Leo W. Gerard

President’s Perspective

Leo W. Gerard USW International President

Trade Negotiations Require a Steel Spine

President Donald Trump dealt himself a strong hand before negotiating with China.

He held three aces. He’d placed tariffs on imported aluminum and steel in response to unrelenting Chinese overproduction. He’d threatened tariffs on $150 billion in Chinese imports in retaliation for theft and forced transfer of American intellectual property. And for trade violations, he’d forbidden U.S. companies to sell parts to Chinese cell phone giant ZTE, forcing it out of business.

And then, inexplicably, his lead negotiator, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, quickly folded in talks in Washington, D.C.,  last week. He left two days of negotiations with top Chinese officials with what amounts of an unenforceable letter of intent. The “joint statement” says the Chinese will buy some more American made stuff, improve its protections for American intellectual property and patents, and remove some barriers preventing U.S. companies from operating in China. But there’s no specifics and no enforcement.

In exchange for vague promises, Mnuchin suspended the tariffs. In addition, on Tuesday, the Wall Street Journal reported that the United States and China had reached a tentative deal to save ZTE, despite the fact that ZTE failed to honor an earlier agreement made after it violated trade embargos against Iran and North Korea.  

Now China holds all the aces. It is bragging that it trounced the United States in trade talks. The stock market shot up 350 points Monday on Mnuchin’s assertion that he’d stopped a trade war between China and the United States. And maybe certainty for investors was all Mnuchin, a former Wall Street banker, wanted. But steel stocks slumped Monday. And that’s not what President Trump promised on the campaign trail.  It’s not what tough negotiators would have achieved for the United States when it had the upper hand. No potent negotiator would have surrendered that hand for vague promises, especially considering China’s long history of disregarding its trade pledges. 

More ...

Executive Paywatch 2018: The Gap Between CEO and Worker Compensation Continues to Grow

CEO pay for major companies in the United States rose nearly 6% in the past year, as income inequality and the outsourcing of good-paying American jobs have increased. According to the new AFL-CIO Executive Paywatch, the average CEO of an S&P 500 Index company made $13.94 million in 2017—361 times more money than the average U.S. rank-and-file worker. The Executive Paywatch website, the most comprehensive searchable online database tracking CEO pay, showed that in 2017, the average production and nonsupervisory worker earned about $38,613 per year. When adjusted for inflation, the average wage has remained stagnant for more than 50 years.

"This year’s report provides further proof that the greed of corporate CEOs is driving America’s income inequality crisis," said AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Liz Shuler. "Too many working people are struggling to get by, to afford the basics, to save for college, to retire with dignity while CEOs are paying themselves more and more. Our economy works best when consumers have money to spend. That means raising wages for workers and reining in out of control executive pay."

More ...

NC Teachers Shout ‘Listen to Us!’ to Lawmakers

Jeff Bryant

Jeff Bryant Fellow, Campaign for America's Future

Teachers in North Carolina made a huge statement when they shut down schools in at least 42 districts and thronged the state capital in an all-day march and rally that drew an estimated 20,000 to 30,000 people – way more than the 15,000 the state teachers’ association, that organized the event, promised.

While their list of grievances was long and varied – from unmanageable class sizes to inadequate funding to stressed out work schedules – there was one theme that recurred when asked to explain what they hoped to accomplish.

“We hope our state legislators listen to us,” said Courtney Brown, a teacher at River Bend Elementary School in Wake County. “They need to understand there’s a problem, and things need to change.”

The “problem” teachers want to call attention to takes on many forms in their schools, depending on where the teachers work.

More ...

Laborers, AFL-CIO Seek Funding for Infrastructure Repairs.

Mark Gruenberg

Mark Gruenberg Editor, Press Associates Union News

Saying “there’s no single answer” to funding U.S. infrastructure needs, Laborers President Terry O’Sullivan endorsed a variety of approaches – some pushed by GOP President Donald Trump and Congress’ ruling Republicans and others long-time union and Democratic favorites – to raising funds to rebuild the nation’s crumbling roads, bridges, subways, airports and bus systems.

O’Sullivan endorsed the “all-of-the-above” approach at a May 14 D.C. kickoff of “Infrastructure Week,” which featured a coalition of unions, business, think tanks and others all coming together to lobby states and D.C. for at least $1 trillion in new infrastructure spending.

“All of us are united in concern about America’s crumbling infrastructure,” he told a crowd of business, civic and other interested leaders packed into a meeting room at Washington’s Union Station. It was one of several hundred events coast to coast designed to put the pressure on lawmakers, governors and Trump to fund infrastructure.

“We support any and all sources of funding that will create good-paying, family-supporting, middle class jobs building and repairing America’s infrastructure,” O’Sullivan said.

The Laborers support all the different funding plans “as long as the projects” they pay for include “worker protections” on wages and in project labor agreements, O’Sullivan elaborated. The other panelists who spoke were notably silent on that point.

The all-of-the-above approach O’Sullivan endorsed includes state and local municipal “bonds, user fees, public-private partnerships and more,” he said. It also must include federal investment, he added, but without being specific. Unions, including the Laborers, have campaigned for large federal shares in infrastructure spending.

Notably missing from O’Sullivan’s remarks: Raising the federal gas tax, which, at 18 cents a gallon, hasn’t gone up since the Reagan administration.  Combined with higher fuel efficiency and use of a small portion of gas tax revenues for subways and buses, U.S. high-ways have faced a massive shortfall in cash for repairs, replacement and new construction.


More ...

Union Matters

CEOs Pay Themselves What?

From the AFL-CIO

CEO pay soars to 361 times that of the average U.S. rank-and-file worker, according to the AFL-CIO’s new Executive Paywatch released this week.

The Executive Paywatch is the most comprehensive searchable online database tracking CEO pay. For the first time, thanks to new disclosure rules fought for and won by the labor movement, Paywatch now includes company-specific pay ratio data.

The AFL-CIO’s Executive Paywatch provides startling new data on CEO pay and the inequality that persists in America:

  • The CEO-to-worker pay ratio grew from 347 to 1 in 2016 to 361 to 1 in 2017.
  • CEO pay at S&P 500 Index companies is up 6.4%, to a total of $13.94 million in 2017.
  • The average S&P 500 CEO in the retail industry made 791 times that of the average median pay of their employees last year.
More ...

Check the Facts on Trade

Check the Facts on Trade