Leo W. Gerard

President’s Perspective

Leo W. Gerard USW International President

The GOP Has Money to Kill

The GOP Has Money to Kill

Shock and awe describes the budgets issued last week by Republicans in the House and Senate. The shock is that the GOP never stops trying to destroy beloved programs like Medicare. Awe inspiring is their audacity in describing their killing plans as moral.

When the House released its budget last Tuesday, Georgia Republican Rep. Rob Woodall said, “A budget is a moral document; it talks about where your values are.” His chamber’s spending plan shows that Republicans highly value war and place no value on health care for America’s elderly, working poor and young adults.

The opposite of win-win, the GOP budgets are kill-kill. Despite the GOP’s successful demand in 2011 for spending caps, Republicans now want more money for the military. War kills, as too many families of troops deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan know. By contrast, Republicans gouge domestic spending, condemning Americans to die unnecessarily from untreated disease. The GOP intends to revoke the health insurance of tens of millions by repealing the Affordable Care Act, voucherizing Medicare and slashing Medicaid. The Republican plans mandate overtime for the Grim Reaper. 

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The Conundrum of Corporation and Nation

Robert Reich

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

The Conundrum of Corporation and Nation

The U.S. economy is picking up steam but most Americans aren't feeling it. By contrast, most European economies are still in bad shape, but most Europeans are doing relatively well.

What's behind this? Two big facts.

First, American corporations exert far more political influence in the United States than their counterparts exert in their own countries.

In fact, most Americans have no influence at all. That's the conclusion of Professors Martin Gilens of Princeton and Benjamin Page of Northwestern University, who analyzed 1,799 policy issues and found that "the preferences of the average American appear to have only a miniscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy."

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New Restaurant Gets Rid Of Tipping, Pays Every Employee $15 An Hour

Bryce Covert

Bryce Covert Economic Policy Editor, Think Progress

New Restaurant Gets Rid Of Tipping, Pays Every Employee $15 An Hour

William Street Common has been open for less than two weeks in Philadelphia, but owner Avram Hornik says it’s already hitting its numbers even with a totally different business model than most restaurants.

The “indoor beer garden,” as he calls it, which serves up comfort food and craft beer at communal tables, pays all of its employees, from the servers to the dishwashers, at least $15 an hour plus paid sick leave and health insurance benefits. The customer experience is unique as well: tips aren’t mandatory and all the prices for different beers are the same. So every drink costs $6: $5 for the drink itself plus a 20 percent service charge.

“We wanted people to compare apples to apples,” he said. “Instead of charging $6 and no tip, we wanted the customers to understand that the staff is being taken care of.”

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How Much Progress for Women in Past 20 Years?

Tula Connell

Tula Connell Managing Editor, AFL-CIO

As more than 8,500 union members and other civil society activists gather at the United Nations in New York for the Commission on the Status of Women meeting, new research shows women have made some gains in the two decades since the landmark global meeting on women in Beijing but continue to suffer from economic insecurity and widespread discrimination and inequality in the workplace.

Fewer women are in the workforce today, according to a report by the International Labor Organization (ILO). In 1995, 52% of women and 80% of men were in the workforce, the ILO report finds. Today the participation rate for women is 50%, compared to 77% for men, reflecting in part the effects of the global recession.

Further, ILO research shows that women continue to be overrepresented in low-wage jobs that offer little security and few, if any, benefits. Women are paid 77 cents for every dollar a man makes—a rate that means women will not achieve pay equity with men before 2086. Women also work many hours without pay, a point made by an interactive, online report produced by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Clinton Foundation and Economist Intelligence Unit.

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GOP-Controlled West Virginia Legislature Passes Bill Rolling Back Regulations On Chemical Storage Tanks

Katie Valentine

Katie Valentine Deputy Editor, Climate Progress

The West Virginia legislature has passed a bill that scales back regulations meant to protect state waterways from storage tank spills, a piece of legislation that some worry could leave the state’s water more vulnerable to the kind of spill that contaminated the water of 300,000 state residents last year.

The bill, which was passed by the state Senate early Saturday morning, rolls back portions of a law passed last year in response to January’s spill, which occurred due to a leak in a chemical storage tank along the banks of the Elk River. Under the law, known as the Aboveground Storage Tank Act, nearly 50,000 aboveground storage tanks in the state were subject to registration and regulation. Now, under the new bill, the number of regulated tanks will fall to about 12,000. Those 12,000 are tanks that are located in “zones of critical concern,” which means they’re situated along a waterway and about five hours away from a drinking water intake. They also include tanks that hold more than 50,000 gallons, tanks that hold hazardous substances and tanks that are in the “zone of peripheral concern,” which are those located 10 hours away from a drinking water intake.

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Jeb Bush: A Real Liberated Kind of Guy

Jeb Bush: A Real Liberated Kind of Guy

Union Matters

ALEC’s Shrinking Universe

In one of my favorite episodes of Star Trek: the Next Generation, Dr. Beverly Crusher is trapped in a universe that threatens to shrink until she is its only occupant.

The conservative activist organization called the American Legislative Exchange or ALEC now finds itself in a similar situation.  On March 24th, the Center for American Progress, in its email newsletter called The Progress Report, predicted, if not the demise at least the continuing diminution, of ALEC.

Here at Union Matters, we’ve discussed ALEC before.  Specifically, ALEC exists to offer cookie-cutter bills that right-wing state legislatures use to accomplish conservative goals.

But ALEC and its agenda aren’t without opponents.  On March 23rd, British Petroleum, which employs many USW members, announced that it is cutting ties with ALEC.  And BP is only the most recent mega-company to do so.  In 2012, superstars of the business world such as Coca-Cola, Kraft, Walmart, Amazon, Johnson & Johnson, and Miller/Coors, withdrew support for ALEC because of the latter’s buttressing restrictive voter ID legislation and Stand Your Ground gun laws.

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