The Trump administration got straight to work trying to wipe out history and civil rights.
Within moments of the inauguration, it removed the database of enforcement cases from the U.S. Department of Labor website; it erased former Secretary Tom Perez’s lively and informative blog championing workers’ rights; and it obscured basic information for employers on LGBT rights. At the White House website, all references to civil and LGBT rights have been moved or deleted.
President Donald J. Trump calls for unity, but his speech at the inauguration and his administration’s first actions blasted a very different message. He and his administration are trying to erase the record of advancement of immigrants, women, people of color and others it absurdly sees as marginal or nontraditional. Their clear goal is to eliminate rights that people across our country have fought for decades to secure.
This is a repudiation of the essential freedoms that define our country. An attack on workers’ rights and civil rights is an attack on all Americans. Even Trump — let alone the many low-income workers among his supporters — has depended every day of his political life on his constitutional rights.
My colleagues and I are horrified that the civil rights movement’s gains over the past five decades could be demolished so easily. We never dreamed that rights we have always considered inviolable could be up for grabs and even disappear unless we and other organizations resist, using all the tools that we as lawyers have at our disposal.
This is especially important work in California because our state has numerous laws that extend protections beyond federal rights, and we have active public agencies that vigorously enforce these rights in partnership with a strong nonprofit community. Our Legislature already has taken up the tools to push back on federal incursions against the rights of workers and others in California (starting with the retention of former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder). And we are fortunate to have an enlightened leader in Governor Jerry Brown.
The administration may think that by removing references to civil rights on the White House website, it can erase inconvenient truths. But the values and principals of our society cannot be destroyed with the touch of a delete key.
Not only will our group and others on the front lines ensure that civil and employment rights stand. Information about those rights and how to enforce them will remain available as well. The administration cannot win that battle. If you have any doubt, check archive.org and enter www.dol.gov or www.whitehouse.gov. If you choose a date before Jan. 20 and poke around, you can find (and download) the very information that Trump’s administration has tried to hide.
With that information and the laws and people of California on their side, workers have a fighting chance.
Legal Aid at Work (formerly Legal Aid Society-Employment Law Center) delivers on the promise of justice for low-income people. We provide free direct services through our clinics and helplines. We offer extensive legal information for free online and in trainings, we litigate individual and class actions, and we advocate for new policies and laws. Details: www.legalaidatwork.org.