Poor People’s Campaign Is The Angry Response To Inequality America Needs

Leo W. Gerard

Leo W. Gerard USW International President

For the past half century, Americans have allowed the wealthy to get away with economic murder. Income inequality has risen to pre-Great Depression levels. Compensation for CEOs skyrocketed while wages for the rest stagnated. The wealthy received fat tax breaks even as workers got a pittance. Just this month, America’s high rollers bought dozens of paintings at prices tens of millions higher than anticipated during auctions at hoity-toity Christie’s and Sotheby’s.

And all of this has occurred with barely more than a peep of protest from the populace, no more than a few here today, gone tomorrow Occupy Wall Street sit-ins.

This month is not, however, business as usual. Two Mondays ago, a bunch of dedicated rabble-rousers launched a new Poor People’s Campaign. Thousands demonstrated in Washington, D.C., including members of the union I lead, the United Steelworkers. The group, led by the Rev. William Barber II and the Rev. Liz Theoharis, plans actions in 30 states over 40 days. This past week, dozens of Poor People’s Campaign activists were again arrested in Washington, D.C., as they demanded restoration of the Voting Rights Act.

The campaign is dedicated to the idea that “people should not live in or die from poverty in the richest nation ever to exist.” Its revival could not be more urgent or timely.

For more, click here: https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/opinion-gerard-poor-peoples-campaign_us_5b086698e4b0fdb2aa538846

Leo W. Gerard also is a member of the AFL-CIO Executive Committee and chairs the labor federation’s Public Policy Committee. President Barack Obama appointed him to the President’s Advisory Committee on Trade Policy and Negotiation and the President's Advanced Manufacturing Partnership Steering Committee 2.0. He serves as co-chairman of the BlueGreen Alliance and on the boards of Campaign for America’s Future and the Economic Policy Institute.  He is a member of the executive committee for IndustriALL Global Labor federation and was instrumental in creating Workers Uniting, the first global union. Follow @USWBlogger

Posted In: From the USW International President

Union Matters

Uber Drivers Deserve Legal Rights and Protections

By Kathleen Mackey
USW Intern

In an advisory memo released May 14, the U.S. labor board general counsel’s office stated that Uber drivers are not employees for the purposes of federal labor laws.

Their stance holds that workers for companies like Uber are not included in federal protections for workplace organizing activities, which means the labor board is effectively denying Uber drivers the benefits of forming or joining unions.

Simply stating that Uber drivers are just gig workers does not suddenly undo the unjust working conditions that all workers potentially face, such as wage theft, dangerous working conditions and  job insecurity. These challenges are ever-present, only now Uber drivers are facing them without the protection or resources they deserve. 

The labor board’s May statement even seems to contradict an Obama-era National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ruling that couriers for Postmates, a job very similar to Uber drivers’, are legal employees.

However, the Department of Labor has now stated that such gig workers are simply independent contractors, meaning that they are not entitled to minimum wages or overtime pay.

While being unable to unionize limits these workers’ ability to fight for improved pay and working conditions, independent contractors can still make strides forward by organizing, explained executive director of New York Taxi Workers Alliance Bhairavi Desai.

“We can’t depend solely on the law or the courts to stop worker exploitation. We can only rely on the steadfast militancy of workers who are rising up everywhere,” Desai said in a statement. 

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