’t forget to subscribe to our monthly #UnionStrong email newsletter for articles like this delivered straight to your inbox.

2016: Year in Review

Here’s looking back at some of 2016’s biggest #UnionStrong moments. We stand with you Sisters and Brothers!

NATIONAL…

scalias-death-ends-friedrichs-threatScalia’s death ends Friedrichs threat
In a case known as Friedrichs vs. California Teachers Association, the U.S. Supreme Court was getting ready to impose so-called “right-to-work” status on all public employees in the United States — making dues strictly voluntary and thus weakening unions considerably. But the death of conservative Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia in February resulted in a 4-4 deadlock on the case. The threat to labor could return, however, if a similar case is filed after another anti-union justice is appointed.

unions-count-verizon-strike-as-a-winUnions count Verizon strike as a win
America’s biggest strike in four years took place in April and May as 39,000 members of CWA and IBEW struck Verizon’s East Coast landline operations rather than accept contract concessions at the highly-profitable company. The strike ended after 45 days with a deal brokered by U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez on terms the union called a win, including 10.5 percent raises over four years, and protections against outsourcing of call center jobs.

Clinton loses in the electoral college
In the general election, Hillary Clinton had the support of nearly every labor union in the country, and she won nearly 3 million more votes than Donald Trump. But she lost where it mattered: The electoral college, thanks to narrow Trump wins in Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.

trans-pacific-partnership-dead-at-lastTrans-Pacific Partnership, dead at last
For the first time since NAFTA, a corporate-written trade deal died on the vine. The 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnerhip (TPP) was one of Obama’s top priorities, but broad public hostility to the deal — and the defection of some Republicans over industry concerns — prevented ratification in Congress. Trump’s election sealed its fate.

IN YOUR STATE…

Top legislative win: Minimum wage
With unions prepared to put minimum wage increases on the ballot, the Oregon Legislature stepped up to do the job and put the minimum wage on track to 12.50 to 14.75 by 2022, depending on the region. That amounts to an hourly raise of $3.25 to $5.50 an hour for hundreds of thousands of Oregon workers.

Biggest ballot defeat: Measure 97
Despite $16 million in local and national union money, a proposal to raise taxes on the biggest corporations doing business in Oregon was rejected by voters. As a result, instead of new investment in schools, health care and senior services, the state of Oregon faces a budget shortfall next year, once again.

Biggest union organizing wins:

  • 886 support workers at PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center joined AFT.
  • 793 PSU grad students joined AFT/AAUP.
  • 310 hospital technicians at PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center joined AFT.
  • 165 workers at Boeing paint contractor Commercial Aircraft Painting Services joined IAM.
  • 80 DirecTV workers joined CWA Local 7906.
  • 61 alcohol and drug treatment workers at Volunteers of America joined AFSCME.

Biggest union organizing losses:

  • 205 workers at a Jeld-Wen door plant in Chiloquin rejected the Machinists union in a 52-137 vote.
  • 179 workers at Portland Specialty Baking rejected the Bakers union in a 38-123 vote.

oregon-bernie-voteOregon Bernie vote: a mandate for bolder action by Democrats?
Hillary Clinton won among Democrats nationwide, but in Oregon, Democrats showed an appetite for a bolder kind of politics — backing a candidate who rejected Wall Street money and called for universal health care, free public college tuition, and a $15-an-hour minimum wage. In Oregon, Bernie Sanders packed arenas and outpolled Clinton by over 70,000 votes, 56 to 44 percent.

Minimum wage and sick leave
Raise the minimum wage to $13.50, and give workers the right paid sick leave? Voters did it, approving union-backed I-1433 by 59-41 percent.

sound-gets-serious-transit-investmentSound gets serious transit investment
Another ballot victory was voter approval for an ambitious 25-year plan to make $54 billion worth of transit improvements in the Puget Sound region, including 62 miles of light rail and new bus and heavy rail service to King, Pierce and Snohomish counties. The project will mean union jobs, less congestion, and a cleaner environment.

