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Terry O’Sullivan: The Cost of Going to Work Should Never Be Death or Injury

(Terry O'Sullivan is the General President of the Laborers International Union of North America - LiUNA)

(Terry O’Sullivan is the General President of the Laborers International Union of North America – LiUNA)

As the April 28th Workers Memorial Day commemoration approaches, we can proudly highlight what we can accomplish when we have the best training programs and the right safety regulations in place.

Nationwide, workplace deaths and injuries have trended dramatically downward. For example, in 1970, 38 workers died from workplace-related causes each day. In 2014, the most recent statistic available, that number fell to 13. Workplace-related illnesses and injuries have fallen as well, from 10.9 incidents for every 100 workers to 3.2 incidents per 100 workers.

It’s good news, but not good enough. Despite our progress, the fact remains that 750 workers are expected to lose their lives this year on construction jobsites. Injuries resulting in lost work time are expected to number 75,000.

Let’s honor the brothers and sisters we have lost by commemorating Workers Memorial Day and saying loudly and clearly that the cost of going to work each day should never be death or injury on the job. I invite every LIUNA member to help send this message by joining a week-long conversation about safety for workers on LIUNA’s Facebook page starting on April 25.

As union workers, we know that with the proper safety training, effective temp-post-imagesafety programs on jobsites and a workforce free to speak out about hazards, most deaths and injuries are preventable. That’s why we make training and safety programs a cornerstone of union construction sites. In fact, according to a University of Michigan study, states with high union membership have construction fatality rates 50 percent lower than states with low union membership.

We still have work to do to reduce risks ranging from traffic hazards in highway work zones, to the lack of fall prevention on building construction sites, to inadequate safety equipment to prevent illnesses that are all too common in our industry.

As we approach Workers Memorial Day, let’s build on our accomplishments and fight for safe jobs so that every worker returns safely home at the end of a workday.

Learn more at www.liuna.org/tmo

AFLCIO Announces Support Of BCTGM Boycott Of Mexican-Made Nabisco Products

Campaign encourages Americans to “Check the Label” in support of American jobs by purchasing only those Nabisco products made in America

 SocialMedia_BoycottSimpleKENSINGTON, Md., April 27, 2016 – Today, the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union (BCTGM) – which represents nearly 4,000 members at Mondelēz International, maker of Nabisco snack products – announced that the national AFL-CIO has officially endorsed its nationwide consumer boycott of Nabisco snack products made in Mexico.

The “Check the Label” campaign was launched to stop Nabisco/Mondelēz from continuing to outsource jobs, by urging American consumers to reject Mexican-made Nabisco products and, instead, buy those that are produced in America in support of middle-class American jobs.

The AFL-CIO’s endorsement is a watershed moment in BCTGM’s boycott movement, as it adds 12.5 million members in 56 affiliated national and international unions, as well as their families and their local and extended communities across the United States and the globe.

BCTGM International President David B. Durkee, stated, “BCTGM is proud to have the support of our 12.5 million Brothers and Sisters of the AFL-CIO who share our profound dismay that Nabisco/Mondelēz is asking American workers to give up 60 percent of their wages and benefits – amounting to $46 million per year in perpetuity – or have their jobs shipped to Mexico. The AFL-CIO’s backing sends the strongest signal yet that American workers and consumers will not stand idly by while Americans lose their jobs.  Most immediately, we believe that the endorsement lends substantial and sustainable support to our “Check the Label” campaign, aimed at supporting American jobs by ensuring consumers’ favorite Nabisco products are produced in America before purchasing.”

SocialMedia_3StepsBCTGM launched the “Check the Label” campaign after Nabisco/Mondelēz closed numerous U.S. production facilities, costing many hundreds of American jobs, while at the same time expanding production in its facilities in Monterrey and Salinas, Mexico, where pay is so low that the minimum wage is measured by the day, not the hour. BCTGM is sending teams of the laid-off workers around the country, focusing on large urban areas, to enhance support for the boycott and continue to expand its coalition.

The National contract between Mondelēz International and more than 2,000 of its 4,000 workers represented by the BCTGM, expired on February 29, 2016. BCTGM continues to be resolute in its commitment to securing a quality contract for its members – one that is in the very best interests of all members and their families today and into the future.

