100 Days Behind Us, Labor is Still Looking Forward

After the election, I promised the members of my union and all those we seek to represent that I would prudently approach President Trump. I continue to fight harder than ever on the issues that put our members to work, keep job sites safe, enable construction workers to make a career and, help us represent those who do the work we do.

IUPAT General President Kenneth Rigmaiden.

Much of our membership helped elect the president. Much of our membership is outspokenly opposed to the Trump agenda. Despite our differences, rest assured that the men and women of the IUPAT are united in our goals of fighting for the working class.  On the 100th day of President Trump’s presidency, I want to clearly define what I see as positive and what I see as not so positive actions taken.

Unfortunately, Trump has taken actions that have made our workplaces less safe and given unscrupulous contractors the upper hand.

President Trump’s actions empower and embolden contractors who prey on workers, by signing H.J. Resolution 83, which eliminated the requirement to keep and disclose records of health and safety violations. Through this action, the administration has made it harder to identify companies with a track record of putting workers at risk, and tougher for OSHA to track safety issues in an industry. The ability to work on safe job sites, regarless of your ocupation, should be a right for all workers in this country. President Trump’s deportation force has increased fear on construction sites from coast to coast. Immigration is an issue that is incredibly personal for many; I believe that focusing on punishing the bad contractors who drive the underground economy and harbor the migration of undocumented workers is a more effective method for dealing with immigration.

IUPAT General President greets President Trump at the NABTU Legislative Conference in April.

I hope that two statements made in the last 100 days are not indicative of the president’s policy. The first statement was made by Press Secretary Sean Spicer on February 3, “The President believes in right-to-work.” ‘Right-to-work’ is simply a bailout for corporations and a way for CEOs to pad their pockets. Construction workers in right-to-work states make less money work on less-safe job sites, and there are fewer state dollars to fund construction projects and fewer job opportunities.  President Trump made the second statement in an interview with the New York Times on April 5 that he is “going to make an announcement in two weeks on Davis-Bacon.” The elimination of Davis-Bacon [a law that regulates wages on federally funded projects] is a flawed idea pushed by DC special interest groups working for the low road, low-quality construction sector. Government-funded construction projects without Davis-Bacon wage standards see more workplace injuries, and workers are denied the ability to make a wage commensurate with their skills. I am optimistic that these statements are not reflective of this administration’s policies or position moving forward.

In stark contrast, President Trump has also acted in the interests of the hard working construction workers who voted for him. President Trump has spent his first 100 days meeting with workers in the oval office, including construction workers on his first workday in office. He delivered on his campaign promise to withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (Presidential Memorandum); an agreement that was a raw deal for American workers. He moved to expedite the permitting process for critical infrastructure projects (E.O.2), moving projects from ideas to work opportunities. Trump requested and received a list of infrastructure priorities from North America’s Building Trades Unions of projects that can be expedited. From that list, he has approved two projects, including the Dakota Access and Keystone Pipelines (POTUS Memorandum 7 & 8), which will put IUPAT members to work and move us towards greater energy independence. He chose Secretary Chao for the Department of Transportation, whose leadership will drive the construction of infrastructure worthy of the United States. Lastly, his replacement of Andrew Puzder as Secretary of Labor with a qualified professional who I believe will approach the job head on was a strong move. These actions are consistent with a president who wants to help the men and women who build this country, the members of the IUPAT.

Looking at the next 100 days President Trump has many opportunities to help working men and women get ahead. I, and the IUPAT, stand ready to work with President Trump and leaders in the House and Senate. We will actively work to repeal the excise tax on high-priced insurance plans, a tax that is punishing workers in dangerous jobs. We will work with the Administration on tax reform that increases construction spending while eliminating the loophole that enables underhanded contractors to misclassify construction workers. We will work with the Administration to preserve the right of states to use Project Labor Agreements on federally supported projects, if a state chooses to do so.  Lastly, I look forward to working with President Trump and congressional leadership on crafting an infrastructure bill that protects our existing infrastructure from corrosion,  builds roads bridges, and energy efficient buildings worthy of our great nation, and creates pathways to middle-class careers through apprenticeship and wage standards.

Our politics is personal, rooted solely on what is going to help construction workers. Going forward, on the policies that align with our vision, I will be a dedicated advocate for the President’s agenda. On the policies that hurt construction workers I will be a fearless opponent. I will call balls and strikes.

Kenneth Rigmaiden
General President
International Union of Painters and Allied Trades