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CWA: Employers Should Guarantee ‘$4,000 Wage Increase’ Promised by Trump Tax Plan

The Communications Workers of America wants to make sure that the nation’s biggest employers actually give working families the average $4,000 wage increases that the Trump administration says will result from cutting the corporate tax rate.

Urging CEOs to “cut through the rhetoric,” CWA President Chris Shelton said that if the cuts proposed in the “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act” go into effect, corporations should guarantee that working people will receive the raises the administration promised and ensure that the bill’s treatment of overseas profits will not result in domestic job loss.

Yesterday, Shelton sent individual letters to CEOs of some of the largest corporations where CWA members work including Verizon, AT&T, CenturyLink, Frontier Communications, American Airlines, General Electric, NBC Universal and ABC Entertainment asking them to sign a memorandum of agreement as part of the current contracts with CWA now in force. “Together, through collective bargaining, we can ensure promises about wages and jobs are kept,” Shelton wrote.

President Trump and his economic advisers have been very clear that working families will receive these wage increases. Speaking in Pennsylvania in October, President Trump said the tax cuts “would likely give the typical American household around a $4,000 pay raise.”

Trump’s claim appears to come from a Council of Economic Advisors report that states, “Reducing the statutory federal corporate tax rate from 35 to 20 percent would…increase average household income in the United States by, very conservatively, $4,000 annually. The increases recur each year, and the estimated total value of corporate tax reform for the average U.S. household is therefore substantially higher than $4,000,” as much as $9,000.

Many economists, however, are skeptical, and predict that corporations will use the money from the tax cuts to buy back stock or issue dividends. That’s why CWA members are asking employers to “show us the money” and to make sure working people receive the wage increases they’ve been promised.

Links to Letters

Verizon

AT&T

NBC Universal

Frontier

General Electric

ABC Entertainment

CenturyLink

American Airlines

Airplane Travel Is Safer, Easier Thanks to Federal Workers

AFGE applauds TSA officers for protecting flying public,
warns against return to contractors

WASHINGTON – As millions of Americans prepare to take to the skies this holiday season, the head of the labor union representing federal airport security employees says now is the time to thank these workers for the job they do.

American Federation of Government Employees National President J. David Cox Sr. released the following statement:

“When airports began experiencing massive lines at passenger checkpoints two summers ago, the Transportation Security Administration relied on its trained staff of 42,000 federal employees to ease the crush by working more overtime and performing their jobs effectively and efficiently.

“Now as we head into another busy holiday traveling season, the long lines and wait times are gone. There have been no hijacked airplanes, explosives detonated on airplanes, or any other aircraft-specific U.S. acts of terrorism since federal employees took over passenger screening after Sept. 11, 2001.

“This is a tall order since TSA still has about 4,000 fewer screeners on staff today as compared to four years ago. That’s coupled with a 15 percent jump in the number of passengers flying through U.S. airports. TSA officers do their job so well they have confiscated a record number of guns last year and are on track to beat that record this year.

“TSA employees protect the safety of the flying public under stressful and sometimes dangerous conditions. They could perform even better with more trained staff, higher wages, and full union rights.

“What they shouldn’t have to worry about is losing their jobs to outsourcing and privatization.

“This Thanksgiving, let’s be thankful for the officers who risk their lives to keep our air travel safe, and let’s maintain the path forward we’ve made in airport security with our hardworking, dedicated TSA employees. The best way to ensure safe travel is to invest in TSA, not privatize it.”

5 Fast Facts about TSA

  1. In 2016, TSA screened more than 738 million passengers — 43 million more passengers than in 2015.
  2. TSA officers discovered 3,391 firearms in carry-on bags at checkpoints across the country last year, a 28 percent increase from 2015.
  3. About 83 percent of the guns caught in carry-on bags in 2016 were loaded.
  4. The top five airports where TSA officers detected guns at checkpoints in 2016 were: Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International (198 guns); Dallas/Fort Worth International (192 guns); George Bush Intercontinental at Houston (128 guns); Phoenix Sky Harbor International (101 guns); and Denver International (98 guns). These same airports were in the top five in 2014 and 2015.
  5. During summer and holiday travel peaks, TSA processes over 2.5 million passengers a day.