The full text of the AFL-CIO endorsement includes the following:

The AFL-CIO has approved your request to include Mondelēz International on the list of AFL-CIO national boycotts. Specifically, the boycott will apply to all Mondelēz International snack food products that are labeled “Made in Mexico,” including Oreos, Newtons, Chips Ahoy, Honey Grahams, Animal Crackers, Ritz Crackers, Premium, Belvita, Lorna Doane, Teddy Grahams, Honey Maid, and Wheat Thins.

In accordance with the policy on boycott endorsements adopted by the AFL-CIO Executive Council, the federation will maintain the “Made in Mexico” snack products of Mondelēz International on its published boycott list for up to one year from the date of endorsement unless your union requests an earlier termination of the listing. At the end of the year, you may request to have the company included on the list for another 12 months.

The AFL-CIO and the AFL-CIO Union Label and Service Trades Department will post this product line to the list on their websites and Union Label Letter publication.

For more information about the “Check the Label” campaign, please watch this informational video.

 

ChecktheLabel_HowTo

150 Workers Die Every Day From Preventable Workplace Injuries And Illnesses


150 workers die every day AFLCIO
(Washington, DC, April 27, 2016)More than 4,820 workers were killed on the job in 2014, according to a new report by the AFL-CIO. Additionally an estimated 50,000-60,000 died from occupational diseases, resulting in a daily loss of nearly 150 workers from preventable workplace injuries and illnesses.

“Working people should not have to risk their lives to make a living and support their families,” said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka. “Yet every day, millions of Americans are forced to work with little to no safety protections while big businesses and corporations profit off our lives.”  

Death on the Job: The Toll of Neglect, marks the 25th year the AFL-CIO has publishednational findings on the safety and health conditions for working people.Among other findings:

  • The report calls attention to an increase in fatalities among older workers.
  • The states with the highest fatality rates were Wyoming, North Dakota, Alaska, South Dakota and Mississippi.
  • In 2014, 804 Latino workers lost their lives on the job and the fatality rate for Latino workers remains higher than the national rate.
  • Workplace violence injuries, particularly among women workers in health care, is a serious problem. The workplace violence injury rate has increased by 60% over the past five years, while the overall job injury rate has declined.

Oversight of job safety and health conditions remains weak and is getting worse in certain ways.  OSHA can now inspect a workplace on average only once every 145 years, compared with once every 84 years in 1992, when the AFL-CIO issued its first report. The average penalty for serious violations last year was only $2,148 and the median penalty for worker deaths was only $7,000.

DOTJ16_fb4b_UnionDensityStatesSafer“We have made important progress, including winning new OSHA silica standards to protect workers from deadly dust,” said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka. “But as this report shows, too many employers are cutting corners and workers are paying the highest price. We must keep working for stronger laws and enforcement to hold employers accountable, until all working people are safe on the job.” said Trumka.

Death on the Job: The Toll of Neglect is being released in conjunction withWorkers Memorial Day when vigils, rallies, and actions are being held across the country to remember workers killed and injured on the job. The report can be found online here: aflcio.org/death-on-the-job.

 

Indiana Carrier Plant Workers Take Their Case Directly To UTC Shareholders

Members of the Indianapolis community rally behind USW Local 1999 on March 23, 2016.

Members of the Indianapolis community rally behind USW Local 1999 on March 23, 2016 after United Technologies announced they would be moving the plant to Mexico. Image by USW 1999

Steelworkers travel to shareholders meeting, deliver petition calling on Carrier’s parent company to reconsider moving production from Indianapolis to Mexico

United Technology shareholders came face-to-face with workers being destroyed by insatiable corporate greed.

On February 10th, United Technologies (UTC) announced its “business decision” to shutter the Carrier plant in Indianapolis and move production to Monterrey, Mexico.  The move would eliminate at least 1,400 jobs in Indianapolis. A video of the heartless announcement was posted on YouTube and has received more than 3.7 million views, drawing national attention to UTC offshoring plans.

On Monday, members of the United Steelworkers Local 1999 who work at the facility scheduled for closure traveled to the UTC shareholder meeting in Florida.  The USW members delivered a petition signed by 4,500 people, asking the company to reconsider moving their jobs to Mexico, and called on UTC to keep good, family-sustaining jobs in Indianapolis.

“Abandoning the Indianapolis plant will have a devastating effect on not only 1,400 workers, but also our families and our community,” said USW Local 1999 Unit President Donnie Knox. “UTC’s decision to move our jobs to Mexico and the video of a manager’s callous delivery of that devastating news to workers in Indianapolis have made Carrier and UTC into poster children for corporate greed.”

