House Gives Final Approval To $1.9 Trillion COVID-19 Relief Package

Black Workers at Ohio Ford Plant Denounce Racist Taunts

A white auto worker was fired for hanging a stuffed monkey near a Black worker's area. Then white co-workers took the day off to protest the firing.

After this article was published on June 30, some of those quoted in it became concerned about retaliation. Some names have been removed.

Workers organized two protests at Ford Motor Co.'s engine plant in Lima, Ohio, on June 19. One was a picket at shift change made up primarily of Black workers, objecting both to blatant racial insults and to a hierarchy that they allege keeps Black employees from moving up.

The other was a one-day strike by white workers in the factory's tool room, who boycotted work to protest the firing of fellow toolmaker Brent Von Lehmden. Von Lehmden had hung a stuffed monkey in the work area where it was seen by a Black apprentice.

The monkey incident was only the latest in a series of insults at the plant in the last few years. Racist graffiti has been scrawled in restrooms. Nooses have been found.

“I am on the civil and human rights committee,” said one Black 10-year employee, “and people come to me with issues weekly. And I have to tell them about our process, the systemically racist process that has proven over and over again that nothing will be done.”

Her daughter is a cheerleader at Clark Atlanta University in Atlanta, a historically Black university. When the 10-year employee wore a Clark shirt to work that said “The Blacker the College the Sweeter the Knowledge,” management called her in, said that someone was offended, and told her to take the shirt off, turn it inside out, or go home without pay. And yet, she says, clothing with MAGA and Confederate flag logos are a daily occurrence.

She believes the plant's atmosphere has deteriorated since Donald Trump was elected. “He openly tweets about his racism and he gets away with it,” she said. “He sets the tone.

“It's not a civil rights violation, it's just degrading.”


Pastor Ron Fails, head of the Lima NAACP, joined the Juneteenth protest and had encouraged workers to carry it out. He said the Ford plant had a good track record of hiring Black workers into production jobs, and that Black workers had not always had to endure a racist climate.

“The problem is in supervision and skilled trades,” Fails said. His father, uncle, and cousin all retired from Ford, he said, and the plant used to be seen as “the place of opportunity in both management and skilled trades.

“When unions were strong,” he said, “Black people at Ford Motor Co. did well, but unions now are very weak. The UAW [United Auto Workers] has entered into some kind of partnership with Ford Motor Co. and I don't understand the relationship.

“It's a culture of fear, a very unhealthy culture.”

Lima, a Rust Belt Northwest Ohio city of 38,000 “including two prisons,” Fails said, was about a quarter Black as of the 2010 census; workers estimate the plant to be about a third Black. Of 169 management positions at Lima Engine, three are held by African Americans; of 36 team leaders, an hourly position with slightly higher pay and responsibilities, six are black. Union positions that represent members in the grievance procedure—“committeemen”—are almost all white.

Fails said that when a Black man was hired into the number-two position in management, union chairman Roger Maag sent a text that Fails paraphrased as "we've lost our plant, it's ceased to be a site that promotes from within.

“And this was management hiring management,” Fails said. “Nepotism is high. Because the structure is so weak, people with the wrong intentions can do a whole lot of damage.”

Last year, Fails said, he defended a large number of Black temp-to-hire workers who'd been terminated without justification. The local union had done nothing so Fails dealt with Ford headquarters in Michigan, where officials agreed to reinstate the workers. “Once we brought corporate in and put data on the table, they could see this was not right,” Fails said.

No one from UAW Local 1219 in Lima, Lima Engine management, or Ford corporate headquarters returned repeated calls for comment. The UAW's national Ford Department did return calls but said the International was on vacation for the week. (An update will be added if possible.)


Another Black woman employee transferred to Lima from a Michigan plant four years ago and can't wait for a chance to return home. “I should have investigated this place before I came here,” she said. “This is not a union town at all.” She has read “Go home n****” scrawled in the restroom. She calls the plant culture “a friends and family thing. All I can do is ride it out.”

