What Now for Labor Relations?

Trump_by_Gage_SkidmoreUnions have had a pretty good ride during the Obama administration. That’s about to change, and it’s not hard to imagine a new age of labor strife dawning as Donald Trump settles into the Oval Office.

The Department of Labor and the National Labor Relations Board under Obama have favored rules that ease union organizing efforts. The agencies also have applied many standards that typically apply in a collective-bargaining relationship to nonunion workplaces as well.

Trump, however, is expected to embrace a traditional GOP pro-business stance. That makes it likely his agencies will be less friendly to unions. So, too, for federal judges and justices that ultimately rule on many tough legal issues involving labor. Trump also supports national right-to-work legislation. Does all that mean we’re headed for a more antagonistic relationship between management and labor generally?

Not necessarily. The Trump-labor relationship is complicated.

At least one union leader is talking tough. “We must pick ourselves up by our bootstraps and stand strong,” says Matt Loeb, president of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, which represents workers in the movie industry. “We must demonstrate solidarity in an unprecedented way by locking arms as Brothers and Sisters.”

Of course, union members did not vote universally for Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton; exit-poll data suggest over 40 percent of the union vote went to her opponent.  Indeed, labor unions are as diverse as the industries they organize. At least one union leader welcomed the election of Trump, hailing him as a potential savior of jobs: Cecil Roberts, president of the United Mine Workers.

“Working families in our nation’s coalfields are very concerned about their future, and they made their voices heard loud and clear yesterday,” Roberts said. “President-elect Trump has spoken many times about addressing the serious economic disaster that is affecting large areas of Appalachia and other coal-producing areas of our country by putting coal miners back to work. No one is more interested in doing just exactly that than the UMWA.”

And Dennis Williams, president of the United Auto Workers, on Thursday also emphasized areas of agreement with the incoming president, according to Automotive News.

“Obviously, we’ll work with him on NAFTA. We agree that NAFTA needs to be renegotiated or ended,” Williams said. “We are prepared to work with him on a jobs bill and an infrastructure bill.”

There you have it: Part of Trump’s agenda aligns with union interests, and part does not. We’ll soon see what that means for the climate of labor relations in America.