Leo W Gerard: Republican Tax Plan — Make America Grieve Again

A giant sucking sound, louder than a freight train, noisier than a tornado, shriller than Ross Perot yelling, “I told you so,” blasted across the nation Thursday as Republicans in the U.S. House passed their tax plan.

It was the terrible sound of jobs swept out of this country. When Perot ran for president, he said the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) would siphon off American jobs. And he was right. It did.

PHOTO BY STEVE DIETZ, UNIONPIX.COM

But this is much, much bigger.

House Republicans approved a scam exempting corporations from all taxes on their foreign operations. Under the GOP proposal, corporations like Carrier and Rexnord can benefit from protections provided by American patents, courts and armed forces, while moving their factories from the United States to Mexico. Or to other low-wage, high-polluting countries like China. Or to countries that charge little or no corporate tax. Once there, instead of paying the new, super-low 20 percent corporate rate Republicans propose for U.S-based producers, the expat factories will pay no taxes to the United States. Nothing. Not a cent.

Rather than Making America Great Again, Congressional Republicans plan to Make America Grieve Again as even more family-supporting factory jobs get shipped offshore to take advantage of the new tax rate of zip.

The math behind that job transfer is simple. Continue manufacturing in the United States and pay a corporate income tax dramatically lowered from 35 to 20 percent. Or move to a ridiculously low-tax country like Switzerland, Montenegro or Paraguay, and pay a measly 9 percent to that nation and nothing to the United States.

With the proposed corporate tax gift from Republicans, CEOs could uproot factories in places like Illinois, Indiana and Western Pennsylvania and ship them to brand new facilities in Bermuda, Palau or Turks & Caicos, where the corporate tax rate is zero. The corporation would pay no taxes on profits to the country hosting the factory and nothing to the United States, which hosts the headquarters.

Republicans contend such corporations will bring those foreign profits back to the United States and invest here. Why would CEOs do that when any American plant they invest in would be billed taxes on profits while the same factory located in certain other countries would pay nothing?

Why would they do that when they didn’t before?

Right now, corporations are sitting on $2.6 trillion in overseas profits. They have not invested that money in U.S. research, factories or jobs because they don’t want to pay the current 35 percent tax rate that would be charged when those profits are returned to the country.

To lure that money back, Republicans propose to give corporations a tax holiday, cutting the rate to between 5 and 12 percent for repatriating the $2.6 billion. The GOP insists corporations will take advantage of that tax deal to bring those billions home and invest in American production. But they won’t. The proof is that they didn’t last time.

Congress gave corporations a tax holiday in 2004 during which CEOs could return foreign profits to the United States and pay a mere 5 percent tax on them in exchange for investment in U.S. research, factories and jobs.

CEOs brought back the money and grabbed that 5 percent rate, alright. But they didn’t use the repatriated cash to conduct research, build factories or create jobs. Just the opposite.

A study by the Democratic staff of the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations found that the 15 corporations that benefited most from the tax holiday turned around and cut more than 20,000 jobs and diminished their pace of research spending.

Labeling the 2004 tax holiday a failed policy, the report cautions against repeating it, saying it cost the U.S. Treasury $3.3 billion in lost revenues over 10 years and led to U.S. corporations sending more funds offshore.

“There is no evidence that the previous repatriation tax giveaway put Americans to work, and substantial evidence that it instead grew executive paychecks, propped up stock prices, and drew more money and jobs offshore,” said former Michigan Senator Carl Levin, then-chairman of the subcommittee, when the report was released in 2011.

So the contention that corporations now would invest in U.S. research, factories and jobs because Republicans plan to give them another tax holiday is about as solid as smoke — the stuff emitted from American factories pre-NAFTA and now flowing from mills moved to Mexico. The same goes for the contention that corporations will invest in U.S. research, factories and jobs with completely untaxed foreign profits.

