Leo W. Gerard

President’s Perspective

Leo W. Gerard USW International President

Eight Holiday Gifts American Workers Need

It’s that time of the year – the most wonderful time of the year, the hap-happiest season of all. There'll be parties for hosting, marshmallows for toasting and utility repair workers out in the snow.

It’s great, all right. You know what would make it better, though? Eight Hanukkah days of gifts for workers. Maybe a stocking stuffed with presents for those who labor 52 weeks a year, without a paid sick day, pension benefits or employer-sponsored health insurance. 

For those stumped by this proposition, I’ve made a list. I’ve checked it twice. On it are eight gifts that would convert workers’ blue, blue, blue, blue Christmases to white.

  • Tonka Trucks. For the adults who drive the real backhoes, excavators, bulldozers, motor graders, pavers, and concrete trucks, who build the massive tires on which giant trucks roll, who refine the oil to make the gasoline that powers those vehicles, who forge the steel and smelt the aluminum to construct those trucks – for all of those workers – Congress must pass a $2 trillion infrastructure bill. That’s right, $2 trillion. That’s what the American Society of Civil Engineers recommends spending over 10 years to clean the nation’s drinking water, update harbors and airports, repair crumbling roads and bridges, and secure dams and levees. The civil engineers know. They’re the ones who design these vital assets. And they’ve given the nation a D grade for their condition since 1998. Infrastructure investment would improve citizens’ safety, ease commerce and create millions of good, family-supporting jobs
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Will the Arrest of a Chinese Telecom Executive Derail Trade Talks?

Matthew McMullan

Matthew McMullan Communications Manager, Alliance for American Manufacturing

The Chinese government is very mad that an executive at its homegrown telecommunications giant, Huawei, is being held in Canada at the request of the United States for her alleged role in helping the company evade sanctions around doing business with Iran.

How mad? We’re talking Summon-The-Ambassador mad.

Dang, that’s pretty mad. But that said, Chinese media has taken pains to not link the arrest of Meng Wanzhou, Huawei’s chief financial officer, to the ongoing trade talks between Beijing and the Trump administration. This is significant because, as one expert observer told Reuters, “if you don’t see any discussions in Chinese media, that’s the intention of the (Chinese) government.”

The United States is doing its part to delink the stories, too. Trump administration officials were on television this weekend calling the Huawei arrest a separate “criminal justice matter.”

But it remains to be seen if the case will bleed into the talks. In China, for instance, outrage over the arrest has boiled into calls for a boycott of Apple products and some companies even announcing plans to use nothing but Huawei products. And no one really believes the arrest, which happened the same day President Trump and China’s President Xi Jinping sat down for trade discussions in Argentina, aren’t linked.

In the United States, meanwhile, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) is pushing legislation that would ban Huawei from doing business in America. That would be, uh, quite the escalation; because of its murky links to the Chinese government the company is already more-or-less banned from the U.S. government procurement market, and other countries (Australia, New Zealand, and now Japan) are following suit. If Sen. Rubio’s effort are somehow successful, it certainly would raise the bad blood between the two governments trying to resolve a major trade dispute. 

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The key to saving us from Gorsuch and Kavanaugh lies in an obscure law signed by George H.W. Bush

Ian Millhiser

Ian Millhiser Senior Constitutional Policy Analyst, Think Progress

If Democrats regain Congress and the White House, they will spend their time in power at war with an increasingly partisan Supreme Court. They can also learn a lot about how to fight such a Court from a law signed by Republican President George H.W. Bush.

As a U.S. Senate candidate in 1964, Bush took a deplorable position on civil rights, labeling the Civil Rights Act of 1964 — which banned employment discrimination and whites-only lunch counters, among other things — a “radical” piece of legislation that was “passed to protect 14 percent of the people.”

Bush soon abandoned these views. As a new congressman, Bush supported a ban on housing discrimination. And as president, Bush signed two significant civil rights laws — the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Civil Rights Act of 1991. While the first is better known, the second could offer a path forward to Democrats reeling from a stolen Supreme Court seat and the appointment of a man credibly accused of attempted rape to the same Court.