United Technologies’ greed is not unusual. It is exactly what many of the other American companies have done over the last thirty years.  Corporations sell out American workers, who labored to build the company from the ground up, only to watch their jobs shipped overseas so the stockholders can make a quick buck.

In October, United Technologies, Carrier’s parent company, used a stock buyback program to temporarily inflate the share price.  They announced plans to buy back $12 billion worth of the corporation’s own stock — boosting the price per share up by almost 5%.  UTC plans to spend another $3 billion later this year, to buyback even more shares. This is great news for the wealthy executives and Wall Street hedge fund managers who hold the majority of UTC stock (even though it’s one of the reasons for a recent downgrade in UTC’s bond rating).

What about the people who work for UTC?  Instead of reinvesting in the company, expanding current operations or increasing the wages of the hard working men and women who built the company, UTC decided to use all those billions to buy back their own stock.

Just imagine what that $12 billion could have meant for the 195,000 workers employed by UTC.

As if spending $12 billion to buy back their own stock was not bad enough, let us not forget that UTC also paid out dividends to stockholders.  In 2015, UTC paid a quarterly dividend of around $0.66 per share. This means that over the year UTC paid out $2.50 to all 843 million shareholders, totaling $2.1 billion dollars in dividend payouts.

That’s more than $14 billion total paid to stockholders in buybacks and dividends.  The amount of money would it take to keep these 1,400 workers in Indianapolis would be just a drop in the bucket, compared to what is being shelled out to stockholders.  The greedy executives do not seem to care about the workers, their families, or the city they will destroy when they close this factory.

Knox, and his fellow Steelworkers, delivered a petition with more than 4,500 signatures from Carrier employees and their supporters from Indianapolis and around the country, calling on the company to reconsider its heartless decision to abandon American workers.

Carrier’s decision to move these jobs to Mexico is what is wrong with too many American corporations. They no longer care about building a lasting company that employs as many Americans as they can, they only care about how they can boost their stock prices to further line their own pockets.

The members of Local 1999 are going to continue to fight until Carrier reverses their decision to send these jobs to Mexico.

On Friday, April 29, members of USW Local 1999 will take the fight to save their jobs to the streets with a march and rally at the Indiana State Capitol. The rally will be headlined by USW International Vice President Fred Redmond, U.S. Senator Joe Donnelly and AFL-CIO President Rich Trumka.


Here are three articles on United Technologies stock buyback program:

http://www.wsj.com/articles/united-technologies-unveils-12-billion-buyback-1445343580

http://www.reuters.com/article/us-utc-results-idUSKCN0SE1AR20151020

http://www.marketwatch.com/story/united-technologies-sets-6-billion-accelerated-buyback-2015-11-12


Related reading on stock buybacks from the NH Labor News:

Read the series about Verizon as a case study of what’s wrong with the economy, starting here.

Read “What Mitt Romney taught us about America’s Economy” here.

Read “McDonalds: Paying Billions (of Borrowed Money) to Stockholders” here.

Read more NHLN coverage of stock buybacks here.

(LEO W GERARD) GOP: It’s OK for Corporations to Kill Workers

Worker Operating Heavy Machinery

Worker Operating Heavy Machinery (OSHA)

 

Alan White couldn’t shout jubilation from the rooftop on March 25 when he heard that the U.S. Department of Labor, after decades of trying, had finally issued a stricter rule to limit exposure to potentially deadly silica dust in workplaces.

He was happy, all right. After all, he’d worked with the United Steelworkers (USW) to get the rule adopted. It’s just that he knew shouting would induce his silicosis coughing.

Within days, though, indignation replaced his jubilation. White, who’d been sickened by the debilitating, irreversible and often fatal disease at work in a foundry, watched in disgust as Republicans attempted to overturn the rule that the Labor Department said could save more than 600 lives and prevent more than 900 new cases of silicosis annually.

Last week, GOP House members conducted a hearing to further their case against saving those lives. They did that just days before Workers Memorial Day, April 28, when organized labor renews its solemn pledge to strive for workplace safety rules and formally commemorates those who have died on the job in the previous year.

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The totals aren’t in for 2015 yet, but the year before, 4,679 workers died on the job. That’s nearly 90 a week, 13 a day, seven days a week. Twenty-eight members of my own union, the USW, died on the job since Workers Memorial Day 2015.

