Trump calls ad showing TVA laying off American workers 'fake', says US govt doesn't run power provider
In April, President Donald Trump had lashed out at the CEO of Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) during one of his coronavirus briefings, alleging that the executive’s pay was far too high. In response to a reporter’s question who said TVA chief Jeff Lyash earned $8M last year, the president said it was “ridiculous”. Trump, who appoints the TVA board, even suggested that he would slash the TVA chief’s salary as part of the Covid-19-related infrastructure bill which was being considered by Congress.
On July 16, the president spoke about Lyash's high salary once again but in a different context. In a tweet, he complained that he saw a new ad while watching TV in the evening which he called “fake” and took on Lyash again over his salary. "Another one of many Fake T.V. Ads, this one about the Tennessee Valley Authority, which for years has paid its top executive a ridiculous FORTUNE. Not run by the U.S., but I have long been fighting that crazy 'salary' & its polices. Strange ad paid for (?) by 'U.S. Tech Workers'," the 74-year-old said, making a mistake while typing ‘policies’.
Trump wondered whether ‘U.S. Tech Workers’ — a non-profit outfit that represents the voice of American workers who have been hit by the H-1B visa program and wants the Congress to bring reforms to protect workers — paid for the ad. Under the H1-B visa, US companies can hire foreign workers in specialty areas. He found the ad “strange”.
Why did Trump call an ad 'fake' when he should have liked it?
But why did Trump, who himself prioritizes sons of the soil for American jobs, condemn a TV commercial that claimed TVA is allegedly outsourcing jobs in its IT division to overseas workers? The president perhaps did not want to find himself at the receiving end in terms of the fact that the public power-provider is outsourcing jobs and said clearly in his tweet that the TVA is not run by the US government. The poll-bound president doesn’t want to be seen linked with a federal venture where foreign workers have been preferred over the national ones as that would hurt his own MAGA mission. He conceded that he has been fighting the TVA's policies but only after dissociating it from his government.
The TVA was set up in 1933 as one of then president FDR's New Deal programs to deal with the Great Depression. The project generated jobs and electricity to the rural Tennessee River Valley, an area that covers seven states in the South. The TVA was seen as a federally owned electric utility and agency for regional economic development. It is one of the most acclaimed public power providers in the world.
US tech workers wanted Trump to stop TVA's laying-off practice
It may be mentioned here that US Tech Workers — a three-year-old body — has also tried to convince Trump to prevent TVA from outsourcing much of its IT work. The body has taken to the airwaves after blasting TVA for laying off hundreds of IT employees and replacing them with cheaper foreign contractors to do the computer work in Chattanooga and other parts of the Tennessee Valley.
Kevin Lynn, founder of US Tech Workers, called TVA's decision to lay off the IT workers and considering additional job cuts later this summer "really audacious" in the current economic situation. Lynn and the ads his outfit made target Lyash and believe that the president would take a strong stand on this issue, Chattanooga Times Free Press reported.
“Of all the federal workers in America, Trump’s highest paid employee should know better than firing American workers, and giving their jobs to foreign workers, especially at a time when the Tennessee and Alabama job markets have been devastated by coronavirus. President Trump promised to put American workers first. Here's his chance,” Lynn was quoted as saying by Free Press.
But the report also said that as an independent federal agency, the president cannot fire the TVA president who is hired by a nine-member independent board appointed by the former and confirmed by the Senate to oversee the country’s biggest government utility.
Is this why Trump decided to look at the other way and distanced his government from TVA?