AFL-CIO Boss Flip Flops (Sort Of) On Trump’s Trade Tariffs

Image Credit: National Public Radio

After giving his full-throated support for President Trump’s trade tariffs as recently as mid-July, AFL-CIO boss Richard Trumka is now saying Trump is “doing it the wrong way.”

Is a union boss who was for trade tariffs before he turned (sort of) against them merely posturing for his political allies?

In March, when President Trump announced steel and aluminum tariffs, the AFL-CIO’s Richard Trumka tweeted his full-fledged support.

“Tariffs won’t start a trade war,” Trumka tweeted, “there’s 435 of them in place today to fight trade cheaters. People may not like how Pres Trump rolled these out, but I applaud him for trying.”

In a Washington Post opinion piece, Trumka wrote:

The most common tool to counteract such illegal tactics is a tariff. For the decade ending in 2005, governments around the world put in place nearly 1,700 anti-dumping tariffs. The United States imposed 219. The European Union imposed 193. India imposed 302. In 2014, President Barack Obama imposed steel tariffs on nine countries.

Trumka concluded his piece by stating, “in the context of years of inaction by the U.S. government and our trading partners, these tariffs are a necessary first step and we are proud to support them.”

Even as recently as a few weeks ago, Trumka stated on twitter: “Some in Congress are badmouthing tariffs and grousing about “trade wars,” but those who failed to act on trade threats or stop trade cheats are part of the problem. The solution? Congress & POTUS working together for smart tariff & trade policies that put working families first.”

So what’s changed?

“There were far too many countries, and so it lessens the effectiveness of tariffs as a way to enforce trade agreements,” Trumka told CBS News about Mr. Trump’s tariffs on steel and aluminum. “Trade and tariffs – those type of corrective actions – should be taken with a rifle shot and not a shotgun.”

“I think on trade, quite frankly, he’s going in the right direction,” Trumka stated, “although at times, he’s doing it the wrong way.”


One would think that Trumka would appreciate President Trump’s tough style of negotiations—especially since he recently scored a victory with the European Union, wherein the U.S. and E.U. agreed to work toward “zero tariffs.”

This is quite an about-face from Trumka’s earlier support of the President’s tariffs.

One must wonder if Trumka’s about face is merely political posturing in advance of the mid-term elections.


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