Leo W. Gerard

President’s Perspective

Leo W. Gerard USW International President

China Protects its Workers; America Doesn’t Bother

China Protects its Workers; America Doesn’t Bother
Image by Bananastock.

Confronted with a dire situation, a world power last week took strong action to secure its domestic jobs and manufacturing.

That was China. Not the United States.

China diminished the value of its currency.  This gave its exporting industries a boost while simultaneously blocking imports. The move protected the Asian giant’s manufacturers and its workers’ jobs.

Currency manipulation violates free market principles, but for China, doing it makes sense. The nation’s economy is cooling. Its stock market just crashed, and its economic powerhouse – exports – declined a substantial 8.3 percent in July ­– down to $195 billion from $213 billion the previous July. This potent action by a major economic competitor raises the question of when the United States government is going to stop pretending currency manipulation doesn’t exist. When will the United States take the necessary action to protect its industry, including manufacturing essential to national defense, as well as the good, family-supporting jobs of millions of manufacturing workers?

More ...

The Real War on Families: Why the U.S. Needs Paid Leave Now

Sharon Lerner

Sharon Lerner Journalist

Leigh Benrahou began laying plans to have a second child almost as soon as she had her first, a daughter named Johara, in 2011. Benrahou, 32, wanted to time the next birth so that when she returned to work, her mother, who works at an elementary school and has summers off, could babysit. Most importantly, Benrahou wanted to spend as much time as she could with her new baby while also keeping her relatively new job as the registrar at a small college.

While her husband, Rachid, 38, earns enough at a carpet cleaning company to cover their mortgage and food, without her paycheck they’d be forced to live close to the bone. And if she quit her job, Benrahou, who has a masters in nonprofit management, would take a big step backward in what she hoped would be a long career in higher education.

So Benrahou, who has wavy dark blond hair, blue eyes and a tendency to smile even through difficult moments, set about what may be the least romantic aspect of family planning in the United States: figuring out how to maximize time with a newborn while staying solvent, employed and, ideally, sane.

Only in America

Most people are aware that Americans have a raw deal when it comes to maternity leave. Perhaps they’ve heard about Sweden, with its drool-inducing 16 months of paid parental leave, or Finland, where, after about 9 months of paid leave, the mother or father can take—or split—additional paid “child care leave” until the child’s third birthday.

More ...

Maryland Governor Won’t Fire Housing Secretary Who Said Poor Moms Poison Their Kids To Get Free Rent

Alan Pyke

Alan Pyke Deputy Economic Policy Editor, Think Progress

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) has decided that a man who believes low-income parents might intentionally poison their children with lead in order to score free housing from the state should continue to administer Maryland’s public housing system.

During a public event Friday, State Housing Secretary Kenneth Holt said that state laws regarding lead abatement in homes are too strict and invite abuse. The secretary told the crowd “the current law could motivate a mother to put a fishing weight in a child’s mouth to elevate the level of lead in his bloodstream and qualify for free housing at the landlord’s expense until the child turned 18,” according to a paraphrase of the comments in the Baltimore Sun. Holt declined to defend his hypothetical child-abuse scheme with evidence that it has ever happened, according to the paper.

Holt quickly apologized over the weekend, and on Monday evening Hogan’s office told the Sun that the governor had decided to keep Holt on despite the comments. “The governor expressed his disappointment and directed the secretary to continue reaching out…to reassure [people] of his commitment to the safety and health of all Marylanders,” spokesman Doug Mayer told the paper. A group of 30 Democrats from the state legislature had called for Holt to resign, but Hogan “remains confident that he can continue to effectively lead this department,” the spokesman said.

More ...

Republican National Committee Endorses Anti-Gay Discrimination

Zack Ford

Zack Ford Editor, Think Progress LGBT

The Republican National Committee (RNC) may have rejected two anti-gay resolutions related to marriage equality and sex education, but it apparently approved another resolution blatantly endorsing discrimination against people who are gay, lesbian, or bisexual.

The RNC wants Congress to approve the First Amendment Defense Act (FADA). This bill, which the ACLU has called “a Pandora’s Box of taxpayer-funded discrimination against same-sex couples and their children,” would prevent the federal government from acting against businesses and non-profits that discriminate against same-sex married couples. This would mean that government workers could refuse to perform their duties, and businesses and organizations — including those that operate with support of taxpayer money — would be free to discriminate.

Ellen Barrosse, RNC chair of the Conservative Steering Committee, told The Daily Signal that neither the resolution nor the bill have anything to do with discrimination, but are instead “an attempt, for those of us who are people of faith, to protect religious organizations.” She offered the following example: “Does Catholic Charities have to place children with gay couples, or will they have to shut down? This is a free market, there are other agencies that will place children with them.”

More ...

Connecticut Inspects 25 Nail Salons, Shuts 23 Down Over Wage Abuse

Bryce Covert

Bryce Covert Economic Policy Editor, Think Progress

Connecticut Inspects 25 Nail Salons, Shuts 23 Down Over Wage Abuse

After the Connecticut labor department conducted random inspections at 25 nail salons, it found that 23 were violating wage laws and shut them down.

In the first enforcement of nail salons in the state, the Department of Labor’s Wage and Workplace Standards Division found that the vast majority were paying employees in cash without keeping payroll records, allowing them to duck paying Social Security and unemployment taxes, and many of them were not being paid the state’s minimum wage of $9.15 an hour nor overtime. At one salon, the employees were paid just $40 for a 10-hour day.

The department ordered the offending salons to pay at least $62,000 in back wages to more than 50 workers. They will also have to pay $130,000 in civil penalties for underreporting payroll, violating wage and hour laws, and having improper workers’ compensation coverage.

The enforcement actions came after the state’s labor department received complaints from workers who had read an expose in the New York Times on illegal labor and health practices. Those stories have led to many other significant changes in the salon industry, although mostly focused so far in New York. Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) created a task force to conduct nail salon inspections and institute new rules, has pushed for legislation to crack down on salons and give the state more power to shut them down, and launched a public education campaign that requires salons to post a “manicurists’ bill of rights” so that workers and the public are aware of legal requirements. The task force has inspected 755 salons and issued 1,799 violations.

More ...

Collective Bargaining Means Justice and Democracy

Collective Bargaining Means Justice and Democracy

Union Matters

America – Oligarchy or Democracy?

Recently, former President Jimmy Carter said that he felt the United States had become an oligarchy.  That sentiment can’t be brushed off as the emotionalism of a liberal.  Well-respected institutions like Princeton University, as well as progressive organizations such as CommonDreams.org, have also put forth that idea.

The Princeton effort is particularly germane to this discussion.  In April 2014, two researchers, Martin Gilens and Benjamin Page, published a study that concluded that the United States had become an oligarchy, rather than continuing to be a democracy.  Merriam-Webster.com defines oligarchy as

a country, business, etc., that is controlled by a small group of people, and / or: the people that control a country, business, etc.

Gilens and Page investigated over 1,800 policy initiatives taken during the time frame 1981 to 2002 by the Federal government.  Here’s how they summed up their work.

More ...