A Black worker who's been at the plant five-and-a-half years (we'll call him "Smith") said the excuse he's heard for the racism of some white members is that “we have guys from smaller communities that haven't grown up around Black people.” He believes “we do not have a racist membership. We have a few people who have not been dealt with properly and allowed to continue to operate.” The union has had “no positive agenda,” he said, “so negative people have the floor.”

The 10-year employee first applied to be on the union's civil rights committee three years ago but was told “we usually just keep one person”—a committee of one. That one person, according to her, had never done an investigation. After a subsequent incident she was called to the union office and placed on the committee—a case of crossing t's and dotting i's, she thought.

Now, despite being sent to union trainings and holding meetings, she feels that nothing has been done. “It's finally time to get it out publicly,” she said of the protest.


The toolmaker apprentice, who declined to talk with Labor Notes, sent a photo of the stuffed monkey to Smith. It was not the first time the apprentice felt he had been racially harassed.

Smith went to the HR department and recommended that the plant manager get out in front of the issue and make a statement about the monkey incident. Management hemmed and hawed, saying they'd need approval from Ford headquarters. Smith and the 10-year employee began planning a rally and some workers met with Fails.

Management then learned of plans for the protest and fired Von Lehmden. An HR staffer known for her problematic behavior was also forced to retire.

Some supervisors told workers in advance not to let the afternoon picket line (which was purely informational) keep them out and warned them that they must come to work in any case. The small rally was covered by the Lima News.

The same day, almost all the white toolmakers took the day off in sympathy with Von Lehmden. One white toolmaker went to work and then attended the rally. When the strikers returned to work the next Monday, management said not a word to them, according to sources.

The Facebook page of a local news site reported on the rally and then blew up with angry comments from engine plant workers and others.

Black workers are continuing to meet. Both Smith and the 10-year employee are running for union office.

Smith said, “We have an election coming but F an election, F the position, F this job if have to stop being a Black man.”

Hate Strikes in World War II Detroit

Wildcat strikes—walkouts unauthorized by top union leadership—are often celebrated as the supreme expression of rank-and-file militancy.  But such militancy hasn't always translated to solidarity.

During World War II, union leaders temporarily sheathed labor’s most potent weapon, agreeing to a no-strike pledge to ensure an uninterrupted flow of armaments for troops overseas. The wartime manufacturing boom drew many thousands of African Americans to northern cities in the second “Great Migration.”

Black workers had largely been relegated—when they were hired at all—to manual labor within factories, but in 1941 the federal government, under pressure from labor and civil rights activists like A. Philip Randolph, banned discriminatory practices in defense production.

In Detroit, where most big plants were by this point represented by the United Auto Workers, a series of “hate strikes” erupted, when groups of white workers objected as African Americans asserted their right to better-paying (and previously whites-only) jobs. These strikes were sometimes led—or at least, not discouraged—by local UAW officials, and were often abetted by racist managers.

Some of these actions were massive; in 1943, 25,000 whites at Packard walked out for a week to protest the promotion of two Black workers.

The UAW was a relatively new and predominantly white organization. But top officials, roundly condemning “vicious race prejudice,” pledged to expel the wildcatters from the union and offered them no protection from company discipline. Government officials in Washington bolstered the UAW’s tough stance by threatening wholesale firings of hate strikers.

In the face of such concerted opposition, racially motivated walkouts in Detroit defense plants virtually disappeared after 1943.

With the World War II hate strikes, rank-and-file defiance equaled divisive racism. It took union leadership to make clear what solidarity really meant.

—Toni Gilpin

These 2020 Anti-Union NLRB Decisions Show That We Must Vote Out Trump To Restore Fairness

The National Relations Board has been on a rampage in 2020, issuing decision after decision against workers and unions.

And that’s no surprise given that three of the four members on the NLRB are Republicans appointed by President Donald Trump. One seat is currently vacant.

Four of the five seats will be up for re-appointment during the next presidential term. That means that whoever we elect this November will have considerable influence on the NLRB’s composition since it is the president who appoints the members. The Senate then confirms the appointments by majority vote.

