tv AFL-CIO President Says Wall Streeters Driving Presidents Agenda CSPAN August 30, 2017 5:16pm-6:24pm EDT
there's another one, i don't know that i will get to it, it's about the firebrand and the first lady. it is a big undertaking and i'm excited to be able to do it and learn from a great role model. next book tv wants to know what you are reading. send us your summer reading was the atwitter at book tv or book underscore tv or post it to our facebook page. book tv on c-span2, television for serious readers. today, afl-cio president richard trumka spoke about the future of the labor movement and its relations with the trump administration. he looked at how his group feels about nafta renegotiations, the future of wage growth and the reasons he left president
trump's manufacturing job town. speaking at the christian science monitor, this is one hour. >> here we go, folks. here we go. thank you for coming. i'm dave cook from the christian science monitor. our guest is richard trumka, president of the afl-cio. this is his ninth visit to the troop and we appreciate the tradition. our guest grew up in the pennsylvania goal -- coalfield, following his father and grandfather into the mine. he earned a law degree from the one of the university and in 1982, at age 33, he was elected president of the united mine
workers of america, the youngest person in history to hold that position. he served three terms as president and brought the workers into the afl-cio. in 1985, he ran to be secretary of treasure and the youngest person to hold that person, when he held for 15 years. he was elected as president of the afl-cio in september of 2009 and reelected in 2013. last year, he became a grandfather and thus ends the biographical portion of the program. i know how important that last detail is, having become one myself. recordys, we are on the here. no live blogging or tweeting, no filing of any kind while the breakfast is underway. give time to actually listen to what the guest says. there is no embargo when the event and. willrb the selfie urge, we
take several pictures and send them to all the reporters who attended the breakfast as soon as the breakfast ends. as regular attendees know, if you would like to ask a the usualdid you thing, simi a subtle, nonthreatening signal. given the size of the group, few could hold yourself to one question until we have made it around the table, that would be great. we'll start by offering our guests the opportunity to make opening comments and then we will move questions around the table. >> i can't believe this is the ninth time already. start off by thanking the christian science monitor for hosting the breakfast for the ninth consecutive time and i want to thank all of you for being here this morning. first, i want to say our thoughts and prayers are -- of the entire labor movement are with the people of houston today. our unions in texas and across the country are mobilizing to
help provide the assistance and bring the resources necessary to help the region rebuild and recover. we continue to stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in the gulf coast. , i want to say a word about job all of you do. all of youvice individually and collectively provide. because whether you are covering a hurricane or an election, our democracy cannot survive without a free and fair press. your access and credibility are being threatened by this administration and i just want to say how wrong i think that is. at the afl-cio, we are proud to represent workers in media and i know firsthand the incredible dedication and sacrifices of america's journalists.
with all that said, feel free to grill me and i will fire right back because that's the way it's supposed to work. is an opportunity to both recognize the achievements toworking people and identify areas for improvement. this year, we took a closer look at the tension between work and alwaysn issue that has been a top concern of the american labor movement. off areork and time badly out of balance. each of you received a copy of our new report that we are releasing for the first time today. that is laboring on labor day. our survey found the nation overcome by work as more and more americans have hardly a moment to savor family, friends or relaxation. but we also found a distinct union difference.
union members polled were much more likely to receive labor day off, for example, and more likely to receive overtime pay if they are scheduled to work. workers with the union contractor also more likely to have paid time off in general. but still, the majority of those hold reported working more holidays, taking fewer vacations, and bringing more work home at night. .hat means less freedom freedom to take time off when you or a loved one gets sick, rest and recharge after giving birth, attend your child recital or sporting event or just catch up on household chores. just one areas where our economic rules have been written to benefit corporations at our expense.
