Leo W. Gerard

President’s Perspective

Leo W. Gerard USW International President

Killing Uncle AL

Specialty metals manufacturer ATI reinvented itself in recent years. Instead of serving as a vital organ in the dozen communities where it operates mills, it decided to be a boil, blight - a bane upon civic life in six states.

Communities once cherished their ATI specialty mills and the feeling was reciprocated. Managers knew mill workers by name, lived in the same towns and fulfilled civic responsibilities. The mills contributed to scout troops and fire departments. Townspeople referred to the plants as Uncle AL, for Allegheny Ludlum, the name before its Aug. 15, 1996 merger with Teledyne that created ATI.

But now ATI is butchering that time-honored relationship.  It has demanded tax abatements and special electrical rates and forced excessive overtime on weary workers. Its disdain for civic engagement is most clearly demonstrated by its decision to unlawfully lock its 2,200 skilled union workers out of their jobs on Aug. 15 despite the Steelworkers’ willingness to continue working. By wasting untold millions on security guards and highly paid, but inexperienced replacement workers, ATI has finished converting itself from a pillar of the community into a pariah.

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Business Lobby Is Denied Overtime To Kill Overtime Rule

Isaiah J. Poole

Isaiah J. Poole Executive editor, OurFuture.org

This is the final week that the Labor Department is accepting comments on a proposed rule that would make some 5 million additional workers eligible for overtime pay for working more than 40 hours a week. A last-ditch effort to give businesses more time to campaign to defeat the rule was rejected today by the Department of Labor.

The overtime rule is a big deal for workers who earn as little as $24,000 a year in salaried positions – they are called managers but very little of what they actually do could be considered “managerial.” These are the people who stock store shelves, keep facilities clean, help serve food and do any number of other tasks that are typically done by hourly workers. But by calling these workers managers, they can require them to work virtually unlimited hours – as many as 70 or 80 hours a week – without giving them a dime in additional pay. That means some “managers” can be effectively working for less than the minimum wage.

The Labor Department is proposing raising the wage threshold for considering someone a salaried employee from $23,660 (less then the poverty level for a family of four) to $50,400. That would mean that the percentage of workers eligible for overtime pay would be closer to the 60 percent of workers who were eligible for overtime pay in 1975. Currently, that percentage has fallen to 8 percent.

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Government of, by, and for Big Money

Jim Hightower

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

Government of, by, and for Big Money

Your standard governor, congress critter, and other elected officials routinely insist that they represent "The People." But when it Comes to making public policy, do they actually represent you… or Mr. Money, who writes big campaign checks?

Right.

Any pretension that we live in a self-governing democratic republic is gone. It's been snuffed out by a tiny club of Big Money donors (only about, 600 people out of our population of 330 million). They've empowered themselves to choose candidates, control the public debate, and bend public policy to their selfish interests. Both major political parties are complicit in this kleptocratic transformation – Republicans by aggressively pushing it, and Democrats by passively acquiescing to it.

While Barack Obama has done nothing to stop this money-perversion of democracy, he's at least made noise about making the thieves disclose their theft. But noise is not action, and the GOP's enablers of the thievery have even moved to kill Obama's modest disclosure ideas. In June, for example, House Republicans quietly voted to prohibit the SEC – the shareholder's watchdog – from requiring CEOs to tell the corporate owners how much of their money is being spent on particular political candidates. Another GOP backroom proviso would keep the IRS from disclosing the names of corporate tax-law manipulators that use so-called "social-welfare" groups to funnel money anonymously into partisan political campaigns. Also, a third Republican hide-and-seek provision would allow corporations that get billions of dollars in taxpayer funds to avoid telling us the names of lawmakers they're showering with campaign cash.

The torrent of secret corporate money in our elections is hosing our democratic ideals and possibilities, blasting the people out of the process and imposing Big Money governance over America.

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This has been reposted from Jim Hightower's website.

