In 1989, during the transition from Presidents Reagan to George H.W. Bush, the rightwing Heritage Foundation expressed dismay that “free market” reforms were not moving fast enough. The group weighed in with a burly 900-plus page “Mandate for Leadership,” urging Reagan Revolutionaries to more aggressively dismantle government regulations.
Along with breaking the 1981 air traffic controllers strike and stacking the National Labor Relations Board with anti-union judges who helped decimate union organizing and membership, Reagan had cut nearly one-fourth of Labor Department staff and hacked its budget by about 20 percent. But for many on the right, this radical rollback wasn’t enough: Heritage recommended repealing the minimum wage, resisting employer-based health insurance and child care, and gutting job training programs, among other priorities.
Fast forward to 2017: After decades of dwindling union membership and worker power, and regulatory diminishment under both parties’ administrations, President Donald Trump and congressional Republicans are pushing a radical Heritage-style agenda that could deliver immediate and long-term harm to workers and unions across the United States—including millions of those who helped elect Trump.