But the GOP position is clear. Republicans will do whatever it takes to ensure that corporations can sicken and kill workers with impunity. If the argument is that workers’ lives and lungs must be sacrificed to ensure that foundries and fracking operations and construction companies can make bigger profits by releasing silica particles under 40-year-old standards now considered dangerous, then the GOP will take the side of CEOs who value workers as trivial.

These politicians would leave workers like Alan White to be victims of this sneaky, silent killer. Silica, which is in sand and rocks, is released during industrial processes that involve cutting and blasting and cleaning silica-containing materials, such as concrete, tile and brick. About 2 million American workers inhale the tiny crystalline particles in levels high enough to threaten their health, almost always without knowing it. The dust causes workers’ lung tissue to swell and become inflamed. Over time, that causes scarring, and the lungs stiffen, making it hard to breathe.

That condition, called silicosis, increases the worker’s risk of bronchitis, tuberculosis and lung cancer. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) calculated that the previous exposure limits, which were set more than 40 years ago, were so inadequate that thousands of workers died every year even though their employers were complying with the law.

Alan White’s doctors determined his impairment to be 66 percent three years ago. They described it as progressive massive fibrosis of the lungs. At the age of 51, it means his life is circumscribed. “I went waking around the park and got passed up by a group of elderly women, say in their 70s, like six of them, who were running and talking. I can walk. But I can’t really talk while I am walking. I am sitting still and talking on the phone and getting out of breath,” he told me.

He must be careful about simple chores, like removing lint from the dryer filter. “I can’t just swipe at it because it will make me cough for 10 minutes,” he explained. If he tries to carry a basket of laundry up the 28 stairs, he may be able to make it, he said, “but then I can’t breathe. It is like am breathing in as much as I can and I am not getting enough air.” Anyone who has suffered asthma or has been held under water too long knows the panic that induces.

This crept up on White. He began work in the foundry at what is now called Aurubis in Buffalo, N.Y., in 1995. He stayed in the foundry for 16 years, but with the amount of overtime he worked, averaging 60-hour work weeks and often more than that, he estimates that it was the equivalent of 20 years.

There is silica-containing brick in the foundry furnace. When workers like White cleaned it with air chisels and crowbars, silica would fly into their environment without their knowledge.

White said the employer fitted him for several types of respirators and masks when he was hired, but told him he would need only the dust mask in the smoky foundry area. He believes now, too late, that he should have been wearing a particulate filter.

A decade after White started the job, he noticed he was slowing down and was tired a lot. He attributed it to aging and tried to lose weight and eat better.

In December of 2008, he developed a cough. It lingered through the winter and early spring. In April, just after he turned 44, he went to a doctor who heard something when he listened to White’s lungs and sent him for an X-ray.

The technician looked at the pictures and said to him, “I will be right back. Don’t move.” She brought in the doctor. “You know it is serious when they bring the doctor right in,” White said.

That doctor gave him the name of an expert who ordered a CAT scan. “He put the film on the wall and turned on the light. He knew right away what it was. He said, ‘This is silicosis.’”

White’s daughter was 19. He wondered if he would live to see her marry, to meet his grandkids.

At Aurubis, White is a member of the USW, and one of his doctors knew a USW health and safety expert and linked up the two. That’s how White got involved in the USW campaign to strengthen the silica rule. White testified at hearings, seeking stronger standards to prevent other workers from suffering as he has. And he has met U.S. Labor Secretary Thomas Perez, who cites White’s case as an example of why decreasing silica exposure is so important.

But U.S. Rep. Tim Walberg, R-Mich., chairman of the Workforce Protections Subcommittee of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, is intent on sending the silica standard back 40 years.

Walberg noted in a press release that the Labor Department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) concedes that 30 percent of the jobsites it tested did not comply with the previous silica standard.

So, Walberg said, the Labor Department’s first priority should be enforcing that old standard, not creating new, tougher standards that would protect workers better. “If OSHA is unable – or unwilling – to enforce the current limit for silica exposure, why should we expect the results under these new standards to be any different?”he asked.

That, of course, disregards the 70 percent of workplaces that apparently did comply with the law and likely will obey the new regulations to protect their workers. It also deliberately ignores the fact that the Republican-controlledCongress has continuously cut funding for OSHA. Walberg condemns the safety police – OSHA – for failing to enforce the law after slashing the funding that would have enabled the safety police to enforce the law.

