Leo W. Gerard

President’s Perspective

Leo W. Gerard USW International President

GOP: It’s OK for Corporations to Kill Workers

Alan White couldn’t shout jubilation from the rooftop on March 25 when he heard that the U.S. Department of Labor, after decades of trying, had finally issued a stricter rule to limit exposure to potentially deadly silica dust in workplaces.

He was happy, all right. After all, he’d worked with the United Steelworkers (USW) to get the rule adopted. It’s just that he knew shouting would induce his silicosis coughing.

Within days, though, indignation replaced his jubilation. White, who’d been sickened by the debilitating, irreversible and often fatal disease at work in a foundry, watched in disgust as Republicans attempted to overturn the rule that the Labor Department said could save more than 600 lives and prevent more than 900 new cases of silicosis annually.

Last week, GOP House members conducted a hearing to further their case against saving those lives. They did that just days before Workers Memorial Day, April 28, when organized labor renews its solemn pledge to strive for workplace safety rules and formally commemorates those who have died on the job in the previous year.

The totals aren’t in for 2015 yet, but the year before, 4,679 workers died on the job. That’s nearly 90 a week, 13 a day, seven days a week. Twenty-eight members of my own union, the USW, died on the job since Workers Memorial Day 2015.

But the GOP position is clear. Republicans will do whatever it takes to ensure that corporations can sicken and kill workers with impunity. If the argument is that workers’ lives and lungs must be sacrificed to ensure that foundries and fracking operations and construction companies can make bigger profits by releasing silica particles under 40-year-old standards now considered dangerous, then the GOP will take the side of CEOs who value workers as trivial.

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Remembering the Past, Fighting for the Future

Duronda Pope

Duronda Pope

Editor’s note: The Department of Labor will host a Workers’ Memorial Day event at 10:30 a.m. ET on April 28. The author of this guest post, Duronda Pope, will participate. Watch at dol.gov/live.

May 28 is Workers’ Memorial Day, a day set aside to mourn the dead and fight for the living.

But that’s every day for me.

For 10 years, my job with the United Steelworkers has been to jump in to help when a member of the union has been killed or permanently injured on the job. I’ve been there for hundreds of families at the lowest times in their lives, when they have to imagine going on without their wife or husband, parent or child.

Earlier this month, a 32-year-old was checking fire extinguishers when he walked into a room full of deadly nitrogen. He and his wife had just lost a child, and then she lost him, too.

Before that, a member was crushed by a falling steel door. She was a mother and a grandmother, and was just six months into the job.

I went to the home of a member who died after falling 75 feet into a pit, and I met his two sons, Jason and Josh, 6 and 7 years old. They were telling me about a fishing trip with their dad when his truck pulled up and they ran over to it, so excited. But it wasn’t him behind the wheel, and we had to explain why.

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Indiana Carrier Plant Workers Take Their Case Directly To UTC Shareholders

Members of the Indianapolis community rally behind USW Local 1999 on March 23, 2016 after United Technologies announced they would be moving the plant to Mexico. Image by USW 1999

Steelworkers travel to shareholders meeting, deliver petition calling on Carrier’s parent company to reconsider moving production from Indianapolis to Mexico

United Technology shareholders came face-to-face with workers being destroyed by insatiable corporate greed.

On February 10th, United Technologies (UTC) announced its “business decision” to shutter the Carrier plant in Indianapolis and move production to Monterrey, Mexico.  The move would eliminate at least 1,400 jobs in Indianapolis. A video of the heartless announcement was posted on YouTube and has received more than 3.7 million views, drawing national attention to UTC offshoring plans.

On Monday, members of the United Steelworkers Local 1999 who work at the facility scheduled for closure traveled to the UTC shareholder meeting in Florida.  The USW members delivered a petition signed by 4,500 people, asking the company to reconsider moving their jobs to Mexico, and called on UTC to keep good, family-sustaining jobs in Indianapolis.

