Leo W. Gerard

President’s Perspective

Leo W. Gerard USW International President

Forced Trade

Forced Trade
Photo by author Chad Broughton of Dave Bevard, former Machinists local union president at the Maytag factory in Galesburg, Ill., standing beside the last refrigerator produced there in 2004 before the corporation moved production to Mexico. The refrigerator is autographed by some of the 1,600 workers who lost their jobs.

Senators who voted last week to Fast Track ratification of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) call it a free trade deal, but really, it’s forced trade imposed on protesting American workers who have endured its damaging effects for decades.   

Under the free trade regime, rich and powerful corporate interests have hauled in ever-higher profits as they shipped manufacturing overseas to low-wage, no-environmental-regulation countries. Meanwhile, American workers lost jobs, health benefits, income and all sense of stability.

For the past 50 years, the government provided compensation to some American workers who suffered because of trade deals. They got Trade Adjustment Assistance, a little bit of money to help them subsist and retrain after losing their jobs. Now, the wealthy beneficiaries of free trade, and the Republicans they fund, contend that senior citizens should pay the cost of Trade Adjustment Assistance. That Republicans feel it’s appropriate to cut Medicare to cover the cost of Trade Adjustment Assistance illustrates how deeply flawed American trade policy is. It is based on the philosophy that workers and the retired should suffer to facilitate the rich getting richer.

More ...

The Power of Stupid Ideas: ‘Three Generations That Have Never Worked’

Robert MacDonald

Robert MacDonald Sociology Professor, Teesside University, UK

This month I ran a workshop with a group of first year undergraduate sociology students at Teesside University (in the North East of England). Our students tend to be from working-class or lower-middle class backgrounds and often the first in their families to go to university. I’d been invited to give an insight into a ‘real life’ research project, and I began by asking for responses and thoughts about some quotations:

‘Behind the statistics lie households where three generations have never had a job’ (ex-British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, 1997).

‘…on some deprived estates…often three generations of the same family have never worked’ (Iain Duncan Smith, 2009; now British government Minister for Work and Pensions).

‘To reintroduce the culture of work in households where it may have been absent for generations’ (Universal Credit, Department of Work and Pensions, 2010; this is a document that introduces a very major overhaul of UK welfare payments).

‘…there are four generations of families where no-one has ever had a job’ (Chris Grayling, ex-Minister for Work and Pensions, 2011).

More ...

Be “the Wave” That Sweeps Away TPP

Jim Hightower

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

Suddenly, the Trans-Pacific Partnership is in the news!

After years of negotiating the TPP behind closed doors, the corporate and governmental elites who’ve drafted this Declaration of Corporate Dependence are now demanding that our congress critters rubber-stamp it, pronto. Most Americans have never even heard of it, and that’s not by accident. In fact, all you need to know about TPP is that the Powers That Be don’t want you to know anything about it – what it is, what’s in it, where came from… nothing.

Trust us, they’re now saying, for this is a phantasmagorical free trade agreement that’ll deliver a 7-course dinner to everyone! “Trust Us?” I’d sooner trust a pack of coyotes with my last lamb chop! In fact, every bit of that 7-course dinner – the Dom Pérignon, truffled pâté, Beluga caviar, Chateaubriand, Cabernet Sauvignon, chocolate soufflé, Grande Marnier – goes to the corporate elites who effectively dictated this thing. They were part of the insider process that intentionally kept you and me from having a seat at the negotiating table. As the age-old adage puts it: “If you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu.”

More ...

Making the Economy Work for the Many, Not the Few -- Step 1: Raise the Minimum Wage

Robert Reich

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

Making the Economy Work for the Many, Not the Few -- Step 1: Raise the Minimum Wage

A basic moral principle that most Americans agree on is no one who works full time should be in poverty, nor should their family.

Yet over time we've seen significant growth in the "working poor" -- people working full time, sometimes even 60 or more hours each week, but at such low wages that they remain impoverished.

What to do?

One step is to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour. This is winnable. A powerful movement is fighting for $15 an hour and they're winning new laws in cities and states, and forcing companies to raise wages.

More ...

Sometimes People Need a Hand – And Some Boots

Sometimes People Need a Hand – And Some Boots

Union Matters

Fantasy Politics

Bashing liberals is a time-honored sport on the far right.  Bashing the Clintons can therefore legitimately be compared to fantasy baseball.  In each of these, one can construct one’s own reality, related to facts no more than one wishes.

A major-league example of Clinton bashing is the book Clinton Cash, by Peter Schweizer, founder of the Government Accountability Institute.  Mr. Schweizer is a conservative with a history of getting it wrong.  According to Media Matters, his most recent work continues that tradition.

Right-wing snark of recent years, like the purple-heart Band-Aids that mocked John Kerry’s Presidential candidacy in 2004, has often been funded by uber-wealthy conservatives.  In the case of Clinton Cash, the folks behind the screen are, apparently, the Koch Brothers.

These siblings are no slouches when it comes to keeping conservative causes afloat; their efforts have included bankrolling the campaign to prevent the recall of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.  Operating as they do so far under the radar, the Koch Brothers’ efforts to distort the information that underlies our electoral process might seem almost impossible to overcome.  But they’re mot.

Not even the Koch Brothers have enough money to outstrip the votes of millions of motivated Americans.

***

To submit a blog to Union Matters, e-mail it to bstack@usw.org. Keep it to 250 words or fewer. You MUST include your full name, hometown, and state. You may attach a photograph of yourself. Please include a phone number. This WILL NOT be published. Posting any given blog is within the discretion of the USW. No blog using foul language (this is a family site), false information (we don’t want to get sued), or unnecessary personal attacks (again, we don’t want to get sued) will be used. Wait a reasonable period of time, then blog again!

More ...