Category: From the USW International President

A Soulless Man Cannot Serve Justice

Leo W. Gerard

Leo W. Gerard USW International President

The senator’s question was simple and straightforward: What would you have done?

Judge Neil Gorsuch wouldn’t answer. He couldn’t say whether, on orders from an employer, he’d have driven a tractor trailer with locked brakes, endangering the lives of other motorists, or instead allowed himself to freeze to death in sub-zero cold in an unheated truck cab while awaiting a mechanic.

Gorsuch dithered and demurred. He talked around the query. Finally, he said, “I don’t know.”

The vaunted jurist nominated for a seat on the U.S. Supreme Court couldn’t answer a basic question about a case on which he’d issued an infamous dissenting opinion. The fact that he had never considered the key question and the fact that Gorsuch, born and bred a 1 percenter, decided this case and others for moneyed interests without a thought for the people injured as a result, disqualifies him for a seat on the nation’s highest court. 

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This Budget Endangers Americans

Leo W. Gerard

Leo W. Gerard USW International President

This Budget Endangers Americans

After the president issued a budget last week slashing and burning environmental, labor and educational programs, the guy responsible for the thing, Mick Mulvaney, contended those financial massacres are the heart’s desire of the “steelworker in Ohio, the coal-mining family in West Virginia, the mother of two in Detroit.”

Mulvaney, director of the Office of Management and Budget, asserted that members of my union, the United Steelworkers (USW), coal miners and urban parents are eager to kill off Public Broadcasting’s Big Bird, to drink lead-laden water, to breathe cough-inducing air and to work among life-threatening dangers.

This illustrates a complete lack of knowledge of the working and living conditions of huge swaths of Americans. Big Bird and Mr. Rogers are way more popular than Congress. Americans would much rather pay their freight than the wages of politicians. Americans are horrified by the poisoned water in Flint, Mich., and are willing to invest in an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that would prevent such health hazards. And steelworkers and coal miners have seen dismemberment and death on the job and don’t want the Chemical Safety Board (CSB) eliminated or the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) decimated. 

Americans balk at a budget that renders them less safe in their homes and workplaces.

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Trumping the WTO

Leo W. Gerard

Leo W. Gerard USW International President

This month is the one-year anniversary of Alcoa closing the largest aluminum smelter in the United States – the Warrick in Indiana.

More than 325 workers lost their family-supporting jobs, including Brandon Marshall, who, like most aluminum workers, was a member of my union, the United Steelworkers (USW).  Brandon told the New York Times last week that he found another job, but it pays only about half what he earned before, so his wife had to go back to work.

Alcoa also shut down its Wenatchee smelter last year, laying off 420 workers in Washington State, including Josh Busjahn, who told a reporter from public radio's Marketplace that he had to cut his family’s budget in half.

In 1970, there were 24,000 aluminum smelter workers nationwide. Now, there are 2,200. Just 17 years ago, the United States had 23 smelters. Now, there are five. And only one is operating at full capacity.

A major cause of this suffering and job loss is China’s violation of trade rules. Beijing overbuilt its aluminum capacity to keep its citizens employed, then dumped the subsidized excess on the world market, artificially suppressing prices. In January, the Obama administration filed a complaint against China with the World Trade Organization (WTO) in an attempt to stop Beijing’s destruction of the American industry, one that is crucial to national defense.

But the outlook for this case isn’t great. The WTO has repeatedly stiffed the United States. It’s supposed to adjudicate trade disputes, but a new report, commissioned by the Alliance for American Manufacturing (AAM) and titled, “How the WTO Undermines U.S. Trade Remedy Enforcement,” shows that the WTO treats the United States like a punching bag that must suffer the economic blows of trade cheating by nations worldwide.

For a quarter century, since the dawn of NAFTA, the USW has called for fair trade and protection for American manufacturers like Alcoa and workers like Brandon and Josh against abuses such as currency manipulation, government subsidization and dumping. Finally, last week, President Donald Trump announced the United States would not be bound by WTO decisions. That sounded great to laid-off manufacturing workers nationwide. 

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Trading Rules for Workers

Leo W. Gerard

Leo W. Gerard USW International President

President Donald Trump met with a bunch of CEOs at the White House last week, prompting the same old, tired and untrue round of assertions that America lost millions of manufacturing jobs because of automation, regulation, illegal immigration and lack of education.

The real culprit is globalization – fostered by a series of bad trade deals. That’s not what the CEOs talked about, though, mainly because a huge portion of them already have moved factories from America to low-wage, high-pollution countries.

Bad trade is, however, what President Trump talked about constantly on the campaign trail. He repeatedly assured cheering crowds he would stop corporations from offshoring factories. A new report from the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation proves his diagnosis was right – bad trade caused the vast majority of the job losses. He was right when he said the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal and NAFTA had to go. Offshoring CEOs are trying to bamboozle the administration about the cause of job loss to prevent President Trump from keeping his promises to industrial workers.