But Walberg also is contending that as long as one thing is broken, nothing can be fixed until that one thing is completely repaired. So, for example, as long as banks are being robbed by guys in ski masks, in Walberg’s world, the government should not outlaw cyber account theft. As he put it, “why should we expect the results under these new standards to be any different” when police haven’t stopped the ski mask thieves from breaking into vaults?

Alan White described the Republicans’ behavior as shameful. “It just shows the lack of understanding of what workers go through.”

White, who still works at Aurubis, but in shipping, where he can use a golf cart to get around when he needs to, also said he doesn’t understand why some corporations devalue human life: “At our facility, we buy copper and zinc and tin. Copper is a couple dollars a pound, tin is a few dollars a pound.

“Anyone who tries to take that out of the plant and to a scrap yard to make a few dollars can get fired. Just like you protect your raw materials, the people who do the work to make that raw material into a finished product must have some importance and protection.

“Why not show the same consideration for your human resource to make sure they are not injured?”

On this Workers Memorial Day, let’s make sure humans get better treatment than tin.

Bipartisan Senate Energy Bill Will Strengthen Economy and Unlock Good Jobs and Clean Energy

 Washington, D.C.  – Terry O’Sullivan, General President of LIUNA – the Laborers’ International Union of North America – made the following statement today on Senate passage of S. 2012, The Energy Policy Modernization Act of 2012 crafted by Senators Shaheen (D-New Hampshire), Portman (R-Ohio), Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Cantwell (D-Washington):

“On behalf of the 500,000 members of the Laborers’ International Union of North America, I commend the Senate on their bipartisan vote (85-12) in favor for much needed energy legislation that will strengthen our economy and unlock good jobs and clean energy.

The bill streamlines the process for construction of pipelines on federal land and the natural gas export permit application process, which will help position the United States to lead globally as a clean energy super power, bring affordable energy to U.S. consumers, and create good jobs. It will also increase investment in renewable energies such as wind, solar, and hydropower and amend the Federal Power Act to encourage hydropower development by extending the total period for preliminary permits.

The bill has important provisions to incentivize energy efficiency for new state and commercial building construction; including a requirement that the Department of Energy work closely with manufacturers to invest in the research, development and commercialization of updated energy efficient technologies.

Senate Bill 2012 also addresses critical gaps in America’s nuclear energy research and production. LIUNA strongly believes that nuclear energy is not only integral to a clean energy economy, but it provides good jobs for workers across the country.

LIUNA urges the Senate and House to work together so that this bill can be conferenced and presented to the President and become law.” 

Faculty Votes for Union at Plymouth State University

AAUP 100 Years Logo 2Plymouth, NH– In an election held this week, a majority of the one hundred seventy-four tenured and tenure-track faculty members at Plymouth State University in New Hampshire voted to form a union for collective bargaining with the American Association of University Professors. Plymouth State University is one of the four public universities that make up the University System of New Hampshire.

“My colleagues and I look forward to working with the university to establish agreements and processes for faculty that guarantee workload equity, transparency in governance, and academic freedom. Assured academic freedom for faculty creates the best environment for student learning,” said Rebecca Noel, associate professor of history at Plymouth State University.

“I am happy that we faculty at Plymouth State University have chosen to join together as the newest members of the AAUP to improve clarity and workload issues, and I look forward to working with the administration to making PSU an even stronger institution,” said Chris Chabot, Plymouth State University professor of biology.

“This is great news. Plymouth State University faculty, working together in a union, will have a positive impact on the faculty working conditions, student leaning conditions, and the university as a whole,” said Howard Bunsis, chair of the AAUP Collective Bargaining Congress.

In voting to join together to bargain collectively as an AAUP chapter, faculty members at Plymouth State join many of their colleagues at the University of New Hampshire and across the country.

Advocates Push For New DOL Rule On Silica Dust, While Republicans Try To Scuttle Change

New Silica Rule offers a Simple Solution to a Deadly Problem

Today the Subcommittee on Workforce Protections held a hearing to review the Department of Labor’s (DOL) long-awaited rule updating the silica dust standard.

Silica is common in many workplace dust exposures. It is found in stone, rock, brick, and other building materials. More than 2 million workers are exposed to silica dust each year in construction, foundries, mining, shipbuilding and other industries.

Crystalline silica is a human lung carcinogen and can also lead to kidney and respiratory diseases. Breathing in silica dust can cause silicosis, a lung disease that can severely disable affected workers. A worker with silicosis typically has trouble breathing, making it difficult to walk, climb steps or carry out other basic functions. The disease can be fatal; there is no cure or treatment currently available.

