On the campaign trail and in office, President Donald Trump has promised to fight for the American worker. Yet in just over six months on the job, President Trump’s actions have repeatedly betrayed this promise. His administration has rolled back protections to ensure that American workers can be safe on the job, receive fair pay and benefits, save for retirement, access high-quality training programs, have a voice in their workplace, and not be discriminated against at work.
To hold President Trump accountable, the Center for American Progress Action Fund’s American Worker Project is tracking every action the president takes to weaken job protections for Americans.
Our list includes legislation, orders, and regulations signed by the president; procedural changes enacted by his administration that will weaken enforcement of worker protections; and official statements of policy, such as the president’s proposed budget. The list does not include political nominations and appointments of individuals with records of enacting anti-worker policies, since these actions happened outside their role in the administration.
We will be updating this page periodically to include new anti-worker policies enacted by the administration. The policies below are listed in reverse chronological order, with the newest actions listed first. This page was last updated on August 15, 2017.
1. Shutting down retirement savings plans
On July 31, 2017, President Trump’s Treasury Department ended the myRA savings program. Launched in 2014, myRA was a public option for workers to start saving for retirement and other life goals through a safe, affordable, and portable Roth individual retirement account. It was also a first step toward bolder policies that would have improved employees’ personal savings and retirement security. At a time when 44 percent of adults struggle to cover a $400 emergency expense, making it harder to save is unacceptable.
2. Discriminating against LGBT Americans in the workplace
During his campaign, President Trump promised to fight for LGBT Americans. Yet on July 26, 2017, he marked the anniversary of President Harry Truman’s order to desegregate the military by announcing that he would ban transgender people from serving in the military, thus jeopardizing the livelihoods of thousands of transgender service members. A few hours later, the U.S. Department of Justice filed an amicus brief defending a company’s decision to fire an employee on the basis of his sexual orientation. This stance is contrary to that of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and many federal courts, which have held that Title VII prohibits discrimination against LGBT workers. The Justice Department does not regularly weigh in on private employment lawsuits but noted in its filing that the government has a “substantial” interest in the case, “in its capacity as the Nation’s largest employer.”
3. Denying overtime to millions of working people
The Trump administration derailed an Obama-era protection to extend overtime protections to 4.2 million Americans. In a June 30, 2017, court filing, the Department of Justice announced that it would revisit the Obama administration’s expansion of overtime protections to workers earning less than $47,000 per year. Three weeks later, the administration released a request for information that suggested that it may issue new overtime regulations to cover far fewer workers. Even if the administration pushes forward with this effort, it will likely take years for a new rule to be finalized.
4. Threatening working families’ access to health care
Despite the repeated defeat of bills to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA), President Trump is using his administrative power to sabotage working families’ access to marketplace coverage. He has threatened to withhold billions of dollars in cost-sharing payments to insurers and has worked to undermine the individual mandate, both of which are driving insurers to increase premiums significantly or leave the market. In July 2017, the Trump administration stopped funding sign-up assistance centers in 18 cities and cut the enrollment period during which Americans can shop for coverage down from 90 days to 45 days. And in January, the administration pulled all advertising for the 2017 enrollment period, though it later restored some outreach after the resulting backlash.
5. Rolling back gainful employment protection
In June 2017, Trump’s Department of Education announced that it will rewrite an Obama-era protection that helps to ensure that career training programs provide a good value to students. The rule was enacted to prevent training programs from receiving federal student aid if they leave graduates with too much debt relative to their earnings. If this protection is weakened, too many workers will be saddled with debt for training programs that don’t deliver on their promises.
6. Exposing workers to toxic materials
The Trump administration announced on June 23, 2017, that it would roll back new safety rules protecting workers from beryllium, a toxic metal that causes lung cancer and other deadly diseases. Although the Trump administration is leaving in place Obama-era beryllium protections for workers in defense and aerospace industries, its proposed rule would rescind requirements for medical exams, exposure monitoring, and other protections for construction and shipyard workers.
7. Endangering workers and first responders at chemical facilities
On June 12, 2017, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) delayed critical updates to its Risk Management Program (RMP) until February 2019. In January, the EPA had finalized changes to the RMP that would require facilities using and storing potentially toxic or dangerous chemicals to mitigate risks, thereby helping workers and local emergency responders plan for potentially catastrophic chemical accidents. The Obama administration directed the EPA to improve safety requirements after a 2013 explosion at a Texas fertilizer storage facility killed 15 people, including 12 firefighters.
