Category: Allied Approaches

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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Workers of the World Unite (At Last)

Ronaldo Munck Author, professor, Dublin City University

Neoliberal globalization presents many challenges to labor organizing. Increased mobility of capital has led to a sharp increase in relocation, outsourcing, and offshoring. Multinational corporations can threaten to close plants when workers request better wages, and executives can even pit their own workers against each other, going back and forth between plants to get local managers and workers to underbid each other in a race to the bottom. Labor, too, has become more mobile. Increased migration can bring new workers into a settled labor force, sometimes cutting wages and changing working conditions. Corporations can then stoke divisions across racial, ethnic, and linguistic lines to undermine the solidarity necessary to organize.

Labor faces these and myriad other obstacles in our rapidly changing, interconnected world. But globalization may have opened as many doors as it has closed. At the most basic level, online communication provides tools to organize across countries—imagine trying to organize a transnational strike a century ago. And digital media allows workers to see and hear each other, sharing stories that can foster global solidarity. That will become even easier over time, as translation software improves. Globalized capitalism may have created the basis for a new global working class, not only in material conditions but also in consciousness.  Unions have used globalization to their benefit by organizing transnational labor actions, forming new transnational structures, and fostering solidarity with migrant workers at home.

When corporations expand their operations across national border, unions may gain new leverage points for organizing. The workers of Irish budget airline Ryanair understand this well. Since 1984 when the company was founded, CEO Michael O’Leary had been a vocal opponent of union organizing, but workers didn’t listen. In mid-2018, they went on strike—starting in Ireland before spreading across the continent—for pay increases, direct employment, and collective labor agreements that comply with national labor laws. Management had tried to use its transnational status to play workers against each other, but instead it was confronted by a united cross-national organized labor force.

Labor has also showed strength by partnering with allies at different points along the globally dispersed production chain. Garment workers in global production chains are usually considered weak compared to hypermobile, high-profit companies like Nike. But such corporations are vulnerable to boycotts, as demonstrated in a successful campaign by US college students against sweatshops in the apparel industry, focused on worker organizing in Honduras. Transnational union resources focused on a particular industry or country have considerable power to deny market share and bolster demands at the point of production.

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Weingarten to Walmart: 'Stop Selling Guns or We'll Stop Shopping There'

Mark Gruenberg

Mark Gruenberg Editor, Press Associates Union News

Having had it up to here with gun-caused carnage, including at the nation’s schools, Teachers (AFT) President Randi Weingarten has a blunt message for the nation’s biggest retailer: Walmart: Stop selling guns or we’ll stop shopping there.

That bombshell is just before the end of a letter Weingarten sent August 7 to Walmart CEO Doug McMillon. He has yet to reply.

“Walmart has millions of customers and they all should feel safe while shopping,” Weingarten wrote after a gunman, armed with a semi-automatic weapon, entered the Walmart in El Paso, Texas and slaughtered 22 people, most of them Hispanic.

The gunman previously posted an anti-Mexican internet screed and used phrases associated with GOP President Donald Trump, but Weingarten didn’t mention Trump in her letter. Instead, she unveiled her warning to Walmart:

“If you choose to act, it could change our national conversation in an instant. And if Walmart continues to provide funding to lawmakers who are standing in the way of gun reforms, teachers and students should reconsider doing their back-to-school shopping at your stores.” Even without anti-gun laws, Weingarten urged Walmart “to be part of the solution.”

That solution should not only include a total gun ban in Walmart, but withdrawal of Walmart campaign contributions to the notorious gun lobby, the National Rifle Association, she said. Weingarten noted five of the top current congressional recipients of gun lobby money also got dollars from Walmart’s campaign committee, its owners and its executives.

OpenSecrets.org, run by the non-profit Center for Responsive Politics – which tallies, annotates and explains campaign contributions, reports the top 20 gun money recipients are incumbent GOP senators, ranging from Mitt Romney of Utah ($13.64 million, including spending slamming his opponent) to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky ($1.27 million, again including money against his foe).

Weingarten and Lily Eskelsen-Garcia, president of the nation’s largest union, the National Education Association, have been part of a national crusade for tougher gun controls – bans on semi-automatic weapons, universal background checks, “red flag” laws and more – ever since the Valentine’s Day 2018 of 14 students and three AFT member-teachers by a semi-automatic-wielding shooter at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida.

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Let’s Get This Legislation Over the Finish Line

Elizabeth Brotherton-Bunch

Elizabeth Brotherton-Bunch Digital Media Director, Alliance for American Manufacturing

Congress is out of session for the August recess, which means that the nation’s legislative business is on hold for a few weeks.

But Members have a packed agenda waiting for them when they return in the fall, including finalizing the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). It’s a massive bill that authorizes the Defense Department, and included in this year’s version is language that could potentially impact hundreds of thousands of good-paying jobs and our national security.

No pressure, Congress.

As we’ve outlined before, there are major security and economic concerns about China’s role in building U.S. transit. The Senate moved to address these threats when it passed its version of the NDAA by including language to ban Chinese government-owned or controlled companies from using U.S. taxpayer dollars to build U.S. rail cars and buses.

When the House passed its version, however, the ban only applied to rail.

The reason? Folks like House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) support bus maker Build Your Dreams (BYD) – a company that maintains strong ties to China’s government (and has ambitious plans to dominate the global auto market, which threatens hundreds of thousandsU.S. jobs).

