Leo W. Gerard

President’s Perspective

Leo W. Gerard USW International President

Speak Loudly and Carry a Big Aluminum Bat

During this very month last year, aluminum smelters across the United States were closing, one after another. It was as if they produced something useless, not a commodity crucial to everything from beverage cans to fighter jets.

In January of 2016, Alcoa closed its Wenatchee Works in Washington State, costing 428 workers their jobs, sending 428 families into panic, slashing tax revenue counted on by the town of Wenatchee and the school district and devastating local businesses that no longer saw customers from the region’s highest-paying manufacturer.

That same month, Alcoa announced it would permanently close its Warrick Operations in Evansville, Ind., then the largest smelter in the country, employing 600 workers, within three months.

Then, Noranda Aluminum fell. It laid off more than half of the 850 workers at its New Madrid, Mo., smelter in January, filed for bankruptcy in February and closed in March. The smelter was a family-supporting employer in a low-income region, and when it stopped operating, the New Madrid County School District didn’t get tax payments it was expecting.

This devastation to workers, families, communities and corporations occurred even after Ormet had shuttered a smelter in Ohio in 2013, destroying 700 jobs and Century closed its Hawesville, Ky., smelter, killing 600 jobs, in August of 2015.

It all happened as demand for aluminum in the United States increased.

That doesn’t make sense until China’s role in this disaster is explained.

That role is the reason the Obama administration filed a complaint against China with the World Trade Organization (WTO) last week. In this case, the President must ignore the old adage about speaking softly. To preserve a vital American manufacturing capability against predatory conduct by a foreign power, the administration must speak loudly and carry a big aluminum bat. 

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Thousands of women will go on strike to protest Trump’s inauguration

Bryce Covert

Bryce Covert Economic Policy Editor, Think Progress

The election made Ann want to do something big and bold.

As a working mother who is also a first-generation Muslim immigrant — and who declined to give her full name for fear of President-elect Donald Trump’s plans to create a Muslim registry — she has much to be concerned about. “The recent election and just all the negative commentary and hateful remarks around immigration, immigrants, and Muslims and people of color really has impacted me,” she said. “All the rhetoric around taking away women’s reproductive freedoms, even such basic freedoms as access to contraception, the thought of not having that is frightening.”

“Even the thought of the Muslim registry…the thought of registering my child, it gives me goosebumps even just saying it,” she added.

So on January 20 and 21, inauguration weekend, she will not just be joining a March in Seattle that’s affiliated with the Women’s March on Washington. She is also committed to going on strike.

While she works in health care and says she can’t leave her patients for a day, she’s going to go on strike from all the unpaid labor she does. For those two days, she plans to refuse to do all the housework and will step back from primary parenting for her four-year-old daughter, leaving it to her partner.

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Obama: Right to Unionize Must Be Part of New Social Compact

Mark Gruenberg

Mark Gruenberg Editor, Press Associates Union News

The right to unionize must be part of a “new social compact” that reduces income inequality and restores hope, President Barack Obama says.

That right was one of several ways to help the nation continue to move forward, Obama told tens of thousands of people gathered in Chicago’s McCormick Place convention center for his farewell address, after eight years in the Oval Office.

The Chicago speech is not the first time Obama endorsed the right to unionize, free of employer harassment, intimidation, interference and labor law-breaking. He also did so on the campaign trail while seeking re-election in 2012, and at the AFL-CIO Convention in 2009, after his first election. He won both with organized labor’s strong support.

But union leaders said, privately and sometimes publically, that Obama never followed through by pushing the cause, labor’s top legislative goal. In his Chicago speech, the president is leaving the task for achieving workers’ rights to the future. But he said it must be done.

“Our economy doesn’t work as well or grow as fast when a few prosper at the expense of a growing middle class, and ladders for folks who want to get into the middle class,” the president explained.

“That’s the economic argument. But stark inequality is also corrosive to our democratic idea. While the top 1 percent has amassed a bigger share of wealth and income, too many of our families in inner cities and in rural counties have been left behind.

“The laid-off factory worker, the waitress or health care worker who’s just barely getting by and struggling to pay the bills. Convinced that the game is fixed against them. That their government only serves the interest of the powerful. That’s a recipe for more cynicism and polarization in our politics.

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Republicans, Here’s Your Way Out Of the Obamacare Vise

Bill Scher

Bill Scher Online Editor, Campaign for America's Future

The Republicans are in a jam. For the last six years, they’ve pledged to repeal Obamacare, but haven’t figured out a plan for replacing it. They are ideologically opposed to government involvement, but they know that taking away the health insurance of 20 million people is politically disastrous. They rail against high premiums, but they know taking away the individual mandate — and taking out younger, healthier customers from the risk pool — would only make premiums go even higher.

