Leo W. Gerard

President’s Perspective

Leo W. Gerard USW International President

Fast Tracking Democracy to Hell

Fast Tracking Democracy to Hell
Photo of workers protesting Fast Track by Steven Dietz of Sharp Image Studios for the USW

Free traders in Congress formally proposed last week that lawmakers relax, put their feet up and neglect the rigor of legislative review for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade scheme.

The TPP is a secret deal among 12 Pacific Rim nations that was covertly negotiated by unelected officials and corporate bosses. It’s so clandestine that lawmakers elected to represent the American people were refused access to the deliberations. It would expand secret trade tribunals that corporations use to sue governments over democratically established laws and win compensation from taxpayers.

The Congressional free traders want to Fast Track authorization of the TPP. Fast Track enables Congress to abdicate its constitutionally mandated duty to regulate international trade. Instead of scrutinizing, amending and improving proposed trade deals, lawmakers use Fast Track to gloss over the specifics and simply vote yea or nay on the entire package as presented. With elected officials excluded from the talks, details of the treaty deliberately shrouded in secrecy and free traders demanding lawmakers ignore the deal’s effects on constituents, this process condemns democracy.

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Oil Refinery Workers on Strike over Explosive Issue

Jim Hightower

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

Oil Refinery Workers on Strike over Explosive Issue

It doesn't take highly-advanced knowledge and skills to work at one of these quick-fix automobile maintenance chains that specialize in routine jobs like muffler replacement or oil changes. But handling maintenance at a huge petro-chemical complex is a whole other story – an oil refinery is not a Jiffy Lube.

But the big shots of Big Oil have been treating maintenance at their explosive refineries as a task to be done on the cheap. BP, ExxonMobil, Motiva, Tesoro, and other global oil profiteers have been cutting back on the experienced, technically-skilled people responsible for keeping the miles of pipes, high-pressure equipment, balky gauges, and flammable liquids functioning properly and – most important – harmlessly. The top bosses (safely ensconced in faraway corporate headquarters) have decreed that maintenance and safety be contracted out to low-cost firms using temporary, inexperienced, inadequately-trained workers.

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The Word Missing From Rand Paul’s Announcement Speech: Cut

Bill Scher

Bill Scher Online Editor, Campaign for America's Future

The Word Missing From Rand Paul’s Announcement Speech: Cut

Sen. Rand Paul wants to radically slash the size of our federal government and drastically limit its responsibilities. Oddly for a devout ideologue, he doesn’t want to tell you that.

When Paul was speaking to the country at large in his presidential campaign announcement address, the word “cut” was never uttered, let alone “reduce” or “shrink.”

When he put numbers on his plans, the numbers were designed to sound big. For example, he asked rhetorically: “Currently some $3 trillion comes into the U.S. Treasury. Couldn’t the country just survive on $3 trillion?”

Amidst the usual “government is the problem, not the solution” rhetoric, he enthusiastically championed increased government spending on “new highways and bridges” (though his proposal would get the money from an one-shot infusion of cash stemming from a reduced tax rate on corporate profits now avoiding U.S. taxes offshore). Yet, he offered nothing about what government programs or agencies he would eliminate.

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Dang: The Chinese-Made Bay Bridge Continues to Fall Apart

Matthew McCullan

Matthew McCullan Senior Media Coordinator, Alliance for American Manufacturing

The San Francisco Chronicle reports the bridge's anchor rods may be snapping.

Good news for people who like bad news: There are serious problems with the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. Again. From the San Francisco Chronicle comes the news that one of the anchor rods in the bridge’s eastern span may have snapped:

An ultrasonic test performed late last month indicates that the steel fastener may be as much as 6 inches shorter than the other rods, Caltrans officials say. It could have snapped at the bottom because of corrosion, or it could simply have been cut or made shorter than the other 400-plus rods at the tower’s base, they say.

The answer could determine whether Caltrans must bolster the tower’s anchoring system.

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NAFTA and the TPP: Bad for the 99 Percent

NAFTA and the TPP: Bad for the 99 Percent

Union Matters

First Amendment Violations

Recently, the Republican administration in Wisconsin took a step that seems to challenge the First Amendment to our Constitution.  According to a report in the New York Times, a Wisconsin agency that manages state lands has forbidden its employees from working on issues related to climate change while they are on the job.

Other than the obvious non sequitur inherent in this stance – since climate change quite possibly affects the lands the agency manages – there’s another significant question here.  Does such an order violate the First Amendment rights of these employees?  Let’s take a look at that amendment, the first in what’s known as the Bill of Rights, and a statement of what so many consider emblematic of our nation.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

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