Leo W. Gerard

President’s Perspective

Leo W. Gerard USW International President

Solidarity Against Hate

Solidarity Against Hate
New Zealanders' hate-defying symbol

The union I lead, the United Steelworkers (USW), believes in unity, that “all working men and women, regardless of creed, color or nationality” are eligible for membership.

That was the guiding principle of the Steel Workers Organizing Committee (SWOC) when it formed in 1937.

I return to that statement in times like these, times when terrorists shoot up mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, killing 50 worshipers; a synagogue in the USW’s hometown of Pittsburgh, killing 11; an African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C., killing nine; a Sikh temple near Milwaukee, killing six; a nightclub in Orlando, killing 49 mostly young gay people.

The USW membership eligibility statement is an assertion of inclusion. All working men and women qualify. They can all join. They can all attend local union meetings at which members call each other “brother” and “sister.” This practice creates artificial, but crucial, bonds between them. This solidarity gives the group strength when facing off against massive multinational corporations and demanding decent pay and dignified working conditions.

To erode that solidarity, some billionaire hedge fund owners and multinational CEOs work to divide workers. These wealthy .01 percenters separate people by cultivating hate. Some are the same billionaire sugar daddies of alt-right hate sites like Breitbart and more conventional hate sites like Fox News. Investigative journalist Jane Mayer wrote a book about their efforts titled, “Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right.”

This hate mongering sets work-a-day people against each other. That weakens them politically. And it contributes to false-fear provoked violence.

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The Pentagon can’t explain where $2.5 billion in border wall funding is coming from

Rebekah Entralgo

Rebekah Entralgo Reporter, ThinkProgress

Military medical facilities and dining halls. A hangar for drones in South Korea. A wastewater treatment plant at West Point. All could lose money as the Trump administration shifts resources to pay for a border wall.

Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan on Monday delivered to Congress a list of military projects that could be impacted by Trump’s national emergency declaration. Shanahan’s list to Congress is general and includes $12.5 billion worth of program funding that is up for grabs. Funding could also be siphoned away from facilities that affect everyday life on domestic and international U.S. military bases, including dining halls, medical facilities, and roads.

Trump’s national emergency declaration allows him to divert $3.6 billion worth of funding from the programs Shanahan identified, in order to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. It isn’t known when the White House will make the $3.6 billion cut and from which Pentagon programs.

But Shanahan’s list doesn’t account for an additional $2.5 billion in funding that Trump requested for his wall.

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Bring Back Eisenhower Socialism

Chuck Collins

Chuck Collins Director the Program on Inequality and the Common Good , Institute for Policu Studies

Anytime a politician proposes a wildly popular idea that helps ordinary people, a few grumpy conservatives will call them “socialists.” Propose to reduce college debt, help sick families, or ensure the super-rich pay their fair share of taxes — suddenly you’re a walking red nightmare.

Utah Republican Rep. Chris Stewart is so alarmed he’s convened an “Anti-Socialism Caucus” to ward off “the primitive appeal of socialism” that will “infect our institutions.” Democrats’ talk of restoring higher income tax rates on the wealthiest or helping families with childcare was enough to trigger Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin to quip, “We’re not going back to socialism.”

These same politicians consistently vote for tax cuts for the rich and to gut taxes and regulations on corporations so they can exercise their full freedom and liberty — to mistreat workers, pollute the environment, and rip off their customers.

The “shrink government” fear-mongers want you to believe there are only two flavors of economic ice cream. Choose strawberry and you get liberty-choking gulag communism. From this vantage, any proposal to rein in the unchecked power of global corporations and the rule-rigging rich is creeping socialism.

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Wall Street Pressured GM to Close Plants

Mark Gruenberg

Mark Gruenberg Editor, Press Associates Union News

Wall Street pressure, particularly from rich and secretive hedge funds and their managers, prompted the General Motors plant closures that will throw at least 14,000 United Auto Worker members – and countless other workers in GM’s supply chain – out of jobs, a new report says.

The report, commissioned by the Teachers (AFT) is from the non-profit Hedge Clippers campaign, an organization dedicated to investigating, exposing and reining in the hedge funders’ financial machinations.

It added the moneyed interests have been pressuring GM ever since 2013, after the “new GM” returned to profitability following the Democratic Obama administration’s rescue of GM and FiatChrysler from collapse, bankruptcy and closure due to the financier- and GOP-caused Great Recession.

The pressure has come in the form of financiers’ threatened takeovers accompanying demands that GM send profits to stockholders and stock buybacks, rather than investing to modernize its factories. The recent plant closures are just the latest symptom of company yielding to the capitalists, the report adds.

AFT commissioned the report because its members, too, will suffer from the closures. That’s because when the company closes the four plants – two in Michigan and one in Baltimore after the one in Lordstown, Ohio – tax revenues, from both personal income taxes and, more importantly, property taxes, will decline.

