Sarah McGrath

President Trump’s Budget: An Assault on Workers, the Environment, and Human Rights

Sarah McGrath

Washington, D.C. (March 20, 2017) – The International Corporate Accountability Roundtable (ICAR) condemns President Trump’s March 16 budget proposal as an assault on workers, the environment, and human rights.

Contrary to the Administration’s claim to put America first, the proposed budget will put Americans at significant risk by undermining their rights in the workplace and endangering our nation’s ability to provide a safe and healthy environment.

The promotion and protection of human rights abroad is important to advancing national interests and values. Reducing the capacity of the United States to promote human rights and labor rights around the world will have a negative impact on American workers and industry. Working people in the United States will prosper when they are not “priced out” by foreign workers that are deprived of basic labor and human rights. Domestic industries will be competitive when they do not have to compete with overseas companies that employ exploitative practices to cut production costs. Many of the programs and provisions that the Administration seeks to cut in the budget help prevent these harms from occurring.

As such, ICAR calls for Congress to reject the budget proposal. Our concerns are particularly acute around the following programs:

·         The Bureau of International Labor Affairs (ILAB) grant funding: The budget states that it intends to focus ILAB “on ensuring that US. trade agreements are fair for American workers,”[1] yet proposes to eliminate key tools used to achieve that goal. ILAB’s grants help international monitors meet and enforce labor laws and international labor standards, improving safety for vulnerable workers around the world. Without these enforcement mechanisms in place, U.S. employers are put at a competitive disadvantage against foreign employers using exploitative labor practices.

·         Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) training grants: Despite claiming to focus OSHA “on its central work of keeping workers safe on the job,”[2] the budget proposes to cut grants that fund non-profits to train workers in dangerous settings. This training is necessary to prevent injuries and illnesses on the job, and eliminating it would make American workers less safe. 

·         Funding for international development and diplomacy organizations: Massive cuts to the Department of States (DOS), the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), and the Department of Treasury’s International Programs is a complete contradiction to the budget’s acknowledgement that these groups “help to advance the national security interests of the United States by building a more democratic, secure, and prosperous world.”[3] As the U.S. institutions responsible for preventing conflict, fighting poverty, promoting human rights and labor rights abroad, funding for these agencies and organizations is vital. Failing to address these issues will ultimately erode U.S. values and interests abroad.

·         Funding for the United Nations and affiliated agencies: Fully meeting our nation’s financial obligations to the UN is critical to advancing many of our foreign policy objectives. Withholding UN funds will limit our ability and influence to steer the international political agenda, and will severely hamper the UN’s ability to promote human rights and provide humanitarian aid.

·         Funding for the Global Climate Change Initiative, the Green Climate Fund and its two precursor Climate Investment Funds: The very real threat of climate change to our nation’s ability to provide clean drinking water, renewable energy, and food security makes investing in these initiatives all the more crucial for our future. Clean energy spending also generates thousands of jobs each year.

·         Cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance (OECA) budget: Through civil and criminal enforcement, OECA works to advance environmental justice and protect communities most vulnerable to pollution and environmental hazards. The OECA is therefore critically important to ensuring our communities are clean, safe, and healthy. Cutting funds will put Americans at risk of serious harms caused by pollution and environmental contamination.

Ultimately, by cutting federal programs dedicated to protecting workers and the environment, promoting responsible business practices, and advancing human rights, the budget puts Americans in harm’s way. We urge Congress to reject the budget proposal.

The statement can be downloaded here.

For media inquiries, please contact ICAR’s Executive Director, Amol Mehra at amol@icar.ngo or 202-296-0146

[1] Office of the Management and Budget, American First: A Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again 31 (March 16, 2017),  https://assets.documentcloud.org/documents/3518021/WHbudgetproposal.pdf.

[2] Id. at 32.

[3] Id. at 33.