Leo W. Gerard

President’s Perspective

Leo W. Gerard USW International President

TPP Would Further Emasculate America

A century ago, Carl Sandburg dubbed Chicago the City of Big Shoulders: “hog butcher for the world, tool maker, stacker of wheat, player with railroads and the nation’s freight handler; stormy, husky brawling.”

All of this was true of America itself as well: Nation of big shoulders. The United States was a brawny country that would intervene to help win World War I and later quickly retool factories to serve as munitions mills to win World War II.  Now, though, as America’s tool makers and freight car builders are furloughed, their factories shuttered and offshored, America is wasting. Ill-conceived free trade deals are reducing it to a nation of stooped shoulders.

The newest proposed deal, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), signed in New Zealand last week by representatives of its 12 member states, would further enfeeble American manufacturing. The first of the ilk, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), devastated U.S. manufacturing. Allowing China into the World Trade Organization and the bad trade deals that followed NAFTA all pummeled American manufacturing when it was already down.

From cookies to car parts, factories fled America for places like China and Mexico. There, corporations pay workers a pittance and pollute virtually penalty-free. CEOs and shareholders roll in the resulting royal-sized profits. Meanwhile, formerly middle-class American workers and their families suffer. Communities bereft of sustaining mills collapse. And the United States atrophies, losing more and more of those once-bulky industrial shoulders.

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What Working Class New Hampshire Voters Think Of The GOP Candidates’ Poverty Plans

Alice Ollstein Political Reporter, Think Progress

Out of the snowy darkness came a line of fast-food workers, marching towards the site of the latest Republican debate. With beanies pulled over their ears and gloved hands holding protest signs, the workers, their families, and their supporters chanted, “You want our vote? Come get our vote.”

A record-breaking half-million New Hampshire voters are expected to go to the polls Tuesday to pick the nominees for the Republican and Democratic parties. The remaining White House hopefuls in both parties have descended on the Granite State, holding dozens of town halls, rallies, and debates each day to win over the state’s undecided voters, who have grilled them on their plans to address drug addiction, immigration, and the minimum wage.

Among the hundreds of low-wage workers protesting the Republican debate at St. Anselm College was 26-year-old New Hampshire native Megan Jensen, who walked off her job at KFC to join the crowd demanding a higher minimum wage.

“I share an apartment with a roommate and my three kids, who are ages 4, 2, and 10 months,” she told ThinkProgress. “It’s very hard to get by on $8 an hour. I have to use food stamps and subsidized health insurance to get by. If I got a raise, I’d be able to get my own place. I’d be able to support all three kids by myself without any help from the state or anybody.”

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Generation Sanders

Robert Kuttner

Robert Kuttner Co-Founder and Co-Editor, The American Prospect

For more than a year, my pragmatist friends and colleagues have under-estimated the appeal of Bernie Sanders. As a big Sanders win approaches in the New Hampshire primary, they insist that this will be Sanders' last hurrah and urge his supporters to get real and get with the program -- which is to unite behind Hillary Clinton as the Democrat best positioned to be nominated and to win in November.

Many of my political friends are simply missing the import of the Sanders campaign. Much of his appeal is a blend of generational and economic.

The millennial generation has gotten the worst economic screwing since the generation that came of age in the Great Depression. In some ways, their plight is worse, since in the Depression generation there was broad understanding that an economic catastrophe had occurred and it was correctly understood as political.

Until very recently, the plight of the millennials was seen as merely personal. Questions that should be, and are, deeply political have been taken as private problems -- how to best cope with a bad economic environment; how to pick a shrewd career path given lousy choices. But it was only a matter of time before self-awareness of this reality finally took political form.

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Justice Ginsburg’s Warning To The American Worker

Ian Millhiser

Ian Millhiser Senior Constitutional Policy Analyst, Think Progress

Lochner v. New York is one of the Supreme Court’s great anti-precedents. Typically taught in law schools as an example of how judges should not behave, Lochner rested on a fabricated “right to contract” that, in effect, gave employers broad license to exploit their workers. The so-called right invented in Lochner and similar cases later formed the basis for decisions striking down the minimum wage and laws protecting workers’ right to organize.

Speaking at Brandeis University last Thursday, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg offered a warning that Lochner may not be as much of a relic of the past as it is often presented in legal textbooks.

I was reminded of Lochner reading some decisions of the Court concerning workers, consumers, credit card holders who signed agreements saying “if you have a dispute with us, you can bring it only in arbitration — not in court — and you cannot use the class action device. You must sue for your individual claim, which might be 30 dollars, and that’s it.” And that has also been described as tied to liberty of contract.

The cases Justice Ginsburg refers to concern a common practice where companies refuse to do business with consumers — or threaten not to hire a worker — unless the worker or consumer agrees to sign away their right to bring any disputes against the company in a real court, and instead submit to a private arbitrator.

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Our Jobs Are Disappearing

Paul Buchheit

Paul Buchheit Author, editor, expert on income inequality

Americans are feeling the impoverishing effects of the shift from middle-income to low-income jobs. The disappearance—or, more accurately, downsizing—of living-wage jobs is documented by numerous reports that reveal the suddenness and the extent of this affront to middle America.

First, the Neoliberal Explanation: It's Not Really Happening

Business writer Robert Samuelson calls the post-recession low-wage recovery a "myth." To support his claim he cites a study from the Economic Policy Institute which, according to Samuelson, proves that "the economy’s employment profile—the split between high- and low-paying jobs—hasn’t changed much since the recession or, indeed, the turn of the century."

But the EPI analysis is based on average wages within industries, rather than on the median, which reflects unequal growth. If the median had kept up with the average over the past 15 years, the current median wage would be $1/hour higher, or about $2,000 per year. The employment profile has actually changed a great deal since the year 2000.

There's more. The EPI analyst claims that "jobs are being added relatively in proportion to their share." But she only considers one year's data, after much of the damage had already been done. Even so, the EPI figures show that the percentage of middle-wage jobs added in 2014 was 6.3 percent less than the overall percentage of middle-wage jobs (42.7% to 40%)—a rather dramatic change for a single year.

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Yes We Canada

Yes We Canada

Union Matters

Bernie Sanders: From Political Science Fiction to a Force Set to Radically Disrupt the Political Marketplace

Hugh J. Campbell

Hugh J. Campbell Son of a steelworker, Philadelphia, Pa.

In his article Is Bernie Sanders the ‘Star Wars’ of politics? David J Adams compares Bernie Sanders to Star Wars’ Obi Wan who awakens Luke to his own potential. Sanders is demonstrating that the common folk, the everyday working families, the farmhands in remote parts of the political galaxy, actually do have power, that they can influence the political system and bring about change, that they can liberate themselves from perceived oppressors and have the better world they want.

As with Star Wars, the Sanders’ brand, his story, taps into our deepest longings. We want to believe the promise of ‘a new hope.’ We want to believe a better world is possible. We want to believe that by uniting together as a people we can awaken a force that can defeat the dark side.


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