over the last several decades, the labor movement has faced a corporate and political onslaught like no other in history and the result has been flat wages, skyrocketing inequality, and diminishing opportunities. , i mentioned our democracy and i want you to listen to this -- a 2016 study millennials,% of to believe it is essential live in a democratic nation. first, that statistic absolutely startled me. but as i started to absorb it a little more, it made sense because big about what young people have been forced to endure in their formative years, like historic economic inequality, hateful rhetoric and
division, skyrocketing student debt. for this generation, the american idea that anything is possible if you work hard and play by the rules has been virtually nonexistent. it is continuing to slip away from workers of all ages. this crisis,ke, and i would call it a crisis, helped propel donald trump to the white house. some working people are fed up with working harder for less, sick and tired of a political system that does not address their basic concerns were willing to take a risk on trump. but inside of a bold, new direction, workers have gotten broken promises, outright attacks and dangerous and divisive rhetoric. my message today is this -- the
change voters cried out for in found16 campaign can be by standing together in union. union workers empowered by the freedom to negotiate with our employer's do better on every single economic benchmark. union workers earn substantially more money, union contract help achieve equal pay and protections from discrimination. .nion workplaces are safer union workers have better access to health care and pensions. thehere's the good news -- popularity of unions is rising. a survey shows over 60% of americans support unions and that number is even higher among millennials. in our labor day poll, a majority of working people set
-- said they would vote for joining a union tomorrow if given the opportunity. so we say let's give them a chance. free from the employer interference and intimidation that has become all too common. wages, it is raising paid leave, gender and racial equality or the freedom to negotiate for a better life, unions are needed now more than ever. we can help deliver the economic people- economic rules are hungry for. that is our focus and mission this labor day and beyond. listening and i look forward to your questions. one and then we will move on. you lay out positive things, union popularity is rising, you
talked about the onslaught that you have spoken about the rising popularity but also said in june that either we grow or we die. we will not settle for merely surviving as a labor movement, that's not enough. the labor department figures show union membership fell again in 2016. able toyou see as being do that you haven't done to turn around the membership trend? >> let me correct you a little bit. [laughter] actual membership hasn't dropped. the percentage of the workforce is what dropped, which means we're not growing as fast as the workforce is growing. so we don't have fewer members, we have a lower percentage.
>> in 83, he had 17.7 million workers and last year you had 14.6 million according to the labor department. are were a lot of newspapers that were not around. >> there was a lot of everything that's not around. but still the afl-cio is different. membership when we had a split but over the last several years, we have picked up membership each year. i don't mean to quibble about that because the basic thrust of the question is the same. take aoing to multifaceted campaign to be able to reverse that trend because groupis a strong, strong of people that are well financed and want to eliminate unions from play. party by andn
large attacks unions, whether it is at the state level or federal level. we have to work on the political climate there, but we also have to start changing and fighting to change the rules of the economy so working people get a fair shot. whether that trade rules, tax rules, labor laws or anything else that make it harder or asier for workers to get voice on the job, we have to attack those. then there's us. we have to ramp up the scale we weroach organizing with and have to become better at coordinating with each other on the organizing front. it's no longer acceptable, no longer a smart strategy for us to individually pursued units. sos more important to do
collectively and strategically, and that's what we are working on. that going to reverse overnight? it's a long shot. when you are being attacked in 25 or 26 states that every different level, and well-financed people like the koch brothers and sheldon ,delson and a number of others some of the owners of the papers in here, i would venture to say, when their soul mission is to eliminate workers having a voice so they can have the playoff field -- the playing field to themselves, it's going to be a fight, but it's nothing new. labor has always been under attack. i can think of a time in our history when we were not. >> thank you. that.tion related to talk about you could
the deterioration you had with the trump administration that led to your resignation from the manufacturing council. discuss whether it was possible for trump's truly re parties, byitical putting pressure on republican and democratic leadership, i doing something that would've capitalized more on the working gains he had. something that might've gotten popular support. obviously didn't support mr. trump in the election. supported his opponent. after the election, they reached
out and we reached out. we talked. what i said to them, is that we will judge you by what you do. things good for working people, we will support them. if you do things bad for working people, weibel oppose you. -- we will oppose you. attacking health and safety standards, gold mine had several meetings with the administration, told them the bad effects that had on workers, showed them a position that would reverse that and help workers. make places more safe and increase wages. unfortunately, and in most cases, that wasn't taken.
