Six business executives have quit President Trump’s council on manufacturing jobs since the violence at a white nationalist rally in Virginia — a sign of escalating fallout from his insistence that both sides are to blame.
The latest were two representatives from the AFL-CIO: Richard Trumka, its president, and Thea Lee, an economist. They walked away from Trump after a staggering press conference Tuesday in which he said that “very fine people” were mixed in with neo-Nazis in Charlottesville.
“I cannot sit on a council for a President that tolerates bigotry and domestic terrorism,” Trumka said.
Grassroots organizations are pressuring other CEOs to follow those six out the door and cut ties with the president.
Seventeen other members of the manufacturing council either have told CNNMoney that they will stay or have not answered a request for comment. Trump set up the council in January to hear their advice on revitalizing American manufacturing, a focus of his campaign.
Among those who have said they will stay on, some have argued that it is valuable to have a seat at the table as the government shapes policy that could affect their companies and employees.
In that group are top talent from GE, Dow Chemical, Nucor, Whirlpool, International Paper, Campbell Soup, Dell, Boeing and Newell Brands.
Several other members have yet to weigh in. The heads of Johnson & Johnson, United Technologies, Dana, Timken, 3M and Corning have not responded to questions about their roles. Lockheed Martin and Harris Corporation declined to comment.
It’s unclear whether two others, Arconic and Caterpillar, are still in the mix. Both their CEOs left earlier this year, and the companies have not told CNNMoney whether they kept representation on the panel. When the heads of U.S. Steel and Ford left their roles earlier this year, those companies ceased membership.
The flurry of resignations began Monday after Merck CEO Kenneth Frazier abruptly quit the council and said that “America’s leaders must honor our fundamental values by clearly rejecting expressions of hatred, bigotry and group supremacy.”
Trump fired back an hour after Frazier’s announcement. He tweeted that the Merck CEO “will have more time to LOWER RIPOFF DRUG PRICES!”
Frazier was soon followed by executives from Under Armour, Intel, the Alliance for American Manufacturing and the two executives from the AFL-CIO.
“The council itself is totally ineffective. It’s never met,” Trumka, from the AFL-CIO, told “CBS This Morning.” “It’s a subterfuge to be able to deregulate industry.”
He continued: “But it’s the symbolism of being associated with it that we rejected yesterday.”
The reasoning echoed other executives who resigned from Trump’s councils earlier this year.
Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, who advocates clean energy, resigned from the manufacturing initiative and a separate economic advisory group in June after Trump pulled the United States out of the Paris climate agreement.
The grassroots organizations want to see more CEOs walk away from both Trump councils.
Color of Change, a racial justice organization, has launched a campaign called #QuitTheCouncil. It is pressuring Pepsi’s Indra Nooyi, who is on the economic council, among others.
Nooyi denounced racism this weekend but did not say anything about her role on that panel, formally known as the President’s Strategic and Policy Forum.
Others, including JPMorgan’s Jamie Dimon and Blackstone’s Stephen Schwarzman, have made similar comments. Color of Change and other groups want Dimon and Schwarzman to withdraw from the economic council and plan to deliver petitions to the offices of both.
General Motors, EY, Global Infrastructure Partners, Cleveland Clinic and Wal-Mart have all said their leaders are staying in the economic group.
Wal-Mart CEO Doug McMillon, also on the economic council, said Tuesday that Trump “missed a critical opportunity” to unite the country with his initial remarks about Charlottesville. But he will stay on the council, where he said he would “strongly advocate” for his workers.
Larry Summers, a vocal Trump critic and former adviser to President Barack Obama, said Wednesday that wasn’t good enough.
“He is not fit to be the CEO of Walmart” if he thinks he can’t influence government from outside the economic group, Summers said on CNBC. He has called on all CEOs to quit the advisory boards.
Trumka, the AFL-CIO president, said the decision is ultimately up to the executives.
“They have to follow their conscience,” he said on CBS. “I followed our conscience.”