And those CEOs are wrong about automation. Robots didn’t do it. They didn’t kill 5.7 million manufacturing jobs between 2000 and 2010. That’s the bottom line in research published this month by Adams Nager, an economic policy analyst for the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation and in another report by economists Lawrence Mishel and Heidi Shierholz of the Economic Policy Institute

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Off-Shorers Should Shut Up

Leo W. Gerard

Leo W. Gerard USW International President

Whirlpool, the big appliance manufacturer, stressed in recent years its preference to make it in America.  

In 2013, it actually moved dishwasher manufacturing jobs back to the United States from Mexico. The next year, it announced a $40 million investment in its Greenville, Ohio KitchenAid plant, adding 400 jobs. Last year, Whirlpool CEO Jeff Fettig said the company would spend another $40 million to expand its Findlay, Ohio dishwasher plant, adding 50 jobs and raising to $1 billion its investment in U.S. manufacturing since 2010

Last week, Intel announced it would spend $7 billion to upgrade an Arizona facility and employ 3,000 people to fabricate advanced computer wafers – meaning its CEO Brian Krzanich chose the United States over Ireland, Israel and China where Intel already produces silicon wafers.

So it makes sense that Fettig and Krzanich serve on President Donald Trump’s new Manufacturing Jobs Initiative. The initiative is supposed to help the president promote U.S. job and manufacturing growth.

Curiously, though, named to that same 28-member committee are at least seven CEOs who have recently – and sometimes infamously – offshored manufacturing and jobs. They include Greg Hayes, CEO of United Technologies, the corporation that is shipping Indiana jobs from its Carrier subsidiary to Mexico.

The performance of the manufacturing council is crucial to large swaths of workers who voted for President Trump based on his promises to stop unfair trade and resurrect American manufacturing. In his inauguration speech, the president told those voters that he would enact “America first” policies. It is no “America first” policy to send jobs from two profitable Carrier plants in Indiana to Mexico for the sole purpose of making extra bucks. That kind of offshoring exhibits a greed first mindset. The CEOs who have pursued that philosophy should shut up and take advice from the committee’s American job creators.

Former GE CEO Jack Welch wanted to be able to put factories on barges and ship them, on a corporate whim, to countries where it was cheaper to operate.

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Make American Jobs

Leo W. Gerard

Leo W. Gerard USW International President

President Donald Trump had Harley-Davidson executives and employees over to lunch at the White House last week and reiterated his promise to end wrong-headed trade policies that enable foreign countries to eat American workers’ lunch.

The President reassured the Harley workers from the United Steelworkers (USW) union and the International Association of Machinists (IAM) that he would renegotiate NAFTA and other trade deals.

“A lot of people [have been] taking advantage of us, a lot of countries [have been] taking advantage of us, really terribly taking advantage of us,” he said as news cameras clicked, “We have to be treated fairly.”    

No promise could be more heartening to workers as corporations like Carrier and Rexnord continue to move jobs to Mexico. No news could be better in the same week that the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) released research showing that since 2001, the United States’ massive trade deficit with China cost 3.4 million Americans their jobs.

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Speak Loudly and Carry a Big Aluminum Bat

Leo W. Gerard

Leo W. Gerard USW International President

During this very month last year, aluminum smelters across the United States were closing, one after another. It was as if they produced something useless, not a commodity crucial to everything from beverage cans to fighter jets.

In January of 2016, Alcoa closed its Wenatchee Works in Washington State, costing 428 workers their jobs, sending 428 families into panic, slashing tax revenue counted on by the town of Wenatchee and the school district and devastating local businesses that no longer saw customers from the region’s highest-paying manufacturer.

That same month, Alcoa announced it would permanently close its Warrick Operations in Evansville, Ind., then the largest smelter in the country, employing 600 workers, within three months.

Then, Noranda Aluminum fell. It laid off more than half of the 850 workers at its New Madrid, Mo., smelter in January, filed for bankruptcy in February and closed in March. The smelter was a family-supporting employer in a low-income region, and when it stopped operating, the New Madrid County School District didn’t get tax payments it was expecting.

This devastation to workers, families, communities and corporations occurred even after Ormet had shuttered a smelter in Ohio in 2013, destroying 700 jobs, and Alcoa announced in 2015 that Massena East, in New York, closed since 2014, would never reopen, costing 332 jobs. 

It all happened as demand for aluminum in the United States increased.

That doesn’t make sense until China’s role in this disaster is explained.

That role is the reason the Obama administration filed a complaint against China with the World Trade Organization (WTO) last week. In this case, the President must ignore the old adage about speaking softly. To preserve a vital American manufacturing capability against predatory conduct by a foreign power, the administration must speak loudly and carry a big aluminum bat. 

