Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand says she has not read the new “Fire and Fury” tell-all book about Donald Trump’s White House.
But she said Monday in the Town of Tonawanda that even though she has no plans to read the book now dominating the nation’s political discourse, she needs no insider account to pronounce the president unfit to lead the nation.
“It seems like a lot of palace intrigue, and it does raise very serious concerns, but I’ve had those concerns for a very long time,” she said Monday while promoting employee stock ownership legislation at the Gear Motions machine shop on Military Road.
“I didn’t think President Trump was the right person to be president,” she added. “I didn’t think he had the judgment or disposition to do a good job. This just confirms my concerns.”
Gillibrand, making her second Buffalo area appearance in the last three weeks as an election year dawns, made her remarks following several days of Washington turmoil caused by Michael Wolff’s account of the administration’s first months. The author has told interviewers in the days following last week’s publication that all of the White House insiders with whom he talked viewed Trump as incapable or unqualified to perform his duties as president.
The senator, for years a defender of sexual abuse and harassment victims, also reacted to Oprah Winfrey's joining the chorus of criticism against sexual transgressors during the entertainer’s Sunday night speech at the Golden Globes awards in California.
“I’m not surprised,” she said of people urging Winfrey to run for president in 2020. “Her speech at the Golden Globes was powerful. And what I appreciated so much about it is that it’s not about any one person or it’s not about any one industry. It’s about women and men speaking out across this country and being heard."
“I loved the fact that she ended it with the statement that we want to make sure little girls out there listening to her never have to have a ‘me too’ moment,” she added.
She was referring to the #metoo movement that has raised loud concerns in recent months over sexual harassment in the workplace. She also said Winfrey’s voice is “important and powerful” and that the entertainer should pursue any course she feels is appropriate to amplify her feelings.
Gillibrand said she visited Gear Motions (formerly Niagara Gear) to hear employees discuss the benefits of employee stock ownership plans (ESOP) during a morning roundtable discussion. She gathered a dozen employees, some of whom are 40-year veterans, to listen to their positive experiences since the company began offering the plan. Several of those participating told her they benefit from the profits generated for the company and feel like they have more of a stake in their work.
Her office noted that according to the National Center on Employee Ownership, workers in an ESOP are paid 5 to 12 percent more, are four times less likely to be laid off, and save 2.5 times more in retirement than other workers. They also reduce the risk of businesses suddenly leaving their communities.
The senator said she learned from her Monday discussions with the Gear Motions employee-owners that they felt empowered to make decisions on the production floor and that the ESOP format has strengthened a company already in Buffalo for decades.
Gillibrand supports two bipartisan bills encouraging employee ownership. One would eliminate barriers to establishing new small business ESOPs and ensure their eligibility for Small Business Administration Programs. Another would encourage employee-owned small businesses by providing technical assistance to help transition ownership to workers.
“I think we need to reward work in this country again,” she said.