Richard Trumka, AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer

This is a partial transcript from Your World with Neil Cavuto, August 31, 2003, that was edited for clarity. Click here for complete access to all of Neil Cavuto's CEO interviews.

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TERRY KEENAN, GUEST HOST: With Labor Day weekend upon us, just what is the state of organized labor in 2003? And where will unions try to flex their muscle as we approach the California recall and the 2004 presidential election?

Here now with some answers, Richard Trumka. He’s the secretary/treasurer of the AFL-CIO.

Mr. Trumka, good to have you with us here.

RICHARD TRUMKA, AFL-CIO SECRETARY-TREASURER: Thanks, Terry. It’s good to be with you.

KEENAN: You know we have unemployment rate above 6 percent, manufacturing jobs even more scarce. Is Labor Day 2003 any time to celebrate for unions like yours?

TRUMKA: Actually, Terry, I think there’s some good news and some bad news.

The good news is right now two-thirds of the American public support the jobs that America’s unions are doing and about 50 percent of the non- union workers, or about 42-million workers, say, if they had a chance to join a union tomorrow, they’d join it. We organized 500,000 members last year, which is good news.

The bad news is 11-million workers are out of work right now. That’s the workforce about the size of Texas itself, and there doesn’t look like there is any plans from this administration to help them get back on the job. So there’s good news and bad news.

KEENAN: Well, I mean, the administration, just to give the other side, would say that their tax-cut plan and other stimulant policies are starting to work.

At the same time, we have jobs leaving even Mexico because the workers in this global marketplace are considered too highly paid in that country south of the border. We’re competing with people in China, you know, who are making 50 cents an hour.

How is your union going to address those challenges going forward?

TRUMKA: Well, first of all, if you’re looking at just trade, we have a record trade deficit of over nearly $500 billion.

We think what this administration has to do along those lines is, one, begin to enforce the existing laws that we currently have on the books, and then, two, start to negotiate some real trade laws that help the American manufacturer.

The National Association of Manufacturers says that over half if the jobs that we’ve lost, 2.7 million, in the last three years under President Bush are not coming back unless this administration does something.

It needs to change the tax code to help those people who produce here rather than produce overseas. It needs to enforce the existing laws and to negotiate tougher laws that address non-tariff barriers that we simply ignore that take jobs out of this country.

KEENAN: All right. Well, we have seen the dollar weaken, which has helped that situation a bit, whether it was sanctioned by the Treasury or not, and $1.7 billion in tax cuts, so some things are happening.

Also, a lot happening in California -- a huge deficit there. The recall’s almost upon us. And workplace issues have come to the forefront in that economy where workers comp and the like are big campaign issues.

Where do you come down in the California recall race?

TRUMKA: Well, first of all, we think there shouldn’t be a recall. We think that’s a bad way to do business.

KEENAN: You’re happy with Governor Davis’s performance here?

TRUMKA: Well, that’s not the issue here. The issue is I’m not happy with George Bush’s performance either, but we’re not saying recall him. There’s another election process that we need to go through. They started this recall process one month after Gray Davis was elected into office. We think that’s a subversion of the process.

If, in fact, there is a recall, then our local people out there have endorsed the lieutenant governor, and we’ll do everything we can to help him get elected because we think he’ll be the best candidate for working people.

KEENAN: But why do you think that the lieutenant governor of a state that has bigger than a $20-billion deficit is the man to clean up the mess there?

TRUMKA: Well, first of all, he’s submitted a plan that everybody looked at and said this is interesting and it can work, and he doesn’t put it on the backs of working people, like the people on the other side would do. His plan is to make everybody pay their fair share.

Right now, many of the corporations incorporate offshore, pay no taxes, contribute to the deficit, use services but give nothing back. His plan will make everybody pay a fair share and everybody will benefit from it.

KEENAN: And do you think California can get back on its feet without some reform of the workmen’s comp situation out there?

TRUMKA: Well, absolutely. I mean workman’s comp is a bogus issue right now.

You have an energy market right now that’s going out of sight. You have the current FEC that was appointed by the president that said, one, the contracts that California entered into were fraudulently negotiated with them and then they make California pay them, even though they were fraudulent.

Those kind of things have to stop. What we need to do is sit down and work together and try to bring manufacturing back.

KEENAN: All right. We’re going to have to leave it there. Thanks for your insights on this Labor Day weekend.

Richard Trumka of the AFL-CIO.

TRUMKA: Thanks, Terry.

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