Leo W. Gerard

President’s Perspective

Leo W. Gerard USW International President

One Percenters Stuff their Pumpkin Pie Holes

One Percenters Stuff their Pumpkin Pie Holes
This is what a $75-a-pound turkey struts like.

This Thanksgiving, in dining rooms across America, the turkey will be smaller, the stuffing more meager, the pumpkin pie sliced thinner. Gratitude will be given. But roiling just below the surface, for far too many families, will be economic anxiety.

The vast majority of working Americans haven’t seen a real raise in 35 years. Meanwhile, every year, their health care costs rise. Their employers eliminate pensions. And their kids struggle with rising college or technical school tuition and debt. Workers worry whether they will ever be able to pay the bills.

By contrast, on the other side of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, the richest 1 percent are supersizing their feasts. For example, three families will spend $45,000 – each – for Marie Antoinette-style meals, gold flakes and all, at the Old Homestead Steakhouse in New York City. That’s up by $10,000 from the restaurant’s Thanksgiving fare for eight last year. It’s more, for one meal, than the average American worker earns in a year.

The 1 percent can spend $45,000 for a Thanksgiving supper because they’re gobbling up virtually all of the income from workers’ productivity increases. And now they’ve launched a new assault on workers. It’s a lawsuit called Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association (CTA). The 1 percent hopes it will prevent public service workers like teachers from joining together to collectively bargain for better wages and working conditions. If the $45,000-Thanksgiving-dinner crew wins the case, they’ll go after private-sector labor organizations next. They intend to gorge themselves until there’s nothing left for workers.

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Big Insurance's Health Care Scam for the Holidays

Dean Baker

Dean Baker Co-Director, Author, Center for Economic and Policy Research

Big Insurance's Health Care Scam for the Holidays

Last week United Health Care (UHC), the country's largest health insurance company, announced that it was considering leaving the health care exchanges set up under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). It claimed that it was losing money on the plans it offers in the exchange, so it might decide to give up this market.

The prospect of UHC leaving the exchanges naturally delighted foes of Obamacare. Many quickly celebrated this as the beginning of the end. If other insurers follow the lead of UHC, there may be no one left offering insurance in the exchanges. And if there are no exchanges, there is no Obamacare. People would no longer be guaranteed the option to buy an insurance policy without regard to their health.

Before we join the death of Obamacare celebration there are a few questions worth asking. First, is UHC really losing money in all of the exchanges in which it is participating? Remember each of these state exchanges are treated as separate pools, with rates set based on the costs for treating people in the state. If UHC is pulling out of all the exchanges does that mean it is losing money in every single state? Presumably that would be the case, since it's hard to see why UHC would be leaving a market in which it is making money.

If UHC is losing money in all the exchanges it has entered, that would really say a great deal about the competence of UHC's management. The day after UHC's announcement, Aetna, another major insurer, announced that it was happy with the performance of its plans in the exchanges and that it has no intention of leaving this market. If Aetna can apparently make a profit in most of the exchanges and UHC can't make money in any of them, then it doesn't sound like UHC is run by a very good team.

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This Thanksgiving: How To Talk About The Economy Without Getting Into An Argument

Liz Iacobucci Author, NH Labor News

This Thanksgiving: How To Talk About The Economy Without Getting Into An Argument

Is your family one of those families… where Thanksgiving dinner always ends up in a political argument?

First thing to remember is that arguing won’t get you anywhere. Research shows that when the people you’re talking with hold strong beliefs, arguing with them only makes it harder for them to change those beliefs. And “when people’s confidence in their beliefs is shaken, they become stronger advocates for those beliefs. … when faced with doubt, people shout even louder.”

Political scientists call it the “backfire” effect – and if you’re an activist, you need to know about it (and remember it). Also remember that there are neurological differences between “Republican” and “Democratic” brains… and there are behavioral differences… although scientists are still trying to figure out exactly what those differences mean.

So what are you supposed to do? If you’re, say, sitting around the Thanksgiving table when Great Uncle Chester starts berating your college-graduate niece about the fact that she’s living at home rather than in her own apartment…?

Start by finding common ground. There’s always something to agree on, if you just look hard enough. Even if it’s just a gentle restatement of what the other person said. “Yes, Uncle Chester, we all agree that college graduates should be able to find jobs that allow them to support themselves.”

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The Perils of Circus Politics

Robert Reich

Robert Reich Former U.S. Secretary of Labor, Professor at Berkeley

The Perils of Circus Politics

The next president of the United States will confront a virulent jihadist threat, mounting effects of climate change, and an economy becoming ever more unequal.

We're going to need an especially wise and able leader.

Yet our process for choosing that person is a circus, and several leading candidates are clowns.

How have we come to this?

First, anyone with enough ego and money can now run for president.

This wasn't always the case. Political parties used to sift through possible candidates and winnow the field.

Now the parties play almost no role. Anyone with some very wealthy friends can set up a Super PAC. According to a recent New York Times investigation, half the money to finance the 2016 election so far has come from just 158 families.

Or if you're a billionaire, you can finance your own campaign.

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Raise Wages, Improve Conditions for Poultry Workers

Roger Kerson

Roger Kerson Communications Consultant, National Council for Occupational Safety and Health

As Americans from coast-to-coast prepare for Thanksgiving, worker advocates are calling on CEOs of America’s largest poultry companies to raise wages, improve safety conditions and guarantee fair treatment for workers who help feed millions of American families.

Three advocacy organizations – Interfaith Worker Justice, the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health (National COSH) and the Western North Carolina Workers Center – today released copies of letters to:

Advocates cite low wages with scant benefits; high rates of injury among poultry workers; and a climate of fear and intimidation inside poultry plants as conditions that require immediate attention.

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Why Derrell Fights for $15

Why Derrell Fights for $15

Today we honor all veterans - including Derrell Odom, who received a Purple Heart serving our country in Iraq. Now, he struggles to provide for his son working for KFC. That's why yesterday he went ON STRIKE to #FightFor15.

Posted by Fight for $15 on Wednesday, November 11, 2015

America’s Offer Isn’t Exclusive to White Christians

America’s Offer Isn’t Exclusive to White Christians

Union Matters

Wage Theft is Crime, Deserves Jail Time

A Papa John’s franchise owner in New York City was sentenced last week to 60 days in jail for wage theft, a potentially precedent-setting punishment that could have wide-reaching consequences for the enforcement of labor law.

Abdul Jamil Khokhar pled guilty in July to cheating workers out of $230,000, denying them earned overtime pay and falsifying records to keep this information from tax authorities. Last week, he faced additional penalties: $280,000 in damages and what may be the first ever jail sentence for wage theft.

In the past, Khokhar’s illegal business practices would have likely yielded only a civil suit and the payment of a relatively small fine. However, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who earlier this year called fast food wage theft a “crime wave,” has been pushing for stronger sentences, joining other attorneys general across the country in making wage theft a top priority.

Schneiderman is right to treat Khokhar’s actions as a crime. Employers steal billions of dollars every year from workers, and, just like car theft, home invasion and mugging, wage theft has real victims.

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