By BERRY CRAIG
AFT Local 1360
Four sentences from Hillary Clinton’s Columbus, Ohio, speech should be tacked on bulletin boards in every union hall:
“Trump ties are made in China. Trump furniture in Turkey. Trump picture frames in Indiana. Trump barware in Slovenia and I could go on and on, but you get the idea.”
Indeed most union members do, including this retiree who voted for Bernie Sanders in the Kentucky primary. We’re backing Clinton, the presumptive Democratic nominee who the AFL-CIO recently endorsed.
But it’s crucial that she keep hammering home the fact that Donald Trump is as phony as his orange-is-the-new blonde hair hue. That’s especially so on issues vital to those of us who pack union cards.
Oh, Trump the big-time outsourcer never misses a chance to trash U.S. companies that ship jobs and production to cheap labor countries—often after busting stateside unions.
It’s funny, though. The all but certain GOP nominee hasn’t denied what Clinton said about him. Nor did the self-appointed media “fact checkers” cry foul at her remarks.
Anyway, with Trump “it’s déjà vu all over again,” to quote the late Yankee great Yogi Berra. Trump is running a scam on working stiffs that reminds me of Ronald Reagan’s almost identical con job.
The Gipper, the most anti-union president since Herbert Hoover, claimed to champion blue collar America. The Donald does, too.
Sad to say, Reagan’s sucker play worked on more than a few union members. They helped elect the guy.
“Where free unions and collective bargaining are forbidden, freedom is lost!” pre-President Reagan said. Only months after he took office, he smashed the Professional Air Traffic Controllers, one of the few unions that endorsed him.
When PATCO members went on strike for better pay and working conditions, Reagan fired them. Their union was decertified and strikers were prohibited from ever working for Uncle Sam again. (President Bill Clinton lifted the ban.)
By crushing PATCO, Reagan flashed “an unambiguous signal that employers need feel little or no obligation to their workers, and employers got that message loud and clear – illegally firing workers who sought to unionize, replacing permanent employees who could collect benefits with temps who could not, shipping factories and jobs abroad,” the Washington Post’s Harold Meyerson wrote.
(Before he decided to run for president, Trump was on board with outsourcing.)
Reagan’s bare-knucks union-busting shouldn’t have surprised PATCO. The AFL-CIO repeatedly warned that his sometimes pro-union rhetoric was a far cry from his anti-union positions. Reagan touted “right to work” laws when he ran for president.
The AFL-CIO endorsed President Jimmy Carter’s reelection. So did nearly every union.
“A union member voting for Ronald Reagan is like a chicken voting for Col. Sanders,” said a sign in a Paducah union hall 26 years ago.
I don’t know if anybody saved the sign. But if somebody did, it ought to go back up with “Ronald Reagan” painted out and “Donald Trump” painted on.
Like Reagan’s in 1980, Trump’s record is out there, plain for all to see.
Trump says he prefers “right to work” states to non-RTW states.
Trump is fine with U.S. companies pulling up stakes in one state and relocating in another. Translation: Trump is cool with companies busting unions in non-RTW states and moving to RTW states.
Trump is fighting tooth-and-nail to keep his Las Vegas hotel workers from organizing a union.
“Donald Trump regularly incites political violence and is a serial liar, rampant xenophobe, racist, misogynist and birther who has repeatedly pledged to ban all Muslims — 1.6 billion members of an entire religion — from entering the U.S.,” is the tagline The Huffington Post puts on its stories about the presumptive GOP presidential nominee.
I’ve packed a union card for more than 20 years. Trump mocks the fundamental principle of trade unionism: In a union, everybody is a brother or sister, regardless of race, creed, religion, ethnicity, sexuality or anything else.
In a 1967 speech, Vice President Hubert Humphrey, one of labor’s best friends ever in Washington, told a story that captured the essence of our movement:
“…Trade unionism is about human dignity, just as much as it is about wages, hours and working conditions. I remember vividly what ·an old Polish-American worker told a good friend of mine here:
“‘You know what the union really means to me. Twenty years ago, when I first came to this shop, everybody called me ‘dumb Polack.’ Now they call me ‘Brother.'”
Grifters Reagan and Trump also put me in mind of the old expression, “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.” Reagan was once. Trump would be twice.