the difficulty that you had was two factions in the white house. some of thethat had policies we would have supported on trade and infrastructure. but they turned out to be racist. on the other hand, you had people who weren't waste -- racist in wall street. the wall streeters began to dominate the administration and move his agenda back to everything they fought against in the election. they are beginning to see that. thecommittee itself manufacturing -- the manufacturing committee never was a vehicle to provide real
political solutions. ceos to the white houe to talk about manufacturing . we weren't invited. there were three of us on the committee. get everya way to regulation they didn't want to deal with off the playing field. that was their solutionf or he -- for helping manufacturing. we didn't agree with a lot of that. the committee itself was never much of a functioning thing. we would've gotten off of it anyway. we have the charlottesville thing. the president made a terrible
statement, the next day he corre day it, and then the next -- and on the first day. -- doubled down on the first day. of being the symbolism connected with that type of statement, that as i said, was a spirited defense of the white nationalists. we were not going to be associated with it. we made a decision after consulting with a number of affiliates to get off the council. eliminate one area of communications in the white house. -- ithough it waswn't
wasn't what i would call the most effective means of communication. we made the conscious decision it was intolerable to have a defense of neo-liberalism. neo-nazis and nationalists, whi9tte supremacists. to bring ther him --ties together would have the necessary predicate for that to happen would have been a strong agenda he would've actually believed in. that would be good for the a country, economy, and good for working people. he lacks that agenda. take health care. he said he is going to bring health care for everybody.
we think health care should have everything. every proposal the republicans came forth with and he supported would have eliminated millions of people from health care. there is not going to be a real of the policies -- a realignment of the policies away from the mainstream of economic and political thought. that chance began to evaporate each time he took a position so far away from american values. >>f francine? >> thanks for being here. along the same lines, the president is going to missouri. he will be pitching his tax plan
as good for the middle class. he is still working on it, at least rhetorically appealing to middle-class workers. he still has strong support among his base. my question for you is how can the labor movement win back those working-class and union members who voted for mr. trump in the year 2018, which will be so crucial for democrats that want to regain the house and senate? election,last president trump got three percentage points more than mitt romney. 10% less than barack obama. that was because they did not
hear an economic message that really addressed their needs. angry that the system is working for them, -- isn't workiunng for them. that upward mobility gets less wag -- that wages and benefits stay flat. countryis the richest on the face of the earth at its most rich point in time. hear a message that says i am going to a dress the issues you talk about -- address the issues you talk about. neither party did that. result, i think they were willing to take a risk on donald trump, who said i am going to
shake up the system and do something different. they thought the risk was worth it. they are not getting that. the wall street wing of his administration has won out, and they are doubling down. done is tell the truth about him. here is what he promised, here is what he did. here is the effect on your paycheck. just giving them the simple facts. he said he would do this, here is what he is doing. he said this would be the effect, here is the real effect. you're beginning to see a lot of people come back across the range. we will focus on our members and 2018 -- in 2018.
have the more -- most robust member to member program that we had in the history of the afl-ci o. that is where we will be in 2018. experiments with getting union members to run for office. we started in new jersey. we had a pilot program in new jersey. union00 men and 50 members have been elected to union office in new jersey. we have a few in the congress. many in the state houses. county o -- there are ffices, things of that sort, so they can get our message out. the next important thing is to
give are working people are real economic analysis. we have a program called "commonsense economics." it debunks the notion that there is nothing you can do about the economy, that you have to go with the flow, the marketplace knows everything. we break that down. those rules decide the winners and the losers. beginning to go out and be a gender-oriented, rather than people or party oriented. we will push our economic agenda and they will have to come to us. agenda, yourt that can earn our support. if you do not support that agenda, i don't what your title is.
