Missouri Voters Show Right-To-Work Is A Political Loser, Even In Trump States

Leo W. Gerard

Leo W. Gerard USW International President

On Tuesday, Missouri voters trounced a right-to-work law pushed by CEOs, corporations and radical right-wingers intent on killing collective bargaining. The law was passed by the state’s Republican-controlled legislature last year before advocates successfully petitioned for a direct referendum on the measure.

It was the second time in 40 years that Missourians kicked right-to-work to the curb. Ohio voters did the same in 2011.

The problem with trying to peddle right-to-work in the Show-Me State is that it has nothing to do with rights or jobs. Right-to-work is about power. Right-to-work states take power from workers and hand it to corporations, CEOs and wealthy shareholders. Right-to-work makes the rich richer. It makes workers poorer. No wonder Missouri voters crushed it by a 2-to-1 margin. No wonder Ohioans knocked it back.

Right-to-work policies win when decided by Republican politicians and right-wing judges. They lose when decided by voters ― even in red states that went for President Donald Trump.

For more, click here.

Republicans: Up is Down, Medicare is Safe

Leo W. Gerard

Leo W. Gerard USW International President

Up is down. Would is wouldn’t. What you are seeing and what you are reading is not what's happening.” And a new round of GOP tax cuts, proposed this week, definitely will not result in damage to Medicaid, Medicare, or Social Security!

Definitely.

Republicans live in an Alice-in-Wonderland World where they can pass $1.5 trillion in tax cuts that won’t cost anything. They’ll pay for themselves! Just like a worker’s mortgage does every month. Just pays for itself! And then the GOP can propose another $1 trillion in tax cuts that also won’t cost anything! They certainly won’t increase the federal deficit!

The reason Republicans believe in Magic Unicorn Money is that they never actually socialize with, or speak to, or even vaguely know minimum-wage workers, or middle-class workers or precariat workers who drive for Uber at night because their day jobs deny them full-time hours. These workers get paid in cold, hard currency that lacks the power of Unicorn Money to magically materialize whenever necessary to pay bills.

More ...

Billionaire Wolves in Workers’ Clothing

Leo W. Gerard

Leo W. Gerard USW International President

Billionaire Wolves in Workers’ Clothing

Hundred millionaire Bruce Rauner just couldn’t wait to tell Illinois state workers that the U.S. Supreme Court had given them what he considered a gift.

Within hours of the court’s ruling in the Janus case last week, Rauner, the Republican governor of Illinois, emailed state workers to tell them the decision meant they no longer needed to pay either dues or fair share fees to their labor union but the union would still be required to represent them.

What a deal! Free service! And it was brought to them by Rauner! The governor had filed the lawsuit that led to the Janus decision. When a court tossed him as plaintiff, the right-wing foundations whose billionaire donors paid for the lawsuit drummed up replacement plaintiffs including Mark Janus. He’s an Illinois child support worker who refused to join the union and pay dues and who didn’t even want to pay the smaller fair share fee of $45 a month charged to non-members to cover the union’s costs of bargaining for them.

It was that fee that the Supreme Court said government workers had a free speech right not to pay. The court said unions do not have a corresponding free speech right to refuse to represent non-members.

More ...

Supreme Court Conservatives Crush Workers, Again

Leo W. Gerard

Leo W. Gerard USW International President

Supreme Court Conservatives Crush Workers, Again
Art by z_wei on Getty Images.

The radical conservatives on the U.S. Supreme Court have twice now in two months ganged up on working Americans, denying them their right to band together to achieve mutual goals.   

Last month, the extremist court majority sided with big business to deprive workers of the right to sue collectively in class actions to redress violations like wage theft. This time, the same majority ruled against workers who organize themselves into unions, divesting public sector union members of the right to collect fair share fees from co-workers who don’t join but do receive all the benefits of union-negotiated contracts.

This is regression for the nation’s workers. In lockstep with the Trump administration and congressional conservatives, the high court’s right-wingers are shoving workers back to an earlier era, a time when corporations held all of the power and when workers, in what was supposed to be a free society, were in fact denied liberty.

Ideally, in the country that fought a war to rid itself of royal overlords, workers have the freedom to change jobs, even professions, to move across the country for better opportunities, to unite with co-workers, and to bargain collectively with corporations for better pay and benefits for the whole group.

MORE

A Shining City on the Hill Treats Immigrants Humanely

Leo W. Gerard

Leo W. Gerard USW International President

By signing an executive order ending forced separation of immigrant families, President Donald Trump today admitted that the cruel practice was his administration’s policy and that he could have stopped it at any time.

Despite having the power to stop taking children from parents, the Republican administration enforced the practice since April, splitting more than 2,300 youngsters, some just months-old babies, from their mothers and fathers. The administration continued to enforce it even after photographs showed toddlers wailing, audio recordings revealed young children sobbing and pleading for their Mami and Papa, a 30-year-old Honduran father torn from his wife and three-year-old son killed himself in a jail cell, and some parents were deported without their children and without information about how to find or reunite with them.

It is appropriate that the United States withdrew from the United Nations Human Rights Council this week because America has been engaged in appalling human rights violations. The organization Amnesty International accused the Trump administration of hateful politics and violating human rights both in the United States and abroad.

