Fighting Back Against Trump’s Agenda:
Students, Union Leaders, Elected Officials Speak Out
By Paul Burton
In the weeks since the November 8 election, opponents of right wing millionaire Donald Trump’s extremist agenda have protested, spoken up, or called for Americans who value progress and civil rights to continue to organize.
High school students in the Bay Area walked out of classes beginning the day after the election and continue to express dismay and fear of what a Trump presidency could mean for their future. Teachers and parents around the state have reported that Latino students feel threatened and traumatized by Trump’s calls to deport millions of immigrants and his outrageous claims that hard working undocumented immigrants are criminals. Muslim youth feel terrorized by Trump’s call for a registry of Muslims that harkens back to the days when Japanese-Americans were imprisoned during World War II. Anti-war, human rights, and civil rights groups and activists also held rallies in major U.S. cities in the days after the election.
Some leading Democratic elected officials have spoken out against some of Donald Trump’s proposals and his choices for key cabinet positions and advisors. In California, legislative leaders issued a statement November 9 noting, “While Donald Trump may have won the presidency, he hasn’t changed our values. America is greater than any one man or party. We will not be dragged back into the past. We will lead the resistance to any effort that would shred our social fabric or our Constitution.” (See the full statement below.)
Protecting the Gains Made in Dealing with Climate Change
In a statement Nov. 10, Gov. Jerry Brown called on Californians to help unify the country after a divisive election. “In California, we will do our part to find common ground whenever possible,” he said. Brown added that the state would stay true to its values and defend existing policies and laws that protect the environment from threats by a candidate who ignorantly called climate change a hoax. “We will protect the precious rights of our people and continue to confront the existential threat of our time —devastating climate change,” Brown said.
President Obama also urged Trump to not take the U.S. out of the Paris climate agreement signed by 196 nations to combat the effects of global warming, noting that the policies of protecting the environment and creating jobs go hand in hand—as California has shown. State Senate leader de León, attending a United Nations conference in Morocco on climate change with other state officials, said November 15, “California leaders are committed to protecting and building upon our global leadership role in the fight against climate change. It would be extremely irresponsible and short-sighted to do otherwise. The world is counting on us more than ever and I look forward to reassuring our partners in other countries.”
Protecting Immigrant Families
State Senator De León responded to Trump’s promise to deport up to three million undocumented immigrants who Trump claims “have criminal records,” saying, “it is erroneous and profoundly irresponsible to suggest that up to three million undocumented immigrants living in America are dangerous criminals. I also want to assure the millions of people who are here pursuing and contributing to the California Dream, but lack documentation, that the State of California stands squarely behind you. State leaders will defend your due process rights and aggressively avail ourselves of any and all tools to prevent an unconscionable over-reach by a Trump administration in California.”
Several Mayors in the state have affirmed their cities, like San Francisco, would remain “Sanctuary Cities” despite Trump’s threats to cut federal funding for areas where undocumented immigrants are protected and local law enforcement agencies instructed not to cooperate with federal immigration raids. The sanctuary cities movement was started in the mid-1980s by the faith leaders to help protect refugees from wars in El Salvador and Guatemala from deportation. Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom called on the University of California Regents November 17 to establish state universities as sanctuaries for immigrant students—some of whom are also refugees from El Salvador and Honduras, where U.S. intervention in the 1980s destabilized the region, or Mexico, where NAFTA has devastated the economy.
Labor Rights Under Attack
For unions, the dangers of the Trump agenda are far reaching and potentially life-threatening. As Mark Brenner wrote in Labor Notes, “Donald Trump’s win is the gut-punch finale to a surreal election season. … Unfortunately, we don’t need a crystal ball to figure out what a Trump presidency has in store for labor, especially with Republicans controlling the House and the Senate. National ‘right-to-work’ legislation, outsourcing and privatizing more public services, large-scale deportations, a ban on prevailing-wage laws, pulling the plug on Obamacare—these are just the tip of the iceberg. So after we mourn, we need to organize.”
Some have begun to organize against Trump’s more extreme appointments, through online petitions and calls to Congress. Congressional switchboards were overwhelmed as concerned citizens called House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate leader Mitch McConnell to demand that Trump rescind his appointment of Steve Bannon as White House strategist. The far right wing media mogul has promoted white supremacist hate groups through his fact-challenged news website.
