Leo W. Gerard

President’s Perspective

Leo W. Gerard USW International President

The High Cost of Fighting for $15

The High Cost of Fighting for $15

This is no plea for pity for corporate kingpins like Walmart and McDonald’s inundated by workers’ demands for living wages.

Raises would, of course, cost these billion-dollar corporations something. More costly, though, is the price paid by minimum-wage workers who have not received a raise in six years.  Even more dear is what these workers have paid for their campaign to get raises. Managers have harassed, threatened and fired them.

Despite all that, low-wage workers will return to picket lines and demonstrations Wednesday in a National Day of Action in the fight for $15 an hour. The date is 4 – 15. These are workers who live paycheck to paycheck, barely able to pay their bills, and certainly unable to cope with an emergency. They know the risk they’re taking by participating in strikes for pay hikes. They’ve seen bosses punish co-workers for demonstrating for raises. To lose a job, even one that pays poverty wages, during a time of high unemployment is terrifying. Still, thousands will participate Wednesday. That is valor. 

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King v. Burwell and the Trans-Pacific Partnership

Dean Baker

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

One of the most important Supreme Court cases this year is King v. Burwell. The suit questions the legality of the subsidies to low- and middle-income families in the health-insurance exchanges run by the federal government. If the Court rules for the plaintiff, millions of people in the 36 states that did not set up exchanges could lose their subsidies. With insurance now unaffordable for much of the population in these states, their exchanges will no longer be operational, leading to the collapse of the Affordable Care Act in much of the country.

The whole basis for King v. Burwell is one sentence in the 1,700 page law indicating that subsidies are only supposed to be paid to people in states that have set up their own exchanges. This sentence contradicts the rest of the law, which clearly says that people are eligible for the subsidies regardless of whether they are enrolled via a state-established exchange or an exchange established by the federal government. The plaintiff’s argument is also at odds with the understanding of every member of Congress at the time they voted on the bill, as well as the understanding of all the various independent analysts assessing its impact.

In short, King v. Burwell should be a joke case. But in a context where at least four members of the Supreme Court are prepared to rule in whatever way they feel advances the interests of the Republican Party, it is very possible that it will be the basis for undermining a law that provides health insurance to millions of people and access to insurance to tens of millions more.

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Biden Touts Green Jobs, Economic Recovery To Labor-Environmental Alliance

Mark Gruenberg

Mark Gruenberg Editor, Press Associates Union News

Biden Touts Green Jobs, Economic Recovery To Labor-Environmental Alliance

Vice President Joseph Biden (D) touted the Obama administration’s clean and green jobs initiatives and the U.S. economic recovery to a combined crowd of unionists and environmentalists. He got a positive reception – at least after the start.

As the vice president entered the large D.C. hotel meeting room where more than 900 delegates to the Good Jobs Green Jobs conference in D.C. gathered on April 13, he was greeted by an organized chant by some delegates: “No fast track! No fast track!”

The chanters referred to trade promotion authority, called fast track, to give a president of any party the OK to negotiate trade deals in secret with other nations with no amendments, no changes, and subject only to one later up-or-down vote in each house of Congress.

That’s like bargaining with a firm on the last day before the contract expires and human resources finally offers its version of the contract and demands just a yes-or-no vote with no changes, Steelworkers Vice President Tom Conway said later.  And a “no” means no contract at all.  A bargaining committee bringing that offer back to its union would be ousted, he said.

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Unions, Environmentalists, Allies Descend On Congress To Lobby Vs Fast-Track, Pacific Trade Pact

Mark Gruenberg

Mark Gruenberg Editor, Press Associates Union News

Armed with fact sheets showing net losses of U.S. jobs under every so-called “free trade” pact with or without presidential “fast-track” trade promotion authority, unionists, environmentalists and their allies descended on Capitol Hill in the week of April 12-18 for mass lobbying against fast-track and its daughter trade pacts.

Exhorted by leaders of the Blue Green Alliance – a coalition of unions and environmental groups – and fiery speeches by Steelworkers President Leo Gerard and leaders, more than a thousand people lobbied lawmakers on the two allied issues on April 15.  The lobbying continued through the week, ending with Day of Action nationwide, on April 18.

Their descent was timely: With the support of President Barack Obama (D), who backs fast-track, three of the four leaders of Congress’ two panels that deal with trade were expected to craft and introduce fast-track legislation.  The odd man out: Rep. Carl Levin, D-Mich.

The measure would give Obama and his successors virtually uncontrolled power to negotiate such “free trade” pacts behind closed doors, without congressional or public input, and without worker rights or environmental protections. 

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Steelworkers’ Gerard Rules Out GOP Presidential Hopefuls

Mark Gruenberg

Mark Gruenberg Editor, Press Associates Union News

Steelworkers’ Gerard Rules Out GOP Presidential Hopefuls

As far as his union is concerned, every single one of the raft of Republican presidential hopefuls for next year’s election are out of the running, Steelworkers President Leo Gerard says.  The Democrats are another matter.

“I don’t see a Republican that’s worth talking to,” Gerard told a press conference on April 13 during the Good Jobs Green Jobs meeting in D.C.  “But I’m just talking about the presidential candidates.”

Gerard and other leaders – representing unions and environmentalists in their joint Blue Green Alliance, which sponsors Good Jobs Green Jobs – called the press conference to react to Vice President Joseph Biden’s speech to the meeting minutes before (see separate story).

Gerard said the Steelworkers, who are known for their political savvy and impressive organizing around political and economic issues, will take announced presidential candidates through their normal evaluation process, he said.

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Scions Don't Get to Judge the Poor

Scions Don't Get to Judge the Poor

Union Matters

Solidarity with Workers Seeking Better Pay, Unions

I just read President Leo Gerard's blog on the New Hampshire Labor News. I respect it very much. The sentence: "The truth is that Patel, like so many other employers, believes that employees should work for free" is the absolute truth.

The American people, as well as union members, need to understand this at a time when paying dues to keep a union solvent is being viciously lied about eliminated wherever the corporate interests can get away with it.

I will be at a rally tomorrow with thousands of courageous workers who are miserably paid in New York City and treated brutually.

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