Category: Union Matters

No Money for Pensions, But Plenty for Parties

Sam Pizzigati

Sam Pizzigati Editor, Too Much online magazine

Private equity work has been sweet for Marc Leder, the numero uno at Sun Capital Partners. He’s parlayed his takeovers of troubled firms into a fortune big enough to make him a co-owner of the Philadelphia 76ers in basketball and the New Jersey Devils in hockey. New York’s tabloids, meanwhile, have come to dub the hard-partying Leder “the Hugh Hefner of the Hamptons.” The secret to his success? Private-equity firms, notes Center for Economic and Policy Research economist Eileen Appelbaum, plunder assets from the companies they buy, then send them into bankruptcy to sidestep their obligations to workers. Over the past decade alone, Sun Capital has bankrupted five firms and left their pension funds $280 million short. Leder, for his part, claims that the “vast majority” of Sun Capital deals have been successful. And he only parties hearty, the private-equity kingpin adds, 25 nights a year.

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Shutdown Stories

From the USW

In Ohio, our members at Maxion, a wheel manufacturer, are facing an onslaught of dumped and subsidized steel wheels from China. Because of the shutdown impacts at the International Trade Commission, the trade case that can get them some relief is delayed.

Similarly, 300 USW-represented workers at Tyler Pipe in Texas are seeing their jobs threatened by unfair trade. A pending trade case could help them out, but with the shutdown, a delay and continued imports only further jeopardize their jobs and the company’s viability.
 

Are you or your family impacted
by the shutdown? Let us know.


Every day the government shutdown drags on, 800,000 federal workers remain in limbo wondering when they’ll get their next paycheck. That includes 250,000 veterans and many fellow union members. The indirect impacts, such as those happening to the Steelworkers in the stories above, are piling up. With nearly 80 percent of Americans reporting that they live paycheck to paycheck, it does not take long for financial challenges to become overwhelming and lasting.

Goverrnment workers and those who depend upon their work should not be pawns in a policy debate far-removed from the day-to-day of their jobs. If politicians want to have a debate about the wall or border security, they should do it while the government is open. We urge Congress to get them back to work before more damage is done.

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The Revised NAFTA Deal Will NOT Fund Trump’s Border Wall, Directly or Indirectly

Lori Wallach

Lori Wallach Director, Publi Citizen's Global Trade Watch

Note: In his Oval Office address, Donald Trump again falsely claimed that somehow his revised North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA 2.0) will fund his border wall.

Donald Trump keeps repeating the ludicrous claim that somehow the revised NAFTA will fund his wall even though it remains unclear if the deal will be enacted and if it is, the text does not include border wall funding directly nor would it generate new government revenue indirectly given it cuts the very few remaining tariffs, not raises them.

A back of the envelope calculation reveals a new 20 percent tariff would have to be imposed on all imports from Mexico to put the money  to construct the wall into the U.S. Treasury and that money would come from importers, not the Mexican government. All imports into the United States from Mexico have been duty free for more than a decade, meaning that NAFTA trade does not generate money from Mexican importers for U.S. government coffers and nothing in the NAFTA 2.0 changes that.

So much for Trump’s great negotiating skills, given its obvious that trying to connect NAFTA to funding for his wall decreases the likelihood Congress passes the revised NAFTA, even if Trump’s NAFTA-wall-funding claims are entirely without merit.

Perhaps the strongest evidence that nothing in NAFTA 2.0 forces Mexico to pay for Trump’s border wall is that Mexico, which has made clear it will not pay, signed the deal.  

 

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Workers Score NLRB Win

From the USW

Workers scored a major win earlier this month when a federal court upheld an Obama-era National Labor Review Board (NLRB) ruling finding that corporations could be held responsible for issues like wage discrimination or illegal job termination, even if the employees were subcontractors or working at a franchised company.

The D.C. appellate court affirmed that a business could be considered a so-called joint-employer if it exercised a certain level of “indirect control” over employees’ working conditions. This decision is bound to shake up business groups’ plans to overturn the joint-employer standard, something many believed was certain to happen under the now Republican-controlled NLRB.

“The court is very clear that the determination of who is an employer is a legal question, not a policy question,” said Sam Bagenstos, a University of Michigan law professor. “And for this question, which is determined by common law, the courts decide that without giving any particular deference to the NLRB.”

The original saga of this case began in 2013 when a union petitioned the NLRB to represent Leadpoint Business Services workers, with Browning-Ferris named as a joint-employer, on the basis that the latter also controls the contractors’ wages and working conditions. Using its new and expanded joint-employer test, the NLRB ruled in favor of the workers, prompting Browning-Ferris to fight the decision ever since.

But not anymore.

This decision will also likely affect labor advocates and campaigns, such as Fight for 15, who have been arguing in court for the last few years that McDonald’s should be held liable as a joint-employer for the fast-food workers who were fired from their jobs when they engaged in nationwide protests for higher pay.

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Painful Reality about Jobs

From the AFL-CIO

Despite the media’s touting of 312,000 new jobs last month, the painful reality is that working people are still being left behind in an economy rigged to enrich a handful of elites. Even as wages continue to stagnate, unemployment rises and retirement plans teeter, corporate executives are still happily pocketing fistfuls of money for themselves.

 

 

Here are a few key takeaways from the December jobs report by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics:

  • The overall unemployment rate rose from 3.7% to 3.9%.
  • The unemployment rate among black workers jumped from 6% to 6.6% and rose among all workers without a college degree.
  • The total number of unemployed workers increased by 276,000 to 6.3 million.
  • Wage growth continued to fall below the minimum level needed for workers to begin reaping the benefits of economic growth.

