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Pending SEIU cuts could impact the influential Fight for $15 movement. (Photo: Stephen Melkisethian/flickr/cc)

Union Cuts Budget in Preparation for Trump's "Extremist-Run Government"

"Because the far right will control all three branches of the federal government, we will face serious threats to the ability of working people to join together in unions," said SEIU president Mary Kay Henry 

Deirdre Fulton, staff writer

The nation's second-largest union is preparing for attacks on working people and organized labor under President-elect Donald Trump and his anti-worker administration, Bloomberg reported Tuesday. 

Citing an internal memo dated December 14, Bloomberg's Josh Eidelson says the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) is planning for a 30 percent budget reduction in 2017—including cuts that could impact the influential Fight for $15 movement, the fast-food worker campaign backed by the union.

"As we prepare to fight back against the forthcoming attacks on working people and our communities under an extremist-run government, we know we must realign our resources and streamline our investments to buttress and broaden our movement to restore economic and democratic opportunity for all families."
—Sahar Wali, SEIU

"Because the far right will control all three branches of the federal government, we will face serious threats to the ability of working people to join together in unions," SEIU president Mary Kay Henry wrote in the memo, which came about a week after Trump nominated anti-worker, fast-food CEO Andy Puzder to serve as Labor secretary. "These threats require us to make tough decisions that allow us to resist these attacks and to fight forward despite dramatically reduced resources."

While the memo lays out plans for a 10 percent cut effective at the start of the new year—and references upcoming election cycles—union spokesperson Sahar Wali declined to provide Eidelson with details about how the cuts could affect specific efforts. "As we prepare to fight back against the forthcoming attacks on working people and our communities under an extremist-run government, we know we must realign our resources and streamline our investments to buttress and broaden our movement to restore economic and democratic opportunity for all families," she said. "As part of this process, we are currently looking at possible ways to improve our budgets."

With Republicans in control of both Congress and the executive branch (plus wielding a Supreme Court majority once Trump's nominee to replace Justice Antonin Scalia is confirmed), "[e]verything from slashing health-care spending to passing a federal law extending 'Right to Work' to all private-sector employees could be on the table," Eidelson writes.

And with Puzder helming the Labor Department, both labor and business leaders expect U.S. policy to go "in a dramatically different direction" than it did under President Barack Obama, The Hill reported this weekend. 

"There's probably a lot of stuff for the new Labor Department to clean up," Robert Cresanti, president and CEO of the International Franchise Association—of which Puzder is a board member—told The Hill. "There’s a lot of wreckage laying around there."

That "wreckage" includes providing overtime pay and family leave to more workers, as well as recently completed "fiduciary duty" rules for retirement advisers, which require investment advisers to act solely in the best interest of their clients and are largely opposed by Republicans. "Under Puzder, Labor could start the lengthy process of rewriting those rules," The Hill writes. 

In turn, it's not just the SEIU that's gearing up for the Trump administration's assault on pro-worker policies. On a media call last week, representatives from the AFL-CIO and Restaurant Opportunities Center United (ROC United) joined Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) in vowing to challenge Puzder's nomination. 

"By nearly every measure, Andrew Puzder appears to be a uniquely unqualified choice and stands against the very mission of the department he's been selected to lead," said Murray, who is the ranking member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee. 

Added AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka: "He opposes a living wage. He opposes raising the minimum wage. He says overtime pay is a barrier to the middle class. That doesn't even make sense and it leaves me wondering if Mr. Puzder has received his appointment from Mr. Trump to achieve the exact opposite of what the Labor Department was created to do. And that's a very serious question. It's one we intend to get to the bottom of."


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