In fact, suspending taxes on foreign profits would create a perverse incentive for corporations to make it overseas instead of making it in America. But Republicans intend to do it anyway.

Republicans say they must cater to the tax demands of corporations because other countries – Germany and Ireland, for example – offer corporations low rates. And those same Republicans contend they must cease charging American corporations taxes on their foreign operations because other countries have stopped.

That describes a race to the bottom. Pretty soon, corporations won’t pay any taxes at all, anywhere to anyone. They’ll provide nothing toward the roads they use to transport their products, the school systems that educate their workers, the Army Corps of Engineers that protects factories from floods.

If countries don’t work together to stop corporations from playing one against the other, workers will get stuck with all of the costs. That’s what’s happening under the GOP tax scam. The tax changes were supposed to benefit middle-class workers. But they do not.

An analysis of the Senate tax plan, released this week by the Joint Committee on Taxation, which is the official nonpartisan review agency serving Congress, showed the scam would give large tax cuts to corporations and millionaires while raising the levies charged to families earning $10,000 to $75,000 – that’s low-income and middle-class families.

White House National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn said this week, “The most excited group out there are big CEOs, about our tax plan.” Of course they are. Those 1 percenters and their corporations get all the breaks.

To help pay for big fat tax cuts for millionaires and zeroed-out taxes for corporations, Republicans plan to slash programs crucial to workers – like Medicare and Medicaid – and vital deductions, like those for property taxes and student loan interest.

Just like NAFTA, this GOP tax scheme is a scam, a bait-and-switch ruse. Workers pay more and get less – fewer government services and far fewer job opportunities. This time, their jobs won’t just be going south of the border. They’ll be shipped anyplace in the world touting the lowest tax rates.

IBEW Local 2320 Endorses Chris Pappas For Congress

Manchester, NH – Garnering his second union endorsement Chris Pappas announced that IBEW Local 2320 has endorsed  his run for Congress in New Hampshire’s 1st Congressional District.

“IBEW Local Union 2320 is proud to endorse Chris Pappas for Congress,” said Business Manager Steve Soule.

“Chris Pappas has been a friend and advocate for our members throughout his time in public service.  He’s someone we can trust to tirelessly fight for New Hampshire’s working families.  Washington needs more members of Congress with the values and community outlook that Chris possesses.  We enthusiastically support him in this race.”

“It’s an honor to have the support of Local 2320 in my race for Congress,” Chris Pappas said.

“Whether it’s investing in infrastructure or expanding middle class opportunity, I am committed to taking steps in Congress that will help build a brighter future for New Hampshire.  I am grounded in the people and places of this state, and I want to ensure that working families have a voice in Washington.  I am very thankful for the support of IBEW Local 2320 in this campaign.”

Local IBEW 2320 represents highly trained, professional women and men in all corners of New Hampshire.  The union is comprised of a talented group of individuals in many differing fields including Administrative Specialists, Automotive Mechanics, Building Equipment Mechanics, Circuit Design Specialists, CDL A & CDL B Truck Drivers, Community College Professors, Customer Service, Equipment Installation Technicians, Facility Design & Inventory Specialists, Fiber Splice Technicians, HVAC Technicians, Information Technology Specialists, Line Construction, Payroll Processing, Power Distribution Technicians, Security Officers, Stock Room Attendants, and Workers in the Nuclear Industry.

Pappas was recently endorsed by the Teamsters Union local 633.

Ironworkers And Stockton Steel Sets Monumental Safety Record

Stockton Steel Reaches Over 4 Million Work Hours Without Any Incidents 

Washington – Stockton Steel, a subsidiary of Herrick Corporation and one of the largest steel fabricators in the country, celebrates an impressive milestone. The company reached 4.5 million work hours, over 3000 days, free of lost-time incidents. The company marked the impressive milestone with a celebratory barbecue last Friday.

