THE BLOG
11/23/2016 12:26 pm ET Updated Nov 24, 2017

Trump: Where The Rubber Hits The Road

Mike Segar / Reuters

This week, families come together to express gratitude for all the blessings in our lives. If your Thanksgiving table is anything like mine, there will be plenty of lively debate about politics and current affairs, about what a Trump administration will mean for our country's future.

First, it cannot mean a rise in hate speech. It must not mean attacks on, and greater marginalization of, women, religious minorities, LGBTQ people and communities of color.

There's no question that white nationalists have been emboldened by this election, or that Donald Trump has stoked fear and resentment for political advantage. This has to stop, and the President-elect has an obligation to stop it. It's the very opposite of what makes America great.

If he is truly committed, beyond just lip service, to unity and healing, there may be opportunities for cooperation on important issues. I don't believe obstructionism should be our default position, as it was for the right wing from the moment President Obama was elected eight years ago. There's too much at stake for short-term political brinkmanship. We in the labor movement and the progressive community will work with President-elect Trump when -- but only when -- doing so aligns with our values.

The Trump campaign tapped into legitimate frustration and anxiety on the part of so many working people. They feel neglected and not respected. They're doing everything asked of them, working harder than ever to provide for their families, but the deck is still stacked against them. It's time to address this economic insecurity, and we will hold the President-elect's feet to the fire to ensure that he does.

During the campaign, he identified infrastructure as one strategy for doing so. AFSCME has been one of the loudest voices calling for infrastructure upgrades -- who is more familiar with the dilapidated state of our roads, bridges and water systems than the public service workers who clean, inspect and maintain them? If President-elect Trump prioritizes real infrastructure investment that provides good-paying jobs -- not corporate welfare boondoggles and privatization schemes in disguise -- that could go a long way toward improving the lives of millions of working families.

But in many cases, the Trump governing agenda seems to contradict the Trump campaign platform -- creating greater income inequality, not less; undermining, rather than empowering, the middle class.

If fighting for the forgotten man and woman is the President-elect's goal, for example, it's unclear how trillions of dollars in tax cuts for the wealthy get us there. The same goes for a rollback of the Obama administration rule allowing millions more Americans to receive overtime pay. And if wresting power from the elites is a defining principle of a Trump Presidency, does it make any sense to undo regulations that rein in greed and excess on Wall Street?

For generations, it's been the labor movement that has led the way in lifting living standards for working people. Why, then, would someone who claims to be working people's champion pursue a national right-to-work law that would crush collective bargaining rights? Why would he nominate Supreme Court justices who would upend long-standing legal precedent that allows public service workers to stand together in strong unions?

Although the President-elect suggested during the campaign that he would shore up the retirement safety net, there are now indications that he will defer to Speaker Paul Ryan, who has longstanding designs on privatizing Medicare and converting Medicaid to a block grant program.

Such an approach would mean draconian benefit cuts inflicting pain and hardship on millions of people. It is also deeply unpopular, with absolutely no electoral mandate. Recent polling shows that 80 percent of Trump voters (not just the electorate as a whole) believe "protecting Social Security and Medicare" should be a priority for the incoming administration and new Congress. On this issue and many others, we will all be watching closely to see if the President-elect stands with congressional Republicans, or with the overwhelming majority of Americans.

Donald Trump was elected on a pledge to help working people. Now is his chance to show us, not tell us. We will give him every opportunity to prove his sincerity, and we will not miss an opportunity to oppose him if he doesn't.