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Kicking Underdogs When They’re Down

1:00 am in Economy by Leo W. Gerard

Americans love an underdog. Maybe it’s an artifact of the American Revolution, when a rag-tag rabble of farmers and frontiersmen defeated the disciplined and well-provisioned military of the most powerful nation on earth.

Even though the United States has usurped most powerful status, Americans still ally with Davids in contests with Goliaths. They love to see a top dog taken down a notch. They rooted for the perennial loser Red Sox in the 2004 World Series and reveled in the win by America’s unseasoned ice hockey team in the 1980 Winter Olympics.

That’s why the sudden surge of right-to-work (for less) legislation is so confounding. Right-to-work (for less) laws are perks for the wealthy, for the top dogs. These laws facilitate destruction of unions. The concerted action of a labor union is a tool that workers use to win fair wages, benefits and conditions from the powerful, from the likes of massive multi-national corporations. At a time of dwindling union membership, at a time when labor union participation is so small as to be nearly negligible, state legislatures across the country are taking up right-to-work (for less) laws that will further decimate union ranks. They’re kicking the underdog when it’s down.

Despite the derisive “big union boss” label that right wingers throw at labor leaders, unions are not the big dogs. Union representation in the United States has declined steadily since the 1950s, following federal legislation in 1947 impeding unionization. Just after World War II, about 35 percent of workers belonged to unions. And those who didn’t benefitted from the higher wages and good benefits that union workers negotiated because non-union employers felt compelled to provide competitive compensation. Last year, the percentage of U.S. workers in unions fell to 11.9, the lowest in more than 70 years.

As unions atrophied and the recession raged, the median income of working Americans declined. Meanwhile, at the top, the big dogs who run corporations continued awarding themselves colossal compensation and bonus packages. Median compensation for executives quadrupled over the past four decades. Last year, most executives got big bumps, whether their companies did well or not. Now, income inequality is greater than at any time since the robber baron days of the 1920s.

Still, somehow, legislatures across the country are rooting for CEOs, the top dogs, and bashing unions. Lawmakers in Ohio, Wisconsin, Arizona, Oklahoma, Idaho, New Hampshire, Tennessee, and South Dakota have attacked public sector unions. Politicians in South Carolina, Minnesota, New Hampshire, even Michigan and West Virginia are pushing right-to-work (for less) legislation. Read the rest of this entry →

America’s Failed Mole-by-Mole Trade Policy

7:54 am in Uncategorized by Leo W. Gerard

This American Car Enthusiast Makes The Point

Last week several groups, including the United Steelworkers, petitioned the federal government to whack the latest trade mole – illegally traded auto parts from China.

With President Obama announcing creation of a new trade enforcement unit in his State of the Union Address, the feds probably will investigate. But even if they whack down the auto parts mole, experience has shown a new mole will pop up.

Mole-by-mole trade enforcement isn’t the solution to America’s massive trade deficit. Although conservative candidates revel in ridiculing Western Europe, America could learn crucial economic lessons from Germany, which doesn’t rely on Whack-a-Mole and maintains trade surpluses, including one with China in auto parts.

The Steelworkers – along with the United Auto Workers, the Alliance for American Manufacturing and Campaign for America’s Future – explained why the federal government must smack down the latest trade problem that has raised its ugly head.

China and several other countries promote their auto parts manufacturers by providing subsidies and engaging in additional practices banned by the World Trade Organization (WTO). As a result, the United States imports more auto parts than it produces, a situation that kills manufacturers and manufacturing jobs here. For example, over the past 11 years, as the U.S. auto parts trade deficit increased by 867 percent, the Unites States lost 45 percent of its auto parts jobs – a total of 419,000.

The reason the groups sought action against China specifically is that its exports of auto parts to the United States have increased faster in the past three years than any other country’s and China supports its auto parts industry in ways that violate its commitments to the WTO.

For example, China provided $27.5 billion in subsidies to its auto parts industry between 2001 and 2010. It’s fine with the WTO if countries subsidize industries that sell their products domestically. But it forbids subsidies for exported products because that distorts the free market, wrongly destroying jobs and industries in the countries that buy those artificially low priced goods.