A quick look at some of the NLRB’s decisions from this year reveals that this is a board that leans strongly in favor of employers. And that’s no surprise given that the three Trump appointees practiced law for union-busting firms prior to joining the NLRB.

Here is a rundown of some of those decisions:

Wynn Las Vegas, LLC: In this decision, the NLRB held that employees can be disciplined for union talk while on the clock, even if it does not interrupt work. The NLRB stated that “A rule prohibiting solicitation during working time is presumed valid, and employers may lawfully discipline an employee who violates such a rule, even if the employee has not interrupted work. In our view, a requirement that there be a significant interruption, or indeed any interruption, of work to constitute prohibited solicitation interferes with the balance between employees’ right to organize and the equally undisputed right of employers to maintain discipline in their establishments.”

800 River Road Operating Company, LLC: The NLRB overturned precedent that prevented employers from imposing serious discipline before bargaining with a newly formed union. The NLRB ended an employer’s obligation to notify and bargain with new unions before handing out employee discipline. And it ruled that the decision would apply retroactively to previous cases.

Bethany College: Here the NLRB stated that the issue was “whether the Board can exercise jurisdiction over the faculty of . . . a self-identified religious institution of higher education.” The NLRB ruled that it did not have such jurisdiction, overturning an Obama-era precedent that recognized collective bargaining rights of many adjunct faculty at such institutions.

Decisions like these will continue to rain down from the NLRB until its Republican, union-busting majority is replaced. And the first step to doing so is to deny Trump a second term.

President Trump’s Anti-Worker Agenda

President Donald Trump promised to defend “forgotten workers,” but these workers were never forgotten—they were victims of the most well-funded lobbying campaign in history.1 For decades, large corporations have sought to ensure that the majority of economic gains are absorbed by executives and shareholders—not employees, who are the backbone of the American economy. President Trump has embraced this right-wing lobbying effort to an unprecedented degree, making it increasingly unclear where lobbyists’ influence ends and his administration’s policies begin.

Below are some of the Trump administration’s ongoing efforts to stack the deck against American workers.

Enabled corporate wage theft

Denied overtime pay to 8.2 million workers. The Trump administration derailed an Obama-era plan to extend overtime protections to more Americans and instead lowered the salary threshold.2 This decision harmed millions of workers who would have been eligible for overtime pay under the previous rule. Workers are being denied an estimated $1.2 billion in earnings annually due to Trump’s overtime protection rollback.3

Undermined wage theft enforcement. Employer wage theft is rampant in low-wage industries and costs American workers more than $50 billion every year.4 But the Trump administration made it more difficult for businesses to be held liable for wage violations against contract and franchise workers.5  Under President Trump, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has even allowed employers who commit wage violations to avoid penalties by volunteering to police themselves.6 Businesses are expected to self-report violations, determine the amount of back pay owed, and then compensate workers—without covering interest or damages.

Awarded billions in federal contracts to companies that violate wage laws. President Trump ended a requirement that contractors meet federal labor standards to keep the government’s business.7 This decision came as two-thirds of the government’s largest contractors were found to have violated wage laws, including by withholding hundreds of millions of dollars in pay.8 Instead of protecting the 26 million workers who are employed by federal contractors, the Trump administration chose to ignore this egregious behavior.

Restricted worker power and attacked unions

Undermined the mission of the DOL. President Trump’s nominee to lead U.S. labor policy, Eugene Scalia, has a long record of opposing workers’ rights and fighting unions on behalf of large corporations.9 The Trump administration has only filled 43 percent of the department’s senior officials, while previous administrations filled nearly 80 percent.10

Blocked workers’ access to the courts. The Trump administration sided with corporate interests to let companies force workers into mandatory arbitration agreements.11 This has left 60 million workers without real access to the courts and unable to bring class action lawsuits to seek justice in workplace disputes.12