Since 2009, House Republicans have been trying to block this rule change with claims that the rule change will harm businesses through increased costs.

“Today’s hearing of the House Education and the Workforce Committee is nothing more than a thinly veiled attempt to undermine this much needed regulatory reform,” said International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers President James Boland.

Democratic committee members strongly support this new standard to reduce workers’ exposure to silica dust, a World Health Organization declared carcinogen that causes silicosis, lung cancer, respirable illnesses such as COPD, and kidney disease.  DOL projects the new standard will save more than 600 lives each year and prevent more than 900 cases of silicosis each year. 

“The purpose of the new federal rule limiting exposure to silica dust is to save lives, reduce disease and make our workplaces safer,” said Jessica Martinez, Acting Executive Director of the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health (National COSH).”

“It’s unclear, however,  what the purpose of today’s hearing is. The concerns employers have about the new rule have been heard and these issues have been decided during an exhaustive regulatory process. OSHA rigorously followed all required rules and procedures and received extensive input from all stakeholders, including workers, employers and safety experts,” added Martinez.

“The Subcommittee on Workforce Protections can make better use of its time — and taxpayer money — by examining the many other areas in which workers need new, enforceable protections against hazards which claim tens of thousand of lives and cause millions of injuries every year,” Martinez concluded.

The International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers President James Boland released the following statement in Support of OSHA’s Final Rule to Protect Workers from Exposure to Respirable Crystalline Silica: 

The International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers (BAC) applauds OSHA for doing what’s right for working people; creating healthier workplaces by updating the silica standard is a simple solution to a deadly problem.

The current standard is insufficient to protect construction workers. At the current permissible exposure limit, 100% of construction workers will get sick or die from silica-related illness over the course of a 40 year career. According to a CDC report issued under President Bush, “deaths from inhalation of silica-containing dust can occur after a few months’ exposure.”[1] That is a fact that has been well-established, and we have seen the results of exposure at permissible limits in the untimely illness of far too many bricklayers—union and non-union alike. Even at the reduced permissible limit under the new rule, a significant number of workers will become ill over the course of their working lives, but it will go a long way toward improving the health and safety of workers in this industry.

The new standard provides a meaningful and practical way for employers and employees to comply with the law. This is not complicated. Table one in the rule “matches common construction tasks with dust control methods, so employers know exactly what they need to do to limit worker exposures to silica. The dust control measures listed in the table include methods known to be effective, like using water to keep dust from getting into the air or using ventilation to capture dust. In some operations, respirators may also be needed. Employers who follow Table 1 correctly are not required to measure workers’ exposure to silica and are not subject to the permissible exposure limit.”[2]  The remedies offered in the new standard are simple: water and electricity are available on jobsites already, and most equipment already comes with standard attachments for water or vacuum removal methods.

Today’s hearing of the House Education and the Workforce Committee is nothing more than a thinly veiled attempt to undermine this much needed regulatory reform. Members of the BAC are committed to do everything in our power to support the silica standard for the construction industry and fight any effort to overturn or delay implementation of the rule.

We are very disappointed in today’s effort by congressional republicans trying to undercut safety efforts in favor of a few powerful interests. For decades, BAC has fought for reduced exposure limits, and the science is behind us. Working people should not get sick and die in return for a hard day’s work—especially when reasonable, feasible and available measures exist to protect them.

Congress would do well to remember that the people exposed to this hazardous element expect that their elected representatives will do what’s good for America, our communities and our families. It is the right time to move this rule forward, and we expect our elected leaders to do their jobs and lead.

Hopefully members of Congress will ultimately move forward with the rule change and put the health and safety of workers ahead of corporate lobbyist who are pushing against it.

Leo W Gerard: American Workers Crushed Under China’s Deliberate Overproduction

Image by Glasseye View Flikr CC

Image by Glasseye View Flikr CC

I went to Washington, D.C., last week to ask trade experts and lawmakers to stop the relentless, lawless, callous dumping of Chinese steel, aluminum, paper, rubber, glass, chemicals and other products, which has closed mills, killed jobs, destroyed lives, devastated American communities and imperiled national security.

American steel is made in the most efficient, cost-effective mills in the world by the most skilled, productive workers anywhere. That’s a fact. It’s a fact that steel executives testified to last week in hearings conducted by members of Congress and trade law enforcers. We want the trade enforcers and Congress to stop the dumping and to force China to dramatically cut its steel production because China has kept none of its promises over the past seven years to voluntarily do so. In fact, it has continuously increased production.