Stockton Steel’s Corporate Safety Manager Tom Davies credits the achievement to effectiveness of the company’s Injury and Illness Prevention Program and culture of safety. “We work hard with our workforce to create a culture of safety, where everyone looks out for themselves and others,” said Davies. “Our philosophy is one of continual improvement. Our safety commitment is backed by strong organizational policies, procedures and incentives to ensure all employees have a safe and healthy workplace. Our workforce is our greatest asset.”

Stockton Steel’s safety committee meets monthly and the company conducts weekly safety training and meetings as well as regular special training for overhead cranes, rigging, fall protection and forklift safety. Its Code of Safety Practices serves as a guide for high-risk work activities to prevent injuries.

Stockton Steel employs around 150 workers from various trades. The employees are encouraged to suggest safety improvements and take an active role in managing safety in the workplace. “We have empowered all employees with the ability to stop work when they recognize a safety issue and address it,” said CEO of Herrick Corporation Doug Griffin. “When you have employees, who feel free to point out hazards and prevent injuries, you know you have succeeded in creating a culture of safety.”

Stockton Steel is one of Iron Workers’ (IW) partner contractors. The IW is proud of its skilled, safety-conscious ironworkers who made this achievement possible. The ironworkers contributed over 3.5 million incident-free work hours to Stockton Steel’s outstanding accomplishment. Considering the highly hazardous nature of the ironworking trade, it is an exceptional contribution.

“The great relationship between the employer and workers and the safety committee comprised of representatives from both made it possible,” said IW District Representative Erik Schmidli.

Stockton Steel looks forward to growing its culture of safety and many more days free of incidents. 


The Herrick Corporation has established itself as one of the largest steel fabricators and erectors in the United States over the past 95 years.  

IMPACT is an ironworker-contractor partnership designed to provide a forum for ironworkers and their contractors to address mutual concerns and encourage reasonable balanced solutions. 

The Iron Workers (IW) represents 130,000 ironworkers in North America who work in construction on bridges; structural steel; ornamental, architectural, and miscellaneous metals; rebar; and in shops.

House GOP Tax Plan Hurts Working Families

Today, the House Republicans released their new tax plan that would lower taxes for the ultra-wealthy and add trillions to the national debt. The plan would also drastically reduce the corporate tax rate while continuing to reward companies for offshoring American jobs.

“This tax bill is a job killer. It gives hundreds of billions of dollars in tax breaks to companies that outsource jobs and profits,” said Richard Trumka, President of the AFL-CIO. “No matter how it’s spun by Republican politicians, their tax bill is nothing but giveaways to Wall Street, big corporations and millionaires, paid for on the backs of working families.”

“It’s shameless to propose cutting Medicaid, Medicare, education and infrastructure to pay for tax breaks for the 1%. History tells us, commonsense tells us and careful analysis of this tax bill tells us that these tax giveaways for the wealthy and big corporations will never trickle down to the rest of us. Real tax reform actually can put money back in the pockets of working people, but this is not that kind of plan,” Trumka added.

“The Republican tax plan is a handout to millionaires, billionaires, and big corporations that will raise taxes on working families and give corporations new incentives to send more U.S. jobs overseas,” stated Chris Shelton, President of the Communication Workers of America (CWA). “Republicans and White House staff have been working overtime to spin this deal as a ‘middle class tax cut.’ It’s not.”

Shelton explained just a few of the ways the new tax proposal will hurt CWA members and working families across the nation.

  • It limits the ability to deduct property taxes and completely eliminates the ability to deduct state and local taxes.
  • It gets rid of tax deductions that help families pay education expenses. It will tax directly the value of employer-provided education assistance that at least 10,000 CWA members use.
  • It restricts the amount of home mortgage interest that can be deducted, hurting CWA members and working people especially in areas like California, New York, New Jersey, and other states with high housing costs.
  • It wipes out the ability of families to deduct their medical expenses.
  • Any employer-provided child care benefit will be taxed, and assistance from employers to help CWA families adopt a child also will be taxed.