Other Trump nominees are equally troubling for civil rights and labor. Alternet reported that, while Trump promised to help coal miners, “his top pick for Commerce Secretary is Wilbur Ross, Jr., a New York billionaire who owned the now-defunct Sago mine in West Virginia where 12 miners were killed in an explosion in 2006.” The federal Mine Safety and Health Administration had cited the mine for 140 safety violations in 2004.
Under a Trump administration, regulatory agencies would be weakened or gutted and enforcement of health and safety laws non-existent. The gains made by the Obama Administration to fund OSHA and the Department of Labor are all on Trump’s chopping block.
MediaMatters reported November 17 that Trump’s choice for Labor Secretary could be Andy Puzder, a right-wing commentator and fast food CEO of CKE Restaurants, the parent company of Carl’s Jr., Hardee’s, Green Burrito and Red Burrito. “Puzder is known for writing op-eds denouncing worker rights and the minimum wage,” reported MediaMatters. “Puzder has praised the job destruction that comes with workplace automation, boasting... that he wanted to automate more of his restaurants to avoid paying worker salaries and benefits. Puzder claimed that replacing people with machines would be preferable because machines ‘never take a vacation’ or complain when discriminated against.”
The potential Labor Secretary also opposes new overtime rules proposed by President Obama’s Department of Labor that would extend guaranteed overtime pay to qualified salaried workers making less than $47,476 a year. Among those impacted are the estimated 20 million workers who voted for Trump who “could find themselves losing their right to overtime pay as soon as he takes office,” the UK Independent noted Nov. 23.
The list of cabinet members and agency heads proposed by Trump reads like a Who’s Who of anti-union privatizers, profiteers and ultra-conservative ideologues.
Education union leaders responded with outrage to Trump’s choice for Education Secretary, conservative billionaire Betsy DeVos—a longtime supporter of charter schools and vouchers for private and religious schools. “In nominating DeVos, Trump makes it loud and clear that his education policy will focus on privatizing, defunding, and destroying public education in America,” said American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten. She called DeVos, “the most ideological, anti-public education nominee put forward since President Carter created a Cabinet-level Department of Education.”
National Education Association president Lily Eskelsen García said DeVos’s efforts over the years “have done more to undermine public education than support students. She has lobbied for failed schemes, like vouchers—which take away funding and local control from our public schools—to fund private schools at taxpayers’ expense. These schemes do nothing to help our most-vulnerable students while they ignore or exacerbate glaring opportunity gaps. She has consistently pushed a corporate agenda to privatize, de-professionalize, and impose cookie-cutter solutions to public education. By nominating Betsy DeVos, the Trump administration has demonstrated just how out of touch it is with what works best for students, parents, educators, and communities.”
Whether Democrats in Congress can stop any of Trump’s appointments is doubtful, with new rules in place that the Democrats themselves supported that allow cabinet nominees to be approved in the Senate by just a simple majority, rather than the 60 votes required before they voted for the change in 2013.
A Rigged Election?
As Labor went to press, votes were still being counted and Hillary Clinton’s lead in the popular vote nationally had increased to over 2 million votes. As online petitions called on members of the Electoral College to cast their votes Dec. 19 for the winner of the popular vote, Sen. Barbara Boxer filed legislation to abolish the Electoral College altogether. The bill is seen as a long shot unlikely to pass in Congress.
Perhaps most troubling of all is that democracy itself has been eviscerated over the course of the election campaign. Investigative reporter Greg Palast noted that the 2016 election was the first Presidential Election since the Supreme Court gutted the basic protections of the Voting Rights Act. Palast reported that tens of thousands of voters were removed from voter rolls in many states or faced restrictions in being allowed to vote. More than 300,000 registered voters lacked the photo ID necessary to cast their ballots in Wisconsin, where Trump’s margin of victory was only 27,000 votes. Trump’s margin is less than 11,600 in Michigan and 68,000 in Pennsylvania, where voter rolls were also purged.
CNN reported November 22 that, “Hillary Clinton’s campaign is being urged by a number of top computer scientists to call for a recount of vote totals in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania, according to a source with knowledge of the request. The computer scientists believe they have found evidence that vote totals in the three states could have been manipulated or hacked…” While Ms. Clinton had not yet called for a recount as Labor went to press, Palast reported that Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein was set to formally petition for a recount in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania. Rather than being a “spoiler,” Ms. Stein may help revive democracy, and a recount may show Ms. Clinton should be President.
Protests against Trump’s reactionary agenda continue, with major demonstrations planned for Jan. 20 & 21, 2017.
