Leo W. Gerard

President’s Perspective

Leo W. Gerard USW International President

The Soul of a Union Man

I was raised in a company house in a company town where the miners had to buy their own oilers – that is, rubber coveralls – drill bits and other tools at the company store.

That company, Inco Limited, the world’s leading producer of nickel for most of the 20th century, controlled the town of Sudbury, Ontario, but never succeeded in owning the souls of the men and women who lived and worked there.

That’s because these were union men and women, self-possessed, a little rowdy and well aware that puny pleas from individual workers fall on deaf corporate ears.

As I prepare to retire in a couple of days, 54 years after starting work as a copper puncher at the Inco smelter, the relationship between massive, multi-national corporations and workers is different.

Unions represent a much smaller percentage of workers now, so few that some don’t even know what a labor organization is – or what organized labor can accomplish. That is the result of deliberate, decades-long attacks on unions by corporations and the rich. They intend to own not only workers’ time and production but their very souls.

I’d like to tell you the story of Inco because it illustrates the arc of labor union ascendance and attenuation over the past 72 years since I was born in Sudbury. 

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How Congress Can Address Climate Change, Create Jobs and Support U.S. Manufacturers

Elizabeth Brotherton-Bunch

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

The House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis – a special Congressional panel established in 2019 with the mandate of exploring ways to address climate change – held a hearing on Tuesday that caught our eye.

Now, astute readers of this blog know that the Alliance for American Manufacturing is supportive of efforts to clean up our environment.

We think manufacturers can and should do their part to lower greenhouse gas emissions, and thankfully many already are stepping up to the plate. And we’ve also sounded the alarm about the link between trade and climate change, pointing out that when we depend countries like China for products big and small, we essentially are importing our pollution.

But anyway, back to the hearing, which examined how heavy-duty public transportation impacts the environment.

We were excited to see that Ryan Popple, the president and CEO of zero-emission battery-electric bus maker Proterra, Inc., was among the panelists. Founded in Colorado in 2004, Proterra is now headquartered in Silicon Valley and manufactures its buses at factories in the City of Industry, Calif., and Greenville, S.C. Proterra employs more than 500 people, and has made buses for communities in 36 states, the District of Columbia and even two Canadian provinces.

Proterra is an example of an American manufacturer that is tackling a problem head-on, working to reduce carbon emissions while also supporting job growth and local economic development. But that’s not what got our attention.

What did were the opening remarks from ranking member Garrett Graves. The Louisiana Republican echoed Chair Kathy Castor (D-Fla.), who said America “can lead the world with well-paying jobs as we transition to clean energy.”

And Graves also pointed out what we shouldn’t be doing:

“We had hearings in the transportation committee, where I also serve, where BYD, a Chinese bus manufacturer, was coming in -- and it appears to be a state-owned enterprise -- coming in and knocking out domestic bus manufacturers, and being subsidized by the Chinese government. Coming in and assembling buses in California, in some of our own communities, only to undercut price, knock out domestic production of those same types of vehicles, therefore giving China an advantage.”

AAM President Scott Paul testified at that hearing, and he noted that BYD’s business model is to assemble its buses in the United States, but heavily rely on imported parts and components. (Compare that to Proterra, which sources more than 75 percent of its materials in the United States, supporting jobs up and down the transportation supply chain.)

BYD now has set its sights on dominating world auto sales by 2025, which as Scott Paul noted “would threaten over 5,600 parts suppliers spread across the nation, employing 871,000 workers, the very heart of American Manufacturing.”

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House Acts to Block Federal Funding for Rail Cars Built by Chinese State-Owned Companies

Elizabeth Brotherton-Bunch

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

A big step in the right direction.

The House of Representatives on Friday passed the annual spending bill for the Defense Department, and the legislation included language to block federal transit dollars from being spent on electric rail cars made by Chinese state-owned companies.

The provision included in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) passed by the House prohibits federal tax dollars from being used to award a contract or subcontract for the procurement of rail cars to be used in public transportation by state-owned or controlled companies from non-market economies like China.  

Although the NDAA passed on party lines, this specific legislation enjoyed bipartisan support, as it was originally sponsored by Reps. Harley Rouda (D-Calif.), Rick Crawford (R-Ark.), Scott Perry (R-Pa.), Kay Granger (R-Texas), Tim Ryan (D-Ohio), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), Randy Weber (R-Texas) and John Garamendi (D-Calif.).

The NDAA now heads to conference with the Senate, which previously passed its version of the defense authorization bill that included a similar provision that applied to both rail and buses. Sens. John Cornyn (R-Texas), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) served as the original sponsors of the Transit Infrastructure Vehicle Security Act in that chamber.

Here at the Alliance for American Manufacturing, we encourage lawmakers to put forth a final NDAA conference report that includes the Senate version of this provision, as it applies to both types of public transit.

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Pregnant 17-year-old’s death may lead to federal law protecting workers from excessive heat

Mark Gruenberg

Mark Gruenberg Editor, Press Associates Union News

Just over 11 years ago, on May 14, 2008, Maria Isabel Vasquez Jimenez, after toiling in excessive heat for three straight days picking grapes and hauling huge crates of them in the farm fields near Lodi, Calif., collapsed.