“We cannot allow tax cuts for the wealthy to harm millions of working families. CWA and our allies are fighting back against this massive transfer of dollars from working families to the richest 1 percent,” added Shelton.

David J Cox, President of the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) also spoke out against the new tax plan.

“The tax plan unveiled by House leadership would mostly benefit those who need the help the least: wealthy individuals and large corporations. While the plan would lower the tax rate for many middle-income families, most would end up having more of their income taxed. And the plan would actually raise taxes on our poorest citizens.”

“Too many American workers have been suffering from stagnant wages, rising costs for health care and other essentials, and an economic system that favors the millionaires and billionaires. This plan does nothing to help them,” he concluded.

The new plan angered the Alliance for Retired Americans, a national advocacy group for seniors.

“This is the latest cruel scheme. The tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans are so massive that they plan to cut nearly $500 billion from Medicare and more than $1 trillion from Medicaid over the next 10 years to pay for them – but they will still add $1.5 trillion to the deficit,” said Richard Fiesta, Executive Director of the Alliance for Retired Americans.

“Exacerbating the problems they are creating, the House and the Trump Administration would no longer allow Americans, including retirees, to deduct their medical expenses, including nursing home costs or out of pocket medical or dental expenses from their taxes.”

Even some on the right oppose this new tax proposal. The Concord Coalition, a self proclaimed “non-partisan, grassroots organization,” heavily funded by former Sec. of Commerce Peter G Peterson, spoke out against this new proposal calling it “fiscally irresponsible.”

“True tax reform should aim to grow the economy without growing the debt ” said Robert L. Bixby, Concord’s executive director. “This plan would move U.S. fiscal policy in a dangerous direction, openly inviting higher deficits in the face of unsustainable debt.”

The federal debt recently passed the $20 trillion mark, and the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projects that under current law the government is on track to add more than $10 trillion to that in the next 10 years. This version of the tax plan will add at least another $1.5 trillion onto that projection.

“It is important that any changes made to this draft to accommodate interest group concerns and increase potential support be paid for by reducing tax cuts rather than increasing the number of budget gimmicks,” Bixby added.

Working people across the country should not be made to suffer to give the top 1% more tax breaks.

Former Sec. of Labor and respected economist Robert Reich said, “The proposed tax cuts are tiny and temporary. And some middle class Americans will actually get a tax increase.”

Reich calls this tax plan a “Trojan Horse” in this short video released today.

“Meanwhile, the top 1 percent will get a gigantic tax cut. The Tax Policy Center estimates that the current plan will save the bottom 80 percent between $50 and $450 in taxes per year, but that it saves each person in the top 1 percent an average of $129,000 a year. For people at the very top, like Trump himself, the tax cuts are humongous. And the corporations they own will also get a massive tax cut,” Reich added.

Working people have suffered through decades of stagnant wages, budget cuts to programs that help them and provide healthcare when they get old.  Enough is enough. We must stop this massive giveaway to the wealthy 1%.

American Association of University Professors Kick Off ‘Campus Equity Week’


Campus Equity Week highlights the disparity between full-time, tenured professors and part-time and non-tenure-track faculty

Today kicks off Campus Equity Week, when faculty, students, and communities on campuses across the country shine a light on the increasingly precarious nature of academic work and the effects of precarity on our higher education system. Contingent appointments now account for over 70 percent of all instructional staff appointments in American higher education. The term “contingent faculty” encompasses part- and full-time non-tenure-track faculty, including graduate employees. The growth in faculty contingency comes alongside the corporatization of higher education and its negative implications for students and higher education.

  •         A large number of faculty in so-called “part-time” positions actually teach the equivalent of a full-time course load, often commuting between institutions and preparing courses on a grueling timetable, making enormous sacrifices to maintain interaction with their students.
  •         Since faculty classified as part-time are typically paid by the course, without benefits, access for many college teachers to affordable healthcare and retirement security is withheld.
  •         Academic freedom is in serious jeopardy when a majority of faculty lack basic due process protections.

