Posts from Leo W. Gerard

A Shining City on the Hill Treats Immigrants Humanely

Leo W. Gerard

Leo W. Gerard USW International President

By signing an executive order ending forced separation of immigrant families, President Donald Trump today admitted that the cruel practice was his administration’s policy and that he could have stopped it at any time.

Despite having the power to stop taking children from parents, the Republican administration enforced the practice since April, splitting more than 2,300 youngsters, some just months-old babies, from their mothers and fathers. The administration continued to enforce it even after photographs showed toddlers wailing, audio recordings revealed young children sobbing and pleading for their Mami and Papa, a 30-year-old Honduran father torn from his wife and three-year-old son killed himself in a jail cell, and some parents were deported without their children and without information about how to find or reunite with them.

It is appropriate that the United States withdrew from the United Nations Human Rights Council this week because America has been engaged in appalling human rights violations. The organization Amnesty International accused the Trump administration of hateful politics and violating human rights both in the United States and abroad.

Make no mistake: the American people opposed this policy. It was not their idea. It was a perverse Republican strategy, conceived and instituted by a Republican administration, Republican Attorney General and Republican secretary of Homeland Security. This is a grotesquerie of Republican construction. This is their Frankenstein.

Photo by Tom Kiefer of rosaries taken from immigrants. Title of image "43" Project title "El Sueño Americano - The American Dream" A fine-art photographer, Tom Kiefer was employed part-time as a janitor at a U.S. Customs and Border Patrol processing facility from 2003 - 2014. In 2007, Mr. Kiefer started removing the deeply personal belongings of migrants that were confiscated and discarded in the trash. Website and instagram: www.tomkiefer.com

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Where’s that $4,000 Raise the GOP Promised Workers?

Leo W. Gerard

Leo W. Gerard USW International President

When Republicans in Congress passed a big, fat tax break bill in December, they insisted it meant American workers would be singing “Happy Days Are Here Again” all the way to the bank.

The payoff from the tax cut would be raises totaling $4,000 to $9,000, the President’s Council of Economic Advisors assured workers.

But something bad happened to workers on their way to the repository. They never got that money.

In fact, their real wages declined because of higher inflation. At the same time, the amount workers had to pay in interest on loans for cars and credit cards increased. And, to top it off, Republicans threatened to make workers pay for the tax break with cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

So now, workers across America are wondering, “Where’s that raise?”

It’s nowhere to be found.

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Poor People’s Campaign Is The Angry Response To Inequality America Needs

Leo W. Gerard

Leo W. Gerard USW International President

For the past half century, Americans have allowed the wealthy to get away with economic murder. Income inequality has risen to pre-Great Depression levels. Compensation for CEOs skyrocketed while wages for the rest stagnated. The wealthy received fat tax breaks even as workers got a pittance. Just this month, America’s high rollers bought dozens of paintings at prices tens of millions higher than anticipated during auctions at hoity-toity Christie’s and Sotheby’s.

And all of this has occurred with barely more than a peep of protest from the populace, no more than a few here today, gone tomorrow Occupy Wall Street sit-ins.

This month is not, however, business as usual. Two Mondays ago, a bunch of dedicated rabble-rousers launched a new Poor People’s Campaign. Thousands demonstrated in Washington, D.C., including members of the union I lead, the United Steelworkers. The group, led by the Rev. William Barber II and the Rev. Liz Theoharis, plans actions in 30 states over 40 days. This past week, dozens of Poor People’s Campaign activists were again arrested in Washington, D.C., as they demanded restoration of the Voting Rights Act.

The campaign is dedicated to the idea that “people should not live in or die from poverty in the richest nation ever to exist.” Its revival could not be more urgent or timely.

For more, click here: https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/opinion-gerard-poor-peoples-campaign_us_5b086698e4b0fdb2aa538846

Trade Negotiations Require a Steel Spine

Leo W. Gerard

Leo W. Gerard USW International President

President Donald Trump dealt himself a strong hand before negotiating with China.

