USW: Congressional Democrats’ Better Deal Proposal Would Help Working Families by Strengthening Unions

Contact: Holly Hart (202) 778-4384; hhart@usw.org

(Pittsburgh) – United Steelworkers (USW) International President Leo W. Gerard issued this statement today following yesterday’s release of a white paper by Congressional Democrats outlining measures for working families to utilize collective bargaining to improve their lives. In anticipation of the release of the Republican tax plan, which would provide massive tax cuts for the wealthy at the expense of American workers, these measures have even greater significance.

Working families across America should support the latest phase of the Congressional Democrats’ “A Better Deal” as it provides a blueprint for workers to build better lives by organizing and bargaining collectively. It calls for workers to have the freedom to negotiate.

For more than three decades now, wages have been stagnant while profits and executive compensation have skyrocketed. During this time, incomes for the top 1 percent rose by 204 percent while incomes for the bottom 50 percent rose by just 1 percent.

To add further insult, the tax plan now being proposed by Republicans would provide major cuts for the wealthy at the expense of working families. These cuts will greatly increase the deficit and could lead to future cuts in essential programs such as Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.

The Democratic proposal would ban state laws that undermine worker freedoms to join together and bargain. While federal law requires unions to provide equal representation to all workers in a unionized workplace, regardless of membership, 28 states have passed laws that strip workers of the resources they need to bargain for higher wages, better benefits and improved working conditions. These so-called right-to-work laws do not give anyone the right to a job. They result in lower wages and decreased access to health care and pensions for union and nonunion workers alike.

The proposal calling for the freedom to negotiate would strengthen penalties on predatory corporations that violate workers’ rights. While a growing number of workers would join a union if given a free choice, many fear retaliation for supporting one. Companies threaten to close shop in 57 percent of union elections, fire union supporters in 34 percent of elections, threaten to cut wages in 47 percent of elections, and use one-on-one supervisory meetings to threaten union supporters in 54 percent of organizing campaigns.

The USW represents 850,000 workers in North America employed in many industries that include metals, rubber, chemicals, paper, oil refining and the service and public sectors. For more information: http://www.usw.org/.

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