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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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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Life After a Layoff is Always Hard — But It’s Even Tougher at 61Life After a Layoff is Always Hard — But It’s Even Tougher at 61

Jeffrey Bonior

Jeffrey Bonior Researcher, Writer, Alliance for American Manufacturing

Lindsay Patterson speaks at a BlueGreen Alliance event in 2010. | Photo courtesy BlueGreen Alliance

A look at how one baby boomer is coping with losing his steel job of nearly 25 years.

Lindsay Patterson had worked for nearly 25 years at Allied Tube and Conduit Corp. in Northeast Philadelphia when the plant ended operations on Oct. 5, 2015.

Out of a job at the age of 61, Patterson didn’t have many options. He found it difficult to find a similar job, and considered Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA), a federal program that retrains laid-off manufacturing workers for new careers.

But Patterson quickly realized TAA is not really beneficial to a man of his age.

“They talk about retraining like that is something easy to do. Well here I am, 61-years-old and I’m going to go back to community college to do what? Unless I become a genius and become a doctor, I’m still not going to get any work,” Patterson said. “Not any real work. They keep saying retrain, but at this age, for what? That’s okay for young kids but for older folks retraining is too late.”

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Ohio Official Blasts ‘Sickening’ Voting Restriction

Alice Ollstein Political Reporter, Think Progress

In Ohio’s March 15 presidential primary, a car crash blocked a major highway near Cincinnati, leaving thousands of people stranded in their cars as the polls were set to close. A local judge received calls from voters frantic about losing their chance to cast a ballot, and ordered the polls to remain open just one hour later than scheduled. Now, a Cincinnati Republican is pushing a bill to make sure it’s much more difficult, and expensive, to get such an emergency extension in the future.

If legislation sponsored by Republican State Senator Bill Seitz is approved, anyone petitioning a judge to extend voting hours would have to put up a cash bond to cover the cost, which could range in the tens of thousands of dollars. If a court later finds that the polls should not have remained open, the voter would forfeit all the money. Only those who are so poor they can be certified as indigent would be exempted.

Rep. Dan Ramos, a Democrat who represents the working class Lorain community, told ThinkProgress he finds the effort “sickening.”

“This has been par for the course, ever since the Republicans took control of the House. They’ve been trying to do everything they can to make it more difficult to vote,” he said, noting the state’s cuts to early voting hours, voter roll purges, and attempts to block some students from voting in the primaries. “Now they’re saying the only way a person can have access to courts for voting is if they’re a wealthy person.”

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Strength in Numbers

Strength in Numbers

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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