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Union chief: Trump must choose between Wall Street, workers

WASHINGTON — AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said Tuesday that President Donald Trump is in danger of letting a wealthy faction of his administration “hijack” the pro-worker agenda he’s promised.

“President Trump needs to decide who he stands with. The coal miners, farmers, steelworkers and other regular Americans who he promised to help in the campaign, or the Wall Street tycoons who are rigging the economy at our expense,” Trumka said at the National Press Club. “That decision will be the single greatest test and the most defining thing in his presidency.”

Trumka spoke moments after the president finished a speech across town to members of the building trade unions with whom he has a relationship as a real estate magnate. There, Trump repeated his pledge to urge people to “buy American and hire American.” But Trumka, whose federation includes construction trades among others, said he wishes Trump “would talk to more workers.”

Labor union membership is slumping nationally, with the percent of wage and salary workers who were members of unions at 10.7 percent in 2016, according to government figures. That translates to at 14.6 million people in 2016, down by 240,000 from a year earlier.

As the nation’s union membership slides, Trump has populated his Cabinet with wealthy Americans, many with roots in big business. They include former Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson as secretary of state and Steve Mnuchin, formerly of Goldman Sachs, as treasury secretary. Trump senior adviser Steve Bannon was also formerly with that firm.

Trumka said the new president has taken actions that align with big business over workers. They include the rollbacks of regulations on workplace safety and the delay of a rule that would require investment advisers to prioritize their clients’ financial interests.