Maxine Waters to consumer watchdog workers demoralized by Trump sabotage: You are not alone

Alan Pyke

Alan Pyke Deputy Economic Policy Editor, Think Progress

Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) has a message for the federal consumer watchdog workers fighting to protect your wallet from white-collar predators: Don’t let the bastards grind you down.

In an open letter, the prominent progressive darling and long-time leader of the House Financial Services Committee’s Democrats sought to encourage Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) employees who’ve seen stark changes under the new management of Republican appointees who would rather their agency not exist.

The morale-boosting missive also served as a reminder to employees that a whistleblower portal can protect them from recriminations should they feel the need to report malign conduct by President Donald Trump’s administration.

“Let me assure you that actions to weaken the Consumer Bureau from within as Director Mulvaney attempted to do will not go unchecked or unnoticed,” Waters wrote to the staffers. After the Democrats took back the House, Waters became chairwoman of the Financial Services Committee.

“If, in the course of your work, you are a witness to waste, fraud, abuse or gross mismanagement, please do not hesitate to alert me and my staff,” she wrote.

 The letter also directed concerned staffers to a confidential whistleblower reporting tool housed at the Financial Services Committee website.

“Your work is a vital public service. Take heart in the knowledge that millions of Americans have benefitted from your efforts, and that the Consumer Bureau has many friends and allies in Congress who believe in your efforts and will stand up for you and the Consumer Bureau,” Waters wrote.

The letter keeps a light on for analysts, lawyers, and bureaucrats at the young agency, after public attention drifted away from the Trump team’s sabotage efforts there with the successful appointment of a permanent leader.

Prior to Director Kathy Kraninger’s confirmation in the lame-duck session between November’s midterms and Waters’ formal move from ranking member to chairwoman, CFPB had been temporarily run by White House Chief of Staff and Office of Management and Budget director Mick Mulvaney.

Mulvaney had spent much of his earlier congressional career pursuing the demolition of the independent watchdog and its cutting-edge policy work. His failures then preserved the autonomy in funding and management that key CFPB architects argued for in 2010; His conduct in the brief time he headed the agency illustrated those architects were correct about the need for such safeguards against sabotage.

Mulvaney is enough of a political celebrity that his presence drew mainline Washington reporters to pay greater attention to CFPB’s work and struggles than they might have otherwise.

Now that he’s stepped away from the group — after undermining its work on payday lending and other initiatives led by its former director Richard Cordray — the klieg lights are off. The resulting shadows are a boon to Kraninger, who consumer watchdog groups blast as an inexperienced industry shill who would pursue the same consumer-harming course Mulvaney set.

“I am writing to reassure you of the importance and value of your work, and to let you know, in no uncertain terms, that the anti-consumer actions mandated by Trump appointees will not be tolerated,” Waters wrote. “I will work hard to ensure that you will once again be fully empowered to perform your duties on behalf of America’s   consumers.”

CFPB staff have recouped more than $10 billion for harmed consumers in less than a decade of existence. It has conducted pioneering quantitative research on various predatory financial practices including the misleadingly-titled “overdraft protection” system that helps trap low-wage workers in cycles of debt instead of facilitating their upward economic mobility.

And the agency has proposed, redrafted, and finalized modest regulations based on those findings, only to see those rules killed at the finish line by Mulvaney and his fellow-travelers.

The 2016 election gave the financial industry its first clean shot at undermining the quietly effective agency created in the wake of the Wall Street crisis and subsequent widespread foreclosure fraud that set working families’ economic security back by generations.

The agency’s conservative critics had previously thrown an increasingly wild-eyed set of attacks at the wall — from silly red-scare ads on television to bizarre Nazi comparisons from sitting members of Congress — without ever landing a clean shot against one of the few federal agencies that enjoys a sterling reputation with voters of all parties.

But after failing to foment a PR insurrection against the agency, Trump’s election allowed people like Mulvaney and Kraninger to circumvent the inconvenient popularity and structural independence of the agency. They had control of the government, and were quick to use it to clip the agency’s wings.

The arm-wrestling over whether or not powerful financial companies should be free to treat paycheck-to-paycheck families as a strip-mine for profits won’t stop anytime soon. It may not make it into headlines very often. But powerful eyes will be watching it — and not just from Wall Street’s side of the war.

***

Reposted from ThinkProgress

Alan Pyke is the Deputy Economic Policy Editor for ThinkProgress.org. Before coming to ThinkProgress, he was a blogger and researcher with a focus on economic policy and political advertising at Media Matters for America, American Bridge 21st Century Foundation, and PoliticalCorrection.org. He previously worked as an organizer on various political campaigns from New Hampshire to Georgia to Missouri. His writing on music and film has appeared on TinyMixTapes, IndieWire’s Press Play, and TheGrio, among other sites.

Posted In: Allied Approaches

Union Matters

Get to Know AFL-CIO's Affiliates: National Association of Letter Carriers

From the AFL-CIO

Next up in our series that takes a deeper look at each of our affiliates is the National Association of Letter Carriers.

Name of Union: National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC)

Mission: To unite fraternally all city letter carriers employed by the U.S. Postal Service for their mutual benefit; to obtain and secure rights as employees of the USPS and to strive at all times to promote the safety and the welfare of every member; to strive for the constant improvement of the Postal Service; and for other purposes. NALC is a single-craft union and is the sole collective-bargaining agent for city letter carriers.

Current Leadership of Union: Fredric V. Rolando serves as president of NALC, after being sworn in as the union's 18th president in 2009. Rolando began his career as a letter carrier in 1978 in South Miami before moving to Sarasota in 1984. He was elected president of Branch 2148 in 1988 and served in that role until 1999. In the ensuing years, he worked in various roles for NALC before winning his election as a national officer in 2002, when he was elected director of city delivery. In 2006, he won election as executive vice president. Rolando was re-elected as NALC president in 2010, 2014 and 2018.

Brian Renfroe serves as executive vice president, Lew Drass as vice president, Nicole Rhine as secretary-treasurer, Paul Barner as assistant secretary-treasurer, Christopher Jackson as director of city delivery, Manuel L. Peralta Jr. as director of safety and health, Dan Toth as director of retired members, Stephanie Stewart as director of the Health Benefit Plan and James W. “Jim” Yates as director of life insurance.

Number of Members: 291,000 active and retired letter carriers.

Members Work As: City letter carriers.

Industries Represented: The United States Postal Service.

History: In 1794, the first letter carriers were appointed by Congress as the implementation of the new U.S. Constitution was being put into effect. By the time of the Civil War, free delivery of city mail was established and letter carriers successfully concluded a campaign for the eight-hour workday in 1888. The next year, letter carriers came together in Milwaukee and the National Association of Letter Carriers was formed.

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There is Dignity in All Work

There is Dignity in All Work