 

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A New Twist for a Billionaire Addicted to Silence

Sam Pizzigati

Sam Pizzigati Editor, Too Much online magazine

The billionaire Richard Sackler doesn’t much like talking to the press, especially since in-depth media analyses have labeled Purdue Pharma, the privately held firm that’s made his family rich, a key profiteer behind the opioid crisis that last year cost nearly 50,000 Americans their lives. But Sackler’s low-profile may be fading. A Kentucky court last week ruled that depositions in a 2015 lawsuit against Purdue, including one from Sackler himself, must now be unsealed. The Sacklers are currently facing “mass litigation” for the overprescribing and deceptive marketing of the addictive painkiller OxyContin. That hasn’t stopped Richard from moving to profit from this mass addiction. He has patented, news reports have revealed, a “reformulation of a drug used to wean addicts off opioids.” The addict advocacy group PAIN has condemned this new patent for Sackler and his associates as morally “reprehensible.” Adds the group: “Maybe they can patent a funeral parlor next.”

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Yellow vests and general strikes

Richard Cucarese

Richard Cucarese Rapid Response Coordinator, USW Local 4889

“The enemies of the country, and of freedom of the people, have always denounced as bandits those who sacrifice themselves for the noble causes of the people.” ~ Emiliano Zapata

In November of 2018, the rallying cries of the proletariat emerged. Protesters demanded that those in power address the grievances of the working class, the working poor and the forgotten masses, who carry the burden of funding the ventures of capitalist corporatists and their special interests.

This is not American streets exploding into rage against the powers that be not seen since 1968. It is, instead, the “Yellow Vest” movement of France, and now Belgium as well. It has taken over the mantle of dissent, which used to exist on our shores.

Americans have bee lulled into a false sense of security that our government would always have our best interests at heart. In the meantime, that government has beaten down workers with Free Trade deals promoting outsourcing, union-busting laws, and civil and voting rights restrictions. All of this has suppressed wages and pitted classes, genders and races against each other.

After decades of stagnant wages, nearly 48% of working Americans are one to two paychecks away from poverty or homelessness, and close to 40% of homeless adults work, but do not make enough to pay the exorbitant rents to allow themselves or their families shelter.

That being the case, it’s a wonder that America is not the vanguard the Yellow Vest movement. 

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A Unionized Model for Clean Technology Manufacturing

From the AFL-CIO

About 400 Tesla workers in Buffalo, New York, could soon become card-carrying members of the United Steelworkers (USW) and the Electrical Workers (IBEW). An organizing drive kicked off in freezing temperatures this morning to educate workers coming and going into the plant. “We want to have a voice at Tesla so that we can have a better future for ourselves and our families,” said Aaron Nicpon, a member of the organizing committee.

The USW and IBEW are working with both the production and maintenance employees at the Tesla solar panel factory in a joint organizing drive. The plant is on the site of a former steel mill.

What’s unique about this campaign is that the USW and IBEW have partnered with the Clean Air Coalition of Western New York and the Coalition for Economic Justice to promote the importance of unionized green jobs.

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Members of UNITE HERE Set Standard in Contract with Marriott

From the AFL-CIO

As details of the agreements between UNITE HERE workers and Marriott become public, one thing is clear: These victories provide a blueprint for collective bargaining going forward. As Brian Lang, president of UNITE HERE Local 26 in Boston said, “It changes people’s expectations about what’s possible.”

For more than two months, 7,700 hotel workers from Boston to Hawaii went on strike, demanding better wages and respect from Marriott, the most profitable hotel chain in the world.

These workers not only won better wages, they won a better future. Their wins could show the way forward for all workers, whether they’re in a union or not.

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Even Super Good Times Sometimes Stop Rolling

Sam Pizzigati

Sam Pizzigati Editor, Too Much online magazine

India’s self-styled “King of the Good Times,” the Kingfisher beer and airline baron Vijay Mallya, seems to be in store for lots of not-so-good times. This past September, a local court ordered the sale of the super yacht Mallya had abandoned in Malta — complete with 40 crewmembers — after his arrest in London on fraud and money-laundering charges. Earlier this month, another court ruling awarded the abandoned crew almost $1 million in back pay. Mallya is now fighting extradition to India. The cells in India’s Mumbai Central Prison, he’s complained to British authorities, lack natural light. The 62-year-old is also tweeting regularly that he’s not getting “fair treatment” from politicians and the media. Mallya’s yacht, meanwhile, has begun a new life as a charter boat renting for $850,000 per week.

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Embracing a Legacy

Embracing a Legacy

Union Matters

No Money for Pensions, But Plenty for Parties

Sam Pizzigati

Sam Pizzigati Editor, Too Much online magazine

Private equity work has been sweet for Marc Leder, the numero uno at Sun Capital Partners. He’s parlayed his takeovers of troubled firms into a fortune big enough to make him a co-owner of the Philadelphia 76ers in basketball and the New Jersey Devils in hockey. New York’s tabloids, meanwhile, have come to dub the hard-partying Leder “the Hugh Hefner of the Hamptons.” The secret to his success? Private-equity firms, notes Center for Economic and Policy Research economist Eileen Appelbaum, plunder assets from the companies they buy, then send them into bankruptcy to sidestep their obligations to workers. Over the past decade alone, Sun Capital has bankrupted five firms and left their pension funds $280 million short. Leder, for his part, claims that the “vast majority” of Sun Capital deals have been successful. And he only parties hearty, the private-equity kingpin adds, 25 nights a year.

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