The Clock is Ticking, Mr. President

Richard Cucarese
USW Local 4889

There was a time during the history of America that our elected officials did their best to act expeditiously on the behalf of their constituents when it came to dealing with the ‘hot button’ issues of the day.

But over the past few decades especially, the most important issues seem to be pushed aside in the interest of partisan politics and media posturing while the proletariat suffers under the weight of indecision.  Within this framework of political grandstanding, the Section 232 cases for the steel and aluminum industries are no exception.

Contending these measures that would help save the industries and create jobs in these vitally important sectors, candidate Donald Trump used Section 232 as a dangling carrot to a workforce that has recently become resentful of presidents whom we thought were our allies promising us job security, only to have them deliver a hard slap to the face by decimating our ranks under the guise and false promises of the benefits of Free Trade.

Riding into the White House with not much wiggle room to have a mandate, President Trump still acknowledged that one of his key achievements would be to move along Section 232 expeditiously in the interests of national security due to their level of importance in the military sector and the resurrection of our once-mighty but now-crumbling national infrastructure.

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and the president set a date for delivery of 232 for mid-June, creating a buzz around the domestic steel companies and their workers that their long-ignored issues would finally be addressed.

Unfortunately, for the two industries, which combined employ more than 180,000 workers and support the livelihoods of another million and a half, the Trump Administration decided it was more important to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, foist a tax reduction plan on the American people that seems to benefit only Wall Street and large corporations, and cajole Premier Xi this past July during bilateral talks instead of confront him.

And the truly sad part is that although the Commerce Department has finally sent its report to the White House, seven months after its targeted due date, President Trump’s and Secretary Ross’ unnecessary dawdling has exacted a toll on domestic steel corporations, who’ve watched imports increase 21% this year. That forced some steel facilities to either idle or cease operations, thus ushering in a new wave of job losses.  Domestic aluminum producers haven’t fared much better. 

Ten years ago there were 22 smelters, now only five are in operation, with one possibly slated to close its doors, even though this is an industry that’s incredibly vital to national defense. 

President Trump now has 90 days to act. He’ll do it in less time if he’s truly serious.

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Posted In: Union Matters

Union Matters

Federal Minimum Wage Reaches Disappointing Milestone

By Kathleen Mackey
USW Intern

A disgraceful milestone occurred last Sunday, June 16.

That date officially marked the longest period that the United States has gone without increasing federal the minimum wage.

That means Congress has denied raises for a decade to 1.8 million American workers, that is, those workers who earn $7.25 an hour or less. These 1.8 million Americans have watched in frustration as Congress not only denied them wages increases, but used their tax dollars to raise Congressional pay. They continued to watch in disappointment as the Trump administration failed to keep its promise that the 2017 tax cut law would increase every worker’s pay by $4,000 per year.

More than 12 years ago, in May 2007, Congress passed legislation to raise the minimum wage to $7.25 per hour. It took effect two years later. Congress has failed to act since then, so it has, in effect, now imposed a decade-long wage freeze on the nation’s lowest income workers.

To combat this unjust situation, minimum wage workers could rally and call their lawmakers to demand action, but they’re typically working more than one job just to get by, so few have the energy or patience.

The Economic Policy Institute points out in a recent report on the federal minimum wage that as the cost of living rose over the past 10 years, Congress’ inaction cut the take-home pay of working families.  

At the current dismal rate, full-time workers receiving minimum wage earn $15,080 a year. It was virtually impossible to scrape by on $15,080 a decade ago, let alone support a family. But with the cost of living having risen 18% over that time, the situation now is far worse for the working poor. The current federal minimum wage is not a living wage. And no full-time worker should live in poverty.

While ignoring the needs of low-income workers, members of Congress, who taxpayers pay at least $174,000 a year, are scheduled to receive an automatic $4,500 cost-of-living raise this year. Congress increased its own pay from $169,300 to $174,000 in 2009, in the middle of the Great Recession when low income people across the country were out of work and losing their homes. While Congress has frozen its own pay since then, that’s little consolation to minimum wage workers who take home less than a tenth of Congressional salaries.

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A Friendly Reminder

A Friendly Reminder