Leo W. Gerard

President’s Perspective

Leo W. Gerard USW International President

Really, Really Rich Trump Is No Workers’ Champion

Presumptive Republican Presidential Nominee Donald  “I am really, really rich” Trump is, according to Forbes, the 121st richest person in America. So, yes, he is really, really rich.

He loves the perks of being really, really rich, like flying to campaign events in one of his own private jets, which means he blithely skips those annoying airport security lines that non-billionaires must endure. He enjoys kicking back in one of his five houses, including the 58-bedroom Mar-A-Lago mansion, where the $600,000 annual property taxes are three times the entire cost of an average American home. And, of course, Trump relishes the power he has to tell workers, “You’re fired.”

Born into wealth, Trump attended private schools and inherited $40 million when he was just 28 years old. He didn’t spend summers volunteering for Habitat for Humanity in Appalachia. He didn’t take a gap year to put that fancy private school education to use tutoring inner city kids. So, frankly, it’s easy to understand why he opposes raising the minimum wage. This guy who was born with a really, really silver spoon in his mouth doesn’t have a clue what living on $7.25 an hour means. 

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Obama Visits Vietnam To Promote TPP. Wait, VIETNAM? Really?

Dave Johnson

Dave Johnson Fellow, Campaign for America's Future

President Obama is in Vietnam promoting the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Vietnam? Really?

A year ago the post “Obama To Visit Nike To Promote the TPP. Wait, NIKE? Really?,” noted how Nike pioneered moving jobs out of the country to take advantage of low wages and lack of environmental protections in places like Vietnam, which led to many of the problems in our economy today. It seemed that Nike was possibly the worst company to use to support claims that TPP would benefit the American economy.

President Obama is scheduled to visit Nike’s Oregon headquarters on Friday to promote the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Yes, Nike – a company that grew to billions by outsourcing jobs to overseas sweatshops, a company that sets up P.O.-box subsidiaries in tax havens to avoid paying U.S. taxes, a company that uses threats to extort tax breaks from its “home” state.

Phil Knight, head of Nike, is now worth $23 billion because America’s trade policies encourage companies like Nike to create and move jobs outside of the U.S. The 23rd-richest American is one more symbol of the kind of inequality that results from outsourcing enabled and encouraged by these trade policies. Workers here lose (or never get) jobs; workers there are paid squat; a few people become vastly, unimaginably wealthy.

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Aft, Detroit Teachers: Republicans in Mich. House Jam through Anti-Union, Anti-Teacher Inadequate Aid Package

Mark Gruenberg

Mark Gruenberg Editor, Press Associates Union News

The right-wing Republicans ruling the Michigan House have jammed through an anti-union, anti-teacher inadequate aid package that would do little for Detroit’s schools and schoolchildren, the American Federation of Teachers and its Detroit local said.

The package, approved in the wee morning hours of May 5, was “twisted into a partisan screed against Detroit teachers and school employees,” said AFT President Randi Weingarten and Detroit interim President Ivy Bailey.

They urged teachers to lobby lawmakers to reject it in favor of a Senate-passed alternative plan, and – if that did not occur – for GOP Gov. Rick Snyder to veto it.

The financial ills of the Detroit district, including the prospect of looming payless paydays, forced the teachers into a 2-day sickout in early May. It was so successful that 94 of the district’s 97 schools closed.

The schools also suffer from deteriorating buildings, health hazards – including dead mice found in the middle of classroom floors – and lack of supplies. The teachers have not had a raise in years and have suffered pay cuts and other financial slashes.

The district, now run by a Snyder-appointed administrator, says it is broke and needs state aid. The GOP-run Senate approved a $715 million aid package; the GOP-run House did not. Its package is $75 million-$100 million yearly, spread out over five years.

 

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Can Donald Trump Teach Us About the National Debt?

Dean Baker

Dean Baker Co-Director, Author, Center for Economic and Policy Research

Many people might think that Donald Trump can only teach the country how to offend women, African Americans, and a range of non-European ethnic groups. While that may be his area of expertise, it seems that his rants on dealing with debt may actually provide a teachable moment. As a result, the country, and possibly even the policy elites, may get a better understanding of when and how debt can pose a problem.

Trump first raised the debt issue a couple of weeks ago when he implied that as president he would negotiate discounts on U.S. debt just like he did with many of his businesses that faced bankruptcy. In those cases Trump could tell his creditors that if they didn’t make concessions, like accepting fifty cents on each dollar of debt, then he would go into bankruptcy. If a Trump business went into bankruptcy, the creditors might have to wait years to get anything and may end up with much less than the discount Trump proposed.

That might work for a business, but it doesn’t make sense for a government like the United States, which has a perfect credit history and borrows in a currency it prints. Trump later made exactly this point. Of course since the U.S. government prints dollars, it is hard to see what it could mean for the country to go bankrupt, unless we forget how to use the printing presses.

But there is still a story about discounted debt that does make sense to which Trump referred — if interest rates rise, the market value of long-term bonds falls. If we issued a 30-year bond in 2016 at 2.6 percent interest (roughly the current rate) and the interest rate in 2017 rose to 6-7 percent (the 1990s interest rates), then the market value of the bond will fall by around 40 percent.

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In Brazil, Do Black Lives Matter?

Fred Redmond

Fred Redmond USW International Vice President (Human Affairs)

In Brazil, Do Black Lives Matter?

A Woody Guthrie song says, "sometimes they rob you with a six-gun, sometimes with a fountain pen." 

That's a good description of the legislative coup that is going on right now against the elected government of President Dilma Rousseff in Brazil, where I visited last month to participate in a trade union seminar on racial equality.

A majority of Brazil's 200 million people are of African descent.  For decades, Afro-Brazilians have faced discrimination in one of the world's most unequal economies.  But under the government of President Dilma and former President Lula da Silva, things began to change.  Massive social investment, legal reforms and strong labor unions helped bring 40 million Brazilians out of poverty.  Government ministries were established to protect the rights of women and Afro-Brazilians.

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Wealth out of Control

Wealth out of Control

Union Matters

Workers Make, Executives Take

Chief executive officers at S&P 500 companies made on average a whopping 335 times more than ordinary rank-and-file workers in 2015, according to a new AFL-CIO report.

The AFL-CIO, the largest federation of labor unions in the United States, found that while working people continued to see stagnating wages averaging just $36,900 per year, CEOs thrived to the tune of tens of millions of dollars. 

Outsourcing has only made the gaping pay disparity between the people who do the work and the people who reap the benefits even worse. 

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