Leo W. Gerard

President’s Perspective

Leo W. Gerard USW International President

Billionaire Wolves in Workers’ Clothing

Billionaire Wolves in Workers’ Clothing

Hundred millionaire Bruce Rauner just couldn’t wait to tell Illinois state workers that the U.S. Supreme Court had given them what he considered a gift.

Within hours of the court’s ruling in the Janus case last week, Rauner, the Republican governor of Illinois, emailed state workers to tell them the decision meant they no longer needed to pay either dues or fair share fees to their labor union but the union would still be required to represent them.

What a deal! Free service! And it was brought to them by Rauner! The governor had filed the lawsuit that led to the Janus decision. When a court tossed him as plaintiff, the right-wing foundations whose billionaire donors paid for the lawsuit drummed up replacement plaintiffs including Mark Janus. He’s an Illinois child support worker who refused to join the union and pay dues and who didn’t even want to pay the smaller fair share fee of $45 a month charged to non-members to cover the union’s costs of bargaining for them.

It was that fee that the Supreme Court said government workers had a free speech right not to pay. The court said unions do not have a corresponding free speech right to refuse to represent non-members.

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Gentrification shreds the fabric of our cities while making rich developers even richer

Jim Hightower

Jim Hightower Author, Commentator, America’s Number One Populist


When I moved to Austin in 1976, I lucked into finding a small, dog-run style house that must have had a lot of dogs running through it over the years, for it was pretty run down. That was good, though, because it meant I could afford it on my minimalist salary. Located in a working-class neighborhood just off of South Congress Avenue, the house was about 100 years old and needed a lot of work, but it suited me just fine. As did the mixed-race neighborhood of striving musicians, retirees, ex-hippies, unemployed writers, cab drivers, and several marijuana peddlers. It was an unpretentious, genuinely eclectic community of laid-back, free-spirited Austinites. (Our unofficial slogan was, “We’re all here because we’re not all there.”)

We had plenty of bars, churches, and other places where neighbors would gather periodically in various groupings, but one spot was a magnet for the whole community, regularly pulling practically everyone in. The H-E-B, our area’s supermarket, was part of a mid-sized chain of Texas grocery stores named for its founder Howard E. Butt. The family smartly chose to market Mr. Butt’s initials, rather than draw attention to his namesake body part.) Our H-E-B was widely popular because its workers paid attention to the community they were in, stocking staples like 20-pound bags of frijoles, smoked ham hocks, and cornmeal-breaded catfish, as well as auto-repair parts and low-priced barbeque grills made from barrels.

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Are We in a Trade War?

Celeste Drake

Celeste Drake Trade and Globalization Policy Specialist, AFL-CIO

TV pundits keep repeating that we’re in a “trade war.” What does that even mean?

Now, let’s tone down the rhetoric just a bit. Real wars, such as those in Iraq and Afghanistan, are deadly, dangerous, scary affairs. No one should confuse tariffs with real wars.

In terms of economics, the closest thing we have to a “war” is the relentless attack on workers that has been taking place for several decades as economic elites (including corporate CEOsbad actor employers and the 1% who don’t want to pay their fair share of taxes) have worked to rig global economic rules to benefit themselves at the expense of ordinary working people.  

The attack on workers has been waged on many fronts, from so-called “right to work” laws that deny our freedom, to regressive tax laws such as the recent Republican tax bill giving big tax breaks to companies that outsource jobs, to attacks on overtime pay and workplace safety, to defunding schools and meals for our children. The attack on workers also comes in the area of trade policy, and includes unfair, predatory actions by China. Trade attacks on workers are aided and abetted by greedy corporations that outsource jobs and abuse workers, and by U.S. officials of both political parties who have failed to stand up for us.

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Protests against Pittsburgh hospital expansion highlight city’s growing racial health disparities

Elham Khatami

Elham Khatami Associate Editor, Think Progress

More than 100 activists and employees took turns speaking at a packed Pittsburgh City Council hearing Tuesday on the proposed $2 billion expansion of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) in the city’s Uptown neighborhood. They were there to demand that the health care giant agree to higher wages and unionization for workers before it moves forward with expansion.

Prior to the hearing, opponents of the plan marched to the city council building and held a rally, asking for UPMC to form a community health benefits agreement that would guarantee an immediate increase of the minimum wage to $15 and would ensure that all Pittsburgh residents, regardless of their location or insurance, have equal access to health care. (UPMC recently approved a plan to do increase the minimum wage by 2021, but protesters say that, by then, $15 will no longer be a living wage.)

UPMC must obtain the council’s approval before it can proceed with the expansion to build a vision and rehabilitation center in the up-and-coming Uptown neighborhood. The tax-exempt hospital chain is a non-profit, but opponents slammed it for raking in billions of dollars, while paying its workers “slave wages.”

“We’re here to remind UPMC that they are guests in our community. And when we say that we need a seat at the table, it’s because that’s our table,” Summer Lee, a Democratic socialist candidate for Pennsylvania state House, told the crowd at the rally.

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Union Matters

Home Health Care Workers Under Attack

By Bethany Swanson
USW Intern

Home health care workers have important but difficult jobs that require them to work long hours and chaotic schedules to care for the country’s rapidly growing elder population.

Instead of protecting these workers, the vast majority of whom are women and people of color, the current administration plans to make it harder for them to belong to unions, stifling their best chance for improving working conditions and wages.

The anti-union measure would roll back an Obama-era rule that allows home care workers, whose services are paid for through Medicaid, to choose to have their union dues deducted directly from their paychecks.

The goal of the rule, like the recent Janus decision and other anti-union campaigns, is to starve unions out of existence, so they can no longer protect their members.

Home health care workers bathe, dress, feed and monitor the health of the sick and elderly, but they often cannot afford to provide for their own families.

On average, they make little more than $10 an hour and more than half rely on some sort of public assistance. Most receive few or no benefits, even though home care workers and other direct care workers have some of the highest injury rates of any occupation.

That’s why many home care workers have turned to labor unions.

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The Dirty Truth about Janus

The Dirty Truth about Janus