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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Tired of economists’ misdirection on globalization

Lawrence Mishel

Lawrence Mishel

An interesting story in the New York Times this morning looks at the effect that job losses from trade have had on people’s political views. It’s no surprise that voters on the losing end of globalization are disenchanted with the political mainstream, as the Times puts it. They have every right to be.

But I’m tired of hearing from economists about the failure to support workers dislocated by globalization as a cause of anger and the policy action the elite somehow mistakenly forgot. Ignoring the losers was deliberate. In 1981, our vigorous trade adjustment assistance (TAA) program was one of the first things Reagan attacked, cutting its weekly compensation payments from a 70 percent replacement rate down to 50 percent. Currently, in a dozen states, unemployment insurance—the most basic safety net for workers—is being unraveled by the elites. Only about one unemployed person in four receives unemployment compensation today.

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Scamming the Country’s Veterans: Efforts to Privatize VA Health System

Dean Baker

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

There are few areas where there is more bipartisan support than the need to provide adequate health care for the country’s veterans. While many of us opposed the war in Iraq and other recent military adventures, we still recognize the need to provide medical services for the people who put their lives at risk.

This is why it is especially annoying to see right-wing groups invent scandals around the Veteran Administration’s hospitals in order to advance an agenda of privatizing the system. If there was a real reason to believe that the current system is badly hurting our veterans, and that they would be better cared for under a privatized system, then it would be reasonable to support the transition.

But this is the opposite of the reality. All the evidence suggests that a privatized system would make worse any problems veterans now face in getting care — and it is likely to cost more money.

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A “Truth” about Trade That’s Not a Truth at All

Jared Bernstein

Jared Bernstein Senior Fellow, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities

I’ve long been a fan of the economist Alan Blinder, he of the hard head, soft heart (a great book, absolutely crying for an update, Alan!). In fact, Alan co-authored an important paper for our Full Employment Project on the policy lessons from the Great Recession.

So I was a bit blind(er)-sided by his WSJ oped this AM, 5 Big Truths About Trade, given that some of his truths are not true at all.

It’s essential to get this right as the populist campaign has elevated this trade debate in ways that can be used or misused. The latter would lead to protectionism, walls, and damaging tariffs like those touted by Trump. Alan’s right, for example, not to conflate trade agreements with trade, a theme I’ve tried to trumpet loudly in these parts.

But it also misuses the moment to argue, as Alan does, that the problem is simply that some workers are displaced and, if we only do more to help them, we’ll otherwise be fine. What this view ignores is the damage done to our and other economies through economically large and persistent trade imbalances. Alan’s “truth” #3 maintains trade imbalances “are inevitable and mostly uninteresting.”

Wait, what?!

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Talk About Devaluing Currency

Talk About Devaluing Currency

Union Matters

As CEO Dough Rises, Workers Fall as Flat as a Pancake

Pulling out may seem like a good idea in theory, but it sure as hell ain’t foolproof. In fact, sometimes it can be devastating.  

Take Indianapolis-based heating, air conditioning and refrigeration manufacturer Carrier. In February, the corporation announced to its 1,400 employees that their jobs were being sent to Mexico.

“This is strictly a business decision,” a Carrier executive told the bereaved and angry crowd of workers.

Newsflash, Carrier: This is NOT strictly business.

By pulling out of Indianapolis, the corporation guts the city’s school system of essential tax dollars, strips thousands of families of their incomes, and decimates the whole region. Carrier isn’t just shuttering a factory. It’s shuttering an entire community. And because it’s a corporation, it’s laughing all the way to the bank.

But, of course, the United States treats corporations like Carrier as royalty for behavior like this through tax breaks. CEOs also get monstrous bonus packages -- at an average of $15 million per year – for throwing Americans out of work when they can be replaced by workers paid a pittance in countries that allow environmental degradation.

Carrier gets the advantage of paying workers in Mexico the same amount per day that their workers here in America make per hour. The CEOs and shareholders reap all of the benefits.  American workers and communities suffer all of the pitfalls.

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