Beijing also aggressively limited import of American-made auto parts. This is hardly startling. In December, China imposed steep tariffs on imported American-made sports utility vehicles and other large cars. And the WTO affirmed last week that China violated its trade commitments by restricting export of key raw materials. Earlier, the WTO supported President Obama’s imposition of tariffs on tires imported from China because Beijing had violated international trade rules. Read the rest of this entry →

Retirees Occupy Century Aluminum

7:46 am in Uncategorized by Leo W. Gerard

On Dec. 18, a dozen retirees, men and women in their 60s, 70s, even 80s, began occupying a median strip along Route 33 in front of the closed Century Aluminum smelter in Ravenswood, W.Va. In tents and under tarps, a small group stays overnight, despite hypertension, arthritis and other old age ailments. One has suffered a stroke.

These vulnerable people expose themselves to weather extremes although some have no health insurance at all. Century cancelled it. That’s why they’re occupying Century.

The retirees labored their entire lives for wages and pensions comparably lower than those of other aluminum workers. They did it believing they made those sacrifices in exchange for good, lifelong health coverage. Over the past two years, however, Century evicted them, about 540 retirees altogether, from the insurance plan.

The betrayal burns. Executives at Century, corporate 1 percenters, committed the same sort of treachery that is being condemned by Occupy Wall Street demonstrators representing the victimized 99 percent across the country. Thus the retirees adopted the grandchildren’s protest tactic of encampment.

Century shuttered the 50-year-old Ravenswood smelter in February of 2009, throwing 651 workers out of jobs. Century, headquartered in Monterey, Calif., didn’t go bankrupt though. It still operates aluminum plants in Kentucky, South Carolina and Iceland. And it didn’t immediately cancel promised insurance for retirees.

Nine months after the shutdown, it announced it would terminate as of June 1, 2010 health benefits for retirees eligible for Medicare. Then on Nov. 1, 2010, Century told its retirees who weren’t yet eligible for Medicare that it would stop paying for their coverage as of Jan. 1, 2011.

This revoking of earned benefits isn’t an isolated incident or a fluke. It is part of a pattern documented by Wall Street Journal investigative reporter Ellen E. Schultz in her new book “Retirement Heist.” The subtitle is, “How companies plunder and profit from the nest eggs of American workers.

She describes in gory detail how corporations raided worker pension accounts, siphoning off surpluses that would be needed later to prop up plans damaged by the Wall Street collapse. She provides detailed accounts of executives gouging the funds to pay for their own exorbitant retirement packages. She tells of corporate executives ending retiree health insurance and freezing pensions but deceptively calling the changes improvements, so that CEOs could pump up company profits with money that had been pledged to workers.

While breaking promises to workers and violating contracts, these CEO 1 percenters falsely portrayed themselves as beleaguered champions of workers, valiantly attempting to preserve underfunded pensions. Like Costa Concordia Captain Francesco Schettino saving himself while abandoning passengers on his sinking cruise ship, the captains of industry padded their own pockets with pension and health care funds intended for retirees, then deserted the workers. Schultz describes the CEO scams this way in the book: Read the rest of this entry →

Emblematic of 1 Percenters, Cooper Tire Punk’d Workers

8:00 am in Uncategorized by Leo W. Gerard

Four years ago, Cooper Tire told its workers they’d have to sacrifice to save the company. With a straight face, Cooper executives said it was essential for the corporation’s survival that workers take tens of millions in pay and benefit cuts.

The workers understood the link between their livelihoods long term and Cooper’s success. Dedicated and loyal, they accepted the cutbacks. Soon afterward, city and state officials granted Cooper millions in subsidies.

Management didn’t share in the workers’ and taxpayers’ pain, though. The top dogs rewarded themselves with millions in pay increases and a shiny new corporate jet.

Cooper punk’d the workers and taxpayers.

This isn’t an aberration. It’s a pattern. Corporate executives, the 1 percenters, slash workers’ wages, then give themselves big bonuses. CEOs tell mayors and governors their businesses are in such dire shape that they may close or move offshore. Government officials dutifully shovel truckloads of taxpayer cash into CEO hands, then the CEOs grant themselves more perks. The television show Punk’d, in which actor Ashton Kutcher humiliates famous people, took a five-year hiatus. The 1 percenters gave workers and taxpayers no such break. Punking the 99 percent for profit has only escalated.