All faculty should have access to the protections of academic freedom and tenure, a fair return on their work, due process protections, and inclusion in institutional governance. Throughout this Halloween week, faculty, students and local communities from Connecticut to Colorado, will continue to call attention to the truly frightening implications of precarity and disinvestment in higher education and will inspire change through actions, brown bag discussions, art installations, and other methods.

Caprice Lawless, AAUP second vice president and instructor at Front Range Community College, said, “In these times, especially, we need to stay connected, to share facts and to validate our experiences. Academic labor activists make good use of social media, year-round. We can do that in between the mountains of grading, and it helps keep us sane. Campus Equity Week allows us to get dressed up, to be with colleagues face-to-face, and to make some noise. We are wired to feel the camaraderie and solidarity that comes from creating and attending these events.

“CEW has become our Olympics. This week, we will see examples of everywhere of all the energy we’ve collected in two years of connections, discussions, and frustrations. Here in Colorado, for example, we will be un-celebrating how, in its latest promotion, Colorado’s Community College System administrators boast that our low-wage work is valued at more than $6 billion. Our 13-college system has spent nearly $400 million of building projects, has more than 48 vice presidents, scores of deans and directors, has raised tuition 149% since 1996, and transformed our once-friendly campuses into corporate-sponsored, cold and uninviting enterprise zones. There is a growing questioning of such designs here and elsewhere.

“Academic workers will continue to organize until we see significant change. It is reassuring to know we are not alone, that our movement is growing, and that this week we will get to meet friends old and new at Campus Equity Week events.”

Faculty and students can find #2017CEW resources here.

NATIONAL COSH Has Concerns Over New Nominee To Lead OSHA

National COSH on Nomination of Scott Mugno to Lead OSHA: Congress and Agency Must Focus on Terrible Toll of Workplace Deaths, Injuries and Illness 

Advocates identify key questions for nominee on silica, safe clean up and workplace violence prevention

SAN DIEGO: With the nomination of Scott Mugno, a vice president of FedEx, to head the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), Congress and the agency must focus on the terrible toll of preventable injuries, illnesses and deaths that take place every year in U.S. workplaces, say leaders of the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health (National COSH).

“More than 4,500 workers die on the job every year and millions more are injured or become ill,” said Jessica Martinez, co-executive director of National COSH. “It’s clear that nearly all of these painful events can be prevented by getting workers involved in identifying and preventing safety hazards, stopping retaliation against workers who come forward with safety complaints and rigorous enforcement against employers who ignore our safety laws and put workers at risk.”

“Senate review of this nomination must be rigorous and thorough, because so much is at stake for American workers and families,” said National COSH co-executive director Marcy Goldstein-Gelb. “The work of OSHA is about people. It’s about workers’ lives and limbs. It’s about reducing risks and hazards so everyone can go home safely at the end of his or her shift.”

National COSH identified several critical issues that deserve thorough review during the nomination process, including:

  • Industry groups have urged Congress to block a new OSHA standard limiting exposure to silica, a deadly dust that is present in workplaces with millions of American workers. The standard was issued after years of careful research, with thousands of pages of testimony from scientists and labor and industry stakeholders and is expected to save up to 700 lives a year. What is Mr. Mugno’s view of this life-saving regulation?
  • After disasters such as the World Trade Center in 2001 and Hurricane Katrina in 2005, tens of thousands of workers were killed, became sick or were injured as a result of exposure to hazardous conditions and/or toxic substances during clean up efforts. What are Mr. Mugno’s ideas on how OSHA can prevent these safety failures from being repeated during ongoing recovery efforts from Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria?
  • In January, OSHA began a rulemaking process to create a standard for workplace violence prevention for health care and social service workers. Data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that workplace violence for these workers increased by 64 percent between 2004 and 2015. What are Mr. Mugno’s plans for supporting this critical effort to assist health care and social service workers and employers in making their workplaces safer?

“We look forward to hearing from Mr. Mugno about how he will listen to workers’ concerns, enforce the law, and make our workplaces safer,” said Goldstein-Gelb.