Madore is no more, in Clark County
Flamboyantly anti-union Clark County Commissioner David Madore — who once pushed unsuccessfully for a local “right-to-work” ordinance — lost reelection in the August primary. In the general election, union-backed candidate Tanisha Harris lost to John Blom, but local unions were still pleased to see their nemesis go.

berry-boycott-ends-with-union-dealBerry boycott ends with union deal
A three-year union boycott against Sakuma and Driscoll berries ended in September, when Skagit Valley agri-giant Sakuma Berries agreed to allow a union election and recognize and bargain a contract with the farmworkers union.

YOUR TURN

What were some of your biggest #UnionStrong moments of 2016? Sound off on the Union Built PC Facebook Page or on our Twitter or LinkedIn feeds. And don’t forget to subscribe to our monthly #UnionStrong email newsletter for articles like this one delivered straight to your inbox.

9 Reasons Why Trump’s Secretary of Labor Pick Andy Puzder is No Friend of Working People

President-elect Donald Trump selected D-List fast food CEO Andy Puzder to head up the Labor Department. AFL-CIO and other working family advocates condemned the appointment of Puzder, who runs Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s.

Puzder’s nomination shows Trump is backing away from his promise to represent all working people.

carls-jr

Here are nine reasons why Puzder is not our friend:

1. Puzder made more money last year in one day ($17,192) than one of his full-time minimum wage workers makes in a year ($15,130).

2. Rather than paying managers overtime for time they have worked, Puzder says that paying them more would make them glorified crew members and would take away their “sense of ownership” and “prestige.” He continued: “For most businesses it will be just another added regulatory cost they must look to offset. For their employees, it will be another barrier to the middle class rather than a springboard.”

3. He is a member of the so-called Job Creators Network, “a group of CEOs that promotes a conservative business agenda and has ties to anti-union astroturf operative Richard Berman.” Puzder also co-authored a book called Job Creation: How It Really Works and Why Government Doesn’t Understand It, with a foreword by supply-side economist Arthur Laffer.

4. In reference to the Fight for $15 call to raise the minimum wage, Puzder said: “I think you’ll see a lot of restaurants closing. I don’t think that restaurants can operate profitably if they’re paying a $15 minimum wage. So I think you would see a devastating impact to the country.” Researchers have since found that in Seattle, the first city to increase its minimum wage toward $15 an hour, the wage hikes have helped low-wage workers, and have not led to “significant increases in business failure rates.”

5. He has expressed vehement opposition to a recent National Labor Relations Board decision that would make it harder for corporations to manipulate the system and avoid bargaining with employees over improvements in the workplace by hiring temporary workers or contract workers.

6. Puzder promotes the myth that minimum wage jobs are largely held by young people just entering the market. This myth is used to undercut attempts to raise the minimum wage by falsely suggesting that minimum wage workers are not primary breadwinners and lack experience.

7. He is pushing to replace human workers with machines, because machines are “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.”

8. Rather than paying working people a living wage, Puzder wants to expand the Earned Income Tax Credit so that the federal government takes responsibility off of employers for paying poverty-level wages. Judy Conti from the National Employment Law Project said: “It’s a form of corporate welfare. A full-time worker should not need the EITC. For private-sector employers who claim to be conservative to say that the answer is a federal subsidy for low-wage work that costs taxpayers’ money [rather than companies paying more] is pretty shocking and pretty transparently hypocritical.”

9. About the ads his company runs that have been widely criticized as misogynistic, Puzder said: “I like our ads. I like beautiful women eating burgers in bikinis. I think it’s very American.”

YOUR TURN

Your thoughts? Sound off on the Union Built PC Facebook Page or on our Twitter or LinkedIn feeds. And don’t forget to subscribe to our monthly email newsletter for articles like this one delivered straight to your inbox.

From Coast to Coast, Working People Fight for Stable Schedules

Update (12/6/16): Since we published this post, the Emeryville, California City Council unanimously approved legislation that will require large retail employers to publish work schedules two weeks in advance, pay extra compensation for last-minute schedule changes and provide opportunities for part-time employees to work more hours before hiring another person. This is just the latest victory in the fight for stable work schedules. Citizens of another California city, San Jose, will vote on similar rules in the November 8th general election.