you will not earn our support. on 2018.ocus we will get out the word that we are not interested -- we will show them how important it is to vote. in several of those states that were lost, it was by 10,000 votes, 15,000 votes. 10,000 people could have changed the course of history. >> trusted a couple of things. things. did a couple of tpp, but had some success creating the impression he was the guy who was looking out for their interests more than you and the union
leadership. >> i disagree. i wasn't running. it was him and hillary. some of them believed he would look out for their interests more than she would. listening to you describe the agenda and combating what he said, you always had that message. >> we haven't always focused on it. anytime you point the finger, there are always three pointing back. time, our program stopped focusing on our members. persuadables.
we didn't talk to our members. now we are doing it every day. them andcusing on giving them information every day that affects their lives, things that are important to them. there are issues they care there are issues they go along with but aren't motivating. in the last election, philadelphia, for instance. communityn-american was almost demoralized in philadelphia because the candidate didn't talk to them, and didn't outreach and work with them.
the african-american community is one of our most loyal groups. they felt neglected. they sat. about six weeks before the election, i could see the lack of enthusiasm. 38et with a group of community people. these are people i worked with for 40 years. the civil rights movement, the anti-apartheid movement. people i sat side-by-side with, fight after fight. room, theyed in a were angry. i happen to be the person they would talk to. said they won't respond to
us, one come into the community. -- wont' come into the community. we are working through that. the election is over. the results from that election are what they are. we will make sure that doesn't happen again, but one is too many. thank you for being here. with the concern the administration is not going to do as much as they did in past years to promote open enrollment for the aca, is the afl-cio planning to do anything to sign people up for health insurance? we do a lot of that through our local unions. our state does. we have our own plans.
these are for people who are our members. we work with a couple of community groups, the united way and others. stuff inoking at congress we need to do to make sure that obamacare, which is but it is a lot better than anything that was offered, so that it doesn't have its underpinnings taken away. we are concerned about health care in general. plan, when the a administration is scaling back fast -- back that work? >> art ministration is expensive
-- our administration is extensive. it will continue. question, wondering if you had a dollar figure. your 2018 political program. and if you could talk about the anya renegotiation, and wool you are playing in that -- role you are palying -- playing in that. >> we don't have a clue about a figure. get theram is going to focus of everything we will do. the focus of our program is going to be members. that is going to be where the bulk of our resources will go, it is a two-fer for us. you are talking about the election, another chance to communicate with your members. another chance to get feedback
from your members. when we do way -- do a door-knock, we have a conversation with the members. we want to find out what they are thinking, what their issues are. them information on the issues they identify as most important. 5-8ry to have between communications with our members. whether it is a call, or door-knock. we have contact at the worksite, at home, face to face. we continue to do that. we -- the first round
took place here in washington on nafta. that was august 16-20. the first thing we asked for was that process be made more transparent, and europe or anyplace else, they pass out stuff, you get communication. that didn't happen. the u.s. texts were only cleared with advisers and the senate finance committee and ways and means. it.couldn't copy you could only go in a secure room and read it. that was disappointing. the u.s. put on the table several chapters, if you will.
the rules of origin were laid down. not enough was exposed for us to be able to tell whether it is going to be a real change or tinkering and window-dressing. we didn't have enough information. chapters on telecom services, digital trade, digital barriers to trade, and sanitary services -- each one of those didn't have thing in particular we would consider an improvement. there was nothing to make sure the public interest would be protected and challenged. no effort to reinstate the country of origin labeling,
which was a high priority. the chapters on state owned enterprises and enforcement were good. even though they didn't contain everything we would've liked. they were much improved. the chapters on labor advancement haven't been added. i would give the overall grade an incomplete. we don't know enough to be able to say whether it is going to be a real change or more of the same. the second round takes place this thursday. it is going to be administrative.