The pregnant 90-pound girl was earning money there to send back to her poverty-stricken family in Oaxaca, Mexico, says retired United Farm Workers President Arturo Rodriguez. There was no water spigot for her to drink from, no shelter to retreat to when temperatures soared into the 90s and above, and no shade in the fields, even when she had time for lunch. She often didn’t. 

Jimenez paid for her devotion with her life. And, this July 11, her death came to mean something on Capitol Hill.

“She fell to the ground because of the heat,” Rodriguez told Press Associates Union News Service the day before a House hearing on a bill to try to prevent future heat deaths among farm workers, roofers, construction workers, highway crew workers and any other worker forced to toil under the hot summer sun.

“The foreman left her on the ground, then put her in the back of a hot flatbed truck,” Rodriguez continued. The foreman first planned to take Jimenez home, but her fiancée finally convinced him to take her to a nearby clinic instead. It was too late.

“She died the next day. Her body temperature was over 100 degrees. The doctors told us her organs were cooked,” Rodriguez said.

Jimenez died even though California, after lobbying by the Farm Workers and a long campaign by then-State Sen. Judy Chu (D), had the nation’s first-ever regulations on the books, since 2005, ordering growers and all other employers to protect workers against heat-related injuries and deaths.

Firms could protect the workers by such simple measures as providing shade, water, shelter and even cooling scarves workers could use to sponge their necks and hands – measures demonstrated at a July 10 outdoor press conference in D.C.’s sunny 90-degree heat.

But the farm labor contractor who brought Jimenez to those fields broke the state’s protective rules. The contractor later lost its license, but not before Jimenez’s death led UFW into another long campaign to enforce the regulations, including a 6-day march from Lodi to Sacramento, and a lawsuit.


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Here’s the straight skinny on Medicare for All

Jim Hightower

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

The British people have been widely admired for their steady demeanor in times of adversity–stiff upper lip and all that. Until Donald Trump, that is.

In June, our presidential popinjay descended on London with a bombastic proposition that caused the upper lips of the entire British population to quiver at once. There as a guest, and treated to the full pomp of a state visit, The Donald blurted out what he hailed as a “phenomenal” gift in the form of a new US-UK trade deal: He was offering to bring in America’s healthcare profiteers to start privatizing Britain’s National Health Service.

It’s possible that Trump was simply ignorant, unaware that Brits love their NHS, since its socialized plan provides quality care to all without families fearing they’ll be bankrupted or priced out of treatment by private insurance giants, hospital chains, or Big Pharma. Or possibly, he was hornswoggled by the right-wing pontificators of Fox News (Trump’s most trusted policy advisors) and their steady stream of lies about anything with the word “social” in it.

Last year, after seeing (What else?) a Fox News segment reporting that thousands of Brits were marching in protest of their health system, Trump smugly trumpeted that they were fed up with care-for-all socialism. But–oops–the uproar was actually in support of the NHS, demanding that the miserly Tory government strengthen it with “more staff, more beds, more funds.”

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A Bus Tour Pushes For Higher Taxes on the Rich

Jarod Facundo Next Leader, Institute for Policy Studies

The GOP Tax Cuts and Jobs Act enacted late in 2017, the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service reported late this spring, has been a smashing success — for the U.S. corporations that have been smashing workers for the past four decades. Under the tax cut, the estimated average corporate tax rate has dropped from 23.4 to 12.1 percent while workers have seen “no indication of a surge in wages.”

Now, nearly two years after the legislation passed, organizers want members of Congress to know they’re still fighting this massive upwards redistribution of wealth. To do that, activists have convened a nationwide “Tax the Rich” bus tour to remind the country that the fight for fair taxation is far from over. The tour is sponsored by Tax March, a coalition of over 70 organizations working to create a tax system – and an economy – that helps everyone, not just those at the top.

The bus tour strategically coincides with the first nights of Democratic primary debates. Their 35-day excursion will include 40 events in 19 states and Washington, DC. The final stop will be July 30th in Detroit alongside the next pair of primary debates. Seventy-five percent of people want to raise taxes on the rich, a nationwide survey conducted by Tax March found. The tour is looking forward to elevating that message to a national level. 

Organizers continued to tie their message of economic justice to a wide array of issues during the bus tour’s recent stop in Washington, DC. “People see the rich are getting richer and that their paychecks are not going up,” Tax March Campaign Director Dana Bye told Inequality.org. “Things are not getting easier for them to pay for healthcare. Many of them cannot afford a $400 medical emergency should it occur. People see that this is unfair.”

Jeneva Stone, an activist with Little Lobbyists, illustrated that injustice with her personal story, which she shared at bus tour’s press conference by the National Mall. 

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Union Matters

Raise the Wage!

From the AFL-CIO

It’s been a decade since the federal minimum wage was increased—the longest period in American history without an increase. In that time, the cost of living has increased and working families have struggled to make ends meet. The Raise the Wage Act would finally bring the federal minimum wage up to $15 an hour.

The House of Representatives is voting tomorrow on the Raise the Wage Act, and we need to make sure lawmakers know where workers stand. Will you show your support and ask your friends to call their representatives?

One in 9 workers in the U.S. is in poverty—even when working full time and year-round. Passing the Raise the Wage Act as it stands would empower working families in need and build an economy that works for everyone.

Share our #RaisetheWage message on social media right now.


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The Richest Fantasy

The Richest Fantasy