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China makes way, way too much steel. In 2015, it produced nearly 500 million tonsmore than it needed. It did that to keep its citizens employed, its mills running and its country free of civic unrest.

That would be fine if China just put all of that extra steel in a warehouse somewhere. But it dumped more than 100 million tons in overseas markets in 2015. Production of that steel was subsidized by the Chinese government in ways that violate international trade rules, so the price was artificially low. And Chinasuppresses the value of its currency, further falsely reducing the cost of the steel.

Even the most efficient mills in the world can’t compete with a country. So they shut down.

On Tuesday, Sam Pantello, a maintenance mechanical technician at EVRAZ Rocky Mountain Steel in Pueblo, Colo., told the U.S. Trade Representative that 260 of his fellow workers are laid off and EVRAZ is running at 65 percent capacity all because of Chinese dumping.  Here is what he said:

“We produce high-quality steel cost-effectively and efficiently and are the only manufacturer of steel rail west of the Mississippi. And yet, because of steel dumping, I have co-workers out of a job, worrying about making their next mortgage or car payment, and that just isn’t right.”

This didn’t happen overnight. China has been ramping up production of steel and aluminum and other commodities for over a decade. It ships the excess overseas. That floods international markets, artificially depressing prices worldwide. That bankrupts factories and mills that operate on Western free market principles, causing unemployment and shattering communities. The devastation has occurred across the United States, Great Britain and Europe.

Everyone is affected, from the guy who digs the iron ore out of the ground to the guy who sells burgers to workers leaving the mill on shift change. Dan Pierce, a diesel mechanic at the U.S. Steel Keewatin Taconite mine in Hibbing, Minn., explained this to the U.S. Trade Representative. Because so many steel mills are partly or completely shut down, the demand for taconite, which is processed into iron ore pellets, is slim. U.S. Steel closed the Keewatin Taconite mine last May and laid off nearly all of the 360 workers, including Pierce.

“Not being able to work for the past 11 months has put stress on me, my family and my friends as we wrestle with the uncertainty of if, and when, I will be able to return to work. Our family has had to hold off on home repairs and cut back on groceries and eating out. When we do this, and you multiply it by all of the other workers going through the same things, it means local businesses suffer as people make less trips to places like the Super One Foods or the Erikson lumberyard. Everything in the [iron] range depends on the mining companies running. When they’re shut down, it affects everyone, from daycare providers to local car dealerships to hospitals,” Pierce explained.

The effect of China dumping its excessive production into the world market is massive layoffs, both in the United States and in Europe. Last week Britain demanded that China rein in its overcapacity after Tata Steel announced it was placing its partly closed British mills on the auction block, putting 15,000 jobs at risk.

In the United States, 13,500 steelworkers hold layoff notices, and earlier this month, 750 U.S. Steel white-collar workers learned they’d lose their jobs too. The crisis has hit aluminum just as hard. Five years ago, 14 aluminum smelters ran in this country. Now there are five. Another is slated to close in June. If it does, 6,500 aluminum workers will have lost their jobs. These are good, family-supporting jobs with benefits and pensions.  This is China exporting unemployment.

Tim Davis, a crane operator at Cascade Steel Rolling Mills in McMinnville, Ore., told the U.S. Trade Representative what it means to lose that kind of job. His mill makes rebar, coiled steel wire and flat bar. Because of dumped coiled wire and rebar, Cascade is running on reduced days and furloughed 70 workers, including Davis.

“Cascade Steel isn’t just a job to me. It helped raise me. The paychecks my dad received from working there when I was growing up allowed me to participate in sports while I was in school, paid for our family vacations and ensured that I had a roof over my head and food on the table. I want that for my family. I want to know that as long as I work hard to provide for my family that they can have the same childhood I did thanks to my dad working hard at Cascade Steel.

“I am proud to follow in my father’s footsteps in the manufacturing industry, and I would hope that my children would be proud to follow us if that is what they choose to do, but for that to happen, there needs to be an American manufacturing industry around for them to do so, and at the current rate of American factories closing their doors for good, I’m concerned they won’t have that option.

“At this pace, the only option my kids will have is college, the military or working at a retail store that was built with foreign materials, selling foreign-made products, and then bagging purchases up in foreign-made bags,” he told the Trade Representative.