The Civil Rights Act of 1991 offered a swift corrective to the Supreme Court. In 1989, the Court handed down five decisions that “substantially eroded” the federal ban on employment discrimination. One of the major purposes of the law Bush signed was to override these decisions and replace them with rules more protective of civil rights (at the time, some members of the employer defense bar complained that the law reached “beyond a simple ‘restoration’ of prior laws” to enact a regime that was more protective of civil rights than the one that existed before 1989).

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Commentary: Job insecurity and lower wages plague the American worker

Teresa Ghilarducci

Teresa Ghilarducci Professor, Economics, Schwartz Centre for Economic Policy Analysis

Every economics student knows that when demand outpaces supply, prices should go up. But, despite an historically low 3.9 per cent unemployment rate in the United States, the “prices” for American workers – their wages – are stagnating. Why?

There are two reasons: One pertains to measurement, the other to power.

The first explanation is admittedly superficial and bypasses the capital-labour conflict altogether. It is possible, though unlikely, that labour-market tightness is being misread and that many people who want jobs are not being counted.

The second reason is more profound: Simply put, labour has lost, and capital has won. Consider the evidence:

From 1973 to 2013, hourly compensation of a typical US worker rose just 9 per cent, while productivity increased 74 per cent, putting little pressure on prices but dramatically boosting profits.

Of course, this raises another question: Why might capital be stronger than labour? There are four main explanations.

STAGNANT WAGES

First, unions are weaker today than in the past. Between 1979 and 2013, the share of private-sector workers in a union fell from about 34 per cent to 10 per cent for men, and from 16 per cent to 6 per cent for women. This has not only hurt workers on the job; it has also damaged labour's ability to lobby for higher minimum wages.

Government policy and corporate power have eroded unions’ influence, and laws and regulations have made owning capital more rewarding than ever relative to working.

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Republicans nationwide enact back-up plan after losing elections: just reject the results

Addy Baird

Addy Baird Reporter, ThinkProgress

Republicans across the country are undermining voters, with lame duck legislatures aiming to strip power from incoming Democratic governors, threatening not to seat a state senator-elect in Pennsylvania, and refusing to implement a ballot initiative in Utah.

On Wednesday, lawmakers in Wisconsin passed a bill that would give the legislature control of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. board, make it easier for legislators to hire private attorneys, limit early voting to two weeks, and require Gov.-elect Tony Evers (D) to get permission from the legislature to ban guns in the state Capitol, among other measures.

Outgoing Gov. Scott Walker (R) has signaled that he plans to sign the bill into law. As part of their lame duck session, lawmakers also approved 82 Walker appointees in a single day, filling a seat that has been vacant for a year and putting a top Walker aide at the head of the state Public Service Commission.

Similarly, in Michigan, the Republican state legislature is working to undermine the authority of Gov.-elect Gretchen Whitmer (D), the state attorney general-elect, and the secretary of state-elect on campaign finance and other legal issues. As The Detroit Free Press and The Washington Post both noted, all three of the newly elected state officials are women.

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These attempts have drawn numerous comparisons to what the North Carolina state legislature did two years ago, when Republicans used a lame duck session to strip then Gov.-elect Roy Cooper’s (D) power over cabinet appointments, gave the GOP power over the state board of elections, and worked to make the state’s judicial system more partisan. Cooper has been caught in legal fights over the legislation for nearly two years.

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Union Matters

Even Super Good Times Sometimes Stop Rolling

Sam Pizzigati

Sam Pizzigati Editor, Too Much online magazine

India’s self-styled “King of the Good Times,” the Kingfisher beer and airline baron Vijay Mallya, seems to be in store for lots of not-so-good times. This past September, a local court ordered the sale of the super yacht Mallya had abandoned in Malta — complete with 40 crewmembers — after his arrest in London on fraud and money-laundering charges. Earlier this month, another court ruling awarded the abandoned crew almost $1 million in back pay. Mallya is now fighting extradition to India. The cells in India’s Mumbai Central Prison, he’s complained to British authorities, lack natural light. The 62-year-old is also tweeting regularly that he’s not getting “fair treatment” from politicians and the media. Mallya’s yacht, meanwhile, has begun a new life as a charter boat renting for $850,000 per week.

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Who Really Pays for Tax Cuts?

Who Really Pays for Tax Cuts?