Leo W. Gerard

President’s Perspective

Leo W. Gerard USW International President

NAFTA Negotiators Send Corporate Whiners Back to Swamp

Giant corporations, loyal to coin and faithless to country, staged a public display of blubbering in the run up to this week’s fourth round of negotiations to revise the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

Whaa, whaaa, whaaaa, groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce sniveled into the swamp from which they crawled to conduct their press conferences. President Trump isn’t doing what corporations want, they wailed.

The President’s trade priorities, which he repeatedly stated on the campaign trail, do not include groveling to the whims and whining of corporations or their toady, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. President Trump said he would create good, American jobs. To do that, he wants more stuff made in America and less stuff made in factories off-shored by greed-motivated American corporations. 

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Tax Cuts for the Rich, Paid for with Your Health Care

LeeAnn Hall Co-Director, People's Action

When Republican leaders tried to repeal health care in the spring and summer, many Americans raised the alarm and made a ruckus. We asked hard questions, looked at the independent analyses, held town halls, told our health care stories, and took to the streets.

Because of that overwhelming opposition, plans to slash health care to pay for corporate tax breaks failed. Republican leaders haven’t given up. In fact, they’ve already begun voting on a scheme to slash taxes for corporations and multi-millionaires — paid for by cuts to health care.

Now the plan to raid our health care is buried in the GOP tax scheme and budget process. Here’s how they’re putting it into place.

On October 5, the House of Representatives passed a budget resolution that cuts $1.5 trillion from Medicaid and other health programs, capping and starving Medicaid.

On top of that, the budget also slices almost $500 billion from Medicare — and proposes turning it into a privatized voucher program and raising the eligibility age to 67.

The Senate budget proposal is just as bad. It would cut Medicaid, Medicare, and the financial assistance people get to buy insurance through the Affordable Care Act exchanges.

For the better part of 30 years, I’ve been organizing people and communities to win quality, affordable health care for all. These cuts will hurt all of us, especially people who need health care the most: seniors, people with disabilities, children.

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North American Unions Unite to Fight for a Pro-Worker NAFTA

Mark Gruenberg

Mark Gruenberg Editor, Press Associates Union News

U.S., Canadian and independent Mexican union leaders said they and their members will jointly fight for a strong, pro-worker, not pro-corporate, new North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). But if they can’t achieve that, they’ll fight equally hard to beat it.

And the leaders – including AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, Steelworkers President Leo Gerard, Teamsters President Jim Hoffa, Canadian Teamsters President Francois LaPorte, and Napoleon Gomez Urrutia, president of the independent Mexican metal workers and miners union, Los Mineros – drew strong support for that stand from top congressional Democrats at a joint press conference on October 12.

“We actually have a chance to rewrite the rules to benefit working people,” not just in NAFTA but for trade pacts in general, Trumka said. “That’s why we stand together united.”

Reps. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., Sandy Levin, D-Mich., Bobby Scott, D-Va., and Keith Ellison, DFL-Minn., all emphasized how the current NAFTA has cost U.S. jobs, just as unions predicted a quarter of a century ago. And if a new NAFTA doesn’t raise Mexican wages above current exploitative levels and better workers’ rights in all three nations, they promised to strongly fight it and defeat it.

The leaders and the lawmakers spoke as bargaining for a “new NAFTA” continued across the Potomac River from D.C., in Alexandria, Va., just after Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau met GOP President Donald Trump and lawmakers to discuss rewriting the 25-year-old so-called “free trade” pact. The talks are scheduled to continue through October 17.

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Redistricting Case Could Profoundly Impact U.S. Democracy

David Sobelsohn Supreme Court Correspondent, Press Associates

A case argued before the Supreme Court October 3, Gill v. Whitford, could have profound ramifications not only for American workers, but for the future of American democracy.

In 2011, for the first time in over 40 years, Wisconsin Republicans controlled the governor’s office and both houses of the legislature. Armed with the 2010 census, sophisticated metrics, and the latest computers, the Republicans -- in secret -- set about redrawing legislative district lines.  

They rejected one map after another as too balanced, too fair to Democrats.  Finally, by packing most Democratic voters into just a few districts, and by scattering other Democrats into majority-Republican districts, the Republicans drew the most partisan map possible.

It worked. In the 2012 election, though most Wisconsin voters voted for Democratic candidates for the State Assembly, Republicans seized 60 of its 99 seats.

Republican legislative domination had a calamitous effect on workers’ rights. In 2015, the Wisconsin legislature enacted so-called “right to work” legislation, letting union nonmembers use union services -- collective bargaining and grievance settlement -- without paying for them, denying unions money they need for just such services.  

Then, in 2017, the legislature prohibited Wisconsin local governments from requiring their contractors to hire union workers, banning Project Labor Agreements on taxpayer-funded construction.  

Predictably, Wisconsin unions have suffered a precipitous drop in membership, to
8.1 percent of the state’s workforce -- a drop of 40 percent in just ten years. Membership
dues have fallen nearly 50 percent.

How could the U.S. Constitution permit this?  

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What Working People Are Saying About the Janus Supreme Court Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has granted certiorari in the case Janus v. AFSCME Council 31, meaning the court will hold a hearing and make a ruling on the case. The case started with the billionaire governor of Illinois, Bruce Rauner, attempting to undercut the voice of public service workers through the courts. Janus is party of a broader strategy by corporate-funded organizations like the State Policy Network, which admits that the whole point of Janus is to strike a "mortal blow" and "defund and defang" unions. Working people are speaking out against these attempts to use the courts to attack their rights. Here's what they are saying:

 

Stephen Mittons, AFSCME Council 31 member, child protection investigator for the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services:

My work as a child protection investigator for the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services is vital to the safety of our state’s most vulnerable children and families. This court case is yet another political attack on the freedom of my colleagues and I to speak up to ensure that we can safely and adequately manage our caseloads, which reflects our commitment to safety and public service to our communities.

Jeff Price, AFT Local 3 member, teacher at Central High School, School District of Philadelphia:

My union just went through a lengthy contract fight in Philadelphia. We had to fight hard to protect our students’ basic needs, such as having at least one nurse and counselor in each school and ensuring that kids had necessary textbooks and materials. And we had to fight back against the district's desire to eliminate class sizes and get lead testing for the school's water fountains. Most people assume that the union only fights for teachers' rights, when in reality, most of our contract is there to protect the basic rights and needs of our students. Those rights are at grave risk in Janus.

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Union Matters

Living Wage Preemption Act

Jim Hightower

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

The governors of many states are boldly stepping forward these days to stop grassroots democracy.

Yes, noting that local citizens and officials have been passing local laws to govern themselves, a flock of right-wing governors are asserting an autocratic power called “state preemption” to overrule democratic decisions made by locals. Why do these governors hate democracy? Because their corporate funders don’t like some of the laws local people support – so democracy must go! This is not a matter of a rogue governor here or there, but a coordinated effort by corporate interests to get governors to usurp local authority.

Check out the full commentary here.

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America Needs Fairer Taxes

America Needs Fairer Taxes