Today is Workers Memorial Day, a day that we mourn for those hurt or killed on the job. We also renew our fight for the living. With 4,340 workplace deaths and roughly 50,000-60,000 deaths from occupational illnesses annually, this fight could not be more critical. Steelworkers are fighting against bad policy nationwide that could further threaten our workplace safety and health.
Consider what’s at risk:
If proposed right to work legislation becomes law – One of the goals of this legislation is to harm a local’s ability to support itself financially. As a result, locals could struggle to send members to safety trainings and to defend members who encounter safety and health concerns on the job. In those states with right to work laws, workplace deaths are 52.9 percent higher than in non-right to work states. A second recent study suggests that states that are working to reduce workplace injuries and fatalities should “consider encouraging trade union growth and repealing right to work laws.”
If public sector workers are stripped of bargaining rights – A nurse at a county care facility loses a tool to fight for safer nurse-to-patient ratios. A road maintenance worker loses the ability to bargain for better safety equipment. Without a union to back them up, too many workers keep silent for fear of retaliation when safety and health risks are present. Eliminating bargaining rights eliminates our voice for safety on the job.
If policies are enacted to limit unions’ ability to engage in the legislative and political process – Unions have always been at the forefront in demanding legislative changes to reduce exposure to safety and health hazards – hazards that too many employers would rather not address. We can’t remove workers’ voices from these debates.
Given that many Steelworkers go to work each day in some of the most dangerous industries, any threat to safety and health on the job can impact us even greater. Mourn for the dead, and let’s keep fighting for the living.
Sources: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Note: Numbers are from 2009, the most recently available data; AFL-CIO, Death on the Job, April 2010; Ronald Zullo, Right-to-Work Laws and Fatalities in Construction, Institute for Research on Labor, Employment, and the Economy at University of Michigan Ann Arbor, March, 2011.
A lot of my friends have been complaining of having received so much rain here in northern Indiana the last week or so.
I'm loving it however, and so is my garden. I'll be eating fresh lettuce before too long and the possum and raccoons are being trapped left and right (the rain must bring them out of their holes).
Speaking of critters coming out of their holes.....look at the tea baggers, birthers and afterbirthers.
I'm just sorry that one of the birthers had to be from Indiana, that being birther Dan Burton.
What a disgrace.
Republicans have completely disconnected themselves from main street America. They voted to do away with the Medicare program and it has infuriated the vast majority of Americans.
Republicans voting for the Paul Ryan budget which eliminates the guaranteed medical insurance for anyone reaching the age of 65 while at the same time providing more tax breaks for the richest Americans have shot themselves in the foot and provided the proof of where their priorities and values are.
"I very much support universal coverage. We actually have universal coverage now, it's called the emergency room."
Former Indiana congressman, Chris Chocola, President of the right wing crazy club for growth giving his opinion on universal healthcare. And this guy appeared on "Hard Ball" today trying to advise people who they should vote for? Give me a break.
The Indiana House of Representatives has taken House Bill 575 which is the bill authored by State Senator, Ed Charbonneau and which takes away the ability of teachers to bargain for working conditions and has included taking away the rights of every school employee to bargain a contract including those who work in kitchens and cafeterias and busses.
Boy, I'll tell you what, these Republicans in Indiana are sure doing a job on working men and women.
During the last campaign for my state senator, I was assured that Ed Charbonneau was a fair person when it came to workers. Well, I've met him and spoken to him and he is indeed a personable guy but the idea that he is fair to workers is just down right false.
The Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives are trying to pass a budget which would privatize Medicare by giving seniors a voucher to buy their own medical insurance from insurance companies.
The Republicans have lost their minds.
I've been playing the musical saw for about four months now. Strangest thing is that it sounds great and actually beautiful, to me but when I listen to a recording of my playing it, it sounds terrible.
My wife makes me go outside to play the darned thing. Went out on the porch and was playing a tune and when I looked up there were eight cats watching me which makes me believe that it must sound good to someone......I mean thing.
Republicans concocted death panels in an attempt to terrify Americans about health care reform, then propagated the lie because they wanted insurance corporations to profit from illness and injury unfettered.
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act passed anyway, but now the GOP has announced that it plans to kill the reform, and Medicaid and Medicare too.
In one fell swoop, Republicans would foreclose on Americas’ long-held and cherished expectation that they’ll receive health coverage from their government in their old age, impoverishment or infirmity. For the elderly, poor, unemployed, disabled and juvenile who can’t afford insurance, the GOP offers no death panels, just death from lack of care.
Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), chairman of the House Budget Committee, disclosed the GOP scheme to massacre Medicare and Medicaid. Instead of the government directly paying for medical services for the elderly and impoverished, Republicans would shift costs to states and the elderly.
Under their plan, instead of Medicare, the federal government would give seniors an unspecified amount of money toward the cost of premiums for private health insurance.
Also, instead of Medicaid, the GOP would give states some money to help pay for insurance for the poor, which includes nursing home care for the elderly. States and the elderly then would be stuck paying insurance costs above the amount provided by the federal government. Ryan and his GOP gang transfer medical costs to the elderly and impoverished to compensate for federal revenues lost when they slash income taxes levied on the rich and corporations by an additional 30 percent.
The GOP message to the rich and to corporations: keep your tax break and take another 30 percent. The GOP message to the middle class: pay more and lose your safety net.
The founders of the United States intended the government to serve the people not prostrate itself to the privileged. The signers of the Declaration of Independence and framers of the U.S. Constitution discarded the doctrine of the divine right of kings, the idea that monarchs derived their authority from God and thus were not subject to the will of the governed.
Instead, the founders and framers determined that rich and poor, men and monarchs are equal, that they possess inalienable rights and that the function of government is to secure those rights. Their vision of government is an organization operating with the consent of the people to protect the people. That is, to protect their inalienable rights, to protect them from inequities, to protect them from internal and external threats.
The GOP budget is a manifestation of a very different government philosophy. It subjugates the people to the divine right of corporations and the rich.
If the wealthy and corporations had paid their share of federal income taxes over the past 30 years since successive Republican presidents began cutting them, the federal deficit would be relative peanuts, if it existed at all. If the wealthy paid their share of social security taxes, the program would not face shortfalls after 2036. If corporations and the wealthy paid federal income taxes at the rates they did during the presidencies of Republicans Dwight D. Eisenhower or Richard Nixon, no one would be talking about killing off Medicaid and Medicare.
The nation’s largest corporation, General Electric, accumulated $26 billion in American profits over the past five years, while demanding $4.1 billion in “rebates” from the IRS and paying absolutely no federal income taxes last year. Two out of three U.S. corporations paid no income taxes from 1998 through 2005. The effective tax rate for the wealthy – the rate after loopholes and special deals - is nine points lower than that paid by the typical worker.
Still, Paul Ryan and his Republican crew insist that corporations and the rich are paying too much and demand that they pay an official rate of 25 percent instead of 35 percent. Because that will mean billions in lost revenue, the GOP slashes programs that protect the masses in the middle, education, health care reform, veterans benefits, public transportation, health and safety regulation, food and import inspection, Medicaid and Medicare. The GOP guts government for the people.
Because of those huge tax cuts for the rich and corporations, the Republican budget doesn’t even end the deficit until 2040. In fact, the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office determined the tax cuts would increase the deficit’s share of the economy for the first 10 years of implementation. Under the GOP plan, public debt would rise to 70 percent of GDP by 2022. If the government maintained its current tax and spending levels, the debt would grow to 67 percent of GDP by 2022.
The GOP budget shows Republicans believe corporations and the rich are super citizens with divine rights, while the vast majority of the nation’s citizens, the middle class, are lesser beings who are to be taxed but not protected by their government.
Many of these citizens – the elderly, the poor, the disabled – won’t be able to afford health insurance under the GOP scheme. They’ve paid taxes all their lives to support programs like Medicare. Now, the GOP intends to rip that out from under them, to take away the protection that they believed their government - government for the people - would provide.
The GOP announced this week that it believes new tax cuts for the rich and corporations are more important than Medicare and Medicaid, more important than the lives of vulnerable Americans who will die for lack of health insurance to pay for care.
Leo W. Gerard is the international president of United Steelworkers (USW).
On April, 4, workers all over America rallied to support a workers right to have a contract with their employer that allows them to bargain for wages, benefits and working conditions. This was done to protest the many ways that the state governments are trying to remove the last bulkhead between the Wall Street and CEO greed and Americans that have the least, which would eliminate the middle class that unions have provided us.
