Category: 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.

Amazon Announces Minimum Wage Scam

From the USW

Activists around the country applauded Amazon and its CEO Jeff Bezos for announcing their plan this week to raise the minimum wage of all employees to $15 an hour. At first glance, celebrations were in fact appropriate. The company is now worth $1 trillion, as of September 2018, yet they’ve been paying their workers pennies in comparison. For several years now, labor activists, led by Sen. Bernie Sanders, have been calling upon the online retail giant to do the right thing and raise their minimum wage.

However, the way Bezos plans to pay for these raises has come to light, and there is no applauding to follow.

According to Bloomberg News, Amazon, which employs 575,000 people worldwide, is eliminating monthly bonuses and stock awards for warehouse workers and other hourly employees. And what many people don’t realize is a large chunk of the Seattle-based company’s workers, including their delivery drivers, are contracted out, meaning they will not benefit at all from the supposed raises as they are not “employees.”

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A Fierce Defender of Truth and Classic Opulence

Sam Pizzigati

Sam Pizzigati Editor, Too Much online magazine

Rolls-Royce CEO Torsten Müller-Ötvös sees himself as the custodian of a hallowed brand — and woe be to anyone who dares dispute Rolls supremacy in the universe of ultra luxury. This past March, Müller-Ötvös lit into an Aston Martin exec who had the temerity of suggesting that the traditional Rolls design amounted to an outmoded “ancient Greece.” An “enraged” Müller-Ötvös, Auto News reported, fumed that Aston Martin had “zero clue” about the ultra rich and then accused other carmakers of stealing Rolls-Royce intellectual property. Last summer, Müller-Ötvös rushed to defend the $650,000 price-tag on one Rolls model after a reporter told him that his son wondered why anyone who could afford to “fly to the moon” would choose to buy a Rolls instead. Rolls patrons, the 58-year-old CEO harrumphed back, hold at least $30 million in personal wealth: “They don’t have to choose. They can fly to the moon as well.”

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Workers Working for A Safe and Prosperous Future

Joining union and environmental leaders from around the world, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka (UMWA) made clear that the labor movement is committed to combating climate change—but not at the expense of working people’s livelihoods and dignity. Speaking at the Labor Center at the University of California, Berkeley, yesterday, he argued that “as a labor movement, it is our job to ignite the flames of justice, not contain them. And that’s exactly how we’ll be successful in the fight against climate change: by demanding justice for working people and ensuring no one is left behind.

  • A global effort to combat climate change is fundamental to a safe and prosperous future but, as President Trumka reiterated today to thousands of attendees at the Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco, that effort will succeed only if working people have a seat at the decision making table.
  • Check out a few highlights from the event below, and read President Trumka’s full remarks here.
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U.S. Steel’s CEO is Playing a Dangerous Game of Chicken with the Markets, Steelworkers and America

Richard Cucarese

Richard Cucarese Rapid Response Coordinator, USW Local 4889

With the dog days of summer upon us, many people spent their Labor Day cooling off in pools, heading to the beaches, or just relaxing in the shade without any thoughts of work entering their minds. 

But for approximately 16,000 members of the United Steelworkers (USW) union employed at the mills of the U.S. Steel Corp., the holiday took on a brand new meaning as they prepared themselves for the possibility of the largest work stoppage in the domestic steel industry since 1986. This was in response to U.S. Steel coming to the bargaining table that weekend with a contract proposal nearly as regressive and damaging than ones offered just weeks earlier.

Just three years ago, U.S. Steel was on the verge of bankruptcy, a situation caused by a mixture of bad business decisions, poorly timed austerity measures and illegally subsidized, underpriced Chinese steel dumped onto world markets.

 It was at this time that the Steelworkers agreed to freeze wages over three years and give up the guarantee of a 40-hour work week, reducing it to 32, in the hopes that when the company rebounded, it would reward the work force in the next round of contract talks.

In the ensuing years, U.S. Steel did flourish. This was due to the labor of its dedicated and skilled workers, as well as tariffs imposed by Presidents Obama and Trump.

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We Once Jailed CEOs for Their Crimes. Remember?