i will not be presenting any of the critical chapters there. >> thank you. as you think about the big picture, driverless cars. a lot of jobs on the line there. two questions. how big of a threat is that to organized labor? do feel like political leaders understand the magnitude of the disruption that this technology is going to bring? >> the second question first. i think not. i think most people really take the time to ponder and analyze the magnitude of what that could mean and how it could change the country. there are big questions and all that. getstificial intelligence
to the point where they are doing so many things that the government or the system is incapable of supporting a majority of its citizens, what happens? what happens to that country? the first question we are talking about is, how does society cope? the second question, who should get the benefit of all that artificial intelligence and technology that has been developed by society? who should get the benefit? get rid factory and i of every worker and i take that -- if i have a factory and i get rid of every worker and take that technology, shareholders make up the benefit, -- shareholders may get the benefit, but workers may
not. as a nation, we have to start talking about who should get the benefit, and how. what does it mean? and what does it mean for the country? when you go back to the notion i 30% of millennials said it is not important to live in a democracy. to live in as bad democracy. generation ofone globalization. what happens after two or three? are we thinking about it? a lot. our convention, coming up in october, will put together a
committee from all the sectors of the labor movement to start looking at the future of work, the economic system, and what that means to us. changehave to evolve and to meet the changing needs of the people and the workers. sten -- is there an existential threat to organized labor? >> or a great opportunity. i choose to look at it that way. if we start of evolving and changing to meet the needs of the people, that is where they are going to go. >> thank you. good to see you again. >> good to be back. i will ask you the same question i asked, this time four
years ago. we touched on the 2018 midterms. four years ago, we were on the verge of the last midterm election cycle. you laid out this point. i remember the day you looked walkert me and described as public enemy number one in wisconsin, and then listed other republican governors and u.s. senators as the areas you felt in which labor would make the biggest gains. who are the targets of labor for the house and senate, whether the current conservative rule in both houses can be deposed? who is public enemy number one? [laughter] >> not right now.
we are still looking at the evolving agenda. schumer came out with a new agenda for workers, including the right of workers to join unions. that is a good start. we want to see who was going to latch onto that an articulate an agenda they are willing to fight for that helps working people. we will let our agenda dictate where we go with who we support. matter wheren't you come from. if you support our agenda and working people, we're going to be with you. any names of targets?
>> we are still developing things. i am not ready to point fingers at somebody right now. there will be a lot of them. the obvious states you can look at and say, there is going to be a fight. [laughter] we have never run away from a good fight. we have been winning more than we have been losing. >> if the house comes out with a strong kitchen table economic agenda, and they convince people they are going to fight for it, it is not just the slogan. for some kind of , people areation
about when they sat at the kitchen table. my wages, my health care, my retirement, my school district, how do i send a kid to college, how do i prepare for retirement? all of those things concern american working people. getting back to nafta, there is this idea regarding the -- isds,. that the rules have to be changed. you have been sharply critical. what do you think of that proposal? do you think that is a workable solution? >> slightly better than what we have.
it is not where we need to be. no u.s. corporation, no u.s. business has access. it only applies to foreign investors. if they have that right, the rest of us should. poppedhe u.s. had not in, with that be an improvement? >> yes. election,ack to the you mentioned your hometown. e looked up your hometown thre days after the election. trump.ounty, 71% for what do you say to your folks next time?
>> ? >> in 2018. have waited until then to start talking, i have waited too long. they don't need what they don't want and appreciate. coming in a couple of days before the election and saying tryway -- vote my way -- i to give them that information. he voted -- they voted for trump because he was going to do this and that. i don't say a word, i just look at them. if you try to say, you were not very smart for voting for him, that gets you nowhere. names gets president you nowhere. giving people information about
issues concerning to them is the way to move people. every day, we are giving them information. every day, more of them are taking the information and trying conclusions -- drawing conclusions that his investment wasn't a good one. that hteitheir investment wasn'a good one. >> on nafta negotiations, can you specify what your role will be? this labore idea of chapter, how would it help american workers? administration a complete analysis.
any chapter with language and the effects of the language. it was a long document. we had conversations with them on a regular basis, hoping we -- get naftaest renegotiated so it helps us. a forcible labor chapter would help all of us. never go to mexico, they enforce the laws. they squeeze labor cheaply. if we have the ability to enforce that, it would give us the level playing field.
enforcedbor laws are unfairly, they don't meet international standards. could insist we do the same. that would raise the standard for everybody. at the mexican and canadian worker as the enemy. they are trying to make a living. we want to remove that this advantage. -- that disadvantage. trait would be a good thing, ehat nafta wasn't -- trad would be a good thing, but nafta wasn't written that way. the intent of nafta was to give workers and upper hand.