Since 2009, China has repeatedly acknowledged that it makes too much steel and promised to stop. But it doesn’t. It just makes even more. Even at a loss.

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Again in January China said it would cut production. This time by 100 million tons by 2020. That is not nearly enough. It would, in fact, be insignificant, only about a fifth of its overproduction. But then just last month, China’s Baosteel, a major state-owned company, announced that it would increase production by 20 percent this year.

To put China’s excess in perspective, the nearly 500 million tons it overproduced in 2015 is more than five times the steel forged in the United States, and the United States is the third-largest producer of steel in the world. In 2000, China had just slightly more steelmaking capacity than the United States, but since then, it increased so dramatically that now China has 1.2 billion tons of capacity. That is more than 10 times the capacity of the United States, where production declined over that period.

China’s capacity now exceeds that of the United States, Japan, the European Union, and Russia combined. That means every mill in the United States, Japan, Russia and the European Union could shut down, all of those workers could lose their jobs, all of those communities could crumble and China would reap the benefits by exporting all of its steel and further expanding its industry.

If those countries rolled over and let China do that.

David Clark, a maintenance utility worker at the U.S. Steel Fairfield Tubular Operations in Alabama, previewed for the U.S. Trade Representative what such a China takeover could mean. Much of the Fairfield works shut down in August, and 1,000 steelworkers were laid off. The local union has set up a food bank to help families get by. “My community is struggling,” he told the trade officials.

“The outlook is bleak for the business in our town. All of the suppliers in the area have been forced to cut positions. Some local gas stations have ceased 24-hour operations as the traffic at shift changes went away. And retailers are leaving the city. Shortly after the closure, Walmart and other retailers left the city of Fairfield, and the loss of sales tax revenue has placed the city in dire financial situations. It has gotten to the point where the city council in Fairfield is debating closure of the police department and the suspension of other city services in order to survive.”

Clark said what every steelworker told the trade officials and what we all told Congress: “No U.S. steelworker should have to lose a job to allow unfairly traded steel into this country.”

The corporate officials asked the U.S. Trade Representative and Congress to act to save an industry vital to national security. I told the same officials to stop swallowing false promises of change from China and impose broad-based import restraints, take comprehensive, enforceable measures to reduce global overcapacity and definitively declare that China does not qualify as a market economy under U.S. law.

“I implore this committee to consider the true cost of allowing terrible policies and bad trade agreements to continue destroying the very thing that made this country what it is. We became the strongest, most powerful country in the world because American blue-collar workers carried us there on their backs on their quest to achieve the American Dream. Each and every unfair trade deal we jump into is destroying the legacy that our forefathers created with sweat on their brow and calluses on their hands.”

New AFL-CIO Trade Video Warns That TPP Would Double Down on NAFTA’s Economic Devastation

“We can’t have another NAFTA. There’s too much at risk. It’s too important. What happens if TPP passes? There will be another generation of people that can’t find work.”

(Washington, DC) – Today, the AFL-CIO released a video showing first-hand the devastating economic impact the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) could have on communities across the country.

Last week United Steelworkers President Leo Gerard testified at a USTR hearing examining overcapacity in the global steel market and its impact on U.S. steelmakers. There is evidence that foreign governments are subsidizing cheap steel and selling it in the U.S. at unfairly low prices. Countries are able to dump their cheap steel in U.S. markets because they are undervaluing their currency when setting prices.

“Currency manipulation is at the heart of this issue, and the passage of the TPP – which doesn’t address this global problem – could kill American manufacturing for good,” said Gerard. Like NAFTA, it offers no protection for American manufacturing or American workers. U.S. trade policy has not worked for working people or our communities which has led to broad opposition to the TPP. It must be defeated.”

“We know the TPP is a job killer.” said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka. “Our trade agreements should help to create good jobs in America, and enable regular working people to succeed by working hard to get ahead. The TPP fails this goal miserably.”

“I’ve seen too many people have their lives destroyed because the jobs went away,” said Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, Council Member Dewitt Walton. “We can’t have another NAFTA. There’s too much at risk. It’s too important. What happens if TPP passes? There will be another generation of people that can’t find work.”

Allegheny County which is featured in the video is one of hundreds of local and state governments that have passed or introduced resolutions opposing TPP.

This video is the second in a series examining the real human impact of trade agreements like the TPP. Watch the first video on how the TPP could put the lives of cancer patients in danger.

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