Leo W. Gerard

President’s Perspective

Leo W. Gerard USW International President

Gordon Gekko Gets Religion, Sort of

Gordon Gekko found religion this week. Gekko, the lead in the 1987 movie “Wall Street” about capitalism gone corruptly amok, is most famous for his phrase: “greed is good.”

On Monday, real-world Gekkos – 181 corporate CEOs who belong to the Business Roundtable – signed a pledge saying they think greed isn’t so good, after all. 

Instead of bowing at the altar of larger corporate profits to hand out to executives and shareholders, these CEOs declared that corporations must demonstrate some reverence for other stakeholders as well: workers, customers, suppliers, communities and the environment.

If corporations actually devoted themselves to achieving this goal, it would be a return to the decades of the 20th century between 1930 and 1970 when many corporations did, in fact, abide by these values. The American middle class was more robust then, as pay rose in tandem with productivity. Unions held a stronger position in the economy. And the disparity between CEO and worker pay was dramatically smaller. But believing the country will revert to those economic times without force is naïve. The Roundtable’s announcement is nothing but a stunt.

Though the 181 Roundtable CEOs signed the stakeholder capitalism document, practicing the principles is an entirely different thing. And not even every member of the Business Roundtable came around and endorsed the document. The “Statement on the Purpose of a Corporation” says those who did sign “share a commitment to all of our stakeholders.” They underlined the word all. And they wrote in the present tense, as if they were already operating their corporations this way.

That, frankly, is ridiculous.

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Opioid CEOs Are Our Nation’s Real Druglords

Sam Pizzigati

Sam Pizzigati Editor, Too Much online magazine

Last week didn’t go so well for the Mexican druglord Joaquín Guzmán Loera. A federal district court sentenced the notorious “El Chapo” to life in prison. The 62-year-old will almost certainly, notes the New York Times, be “spending the rest of his life behind bars.”

El Chapo certainly deserves his fate. The drug cartel he ruled, a jury determined this past February, dumped “hundreds of tons of drugs to the United States” and “caused the deaths of dozens of people to protect himself and his smuggling routes.”

John Hammergren dumped far more deathly damage. Over the years from 2006 through 2012 alone, we learned last week from the release of a previously secret federal drug database, the corporation that Hammergren ran as CEO inundated local communities in the United States with over 14.1 billion highly addictive opioid pills, nearly a fifth of the opioids distributed in those years.

No other corporation distributed more opioids in those years than Hammergren’s McKesson, the Washington Post reports. Overall, America’s corporate health care giants dropped 76 billion opioid pills on American localities in the time period the new stats cover, enough to supply 36 pills to every man, woman, and child in the United States.

Some 2,000 American cities, towns, and counties are now suing McKesson and the rest of the corporate drug distribution complex. They’re charging that these corporations “conspired to flood the nation with opioids.” The companies, the charge continues, didn’t just fail to report suspicious orders. They “filled those orders to maximize profits.”

The new stats the Washington Post has highlighted will undoubtedly heighten the pressure on McKesson and its fellow partners in crime to settle. But John Hammergren personally has little reason to worry. Unlike El Chapo, Hammergren knew when to fade way. He retired this past April, ending a CEO career that began in 2001. Over his first 16 years as CEO, notes Bloomberg, Hammergren pocketed $781 million. His final months in the McKesson chief executive suite brought that total near $800 million. Upon his retirement, he walked away with a pension package worth $138.6 million.

Opioids helped fuel all these rewards — and Hammergren had to know it. In 2007, the federal Drug Enforcement Administration accused McKesson of shipping “millions of doses” of the opioid hydrocodone to shady operators.

“By failing to report suspicious orders for controlled substances that it received from rogue Internet pharmacies,” the DEA charged at the time, “the McKesson Corporation fueled the explosive prescription drug abuse problem we have in this country.”

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Construction Unions Protest Trump Admin's New Apprenticeship Rules

Mark Gruenberg

Mark Gruenberg Editor, Press Associates Union News

New Trump Labor Department apprenticeship rules, opening training for building trades jobs to cut-rate non-union firms and their bosses – while threatening quality training and building standards – are “like the fox guarding the henhouse,” a veteran construction union apprenticeship trainer says.

But workers and unions concerned over the Trump DOL scheme don’t have much time left to object. Deadline for comments is August 26, the Laborers report.  Comments can be filed, via building trades unions, at https://www.saveconstructionapprenticeships.org/#/34.

At the behest of the corporate class, and particularly non-union construction companies, the Trump DOL wants to establish new certification requirements for Industry-Recognized Apprenticeship Programs (IRAPs) that put the cut-rate contractors and their lobby in charge of crafting new non-registered apprenticeship programs with minimal government oversight.

The proposed industry-backed rule is a direct attack on union Registered Apprenticeship Programs, which provide rigorous skills and safety training and must meet strict requirements set and enforced by DOL.

“We need to make sure the (Trump) administration does not allow low quality industry apprenticeship programs, called IRAPs, in the construction industry. IRAPs would open the door to unskilled workers — not only lowering apprenticeship pay but your wages and benefits as well,” the Laborers warn.