Now the legislation is headed to conference, and negotiators from the Senate and the House will determine whether to move forward with the Senate version or the House version. Or, they could very well scrap the language all together in order to ensure passage of the NDAA.

That’s what happened earlier this year, in fact, when similar language was included as part of the fiscal 2019 omnibus spending bill (a.k.a., the legislation that avoided another government shutdown). Because of the complaints of McCarthy, the provision was scrapped and not included as part of the final legislation.

It’s important that negotiators get it right this time.

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New Hampshire’s Republican governor just vetoed a bipartisan redistricting commission

Danielle McLean

Danielle McLean Reporter, ThinkProgress

New Hampshire’s Republican Gov. Chris Sununu vetoed a bipartisan bill Friday that would have allowed an independent redistricting committee to redraw the state’s legislative and congressional district maps in 2021 and beyond.

The veto is just the latest sign that Republican Party leaders want to control the map-making process and preserve a system that allowed them to racially and politically gerrymander at historic proportions in several GOP-controlled states the last time district lines were redrawn in 2011. But supporters of the bill say the veto could actually backfire on New Hampshire Republicans, currently in the minority party in the state’s legislature. Sununu is up for re-election in 2020.

“With his veto, the governor is throwing out a plan that would ensure Republicans are treated fairly in the next round of redistricting even if Democrats do well in next year’s elections,” said Yurij Rudensky, a counsel for the Brennan Center for Justice’s democracy program who advised New Hampshire legislators on the bill.

Sununu said in a statement Friday that he decided to veto the bill that would have established a 15-member commission — free of recent lobbyists and elected officials — to redraw district maps because it would have created a body that was “unelected and unaccountable to the voters.” He added the measure was supported by out-of-state organizations that favor Democrats during the decennial redistricting process.

“Legislators should not abrogate their responsibility to the voters and delegate authority to an unelected and unaccountable commission selected by political party bosses,” Sununu said in the statement. “We should all be proud that issues of gerrymandering are extremely rare in New Hampshire. Our current redistricting process is fair and representative of the people of our State.”

Under the vetoed bill, the 15-member commission that would include members picked from a list of applicants collected by the secretary of state, would be tasked with redrawing the state’s maps. State lawmakers need to approve the maps. Former elected officials and people that have been lobbyists within the past 10 years would be barred from joining the commission.

Rudensky called Sununu’s veto “shortsighted” and said the bill would have established a model for bipartisan redistricting reform.

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After Years in China, This American Manufacturer Made a Mighty Move

Jeffrey Bonior

Jeffrey Bonior Researcher/Writer, AAM

When Texas entrepreneur Jack Clark created a durable, lightweight utility cart in 1994, he built his first 1,000 carts in Houston.

By 1997, Clark moved production of his all-purpose movable carts to China. After all, isn’t this what most businesses were doing to increase profit margins?

After 11 years of dealing with the frustrations of manufacturing halfway around the world, Clark obtained a new set of plastic molds for the carts and moved production back to the United States.

Welcome home Jack.

Clark now builds his Mighty Max Carts in Dallas, where he was born and raised. A lifelong Texan, Clark rediscovered the Longhorn State mantra that you “Don’t Mess with Texas.”

“I’ve been doing this for 20-something years, and we sold about 50,000 to 60,000 of the Chinese carts, but we couldn’t replace the parts fast enough,” Clark recalled. “The carts would just finally collapse. This new American-made cart is awesome.

“In China, the first two or three thousand carts they made were fine, and then they just kept getting cheaper and cheaper in quality. I would be standing on the cart just showing someone how it works, and the handle would crack off in my hand.”

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Out of Ottawa, Some Deflating New Stats on Life in the World’s Richest Nation

Sam Pizzigati

Sam Pizzigati Editor, Too Much online magazine

South of the border, here in the United States, we Americans tend not to pay much attention to our northern neighbors. Entire election cycles can come and go without anyone running for national office saying anything significant about Canada.

But that all has changed of late. Canada now looms large in our politics, mainly because many more of us have realized that Canadians enjoy a health care system far superior to our own, by every meaningful yardstick of fairness and efficiency. Canada’s single-payer approach to health care has become — for progressives in the United States — a guiding inspiration. We want what the Canadians have. We need what the Canadians have.

And we need what Canadians have, an innovative new study suggests, on more than just health care. Average Canadians, this research relates, now enjoy higher incomes than their counterparts in the United States.

The new report — Household Incomes in Canada and the United States: Who is Better Off? — comes out of the Ottawa-based Canadian Centre for the Study of Living Standards and essentially challenges the conventional wisdom on economic well-being. That wisdom, report author Simon Lapointe notes, typically defines well-being as GDP per capita.

To calculate this GDP yardstick, economists take the sum total of the goods and services a nation produces, divide that total by the nation’s population, and tell us that the resulting number measures how well a nation’s people are doing economically.

By this standard measure, Americans are doing much better than Canadians. In 2016, the latest year with comparable stats available, GDP per capita in the United States ran over 20 percent higher than GDP in Canada, $57,798 to $47,294, in U.S. dollars adjusted for what economists call “purchasing power parity.”

But GDP per capita can obscure reality as most households live it, especially in a deeply unequal society like the United States. Lapointe acknowledges in his new Canadian Centre for the Study of Living Standards report that American households certainly do rate as richer than Canadian on average. But “much greater incomes at the top of the income distribution” in the United States, he points out, are driving the difference in the Canadian and U.S. averages.

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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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