Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO, the largest group of labor unions in the country, quit President Trump’s manufacturing council Tuesday evening, with the labor leader saying he refused to accept any tolerance of “bigotry and domestic terrorism.”
“President Trump’s remarks today repudiate his forced remarks yesterday about the KKK and neo-Nazis,” Trumka said in a statement. “We must resign on behalf of America’s working people, who reject all notions of legitimacy of these bigoted groups.”
Trumka announced earlier this week that he was “assessing” his role on Trump’s bench of factory-job advisers after the president took two days to explicitly condemn a white supremacist rally that turned deadly in Charlottesville.
He chose to leave the council after Trump again said Tuesday that blame fell on “both sides” for the violence that erupted.
On Monday, pressure started mounting on Trumka — the only labor leader on the president’s six-month-old Manufacturing Jobs Initiative, as it’s formally called — after Kenneth C. Frazier, chief executive of the pharmaceuticals giant Merck, stepped down. Under Armour chief executive Kevin Plant and Intel Corp.’s top brass, Brian Krzanich, soon followed, as did Scott Paul, who heads the Alliance for American Manufacturing.
The White House didn't comment on departures from the group, which was designed to be an informal think tank without regimented meetings. Instead, Reed Cordish, an assistant to the president, pointed to signs of economic health.
“Under this president, we’ve seen 70,000 new manufacturing jobs, record optimism among manufacturers and unemployment hit a 16-year low,” he said. “With the stock market reaching record highs, this president is delivering for the American people.”
Frazier, whose grandfather was born into slavery, decided he could no longer work on the president's manufacturing council because Trump let days pass before denouncing the white nationalists, neo-Nazis and Ku Klux Klan members who flooded Charlottesville starting Friday.
“America’s leaders must honor our fundamental values by clearly rejecting expressions of hatred, bigotry and group supremacy, which run counter to the American ideal that all people are created equal,” Frazier said in a statement.
In his statement Tuesday, Trumka said he felt the president’s manufacturing council had not taken meaningful steps to help the blue-collar workers he represents.
“It’s clear that President Trump’s Manufacturing Council was never an effective means for delivering real policy that lifts working families and his remarks today were the last straw,” Trumka said. “We joined this council with the intent to be a voice for working people and real hope that it would result in positive economic policy, but it has become yet another broken promise on the president’s record.”
Union after union has condemned the violent demonstrations in Charlottesville, which took the life of a young woman who came to protest the white supremacy groups.
“This tragedy is a reminder that as a nation, we have yet to address the long legacy of racism and slavery that is deeply embedded in our history and experienced in our present day,” came a statement from Mary Kay Henry, president of the Service Employees International Union, which has roughly 1.5 million members.
Lee Saunders, president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, AFL-CIO, which represents 1.6 million workers, said he wasn’t satisfied with the president’s comparatively slow response. (Trump bashed Frazier the same day he departed the manufacturing council.)
“As we approach the 50th anniversary of Dr. King's assassination while standing up for the freedom of Memphis sanitation workers to be treated as human beings, it's disgraceful that it took two full days for the president of the United States to condemn white supremacists,” he said in an email.
The Teamsters, a union of 1.4 million employees in the public private sector, urged everyone to denounce acts of racism.
“In the face of such ignorance and malice,” the organization said in a statement, “all of us must speak out and show unwavering resolve that makes it clear that all Americans are entitled to the same rights and protections.”