Joint Statement from California Legislative Leaders on Result of Presidential Election
California Senate President pro Tempore Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles) and California Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Paramount) released the following statement November 9 on the results of the Presidential election:
Today, we woke up feeling like strangers in a foreign land, because yesterday Americans expressed their views on a pluralistic and democratic society that are clearly inconsistent with the values of the people of California.
We have never been more proud to be Californians.
By a margin in the millions, Californians overwhelmingly rejected politics fueled by resentment, bigotry, and misogyny.
The largest state of the union and the strongest driver of our nation’s economy has shown it has its surest conscience as well.
California is—and must always be—a refuge of justice and opportunity for people of all walks, talks, ages and aspirations – regardless of how you look, where you live, what language you speak, or who you love.
California has long set an example for other states to follow. And California will defend its people and our progress. We are not going to allow one election to reverse generations of progress at the height of our historic diversity, scientific advancement, economic output, and sense of global responsibility.
We will be reaching out to federal, state and local officials to evaluate how a Trump Presidency will potentially impact federal funding of ongoing state programs, job-creating investments reliant on foreign trade, and federal enforcement of laws affecting the rights of people living in our state. We will maximize the time during the presidential transition to defend our accomplishments using every tool at our disposal.
While Donald Trump may have won the presidency, he hasn’t changed our values. America is greater than any one man or party. We will not be dragged back into the past. We will lead the resistance to any effort that would shred our social fabric or our Constitution.
California was not a part of this nation when its history began, but we are clearly now the keeper of its future.
'Hate Cannot Be the New Normal'—Teachers, Unions, Faith and Civil Rights Leaders Urge President-Elect Trump to Condemn Hate Speech
As the number of hate-related incidents has been escalating in the days following the 2016 election campaign marked by the extreme and hateful rhetoric of Donald Trump, working people in unions are calling on the president-elect to take a stand. During his acceptance speech, Trump said he would work to unite all working people.
Working people are demanding that Trump commit to representing all of America’s people by “loudly, forcefully, unequivocally and consistently denouncing these acts and the ideology that drives them.”
The American Federation of Teachers (AFT) hosted a press conference November 18 where teachers and leaders of faith spoke out against this hateful rhetoric and the incidents they’ve seen rise in schools and institutes of higher learning as a result. AFT President Randi Weingarten, along with Southern Poverty Law Center Teaching Tolerance Director Maureen Costello, sent the following letter to Trump with dozens of organizations signing on.
On Nov. 8, you were elected President of the United States. As many have reiterated, regardless of which candidate any of us supported, you now have an obligation to represent ALL Americans. In your victory speech, you urged Americans to come together as one united people to take on the challenges before us.
Throughout American history, we have found opportunities to overcome our differences and work together for the common good; it is one of the defining characteristics of our nation’s greatness.
In the months leading up to your election, your campaign rhetoric found an audience with those who would use our differences to divide us. Throughout the campaign, you and your supporters directed hateful language at people based on what we look like, where our families come from, who we love, how we worship, our abilities, our gender, and other factors that make up our identity and expression in the world.
In the days since your election, we have seen people—seemingly emboldened by your victory—committing harassment, vandalism, property destruction and even assault based on those differences. Many of these acts have been carried out in your name. Though you may not condone this behavior, your silence gives tacit permission to those who perform these acts.
We are especially troubled by incidents taking place in schools and on college campuses—places where we do everything we can to ensure our children are safe and nurtured, and have the opportunity to grow and learn free of intimidation and hatred. But now we are hearing reports of children chanting “build the wall” at classmates, Muslim students and educators harassed for their clothing, male students intimidating their female classmates and swastikas painted on classroom doors.
Millions of your supporters would never participate in these actions, but your campaign rhetoric has created an environment that enables and encourages those who want to harm others. While you spoke against bullying, intimidation and hate crimes in your “60 Minutes” interview, the appointment of “alt-right” hero Steve Bannon as your chief strategist—which has been cheered by the Ku Klux Klan, the American Renaissance and other white supremacist groups—sends the exact opposite message.
The presidency is about many things. Chiefly, it is about setting an example through your leadership. You have said that you will be the president for all Americans, Mr. Trump. We ask that you keep your promise by loudly, forcefully, unequivocally and consistently denouncing these acts and the ideology that drives them. We ask you to use your position, your considerable platform and even your tweets to send a clear message that hate has no place in our public discourse, in our public policy or in our society.
The AFL-CIO, other international unions and allied groups signed this letter also.
- Jackie Tortora, www.aflcio.org/blog