Leo W. Gerard

President’s Perspective

Leo W. Gerard USW International President

Kavanaugh’s Disdain for Worker Safety Disqualifies Him

In his statement to Congress this week during his confirmation hearing, Judge Brett Kavanaugh said his mother taught him that judges must always stand in the shoes of others.

Though hardly original or deeply inspirational, it’s not bad advice. The problem is that Kavanaugh never chooses steel-toed work boots. In every case involving workers, Kavanaugh has put himself instead in the wingtips of CEOs. He is a man born to wealth and privilege who attended Georgetown Preparatory, one of the most expensive private high schools in the country, with annual tuition of nearly $57,000, followed by a similarly exclusive Ivy League college education.

The vast majority of Americans cannot conceive of paying $228,000 to get a kid through high school. Kavanaugh’s opinions illustrate that he has no idea how to relate to them, and, in fact, doesn’t care to try to understand people with grit under their fingernails. That makes him, as a Supreme Court justice, dangerous to working people.

The case that perfectly illustrates Kavanaugh’s carelessness toward workers and obsequiousness toward corporations is SeaWorld v. U.S. Secretary of Labor Tomas Perez. Kavanaugh authored the dissent. Writing for the majority was Judge Judith W. Rogers, joined by Merrick Garland, Chief Circuit Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.

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Teachers’ Union Leaders Demand Full Federal Funding for Educating Poor Kids

Mark Gruenberg

Mark Gruenberg Editor, Press Associates Union News

The presidents of the nation’s two big teachers’ unions, Lily Eskelsen-Garcia of the National Education Association and Randi Weingarten of the American Federation of Teachers, are demanding the federal government fully fund federal programs for schools that teach the nation’s poorest kids.

And that includes making up a $580 billion shortfall in such funding, accumulated since the 1965 Elementary and Secondary Act was passed as part of the War on Poverty. That shortfall is documented in a new report released at the Congressional Black Caucus foundation’s annual conference.

Eskelsen-Garcia challenged politicians “to come see what the best public schools are – you’ve just got to live in the right neighborhood to attend one.”

“It’s institutional racism that decided who will get school funds and who will not,” she declared before issuing her challenge to the pols at a September 12 press conference.

“It’s long past time to have just the rhetoric of these policies, without the funding,” Weingarten added at the same confab. Other school advocates, including Service Employees Vice President Heather Conroy, sounded the same themes.

Confronting The Education Debt, a report issued this month by the Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools, said the federal government pledged when ESEA passed to add 40 percent “above each state’s per-pupil spending base for each Title I eligible child.” Title I is the ESEA section that authorizes – but does not actually dole out – money for helping schools educate poor kids.

The report notes the feds have never hit that 40 percent mark. Though the report does not name her, the GOP Trump administration’s Education Secretary, Elizabeth “Betsy” DeVos, prefers funding private schools, charter schools and taxpayer-paid vouchers to parents of public school kids. The report calls for a moratorium on those priorities.

It also calls for fully funding that $580 billion shortfall by repealing the $1.5 trillion Trump-GOP tax cut for the rich and corporations and redirecting part of that money to the 21 million-30 million Title I kids.

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Century Foundation Unveils Its Federal Agenda to Build a High Wage America

Elizabeth Brotherton-Bunch

Elizabeth Brotherton-Bunch Digital Media Director, Alliance for American Manufacturing

The nonprofit Century Foundation officially unveiled its new federal agenda for revitalizing America’s manufacturing communities on Thursday, centered on ways to increase the number of high wage jobs and create a pipeline of qualified workers to fill them.

And the foundation attracted some big names to help them do it.

Former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) were among the keynote speakers at a summit sponsored by the foundation in Washington. Biden and Gillibrand — both of whom are being floated as potential 2020 presidential contenders — noted that too many Americans are stuck working low-paying jobs, and elected leaders haven’t done enough to help them.

“Ordinary Americans can do extraordinary things, if you just give them a chance,” Biden said. “This is not beyond our capacity. There is so much we can do to begin to change things.”

Gillibrand echoed Biden’s remarks.

“We have the hardest working people in the world. We have an ideal, it’s called the American dream,” Gillibrand said. “I can tell you, wherever I travel in my state, people don’t believe the dream is for them anymore…They just want someone fighting for them.”