He held three aces. He’d placed tariffs on imported aluminum and steel in response to unrelenting Chinese overproduction. He’d threatened tariffs on $150 billion in Chinese imports in retaliation for theft and forced transfer of American intellectual property. And for trade violations, he’d forbidden U.S. companies to sell parts to Chinese cell phone giant ZTE, forcing it out of business.

And then, inexplicably, his lead negotiator, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, quickly folded in talks in Washington, D.C.,  last week. He left two days of negotiations with top Chinese officials with what amounts of an unenforceable letter of intent. The “joint statement” says the Chinese will buy some more American made stuff, improve its protections for American intellectual property and patents, and remove some barriers preventing U.S. companies from operating in China. But there’s no specifics and no enforcement.

In exchange for vague promises, Mnuchin suspended the tariffs. In addition, on Tuesday, the Wall Street Journal reported that the United States and China had reached a tentative deal to save ZTE, despite the fact that ZTE failed to honor an earlier agreement made after it violated trade embargos against Iran and North Korea.  

Now China holds all the aces. It is bragging that it trounced the United States in trade talks. The stock market shot up 350 points Monday on Mnuchin’s assertion that he’d stopped a trade war between China and the United States. And maybe certainty for investors was all Mnuchin, a former Wall Street banker, wanted. But steel stocks slumped Monday. And that’s not what President Trump promised on the campaign trail.  It’s not what tough negotiators would have achieved for the United States when it had the upper hand. No potent negotiator would have surrendered that hand for vague promises, especially considering China’s long history of disregarding its trade pledges. 

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No Breakthroughs in China Trade Talks is Good News

Leo W. Gerard

Leo W. Gerard USW International President

No Breakthroughs in China Trade Talks is Good News

That U.S. trade negotiators returned from China last week without trumpeting some big breakthrough is, in fact, a sign of real progress. That’s because there’s no point in touting more cheap promises that won’t be kept.

The U.S. and China discussed complex, long-standing trade disputes that have contributed significantly to America’s relentlessly expanding trade deficit with the Asian giant, to the shuttering of tens of thousands of U.S. factories, and to the loss of hundreds of thousands of good-paying American jobs.

The U.S. delegation traveled to Beijing with a four-page list of demands, as well as sufficient scarring from past burns to ignore shiny objects this time. The American demands are tough, and completely appropriate. Rebalancing trade with China, which is $375 billion out of whack, will not be easy.

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Protect Those Who Save Lives

Leo W. Gerard

Leo W. Gerard USW International President

Working in a hospital, nursing home or ambulance is dangerous. Sometimes fatally so. It’s not so much that a worker might catch a communicable disease, although that happens. The real danger comes from violent patients, volatile family members and sometimes even vengeful co-workers.

Last June, Dr. Henry Bellow, 45, a New York City physician who had been forced to resign, returned to the facility with an assault rifle and opened fire, killing a doctor and injuring five other health care workers and a patient.

A month later, after Indiana physician Todd Graham refused to prescribe opioids to a female patient, her husband laid in wait for the doctor and shot him to death in a medical center parking lot.

These slain health care workers will be honored on Workers Memorial Day, which is Saturday, April 28. We should honor the dead, as labor activist Mother Jones (that is, Mary Harris Jones) instructed. But Mother Jones followed that directive with the admonition that we also “fight like hell for the living.”  

In the case of health care workers, who are more likely to suffer violence on that job than those in any other profession, we must fight like hell for a federal safety standard to ensure that more of them return home after a day’s work without broken bones, bruises, bite marks or gunshot wounds.

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GOP Fraud: “It’ll Pay for Itself”

Leo W. Gerard

Leo W. Gerard USW International President

GOP Fraud: “It’ll Pay for Itself”
Art of GOP House Speaker Paul Ryan by DonkeyHote/Flickr

Remember the Republicans’ claim that their tax scam slashing rates for the rich and corporations would magically pay for itself?

Here is how that works: a rich guy walks into a Mercedes-Benz dealership, gets behind the wheel of a $112,400 GP Coupe, and drives away yelling to the salesman, “Don’t worry. It’ll pay for itself.”

It’s nothing but a fraud.