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Coming Soon: American Made Battle of the Heavyweights

Leo W. Gerard

Leo W. Gerard USW International President

Virtually every time President-elect Donald Trump performs in cities across America on his thank you tour, he mentions, to grand applause, his preference for Made in America.

He describes his plan to create jobs with a federal infrastructure spending project – that is improvements to the likes of crumbling roads, bridges, waterlines and airports – and then says, “We will have two simple rules when it comes to this massive rebuilding effort. Buy American and hire American.”

That American-job-creating, buy-American thing is supported by 71 percent of the American public. But it is a smack in the face to GOP Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, who just made it clear in the Water Resources Development Act that he’s fine with creating slave-wage iron-and-steel-making jobs in China with U.S. tax dollars so long as a few fat-cat iron-and-steel importers make a profit on the deal.

So, clearly, there’s a battle brewing between the President-elect and the Speaker of the House. This is the President-elect who has repeatedly promised the working class men and women who elected him that he’d support Buy American provisions in federal law to create jobs for them. And it’s a GOP Speaker who wants to ship taxpayer-financed work overseas and let the working class wait a couple more decades to just possibly feel a tiny pinch of trickle down from the largess of filthy rich iron and steel importers. This, also, is a clash between a New York real estate titan who won the presidency and a Wisconsin lawmaker who lost the vice presidency. 

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False Hope Hurts More

Leo W. Gerard

Leo W. Gerard USW International President

All Chuck Jones was trying to say is that Presidential-elect exaggeration is a killer when it involves jobs. It’s one thing for a candidate to inflate stuff like personal wealth. But when a President-elect tells the country he’s saved 1,100 jobs at a Midwestern manufacturing plant, and it’s really only 800, that hurts real human beings.

Chuck Jones is president of the United Steelworkers (USW) Local Union 1999, which represents 1,330 workers at the Carrier furnace plant in Indianapolis. He’s the guy who had to tell them the bad news: 1,100 jobs hadn’t been saved. Only 800 workers would be spared, 730 union and 70 management.

When President-elect Donald Trump announced 1,100 jobs saved, he included 300 research and development employees who Carrier never intended to move to Mexico.

The members of USW Local 1999 had thought when President-elect Trump said 1,100 that only a small number of blue-collar jobs would be lost. In the end, though, it turned out nearly 600 workers would be out in the cold, almost half of the union members at the Carrier plant.

Everyone was thankful that 730 jobs had been rescued. But the 1,100 figure had created false hope. When it was dashed, workers were devastated. It was worse than if the President-elect had given them no hope at all.

This is important because the President-elect has made many promises to working people across this country. He said, for example, that he’d bring back manufacturing jobs from China, Mexico, Japan and elsewhere. He said he’d impose on companies like Carrier that ship factories and jobs out of the country a 35 percent tariff on the manufactured goods when they’re imported into the United States for sale. He promised tax incentives for manufacturers to build or expand factories in the United States. He pledged to create 25 million jobs. These are hope-builders for workers. They are pledges that must be kept. 

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Fire Ants Killed the TPP

Leo W. Gerard

Leo W. Gerard USW International President

The defeat of the TPP is a tale of ants slaying a dragon.

It seemed a fearsome task, challenging the powerful behemoth that is Wall Street, Big Pharma, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Big Ag, Big Oil, all their lobbyists, and all the Congress critters they’d “campaign-financed” to support their money-grubbing 12-country trade scheme.

The battle was engaged, though, for the sake of workers’ rights, clean air and water, food safety, reasonably priced pharmaceuticals, national sovereignty, internet freedom, financial regulation, public control of public lands, the right of governments to pass laws for the public good without corporations suing for so-called lost profits in secret tribunals adjudicated by hand-picked corporate jurists, and the freedom of local governments to buy American-made products for taxpayer financed projects to create American jobs. And, frankly, so much more.  For a righteous, just and equitable society. That’s why there were so many ants.

Literally thousands of civil society groups coalesced to combat the TPP. These included labor unions, health care organizations, food safety advocates, environmentalists, churches, family farmers, social justice societies, indigenous rights organizations and allied groups in the 12 TPP partner countries. My union, the United Steelworkers, was among them. It was an overwhelming number of groups with an overwhelming number of members who conducted an overwhelming number of events over years to make it clear to lawmakers just how strongly citizens opposed the TPP.

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Trump's Checklist

Trump's Checklist

Union Matters

Is President Trump Keeping His #BuyAmerica Promise?

Leslie is joined by Scott N. Paul, President of the Alliance for American Manufacturing (AAM), a partnership established by some of America’s leading manufacturers and the United Steelworkers union.

The two discuss whether President Trump is keeping his ‘Buy America’ pledge as massive amounts of Russian and Chinese steel are being used for new projects in New Jersey and New York.

Listen to "Is President Trump Keeping His #BuyAmerica Promise?" on Spreaker.

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