Leo W. Gerard

President’s Perspective

Leo W. Gerard USW International President

Question Before the Court: Can Corporations Betray Retirees?

Question Before the Court: Can Corporations Betray Retirees?
M&G Polymers is Point Pleasant's new Mothman

At a chemical plant called Point Pleasant in a town named Apple Grove in a state John Denver labeled almost heaven, a man known as Freel Tackett helped negotiate three collective bargaining agreements that provided raises and decent benefits for workers and retirees.

Heaven ended in 2007 for Tackett and other retired Point Pleasant workers. That’s when the corporation that now owns the plant betrayed them by refusing to continue paying the full cost of retiree health benefits. These days, it’s almost hell for retirees. For seven years they’ve lived under a dark shadow, as if Point Pleasant’s most infamous denizen, the monster Mothman, immortalized in the book and movie The Mothman Prophesies, had returned.

The United Steelworkers (USW) union told the U.S. Supreme Court last week that these workers had labored a lifetime to earn retiree health benefits. The court should forbid the company from rescinding earned benefits, the USW argued. The corporation, M&G Polymers, asked the court to validate its reneging on its pledge to workers because, it contended, the collective bargaining agreement is insufficiently specific. M&G insisted that vagueness gives it carte blanche to shift costs to workers. 

 

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Silicon Valley Profits From Systemic Labor Exploitation

Jim Hightower

Jim Hightower Author, Commentator, America’s Number One Populist

The demigods of Silicon Valley like to present themselves as miracle workers, able to create electronic wonders (and wondrous profits) from nothing but their vaunted imaginations and entrepreneurial prowess.

Well, yes, that – plus their routine exploitation of workers. From illegal conspiracies that shut off upward mobility for their US employees to their disgraceful use of sweatshop labor abroad, a key component of their business plan is to squeeze billions of dollars a year from their workforce. Such is the price of "miracles."

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Chemical Plant Where 4 Workers Died Hadn’t Had Workplace Safety Inspection In 7 Years

Bryce Covert

Bryce Covert Economic Policy Editor, Think Progress

On Saturday morning, four workers died at a DuPont chemical plant that manufactures the pesticide Lannate in La Porte, Texas after a leak of the poisonous gas methyl mercaptan. A fifth was hospitalized but later released. The plant hasn’t been visited by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration since 2007.

Such a deadly accident without an explosion or fire is unusual, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Methyl mercaptan is subject to a number of federal environmental and safety regulations. But those regulations did not ensure that the plant was a safe place to work. It was last inspected by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) seven years ago, when it was issued two serious violations for the safe management of highly hazardous chemicals, which could result in toxic or explosive risks. It was fined $1,700 for one and $1,800 for the other, although the latter was later reduced to $1,700.

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Obama's Immigration Move About Much More Than Politics

Harold Meyerson

Harold Meyerson Editor-at-Large, The American Prospect

The commemorations of the 25th anniversary of the Berlin Wall’s fall have thrust into the public spotlight the border guard who ordered the gates opened. The subject of both a new German-language book and film, one-time Stasi Lt. Col. Harald Jäger has recounted why he defied his orders. And his story couldn’t be more relevant to the debate consuming our own nation.

On the evening of Nov. 9, 1989, prompted by an erroneous announcement from an East German Politburo spokesman that his compatriots would be free to cross the border, thousands of East Berliners flocked to the checkpoint Jäger supervised. His superiors told him to keep the gates closed, though he could let a few people through, provided he marked the passports of those he determined were activists and blocked their reentry when they came back.

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Forget The Pundits: Reactions To Obama’s Speech From The Immigrants Who Are Actually Impacted

Esther Yu-Hsi Lee

Esther Yu-Hsi Lee Immigration Reporter, Think Progress

Love was the strongest emotion felt at a downtown Washington, D.C. office Thursday night as President Obama announced that he would use his executive power to grant deportation relieffor millions of undocumented immigrants. At least 50 undocumented immigrants and advocates, many who have been in the immigration fight for years, were scattered at a watch party to view Obama’s speech from a projector. About five million undocumented immigrants are expected to be helped by the executive action. Just as advocates were quick to congratulate immigrants whose family could now come out of the shadows, others also expressed cautious happiness, and even sadness over the family members who were not given deportation cover.

Outlining a few points to address the broken immigration system, Obama welcomed millions of undocumented immigrants to come out of the shadows, including the parents of U.S. citizen and lawful permanent resident (LPR) children, as well as undocumented immigrants who have been here for at least five years. Clouding that announcement, however, was the advocates’ knowledge that Obama did not provide deportation cover for the parents of those who came here as children but do not have legal status, known as DREAMers.

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America Must Get Off the Corporate Hamster Wheel on Trade

America Must Get Off the Corporate Hamster Wheel on Trade

Union Matters

It’s Past Time for Corporations to Disclose Pay Ratios

Four years ago, in the Dodd-Frank Act, lawmakers in Congress required America’s top corporations to annually disclose the ratio between their CEO and median — most typical worker — pay. This disclosure, corporate lobbyists immediately claimed, would cost firms millions of dollars a year to prepare.

These lobbyists then began pounding on the federal regulators responsible for writing the regulations to implement Dodd-Frank’s disclosure mandate. They demanded relief. They’ve won delay. Regulators still haven’t issued the needed regulations. No corporation has yet had to disclose any CEO-worker pay ratio.

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