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Category: Allied Approaches

Will the Arrest of a Chinese Telecom Executive Derail Trade Talks?

Matthew McMullan

Matthew McMullan Communications Manager, Alliance for American Manufacturing

The Chinese government is very mad that an executive at its homegrown telecommunications giant, Huawei, is being held in Canada at the request of the United States for her alleged role in helping the company evade sanctions around doing business with Iran.

How mad? We’re talking Summon-The-Ambassador mad.

Dang, that’s pretty mad. But that said, Chinese media has taken pains to not link the arrest of Meng Wanzhou, Huawei’s chief financial officer, to the ongoing trade talks between Beijing and the Trump administration. This is significant because, as one expert observer told Reuters, “if you don’t see any discussions in Chinese media, that’s the intention of the (Chinese) government.”

The United States is doing its part to delink the stories, too. Trump administration officials were on television this weekend calling the Huawei arrest a separate “criminal justice matter.”

But it remains to be seen if the case will bleed into the talks. In China, for instance, outrage over the arrest has boiled into calls for a boycott of Apple products and some companies even announcing plans to use nothing but Huawei products. And no one really believes the arrest, which happened the same day President Trump and China’s President Xi Jinping sat down for trade discussions in Argentina, aren’t linked.

In the United States, meanwhile, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) is pushing legislation that would ban Huawei from doing business in America. That would be, uh, quite the escalation; because of its murky links to the Chinese government the company is already more-or-less banned from the U.S. government procurement market, and other countries (Australia, New Zealand, and now Japan) are following suit. If Sen. Rubio’s effort are somehow successful, it certainly would raise the bad blood between the two governments trying to resolve a major trade dispute. 

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The key to saving us from Gorsuch and Kavanaugh lies in an obscure law signed by George H.W. Bush

Ian Millhiser

Ian Millhiser Senior Constitutional Policy Analyst, Think Progress

If Democrats regain Congress and the White House, they will spend their time in power at war with an increasingly partisan Supreme Court. They can also learn a lot about how to fight such a Court from a law signed by Republican President George H.W. Bush.

As a U.S. Senate candidate in 1964, Bush took a deplorable position on civil rights, labeling the Civil Rights Act of 1964 — which banned employment discrimination and whites-only lunch counters, among other things — a “radical” piece of legislation that was “passed to protect 14 percent of the people.”

Bush soon abandoned these views. As a new congressman, Bush supported a ban on housing discrimination. And as president, Bush signed two significant civil rights laws — the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Civil Rights Act of 1991. While the first is better known, the second could offer a path forward to Democrats reeling from a stolen Supreme Court seat and the appointment of a man credibly accused of attempted rape to the same Court.

The Civil Rights Act of 1991 offered a swift corrective to the Supreme Court. In 1989, the Court handed down five decisions that “substantially eroded” the federal ban on employment discrimination. One of the major purposes of the law Bush signed was to override these decisions and replace them with rules more protective of civil rights (at the time, some members of the employer defense bar complained that the law reached “beyond a simple ‘restoration’ of prior laws” to enact a regime that was more protective of civil rights than the one that existed before 1989).

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Commentary: Job insecurity and lower wages plague the American worker

Teresa Ghilarducci

Teresa Ghilarducci Professor, Economics, Schwartz Centre for Economic Policy Analysis

Every economics student knows that when demand outpaces supply, prices should go up. But, despite an historically low 3.9 per cent unemployment rate in the United States, the “prices” for American workers – their wages – are stagnating. Why?

There are two reasons: One pertains to measurement, the other to power.

The first explanation is admittedly superficial and bypasses the capital-labour conflict altogether. It is possible, though unlikely, that labour-market tightness is being misread and that many people who want jobs are not being counted.

The second reason is more profound: Simply put, labour has lost, and capital has won. Consider the evidence:

From 1973 to 2013, hourly compensation of a typical US worker rose just 9 per cent, while productivity increased 74 per cent, putting little pressure on prices but dramatically boosting profits.