8. Undermining the quality and pay of apprenticeship programs
In June 2017, President Trump signed an executive order establishing “industry-recognized apprenticeship programs” that would potentially weaken standards and wage requirements for existing apprenticeship programs. Trump’s move could undermine existing programs, which are typically labor-management partnerships covered by equal opportunity in employment requirements and wage standards, and award nationally recognized credentials.
9. Switching sides in Supreme Court case limiting workers’ right to sue
The Justice Department switched sides in a case before the Supreme Court in June 2017. In National Labor Relations Board v. Murphy Oil USA Inc., the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB)—an independent federal agency—is arguing that Murphy Oil violated the law by requiring its employees to waive their right to join together and sue over workplace violations. In 2016, the Justice Department sided with the NLRB; however, in 2017, the office announced that after the change in administration, it “reconsidered the issue and has reached the opposite conclusion.”
10. Proposing a budget that would slash funding for job training
President Trump’s fiscal year 2018 budget proposal—released in May 2017—would cut funding for job training, career development, and job search assistance by 43 percent compared with FY 2015 levels. If enacted, 5.5 million workers could lose access to these programs.
11. Attacking a key anti-discrimination agency
President Trump’s budget also proposes essentially eliminating the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, which helps ensure that federal contractors do not discriminate against their workers on the basis of race, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, national origin, disability, or status as a protected veteran. This move would weaken protections for the more than one in five Americans who work for a company that receives federal contracts.
12. Threatening to cut important programs for coal miners and their communities
Despite President Trump’s promise to support coal communities, the administration’s 2018 budget proposal outlines significant cuts to programs that would hurt coal miners, their families, and their communities. During its final two years, the Obama administration developed and implemented the Partnerships for Opportunity and Workforce and Economic Revitalization (POWER) Initiative to invest in struggling coal-dependent communities. The Trump budget would eliminate 7 of 12 programs from the POWER Initiative, including those that direct investment in small businesses, offer worker training and placement, and provide much-needed infrastructure investment.
13. Attempting to make it harder for people with disabilities to work
While on the campaign trail, President Trump showed a clear lack of compassion toward people with disabilities when he mocked a reporter with a disability. However, now that disregard goes beyond words. The president’s proposed budget would end Medicaid as we know it, cutting off access to the home- and community-based care services that allow many people with disabilities to live independently and to work outside the home. Medicaid’s in-home services have also made it possible for family members to remain employed while caring for a loved one with a disability or serious illness.
14. Proposing taking food off the tables of struggling workers and their families
President Trump’s proposed budget also makes deep cuts to nutrition assistance, including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Many low-wage workers turn to SNAP—formerly known as food stamps—to provide for themselves and their families when wages are not enough: In 2015 alone, nearly 15 million workers lived in households that were helped by SNAP. Nurses, home health aides, maids, housekeepers, and food preparation workers particularly benefit from SNAP; at least one-quarter of workers in these occupations receive nutrition assistance through the program.
15. Reducing transparency in anti-union attacks
Trump’s Labor Department published a proposed rule on June 12, 2017, that would prevent reporting by companies that hired anti-union consultants in order to fight back against workers trying to come together in unions. The rule would rescind an Obama-era protection that, if implemented, would have boosted transparency for workers in the 70 percent of union organizing drives where companies hired these sorts of consultants.
16. Rolling back guidance on who is an employer
In June 2017, the Trump administration withdrew Obama-era guidance that strengthened wage theft enforcement by ensuring that companies did not illegally misclassify their employees as independent contractors and that when workers were cheated out of wages, “joint employment” standards were enforced against the companies with the power to ensure legal compliance. A 2014 report from the Economic Policy Institute estimated that wage theft could cost American workers more than $50 billion every year.
17. Exposing farmworkers to toxic pesticides
In January 2017, the Obama administration’s EPA finalized stronger protections for workers who apply—and therefore are exposed to—restricted-use pesticides, the most toxic pesticides on the market. The rule strengthened certification requirements for pesticide applicators, established training requirements for those who handle and apply these pesticides, and set a nationwide minimum age of 18 for certified applicators and people working under their direct supervision. On June 2, 2017, the EPA delayed implementation of this rule until 2018 to give the agency time to review and potentially reconsider it.
