Vairma: It’s Trump time, no more platitudes

As election night moved slowly toward midnight on November 8, it became clear that a huge percentage of the nation’s working class was rejecting what for many years they had considered the lesser of two evils.

Post election statistics reveal that union voters split almost evenly between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, which indicates that a sizable number of rank-and-file workers believed a change in the political landscape was absolutely necessary.

President-elect Trump has not yet been inaugurated, so it’s too early to tell if the change workers want is the change they’ll get, but we try to be hopeful. We will give the new president a fair opportunity to deliver on his promises to uplift the working class.

The Democratic Party has been considered an ally of working men and women since the Great Depression when President Franklin Roosevelt pushed his New Deal legislative program through Congress. But the alliance has become less clear over time. In the last 30 years, the Democrats’ congressional record on labor issues has been inconsistent and sometimes harmful to working men and women.

For example, Democrats provided the key votes in 1992 to pass President Bill Clinton’s North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the first of several Democratically-supported global trade pacts that are harmful to working men and women. The U.S. position has been that such agreements create export growth. But, in fact, they impact a lot more than exports — they increase imports and encourage outsourcing, which has cost millions of American jobs.

Democratic lawmakers were also instrumental in the defeat of anti-strikebreaker legislation that would have prohibited strikebound companies from hiring scab replacement workers. And their failure in 2010 to adequately support the Employee Free Choice Act, which would have lowered barriers to organizing, ensured the legislation’s demise.

Since NAFTA was passed, factories, mostly in Midwestern manufacturing states, have been shuttered and unemployment is high, wages have stagnated for all workers and their standard of living has taken a nosedive.

So, is it any surprise that many working men and women are disenchanted with the Democratic Party? Much of the estrangement of workers with the Democrats has occurred since NAFTA was passed as, simultaneously, the gap between rich and poor has widened and union density has diminished from 25 to eight percent of the nation’s workforce.

In order to bring lost jobs back to the United States, Trump has vowed to dump the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), and renegotiate old global trade pacts, such as NAFTA and others.

But it will be tough. We believe his goal in limiting U.S. participation in world trade would be opposed not only by most Republicans in Congress, but also by influential corporate entities that support them.

Another of Trump’s promises during the campaign was to embark on a massive program to rebuild America’s infrastructure, the crumbling roads, bridges and other public structures that have been deteriorating for many years.

Such a venture might cost trillions of dollars, which could be funded by new taxes paid by the thousands of workers employed by the projects. This, of course, does not follow the Republican congressional agenda, which includes a pay-as-you go balanced budget.

In the past, infrastructure projects were mostly built by union members working under prevailing wage laws. We would expect the new administration to continue to value the expert workmanship and experience of union workers in the future.

President-elect Trump said he would make America great again. That will require more than the tiresome platitudes he expressed in the campaign, and it won’t be done without support from the workers who voted for him.

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