Of course, this raises another question: Why might capital be stronger than labour? There are four main explanations.

STAGNANT WAGES

First, unions are weaker today than in the past. Between 1979 and 2013, the share of private-sector workers in a union fell from about 34 per cent to 10 per cent for men, and from 16 per cent to 6 per cent for women. This has not only hurt workers on the job; it has also damaged labour's ability to lobby for higher minimum wages.

Government policy and corporate power have eroded unions’ influence, and laws and regulations have made owning capital more rewarding than ever relative to working.

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Republicans nationwide enact back-up plan after losing elections: just reject the results

Addy Baird

Addy Baird Reporter, ThinkProgress

Republicans across the country are undermining voters, with lame duck legislatures aiming to strip power from incoming Democratic governors, threatening not to seat a state senator-elect in Pennsylvania, and refusing to implement a ballot initiative in Utah.

On Wednesday, lawmakers in Wisconsin passed a bill that would give the legislature control of the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. board, make it easier for legislators to hire private attorneys, limit early voting to two weeks, and require Gov.-elect Tony Evers (D) to get permission from the legislature to ban guns in the state Capitol, among other measures.

Outgoing Gov. Scott Walker (R) has signaled that he plans to sign the bill into law. As part of their lame duck session, lawmakers also approved 82 Walker appointees in a single day, filling a seat that has been vacant for a year and putting a top Walker aide at the head of the state Public Service Commission.

Similarly, in Michigan, the Republican state legislature is working to undermine the authority of Gov.-elect Gretchen Whitmer (D), the state attorney general-elect, and the secretary of state-elect on campaign finance and other legal issues. As The Detroit Free Press and The Washington Post both noted, all three of the newly elected state officials are women.

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These attempts have drawn numerous comparisons to what the North Carolina state legislature did two years ago, when Republicans used a lame duck session to strip then Gov.-elect Roy Cooper’s (D) power over cabinet appointments, gave the GOP power over the state board of elections, and worked to make the state’s judicial system more partisan. Cooper has been caught in legal fights over the legislation for nearly two years.

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Powerful Democratic House member pledges support for a Green New Deal

Mark Hand

Mark Hand Climate Reporter, ThinkProgress

With more than a hundred climate activists gathered outside his office, Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA) said he would endorse the creation of a select committee for a Green New Deal. The announcement is the latest success for the youth-led Sunrise Movement’s lobbying efforts.

Monday marked the largest convergence to date of Green New Deal supporters on Capitol Hill. More than a thousand activists from the Sunrise Movement, a group committed to swift climate action, fanned out to several House offices to lobby members to support the creation of a select committee. The committee would have the authority to create a “detailed national, industrial, economic mobilization plan” allowing the United States to swiftly become carbon-neutral within a decade as proposed under the Green New Deal.

And it was during their visits to House member offices when McGovern, one of the most powerful Democrats, affirmed his support. McGovern is among nearly 25 Democratic House members and three Democratic senators, plus Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), to join the call for a committee to tackle a Green New Deal.

“I am committed to the House Select Committee on a Green New Deal to deal with the issue of climate change and so many other things,” McGovern told the activists in his office. “I want to make sure it happens.”

McGovern is in line to become the chairman of the powerful House Rules Committee, which oversees all processes for House committees and their jurisdiction. As committee chairman, McGovern will have influence over a select committee on a Green New Deal’s jurisdiction. The office of incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), though, ultimately decides which committees are formed.

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What Teacher Walkouts Changed in Our Politics

Even before the votes from the recent midterm elections were completely counted  – a process that took nearly two weeks in many races – numerous prominent news outlets were quick to report on the supposed failure of the “education wave,” those school teachers and other educators who ran for office up and down ballots across the country. One report that received particularly widespread circulation, by Associated Press, carried the headline “Tough lessons: Teachers fall short in midterm races.” Another for U.S. News & World Report said, “Poor Marks for Teachers in Midterms.” Clever, huh.