At Cooper, 1,050 members of the United Steelworkers union in Findlay, Ohio agreed in 2008 to give the company $30 million in concessions when executives cried destitute at the negotiation table. The next year, after witnessing the same sad song and dance, Ohio officials began transferring $2.5 million from taxpayer pockets to corporate coffers.

Between 2008 and 2011, though, Cooper awarded its executives two pay hikes and double bonuses. The year after Cooper told workers they had to suffer for the company, Cooper CEO Roy Armes got a 50 percent pay increase. The next year, in the middle of the recession, his bump was 19 percent, giving him a package worth $4.7 million in 2010.

Cooper 1 percenters also bought themselves a corporate jet and, for $17 million, a Serbian tire company. Since January of 2009, Cooper posted $360 million in income before taxes.

The workers who took the cutbacks and taxpayers who subsidized the company got punk’d. Read the rest of this entry →

Traditional Voting Fails; Alternative Works

6:13 am in Uncategorized by Leo W. Gerard

Voting doesn’t work anymore. If it did, Americans would get what they want — or at least some of it — from Washington.

But they don’t.

Instead of the people’s priority, which is jobs, country club conservatives in Congress stubbornly fixate on deficits. Instead of ensuring millionaires and corporations pay their fair share, House Republicans passed a budget that would destroy Medicare and Medicaid.

Corporate and clandestine campaign contributions have undermined the power of traditional voting, the kind done at polls on election day. Rather than voters, politicians now serve donors — billionaires and banksters — who invest untold millions and demand returns in the form of self-serving policy.

This is demoralizing to those who cherish democracy and the sanctity of one person, one vote.

Hope, however, arrived with the debit card fee victory. The 99 percent forced Bank of America to back off its proposed fee. Average Americans accomplished this by voting differently, not at the ballot box but at the twitter account, the Occupy march and the teller window, where 1 million depositors went to move $4.5 billion from the big Wall Street banks to community banks and credit unions. They found another way to exercise their franchise and force the powerful to respond.

The 99 percent must exploit the method of this triumph to get what they need. Because politicians sure as hell aren’t giving them what they want.

The numbers don’t lie. Coin-operated conservatives in Congress have rejected President Obama’s jobs plan, parts of the jobs plan and Obama’s pitch to raise taxes on the rich to pay for it.

And yet, the electorate strongly supports both surtaxing millionaires and the elements of the jobs plan. In a CNN poll in October, 75 percent favored sending federal money to the states to hire teachers and first responders and 72 percent favored infrastructure investments.

A whopping 76 percent wanted millionaires to pay higher taxes.

In that same CNN poll, there’s another compelling statistic. Sixty-one percent said reducing unemployment was the most important issue. Reducing the deficit didn’t even come close at 35 percent.

The numbers aren’t flukes. Another survey, taken a week later by CBS found the same thing.

At a time when companies are hoarding $2 trillion in reserves, failing to create jobs and demanding tax cuts, the CBS poll provided a snapshot of public opinion on corporate responsibility. It found 67 percent opposed shrinking big business tax obligations.

That is a result of the public knowing intuitively what a report released last week proved: corporations aren’t paying their fair share. Citizens for Tax Justice conducted a comprehensive study that showed 280 of the nation’s largest publically-traded corporations paid only 18.5 percent of their profits in taxes over the past three years. That is little more than half the official rate of 35 percent, and it is lower than the rate paid by their competitors in other industrialized nations.

Thirty of the companies paid nothing. For three years.

Numerous polls over time found Americans, including Tea Partiers by a two-to-one margin, strongly oppose cutting Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare benefits. Yet, what is the Congressional super-committee talking about? Cutting Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare.

If only the public could get their elected representatives to listen. If only they could walk into those plush Congressional offices — the way corporate lobbyists do — grab those lawmakers and get them to understand the sentiment of all those polls, the feeling of the vast majority of the electorate: Tax the rich; don’t cut the social safety net; create jobs now; worry about the deficit when the economy improves.

Traditional balloting has failed to get country club conservatives to listen to the public. To the majority. To the people who a democratically-elected government is supposed to serve.