Proponents of taking bargaining rights away from Hoosier teachers for everything except wages and wage related benefits site some of the most idiotic reasons. They complain that contracts in some schools down in Crawford County and East Chicago require a certain temperature for classrooms. Well, duh.....at some point in those schools history, some lame brained administrator thought he's save energy by keep the thermostats set at 50 degrees. Either that, or because of his cold heart, he insisted the temperatures be set at 90 degrees.
Another contract requires that the teachers' lounge be attractive, comfortable and spacious. Why? Because years ago some wild eyed, hippie principal on LSD insisted the lounge walls be painted black. Either that, or he wouldn't allow the stinking walls to be painted even though the plaster was falling off the ceiling.
Other contracts say that if teachers will be layed off, teachers with equal seniority break the tie by using their birth dates in Indianapolis, a blind draw in Munster and a roll of a die in East Allen County. Well, big whoop, that's exactly how it's done in many industries, including the Northern Indiana Public Service Company.
Another contract requires that a classroom carpet be cleaned efficiently. This was insisted on by the teachers because their principal was a pig. Either that, or he was too cheap to purchase a working vacuum cleaner.
Another thing Daniels and his cohorts are trying to do is take away a teachers experience when evaluating them. Well, I'll tell you how teachers in Indiana will be evaluated if all of this anti-worker legislation is passed. The teacher that plays bridge with the principles wife, or goes to church with the superintendant, or talks bad about another teacher, or is good at acting to be a good teacher is the teacher that will get a good evaluation. Simple as that. That's human nature and that's the way the world turns. It's a crock I tell you, a crock. And Daniels and the Republicans know it.
Democrats in the Indiana House are true heroes in doing everything they can to prevent these terrible pieces of legislation from being passed. And the Republicans that authored the bills in question, well, I just can't say here about what I think of them.
The nation’s greedy corporations and insatiable wealthy are fattening themselves on workers. There’s no trickle down. It’s the opposite; the rich have been sucking the economic lifeblood from the middle class for decades.
When reckless Wall Street banksters get taxpayer-funded bailouts, billionaires get tax breaks and gigantic corporations like GE and Bank of America pay absolutely no federal income taxes, they’re getting for free the very public services that enable them to make massive profits in this country – the courts, the roads, the trade regulators, the patent enforcement.
The middle class doesn’t get those big time special deals and loopholes. Workers pay their taxes. As a result, it’s workers footing the bill for the government services that enrich the rich. Greedy corporations, their CEOs and the right-wing politicians they buy with tens of millions in campaign cash are freeloaders.
It’s time workers stood up to the freeloaders. Join Monday’s We Are One rallies. These demonstrations across the country by religious groups, social justice organizations and labor unions will illustrate that the middle class is mad as hell and not going to take trickster economics anymore.
It’s time for greedy corporations and the insatiable rich to pay their fair share. It’s time to stop cuts to the government programs most treasured by and vital to the middle class and the vulnerable in this country – education, public transportation, Social Security.
It’s time to stop right-wing attempts to terminate democratic rights like collective bargaining and voting without harassment. It’s time for the middle class to stop paying for everything and for the insatiable rich and greedy corporations to start sharing the sacrifice required to recover from the economic crisis caused by reckless gambling by Wall Street bankster corporations.
March for your rights Monday. March for the middle class facing record rates of foreclosure, unemployment, child poverty, and loss of opportunity as country club conservatives cut off college loans and Head Start.
March for the right of college students to register and vote in the towns where they study. March for the right of workers to band together, elect representatives and bargain with employers for better pay and working conditions.
March for the right of the people to insist that corporations pay at least the same rate of taxes as workers do. March to end tax breaks for the wealthiest one percent who have now acquired more wealth than all the workers in the bottom 90 percent.
Greedy corporations, the insatiable wealthy and their purchased politicians have for three decades skewed public policy to enrich themselves while pushing down wages and benefits for the middle class.
From 1947 to 1975, a time of strong unionization in the workforce, real wages of average workers increased with productivity. The 75 percent rise in productivity and the nearly matching rise in wages gave the United States the largest, most vibrant middle class in the history of the world.
Since 1978, productivity grew 86 percent, but compensation for workers grew only 37 percent, and if the cost of benefits, mostly uncontrolled health insurance increases, is removed, the real average hourly wage did not rise for 35 years, according to Alan S. Blinder, professor of economics and public affairs at Princeton University and a former vice chairman of the Federal Reserve.