In the years since the financial crisis and the great recession, working people have increasingly faced a big challenge to being able to make ends meet and provide for their families: unstable work schedules. But a few years ago, working people began to effectively fight back against the trend of corporations assigning unpredictable schedules and unsustainable hours. To address the issue, in late 2014 community leaders, labor advocates and people who work for large chain retailers in San Francisco came together and enacted the first set of comprehensive and meaningful standards. Now 40,000 people who work in retail and restaurant establishments have stronger guarantees of a fair and consistent schedule.

jobs-with-justice

Since that landmark victory, organizers and advocates have taken notice, launching legislative and corporate campaigns aimed at writing new rules to bring balance to our economy. Decision makers have taken note, and Attorneys General have launched investigations into abusive on-call schedules. As a result, many well-known retail chains have pledged to abandon the practice of insisting that employees keep their schedules open and lives on hold for shifts they may never be assigned to or paid for.

But on-call scheduling is only one part of a larger problem for a significant number of people who serve our food and ring up our purchases. A recent study by researchers at the University of California, Davis found nearly 40 percent of employees experience varying work hours. Without the ability to rely on a consistent schedule and regular hours from their employers, men and women have a difficult time budgeting and providing for their families. Raymunda Alfaro, who has worked at a Taco Bell restaurant in Washington, D.C., for more than three years, said, “most of the time I don’t have the same hours or the same day off. It is hard for me to plan childcare in advance and to know if I will work the same hours every week.”

Lawmakers in Seattle, at the urging of groups like Working Washington, took up this issue, unanimously passing legislation that will ensure predictable schedules for tens of thousands of people working in the city’s retail and food service industries. And last week, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced his intention to pass legislation addressing this issue in the fast-food industry.

Given this progress, corporations and their lobbyists are stepping up their opposition, justifying their scheduling policies as what they need to maintain operational “flexibility.” This opposition has led policymakers in Washington, D.C., and Minneapolis to draw back from passing similar legislation. But even as these bills have been pushed to the side for 2016, legislative champions are laying the groundwork for a successful push in 2017.

RELATED: Yes, We Can Do Something About Insecure Work

As more retail chains end on-call scheduling, they’re proving that unfair scheduling practices are by no means necessary for these businesses to be successful. And despite what the Chamber of Commerce would like us to think, a majority of business leaders support predictive schedules measures.

For many people, the amount and regularity of hours they work can be just as important as the wages they earn. As more political leaders and companies hear the collective voices of working people uniting on what they need to sustain their families, we can expect to see more positive change. In the meantime, we must remember that just as these employers actively choose to implement erratic and unsustainable work policies, they can choose to end them as well.

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Yes, We Can Do Something About Insecure Work

A recent New York Times editorial claimed it is simply impossible for “good jobs” to equate to a “good life” for Americans. So a logical conclusion can be drawn, that “bad jobs” (or non-secure work) could ever equate to a “good life”.

Politicians routinely promise that, if elected, they will create more “good jobs,” which are understood to be jobs with solid wages, regular ours and, perhaps, generous employer-provided benefits. During this year’s Presidential Campaign, Hillary Clinton promised “the biggest investment in good-paying jobs since World War II” by a means of a misture of tough trade negotiations, investment in domestic manufacturing, infrastructure investment, research and development, regulatory relief for small business and a tax credit to subside apprenticeships. President-elect Trump proposed to protect American workers from competition with illegal immigrants, the offshoring of jobs by United States-based corporations and harmful practices by trading partners like China.

american-dream

But far from the campaign stops and Capitol Hill, Americans are asking; shouldn’t we all be able to enjoy “good lives,” even if we have “bad jobs,” or those defined as insecure work… one’s with low wages, irregular hours and poor or no employer-provided benefits?

Well, according to an important new study from the International Labor Organization, which highlights smart policies that have been used to improve insecure work.

DOWNLOAD: International Labor Organization Study on Non-Secure Work

The comprehensive study by the ILO documents the rise of “insecure” or “non-standard” forms of work – temporary work, seasonal work, casual or intermittent work, daily work, involuntary part-time work, on-call work, temp agency work, subcontracted work, and employment misclassified as independent contracting—around the world in recent decades.