Made it more difficult for workers to unionize. President Trump’s National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) appointees empowered companies to classify workers as independent contractors rather than as employees, which would exclude those workers from federal labor law protections.13 His NLRB is also working to roll back joint employer protections, which would make it easier for businesses that influence and rely on subcontractors and franchises for their labor to avoid unionization.14

Made it easier for employers to get rid of unions. President Trump’s appointees to the NLRB ruled that employers can suspend negotiations and withdraw recognition of a union even if the majority of workers technically supports the union at the time of withdrawal.15

Advanced an erratic trade agenda that harms working-class Americans

President Trump claimed that other countries would bear the brunt of his trade war, but in reality, American workers and families have paid the price.16 President Trump’s tariffs could cost the average U.S. household $1,000 each year, and recent estimates indicate that the tariffs will shave billions from U.S. GDP.

17 American manufacturers, including U.S. Steel, are buckling under the strain of his poorly conceived and executed trade war by tweet.18

Like the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, which includes strong protections for Big Pharma, President Trump’s trade war with China is primarily designed to favor corporations; his trade demands focus on protecting corporate intellectual property and increasing access to Chinese markets for Wall Street investors.19

While China poses legitimate challenges, Trump’s tariffs fail to effectively address them. His policies have failed to address low labor and environmental standards or the race to the bottom for wages and corporate tax rates.20

Threatened workers’ retirement savings

The Trump administration eliminated retirees’ protection from exploitative financial advisers by killing the fiduciary rule, which required financial advisers to act in the best interest of their clients.21 This decision threatens retirees, since brokers often have an incentive to promote products that are profitable for their employers but costly for clients.22 Nationwide, conflicted financial advice costs American retirement savers an estimated $17 billion each year.23

Empowered employer discrimination by revoking civil rights protections

Undermined anti-discrimination enforcement. The Trump administration moved to kill an Obama-era rule that would have enabled the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to collect annual pay data by gender, race, and ethnicity from large employers.24 After a federal court ruled this decision unlawful, the Trump administration has continued to stall implementation of pay data collection.

Exposed LGBTQ Americans to employer discrimination. President Trump’s U.S. Department of Justice defended employers’ ability to discriminate against LGBTQ workers, arguing to the U.S. Supreme Court that the Civil Rights Act’s prohibitions on sex discrimination do not prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.25 His administration is attempting to expand religious exemptions to nondiscrimination protections for federal contractors, which employ one-quarter of the nation’s workforce.26 In addition, President Trump opposes the Equality Act, federal legislation that would confirm and strengthen civil rights protections for LGBTQ workers.27

Erected barriers to prevent people with disabilities from working. President Trump’s ongoing threats to Medicaid would end access to home- and community-based care services that allow many people with disabilities to live independently and work outside the home.28

Threatened workers’ safety on the job

Made it easier for employers to expose workers to hazardous conditions. In clear disregard for worker safety, the Trump administration reversed protections against pesticides and chemicals that have been shown to cause illness and neurological damage.29 His administration has also weakened workplace safety protections for particularly dangerous industries such as offshore drilling and mining.30

Reduced workplace safety enforcement. Enforcement activity by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has declined under President Trump, and the agency employs fewer inspectors than it has at any other time in the agency’s history. Meanwhile, data suggest that work-related deaths are on the rise.31  The Trump administration has also stopped requiring employers to submit detailed information on workplace injuries and illnesses and limited OSHA’s ability to issue citations for violations.32

Saharra Griffin and Malkie Wall are research assistants for Economic Policy at the Center for American Progress Action Fund.