The Century Foundation’s new agenda serves as a blueprint for doing just that, and manufacturing is at the heart of it. Foundational officials spent the past year meeting with hundreds of people in cities like Cleveland, Chicago, and Pittsburgh to help put their ideas together.

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New Census data show that low-income people are responding as they always do to tight labor markets…by working!

Jared Bernstein

Jared Bernstein Senior Fellow, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities

One of the particularly frustrating, fact-free aspects of the conservative push to add (or ramp up) work requirements in anti-poverty programs like Medicaid or SNAP is that low-income people who can do so are already working hard. Moreover, as the job market tightens, they respond to tightening conditions.

Using the new Census data, Kathleen Bryant and I, with help from Raheem Chaudhry, used the 2017 microdata (the data on which the poverty and income numbers are based) to compare the employment rates of low-income single mothers (with incomes below twice the poverty threshold) with prime-age (25-54), non-poor adults. We found that between 2010 and 2017, the employment rates of the low-income single moms increased by 5.4 percentage points (67.7% to 73.2%), while those of non-poor adults increased by just 1.2 percentage points (87.8% to 89%).

Source: CBPP analysis.

It’s true that the single moms, by dint of their lower employment rate levels, have more room to grow, but the prime-age adults are not obviously hitting a ceiling on their rates.

At any rate, we believe this shows that a large and growing majority of low-income moms are already trying to both raise their kids and support their families through work, and that they’re actively taking advantage of the tight labor market. Adding work requirements will just give them one more needless, bureaucratic barrier to leap over, likely reducing their ability to maintain their benefits, even as they’re playing by the rules. Forgive me if I cynically suspect that such hassle-induced benefit losses are the point.

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Reposted from On the Economy

People Love to Talk About the Skills Gap. But What About the “Productivity-Pay Gap”?

Elizabeth Brotherton-Bunch

Elizabeth Brotherton-Bunch Digital Media Director, Alliance for American Manufacturing

A couple of stories caught our eye last week.

First, there’s this piece in the Wall Street Journal on how employers “feel the pinch” because of an “increasingly tight labor market.” There were 650,000 available jobs in the United States in July, the highest level on records back to 2000, according to the article.

The story mirrors what we often hear about the “skills gap” in manufacturing, the idea that there are many advanced manufacturing jobs out there but not enough workers with the know-how to fill them.

Remember that — we’ll come back to it.

We also came across this devastating story in the New York Times on Wednesday about how so many of the jobs out there — especially for workers without a college degree — simply do not pay enough to live on. Here’s an excerpt:

“In recent decades, the nation’s tremendous economic growth has not led to broad social uplift. Economists call it the ‘productivity-pay gap’ — the fact that over the last 40 years, the economy has expanded and corporate profits have risen, but real wages have remained flat… American workers are being shut out of the profits they are helping to generate.”

That NYT piece profiles Vanessa Solivan, a mother-of-three who, when times are good, makes about $1,200 a month as a home health aide. The 33-year-old spent almost three years as part of the “working homeless,” holding down a job but not making enough money to afford a place to live.

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Union Matters

A Fierce Defender of Truth and Classic Opulence

Sam Pizzigati

Sam Pizzigati Editor, Too Much online magazine

Rolls-Royce CEO Torsten Müller-Ötvös sees himself as the custodian of a hallowed brand — and woe be to anyone who dares dispute Rolls supremacy in the universe of ultra luxury. This past March, Müller-Ötvös lit into an Aston Martin exec who had the temerity of suggesting that the traditional Rolls design amounted to an outmoded “ancient Greece.” An “enraged” Müller-Ötvös, Auto News reported, fumed that Aston Martin had “zero clue” about the ultra rich and then accused other carmakers of stealing Rolls-Royce intellectual property. Last summer, Müller-Ötvös rushed to defend the $650,000 price-tag on one Rolls model after a reporter told him that his son wondered why anyone who could afford to “fly to the moon” would choose to buy a Rolls instead. Rolls patrons, the 58-year-old CEO harrumphed back, hold at least $30 million in personal wealth: “They don’t have to choose. They can fly to the moon as well.”

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The Real Root of Poverty

The Real Root of Poverty