Indeed, numerous news outlets seemed eager to reinforce a narrative that despite an unprecedented number of teachers and public school advocates running for political office, “underwhelming voter interest in education” and a “red wall” of Republican opposition were just too much to overcome.

An exception to this shallow reporting was a piece by The Guardian that reported “teachers made huge gains in the midterm elections.”

But the article quotes union leaders in walkout states Oklahoma and Arizona, as well as president of national American Federation of Teachers Randi Weingarten, even though unions did not lead the teacher walkouts.

To get a better sense of the real impact teacher walkouts had on the midterms, I called on frontline organizers and public-school advocates in states where there was substantial documentation that education would have a big impact on election results. What I found was overwhelming consensus that yes, teacher walkouts this spring had a significant impact on the midterm elections and will continue to reverberate in politics and policy making.

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Weekly Toll: Three Weeks of Death on the Job

Jordan Barab

Jordan Barab Former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Labor, OSHA

Excuse the length of this depressing exercise, but I’ve been away for a couple of weeks and unlike me, workplace death takes no vacation. The usual falls, machinery deaths, vehicle accidents. Also several sanitation workers lost their lives over the past several week, as well as retail workers shot on the job. From Alabama to Wisconsin. From Idaho to Mississippi.  From Massachusetts to California and on to Guam.  The toll of workplace death goes on.

College Station police: Man, 24, dies in workplace accident

College Station, TX — A 24-year-old man died Saturday morning in a workplace accident, authorities said. According to College Station police, authorities were dispatched to the 1300 block of Earl Rudder Freeway around 8:15 a.m. on the report of an accident. First responders arrived and administered life-saving measures, and the injured person, identified as Guillermo Lopez, was taken to the hospital. He later died of his injuries.

Brighton man killed in accident involving large tilling machine identified

BOULDER, Colo. — Authorities have released the name of a Colorado man who was killed in an accident involving a large tilling machine. The Boulder Daily Camera reports 65-year-old Ray Garner, of Brighton, was in a field when his clothing became entangled in an auger Monday afternoon. He died at the scene. The Erie Police Department, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the Weld County coroner’s office are investigating.

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Future of NAFTA 2.0 Could Turn on Labor Rights

Scott Sinclair Director of the Trade and Investment Research Project, Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives

The next phase, legislative approval, is a foregone conclusion in Canada (where the Liberals have a parliamentary majority and Conservative support) and Mexico (where the newly elected president and his allies control the Senate and can count on support from opposition senators).  But that is not the case in Washington. Under “fast-track” rules mandated by legislation, the USMCA must be approved, with no amendments, by a simple majority in both chambers of Congress.

Although Congress cannot amend the deal, it can insist on commitments about how the USMCA is to be implemented. In effect, these could amount to changes. Furthermore, if the White House anticipates a negative vote in the soon-to-be Democratic-controlled House of Representatives, the U.S. administration might come back to Canada and Mexico demanding textual revisions, interpretive side letters and/or new assurances about how the deal is to be implemented in each country.

The USMCA’s labor provisions are certain to be a key area of ongoing discussion and contention.  The incoming Democratic leadership in the House and labor allies have expressed a clear need for stronger assurances on the enforcement of labor rights. Such a development might even be welcome to the Canadian and new Mexican governments.

On the other hand, a group of 40 Republican legislators (most of whom were re-elected) have threatened to vote against the deal because the labor chapter forbids discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Removing or even diluting such fundamental human rights would be a difficult, perhaps politically impossible pill for the Trudeau government to swallow.

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These companies claimed the GOP tax bill would ‘boost jobs.’ Now they’re laying off employees.