-- an upper hand. >> enqueue for being here. -- thank you for being here. do you see signs that wage growth may be improving? the economic policy institute says that workers at the bottom 10% have had the strongest pay growth in the last year. and if there is improvement, why is that? >> i think there is some improvement. it is not what it should be. full employment, there has to be an upward push on pressure, full employment needs to be considered a 5%. in the 90's, we went lower than that. technically, we are at full employment. there is something askew.
more people not in the workforce, working part time that want to work full-time. we are probably not there yet, even though statistics look at that. unions had a good year last year. our members were higher than they had for a while. behind forged so far 40 years, it is going to take a lot more than a year or two to get them back to where they need to be. rise, --ers get a they spend that money. they create demand, which creates jobs. the only way to expand the economy is to have the best -- vast majority of your members improve your standard of living.
>> to what extent are companies were thinking about moving jobs over seas, to send a signal to harderte house, -- it is to see, harder to be criticized? >> i think it is a combination of both of those. unionization, over the years we have made companies more efficient. we have forced automation and technical improvements. we have worked with our employers to get that up. i think if you are a businessman, your goal is to get as much money as you can. it is never enough.
if outsourcing will get you some money, you do it. if laying off workers gets you money, you do it. they are going to use any strategy that works in their best interest. ,gain, our question ought to be where does society fit in? where does the stakeholder of the community fit in? because when they maximize profits for themselves and shareholders, if they treat workers as a cost to be cut instant of an asset to be invested in, and a community as it yesterday's newspaper, why should society continue to tolerate that and support that? so we need to have the conversation that i talked about earlier so that communities and workers and country actually that if it.
first of all, it would be too early to see a trend like that. the things they are doing now were planned when president obama was still in there. factories, a mine opened up, it has been on the books for seven years, and he takes credit for it. it is too early to see anything. >> when you opened, you described the white house being split between racists and wall street are's -- wall streeters. >> that is not how i described them. >> into which camp do you think the president belongs? >> which day?
>> the majority of them. >> i do not know. i wish i had the answer to that question. i think a lot of people wish they had the answer to that question. he has shown a remarkable dime.y to do a 180 on a i do not know the answer to that. when you opened up you said your allies in the white house last. i am assuming you are talking about mr. bannon. people who were like-minded on economic issues. i am assuming that was steve bannon.
i'm wondering what kind of relationship you have with him. he says he is going to be pressing these economic issues from the outside, thinks he can have more influence that way. do you see any alliance there? >> the negatives that come along with that are very weighty. we're going to look at the issues. this is something i'm going to do with the president. if he does something that is good for workers and the economy, we will support it. if he does something that is bad for workers, we are going to oppose it. if we want to get an infrastructure built, we're going to look for allies. they will come for different quarters.
we will hopefully have enough weight to get that done. >> in the first week of his unions went to the white house. there was a photo op. they were optimistic at the time. in,that we are seven months have you had talks with union whoers -- union leaders were optimistic, have you seen the optimism fade? where are we now on the pitch count? have you seen many strikes at all? bases are loaded with walks. a strike is something good. a ball is something bad. we have seen more balls than strikes.
there is a silica standard, the overturned standard, consumer protection bureau, coal mine standards, a number of things. i would say for the first part of your question, yes i think there is -- a significant amount of the optimism has faded away. we have not seen an infrastructure bill. manufacturingen or renewal of manufacturing. we have not seen what we were hopeful about, that we could work with him on. we have seen things that divide us. things that pop up and become more troubles than -- trouble some. i think the optimism of a lot of , a lot ofrking people