For most working people, these “non-standard” working arrangements have meant greater economic insecurity, including lower earnings, greater likelihood of unemployment, limited control over work hours, less predictable schedules, lower likelihood of union representation, greater occupational safety and health risk, and reduced access to on-the-job training and unemployment and retirement benefits.

The ILO study identifies policy choices that have made “non-standard” work less insecure, including the following:

  • Ensuring equal treatment for part-time workers with regard to wages, working conditions, freedom of association, safety and health, paid annual leave, paid holidays, maternity leave, pension benefits, protections against discrimination, and termination of employment;
  • Ensuring equal treatment for temp agency workers with regard to wages, working conditions and freedom of association, and protecting agency workers against discrimination;
  • Preventing abuse by setting limits on the use of temp agency work, casual work, on-call work or labor subcontracting, in certain circumstances;
  • Assigning joint liability for labor and employment obligations to lead firms in subcontracting networks and user firms in multiple-party arrangements;
  • Establishing minimum guaranteed hours for part-time, on-call and casual workers, and limiting the variability of working schedules;
  • Cracking down on misclassification of employees as independent contractors by, for example, establishing a presumption of an employment relationship or legally defining contracts for certain kinds of services as employment contracts;
  • Using collective bargaining to regulate insecure work by, for example, turning contract work into regular jobs; ensuring equal treatment of temporary, temp agency, casual and part-time workers; guaranteeing minimum hours; and negotiating worker-friendly schedules;
  • Ensuring that all “non-standard” workers can organize and be represented effectively in collective bargaining;
  • Broadening the scope of collective bargaining to all workers in a sector or occupational category;
  • Strengthening remedies against anti-union discrimination, especially discrimination against temporary and on-call workers;
  • Forming alliances between unions and other organizations, such as day labor worker centers, to address issues of concern to insecure workers;
  • Promoting fiscal and monetary policies that lead to full employment;
  • Making social protection programs more inclusive by lowering thresholds for hours, earnings, duration of employment and minimum contributions

Insecure work is not inevitable. Nor is the impossibility of a “good life”. Non-standard employment, including temporary work, part-time work, temporary agency work and other multi-party employment arrangements, disguised employment relationships and dependent self-employment, has become a contemporary feature of labor markets the world over. What is key is that the policies and regulations in place protecting non-standard workers detailed in the International Labor Organization study be an ongoing effort practiced consistently.

As Union Members you know… the “good life” does not have to be impossible.

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The Steps of a Union Campaign

Do you and your co-workers want change? Do you believe unionizing will be to your benefit? Well, each work place is a bit different, but when workers want to build a union, there are common basic steps to take.

First it is helpful to have a true understanding of how organizing can benefit you and your co-workers.

Understanding the Benefits of Union Membership

Union members – workers like you — benefit from the union’s collective bargaining power to negotiate with employers on their behalf. This basic right gives you as a union member more power than if you tried to negotiate as an individual. There is strength in numbers.

  • Union employees make an average of 30% more than non-union workers
  • 92% of union workers have job-related health coverage versus 68% of non-union workers
  • Union workers are more likely to have guaranteed pensions than non-union employees.

Unions help protect employees from unjust dismissal through collective bargaining agreements. Because of this, most union employees cannot be fired without “just cause.” This is unlike many nonunion workers who are considered “at-will” employees and can be fired at any time for almost any reason.

Union members also benefit from having the collective power to go on strike. A strike is when a group of workers stops working either in protest of labor conditions or as a bargaining tool during labor/management negotiations.

benefits-of-joiing-a-union

Second, do a bit of homework…

  • learn about building a union
  • understand the differences unions can make at work
  • find support among all work areas and kinds of workers

Third, deep dive into the steps of a Union Campaign!

1. Do workers want a change?
Workers talk among themselves to see if most people have issues that they want to change. The first step to building a union is figuring out if your co-workers want a union. Typically, a small group of workers who trust each other start to talk about what’s going on at work, what they can do to build a union, and what union they want to represent them. Workers need to be discreet – it’s too early for the boss to find out that workers are starting to think about getting union protection and a voice.