The Bank of America debit card fee reversal suggests, however, that the majority can win with non-traditional balloting. In this case, a big bank that had been bailed out by the public after it engaged in excessively-risky betting, a bank that gave its CEO a $9 million bonus after he lost billions, announced that it had “the right to make a profit” off the backs of poor people by charging them a new $5-a-month fee to use their own money with their debit cards.

Other Wall Street banks indicated they would do the same.

Fed up, depositors said they wouldn’t take it anymore. They began transferring their money out of the Wall Street banks, participating in the “Move Your Money” campaign that urged citizens to deposit their savings in community banks and credit unions. YouTube began featuring outrageous videos of Wall Street bank branches denying depositors access to their accounts when they tried to withdraw their money to move it.

The effort was tweeted and blogged. It was cheered by Occupy Wall Street protesters who marched to bank headquarters buildings in New York City carrying thousands of letters of complaint.

Wall Street banks began backing off their new fee plans. One by one they abandoned Bank of America. Finally, it too cancelled the fee, meanwhile refusing to disclose just how much businesses it lost.

Last Saturday was the big, official “move your money” day. Of course, the Wall Street banks won’t tell how many more customers they lost. But depositors, more than 78,000 of whom pledged to make the move, made their point.

They voted differently. They voted with their feet and their wallets. And they won. They cast ballots in the only way coin-operated politicians and big banks respond to.

Sacrilege: Wall Street Worship

5:42 am in Uncategorized by Leo W. Gerard

The Wall Street Bull (Photo: herval, flickr)

The Wall Street Bull (Photo: herval, flickr)

Americans have been worshiping a bull. Too many citizens, and particularly politicians, prostrate themselves to Wall Street’s bronze idol.

They revere financial titans who pay themselves and their minions millions to manipulate money and gamble recklessly. Politicians gave tribute to the financiers with tax breaks and bailouts when the bankers’ bad bets threatened to bankrupt their institutions.

This false idolatry produced a nation gripped by massive unemployment, a nation in which destructive income inequality has risen beyond robber baron levels, a nation where greed has been perverted from sin to good, a nation where politicians genuflect to money changers, not majority citizens.

Salvation for the majority is not more failed trickle-down economics or more deregulation so that Wall Street can resume committing unfettered wagering. Redemption is political and economic systems devoted to serving the common good, not the affluent few.

These concepts — that governments should protect majorities and that the international financial collapse is an opportunity to transform the system into one supporting a more fraternal and just human family — are contained in a report released last week by the Pope’s Council for Justice and Peace. It says: Read the rest of this entry →

Years of Discontent Trigger American Autumn

8:28 am in Uncategorized by Leo W. Gerard

To convey the significance of the Occupy Wall Street movement, NBC News anchor Brian Williams this week quoted the 1960s Buffalo Springfield song, For What It’s Worth:

“There is something happening here. What it is ain’t exactly clear.”

Maybe it’s unclear what the Occupy Wall Street movement ultimately will accomplish. But what’s happening – for the past three weeks in New York and now in hundreds of towns across North America – is a roiling, inspirational, grassroots expression of anger, disgust and revolution.

And, frankly, given what’s been going on in the United States since the bank bailout, it’s amazing that this uprising didn’t precede the Arab Spring. The powers-that-be, from the rich and influential to their coin-operated politicians and corporate-owned media, have mocked and belittled and ignored the protesters, the 99 percenters as they call themselves – everyone but the richest one percent. No matter what the critics say, these young people, with righteous outrage and new age communication, have launched the American Autumn.

This revolt could have started in the spring of 2009, immediately after the Bush administration pushed through Congress the Troubled Asset Relieve Program (TARP), the $700 billion in taxpayer money spent to prop up banks that had gambled and lost untold trillions. A Bloomberg News investigation later would show that the United States lent, spent or guaranteed as much as $12.8 trillion to save the banks. Despite that help, the Wall Street recklessness ruined the American economy, throwing tens of millions out of jobs and homes.

Poverty and hunger skyrocketed in the richest country in the world. As tax revenue fell, states, towns and school districts slashed essential public services and laid off teachers, librarians, firefighters and police officers.