Well, that’s what the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) said this week, anyway. Without blatantly labeling the GOP tax cut as a con, the CBO did say that it would in no way, not ever pay for itself. It would, the CBO warned, dramatically raise the national budget deficit, year after year, for at least a decade.

Republicans, the party of public hand wringing over deficits, deliberately created this gob-smackingly huge one. Privately, Republicans are the party of glee over deficits. That’s because they use them as an excuse to slash and burn programs cherished by the vast majority of Americans such as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. Yes, Grandma, that tax cut Republicans gave to fat cats means you’ll be eating cat food.

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Deep and Abiding Disrespect

Leo W. Gerard

Leo W. Gerard USW International President

When coal mine bosses said mules were more precious than men because dead miners could be replaced for free, but not dead mules, it demonstrated disrespect. That contempt from the top provoked pitched gun battles between workers and mine-owner militias in West Virginia a little over a century ago. 

Ill-paid, mistreated and insulted, what did the miners have to lose?

The same was true for sanitation workers in Memphis, Tenn., half a century later. Subjected to dangerous equipment that killed four workers in four years and paid so little they qualified for food stamps, more than 1,300 walked off the job on Feb. 12, 1968. They demanded respect, carrying signs stating, “I am a man.” The day after Dr. Martin Luther King marched to support these workers, he was assassinated in Memphis.

Now, a half century later, GOP politicians have so denigrated public school teachers that the educators in three states have engaged in wildcat strikes, mobbing their capitol buildings and demanding improved school funding for students and better pay and benefits for themselves and other workers.

Teachers in West Virginia, Oklahoma and Kentucky, like the 1920s West Virginia coal miners, had nothing to lose. Educators in Arizona, who began demonstrating at their capitol last week, may walk out soon as well.

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Energy Independence Requires Steel Independence

Leo W. Gerard

Leo W. Gerard USW International President

Shale oil and gas, now fracked from deep underground in two dozen states, is celebrated for delivering energy independence to the United States. But that goal can’t truly be achieved if America depends on China, Korea, even Brazil for the steel vital to drilling.

Sustaining steel independence is a big part of what President Trump’s tariffs are about.  They’re intended to revive American steel production which has been hammered by illegal trade practices, particularly in China. Just this week, the tariffs helped secure a new trade deal with Korea that reduces by 30 percent the amount of steel and drilling pipe the Asian country can export to the United States.

As fracking geared up across the United States, American steel makers invested in their mills to meet drillers’ needs, from pipe called Oil Country Tubular Goods (OCTG) to plate for platforms.

It was a symbiotic relationship. The new access to energy resources reduced the price of natural gas used in forging steel. That, of course, helped lower the price of American-made OCTG, plate and other steel essential for drilling.

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Labor Organizes a Congressional Win

Leo W. Gerard

Leo W. Gerard USW International President

On Tuesday in Western Pennsylvania, a novice candidate, a 33-year-old Democrat who had never before run for office, upset an experienced politician who President Donald Trump, Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump Jr. all stumped for and who received more than $10 million from dark money groups and the  Republican Party.

Not only that, the rookie did it in a congressional district that was gerrymandered to elect Republicans for life, a district that went for Trump, Mitt Romney and John McCain.

It was stunning.

Democrat Conor Lamb defeated Republican Rick Saccone in Pennsylvania’s 18th District, which had sent a Republican to Congress for the past 15 years.

The shocker resulted from a winning combination. Organized labor worked for the candidate who pledged to work for labor. That candidate, of course, was Conor Lamb.

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Union Matters

A Broken Immigration System

From the AFL-CIO

After a week of family separation, workplace raids and even more bad legislation, it is clearer than ever that we must fix our broken immigration system.

“The Trump administration is using enforcement overreach to terrify immigrant workers and is directly threatening our freedom to stand together and fight in unions for fair pay and treatment,” said AFL‑CIO President Richard Trumka.  

Trumka added: “Nothing embodies our broken immigration system more than the unnecessary pain and suffering of our immigrant brothers and sisters as families are torn apart at the border.”

America’s broken immigration system and threats of detention and deportation have been used as leverage to lower pay, worsen benefits and make workplaces less safe for decades.

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Concern of Concentration

Concern of Concentration