AFL-CIO pledges to fight VA privatization, support workers

Largest labor organization approves AFGE-backed resolutions in support of VA staff

WASHINGTON – The AFL-CIO is pledging to work with the American Federation of Government Employees to fight efforts to privatize veterans’ health care and to restore due process rights for VA workers.

On Tuesday, delegates to AFL-CIO’s quadrennial convention in St. Louis adopted two resolutions submitted by AFGE in support of workers at the Department of Veterans Affairs.

The AFL-CIO resolved to oppose the privatization of veterans’ health care services and to help AFGE restore due process rights for VA employees that have been weakened by Congress.

“Ever since the waitlist scandal at the Phoenix VA, it’s been open season on VA employees,” AFGE National President J. David Cox Sr. said in introducing the privatization resolution for adoption.

“Very few people know that the scandal was brought to light by AFGE bargaining unit employees – whistleblowers – who knew that their bosses were manipulating the data in order to qualify for big bonuses,” Cox said. “Yet that scandal has been used by politicians of both parties to justify not only privatization, but also the weakening of our civil service protections and collective bargaining rights.”

The AFL-CIO’s vote came the same day that the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee held a hearing to consider legislation opposed by AFGE that would make the private-sector Choice program permanent, which would further starve the VA of needed resources and lead to more privatization of veterans’ health care services.

“This is a deliberate strategy: Establish the basics of a privatization plan – they call it Choice – and they keep throwing more and more money at it and encourage veterans to use it instead of the VA,” Cox said in his AFL-CIO address. “At the same time, they starve the VA of staff and other resources in order to make it fail. And of course, when the VA fails, the VA workers’ union disappears as well. It’s a story we all know too well.

“Then they have what they want: A broken system that has lost public support, a system with lots of valuable real estate they can sell off, and a privatization infrastructure that sends all the patients whose treatment is profitable to the private sector, with a skeletal VA left to care for the sickest that the private sector doesn’t want.

“Brothers and sisters, we need your help in the fight to retain our beloved VA health care system.”

AFGE is an affiliate with the AFL-CIO, the umbrella labor federation representing 12.5 million working people nationwide. AFGE represents 250,000 employees across the VA.

#####

The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) is the largest federal employee union, representing 700,000 workers in the federal government and the government of the District of Columbia.

Leo W Gerard: NAFTA Negotiators Send Corporate Whiners Back to Swamp

Photo by Gerenme on Getty Images

Giant corporations, loyal to coin and faithless to country, staged a public display of blubbering in the run up to this week’s fourth round of negotiations to revise the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

Whaa, whaaa, whaaaa, groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce sniveled into the swamp from which they crawled to conduct their press conferences. President Trump isn’t doing what corporations want, they wailed.

The President’s trade priorities, which he repeatedly stated on the campaign trail, do not include groveling to the whims and whining of corporations or their toady, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. President Trump said he would create good, American jobs. To do that, he wants more stuff made in America and less stuff made in factories off-shored by greed-motivated American corporations.

“We’ve reached a critical moment,” Chamber of Commerce President Thomas Donohue sobbed this week. “The Chamber has had no choice but to ring the alarm bells.”

He said it, by the way, from Mexico City, where the Chamber, which calls itself the U.S. Chamber, had gone to scheme with Mexican government officials to subvert the NAFTA negotiation goals of the U.S. government.

Chamber Vice President John G. Murphy, meanwhile, was carping from the place the President calls the swamp, “So we’re urging the administration to recalibrate its approach and stop and listen to the business community, the agriculture community, the people who actually engage in trade.”

That is the crux of it, right there. The president had failed to place corporate profits over American workers.

Really, what Murphy and Donohue were saying is that the President should ignore the hundreds of thousands of Americans who lost their jobs because of NAFTA and concentrate instead on the profits to be made by wealthy CEOs and shareholders. Those are the guys who uprooted American factories and transplanted them in Mexico, where corporations can more easily exploit both workers and the environment.

