Thomas M. Conway

President’s Perspective

Tom Conway USW International President

Giving Workers the Cold Shoulder

Giving Workers the Cold Shoulder
Getty Images

Robert B. “Bull” Bulman stood up to FreightCar America because of the poor pay and hazardous working conditions at its Cherokee, Ala., factory. But the company savagely retaliated with threats to close the plant and relocate to Mexico.

Then, after thwarting the union drive, FreightCar America opted to offshore those 500 jobs anyway in a greedy gambit to exploit low wages and weak laws south of the border.

Although Donald Trump won the White House with a vow to reinvigorate a manufacturing base essential for America’s future, he failed to stanch the torrent of U.S. corporations absconding to countries with abysmal working conditions and lax environmental regulation.

Right under Trump’s nose, America lost hundreds of factories to offshoring, and corporations relocated nearly 200,000 U.S. jobs, all before the COVID-19 pandemic sent the economy into a nosedive. Some of these callous employers, including FreightCar America, even soaked taxpayers for millions of dollars in subsidies and other aid before they cut and run.

“They’re like parasites,” observed Bulman, who will lose his job when FreightCar America abandons its mile-long, 2.2-million-square-foot factory by the end of the year. “They get what they want and leave.”

Bulman, who formerly worked at a United Steelworkers (USW)-represented paper mill, helped lead two organizing drives at FreightCar America because he knew a union would compel the company to provide safer working conditions and give a voice to those performing demanding, hazardous jobs.

But FreightCar America waged vicious anti-union campaigns that included threats to close the plant and—the company’s very name notwithstanding—move the jobs to Mexico. After defeating both organizing drives, the company still sold out its workers.

Although Trump promised to stop companies from playing these heartless games with families’ livelihoods, he refused to intervene with FreightCar America or lift a finger to save manufacturing jobs in a state where workers deeply trusted he’d fight for them.

He gave the cold shoulder to FreightCar America workers who called and emailed the White House with pleas for help, just as he ignored USW members who sought assistance this year before Goodyear closed its nearly-100-year-old Gadsden, Ala., tire plant and moved several hundred remaining jobs to Mexico.

Mickey Ray Williams, the former president of Local 12, reached out to several administration officials and provided them with a presentation outlining Goodyear’s refusal to invest in the Gadsden factory even as it pumped more and more money into a Mexican site paying workers only a few dollars an hour.

Goodyear’s offshoring of the Assurance All-Season tire developed—and long manufactured—in Gadsden was exactly the kind of nefarious practice Trump bragged he would curb.

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CBPPs best graphs of 2019!

Jared Bernstein

Jared Bernstein Senior Fellow, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities

For a certain breed of wonk and nerd, it’s not the holiday season until some of CBPP’s best graphs of the year are collected and briefly annotated. This year, Kathleen Bryant and I took a stab at picking some of the figures we thought were most important to document the economic and policy landscape facing economically vulnerable people.

 

One of the most important and positive trends of the last decade was the decline in share of Americans without health coverage due to the Affordable Care Act. Their numbers fell from about 45 million to 27 million, a gain in coverage for ~18 million people. But this year’s release of the Census Bureau’s health insurance data revealed a troubling reversal of this trend. In 2018 (the data lag one year), the uninsured rate increased for the first time since the ACA’s passage. These findings illustrate the grave consequences of the Trump Administration’s repeated attempts to undermine the ACA over the past several years.

 

One reason the reversal shown above is of such concern is that health coverage saves lives. Reviewing a recent academic study, Matt Broadus and Aviva Aron-Dine report that the ACA’s Medicaid expansion prevents thousands of premature deaths each year and saved the lives of at least 19,200 adults aged 55 to 64 between 2014 and 2017. Matt and Aviva find that if all states had expanded Medicaid in 2017, the number of lives saved by full expansion would almost equal the number saved by seatbelts. Given such magnitudes, and considering that the federal government pays 90 percent of the costs of the expansion, these findings underscore the cruelty of remaining state resistance to the expansion.

For more, click here.

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Reposted from On the Economy

Top 1.0% of earners see wages up 157.8% since 1979

By Lawrence Mishel and Melat Kassa

Newly available wage data for 2018 show that annual wages for the top 1.0% were nearly flat (up 0.2%) while wages for the bottom 90% rose an above-average 1.4%. Still, the top 1.0% has done far better in the 2009–18 recovery (their wages rose 19.2%) than did those in the bottom 90%, whose wages rose only 6.8%. Over the last four decades since 1979, the top 1.0% saw their wages grow by 157.8% and those in the top 0.1% had wages grow more than twice as fast, up 340.7%. In contrast those in the bottom 90% had annual wages grow by 23.9% from 1979 to 2018. This disparity in wage growth reflects a sharp long-term rise in the share of total wages earned by those in the top 1.0% and 0.1%.

These are the results of EPI’s updated series on wages by earning group, which is developed from published Social Security Administration data and updates the wage series from 1947–2004 originally published by Kopczuk, Saez and Song (2010). These data, unlike the usual source of our other wage analyses (the Current Population Survey) allow us to estimate wage trends for the top 1.0% and top 0.1% of earners, as well as those for the bottom 90% and other categories among the top 10% of earners. These data are not top-coded, meaning the underlying earnings reported are actual earnings and not “capped” or “top-coded” for confidentiality.

For more, click here.

