Trump: A Wake-Up Call for Unions


hg_10-16_10-41The election of Donald J. Trump as president distresses us because we fear his policies will allow the decades-long nationwide attack on working people to continue.

District Council 37 and its national union, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, worked tirelessly for Hillary Clinton because we were convinced that she was the candidate who would best support the interests of our members. We were shocked and deeply saddened by her loss on Nov. 8.

But rather than allowing her defeat to leave us licking our wounds and turning us into outliers in the political process, we view this setback as a wake-up call. Trump’s election is an indication of our need to step up our own effort to make DC 37 a more dynamic and powerful union. DC 37’s history is to never quit.

The disturbing rightward shift in the country shows how important it is to stick with our long-term strategic plan called “Leading the Way: Restructuring DC 37 to Address the Challenges of the Union.” By making our union more dynamic, we will improve services and be better able to counter the right-wing interests that would like to see unions disappear.

Changing our Culture

The plan incorporates our DC37/AFSCME Strong program in which we are reaching out to the members through one-one-one conversations, site visits, and the developing of grassroots mobilization teams.“Leading the Way” provides us with a blueprint for confronting our own budget issues and reorganizing our headquarters to service our members better.

The plan commits us to organize thousands of new members, improve our relationship with the community, strengthen our political operations and engage members to make DC 37 more powerful. We are talking about changing the culture of our union.

Our enemies aim to take away benefits unions have built up over decades — pensions, health insurance, collective bargaining rights and prescription drug plans. With Trump’s election, we anticipate that the nationwide anti-union attack will intensify.

But we will continue to be a leader in the fight for policies to improve the lives of working families. Our agenda includes paid medical leave, regulation of the pharmaceutical industry, a $15 minimum wage, immigration reform, job creation, improving Obamacare, making it easier for unions to organize new members, strengthening collective bargaining and protecting civil service, Social Security and Medicare.

In his campaign, Trump successfully tapped into the great anger of workers who have been the victims of free trade, globalization and the decimation of unions in the private sector. The pain of these workers is very real. Many have seen traditional pensions destroyed. Wages of the bottom half of the workforce have not improved since the ’70s.

We are willing to work cooperatively with the new administration when its policies will help working families.

But let’s be clear: We will fight any of Trump’s initiatives that threaten the livelihood of our 125,000 members and workers in general. We need to put an end to the long-term wage stagnation and declining living standards of millions of Americans.

Meanwhile, let’s forge ahead in the New Year with our traditional agenda of expanding union services, negotiating fair contracts, organizing new members and improving our benefits.

This editorial originally appeared in the December 2016-January 2017 issue of Public Employee Press.

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