Maybe it just took this long for the middle class to grasp all the horrible effects of the Wall Street gambling and to realize that a government held hostage by country club conservatives bent on cutting public services just made matters worse. Maybe young people looked at unrestrained war spending, Pell Grant slashing and voter disenfranchising and decided they were fed up and not going to take foreclosure of their futures anymore.

Whatever the spark, the American Autumn began three weeks ago in New York City’s Zuccotti Park, formerly Liberty Square. Late in September, some of the one percenters sipped Champaign on an upscale restaurant balcony as they looked down on the protesters in the streets below. This week, as protests spread, wealthy risk-takers at the Chicago Board of Trade put signs in the windows of their ritzy offices bragging, “We are the 1 percent.” They don’t get it.

Nor does Bank of America. Here’s a bank bailed out by taxpayers that just announced it would begin imposing a new fee – $5 a month, $60 a year – on debit card users. This bank also just announced that it would worsen the recession caused by bankster recklessness by laying off 30,000 workers.

This is a bank that engaged in the habitual, anti-capitalistic Wall Street practice of rewarding poor executive performance by giving its CEO Brian T. Moynihan a $9 million bonus immediately after the institution he runs lost $2.2 billion in 2010. Moynihan responded to criticism of the $5 fee by saying customers – and ultimately taxpayers — must line his pockets and that of shareholders, regardless of how badly he runs the bank or how stupidly he gambles with its money. That’s because, he asserted, the bank has a “right to make a profit.” No matter what.

The media and country club conservatives belittled the protesters. Here’s what Herman Cain, a Tea Partier seeking the GOP nomination for president, said:

“Don’t blame Wall Street, don’t blame the big banks if you don’t have a job or you’re not rich. Blame yourself!”

He continued:

“It’s not a person’s fault because they succeeded. It’s a person’s fault if they failed. And so this is why I don’t understand these demonstrations and what it is that they’re looking for.”

He called the protesters “anti-capitalist,” although it was the banks that sought a socialist bailout from the government when they got themselves in trouble.

Cain didn’t blame banksters for unemployment, even though it was Wall Street gambling that took down the economy. He blames the teachers and police officers thrown out of work by local governments that are cash-strapped as a result of the recession — caused by Wall Street recklessness.

Cain and the media keep saying they don’t understand what the protesters want. They just don’t get it.

A specific list of demands is unnecessary. What the 99 percenters want is obvious. They want the American dream restored. Good public education for everyone. Equity in opportunity. Shared sacrifice so that the rich pay a tax rate at least equal to that charged the middle class. An end to poverty and unemployment in the richest country in the world.

In the Buffalo Springfield song, For What It’s Worth, lyrics talk of 1960s youths criticized for their protests:

“Young people speaking their minds
Getting so much resistance from behind.”

This time protesters will get backing. The members of my union, the United Steelworkers, get it. Members of the unions of the AFL-CIO and Change to Win federations get it.

We’re here to support the young people of the American Autumn.

Buy American Jobs

8:00 am in Uncategorized by Leo W. Gerard

Efforts by those who never want to hear someone say, “Bye-bye American manufacturing,” converged coincidentally to make June Buy American month.

First, at the forceful urging of U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, the Smithsonian on June 8 opened an all-American-made gift shop in the National Museum of American History. Three days later, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio introduced legislation requiring federal agencies to buy only 100 percent American-made flags.

Then, at the Netroots Nation 2011 conference in Minneapolis, Minn. this week, the AFL-CIO will serve American union-made beer, including Schell’s, brewed in Minnesota by members of my union, the United Steelworkers (USW). The Alliance for American Manufacturing will host at Netroots an American-made fashion show at which it will serve USW-member made Kellogg’s Nutri-Grain bars. And the BlueGreen Alliance is distributing to Netroots attendees mercury-free, USW-made, energy-efficient, non-curly cue Oshram Sylvania halogen light bulbs.

All these events occurring before mid-June are significant in an era of stubborn 9.1 percent unemployment, a time when 14 million unemployed Americans are searching for jobs. It’s significant because buying American-made products is buying American jobs. And buying American union-made products is buying good, middle class American jobs.

