Talk about a low bar.
Fox News’ Neil Cavuto not only equated himself with essential workers who are exposed to the coronavirus at a much higher rate than television news hosts but, by doing so, he also minimized the recent surge in cases nationally as he wrapped up his interview with AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka on Thursday.
Trumka had just finished a lengthy rant about how President Trump and his administration have heartlessly bungled the response to the pandemic when Cavuto wrapped the segment by telling the labor leader to slow his roll because: “Not all of us are dying.”
But as the labor leader said, “We have an OSHA [Occupational Safety and Health Administration] right now that is the worst in the history of America. Workers are getting slaughtered on the front lines and dying because OSHA is absent. We have the most anti-worker, anti-labor National Labor Relations Board in the history of the country right now.”
Trumka, who endorsed Joe Biden for president last month, said the choice for workers in the coming presidential election is a simple one.
“I believe the workers will overwhelmingly vote for Joe Biden in this election because the choice between President Trump and Joe Biden, when it comes to workers, is very, very clear. Joe Biden is the best bet for working people,” Trumka said.
Cavuto then brought the conversation to how the economy was performing prior to the virus. “Low unemployment… Businesses booming, everything booming,” the host said. Cavuto then asked Trumka if “in a weird way, did the virus help your candidate?”
The AFL-CIO president told Cavuto that his focus was incorrect and that voters’ attention should be on the ramifications of the dishonest virus response from the current occupant in the White House.
“I think you’re asking the wrong question,” Trumka said. “I think the pandemic has shown the inadequacy of the president. Trump has not led in this pandemic. He’s lied to the American public. I hate to say that because it really hurts me to say that.”
Trumka continued, “[Trump] told them [COVID-19] is nothing. And now, because he pushed people to reopen too early, you’re seeing the backlash of that in Texas, in Florida, in Arizona and other areas. And we’re on the front lines.”
Cavuto pushed backed by asking if Trump, like other world leaders, just “missed the severity” of COVID-19?
Trumka dismissed that excuse and again laid the blame at the president’s feet, saying, “He was the ringleader, he’s the leader. That’s his job.”
The labor leader then mentioned how the president ordered some industries back to work without any care for workers’ wellbeing.
“Take the meatpacking industry. He ordered the meatpacking industry back into business, saying ‘You have to work,’ with no health and safety standards for the workers,” Trumka said. “Twenty-seven thousand meatpackers have coronavirus right now. 10,000 new cases in the last month. And OSHA is absent. They are doing nothing. While workers are suffering and ultimately dying, OSHA is sitting on the sidelines.”
Trumka continued, “And now with this resurge, you’re gonna have to protect workers even more… Trump has done a bad job with the pandemic and we’re paying for it. Frontline workers — that they call essential — are dying. We’re getting sick and we’re dying.”
The labor leader said all of this is affecting nurses, firefighters, meatpacking workers, and government agencies are just ignoring them.
“We have a department of labor that refuses to actually do anything to help workers. They’ve written one violation, one violation when 5,000 complaints came to them — and they wrote one violation. What about the other 4,999 complaints that they did nothing on? That’s unacceptable,” Trumka said.
Cavuto, after listening to Trumka and refuting none of his claims, somehow thought that perspective was needed.
“To put it into context not all of us are dying or getting sick, we are well off our worse levels,” the host said while concluding the interview, adding, “But we’ll see. We’ll see where it goes and we’ll see how Joe Biden does. Richard, continued good health, be safe yourself, and very good having you.”
Richard Trumka: Workers are getting sick and dying, the Department of Labor and OHSA are doing nothing
Fox VP Neil Cavuto: "Not all of us are dying or getting sick, we're well off our worst levels" pic.twitter.com/VNXsoNTq9P
— John Whitehouse (@existentialfish) June 25, 2020
But the hard truth is that Trumka is right. Just this week, the New York Times said meat processing plant workers have had among the highest rates of infection in the country. The paper cited one estimate that “more than 27,000 workers in meatpacking have tested positive for the coronavirus, up sharply from 17,000 just last month.”
The Times goes to confirm what Trumka told Cavuto: that OSHA refuses “to give employers clear rules to follow, allowing those that neglect worker safety to operate without fear of government penalty.”
Trumka’s other assertion that only one citation of 5,000 complaints has been issued since the pandemic began was also confirmed in a report late last month by Roll Call. “At this point, we’ve issued one citation under an existing standard,” Labor Department Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Loren E. Sweatt said.
So, sure. Technically, “not all of us are dying,” but making that kind of off-the-cuff remark sends a signal to viewers that a labor leader who has endorsed Trump’s opponent might be exaggerating to gain a political advantage when he’s actually stating facts — facts that voters should know, so they can hold those who are putting lives at risk accountable.