2. Gather information about your work place.
It’s important to map out all of the departments and where people work. Posted lists of workers and schedules will disappear when the company knows about the campaign, so collect them now. Home addresses are especially important, so workers can talk freely away from work.

3. Call a union, or a couple, to find one that you feel comfortable with.
Ask union members in your community if their union would be a good fit. Don’t worry too much about the name of the union – some unions represent workers who are in many different jobs. You can also decide to build a union that is “independent” – not affiliated with any national union (although it is often more difficult when workers don’t have support and resources from a national union).

4. Find the leaders who workers respect.
The union committee has to represent all of the workers (from each department, shift, job, and group) to be able to keep workers together during the campaign.

5. Learn how having a union can help with your problems.
Workers also need to know what to expect from the company during the union campaign.

6. Sign union cards when workers have enough information about the union and are ready for everything the company will do to try to stop them.
To win a union campaign, workers need to be strong and unified, with a big majority supporting the union. Signing a union authorization card means the worker wants the union to represent him or her to bargain with the company. The labor board will run an election when 30% of workers sign cards, but usually workers have a large majority before they ask for an election.

7. Workers show that they want a union.
A company can agree to have a neutral person from the community review the cards to see if a majority of workers want the union (“card check”). More often, the cards are used to have the National Labor Relations Board (or other agency) run a secret ballot election. The workers and the company have to agree on which workers will be able to vote and be represented by the union. Sometimes the company delays the election with labor board hearings. Once the bargaining unit (who is eligible to be represented) is decided, the labor board sets the date for the election, usually a month later.

8. The company tries to stop the workers from having a voice.
Companies want to keep all the power and don’t want to have to deal with workers who have protections, rights, and a voice. The time before a union election can be unpleasant – but it doesn’t last forever. Workers can overcome the company’s tricks if they stick together and keep talking among themselves.

9. Election day!
The labor boards runs the election and makes sure that the rules are followed. Workers vote in secret. The ballots are counted in front of the workers and company as soon as the election is over.

10. Negotiations.
This was what the whole campaign was about – for workers and union representatives to be able to sit down with the boss and negotiate for fair rules and better working conditions. Workers decide what to negotiate for. For the union to be strong, the company must see that workers support the negotiations. Workers vote to approve the contract before it becomes final. Sometimes, workers ask community members, like religious leaders, to be observers during contract negotiations.

11. Protecting your rights on the job.
After there is a contract, workers have to make sure that the rules are followed. Active union members know that they have to be involved for their union to work.

Looking to organize on the job? What challenges have you faced? What successes can you share that may help others? Sound of on the Union Built PC on Facebook Page, or on our Twitter and LinkedIn feeds and do’t forget to subscribe to the Union Built PC monthly email newsletter for Union News delivered straight to your inbox.

The Strike At Trump’s Atlantic City Casino Is a Flashpoint for the Entire Labor Movement

What those striking are now bravely confronting in Atlantic City should resonate deeply with American workers, their unions, and beyond

In Atlantic City workers at the Trump Taj Mahal casino hotel, members of UNITE HERE Local 54 wagered a struggle that should make it one of those crystallizing flashpoints that garner national attention and mobilize support from the entire labor movement, progressives, and working people at large.

Such flashpoints arise only occasionally in workers’ struggles for justice. In living memory, for example, Eastern Airlines, PATCO, Pittston, the Decatur wars, UPS, and most recently Verizon are among those that have attained that status.

Those flashpoints of national concern and mobilization occur when what particular groups of workers are fighting for and against connects with broader tendencies and concerns in workplaces and the society in general. Downsizing, speedup, outsourcing, privatization, capital flight, unsafe working conditions, profitable employers’ demands for concessions that imperil workers’ standard of living are all among conditions that have triggered those moments.

