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Richard Trumka – The Economic Club of Washington

Richard Trumka, President, AFL-CIO, speaks with Economic Club president David M. Rubenstein on Tuesday April 23, 2019.

Richard L. Trumka
Image source: YouTube Video Screenshot

Richard Trumka – The Economic Club of Washington

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Transcript

So thank you very much Rich for coming. Thanks for having me. So in the last midterm elections the Democrats won control of the house. And all of a sudden many of things that you and other members of the AFL-CIO wanted presumably would be supported by the Democrats. But have you gotten what you thought you would get out of the House so far have they done many of the things that you wanted to have done.

Well they've done a great deal. One when we had the shutdown they stood on the side of workers to make sure that we were used as pawns. And then they're standing with us now on trade to make sure that we get the new trade bill right rather than fast. It's important to get it right. They've done that they've stopped a lot of the attacks on us and they actually passed or introduced a new piece of labor legislation that would make collective bargaining a lot easier to tame for workers.

OK so honest talk about the trade bill where the U.S. a so-called replaces NAFTA. Not if the vote were held today in the house. Would you support the passage of USMC I would not would not. And therefore it needs to be renegotiated.

In your point of view well some of the things that need to be done can be done in the implementing language. Some of the things have to be done by Mexico themselves and let me broaden now so that the audience understands Mexico adopted a low wage strategy. And do you keep that low wage strategy in place. They had these sham unions. Were actually part of the government. The sham union would go in with an employer negotiate an inferior low wage contract and workers didn't even know they had a contract or they were part of a union. So then there are now 700000 of those protections contracts in Mexico. If they're going to change as the agreement requires they have to have one. The infrastructure to change that first had to change their labor laws. They did one step of that. But they still have to change them if they get the labor laws changed in accordance with the agreement then they have to show us that they have the infrastructure and the resources to be able to do that. Because they are they have four years to eliminate all 700000 protectionist contracts. That's about one hundred seventy five thousand a year and we haven't seen them having the ability to do that. So again it would be a sham if we agreed to it before they are present you argue.

And said look rich. This is the greatest trade deal of all time. I really need to get this done. Can you support it. I'll take care of the problems you care about later. You would say I can't support it is that correct.

I would say I was born at night but not last night.

OK. All right. OK. What about Medicare for all. Medicare for All is a very popular thing that some people are running for president have articulated their support for and many people in the House are supportive of it. Are you in favor of Medicare for all.

Yes we are we think it ought to start with lowering the age from 65 to 55 covering all those people and then continue phasing it in.

What about the new green of the Green New Deal. Do you support that. Not as currently written. Really. So you would support something like that. Why do you not support it. Is it too expensive or you think it's not realistic.

We weren't part of the process. And so the worker's interests really wasn't completely figured into it. So we would want a whole lot of changes made so that workers in our jobs are protected in the process.

OK. Now President Trump was elected with the support of union members. I don't know exactly the percentage but it's probably more than 25 percent of union members voted for a President Trump. If you're a union leader the head of the AFL CIO is it awkward to say I support the Democratic candidate when you know a lot of your members are actually supporting the Republican candidate. I don't. Not at all.

He got a President Trump got about four percentage points more of our members than Romney did. The problem was Hillary Clinton got about 9 percentage points less than Barack Obama did. They didn't believe that she would follow through on trade. They didn't believe she would follow through on a couple of the issues. So fewer of them voted for them. We go out we give our members the facts. We say it's good for you it's bad for you. Here's what they stand for. We analyze what they stand for and give them the facts and they make a decision. My experience has been if you give workers the facts that make the right decision every time.

OK. So after President Trump was elected you were appointed to enjoying the U.S. Manufacturing Council. And then you subsequently left that but you had some meetings with President Trump. Can you tell us how those medius.