Donald Trump, the billionaire candidate who has argued that “having a low minimum wage is not a bad thing for this country” and complained in a 2015 GOP debate that wages are “too high,” is running for president this fall on the most virulently anti-worker and anti-union platform in the history of his Republican Party.
Trump and the anti-labor partisans who nominated him for the presidency have rejected the legacy of a Grand Old Party that once cheered when Abraham Lincoln declared: “Labor is prior to and independent of capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration.”
For more than a century, Republicans made a serious effort to compete with Democrats for the votes of workers. And they did so not just by uttering a few kind words on Labor Day but by supporting and embracing pro-worker and pro-labor policies.
Back in the 1950s, when Republicans such as Dwight Eisenhower actually fought for a robust and fair economy, the party promised to “clarify and strengthen the eight-hour laws for the benefit of workers who are subject to federal wage standards on Federal and Federally-assisted construction, and maintain and continue the vigorous administration of the Federal prevailing minimum wage law for public supply contracts” and to “extend the protection of the Federal minimum wage laws to as many more workers as is possible and practicable.” The 1956 Republican platform pledged “to protect more effectively the rights of labor unions” and announced that “The protection of the right of workers to organize into unions and to bargain collectively is the firm and permanent policy of the Eisenhower Administration.”
This year’s Republican platform is dismissive of the federal minimum wage, declaring (in a stance similar to the one Trump appears to have evolved toward) that decisions about base hourly wages “should be handled at the state and local level.” It endorses the anti-union “right-to-work” laws enacted by Republican governors such as Wisconsin’s Scott Walker, and calls for taking the anti-union crusade national with a proposal “for a national law” along “right-to-work” lines. The 2016 GOP platform also attacks the use of the Fair Labor Standard Act to protect workers; rips the use of Project Labor Agreements to raise wages and improve working conditions; and proposes to gut the 85-year-old Davis-Bacon Act, which guarantees “prevailing wage” pay for workers on federal projects.