CHICAGO–(ENEWSPF)–March 15, 2011. Moves to restrict the collective bargaining rights of Wisconsin’s public-sector employees are “an attack on all working people,” according to Leo Gerard, president of the United Steelworkers union.
Gerard accused Republican state senators in Wisconsin of violating the state’s open meeting law by voting, without a quorum, to strip state employees of collective bargaining rights. “This is not democracy,” he said in a statement.
The Wisconsin vote came three weeks after Democratic state senators opposing the initiative fled the state so there would not be a quorum to allow the vote, which they were virtually certain to lose.
“As illustrated by the surging crowd of protesters who filled the Capitol Building in Wisconsin after the undemocratic sneak-vote, workers everywhere, whether public sector or private sector, union or unrepresented, will unite to win back their rights with their feet at protests and their votes at ballot boxes,” Gerard said.
The Wisconsin decision is far from isolated, he said. “This is a nationwide campaign by billionaires and country-club conservatives to terminate workers’ rights, giving unfettered power to corporations.”
Speaking in place of Gerard at the SBB Steel Markets North America conference in Chicago, USW Vice President Tom Conway said that a century of manufacturing growth produced a middle class in the United States, which has lost (66,000) factories and 6 million manufacturing jobs in the past decade. A poll conducted last fall showed that 89 percent of Americans understand that a dwindling manufacturing base is not good for the U.S. economy, he said.
Manufacturing as a portion of the economy has fallen below 10 percent and should return to at least 20 percent if it is to be an effective economic engine, creating innovation through research and development as well as a new spate of good-paying jobs that would help restore the middle class, Conway said.
“We let financial services become 40 percent of GDP (gross domestic product), and look what happened,” he said, citing the meltdown of Wall Street and the attendant taxpayer bailout of banks that were “too big to fail.”
“We are the only advanced nation that doesn’t have a plan (for its economy). Free-trade agreements aren’t going to get you very far if you don’t make enough things to double your exports,” Conway said, referring to the Obama administration’s stated goal to double exports of U.S.-made goods by 2010.
The union supports “Buy America” bonds, a national infrastructure bank and an energy plan that includes renewable energy, with the twin goals of spurring the economy and creating manufacturing employment, Conway said. The USW also supports certain tax-incentive proposals that businesses want, including expansion of the 100-percent up-front expensing of equipment purchases to become permanent and the broader use of energy tax credits for companies employing green technologies and practices.