Josh Israel

Josh Israel Senior Investigative Reporter, Think Progress

In the lead-up to the enactment of the Tax Cut and Jobs Act, Donald Trump’s massive tax cut that mostly benefited rich people and big corporations, a coalition of powerful business interests formed with one major priority in mind: slashing the corporate tax rate. The Reforming America’s Taxes Equitably (RATE) Coalition comprised dozens of companies and trade groups that all insisted lowering corporate taxes would mean more jobs.

A ThinkProgress review found that about half of RATE Coalition’s members have made layoffs since the law’s enactment. In other words, not only did the expensive tax cut not bring more jobs, it couldn’t even forestall significant job losses.

In 2017, the RATE Coalition’s website identified 32 companies and trade groups who had come together around the singular mission to “reform the tax code, making it fairer and simpler and improving the prospects of growth and jobs in the U.S. economy by reducing the corporate income tax rate to make it more competitive with our nation’s major trading partners.” Together, they constituted a 501(c)(4) tax-exempt organization (first launched in 2011) and promised that a corporate tax rate reduction would “boost job creation and economic growth.”

Their membership list was a who’s who of Big Business: Aetna Inc., AT&T, Altria Client Services, Association of American Railroads, Boeing, Brown-Forman, Capital One, Cox Enterprises, CVS Caremark, Edison Electric Institute, FedEx, Ford, General Dynamics, Home Depot, Intel, Kimberly-Clark, Liberty Media, Lockheed Martin, Macy’s, National Retail Federation, Nike, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, Reynolds American, S&P Global, Southern Company, Synchrony Financial, T-Mobile, UPS, Verizon, Viacom, and Walmart.

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Trump buried a wildly anti-LGBTQ provision in the new North American trade deal

Zack Ford

Zack Ford LGBTQ Editor, ThinkProgress

The Trump administration seems to have edited out LGBTQ protections in the new North American trade agreement with Canada and Mexico (known as the USMCA). The change, an apparent gesture to a group of the most anti-LGBTQ members of Congress, ensures the administration’s own anti-LGBTQ efforts can continue without undermining the agreement.

Originally, the drafted trade agreement called on all three countries to establish “policies that protect workers against employment discrimination on the basis of sex, including with regard to pregnancy, sexual harassment, sexual orientation, gender identity.”

In the final version, however, a new footnote was added that significantly undermines the United States’ obligation to uphold these protections. It states:

The United States’ existing federal agency policies regarding the hiring of federal workers are sufficient to fulfill the obligations set forth in this Article. The Article thus requires no additional action on the part of the United States, including any amendments to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, in order for the United States to be in compliance with the obligations set forth in this Article.

This is a reference to a pair of Executive Orders President Obama implemented protecting both federal employees and the employees of federal contractors from discrimination on the basis of their sexual orientation and gender identity. All of the country’s other LGBTQ workers enjoy no enumerated protection under the law, though many courts have agreed that Title VII’s protections on the basis of “sex” also protect LGBTQ people.

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Union Matters

Even Super Good Times Sometimes Stop Rolling

Sam Pizzigati

Sam Pizzigati Editor, Too Much online magazine

India’s self-styled “King of the Good Times,” the Kingfisher beer and airline baron Vijay Mallya, seems to be in store for lots of not-so-good times. This past September, a local court ordered the sale of the super yacht Mallya had abandoned in Malta — complete with 40 crewmembers — after his arrest in London on fraud and money-laundering charges. Earlier this month, another court ruling awarded the abandoned crew almost $1 million in back pay. Mallya is now fighting extradition to India. The cells in India’s Mumbai Central Prison, he’s complained to British authorities, lack natural light. The 62-year-old is also tweeting regularly that he’s not getting “fair treatment” from politicians and the media. Mallya’s yacht, meanwhile, has begun a new life as a charter boat renting for $850,000 per week.

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Who Really Pays for Tax Cuts?

Who Really Pays for Tax Cuts?
Civil & Human Rights Fight Back America PAC Rapid Response SOAR USPA Activist Corps Women of Steel Health, Safety and Environment Workers Uniting Emergency Response Team