News & Commentary

August 22, 2018

Yesterday, President Trump reportedly met with union leaders from the AFL-CIO, Teamsters, United Automobile Workers, International Association of Machinists, and United Steelworkers to discuss the administration’s ongoing NAFTA negotiations.  According to a statement released by AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, the union leaders hoped that the meeting would “reaffirm what a good deal for working people really looks like,” citing the outsourcing of American jobs and the creation of corporate tribunals as particular failures of NAFTA.  While the unions have generally opposed the Trump administration on labor and employment issues, they have been more supportive of its trade policies, including tariffs on foreign automobiles as a means of protecting domestic manufacturers.

Meanwhile, the New York Times reports that, in some instances, Trump’s trade policies may be leading to the outsourcing of American jobs.  In June, motorcycle manufacturer Harley Davidson announced that it would shift some of its production to Europe after the administration’s trade wars with the E.U. raised the company’s export costs by $2,200 per vehicle.  Harley Davidson has already shuttered one U.S. plant this year, resulting in a loss of some 400 union jobs, while simultaneously opening a factory in Thailand.

In Missouri, Democrats are seeking to introduce a ballot proposal to increase the state’s minimum wage.  If passed, Missouri’s minimum wage would increase from $7.85 per hour to $12 per hour over a period of five years.  Citing the voter turnout that recently recently repealed the state’s “right-to-work” law, Democrats hope that the presence of the proposal will drive enough liberal voters to the polls on November 6 to hand incumbent Senator Claire McCaskill a victory over Republican challenger Josh Hawley.  Some analysts responded with skepticism, arguing that the unionized workers who voted to overturn the “right-to-work” law are unlikely to mobilize in support of a minimum wage measure given that they generally earn more than the minimum wage.

According to a survey released by Education Next, support for increasing teachers’ salaries is up among both Democrats and Republicans.  The journal surveyed 4,601 individuals across the country in May 2018 and found that 49 percent of respondents given information on average teacher salaries supported a wage increase compared to just 36 percent last year.   Support among Democrats increased to 59 percent from 45 percent last year, while Republican support increased to 38 percent from 27 percent.  In the six states that experienced widespread teachers’ strikes in 2018, 63 percent of respondents supported a wage increase.  However, the journal also found that a majority of respondents—including 56 percent of surveyed public-school teachers—oppose the mandatory agency fees that the Supreme Court struck down in Janus.


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