Here’s how it works: The nation’s largest corporation, General Electric, earns tens of billions in profits from the labor of its workers but refuses to share the benefits with them. GE is expected to demand that its 15,000 unionized U.S. workers accept benefit cuts. So they’ll pay more for their retirement and health care and have less money to live and to pay taxes.
Meanwhile, the share of national income captured by the richest one percent rose from 8 percent in 1975 to 23.5 percent in 2005.
Under Dwight D. Eisenhower, the president in the 1950s, the nation’s richest paid an effective tax rate of 70 percent after loopholes. Today, it’s 16 percent – significantly lower than the 25 percent forked over through payroll deductions by individual workers earning between $34,500 and $83,600 a year.
That resulted from deliberate policy changes. Beginning with Ronald Reagan, country club conservatives cut taxes for the wealthy, while at the same time ending routine minimum wage increases and undermining the bargaining rights of labor.
The changes were made by increasingly wealthy politicians increasingly influenced by lobbyists. For example, 60 percent of the freshmen in the U.S. Senate and 40 percent in the U.S. House are millionaires. By contrast, only 1 percent of Americans are worth more than $1 million.
Compounding that is corporate influence, which worsened last year when the U.S. Supreme Court enabled corporations to donate unlimited money in secret. The upshot is corporations like General Electric, spending millions to lobby and paying zero in federal income taxes.
GE spent $200 million to lobby for loopholes in the federal income tax code over the past decade, made $26 billion in American profits over the past five years, and not only paid absolutely no federal income taxes, but got itself a $4.1 billion rebate from the IRS.
That is far from an anomaly. Two out of every three U.S. corporations paid no federal income taxes from 1998 through 2005, according to a report by the Government Accountability Office. And the situation hasn’t improved since then.
U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders has written repeatedly about tax avoidance by the likes of Bank of America and Goldman Sachs, Wall Street banks that former President George W. Bush handed hundreds of billions in bail out dollars.
Bank of America got a $1.9 billion tax refund from the IRS last year, even though it made $4.4 billion. Goldman paid only 1.1 percent in federal income taxes on its $2.3 billion in profits. New York Times reporter David Kocieniewski wrote in his story about GE that such tax dodging by corporations has resulted in a significant decline in federal revenue from corporations – from 30 percent in the 1950s to 6.6 percent in 2009.
Tax avoidance is a virtuous cycle for greedy corporations and the wealthy. They pay less in taxes, then have more money to lobby politicians to lower their taxes. In fact, it’s gotten so bad that lawmakers are hiring lobbyists right from their K Street firms to write legislation.
And Congress’ new right wingers are increasing this trend. Since they took office in January, nearly half of the 150 former lobbyists working in top policy jobs in Congress were hired.
For workers, however, it’s a vicious cycle. They’re forced to pay the taxes shirked by greedy corporations and the insatiable wealthy. And they’re forced to suffer service cut backs.
Right now, right wingers are trying to cut $51.5 billion from the federal budget – demanding elimination of programs essential to the middle class and poor such as subsidies for home heating for the impoverished.
But if the wealthy paid their share, say hedge fund manager John Paulson who earned $2.4 million an hour in 2010 – then those cuts would be unnecessary because the federal government would have an extra $69.5 billion in revenue.
Forty-three years ago on April 4 Martin Luther King was assassinated after standing up for the right of public sector workers in Memphis, Tenn. to negotiate for better lives.
In his last speech, Rev. King said God had allowed him to go to the mountaintop where he’d looked over and seen the Promised Land. “I may not get there with you,” he cautioned, “But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people will get to the Promised Land.”
Greedy corporations and the wealthy have made it to the mountain top. And they’re shoving American workers down the hillside to ensure the Promised Land is reserved only for the richest.
The promise of America democracy is equality. Equal rights, equal treatment under the law, equal opportunity. Freeloading by greedy corporations and the insatiable wealthy is denying those promises to the vast majority of citizens. Americans must unify and march to wrest back those rights and secure the American Dream for all.
Take a first step. Join one of the 600 We Are One demonstrations on April 4.
Leo W. Gerard, international president of the United Steelworkers union, also is a member of the AFL-CIO Executive Committee and chairs the labor federation’s Public Policy Committee.
Roxanne D. Brown
Assistant Legislative Director
United Steel, Paper and Forestry, Rubber, Manufacturing, Energy,
Allied Industrial and Service Workers International Union (USW)
1150 17th Street, NW, Suite 300
Washington, DC 20036
202-778-4384 - Phone
202-293-5308 - Fax