Eight million American manufacturing workers have lost their jobs over the past 30 years as multi-national corporations off-shored factories. But America still manufactures and the prices of American-manufactured goods, including those made by union workers, are competitive with foreign-made products.

Choosing an American-made product, or North American-made to include my home country of Canada where hundreds of thousands of USW members live and work, means supporting North American workers and the North American work ethic. It means buying products manufactured by willing adults in reasonable conditions, not by children laboring Dickensian hours in dangerous factories. It means reasonable assurance that the manufacturer abided by environmental laws prohibiting the poisoning of the air, ground and water by toxic substances like mercury and lead.

The Smithsonian experience provides the perfect example of how buying American-made products purchases American jobs.

Late last year, Sen. Sanders went to the history museum shop to buy Christmas gifts and discovered the presidential busts there were made in China. He was incensed that an American taxpayer-supported history museum was selling American history memorabilia not made in America. He complained.

While the Smithsonian reviewed the situation, CBS news determined exactly how policies like the museum’s injure the American economy. CBS reporters found a Connecticut woman who had to lay off three workers when the museum stopped selling her hand-crafted, American-made jewelry and replaced them with foreign-made substitutes. Before the change, Merrie Buchsbaum’s “Americana Collection” was among the museum shop’s best sellers. Apparently tourists did not find the prices for her America-made souvenirs to be excessive.

When the museum cut her off, Buchsbaum’s sales declined 20 percent, forcing her to furlough her entire staff. Three jobs is the difference between buying American and buying foreign for just one small supplier of one small gift shop.

The Smithsonian changed its policy, converting the gift shop to an all-American operation with 300 American-made souvenirs. Now it’s called the American History Price of Freedom gift shop.

That price of freedom, the Smithsonian said, is higher in some cases when the souvenir is American-made. For example, the custom, hand-crafted American-made mugs it now sells cost $20 instead of the average $12 price for a foreign-made mug in other museum shops. But U.S. Rep. Nick Rahall of West Virginia, who is preparing legislation tying the sale of American-made souvenirs to future federal funding for the museums, believes Americans will pay a buck or two more “to have their lapel American flag pin say ‘Made in the U.S.A.’”

American products don’t always cost more, however, even when they’re union-made. ABC news investigative reporters discovered that when they removed foreign-made goods from a Dallas family’s home earlier this year and replaced them with American-made products.

In addition, included in the price of North American-made products is the cost of protecting the environment and treating workers with dignity. It’s the price of morality. The United States and Canada, for example, forbid child labor and institutionalized the 40-hour work week. Both countries enforce environmental protection laws forbidding the devastating pollution countenanced by China and some third-world nations.

For example, the New York Times this week revealed that millions of Chinese children suffer from brain and nerve-damaging lead poisoning from unregulated, polluting factories, many of which produce batteries or smelt metal. The Times reported that the Chinese government in some cases conspired with the polluting companies to cover up the problem, denied testing to nearby sick residents and withheld tests results.

The lead poisoning raises the question of what China is doing about even-more-dangerous mercury, which is used by Chinese companies to make those twisty, energy-efficient light bulbs.

In America, Steelworkers are fabricating energy-efficient Sylvania halogen bulbs that look exactly like traditional light bulbs and contain absolutely no mercury. That’s American innovation, American compliance with moral environmental rules and American union labor creating a superior product.

Who knew, though? All anyone hears anymore is that American manufacturing is dead. American doesn’t make anything anymore. That is just not true. Here are some USW-made, terrific North American products:

