Leo W. Gerard

President’s Perspective

Leo W. Gerard USW International President

This Budget Endangers Americans

This Budget Endangers Americans
Toxic smoke from the 2012 Chevron refinery fire in Richmond, Calif., that sent 15,000 residents to hospitals. Photo by Nick Fullerton/Flickr

After the president issued a budget last week slashing and burning environmental, labor and educational programs, the guy responsible for the thing, Mick Mulvaney, contended those financial massacres are the heart’s desire of the “steelworker in Ohio, the coal-mining family in West Virginia, the mother of two in Detroit.”

Mulvaney, director of the Office of Management and Budget, asserted that members of my union, the United Steelworkers (USW), coal miners and urban parents are eager to kill off Public Broadcasting’s Big Bird, to drink lead-laden water, to breathe cough-inducing air and to work among life-threatening dangers.

This illustrates a complete lack of knowledge of the working and living conditions of huge swaths of Americans. Big Bird and Mr. Rogers are way more popular than Congress. Americans would much rather pay their freight than the wages of politicians. Americans are horrified by the poisoned water in Flint, Mich., and are willing to invest in an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that would prevent such health hazards. And steelworkers and coal miners have seen dismemberment and death on the job and don’t want the Chemical Safety Board (CSB) eliminated or the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) decimated. 

Americans balk at a budget that renders them less safe in their homes and workplaces.

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The effort to filibuster Gorsuch just got a big boost

Ian Millhiser

Ian Millhiser Senior Constitutional Policy Analyst, Think Progress

The highest ranking Democrat in the United States Senate is on Team Spine.

“I have concluded that I cannot support Judge Neil Gorsuch’s nomination to the Supreme Court,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) announced on the Senate floor Thursday morning. More significantly, Schumer also indicated that he will join a filibuster of Gorsuch’s nomination.

“His nomination will have a cloture vote,” said Schumer. Gorsuch “will have to earn 60 votes for confirmation. My vote will be no, and I urge my colleagues to do the same.”

As a federal judge, Gorsuch — who President Trump nominated to a seat that Senate Republicans held open for a year in the hopes that Trump would fill it — voted to limit women’s access to birth control if their employers have religious objections to contraception. He attempted to cut off funding for Planned Parenthood in Utah. He has an aggressive plan to consolidate power within the federal judiciary, at the expense of federal agencies such as the EPA. And Gorsuch is also almost certain to be the fifth vote to uphold voter suppression laws that target groups that tend to prefer Democrats to Republicans.

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While Gorsuch was testifying, the Supreme Court unanimously said he was wrong

Ian Millhiser

Ian Millhiser Senior Constitutional Policy Analyst, Think Progress

About 40 minutes after Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch began his second day of testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, all eight of the justices he hopes to join said a major disability decision Gorsuch wrote in 2008 was wrong.

Both the Supreme Court’s decision and Gorsuch’s 2008 opinion involved the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), which requires that public school systems which take certain federal funds provide a “free appropriate public education” to certain students with disabilities.

Applying this law to individual students, the Supreme Court acknowledged in its Wednesday opinion in Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District, is not an exact science. “A focus on the particular child is at the core of the IDEA,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for the unanimous Supreme Court. “The instruction offered must be ‘specially designed’ to meet a child’s ‘unique needs’ through an ‘[i]ndividualized education program.’”

But while this process can be difficult, it must provide meaningful educational benefits to disabled students — which brings us to Judge Gorsuch’s error in a 2008 opinion. In Thompson R2-J School District v. Luke P., a case brought by an autistic student whose parents sought reimbursement for tuition at a specialized school for children with autism, Gorsuch read IDEA extraordinarily narrowly.

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Watch Al Franken shut down Gorsuch’s cruel decision in the ‘Frozen Trucker’ case

Laurel Raymond

Laurel Raymond General Reporter, Think Progress

Senator Al Franken (D-MN), as he said himself during Neil Gorsuch’s confirmation hearing on Tuesday, used to have “a career in identifying absurdity” as a humorist and one of SNL’s original writers.

Ironically, his early career has carried over rather too well to policy making, as he demonstrated while grilling Gorsuch about his ruling in the so-called “Frozen Trucker case.”

The case at hand is that of Alphonse Maddin, a truck driver for TransAm. The brakes on Maddin’s trailer locked up on a subzero January night, and he called for help from TransAm’s road service. They told him to wait, and he did — for two hours, despite discovering that the heat in his truck cab was broken. When he was woken by a phone call, he had a numb torso and couldn’t feel his feet.

“If you fall asleep waiting in 14 below zero weather, you can freeze to death. You can die,” Franken explained in his retelling of the case.

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9 Ways the Republican Health Care Bill Makes Health Coverage in America Unaffordable and Out of Reach

The congressional Republican health plan is an attack on everyone’s health benefits. No health care coverage—workplace plans, Medicare, Medicaid or the individual insurance coverage now available as a result of the Affordable Care Act—is untouched. For more than a century, working people in their unions have fought to make health care a right for every American. The Republican plan contradicts this very idea by making care less affordable and less accessible. It’s bad for our health care, it’s bad for working families, and we fully oppose it.

Here are nine ways the Republican health care bill is bad for America’s working families and their health. 

1. The Republican health plan will take health coverage away from 24 million people.

Congress’ budget experts say the Republican plan will take health benefits away from 24 million people once it goes into full effect. This haphazard “repeal and replace” effort will result in painful taxes on working families, cuts to Medicaid, tax giveaways for the super-rich and a weakening of Medicare. Of all the bad ideas in this flawed plan, forcing workers to pay a so-called “Cadillac tax” on employer-provided health care has to be among the worst. That’s a terrible plan for health care in America.

2. The Republican plan isn’t really a health care plan at all. It’s a massive transfer of wealth from working people to Wall Street.

The Republican plan gives the 400 highest-income households an average tax cut of about $7 million each. The average millionaire household will get more than $50,000 every year. Insurance corporations will score $145 billion over 10 years from the Republican plan, while pharmaceutical manufacturers will get $25 billion. Republicans pay for these tax breaks by cutting health benefits for everyday Americans who struggle the most to make ends meet and taxing people’s workplace health plans.

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Union Matters

Neil Gorsuch Unacceptable for Supreme Court

Hugh J. Campbell

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

Bill Haschke’s Neil Gorsuch is the wrong choice for U.S. Supreme Court provides an historical framework for the U.S. Senate to reject confirm Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court

Our founding fathers knew that only government could protect the rights of all citizens, because it would be large enough to challenge all other economic powers who wanted to exploit peoples’ rights for their own greedy pursuit of wealth and power. The declaration states “…that to protect these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”

The Declaration of Independence informs us of exactly what governments should be, whom they serve and the values that should be applied to form valid governments; it codified the natural rights of man. After our “slavery issue” was resolved, the court began interpreting the constitution more in the light of the Declaration of Independence, in keeping with the exceptional ideals put forth in our founding document.

However, since January 7, 1972 when Justices Powell and Rehnquist were sworn-in, the SCOTUS began ignoring the Declaration of Independence with more and more power over our elections, and therefore our government, being granted to powerful economic interest, including corporations, culminating with the Citizens United case.

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Out of Pocket and Out of Reach

Out of Pocket and Out of Reach