IAS/SIR Speaker Series: Thea Lee

Labor and Progressive Global Economic Policy in the Trump Era

In the recent presidential election, many Republican constituents were unhappy with the fact that Republican lawmakers were voting in favor of international trade deals such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership and other labor reforms. Donald Trump fed off of this discontent by fiercely opposing the TPP, promising to renegotiate NAFTA, and declaring he would bring jobs back to America. As the Deputy Chief of Staff of the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), Thea Lee emphasized that although Trump, “put his finger on what everyone was angry about,” his proposed solutions are not solid or capable of solving the overwhelming power that multinational corporations have gained or the drastic economic inequality experienced globally and locally. While Trump has taken a clear stance of “America first,” the AFL-CIO firmly believes that all people—no matter their nationality—are equally deserving of the same labor rights. Lee stressed that it we cannot solve these global labor issues by ourselves or by beating up other countries to achieve our desired outcomes. Furthermore, since his official inauguration, Trump has failed to achieve any concrete progress on the trade deals he said he would attack. This lack of action could be due to the fact that he was making empty promises of progressive labor and economic change. It could also be due to the fact that many of his appointees have come from various sides of the labor and trade debate. No matter the cause, Thea Lee left the audience today with the key point that we must ensure that the fight for labor and economic equality revolves around global solidarity and not the global hatred that Trump has tainted it with.