Trump’s Federal Government Shutdown and Unpaid Dishwashers

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“Over the past three decades,” reported Steve Reilly in a June 2016 USA Today article, Donald Trump “has been involved in more than 3,500 lawsuits.” Many of these lawsuits, Reilly notes, “involve ordinary Americans…who say Trump or his companies have refused to pay them.” Dishwashers, plumbers, bartenders, painters, waiters, real estate brokers, lawyers–this broad swath of workers Trump routinely relied on to build his wealth, and yet he didn’t see fit (it is alleged) to compensate them for the work that they had done. Trump, it seems, thought he was entitled to their unpaid labor.

But that’s not all.

“Trump’s companies,” Reilly continues, “have also been cited for 24 violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act since 2005 for failing to pay overtime or minimum wage.”

While, admittedly, all of this is old news, Donald Trump’s anti-labor practices are actually instructive regarding the current #TrumpShutDown. Like his refusal to pay his former employees, for example, Trump’s shutdown is his willingness to sacrifice working women and men for his own personal gain. The shutdown also expresses his sense of entitlement–to which the lawsuits attest–to the unpaid labor of others, as well as his disregard for the fact that the workers upon whom he relies need to pay their rent, their gas and electric bills, their water bills, their student loan debts–even their transportation to the local food bank. And like his treatment of his former employees, Trump’s shutdown reveals an inability on his part to “relate” to any workers struggling to make ends meet.

It is fair to say, then, that Trump’s anti-labor practices are guiding principles of his partial shutdown of the federal government.

Reilly concludes that the lawsuits filed against Donald Trump “in total paint a portrait of Trump’s sprawling organization frequently failing to pay small businesses and individuals, then sometimes tying them up in court and other negotiations for years. In some cases, the Trump teams financially overpower and outlast much smaller opponents, draining their resources. Some just give up the fight, or settle for less; some have ended up in bankruptcy or out of business altogether.”

What was it, precisely, that Trump recently boasted to Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer about the federal government shutdown? Oh, yes: it could go on for “months or even years.”

Just like his former employees’ lawsuits.

Steeped in Trump’s anti-labor practices, this shutdown must be seen for what it is: a war on working people, executed from the Oval Office. Indeed, it is one of many acts of class war that include the attempted evisceration of ObamaCare, environmental deregulation that specifically injures poor and working class frontline communities, Trump tax cuts for the rich, and a host of other odious policies intended to discipline and control everyday people.

In this regard, the #TrumpShutDown is in truth a #OnePercentShutDown. Though Trump the billionaire is of course directly responsible for it, he is not the only billionaire (and the Trump entities are not the only corporations) who believes he should suffer no consequences, ever, for how he treats workers or for his expropriation of their wealth. He is not the only billionaire who claims as his right and privilege the benefits of your unpaid work. He is not the only one-percenter aided and abetted by members of Congress as well as state politicians, at the expense of us all.

This shutdown, then, is a wake-up call for all working women and men–whether organized or unorganized, government or private sector. It is a wake-up call that tells us not only that we must shut down this anti-worker government shutdown; but also that we must assert our power as workers everywhere–in the workplace, in the courts, and on the streets–because it is the only way we can win the class war of which the #TrumpShutDown is so much a part.

 

This article was also published in Common Dreams and Counterpunch.

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