Yesterday the Trump administration inducted notorious union-buster Ronald Reagan into the Department of Labor’s Hall of Honor. It’s reserved for people who “have elevated working conditions, wages, and overall quality of life for American families.” Reagan did none of these things. He does not belong in the company of revered labor leaders like Samuel Gompers, Mother Jones, and Cesar Chavez, all rolling over in their graves. U.S. Secretary of Labor Alex Acosta, the token Hispanic in the Trump administration, does not see the irony or outrage.
Reagan did do a stint as president of the Screen Actors Guild. But he was pro-management, weakened the union, and was forced to resign before his term ended. He helped implement the Hollywood Blacklist against his own colleagues. As president, Reagan began his War on Labor immediately in 1981, firing 13,000 air traffic control strikers, destroying their union, and banning them for life. He permanently undermined the bargaining power of American workers and their labor unions. His was called the Anti-Labor Department for appointing anti-union foes to federal agencies and weakening OSHA laws.
Homelessness exploded under Reagan’s policies, from barely countable to some 2 million people. Federal spending on subsidized housing dropped from $26 billion to $8 billion. Reagan showed his contempt saying, “They make it their own choice for staying out there.” 8 million more people fell into poverty during Reagan’s eight years, while he derided “welfare queens” and hardened Americans against helpful measures.
Even the union representing Labor Department employees objected to this nomination expressing “shock and disappointment” in a letter to Acosta, urging him to reconsider. Reagan’s cynical and Orwellian place in the Hall of Honor is this rightwing regime’s attempt to rewrite history. Who is next the Walton/Walmart family? the Koch brothers? Andrew Carnegie?