Politics in America

“With Mr. Trump’s victory and with Republicans now controlling both houses of Congress, unions are expecting a series of stinging blows”

With Mr. Trump’s victory and with Republicans now controlling both houses of Congress, unions are expecting a series of stinging blows. Even as Mr. Trump talks of spending $1 trillion to improve infrastructure, many Republicans are eager to repeal an 85-year-old law requiring that contractors pay union-level wages on federal projects. Congressional Republicans are likely to take up nationwide “right-to-work” legislation, which would sap union treasuries by barring any requirement that workers pay union dues or fees. And even if Senate Democrats manage to block such a law, Republican gains in Kentucky and Missouri mean those states are likely to enact their own right-to-work laws.

Mr. Trump will most likely scrap most of Mr. Obama’s executive orders on labor, including ones requiring federal contractors to disclose labor law violations, provide paid sick leave and pay a $10.10 minimum wage. He may also erase a regulation that lets four million additional workers qualify for overtime pay. (Last Tuesday, a federal judge in Texas suspended that regulation.) And the National Labor Relations Board under Mr. Trump will no doubt overturn numerous union-friendly moves by the Obama board, among them ones speeding up unionization elections and giving graduate research and teaching assistants at private universities the right to unionize.

Whoever Mr. Trump names to the Supreme Court to fill Antonin Scalia’s seat will help to re-establish a conservative majority, boding ill for labor. In a closely watched case, a California public-school teacher asked the court to rule that any requirement that she pay union fees violated her First Amendment freedom of speech. Last March, the court deadlocked, 4-4, in that case, but with a Trump appointee the court will probably rule that government employees can’t be required to pay any fees to support the union that represents them. That would be a sharp blow to the nation’s public-employee unions and their treasuries.

Steven Greenhouse, “What Unions Got Wrong”, The New York Times (27 November 2016), SR2.