Make no mistake: the American people opposed this policy. It was not their idea. It was a perverse Republican strategy, conceived and instituted by a Republican administration, Republican Attorney General and Republican secretary of Homeland Security. This is a grotesquerie of Republican construction. This is their Frankenstein.

Photo by Tom Kiefer of rosaries taken from immigrants. Title of image "43" Project title "El Sueño Americano - The American Dream" A fine-art photographer, Tom Kiefer was employed part-time as a janitor at a U.S. Customs and Border Patrol processing facility from 2003 - 2014. In 2007, Mr. Kiefer started removing the deeply personal belongings of migrants that were confiscated and discarded in the trash. Website and instagram: www.tomkiefer.com

More ...

Where’s that $4,000 Raise the GOP Promised Workers?

Leo W. Gerard

Leo W. Gerard USW International President

When Republicans in Congress passed a big, fat tax break bill in December, they insisted it meant American workers would be singing “Happy Days Are Here Again” all the way to the bank.

The payoff from the tax cut would be raises totaling $4,000 to $9,000, the President’s Council of Economic Advisors assured workers.

But something bad happened to workers on their way to the repository. They never got that money.

In fact, their real wages declined because of higher inflation. At the same time, the amount workers had to pay in interest on loans for cars and credit cards increased. And, to top it off, Republicans threatened to make workers pay for the tax break with cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

So now, workers across America are wondering, “Where’s that raise?”

It’s nowhere to be found.

More ...

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

Trade Negotiations Require a Steel Spine

Leo W. Gerard

Leo W. Gerard USW International President

President Donald Trump dealt himself a strong hand before negotiating with China.

He held three aces. He’d placed tariffs on imported aluminum and steel in response to unrelenting Chinese overproduction. He’d threatened tariffs on $150 billion in Chinese imports in retaliation for theft and forced transfer of American intellectual property. And for trade violations, he’d forbidden U.S. companies to sell parts to Chinese cell phone giant ZTE, forcing it out of business.

And then, inexplicably, his lead negotiator, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, quickly folded in talks in Washington, D.C.,  last week. He left two days of negotiations with top Chinese officials with what amounts of an unenforceable letter of intent. The “joint statement” says the Chinese will buy some more American made stuff, improve its protections for American intellectual property and patents, and remove some barriers preventing U.S. companies from operating in China. But there’s no specifics and no enforcement.

In exchange for vague promises, Mnuchin suspended the tariffs. In addition, on Tuesday, the Wall Street Journal reported that the United States and China had reached a tentative deal to save ZTE, despite the fact that ZTE failed to honor an earlier agreement made after it violated trade embargos against Iran and North Korea.  

Now China holds all the aces. It is bragging that it trounced the United States in trade talks. The stock market shot up 350 points Monday on Mnuchin’s assertion that he’d stopped a trade war between China and the United States. And maybe certainty for investors was all Mnuchin, a former Wall Street banker, wanted. But steel stocks slumped Monday. And that’s not what President Trump promised on the campaign trail.  It’s not what tough negotiators would have achieved for the United States when it had the upper hand. No potent negotiator would have surrendered that hand for vague promises, especially considering China’s long history of disregarding its trade pledges. 

More ...

No Breakthroughs in China Trade Talks is Good News

Leo W. Gerard

Leo W. Gerard USW International President

No Breakthroughs in China Trade Talks is Good News

That U.S. trade negotiators returned from China last week without trumpeting some big breakthrough is, in fact, a sign of real progress. That’s because there’s no point in touting more cheap promises that won’t be kept.

The U.S. and China discussed complex, long-standing trade disputes that have contributed significantly to America’s relentlessly expanding trade deficit with the Asian giant, to the shuttering of tens of thousands of U.S. factories, and to the loss of hundreds of thousands of good-paying American jobs.

The U.S. delegation traveled to Beijing with a four-page list of demands, as well as sufficient scarring from past burns to ignore shiny objects this time. The American demands are tough, and completely appropriate. Rebalancing trade with China, which is $375 billion out of whack, will not be easy.

More ...

Protect Those Who Save Lives

Leo W. Gerard

Leo W. Gerard USW International President

Working in a hospital, nursing home or ambulance is dangerous. Sometimes fatally so. It’s not so much that a worker might catch a communicable disease, although that happens. The real danger comes from violent patients, volatile family members and sometimes even vengeful co-workers.

Last June, Dr. Henry Bellow, 45, a New York City physician who had been forced to resign, returned to the facility with an assault rifle and opened fire, killing a doctor and injuring five other health care workers and a patient.

A month later, after Indiana physician Todd Graham refused to prescribe opioids to a female patient, her husband laid in wait for the doctor and shot him to death in a medical center parking lot.

These slain health care workers will be honored on Workers Memorial Day, which is Saturday, April 28. We should honor the dead, as labor activist Mother Jones (that is, Mary Harris Jones) instructed. But Mother Jones followed that directive with the admonition that we also “fight like hell for the living.”  

In the case of health care workers, who are more likely to suffer violence on that job than those in any other profession, we must fight like hell for a federal safety standard to ensure that more of them return home after a day’s work without broken bones, bruises, bite marks or gunshot wounds.

More ...