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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Breaking News: The Rich Discover Inequality

Jeff Faux

Jeff Faux

Breaking News: The Rich Discover Inequality

After forty years of rising income and wealth inequality, some of America's rich seem worried that maybe things have gone too far. In a recent New York Times Op Ed (August 9), for example, Peter Georgescu, CEO emeritus of the multinational public relations firm, Young and Rubicon, wrote that he is "scared" of a backlash that might lead to social unrest or "oppressive taxes."

The Times was so impressed with such enlightened views from this prominent capitalist that a few days later they devoted another long article with his answers to questions submitted by readers.

We should, I suppose, be grateful that Georgescu seems to understand that the gap between the rising value of what American workers produce and the stagnation of their wages has channeled the benefits of economic growth to shareholders (and, he might have added, but didn't, corporate CEOs). But if you are waiting for him and other members of his class to get serious about the problem, don't hold your breath.

Georgescu writes that he would like to see corporations pay their workers a fair wage. But with few exceptions, they don't. He doesn't tell us why, but the reason is obvious -- paying workers less has made their owners and top executives rich.

So, what to do?

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Georgia County Admits To Illegally Disenfranchising Voters

Alice Ollstein Political Reporter, Think Progress

Georgia County Admits To Illegally Disenfranchising Voters

Fulton County, Georgia admitted to illegally disenfranchising and misleading voters in the 2008 and 2012 elections in a settlement this month. For more than two dozen violations of state law — including improperly rejecting eligible ballots and sending voters to the wrong precincts — the county will pay a fine of $180,000. To make sure the problems do not continue in the future, the county has promised to spend an additional $200,000 on new training software for their poll workers.

Voting rights advocates who focus on the region, including Julie Houk with the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, praised the Secretary of State for investigating the violations but questioned whether the punishment fits the crime.

“What’s going to happen to that money?” she asked ThinkProgress. “How is the state going to use it? Is it wise to make the county pay a very large civil penalty in light of the economic crunch many of these counties are in? I wonder why a settlement couldn’t have been reached to set aside the money for remedial training to make sure the issues don’t happen again.”

The county, which includes Atlanta, has a heavily African American voting population and leans progressive, voting overwhelmingly for President Obama in 2008 and 2012. As detailed in the new settlement, county elections officials misinformed the precincts of who was coming to vote and when, failed to provide absentee ballots to voters who requested them, and failed to put voters who registered on time on the rolls, among other violations. The head of Fulton County’s elections office was fired last year, which she credits to her refusal to cover up the improper purging of voters in 2012.

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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.

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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