By Rick Claypool
Gutting regulations so reckless corporations can do whatever they want is a central theme of the Trump presidency.
Even with Steve “deconstruction of the administrative state” Bannon out of the White House and Trump’s inane corporation posses (also known as White House advisory councils) disbanded, the administration’s all-out assault on public protections rages on.
As the corporate cronies leading federal agencies with their embedded deregulation teams nihilistically seek to eliminate rules that save lives, prevent rip-offs and protect workers, it’s time to consider what the regulations being rescinded actually are and exactly who it is that benefits from their elimination.
A new Public Citizen report, “Deregulating for Dollars,” reveals that President Trump, whose apparent efforts to distance himself from his businesses amount to a meaningless shell game, stands to personally profit from a number of his administration’s deregulatory actions. The American public, including Trump voters, will bear the brunt of these irresponsible actions.
Here are 10 weird tricks — which certainly are not an exhaustive list — that Trump is pulling to profit from the presidency.
1. Eliminating the Clean Water Rule. The EPA rule updates clean water regulations from the 1970’s to incorporate new science for the purpose of making sure Americans’ drinking water isn’t contaminated by things liketoxic pesticides that run off of golf courses, including the dozen owned by President Trump. Eliminating the rule means Trump’s golf courses won’t have to make as much of an effort to prevent pesticide runoff.
2. Undoing the expansion of overtime pay. The Labor Department rule would have raised incomes for more than 4 million workers by $12 billionover the next ten years by allowing more workers to qualify for overtime pay. The Trump Organization employs more than 22,000 workers — including low-wage hotel and restaurant workers — many of whom would have qualified for a raise under the new rule. Trump’s Justice Department declined to defend the rule from legal challenges. Now the money that would have gone to Trump’s low-wage workers can go in Trump’s pocket.
3. Rolling back joint employer regulations. The hotel and restaurant sectors hated new government rules making it easier for restaurant workers to unionize and making companies that outsource work to contractors partly responsible for contract workers’ working conditions. Trump’s businesses have a history of problems with these standards; in 2016, a Trump business paid $125,000 in a settlement over a joint employer dispute with catering workers.
4. Stopping businesses from collecting data on pay inequities. The Equal Opportunity Employment Commission was supposed to begin collecting data to inform the creation of policies to address the systemic underpayment of women and minorities. Then the Trump administration took power. If the gender pay disparities within the Trump Organization are anything like the gender pay disparities within White House — where women are paid 63 cents for every dollar earned by men — then policies that the pay data collection effort were intended to inform would likely result in pay raises for women employed by Trump’s businesses.
5. Raising the cap on foreign nationals employed through the H-2B visa program. The total number of workers who can be employed through the program, which allows corporations to undercut American workers with low-wage, temporary workers, is capped at 66,000. Abuse and exploitation of foreign workers hired through the program is rampant, and unions oppose raising the cap because of the harm to American workers. The same week in July that the Department of Homeland Security temporarily raised the cap to 81,000, Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Springs sought to hire 76 new H-2B workers.
6. Allowing bosses to run stealth campaigns against unions. Trump’s Labor Department has reversed course on the requirement that businesses disclose efforts to dissuade employees from joining a labor union. The management of the Trump International Hotel in Las Vegas was accused of running a secret anti-union campaign involving “blocking organizers from distributing pro-union literature in the workers’ dining room, while stealthily allowing anti-union activists to campaign during work hours.” The hotel workers union later reached an agreement with Trump hotels in Las Vegas and Washington, D.C.
7. Giving restaurant bosses the power to keep or redistribute workers’ tips. Under federal law, tips generally are considered the property of the worker who receives them. Now the Trump administration is changing the rules so owners can take a portion or even all of a worker’s tips or redistribute tips paid to one worker to other workers. Trump’s SoHo Hotel in New York City was accused in a lawsuit of keeping tips that should have been paid to catering workers.
8. Gutting OSHA’s recordkeeping rule. OSHA used to require employers to keep records of serious workplace injuries and illnesses going back five years. Congress passed and Trump signed legislation to repeal the rule. Now employers must maintain injury and illness data going back only six months. The construction industry vigorously opposed the rule. As a business with an extensive history in property development, the Trump Organization’s interests are aligned with the construction industry — which is one of the deadliest industries to work for. (Trump’s OSHA also has reduced what it discloses on its website about workplace fatalities.)
9. Preserving HUD funding for a program that pays Trump family businesses while trying to gut the rest of HUD. The Trump administration’s proposed budget would cut more than $6 billion from HUD’s funding, or more than 13 percent. An exception to the proposed HUD cuts is Section 8 Project-Based Rental Assistance — a $10.8 billion program that provides direct payments to landlords, including properties owned by Trump and connected to Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner.
10. Blocking consumers and workers from banding together against corporations in class-action lawsuits. Class-action lawsuits are a way for people wronged by companies like Equifax, Wells Fargo and others to band together and seek compensation for harm. But corporation-backed bills to gut the effectiveness of class-action lawsuits and protect banks’ power to deny their customers’ legal rights have passed in the House of Representatives, and the Trump administration tends to side with employers who use the fine print of employment contracts to deny employees’ class-action rights. Trump, who has been named as a defendant in 1,450 lawsuits, has a history of denying his employees’ and customers’ class-action rights.