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Reposted from EPI

The Trump tax act delivered big benefits to the rich and corporations but nearly none for working families

From the EPI

Despite the Trump administration’s claims of success, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) did not increase wages for working people, failed to spur business investment, decreased corporate tax revenues, and boosted stock buybacks in its wake. Stock buybacks rose more than 50% to $560 billion in 2018—and look on-pace to hit $500 billion again in 2019. Meanwhile, there was no uptick in business investment in 2018 and significant declines in the six months of available data in 2019. Additionally, CBO estimates show that corporate tax revenue has declined more than originally anticipated. While real (inflation-adjusted) wage growth accelerated in 2018 relative to 2017, similar one-year accelerations have been seen in recent years. Further, wage growth in 2019 has decisively decelerated. Other influences pushing up wage growth in 2018—tight labor markets and higher state-level minimum wages—can fully explain the mild pickup in wage growth for that year.

To read the report, click here.

Can “powerless nobodies” fight the corporate powers?

Jim Hightower

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

Generations of working class shrimpers, oysterers, and other fishing families on the sparkling bays along the Texas coastline of the Gulf of Mexico, have long shared the waterways with alligators and snakes that also call this place home.

But in the 1980s, a strange and invasive new critter entered Lavaca Bay, and it’s been devouring whole species of seafood, along with the livelihoods of local Gulf communities. This was not some monster from the deep, but a massive, 45,000-acre factory owned by Formosa Plastics Corporation, founded by the richest man in Taiwan.

Formosa is not here for seafood. It’s the world’s second largest fabricator of polyvinyl chloride, the tiny, highly-toxic pebbles and powders used to make gabillions of plastic bags, pipes, bottles, etc. For decades, Formosa has cavalierly been dumping trillions of these poisonous pebbles and tons of the polyvinyl powders into its wastewater – which end up in Lavaca Bay.

That poisonous content then spreads to other bays and into the shrimp, oysters, fish, and other creatures living there. The result has been species vanishing from these waters, creating economic and social devastation for families and communities that rely on nature’s bounty.

Wait, isn’t this against the law? Of course – but petrochemical behemoths like Formosa have corrupted the law, turning Texas lawmakers and environmental regulators into their puppets. But, when leaders won’t lead, The People must, and that’s exactly what’s happening in this case. A defiant, determined shrimper and a scrappy environmental coalition have combined to win the largest citizen environmental lawsuit in US history, forcing Formosa to stop its gross contamination.

For information on the details and impact of this remarkable people’s victory, go to Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid at TLRA.org.

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Congress Has Ironed Out Its TIVSA Disagreements

Matthew McMullan

Matthew McMullan Communications Manager, Alliance for American Manufacturing

You might think Congress is entirely tied up in the impeachment hearings. But no!

On Monday, House and Senate negotiators agreed to a compromise version of the massive National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which sets in place policy and spending for Department of Defense. Tucked in this huge conference report is legislation modeled on the Transportation Infrastructure Vehicle Security Act (TIVSA) that would bar federal dollars from being used to purchase rolling stock – rail cars or buses – from state-owned or -controlled companies. In effect this meant big Chinese companies, whose presence in the American bus and rail car markets has grown significantly in recent years.

Both the House and Senate versions of the NDAA included TIVSA language, and while the Senate’s TIVSA was comprehensive the House’s carved out electric buses from this legislation. In the end, though, the TIVSA language on which the negotiators agreed leaned toward the Senate version; it was more comprehensive.

The Alliance for American Manufacturing (AAM) thinks this is a good outcome. Detailed reports have shown CRRC and BYD – a Chinese state-owned rail car manufacturer and a state-supported bus manufacturer, respectively, that have growing footprints in the American market – maintain close ties to the Chinese Communist Party, the Chinese military, and huge telecom companies like Huawei, which currently sits on a Commerce Department export blacklist because of national security concerns.

AAM President Scott Paul applauded Congress for recognizing that such companies “operate as extensions of China’s government.” Said Paul:

“By moving forward with this legislation, Congress is defending our transportation infrastructure against deeply subsidized Chinese companies that threaten to disrupt our manufacturing capabilities and displace tens of thousands of American jobs throughout our supply chain of parts and components.”

Read the reports on BYD and CRRC here.

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Reposted from AAM

Union Matters

Saving the Nation’s Parks

From the USW

From tumbledown bridges to decrepit roads and failing water systems, crumbling infrastructure undermines America’s safety and prosperity. In coming weeks, Union Matters will delve into this neglect and the urgent need for a rebuilding campaign that creates jobs, fuels economic growth and revitalizes communities. 

The wildfires ravaging the West Coast not only pose imminent danger to iconic national parks like Crater Lake in Oregon and the Redwoods in California, but threaten the future of all of America’s beloved scenic places.

As climate change fuels the federal government’s need to spend more of National Park Service (NPS) and U.S. Forest Service budgets on wildfire suppression, massive maintenance backlogs and decrepit infrastructure threaten the entire system of national parks and forests.

A long-overdue infusion of funds into the roads, bridges, tunnels, dams and marinas in these treasured spaces would generate jobs and preserve landmark sites for generations to come.

The infrastructure networks in the nation’s parks long have failed to meet modern-day demand. The American Society of Civil Engineers gave parks a D+ rating in its 2017 infrastructure report card, citing chronic underfunding and deferred maintenance.

Just this year, a large portion of the Blue Ridge Parkway, which is owned and managed by the NPS, collapsed due to heavy rains and slope failures. Projects to prevent disasters like this one get pushed further down the road as wildfire management squeezes agency budgets more each year.

Congress recently passed the Great American Outdoors Act,  allocating billions in new funding for the NPS.

But that’s just a first step in a long yet vital process to bring parks and forests to 21st-century standards. America’s big, open spaces cannot afford to suffer additional neglect.

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There is Dignity in All Work

There is Dignity in All Work