Leo W. Gerard

President’s Perspective

Leo W. Gerard USW International President

Bad Trade

Bad Trade
U.S. jobs lost because of trade deficit with China, 2001-2013, in thousands of jobs (EPI).

Under billions of tons of imports, the American dream is suffocating.

The American people have lost faith. They know that bad trade has bled factories, middle class jobs and wage increases from the country.

A report issued last week by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) details how bad trade has cost Americans hope. And hope is the essence of the American dream, hope for a good, steady job with benefits and a pension, one that supports a family and a home, one that enables the kids to achieve even better lives. Bad trade has battered all of that. And more damage is threatened by pending trade deals and a so-called fast track process to approve them without in-depth deliberation.

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Thanks to Labor Board Ruling, You Can Now Use Company Email to Organize a Union

Moshe Z. Marvit

Moshe Z. Marvit Attorney, Fellow, The Century Foundation

Thanks to Labor Board Ruling, You Can Now Use Company Email to Organize a Union

This week, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) issued a decision and a rule that could make organizing a union significantly easier for American workers.

First, yesterday the Board recognized that email is one of the primary ways that workers communicate, and that its case law and election rules needed to reflect this reality. The NLRB issued a landmark decision in Purple Communications which opens the door to allowing workers to use employers’ email systems for union purposes—and admitted that it had misunderstood in previous cases how email works. In doing so, it overturned a Bush-era Board decision, Register Guard, which allowed employers to prohibit use of company email for non-work related purposes, including organizing and union purposes, unless the employer can show special circumstances that justify specific restrictions.

In the 2007 decision, the Labor Board analogized email to other employer equipment—such as bulletin boards, telephones, photocopiers and televisions—and found that the employer had a “basic property right to regulate and restrict employee use of company property.” In dissent, Members Liebman and Walsh criticized the Board, stating that the decision “confirms that the NLRB has become the Rip Van Winkle of administrative agencies. Only a Board that has been asleep for the past 20 years could fail to recognize that e-mail has revolutionized communication both within and outside the workplace.”

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Trying to Teach Ethics to Congress Critters

Jim Hightower

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

Do you – or anyone – really need a book of rules and a three-hour briefing on ethics in order to do your job ethically?

If you're a congress critter, apparently so, for that's what newly-elected members of the new Congress that'll convene in January have just received. Nearly all of the newcomers rode to victory on a tsunami of inherently-corrupting corporate cash, but now they're being instructed in a crash course on Capitol Hill ethics – not learning how to be ethical, but how to avoid ending up being investigated, indicted, or... in jail.

You see, in the rarefied air of Washington, one can be blatantly unethical, as long as your behavior has not technically been declared illegal. It's a fine line, so this latest class of special-interest lawmakers were eager learners.

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Even With a GOP Congress, Obama Could Still Defend American Workers. Here’s How.

David Moberg

David Moberg Senior Editor, In These Times

Even With a GOP Congress, Obama Could Still Defend American Workers. Here’s How.

After the Republican mid-term election victories last November, labor unions and other worker advocates can expect virtually nothing but trouble from Congress over the next two years. With their ongoing attempts to undermine the National Labor Relations Board and the strong likelihood that they will bury any effort to increase the minimum wage, the Republicans’ grand plan calls for fewer rights and no pay increase for the working poor.

But the Obama administration may be able to execute an end-run around the GOP and fix some of the big problems facing workers if it wants to—especially those in low-wage, non-union jobs. Obama can veto whatever horrible measures Congress puts on his desk, and he can use several tools such as executive orders, drafting tougher rules to implement legislation more effectively, and demanding more vigorous action on labor law enforcement. 

The president has been increasingly exercising his executive powers. In one of his first major actions after the election, for example, he issued an executive order curbing deportation of undocumented immigrants. Last July, Obama issued the “Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces” executive order, which sets up a procedure to identify and screen out or reform federal contractors with serious histories of labor law violations. Earlier that month, he banned discrimination against gay workers by federal contractors, and in February 2014 he used his executive power to set a $10.10 minimum wage for all federal contract employees.

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Unhealthy: Eating in Restaurants that Don't Provide Workers with Paid Sick Leave

Unhealthy: Eating in Restaurants that Don't Provide Workers with Paid Sick Leave

Union Matters

Just When You Thought It Was Safe…

Almost as soon as it appeared that the Affordable Care Act had been accepted as a legitimate part of government services, along comes the political equivalent of Bruce in the movie Jaws.

It’s a case before the U.S. Supreme Court called King vs. Burwell, challenging the legality of tax credits offered through the federal health insurance exchange, HealthCare.gov.

The five conservative Justices of the Supreme Court will control the fate of Obamacare. If their ruling eliminates tax credits offered through HealthCare.gov, enrollees in 34 states without state exchanges could lose the tax credits that makes their health insurance affordable.

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