United Technologies (UT) is a good example. UT had two perfectly profitable factories in Indiana where American workers manufactured Carrier gas furnaces and electronic controls. UT decided, however, that it could make even more money if it moved the factories to Monterrey, Mexico.

After Vice President Mike Pence, then governor of Indiana, handed UT $7 million of the state’s tax dollars, the corporation agreed to keep some of the Carrier jobs in the United States, but in the end, it moved all 700 electronic controls jobs to Mexico and 632 of the furnace jobs.

In Mexico, UT can pay its new workers a dime for every dollar in wages earned by its skilled American workers in Indiana. U.S. corporations like UT that transplant factories and kick their American workers to the curb pocket the difference in wages.

NAFTA, which encourages this kind of move, doesn’t benefit Mexican workers either. The poverty rate in Mexico is 52.3 percent, virtually the same as it was in 1994, when NAFTA took effect. Wages there rose just 2.3 percent. Economic development in Mexico has fallen behind that of most other Latin American countries.

But, whaa, whaaa, whaaaa, the Chamber of Commerce cries about the President’s intention to keep his campaign promise to build a trade wall to stop corporations from sneaking across the border.

Emily Davis, a spokesperson for the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, gave the Chamber a good smack upside the head after Donohue and Murphy told the President that he should stop listening to workers and do exactly what the Chamber and corporations tell him to do.

Here’s what Davis said: “The president has been clear that NAFTA has been a disaster for many Americans, and achieving his objectives requires substantial change. These changes, of course, will be opposed by entrenched Washington lobbyists and trade associations. We have always understood that draining the swamp would be controversial in Washington.”

The Wall Street Journal explained the problem for the likes of Donohue and Murphy. The newspaper quoted an outside trade adviser to the administration. He said that the administration wants to “create more uncertainty and reluctance for U.S. businesses to invest in Mexico. . . They want to change the decision making around outsourcing and the offshoring of investment.”

The U.S. negotiators, for example, want to weaken, or maybe even eliminate, the NAFTA-created Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) system. Corporations love this thing. It’s a secret court presided over by corporate lawyers where corporations can sue countries for passing laws that CEOs claim take a bite out of profits.

So, for example, a corporation could claim that a U.S. safety regulation prohibiting a cancer-causing chemical in plastic baby bottles diminishes expected future profits from its Mexican chemical factory. The corporate lawyers acting as judges in the secret NAFTA court can order the United States to compensate the corporation.  And, to top it off, the amount that the secret court can order taxpayers to hand over to corporations is unlimited.

The secret court reduces risk for corporations moving American factories to Mexico, where they might not have the same confidence that they would in American courts to protect their property rights.

Eliminating or curbing the secret court would reverse one of the NAFTA incentives for corporations to transfer manufacturing to Mexico. The administration wants to change several other aspects of NAFTA for the same result.

For example, it wants the government to be able to insist that more of what it buys be made in the United States. That would mean U.S. tax dollars would create more jobs in the United States. That discourages offshoring because the government is a super consumer.

The administration also wants a higher percentage of a product, such as a car, to be made in the United States, or at least in one of the three partner countries, for it to attain NAFTA duty-free status.  Right now, it’s 62.5 percent. The administration is talking about 85 percent, which would deter offshoring to Asian countries.

The administration is also demanding labor rights for Mexican workers. Enabling them to form real, worker-run labor unions would raise their wages, and, as a result, make transplanting U.S. factories in Mexico less profitable.

Murphy told the administration that it should do none of this. It should, he said, follow the administration’s own guidelines and “do no harm.”

Basically, big corporations and the Chamber want no change to NAFTA. They’re fine with all harm falling on U.S. workers’ shoulders ­ – 800,000 of whom lost their jobs because of NAFTA. And that doesn’t include the 1,600 lost at Rexnord and the two United Technologies factories in Indiana this year.

President Trump isn’t fine with that outcome, however. And that’s why his spokesperson at the Office of U.S. Trade Representative told the Chamber this week to waddle back down to the swamp and shut up.

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