And property taxes provide most of the revenue for local school districts, AFT President Randi Weingarten explained. She cited Lordstown, which closed March 6, as the example. Some 1,400 workers, toiling at making the Chevy Cruze on the one remaining production line, lost their jobs. Several years ago, the plant employed 4,600 in three lines.

AFT represents Lordstown’s public school teachers. Many have relatives who were employed at the plant. “The closure could decimate the community’s tax base—Lordstown’s two schools currently receive about $800,000 a year in property tax revenue. With the plant idle, the property could be devalued, drastically affecting funding,” AFT said in a statement.

“The report exposes how GM’s decision to close Lordstown and shutter two other North American assembly plants and component factories followed a 4-year bid by hedge fund managers to squeeze company profits.” The report names the hedge funds and their five managers, who collectively raked in billions from all their deals.

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What’s the Real American Story?

Robert Reich

Robert Reich Former U.S. Secretary of Labor, Professor at Berkeley

Donald Trump has perfected the art of telling a fake story about America. The only way to counter that is to tell the real story of America.

Trump’s story is by now familiar: he alone will rescue average Americans from powerful alien forces – immigrants, foreign traders, foreign politicians and their international agreements – that have undermined the wellbeing of Americans.

These forces have been successful largely because Democrats, liberals, “socialists,” cultural elites, the Washington establishment, the media and “deep state” bureaucrats have helped them, in order to enrich themselves and boost their power. Not surprisingly, according to Trump, these forces seek to remove him from office.

What makes Trump’s story powerful to some Americans despite its utter phoniness is that it echoes the four tales Americans have been telling ourselves since before the founding of the Republic.

To combat Trump’s fake story, we need a true story based on facts, logic and history. But in order for that true story to resonate with Americans, it must also echo the same four tales.

The first tale: The Triumphant Individual. 

It’s the little guy or gal who works hard, takes risks, believes in him or herself, and eventually gains wealth, fame and honor. The tale is epitomized in the life of Abe Lincoln, born in a log cabin, who believed that “the value of life is to improve one’s condition.” The moral: with enough effort and courage, anyone can make it in America.

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Republican congressman introduces bill to fix the injustice of college sports

Lindsay Gibbs

Lindsay Gibbs Sports Reporter, ThinkProgress

The latest opposition to the NCAA is coming from an unlikely place: The U.S. House of Representatives.

On Thursday, Rep. Mark Walker (R-NC) introduced the Student-Athlete Equity Act, a bill that aims to hit the NCAA where it hurts the most: in the tax code. Currently, the only compensation college athletes in this country receive for their labor comes in the form of scholarships and having educational costs covered by the university. If a student-athlete sells an autograph, promotes a lacrosse stick brand on their Instagram, or accepts a free tattoo from a fan, it counts as an NCAA violation under the current system.

But Walker’s bill would amend the definition of a qualified amateur sports organization in the tax code, and remove this restriction on student-athletes using or being compensated for the use of their name, image, and likeness.

“We’re not asking the NCAA or the schools to spend a dime on these athletes,” Walker told ThinkProgress in a phone interview on Friday. “We’re asking for them to have the same rights to the free market that you and I have.”

It’s no coincidence that Walker is introducing this bill during March Madness — the men’s NCAA Division I basketball tournament, which begins on Tuesday, is the college sports cartel’s most egregious showcase of athlete exploitation. The television networks, sponsors, NCAA, universities, coaches, and trainers all rake in millions, while the players get no share of the haul.

This arrangement has bothered Walker for decades. He first became aware of the inequities in this system back in the early 1990s, when the University of Michigan’s Fab Five — the Wolverines’ 1991 recruiting class considered by many to be the best of all time — took the basketball world by storm, and, in many ways, changed the face of college basketball forever. While three of the Fab Five — Chris Webber, Jalen Rose, and Juwan Howard — went on to have long NBA careers, Jimmy King only spent a couple of years in the league, and Ray Jackson never made it to the pros.

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Union Matters

Support the Equality Act

From the AFL-CIO

Rep. David Cicilline and Sen. Jeff Merkley last week reintroduced the Equality Act in the 116th Congress. A landmark piece of civil rights legislation, the bill would extend comprehensive protections to LGBTQ working people.

Currently, private employers in 29 states can legally fire workers based solely on their sexual orientation or gender identity.

The Equality Act would ensure that civil rights protections are extended equally to LGBTQ Americans.

Amending existing federal civil rights laws, it would explicitly prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in education, employment, housing, credit, federal jury service, public accommodations and the use of federal funds.

More than 70% of Americans—including a majority of Republicans—support passing the kinds of protections found in the Equality Act.

The Equality Act’s record number of co-sponsors in the House of Representatives is 239.

 “No one’s civil rights should depend on the ZIP code they happen to be in at the moment.” —Pride At Work Executive Director Jerame Davis

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New NAFTA Must Create an Economy for All

New NAFTA Must Create an Economy for All