But there is a way out. It requires Republicans to prioritize maintaining political power over sticking with ideological principles. But after swallowing Trump on trade, Russia and politically pressuring individual corporations, that should not be a problem.

The solution is three-fold. One, encourage holdout Republican governors to expand Medicaid. Two, increase Obamacare subsidies. Three, call it Trumpcare.

Why would Republicans ever swerve left to improve Obamacare? First and foremost, it would directly benefit Trump voters. Second, Obama, once out of office, can no longer politically benefit; there’s no reason to withhold health care out of spite. Three, Trump would accept it — deep down, he’s always been a single-payer guy.

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Breaking Free Of The Trump Trap

Les Leopold Author, The Looting of America

As progressives rally to resist him, Trump is building support in key swing states by fighting for American jobs. He is using the bully pulpit to pressure manufacturers to keep jobs here rather than relocating them to low-wage areas. The list of Trump target companies is growing ― Carrier, Rexnord, Ford, GM, Toyota ―- with no end in sight. His message is clear ― either make the product in the U.S. or we’ll slap a major tariff on the product if you try to import it back into the U.S.

Progressives are flummoxed about how to respond. Some argue that these Trump moves are nothing but phony PR stunts: Carrier was a bribe, Ford wasn’t moving the jobs anyway and so on. New York Times columnist Paul Krugman is leading this charge:

In other words, it may have sounded as if Mr. Trump was doing something substantive by intervening with Carrier [and Ford], but he wasn’t. This was fake policy — a show intended to impress the rubes, not to achieve real results.

But those “rubes” (dictionary definition, “country bumpkins”) who believe their jobs were actually saved, “lined up on the factory floor [and] cheered the news [of a new $700 million investment at the Flat Rock Michigan Ford facility.] United Auto Workers Vice President Jimmy Settles, the union’s chief negotiator for Ford, told workers he cried when he heard about the investment,” reports ABC News.

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GOP-Passed “Midnight Rules” Bill Could Eliminate Worker, Consumer Protections

Mark Gruenberg

Mark Gruenberg Editor, Press Associates Union News

Standards to protect nursing home residents. Paid sick leave for employees of federal contractors. Democratic President Barack Obama’s Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces executive order. Even standards that ailing responders to the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks must meet to get federal aid.

All these rules, and more, could bite the dust if the Republican-run Senate follows through on – and incoming Republican President Donald Trump signs – GOP-passed legislation that cleared the GOP-run House on Jan. 4.

The measure, HR21,passed on a 238184 party-line vote, with only four Democrats voting for it. It’s named the “Midnight Rules” bill, but it’s really a lot more than that.

Republicans, led by Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., say they’re aiming at rules the Democratic Obama administration implemented in the final few months between Nov. 8 and Jan. 20. But Issa wrote HR21 to cover rules stretching all the way back to last May.

A report from the non-partisan Congressional Research Service says HR21 covers 220 rules. They include rules implementing Obama’s executive order, the paid sick leave measure, the nursing home protections and new rules for the renewed James Zadroga program, which provides medical care and other aid to sickened first responders to the 9-11 al-Qaeda attacks.

If HR21 reaches Trump’s desk, and he signs it, lawmakers still would have to approve legislation rolling back those rules. The GOP is chomping at the bit to do so. The Chamber of Commerce, the right-wing Freedom Works group and others all lobbied lawmakers for HR21.

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Union Matters

Eliminate Closed Primaries

Hugh J. Campbell

Hugh J. Campbell Son of a steelworker, Philadelphia, Pa.

Our political parties left to their exclusionary desires get to set the agendas which all American voters must live with during the general election process. Is there little wonder that the United States has such low voter turnout rates and low trust in Congress? One antidote to the stranglehold the political parties have over Democracy is to open the primaries. Please click the petition Incoming Chairs of the DNC & RNC: Open the Primaries, NOW!

A patchwork of restrictive registration rules prevented 26.3 million independent voters from participating in the Presidential Primaries/Caucuses in 2016. The same restrictive rules prevented millions more registered Democrats and Republicans from voting for the candidate of their choice. Voters from New York to Arizona, whose tax dollars fund the primary process -- were denied the right to fully participate. It’s not hard to understand why voter turnout has hit a 20-year low, and 70% of all Americans now support open primaries.

By signing the petition Incoming Chairs of the DNC & RNC: Open the Primaries, NOW! you are sending a message to new DNC and RNC Chairs to break with the likes of Debbie Wasserman Schultz who was the poster-chair for closed primaries in every state!

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While You Were Sleeping...

While You Were Sleeping...