When President Donald Trump announced last month that he would meet regularly with a group of business leaders on how best to boost U.S. manufacturing, the list included organized labor. The union officials, however, weren’t invited to the very next meeting.
Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO, and Thea Lee, deputy chief of staff for the federation of 55 unions, are on the White House’s list of leaders but didn’t receive invitations for the meeting held Thursday at the White House, according to Carolyn Bobb, a spokeswoman for the labor group. To Bobb’s knowledge, the business-leaders panel has had no interaction with Trumka and Lee so far.
“This was specifically for people who were hiring people and the impediments they’re having to creating additional jobs,” White House press secretary Sean Spicer said in response to a question at his daily press briefing. The president still "values their opinion.”
Trump’s relationship with organized labor has so far been mixed. Prior to his inauguration in January, Trump met with Trumka--whose name was misspelled “Tumka” in the White House press release announcing the manufacturing group. Since taking office, he has met with other labor leaders. Some parts of organized labor applauded Trump’s decision to pull out of talks on the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, while other unions fought his cabinet picks.
The first meetings of the president’s manufacturing jobs initiative were to be organized by Andrew Liveris, chief executive officer of Dow Chemical Co., according to a statement last month. On Thursday, about two dozen CEOs met in groups to discuss topics ranging from taxes to regulatory reform and then presented their takeaways to the president.
“They were not part of this one,” Spicer said of the labor leaders. “We’ve had union representation at other meetings.”