Jacobson hats
Cutco Cutlery
Kellogg’s Pop-Tarts
Wendell August Forge pewter gifts
Breyers Ice Cream
Cascades paper towels and tissue
Viva and Bounty paper towels
Depend undergarments and Poise pads
Charmin and Angel Soft bath tissue
Puffs facial tissue
Georgia-Pacific Dixie Cups and plates
Cenveo envelopes
Leader Paper Products envelopes and business cards
All-Clad metal cookware
Regal Ware cookware
Speed Queen washers and dryers
Alberto Culver hair care products
Carrier home heating systems
Enderes forged hand tools
Channellock tools
Ideal Roofing steel shingles
Blanco Canada kitchen sinks
Nestle Purina cat litter
Distinctive Design furniture
Barrymore furniture
Star Bedding, Sealy, Spring Air, Springwall, King Koil and Simmons mattresses
Anchor Hocking glass tableware
General Storage containers
World Kitchen Pyrex glassware
A.O. Smith residential water tanks
Gentek Building Products including windows, doors and vinyl siding
American Standard bathroom fixtures
Reynolds Wrap aluminum foil
Fabri-Kal plastic ware
Speakman shower heads
3M O-cell-O sponges
Crown Metal Packaging for food and beverages
Federal White Cement
Shade-O-Matic and Eclipse venetian blinds, shutters and window covers
Valspar pigment for Valspar paints
Lavelle Industries rubber and plastic plumbing components
Harley-Davidson motorcycle parts and accessories
PFERD Milwaukee Brush metal brushes
Alto-Shaam, Inc. ovens and warmers
Shur-Line paint rollers
Goodyear, Bridgestone/Firestone, BFGoodrich, Titan and Yokohama tires.

The tires require caution. Many of those companies have foreign factories that export tires to North America. So the buyer must look for these codes to get American made tires: BE and BF for BFGoodrich, YE, 4D and E3 for Bridgestone/Firestone, UP and UT for Cooper, MD, MJ, MC, and MK for Goodyear and CC for Yokohama. These letters follow the letters DOT on each tire’s code.

In the case of the other products listed, some also operate foreign factories, so it’s always good to look for the Made in America label.

Buy American. Buy American jobs.

Buy American Jobs

5:34 am in Uncategorized by Leo W. Gerard

Buy American

Buy American by sabeth718

Efforts by those who never want to hear someone say, “Bye-bye American manufacturing,” converged coincidentally to make June Buy American month.

First, at the forceful urging of U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, the Smithsonian on June 8 opened an all-American-made gift shop in the National Museum of American History. Three days later, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio introduced legislation requiring federal agencies to buy only 100 percent American-made flags.

Then, at the Netroots Nation 2011 conference in Minneapolis, Minn. this week, the AFL-CIO will serve American union-made beer, including Schell’s, brewed in Minnesota by members of my union, the United Steelworkers (USW). The Alliance for American Manufacturing will host at Netroots an American-made fashion show at which it will serve USW-member made Kellogg’s Nutri-Grain bars. And the BlueGreen Alliance is distributing to Netroots attendees mercury-free, USW-made, energy-efficient, non-curly cue Oshram Sylvania halogen light bulbs.

All these events occurring before mid-June are significant in an era of stubborn 9.1 percent unemployment, a time when 14 million unemployed Americans are searching for jobs. It’s significant because buying American-made products is buying American jobs. And buying American union-made products is buying good, middle class American jobs.

Eight million American manufacturing workers have lost their jobs over the past 30 years as multi-national corporations off-shored factories. But America still manufactures and the prices of American-manufactured goods, including those made by union workers, are competitive with foreign-made products.
Read the rest of this entry →

Fix The Hazards; Don’t Blame The Workers

5:48 am in Uncategorized by Leo W. Gerard

signage

signage by orphanjones, on Flickr

The Clearwater Paper Corp. in Lewistown, Idaho chose the king cobra to symbolize its workplace safety program. A cobra. One of the deadliest snakes on the planet.

Every day on his way to and from work at Clearwater, John Bergen III drove past a billboard in the company parking lot sporting a picture of a king cobra and the explanation that it represented the company’s behavior-based safety program – Changing Our Behavior Reduces Accidents – COBRA.

Bergen, a devoted father, a gifted artist and a conscientious worker who urged everyone to observe safety rules, died last summer after inadvertently stepping through a gaping opening in the floor of the Clearwater Paper mill.

Behavior-based workplace safety programs like COBRA are attempts by corporations to shirk responsibility to eliminate hazards by blaming workers instead. When workers die, behavior-based programs disrespect the deceased by blaming them for their own deaths. These safety programs say to Bergen’s young son, “Your daddy’s dead because he wasn’t careful enough.”

These programs are cruel. They don’t work. And they must stop. This Workers Memorial Day, a day on which we honor those killed in the workplace and recommit ourselves to ending the slaughter, workers and their families across America demand an end to “blame the worker” safety programs.
Read the rest of this entry →