OSHA Proposes Cutting Worker Exposure To Beryllium By 90 Percent

Mark Gruenberg

Mark Gruenberg Editor, Press Associates Union News

OSHA Proposes Cutting Worker Exposure To Beryllium By 90 Percent

It’s only taken 12-1/2 years, but after Steelworker pressure and after management joined the push, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration plans to cut worker exposure to beryllium by 90 percent. Beryllium is a heavy metal whose inhalation causes a chronic lung disease and may lead to lung cancer.

OSHA’s proposed rule would cut beryllium exposure to 0.2 micrograms per cubic meter of air per 8-hour working day. Workers in aerospace, smelters, ceramics, dental labs and more – at least 35,000 workers nationwide – could benefit.  Beryllium is also “an essential component of nuclear weapons,” OSHA says, so workers in those plants are at risk, too.

OSHA calculates the new lower limit would save 96 workers’ lives annually, and halt 50 cases of non-fatal illnesses.  The Steelworkers and the leading U.S. manufacturer, Materion, came to OSHA in 2002 to urge it to write a new rule. OSHA started considering that in 1975. "This collaboration of industry and labor presents a historic opportunity to protect the lives and lungs of thousands of beryllium-exposed workers," said OSHA Administrator Dr. David Michaels, a public health specialist. "We hope other industries where workers are exposed to deadly substances join with unions and other organizations representing those workers to reduce exposures, prevent diseases and save lives."

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Nevada Unions to Trump: Pay Your Hotel’s Workers Fair Wages

Mark Gruenberg

Mark Gruenberg Editor, Press Associates Union News

Nevada Unions to Trump: Pay Your Hotel’s Workers Fair Wages

As far as Nevada’s unions are concerned, hotel mogul-turned-Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump should put his money where his mouth is, and pay his hotel’s workers in Las Vegas fair and living wages. And recognize their union, too.

The 500-plus workers, who seek to join Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees Local 226, are battling Trump management over recognition, wages and working conditions.

They add hotel management is not only breaking labor law – including verbal and physical assaults and verbal threats – but that they’re not following the boss’ own campaign slogan of “Make America Great Again!”

So the hotel workers, joined by Teamsters Local 986 members and other unions, took their campaign to the streets with a march through downtown Las Vegas, to Trump’s hotel, on the evening of August 21. That came two days after more than 100 of them joined Democratic presidential contender Martin O’Malley in a pro-worker press conference there. 

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Trump Logic

Trump Logic

Union Matters

God Blesses America with Bernie Sanders’ Populist Revolution, Necessary for Amending our Constitution

Hugh J. Campbell

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

The Article Expanding Democracy by Amending the Constitution highlights that seven of the 17 constitutional amendments adopted since the Bill of Rights have reversed damaging Supreme Court decisions that threatened popular democracy and features the women's suffrage amendment (19th) that women fought for, tooth and nail, for more than 70 years in every state across the country.

The 19th was the fourth amendment to be ratified of the 11 both adopted and ratified between July 12, 1909 and July 1, 1971, the last cluster of populist amendments in our history. The truth be told, most if not all of our constitutional amendments were the result of populist activism. No constitutional amendment has been both adopted and ratified since the Aug. 23, 1971 Powell Memo that has ushered in more than four decades of both crony capitalist and anti-populist officeholders, as well as thwarting the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA).

Restarting a similar 60+ year period of constitutional amendments that ended in 1971 within the next half-dozen or so years necessitates retaking control of the U.S. House/Senate, enough state legislature/governorships and the White House at least by January 2021. This is no small task, but is realistic since the U.S. House turns over three times, the White House twice, all governorships at least once and the U.S. Senate once by January 2021.

As an optimist, I believe it is the darkest before the dawn, the U.S. political system of is at a tipping-point and that wide spread populism can reverse the political pendulum’s 44 years crony capitalist/anti-populist journey.

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