Trump’s rule would provide contractors with another means to steer workers away from union membership, telling workers they don’t need to be a union member to receive training.

Right now, the nation’s construction unions run more than 1,600 training programs, all DOL-certified, providing top-tier training and letting thousands of apprentices earn while they learn. That relieves apprentices of massive college student debt and lets them step right into well-paying union construction jobs when they graduate. The jobs include health care coverage and retirement benefits.

By contrast, the non-union contractors whom Trump would put in charge of training new workers offer low pay, no benefits, no pensions and no job security, either.

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America’s Spies Considering What Happens if Huawei Wins the 5G Race

Matthew McMullan

Matthew McMullan Communications Manager, Alliance for American Manufacturing

There was a really interesting story published Monday morning in Politico about the U.S. intelligence community’s assessment of Huawei, the Chinese telecom giant it largely sees as a security threat because of its ties to the Chinese military. They spent the weekend gaming out what it would look like if Huawei indeed emerges over its competitors as the dominant force in 5G technology – basically, the computer infrastructure that will underpin the economy for the foreseeable future.

It’s an interesting thought experiment! It’s a complicated issue, made more complex by the fact that President Trump …

… has politicized the living heck out of the Huawei issue by essentially making it a chit in trade talks with the Chinese government. Not good!

The president’s Commerce Department blacklisted Huawei a few months ago on national security grounds because of fears the company will use “back doors” in its tech to facilitate espionage. What’s more:

“Trump has also signed an executive order that would block Huawei from selling equipment in the U.S. and Congress passed a law last year that would ban procurement of Huawei products by federal agencies.”

And yet:

“One person involved in last week’s exercise said it’s clear the meeting was focused on the long term and not meant to offer an immediate policy solution in the context of Trump’s trade fight.

“‘The timeline of this is not consistent with the way the president looks at the world,’ the person said.”

Today, Commerce announced a 90-day reprieve on its Huawei ban, so the many rural telecom companies in the States that rely on Huawei equipment will have more time to decouple. The New York Times reports that the administration is keeping up an appearance of pressure by adding nearly 50 Huawei affiliates to that blacklist.

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Federal funding needed to thwart attacks on 2020 elections, state officials say

Danielle McLean

Danielle McLean Investigative Reporter, ThinkProgress

State election officials are sounding what is becoming an increasingly dire warning about the integrity of the voting process heading into the 2020 election, pleading for federal funds to help secure next year’s balloting against cyberattacks.

At a public forum on Thursday, the top election officials from Connecticut and Louisiana said underfunded election systems in their states are vulnerable to hacking from outside agents who might want to create mischief, or even seek to change the outcome of the vote.

“We all have the same expectation, which is a secure environment for our elections, and that every vote is accurately counted and everybody gets to participate who wishes to participate,” Kyle Ardoin, Louisiana’s secretary of state, said at a forum hosted by the Election Assistance Commission.

State officials, Ardoin said are “constantly asking for additional resources to fend off cybersecurity issues, to update equipment, and to do what is necessary to secure our elections and offer our people the right to vote.”

Denise Merrill, the secretary of state for Connecticut, underscored the threat to elections there, pleading for additional federal funding to secure the vote.

“This is one of the fundamental operations of government. You’re not going to privatize elections, and so it’s time we put some dollars behind what’s happening,” Merrill told the forum sponsored by the commission, an independent agency of the United States government, which serves as a national clearinghouse and resource of information on administering elections.

“I do think some funding needs to come from the federal level,” Merrill said.

Their pleas came just two days after President Donald Trump tweeted that he was open to shoring up election security — but only if Congress agreed to put voter ID laws supported by Republicans into place. Such laws historically have been used to block access to the ballot box to people of color, students, and other groups that tend to lean Democratic.

“No debate on Election Security should go forward without first agreeing that Voter ID (Identification) must play a very strong part in any final agreement. Without Voter ID, it is all so meaningless!” Trump tweeted late Tuesday.

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Corruption Coordinates

Corruption Coordinates

Union Matters

He Gets the Bucks, We Get All the Deadly Bangs

Sam Pizzigati

Sam Pizzigati Editor, Too Much online magazine

National Rifle Association chief Wayne LaPierre has had better weeks. First came the horrific early August slaughters in California, Texas, and Ohio that left dozens dead, murders that elevated public pressure on the NRA’s hardline against even the mildest of moves against gun violence. Then came revelations that LaPierre — whose labors on behalf of the nonprofit NRA have made him a millionaire many times over — last year planned to have his gun lobby group bankroll a 10,000-square-foot luxury manse near Dallas for his personal use. In response, LaPierre had his flacks charge that the NRA’s former ad agency had done the scheming to buy the mansion. The ad agency called that assertion “patently false” and related that LaPierre had sought the agency’s involvement in the scheme, a request the agency rejected. The mansion scandal, notes the Washington Post, comes as the NRA is already “contending with the fallout from allegations of lavish spending by top executives.”

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