Sam Pizzigati

Sam Pizzigati Editor, Too Much online magazine

Jeffrey Skilling, the ex-CEO of the now-bankrupt energy giant Enron, has got to be steaming. Skilling helped Enron soar high up in the Fortune 500, then sank into infamy when his company went bankrupt in 2001 amid revelations of widespread fraud. Five years later, a federal judge sentenced Skilling to 24 years in prison. Last week, federal authorities released the 64-year-old to a halfway house, the first step to outright release. Enron’s collapse cost shareholders billions and employees their life savings. Skilling personally has had to pay $45 million in fines and over $75 million in legal fees — and his 20-year-old son died while he was serving his time. But Skilling has yet another reason to fume. None of the top CEOs responsible for the fraud that ushered in the 2008 financial crash — and wreaked much more havoc on America than Enron — has yet faced a day behind bars and, notes federal judge Jed Rakoff, likely never will.
 
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It's Time to Get Real about U.S. Steel

Richard Cucarese

Richard Cucarese Rapid Response Coordinator, USW Local 4889

Contract negotiations can be a tenuous experience, to say the least.  And at this time in American history, as a Union, you never know what you’re walking into when dealing with a corporation whom you hope is behaving on a level of trust for its workers.

In the case of U.S. Steel, who at best has a checkered history at the negotiating table, this round of negotiations has proven where they stand with Steelworkers who toil in their mills. 

In 2015, with the company teetering on the verge of bankruptcy and their stock plummeting, the Steelworkers (USW) held fast to preserving many benefits procured during seventy years of contracts with U.S. Steel, but realizing as well that they would have to make sacrifices when it came to wages; thus, freezing them and conceding the 40-hour work guarantee, reducing it to 32 hours over a three-year period.

In good faith, the USW stepped up to the plate to help the corporation reach some semblance of financial stability while continuing to stump for the industry, requesting that the Obama Administration levy tariffs on certain steel products which were being dumped on our shores by China below production cost. 

The USW continued to fight vehemently against the disastrous, 12-nation TPP trade agreement, which, if passed, could have been the death knell for steelmaking in America.

Under the Trump Administration, the Steelworkers increased national awareness, aiding the efforts to squash the TPP, levy more tariffs through the findings of Section 232 against an insolent Chinese government looking to corner the world steel market.

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Filling the Halls of Power

From the AFL-CIO

A week after the defeat of “right to work” in Missouri, working people are riding a wave of momentum across the country. This week, working people in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Connecticut secured primary victories for several of our proud union brothers and sisters.

Yesterday marked a watershed moment for working people in three states, as union members secured nominations for federal and statewide office. Here are a few of our brothers and sisters who came out on top:

Tim Walz (AFT-NEA)—Nominee for Governor, Minnesota

 

Julie Blaha (AFT-NEA)—Nominee for State Auditor, Minnesota

 

Randy Bryce (Ironworkers)—Nominee for the 1st Congressional District, Wisconsin

 

Jahana Hayes (NEA)—Nominee for the 5th Congressional District, Connecticut

 

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Whispers of the Wealthy Few

While the National Archives has made clear that it won’t be able to produce all documents relating to Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh until the end of October, Senate Republican leaders announced Friday that they will begin confirmation hearings on Sept. 4. As a result, the confirmation process will proceed without full access to some 900,000 pages of documents detailing Kavanaugh’s career and judicial record.

As AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka (UMWA) recently told reporters: “Working people deserve a nominee who will extend the guarantees of the Constitution and the promises of our country to everyone who lives and works here. We don’t need another justice who only listens to the whispers of the wealthy few.”

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Guaranteeing Our Fundamental Dignity

From the AFL-CIO

Signing Medicare and Medicaid into law 53 years ago this week, President Lyndon B. Johnson cited an innate human tradition calling on us to build a more just society: “It calls upon us never to be indifferent toward despair. It commands us never to turn away from helplessness. It directs us never to ignore or to spurn those who suffer untended in a land that is bursting with abundance.”

In the half century since Medicare and Medicaid were signed into law, countless Americans have been guaranteed the health care and fundamental dignity that we deserve.

More than 59 million Americans enjoy health and financial security under Medicare.

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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.

More ...

Unions for All, Unions for 15

Unions for All, Unions for 15