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On Labor Day, Trump and Trumka clash on the state of American workers

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, seen on April 4,

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, seen on April 4, 2017, drew President Donald Trump's ire in a tweet issued on Labor Day.  Credit: AP/Alex Brandon

Working class boos

As head of the nation's largest union federation, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said on Labor Day weekend what you might have anticipated when interviewed on Fox, the favored network of President Donald Trump.

Trumka on Sunday was asked about the low unemployment rate and economic growth. "Those are good," he said, "but wages have been down since the first of the year. Gas prices have been up since the first of the year. So overall, workers aren't doing as well."

Trumka also criticized the tax law as encouraging corporate outsourcing, said regulation rollbacks compromise safety and called it "hard to see" how a NAFTA deal with Mexico would work with Canada excluded from it. As one might expect, Trump wailed on Twitter and launched a nasty personal attack on Trumka.

Look for the party label 

Trump complained that Trumka "represented his union poorly on television this weekend. Some of the things he said were so against the working men and women of our country, and the success of the U.S. itself, that it is easy to see why unions are doing so poorly. A Dem!"

Trump said Saturday there was no "political necessity" to keep Canada in NAFTA. As is often the case, he included a false statement to argue his point, claiming unemployment is "setting record lows." The rate is currently 3.9 percent, as it  was near the end of Bill Clinton's presidency. It dipped even lower, to 2.5 percent, in 1953 under President Dwight D. Eisenhower, USA Today noted.  

As usual, the Trump tweet was a rhetorical hit-and-run, with the president taking no questions on the topic while ensconced at his golf club in Virginia.

Federal payroll squeeze

Although a judge has rebuffed the administration's efforts to tighten labor union rules in federal agencies, the goals of the proposed changes are still achievable, as The New York Times describes it

"I have noticed a difference in the overall morale of the employees,” said Sonia Saldivar, the president of a union representing Social Security workers in New Mexico. “Employees are scared now. They’re scared they’re going to lose their job.”

The tone for this squeezing was set last week when Trump announced cancellation of a planned pay raise for federal employees, but then backtracked, saying he'd take a "good, hard look" at it.

Full-court stress 

Democrats would seem to have only the faintest of chances to block Trump nominee Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation to the U.S. Supreme Court seat vacated when Justice Anthony Kennedy retired.

And as Newsday's Scott Eidler and Jesse Coburn described over the weekend, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said Kavanaugh could get 55 or more votes  if he  performs well in confirmation hearings.

Whatever the tally, the hearings, set to begin Tuesday before the Senate Judiciary Committee, could set the tone for the kind of role the  newest Republican nominee would play on the high court.

“I believe that an independent judiciary is the crown jewel of our constitutional republic,” Kavanaugh, 53, said when Trump unveiled his nomination.

What else is happening:

  • Trump lamented the pre-Election Day indictment of two congressmen who supported him early on and blamed his attorney general, Jeff Sessions.
  • The peeved president also attacked Sessions in a semi-coherent rage-tweet about Democrats and former FBI Director James Comey, ending his rant with "Really sick!" 

  • Special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia report could ultimately be concealed from public view by Trump invoking executive privilege, Trump advocate Rudy Giuliani suggests.
  • Ohio Gov. John Kasich says in advance of the midterms, "Unfortunately, our party is shrinking."  
  • Former VP Joe Biden looks like a man who's running for president, Politico writes.
  • The reality and relevance of Trump's latest drop in approval ratings remains a big question mark, one analyst writes.
  • Labor Secretary Rolando Acosta paid a Labor Day visit to the Chicago branch of the national Fraternal Order of Police.
  • Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) called Trump a "pathological liar" who "works night and day on behalf of his fellow billionaires."

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