The striking Trump Taj Mahal workers are involved in precisely such a fundamental struggle now, one that should resonate far and wide among American workers and their unions.

trump-tag-mahal-casino-atlantic-city-strike

How It Started

Nearly 1,000 cooks, bartenders, housekeepers, cocktail servers and other workers there went on strike on July 1—the culmination of a twenty-month struggle to restore pay and benefit cuts that Donald Trump’s crony and notorious billionaire corporate raider Carl Icahn imposed on workers after obtaining permission to do so from a bankruptcy judge. Last year, it should be noted, Trump indicated that if elected he “would love to bring my friend Carl Icahn” to his administration as Treasury Secretary.

The Trump Taj Mahal Bankruptcy Ruling’s Devastation

Following the bankruptcy ruling, Trump Taj Mahal workers lost health insurance, pensions, even severance pay. Workers have seen their average total compensation cut by more than a third. One striker with a chronic medical condition recently died alone at home without access to medical care, and there is no reason to believe that his case is unique. There are many other horror stories, including workers faced with losing their homes and apartments in addition to suffering other material and emotional hardships.

Why This Fight is Everybody’s Fight

The Trump Taj Mahal strike is an important moment for us all because these workers are on the frontline against forces that threaten us all and that lay bare what a Donald Trump presidency would have in store for millions of American workers.

trump-quotesBoth Trump, who built the Taj Mahal, and Icahn, who is the current owner, have taken millions from the property, driven it into bankruptcy, and left the workers holding the bag. Icahn, as Trump Taj Mahal’s sole debtholder between 2010 and 2014, took $350 million out of the business. Icahn has a long history—going back nearly thirty years to his takeover of TWA airlines—of bleeding companies of assets, gutting pensions and benefits, and then tossing aside the firms’ hollowed out carcasses. Manipulation of employer-friendly bankruptcy laws has also been a Trump specialty, one that he has used on several occasions to stiff contractors, going back to when he was the original “too big to fail” scamster at the beginning of the 1990s. Combined, Trump and Icahn have used the bankruptcy tool at the Taj Mahal multiple times.

Another reason we need to see the Trump Taj Mahal strike as all our fight—in addition to the outrageous injustice and hardship Icahn has perpetrated on these workers—is that this struggle in Atlantic City sheds light on some important mystifications that need to be clarified if we hope to turn the tide against the intensifying predatory assaults on American workers’ standard of living.

The Taj Mahal fight is a frontline battle in the systematic attacks on working people’s living standards in this country perpetrated by the likes of Donald Trump and Carl Icahn and their ideological affiliates Mike Pence, Scott Walker, Bruce Rauner, Pat McCrory, Paul Ryan and the Congressional Republicans, the education “reform” billionaires, the Koch brothers and ALEC, the many tentacles of the carceral state, all of whom are intent on destroying public goods and services, and good public jobs, if not the very idea of a public.  To keep the focus on Icahn and Trump, however, what better poster boys could there be for the predatory “billionaire class”?

If the Trump Taj Mahal was permitted to operate on the terms Icahn imposed, workers, the union, and the broader community understand that the result would be a local race to the bottom, as other casino operators would argue that they have to compete with Icahn’s sweatshop model to remain viable. As by far the dominant industry in the city, the hospitality and gaming sector is directly linked to the economic health and well-being not only of casino workers but of the community at large. It is decent hospitality sector jobs that enable workers to buy houses and provide the backbone for the entire local economy.

And Atlantic City is not alone. Icahn’s attack on Taj Mahal workers is of a piece with broader right-wing attempts to drive down workers’ living standards everywhere. This is what is behind the systematic attacks on teachers’ unions and other public sector unions and efforts to destroy the national postal service. Partly it stems from a desire to eliminate any organized expressions of workers’ power, to clear the way to realizing the other objective: creation of a world in which we would have no alternative other than to accept work on whatever terms employers choose to offer it.

That, of course, would be employers’ utopia and workers’ hell.

Key Takeaway

The issues at the core of the Trump Taj Mahal strike reflect the concerns shared broadly by workers in this country. The struggle presents a clear window onto the danger within the false promises Trump seems to offer some, and the strikers and their union provide a clear, practical model of the sort of movement we will need to change this country’s political direction to center on the needs of working people.

Making this fight a national issue on the order of those earlier key labor flashpoints certainly seems like a no-brainer.