Thomas M. Conway

President’s Perspective

Tom Conway USW International President

Shared Sacrifice

Shared Sacrifice
Getty Images

Chad Longpre Shepersky repeatedly took COVID-19 tests—and waited on pins and needles for results each time—during a coronavirus outbreak at Guardian Angels Health & Rehabilitation Center in Hibbing, Minn.

Longpre Shepersky, a certified nursing assistant (CNA), never contracted the virus. But he watched in agony as dozens of his patients and co-workers fell ill and fought for their lives.

As a weary nation enters the holiday season, Americans have an opportunity to help health care workers like Longpre Shepersky and start bringing the raging pandemic under control.

Consistently wearing face masks, practicing social distancing and taking other safety precautions will slow COVID-19’s spread and provide much-needed relief to the front-line workers battling burnout as well as the virus.

“Everyone should do their part,” insisted Longpre Shepersky, financial secretary and steward for United Steelworkers (USW) Local 9349, which represents workers at Guardian Angels. “Just the other day, I witnessed people in Walmart not wearing masks or following 6-foot distancing. Too many people aren’t doing what they can to fight the virus.”

As infection rates soar to their highest levels nationwide, the 10-month-old pandemic continues to take a disproportionately deadly toll on frail, vulnerable nursing home residents and the people who care for them.

So many residents and workers at Guardian Angels contracted the virus that the Minnesota National Guard last month sent a five-person team to help keep the 90-bed facility operating. Even then, as he worried about his own safety and mourned the deaths of several patients, Longpre Shepersky logged grueling amounts of overtime to fill in for ill colleagues.

“It got to the point where you dreaded going to work because you didn’t know what the day was going to bring,” recalled Longpre Shepersky, a CNA for 21 years who considers his co-workers and patients a second family. “But there was no one else there to do it. I just pulled up my Big Boy pants and went in to work and got through the day.”

Many nursing home workers endured staffing shortages at their facilities long before the pandemic. Because of low Medicaid payments for patient care, among other reasons, facilities paid low wages, skimped on staff or battled chronic turnover.

When COVID-19 struck, turnover and staff sicknesses compounded the chronic understaffing.

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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

Powering America

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.

Fierce thunderstorms, heavy snows and unusually powerful hurricanes ravaged America’s fragile power grid and plunged millions into darkness this year.

And even as these natural disasters wreaked havoc across the country, COVID-19 stay-at-home orders sparked a surge in residential electrical demand, placing new stress on a failing system.

A long-overdue overhaul of the nation’s electrical infrastructure would not only ensure America continues functioning during a crisis but help to reinvigorate the pandemic-shattered economy.

Built in the 1950s and 60s, most of America’s electricity transmission and distribution infrastructure lives on borrowed time. Engineers never designed it to withstand today’s increasingly frequent and catastrophic storms fueled by climate change, let alone the threats posed by hackers and terrorists.

To ensure a reliable power supply for homes, schools and businesses, America needs to invest in a more resilient, higher capacity grid.

That means either burying electrical lines or insulating above-ground wires and replacing wooden utility poles with structures made of steel or concrete. Other strategies include creating a battery-storage system to provide backup power, building coastal barriers to protect infrastructure against storm surge and further diversifying into wind and solar production.

Also, a shift toward more localized generation and distribution networks would limit the impact of any one power outage.

Making these upgrades with U.S.-made materials and labor will both stimulate the economy and protect national security. American steelworkers, tradespeople and manufacturing workers have the expertise to build a power grid strong enough to weather whatever storms come America’s way.

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Stronger Together

Stronger Together