Category: From the USW International President

Americans Want a Manufacturing Overhaul and They Want It Now

Leo W. Gerard

Leo W. Gerard USW International President

Lately it feels as if the United States is anything but united. From climate change to universal health care, from Kanye West to the validity of pumpkin spice, Americans seem divided over every issue under the sun.

But a new survey reveals there is at least one thing on which the majority of this country agrees.

The Alliance for American Manufacturing (AAM) recently conducted a poll of 1,200 general election voters and found that most Americans, even across party lines, believe that U.S. manufacturing is critical to maintaining national security. They also believe workers deserve better wages and countries that cheat or side-step trade commitments should be held accountable.

Last month, the Department of Defense issued a report confirming that what American voters believe is right – U.S. manufacturing is crucial to national security. The report says that the department currently relies on China and other potential rival countries for essential materials to produce everything from steel armor plate to lithium ion batteries.

“The ability of the military to surge in response to an emergency depends on our nation’s ability to produce needed parts and systems, healthy and secure supply chains, and a skilled U.S. workforce,” the report states. “Not only is the manufacturing sector the backbone of U.S. military technical advantage, but also a major contributor to the U.S. economy.”

Both the AAM survey and the Defense Department’s conclusions prove the labor movement was right when it advocated for years for robust yet strategic policies to support domestic manufacturing. Programs reinforcing manufacturing are popular, but more importantly, they are vital to America’s basic survival.

Manufacturing is an economic generator. Every new manufacturing job supports 3.6 jobs in other sectors. Manufacturing also accounts for 60 percent of the country’s exports and 12 percent of its GDP, according to the Defense report.

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Stealth Coup by the Rich

Leo W. Gerard

Leo W. Gerard USW International President

Democracy is tough for 1 percenters.

They’ve got all that money but, hypothetically, no more voting power than their chauffeur or yacht captain or nanny.

In this one-person, one-vote democracy, though, they’ve got a plan to fix all that for themselves. They’re paying for it. And they’re accomplishing it, even though that means stripping voting rights from non-rich minority groups. Their goal is to make America more of a one-dollar, one-vote plutocracy.

Their scheme is deeply offensive to democratic ideals. In a perfect democracy, each citizen possesses the same power of self-governance as all other individuals, no matter how poor or rich, no matter their religion or skin color, no matter their country of origin or ancestry.

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Kavanaugh’s Disdain for Worker Safety Disqualifies Him

Leo W. Gerard

Leo W. Gerard USW International President

In his statement to Congress this week during his confirmation hearing, Judge Brett Kavanaugh said his mother taught him that judges must always stand in the shoes of others.

Though hardly original or deeply inspirational, it’s not bad advice. The problem is that Kavanaugh never chooses steel-toed work boots. In every case involving workers, Kavanaugh has put himself instead in the wingtips of CEOs. He is a man born to wealth and privilege who attended Georgetown Preparatory, one of the most expensive private high schools in the country, with annual tuition of nearly $57,000, followed by a similarly exclusive Ivy League college education.

The vast majority of Americans cannot conceive of paying $228,000 to get a kid through high school. Kavanaugh’s opinions illustrate that he has no idea how to relate to them, and, in fact, doesn’t care to try to understand people with grit under their fingernails. That makes him, as a Supreme Court justice, dangerous to working people.

The case that perfectly illustrates Kavanaugh’s carelessness toward workers and obsequiousness toward corporations is SeaWorld v. U.S. Secretary of Labor Tomas Perez. Kavanaugh authored the dissent. Writing for the majority was Judge Judith W. Rogers, joined by Merrick Garland, Chief Circuit Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.

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Labor Day: 24 Hours When Workers Are Human

Leo W. Gerard

Leo W. Gerard USW International President

Labor Day: 24 Hours When Workers Are Human
By Getty Images

Labor Day recognizes the humanity of workers. It commemorates their year-long efforts with time off dedicated relaxation, family, friends, and barbeques.

There’s no holiday for robots, raw materials, or the energy that animates the machines of manufacturing. Because, of course, they’re not human.

Somehow, though, business schools and the corporate executives they spit out have lumped workers together with robots and raw materials as “inputs,” as if laborers aren’t human. That makes it easier for CEOs in ungodly profitable corporations to deny workers raises. U.S. CEOs and shareholders can seize for themselves all the gains produced by faceless inputs.

And that’s what they’ve done. Republicans gave corporations a massive tax break this year with the promise that executives would share those gains with workers, to the tune of $4,000 to $9,000 raises each. The U.S. Commerce Department reported last week that after-tax corporate profits rose 16.1 percent in the second quarter, the largest year-over-year rise in six years. But corporations didn’t use that money for raises. Instead they bought back record amounts of their own stock, boosting the market to all-time highs, making the rich richer, while workers’ wages actually declined when inflation was factored in. This has been going on for decades, with workers’ wages flat since 1973.

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Corporations Owe Americans More

Leo W. Gerard

Leo W. Gerard USW International President

The stock market is effervescent. Unemployment seems inexorably descendent. On financial news shows, someone always is singing, “Happy Days are Here Again.”

But the chorus isn’t so cheery on factory floors. There are no Happy Days at the Harley plant to be shuttered in Kansas City, destroying 800 jobs as the corporation spends its big fat tax break on stock buy-backs instead. There’s no joy at a Kimberly-Clark plant in Wisconsin where hundreds learned in January that the corporation would use its tax break to cover the cost of closing their factory – and eight others.

In fact, there’s bitterness among blue collar workers whose wages have flat-lined for decades, then declined in May and June, even as CEO compensation skyrocketed 17.6 percent last year.

Happy Days? Only for the already rich – for stockholders and CEOs and trust fund babies. For the rest, every day still is a struggle. That’s the way it has worked in the United States for the past several decades. But it didn’t before that. And it doesn’t have to now. Citizens have the right, and arguably the responsibility, to change the rules under which corporations operate. Doing that would alter outcomes for American workers, give them more say in corporate governance, raise their pay and reduce offshoring.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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Union Matters

Keeping Cancer Cures a Corporate Profit Center

Sam Pizzigati

Sam Pizzigati Editor, Too Much online magazine

Who knew fighting cancer could be so lucrative? Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center CEO Craig Thompson, for one. Last year, Thompson pulled down nearly $600,000 in cash and stock from his service on two for-profit drug company boards, all on top of his $6.7 million in Sloan Kettering pay the year before. No wonder Thompson looked the other way while his chief medical officer “failed to disclose” in medical journal articles that he had received millions from companies that could be banking on matters he was writing about. In September, that scandal went public, and Thompson at first insisted that working with for-profit companies must remain a priority. Last week, amid mounting public outrage, Thompson retreated and announced he would resign his corporate board seats. But the real scandal remains: a hospital-Big Pharma complex that focuses single-mindedly on patentable pharmaceuticals that generate huge returns for corporate execs and shareholders.

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Unions for All, Unions for 15

Unions for All, Unions for 15