Leo W. Gerard

President’s Perspective

Leo W. Gerard USW International President

Chinese, GOP Agree Non-Rich Shouldn’t Vote

Chinese, GOP Agree Non-Rich Shouldn’t Vote
Photo by Stephen Melkisethian on Flickr, taken Feb. 8 at Shaw University in Raleigh, N.C. during a Moral Monday Movement rally.

Speaking just like an American Republican, the Communist Chinese-appointed leader of Hong Kong, Leung Chun-ying, said last week that if the state granted democratic rights to its poor and working class, they could dominate elections and choose leaders who would meet their needs.

If Hong Kong’s 99 percenters picked their leaders, Mr. Leung said, “Then you would end up with that kind of politics and policies.”  To ensure politics and policies favoring Hong Kong’s one percent, Mr. Leung insists that a committee appointed in Beijing approve all candidates to succeed him.  

Mr. Leung fears rule by the majority – just as U.S. Republicans do. It’s the reason the GOP has launched a massive voter suppression campaign across the country. Republicans believe in rule by and for the one percent. To accomplish that, they must do what Mr. Leung and the Chinese Communist party did: foil democracy. That’s the GOP goal when it subverts America’s precious one person-one vote equality. Every American who holds democracy dear must do whatever it takes to defy GOP attempts to deny them access to the ballot next week.  

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End the Blame Game: Raise the Minimum Wage

Oren Levin-Waldman

Oren Levin-Waldman Professor of Public Policy and Public Administration, Metropolitan College of New York

Over the last three decades along with the various structural changes that have taken place in the economy, we can say that the face of the low-wage labor market has also changed. It used to be that the low-wage labor market characterized by unskilled labor as perhaps reflected by the percentage of high-school dropouts was extremely high. Three decades later, however, we find that increasingly the ranks of the low-wage labor market are filled with high school graduates, some college graduates and professional graduates.

Historically, we tended to define the low-wage market as those earning the minimum wage. At the same time, the minimum wage tended to be pegged at around 50% of average annual hourly earnings. A fair definition of the low-wage labor market, then, would be those earning between the statutory minimum wage and 50 percent of average annual earnings, or those we can say earn the effective minimum wage.

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Virtually All Americans’ Wealth Has Dropped To Where It Was Three Decades Ago

Bryce Covert

Bryce Covert Economic Policy Editor, Think Progress

Virtually All Americans’ Wealth Has Dropped To Where It Was Three Decades Ago

The bottom 90 percent of American families own just 23 percent of the country’s wealth, about the same share they had in 1940, according to a new paper from Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman.

This wide swath of Americans held just 15 percent of wealth in the 1920s, which grew to a peak of 36 percent by the mid-1980s. Yet it has fallen dramatically since then.

The economists note that the reason wealth has fallen for virtually all Americans except the very richest is because they are increasingly falling into debt. “Many middle class families own homes and have pensions, but too many of these families also have much higher mortgages to repay and much higher consumer credit and student loans to service than before,” they write in a brief for the Washington Center for Equitable Growth. There was a period when the increase in debt was offset by the increasing value of Americans’ assets: wealth for the bottom 90 percent was boosted by the stock market bubble in the 90s and the housing bubble of the 2000s.

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Speak Up

The Right To Vote Just Lost A Battle In The Supreme Court, But The War Comes After The Election

Ian Millhiser

Ian Millhiser Senior Constitutional Policy Analyst, Think Progress

The Right To Vote Just Lost A Battle In The Supreme Court, But The War Comes After The Election

The last month has been a terrible month for voting rights, but it could only be the beginning. Though the Supreme Court handed down four voting rights decisions in the past several weeks, three of which allowed voter suppression laws to take effect, all four of these were only preliminary decisions. It is likely that the justices will consider one or more of these laws again before they leave for their summer vacations at the end of June. And, if the Roberts Court’s previous record on voting rights is any indication, it is unlikely that a right that an earlier Supreme Court once described as “preservative of all rights” will fare very well the next time it comes before these justices.

The Court was confronted by an attempt to make it harder to vote almost as soon as the justices returned from their last round of summer vacation. A week before the Supreme Court officially gaveled in its new term, the justices handed down a 5-4 decision allowing Ohio to cut it’s early voting days. Just over a week later, they allowed two provisions of North Carolina’s comprehensive voter suppression law to take effect during the 2014 election. And then, last Saturday, the justices permitted Texas’s voter ID law to take effect despite a lower court’s finding that the law “was racially motivated.”

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The Excessive Political Power Of White Men In The United States, In One Chart

By Emily Baxter and Jamie Keane

White men make up 31% of the population, yet they hold 65% of elected offices in the United States.

According to data released Wednesday by the Reflective Democracy Campaign, which built a database of over 42,000 elected officials, America’s leaders do not look very much like their constituents. Whites, men and white men dominate elected offices. Women and people of color are massively underrepresented.

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Raise Your Voice: Vote Nov. 4

Raise Your Voice: Vote Nov. 4

Union Matters

Don't Let Tragedy Destroy Canadian Optimism

By Jamie West, USW Local 6500
President, Sudbury and District Labour Council

Like many of you, I was shocked to hear of the violence in Ottawa on Wednesday. I have friends who work on Parliament Hill and was relieved to read posts that they were safe and secure. At the same time, I felt a pang of guilt knowing the tragedy and mourning that Cpl. Cirillo’s friends and family were going to endure.

As a Canadian, I’m confused: Why would anyone want to harm us? Who’s friendlier than Canadians? Think about it: we’re the people who say “sorry” when other people bump into us. Our country is so friendly that citizens from other countries sew our maple leaf on their backpacks when they travel. We're so friendly that, in 2001, when planes were being used to create terror in New York, Canada allowed 255 US-bound aircraft to be diverted from the US to our airports.

I can’t understand why this would happen. I’m bewildered, frustrated, offended, angry, insulted, and filled with rage. As Canadians, we typically don’t wear our pride on our sleeves - except for during Olympic hockey and on Canada Day - we rarely wear anything with an obvious Canadian logo. Instead, we keep our Canadian pride nestled close to our hearts. As a result, this attack at our Nation’s capital has become an attack on our values; a betrayal of our friendliness; and, a shock to our culture.

However, what is bothering me more than the unnecessary bloodshed, the subsequent panic, and the confusion and shock, is how quickly rage seems to open the door towards racism. I understand the desire to lash out in an attempt to harm the gunman in any way that we can – to spit insults and slurs to signify our disgust of his actions. However, I am cautious of defining a culture by the actions of an individual.

I’m reminded that I have brothers and sisters in the union movement who have skin darker than my own. I also have Muslim friends and neighbors. And, when I hear the slurs directed at the gunman in Ottawa, I can’t help but feel it splash onto the innocent others – others who are blameless, yet harmed through our rage and anger because of their looks, clothing, or cultural beliefs.

And because of this, I urge us to be cautious. I urge us to recognize that there are those who will use the fuel of our anger to manipulate our actions. I urge us to remember the final words of the greatest Prime Minister that never was: “My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world.”

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