Leo W. Gerard

President’s Perspective

Leo W. Gerard USW International President

Bad Trade

Bad Trade
Photo of Save Our Steel Jobs rally in Pittsburgh in May 2014 by Chelsey Engel

Sucker punched by massive, illegally subsidized imports, American steel producers laid off thousands of workers in bedrock communities from Ohio and Illinois to Texas and Alabama.

That’s in just the past three months.

The families of furloughed workers are struggling to pay mortgage bills. The communities, losing tax dollars, are canceling needed road work. The companies are talking about the similarities between now and the 1990s when half of the nation’s steel firms disappeared. Members of the Congressional Steel Caucus are worrying about the effect on national security if America can’t make its own steel for guns and tanks.

Virtually everyone who testified last week at a Congressional hearing on the state of steel fingered bad trade as the culprit in the current collapse. Lawmakers, steel company executives, industry group leaders and a vice president of the United Steelworkers (USW) union all agreed on this. Foreign firms, particularly those operating in non-capitalist countries, are violating international trade regulations. Those rules also require American companies, communities and workers to forfeit a pound of flesh before trade enforcement can occur. They’re failing America.

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Adjuncts Struggle to Unionize at a Liberal College

Michelle M. Tokarczyk Professor

Adjuncts Struggle to Unionize at a Liberal College

Adjunct Action Day on February 25 highlighted the working conditions of adjuncts, who make up about 70% of the American professoriate. Adjuncts usually make $20,000–$25,000 a year, often by teaching courses at various institutions each semester. They have no job security, and frequently receive no health or retirement benefits. But they have begun fighting to improve their lot. SEIU is organizing in several states. In the Baltimore/ DC area it has formed adjunct faculty unions at several colleges and universities, Georgetown and American University among them. At Goucher College in Baltimore, SEIU is struggling to have a pro-union vote recognized by the administration.

For the past 25 years I’ve taught at this small liberal arts college that purports to value inclusion and fairness. We value diversity in staff, faculty, and students. We do anti-racist work. Yet approximately 60% of our faculty are adjuncts—lower than the national average, but shockingly high for an expensive selective college. When SEIU came to Goucher with the goal of representing full-, part-, and half-time adjuncts, the College’s values were put to the test, and the College failed.

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Obama: Republicans Are ‘Motivated, Principally, By Opposing Whatever It Is That I Propose’

Natasha Geiling

Natasha Geiling Climate Reporter, Think Progress

In an interview with VICE founder Shane Smith, President Obama called climate change an example of one of the hardest problems to solve, warning that there eventually comes a point of no return.

“You have to make sure that you get at this thing quick enough and with enough force to be able to make a difference,” Obama said, noting that climate change is an especially difficult problem to tackle because it requires immediate sacrifices for a long term payoff.

In the 18-minute interview, Obama dedicated the first six minutes to climate change, saying that he wanted the country to think of climate change as an immediate and serious problem, a shift in national conscience that could be difficult considering that more than half of Congressional Republicans question or deny the science associated with human-caused climate change, according to research conducted by the CAP Action Fund.

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Why Does Jeb Bush Keep Touting His Failures?

Bill Scher

Bill Scher Online Editor, Campaign for America's Future

Jeb Bush, while very much a conservative, refuses to run as far to the right as possible to win the Republican nomination. This is rational. He knows winning the primaries with too much pandering means a likely loss in the general election.

Instead, he is distinguishing himself from the pack by stressing his record from being a two-term governor. This would normally be rational, especially since he’s up against several Republicans with particularly thin records.

But Jeb is developing an odd habit of breezily touting parts of his record that don’t look good up close.

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Tell Your Congressman: No Fast Track for Trade Deals!

Tell Your Congressman: No Fast Track for Trade Deals!

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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