  1. Steven Greenhouse, “How Trump Betrays ‘Forgotten’ Americans,” The New York Times, September 3, 2018, available at
  2. Sam Berger and Malkie Wall, “3 of Trump’s Regulatory Rollbacks Could Cost People Almost $42 Billion a Year,” Center for American Progress, April 25, 2019, available at
  3. Heidi Shierholz, “More than eight million workers will be left behind by the Trump overtime proposal” (Washington: Economic Policy Institute, 2019), available at
  4. Annette Bernhardt and others, “Broken Laws, Unprotected Workers: Violations of Employment and Labor Laws in America’s Cities” (New York: National Employment Law Project, 2009), available at; Brady Meixell and Ross Eisenbrey, “An Epidemic of Wage Theft Is Costing Workers Hundreds of Millions of Dollars a Year” (Washington: Economic Policy Institute, 2014), available at
  5. Chris Opfer, “Labor Department to Limit Companies’ ‘Joint Employer’ Liability,” Bloomberg Law, April 1, 2019, available at
  6. U.S. Department of Labor, “Payroll Audit Independent Determination (PAID),” available at (last accessed August 2019). 
  7. David Madland and Karla Walter, “President Trump has betrayed U.S. workers,” The Detroit News, March 30, 2017, available at
  8. Office of Senator Elizabeth Warren, “Breach of Contract: How Federal Contractors Fail American Workers on the Taxpayer’s Dime” (Washington: 2017), available at
  9. Heidi Shierholz, Lynn Rhinehart, and Celine McNicholas, “Why Eugene Scalia is the wrong person for the job,” Economic Policy Institute, August 1, 2019, available at; Jeff Stein and Rachel Siegel, “Eugene Scalia has defended Wall Street, Walmart and SeaWorld. Now he’s Trump’s pick for labor secretary,” The Washington Post, July 19, 2019, available at
  10. House Committee on Appropriations, “Chairwoman DeLauro Statement at Hearing on FY 2020 Labor Department Budget Request,” Press release, April 3, 2019, available at
  11. Dave Jamieson, “Trump Administration Sides with Employers Over Workers On Arbitration Agreements,” HuffPost, June 16, 2017, available at; Robert Barnes, “Supreme Court rules that companies can require workers to accept individual arbitration,” The Washington Post, May 21, 2018, available at
  12. Alexander J.S. Colvin, “The growing use of mandatory arbitration” (Washington: Economic Policy Institute, 2018), available at
  13. Josh Eidelson, “Trump NLRB Appointees Give Big Win to Employers,” Bloomberg, January 25, 2019, available at
  14. National Labor Relations Board, “The Standard for Determining Joint-Employer Status,” Federal Register 83 (179) (2018), available at; Celine McNicholas and Marni von Wilpert, “The joint employer standard and the National Labor Relations Board” (Washington: Economic Policy Institute, 2017), available at 
  15. Andrew Strom, “Once Again the Trump NLRB Has Placed Employer Interests Above Workers Rights,” On Labor, July 11, 2019, available at
  16. Mary Amiti, Stephen J. Redding, and David Weinstein, “The Impact of the 2018 Trade War on U.S. Prices and Welfare” (London: Centre for Economic Policy Research, 2019), available at
  17. Taylor Telford, “Trump’s trade war comes for consumers: Tariffs could cost U.S. families up to $1,000 a year, JPMorgan forecasts,” The Washington Post, August 20, 2019, available at; Congressional Budget Office, “An Update to the Budget and Economic Outlook: 2019-2029” (Washington: 2019), available at
  18. Rajesh Kumar Singh, “U.S. Steel to lay off hundreds of workers in Michigan,” Reuters, August 19, 2019, available at
  19. David Lawder and Susan Heavey, “Trump ‘firm’ on China structural demands, tariffs part of enforcement: Pence,” Reuters, May 3, 2019, available at
  20. Marc JarsulicAndy Green, and Daniella Zessoules, “Trump’s Trade Deal and the Road Not Taken: How to Evaluate the Renegotiated NAFTA” (Washington: Center for American Progress, 2019), available at
  21. Neil Weinberg, “Fiduciary Rule Dies as Last Court Deadline Passes,” Insurance Journal, June 18, 2018, available at
  22. Office of Senator Elizabeth Warren, “Villas, Castles, and Vacations: How Perks and Giveaways Create Conflicts of Interest in the Annuity Industry” (Washington: 2015), available at
  23. Sam Berger and Malkie Wall, “President Trump’s Regulatory Rollbacks Are an Attack on Americans’ Wallets,” Center for American Progress, March 27, 2019, available at
  24. Daniel Wiessner, “White House blocks Obama-era rule expanding pay data from companies,” Reuters, August 30, 2017, available at; Jocelyn Frye, “Myth vs. Reality: Why Pay Data and the EEO-1 Form Matter,” Center for American Progress, September 7, 2017, available at
  25. National Center for Transgender Equality, “The Discrimination Administration: Trump’s record of action against transgender people,” available at (last accessed August 2019). 
  26. Noam Scheiber, “Labor Dept. Moves to Expand Religion Exemption for Hiring and Firing,” The New York Times, August 15, 2019, available at
  27. Sarah McBride and others, “We the People: Why Congress and U.S. States Must Pass Comprehensive LGBT Nondiscrimination Protections” (Washington: Center for American Progress, 2014), available at
  28. Rebecca Vallas, Katherine Gallagher Robbins, and Jackie Odum, “5 Ways President Trump’s Agenda Is a Disaster for People with Disabilities,” Center for American Progress, March 8, 2017, available at
  29. Eric Lipton, “E.P.A. Chief, Rejecting Agency’s Science, Chooses Not to Ban Insecticide,” The New York Times, March 29, 2017, available at; David Biello, “Common Pesticide ‘Disturbs’ the Brains of Children,” Scientific American, May 1, 2012, available at; National Pesticide Information Center, “Chlorpyrifos: General Fact Sheet,” available at (last accessed August 2019). 
  30. See Juliet Eilperin and Dino Grandoni, “Trump administration to overhaul safety-monitoring rules for offshore drilling,” The Washington Post, December 28, 2017, available at
  31. Deborah Berkowitz, “Workplace Safety Enforcement Continues to Decline in Trump Administration” (Washington: National Employment Law Project, 2019), available at
  32. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, “Tracking of Workplace Injuries and Illnesses,” Federal Register 84 (17) (2019), available at; Disapproving the rule submitted by the Department of Labor relating to “Clarification of Employer’s Continuing Obligation to Make and Maintain an Accurate Record of Each Recordable Injury and Illness,” 115th Cong., 1st sess. (February 21, 2017), available at

