There are many reasons nurses believe President Trump is hazardous to our health, from his abysmal failure to stop the spread of Covid-19 to his authoritarian behavior. But nurses know there’s one issue that doesn’t get nearly enough attention, although it impacts the health and safety of our patients across the country: labor and workers’ rights. That’s an issue where the contrast between President Trump’s record and Joe Biden’s program couldn’t be sharper.
In 2016, Trump sold himself as a champion of workers; nurses know it was just a façade. Working people across the country have suffered from decades of policies that led to deindustrialization, declining real wages, the transfer of wealth to corporations and the economic elite, deregulation, and an all-out assault on unions. Trump, corporate America’s BFF, was never going to reverse that.
OSHA has resisted the call by National Nurses United and other unions to require employers to implement safer hospital standards during the pandemic, including providing lifesaving personal protective equipment (PPE) at a time when more than 1,500 health care workers including more than 200 registered nurses have died from COVID-19.
His record reads like a Wall Street and Chamber of Commerce wish list. Rather than being a champion of workers, he has acted as a champion of libertarian, far-right ideologues, legislators, donors, and think tank allies.
Let’s break down how Trump has hurt working people—especially our Black, Brown, and Indigenous patients.
Trump’s alliance with corporate interests is stamped across his administration, from his executive orders to his appointments to Cabinet and other regulatory positions, including by appointing anti-worker, pro-corporate interests to the National Labor Relations Board, the federal agency which oversees labor-management rules. And then there are the pro-corporate judges Trump has appointed to the federal judiciary, including two Supreme Court justices.
The 2018 Janus Supreme Court decision attacked worker protections by encouraging public workers to evade financial support for their unions.
Trump’s Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia, son of the late far-right Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, oversees the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), an agency in charge of workplace safety. Yet he is another prime example of a pro-corporate appointee deciding what is right for workers.
Under Scalia, OSHA has resisted the call by National Nurses United and other unions to require employers to implement safer hospital standards during the pandemic, including providing lifesaving personal protective equipment (PPE) at a time when more than 1,500 health care workers including more than 200 registered nurses have died from COVID-19.
The list of Trump’s anti-worker decisions is endless! But here are a few highlights:
-Eroded President Obama’s landmark overtime payment order for lower-wage workers not covered by union contracts, reducing the improved wages they can earn.
-Curtailed the collective bargaining rights of federal employees.
-Instituted a “joint employer” loophole to allow mega corporations to escape liability for harm to workers and unions carried out by their subsidiaries.
-Enacted a Congressional resolution to overturn a requirement employers maintain accurate records on workplace injuries and illnesses.
Then there’s the National Labor Relations Board. Among the most sweeping rollback of federal labor law rights in years are changes that:
-Allow employers to more easily suspend or evade union contracts, including the ability to make unilateral cuts to workers’ pay, benefits, and working conditions, and impose unfair discipline, including termination.
-Attack the right to strike, especially increasingly effective short-term strikes.
-Limit bargaining rights and information unions can request from employers.
-Hamper the ability of unions to organize.
Former Vice President Biden, who has a history of support for unions, offers a pronounced difference. His platform acknowledges a “war on organizing, collective bargaining, unions, and workers.”
Notably, Biden has endorsed a major labor priority, the Protecting the Right to Organize Act (PRO Act), the most expansive strengthening in many years of federal labor protections for union organizing. The bill passed the House in February, but the Senate has refused to even hold hearings on it.
While Trump and his allies have targeted union organizing rights, Biden recently endorsed a campaign by 1,700 RNs at Mission Hospital in Asheville, N.C. to join an NNU affiliate.
Biden has also called for holding company executives personally liable for interfering with workers’ rights, ensuring federal dollars not go to employers who violate labor laws, establishing penalties for companies that bargain in bad faith, banning state “right to work” laws, protecting the right to strike, and reinstating and expanding protections for federal employees.
Our veterans and VA nurses have also suffered under Trump and would fare better under Biden. He supports ensuring a vibrant Veterans Administration to provide high-quality care for our nation’s veterans.
Nurses understand the urgency of ending the disastrous policies and behavior of President Trump this November. But our work doesn’t stop there; past the election, we will continue to mobilize and organize for the transformative social changes all workers, and patients, sorely need.
That should be a Labor Day pledge for us all.
Bonnie Castillo, RN is the executive director of National Nurses United. @NNUBonnie
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