The Trump administration is sure to be hell for working people, but so far the actual Labor Secretary has been relatively quiet on the specifics. Today we have a new item to add to his list of Ways to Egregiously Stomp on The Poor: fucking with worker centers.
American labor law is distinctly unfriendly to unions. There are vast categories of working people who are unable to unionize—because they are freelancers or independent contractors, or because they have otherwise been pushed out of the possible ranks of unions due to vagaries of the law that are, in virtually all cases, designed to empower employers at the expense of employees. One major way that the labor movement tries to help these millions of people who can’t join traditional unions is by opening “worker centers,” which are essentially nonprofit groups that try to improve conditions and build worker power even without collective bargaining. Many thousands of day laborers, taxi drivers, restaurant workers, farm workers, and all sorts of other low-wage workers turn to worker centers to help them organize and fight for better conditions and maintain basic rights.
Naturally, people who make it their business to suck all hope from the lives of hardworking Americans see Donald Trump’s presidency as a chance to put the heel of their boot down upon the metaphorical neck of worker centers. Speaking to Congress yesterday, Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta said that he is “looking at” ways to reclassify worker centers under the law, in order to—as a stupid fucking Republican congressman from Florida said— “show people they’re just a front for labor unions.” Yes: the Republican party is so opposed to the idea of working people coming together to improve their lives in any way, shape, or form, that it is determined to crack down on organizations that exist solely because their members cannot unionize because these organizations are too much like unions. The next step is cracking down on any group of more than two employed people standing on a street corner—they could be plotting who knows what.
As explained at length here by former Labor Department official Sharon Block, the only real purpose for reclassifying worker centers is to make their lives harder by requiring them to do a ton of paperwork and follow a ton of new rules. There is no threat being addressed here, except the threat that day laborers might be paid a semi-living wage. This is a way for business interests to use the government to fuck with working people so they can pay them less and treat them worse. Plain and simple.
Imagine the kind of cutthroat gangster asshole you need to be to want to destroy, say, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers. That’s exactly the sort of cutthroat gangster asshole who is now in charge!