Innovative Trade Deal Includes Long Sought Cross-Border Trucking Provision

Press Contact: Ted Gotsch Phone: 703-899-0869 Email:

(WASHINGTON) – The following is a statement from Teamsters General President Jim Hoffa about the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), the revised North American trade deal that takes effect Wednesday.

“For the first time today, Teamster truckers will have protections on the job that they haven’t had in at least a quarter century thanks to the enactment of this new trade pact. The deal was possible due to the hard work of the Teamsters, a bipartisan collection of policymakers and allies who joined together and worked for years to get it done.

“From the get-go, securing an overdue fix to the cross-border trucking provision that threatened highway safety and the competitiveness of the American trucking industry was essential for this union. The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) had made roadways less safe due to allowing older, Mexican-domiciled trucks on them.

“But thanks to the hard work of House Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) and allies such as the Owner Operator Independent Drivers Association and Advocates for Highway Safety, the USMCA adds a trade remedy to safeguard against material harm to U.S. truckers. We thank USTR Ambassador Bob Lighthizer and his team for working with us on this issue and we will continue to work closely with the agencies tasked with implementation of the trucks fix to ensure it is implemented vigorously and transparently.

“Addressing cross-border trucking was necessary, but not sufficient, to securing the Teamsters’ support of the agreement. That came with new enforcement mechanisms that will protect worker rights in Mexico, especially the right to form independent unions. The new labor chapter also includes the right to strike as an expression of the freedom of association and contains protections against workplace violence and for migrant workers.

“USMCA also eliminated the investor state dispute settlement chapter from the original NAFTA that gave foreign corporations greater rights than American citizens.”

Founded in 1903, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters represents 1.4 million hardworking men and women throughout the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico. Visit for more information. Follow us on Twitter @Teamsters and “like” us on Facebook at

Biden forges ahead with his pro-union agenda on several fronts