18. Making it harder for workers to save for retirement
In May 2017, President Trump signed legislation to repeal Obama-era guidance that helped cities and states set up retirement savings plans for workers without access to employer-provided plans. While 30 percent of workers have no access to an employer retirement plan, the Trump administration sided with financial industry lobbyists who opposed these programs.
19. Giving a pass to employers who discriminate against LGBT Americans
President Trump issued an executive order on May 4, 2017, giving Attorney General Jeff Sessions sweeping authority to enact religious exemptions to federal regulations, including nondiscrimination protections for LGBT federal contractors. Additionally, billions of taxpayer dollars could fund grantees that refuse to serve LGBT people, adversely affecting LGBT Americans’ ability to enter apprenticeship and job training programs. This would only serve to compound the impact of employment discrimination against LGBT people. Between 15 percent and 43 percent of gay, lesbian, and bisexual people already report experiencing some form of discrimination or harassment in the workplace; 30 percent of transgender people report “being fired, denied a promotion, or experiencing some other form of mistreatment in the workplace.”
20. Delaying safety protections for construction workers
In April 2017, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced a three-month delay in the enforcement of a new standard to limit silica dust exposure among construction workers. The protection was projected to save more than 600 lives every year, preventing a variety of work-related diseases—including lung cancer, silicosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and kidney disease.
21. Letting lawbreakers off the hook for safety violations
In April 2017, President Trump signed legislation repealing requirements that clarified that OSHA’s mandate, which directed companies in dangerous industries to keep accurate records of worker injuries, was enforceable for five years. Without strong record keeping requirements, safety enforcement agencies have difficulty detecting and correcting long-standing problems at lawbreaking companies. Companies must now maintain injury records for only six months.
22. Exposing farmworkers to toxic pesticides
On March 29, 2017, the EPA reversed its earlier decision to ban chlorpyrifos—an agricultural pesticide— even after agency scientists completed an extensive risk assessment that concluded it could damage the neurological development of children and cause acute symptoms in those exposed to even small amounts. Just two months later, a dozen farmworkers in California fell ill after winds blew a chlorpyrifos-based pesticide from nearby orchards into their cabbage fields.
23. Letting lawbreaking government contractors off the hook
On March 27, 2017, President Trump signed legislation repealing an Obama-era protection to ensure that companies with long records of violating workplace laws come into compliance with the law or no longer receive government contracts. Every year, companies that shortchange their workers and cut corners in workplace safety continue to receive federal contracts with no strings attached. One report found that in a single year, the worst violators of workplace laws received $81 billion in contracts. In July, President Trump’s Labor Department also issued instructions that allow contractors covered by sick leave requirements established during the Obama administration to reduce contributions to other types of worker benefits.
24. Endangering the retirement investments of working families
President Trump signed a memorandum on February 3, 2017, that delayed the enforcement of new protections that would require retirement advisers to act in the best interest of their clients for 60 days. While part of the rule went into effect in June, the Trump administration is continuing to review this rule ahead of its full implementation date and seeking public comment. One industry group even suggested that the rule be delayed until 2020. Without these protections, advisers can recommend investments that are in their own best interests rather than their clients’, making themselves money but potentially charging savers high fees or producing poor results.
25. Scapegoating federal workers
President Trump signed a memorandum on January 23, 2017, that froze hiring of nonmilitary federal workers. This move threatened to weaken an already shrinking federal workforce and harm taxpayers, as the government will increasingly rely on private contractors to supply government services. The blanket freeze was lifted on April 12, but agencies are implementing further plans to cut their workforce.
On the campaign trail, President Trump cast himself as the savior of the working class who was willing to buck the Republican and Democratic establishment in order to stand up for working people. As president, however, Trump has not followed through on this promise. His administration is quietly using its executive and regulatory powers to roll back important protections for working people. And in every instance where Congress has passed a piece of anti-worker legislation, President Trump has signed the bill into law. The American Worker Project will continue to update this list. We hope this tracker will serve as a resource for worker advocates and progressive lawmakers who seek to hold the president accountable.
Karla Walter is director of the American Worker Project at the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Alex Rowell is a research associate with the American Worker Project at CAP Action.