“Abandoning the Indianapolis plant will have a devastating effect on not only 1,400 workers, but also our families and our community,” said USW Local 1999 Unit President Donnie Knox. “UTC’s decision to move our jobs to Mexico and the video of a manager’s callous delivery of that devastating news to workers in Indianapolis have made Carrier and UTC into poster children for corporate greed.”

United Technologies’ greed is not unusual. It is exactly what many of the other American companies have done over the last thirty years.  Corporations sell out American workers, who labored to build the company from the ground up, only to watch their jobs shipped overseas so the stockholders can make a quick buck.

In October, United Technologies, Carrier’s parent company, used a stock buyback program to temporarily inflate the share price.  They announced plans to buy back $12 billion worth of the corporation’s own stock — boosting the price per share up by almost 5%.  UTC plans to spend another $3 billion later this year, to buyback even more shares. This is great news for the wealthy executives and Wall Street hedge fund managers who hold the majority of UTC stock (even though it’s one of the reasons for a recent downgrade in UTC’s bond rating).

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The New Common Ground Between Populist Left and Right

Robert Reich

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

The old debate goes something like this:

‘You don’t believe women have reproductive rights.”

“You don’t value human life.”

Or this:

“You think everyone should own a gun.”

“You think we’re safer if only criminals have them.”

Or this:

“You don’t care about poor people.”

You think they’re better off with handouts.”

Or this:

“You want to cut taxes on the rich.”

“You want to tax everyone to death.”

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"Panama Papers" Reveal Scandalous Hypocrisy

Jim Hightower

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

It's said that there's nothing more vicious than a wild animal that's cornered, but I'd add that there's nothing more devious than a top corporate or political official caught in a scandalous hypocrisy.

Witness the huge menagerie of political critters who've recently been backed into a corner by the "Panama Papers." This is a trove of thousands of internet documents leaked to global media outlets, revealing that assorted billionaires, rich celebrities, corporate chieftains, and – yes – pious public officials have been hiding their wealth and dodging the taxes they owe by stashing their cash in foreign tax havens. Of course, we've known for a while that tax dodging is a common plutocratic scam, but the details from the leaked files of an obscure Panamanian law firm named Mossack Fonseca now gives us names to shame.

One is David Cameron, the ardently conservative prime minister of Britain, who has loudly declaimed tax sneaks in public. But –oops! – now we learn that his own super-wealthy father was a Mossack Fonseca client, and that David himself has profited from the stealth wealth he inherited from the elder Cameron's secret stash.

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The Right to a Decent Living

The Right to a Decent Living

Union Matters

Next Stop…Infrastructure Collapse

Richard Cucarese

Richard Cucarese Rapid Response Coordinator, USW Local 4889

Washington D.C. is snarled with traffic on a cataclysmic scale.  All local authorities and emergency units are stretched to their limits dealing with the overflow of vehicles heading into and out of the nations’ capitol.  Schoolchildren are left stranded with no way to attend school and frustrated parents must either call in late to work or call off because the city is literally brought to a standstill.

Does it sound like the scene from an action movie or thriller when a city is brought to its knees by a terror attack or a natural disaster?  Fortunately for the residents of Washington D.C. and its suburbs, it was not that tragic an issue; but it is one that is nonetheless frustrating and could possibly lead to national security issues in the near future.  It is the state of our crumbling infrastructure.

For a 29-hour period, the D.C. Metro Rail System was completely shut down for emergency maintenance and safety checks, due to frayed cable systems being detected in various subway stations along the line.  Safety issues last year led to a part of the system engulfing subway cars in thick, acrid smoke and leaving one commuter dead.  The Metro debacle is the latest of many issues facing the whole country as our leadership refuses to pass a comprehensive infrastructure bill which would create sustainable jobs for decades to come.  Let me repeat that last part: for decades to come.

Infrastructure around the nation is in shambles due to lack of funding.  Our national and local governments have developed a ‘kick the can down the road’ approach, leaving millions of our citizenry in peril as they make the daily commute over bridges, overpasses, and into tunnels and subway systems that are in complete and utter disarray.

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