Leo W. Gerard

President’s Perspective

Leo W. Gerard USW International President

Make America Vote

Make America Vote
Art by WeArt on Getty Images

The voter turnout last Tuesday was historic – the highest in half a century, nearly half of the eligible electorate participated, an amazing number for a midterm.

The United States Election Project estimates turnout at 49.2 percent. How high would it have risen sans voter suppression – 55 percent, 60 percent?

Who might have won without the strangulation of some voters’ voices? Would Democrat Stacey Abrams have trounced Georgia Republican Brian Kemp, who acted both as candidate for governor and militant for suppression?

Like all disenfranchisers, Kemp did everything he could to choose his voters, making sure to disqualify electors likely to support his opponent’s effort to become the state’s first African American woman governor. That’s right. He targeted Black voters.

Kemp and his vote-stifling cohorts are upending the goal of a representative democracy. In a democratic republic, voters choose their representatives – not the other way around. Republicans are defiling America’s promise of self-governance by erecting obstacles to the ballot. To be great, America must clear the path to the polls, perhaps even mandating voting like Australia. There, turnout is more than 90 percent. 

The founding fathers created a country on the premise of self-governance, that each American was a citizen endowed with the right to self-determination. Those revolutionaries fought a war over their declaration that Americans were not subjects bound by whims of a monarch. Still, it took nearly another century and another war for Black Americans to gain freedom from enslavement. Even then, African American men only nominally gained the right to vote. And American women wouldn’t get the franchise for another half a century.

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Shot, Stabbed and Assaulted: Violence Against Nurses

Jordan Barab

Jordan Barab Former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Labor, OSHA

Aside from the jarring videos of nurses being attacked and the tragic interviews as they recount the attacks and try to recover — physically and emotionally — the video is also packed with information:

  • Over 2400 nurses are victims of workplace violence every year and the number increased 30% since 2012 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
  • Hospitals consider attacks and threats against health care workers to be “part of the job.”
  • Part the reason for the increase is that hospitals are faced with more and more psychiatric patients and patients who have substance abuse problems.
  • Instead of responding to the increase, OSHA has its efforts to address violence in health care. There were only 81 workplace violence-related OSHA inspections last year out of over 32,000 total inspections, down from 131 the year before.
  • Prior to January 2017, OSHA had an emphasis program that included programmed (or random unannounced) inspections for workplace violence in nursing homes and health care institutions. The elimination of the program explains much of the reduction in workplace violence citations.
  • Because there is no OSHA standard covering workplace violence, OSHA is forced to use the burdensome General Duty Clause. Because of the difficulty of using the General Duty Clause, the agency often only issues warning letters instead of citations. Terpstra found that one-quarter of inspections from 2012-2017 resulted in warning letters, and fewer than half with citations.  Nothing requires inspectors to follow up on hazard letters.
  • Ten states have some kind of law or OSHA standard covering workplace violence, although it is unclear how effective they are in preventing incidents.
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GOP made it easier to subpoena presidential administrations in 2015. Now Democrats have that power.

Josh Israel

Josh Israel Sr. Investigative Reporter, Think Progress

Back in 2015, the House Republican majority changed the rules in the House to make it easier for them to subpoena the Obama administration. Rather than involve members of the Democratic minority in the process at all, they simply authorized their own committee chairs to unilaterally issue subpoenas to anyone they wished.

Come January, that may well come back to haunt the dwindling number of Republicans left in the U.S. House of Representatives. The result: for the first time, Donald Trump and his administration may soon face some real oversight.

Unlike some legislative bodies, the House essentially works on simple majority rule. With 218 votes, the majority does not need a single vote from the minority to issue subpoenas for testimony and documents — or to change its own rules. This means that after two years with largely no scrutiny at all, the Trump administration could soon be forced to be transparent with the American public about its conflicts of interest, compliance with the law, and myriad examples of corruption.

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Voters approve additional public education funding in several states

Casey Quinlan

Casey Quinlan Policy Reporter, Think Progress

Voters across the country on Tuesday made ballot decisions to help fund public schools, which are increasingly starved for resources. Most of them were successful, with six education initiatives passing overall, in places like Seattle, Washington; Georgia; Maryland; Montana; and two in the state of Maine.

Four education initiatives were defeated in Colorado, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Utah.

Education funding has dropped drastically in recent years. Twenty-nine states were providing less total school funding per student in 2015 than in 2008, according to the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities. In 19 states, local government funding also fell. In more than half of the states in the United States, the poorest districts — districts with the highest rates of poverty — get $1,000 less per pupil in state and local funding than districts with the lowest poverty rates, according to The Education Trust.

The fact that education initiatives were on the ballot at all in several states, then, is at least a step in the right direction.

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Union Matters

3.4 Million American Jobs Wiped Out by U.S.-China Trade

Scott Paul and Robert E. Scott join Leslie Marshall to discuss a new EPI report entitled, "The China toll deepens: Growth in the bilateral trade deficit between 2001 and 2017 cost 3.4 million U.S. jobs, with losses in every state and congressional district."

Scott Paul is President of the Alliance for American Manufacturing (AAM), a partnership established by some of America’s leading manufacturers and the United Steelworkers union.

Robert E. Scott is Senior Economist and Director of Trade and Manufacturing Policy Research at the Economic Policy Institute (EPI).
EPI is a nonprofit, nonpartisan think tank created in 1986 to include the needs of low- and middle-income workers in economic policy discussions.


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Who Really Pays for Tax Cuts?

Who Really Pays for Tax Cuts?