LEAP delegates gather in nation’s capital

Krystal Ball, MSNBC co-anchor and political writer

Boilermakers listen, learn, lobby

DELEGATES REPRESENTING lodges from across the nation traveled to Washington, D.C., in early May to take part in the 45th annual conference of the Boilermakers’ Legislative Education Action Program (LEAP). The event was held at the Hyatt Regency near Capitol Hill. Participants heard from speakers about developments impacting jobs, the economy, and the future of organized labor, among other topics.

Delegates also received briefings about legislative issues that are of particular importance to Boilermaker families, and they presented those issues to members of Congress and their aides.

MSNBC co-host urges unions to tell their stories

KRYSTAL BALL, THE keynote speaker, addressed the conference about rising income inequality and steps organized labor can take to defeat anti-union forces. Ball is a co-host of the MSNBC The Cycle program, a political writer, and a Labor Movement supporter.

She blasted the nation-wide attacks against labor unions by wealthy right-wing individuals like the Koch brothers and groups like the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). ALEC is a corporate-funded group that promotes “model” legislation used to rewrite state laws that undermine organized labor.

Ball said that while labor has lost membership over the decades, our numbers are still substantial. The key to reinvigorating labor, she added, is to ensure that the public understands the good that labor does for all workers. Labor, she said, can be the driving force to rebuild the middle class.

Ball stressed that labor needs to do a better job of connecting with the public and should be more active in pitching stories to the media. She cited the April 2013 collapse of a non-union garment factory in Bangladesh that killed over 1,000 employees as an example of how exploited workers sometimes pay with their lives when employers are motivated solely by greed. Had those employees had union representation, she observed, it is likely that safety standards would have been in place and the tragedy could have been avoided.

She said she is eager to give labor leaders a platform to express their views on national media about such world events and the importance of unions.

Global Trade Watch director warns of backroom dealing

BACKROOM DEALING BY multinational corporations threatens to create yet another international trade agreement that will harm the U.S. economy, cost Americans their jobs, and risk undermining U.S. laws and autonomy, said Lori Wallach, Director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch.

Wallach’s group acts as a watchdog on trade issues and is critical of the latest deal — the Trans-Pacific Partnership. The TPP is being negotiated behind closed doors, she said, with little information available to Congress, unions, or the American public. Currently involved in the negotiations are the United States, Canada, Mexico, Chile, Peru, Vietnam, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia, Singapore, and Brunei Darussalam.

Wallach said TPP would open the door to further corporate globalization that would infringe on the fundamental mission of governments and the rights, laws, and liberties of their citizens.

Rep. Miller blasts system “rigged” by rich and powerful

THE GOP MAJORITY in the U.S. House of Representatives is so focused on destroying labor and dismantling the federal government that they “are not doing much of anything to help working people” and create jobs, Rep. George Miller (D-CA-11th) told LEAP delegates.

See Rep. Miller’s speech on YouTube at www.youtube.com/user/ibbstream.

“You can’t cut your way to a balanced budget,” he said. “You’ve got to grow the economy, you’ve got to put people to work.” Miller noted that it is the federal government that enables highways, ports, energy grids, and other large-scale projects to proceed.

He said unions “bring urgency to these issues, because you’re on the front line. Unfortunately, you’re on the front line because there is an effort . . . from the Republican side of the aisle and from the corporate world . . . to get rid of the American Labor Movement. They’re pushing a system that’s rigged. You’re the guardians to resist that.”

Miller said the rapid expansion of wealth among the top 1 percent while working wages and benefits stagnate “isn’t an accident.” He noted that the Wall Street bank scandal didn’t result in a single person going to jail, even though many Americans lost large chunks for their personal assets, especially the equity in their homes.

Other speakers, activities round out three days of meetings

DELEGATES HEARD FROM a number of other guest speakers during the conference, including Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-CA-38th), Legislator of the Year; Gene Trisko, an attorney who provides legal counsel to the United Mine Workers; Richard Feller, Associate Director, Political Affairs, AFSCME; Christine Silvia-DeGennaro, State Legislative Issues Coordinator, AFL-CIO; and Ed Smith, President and CEO of ULLICO.

The conference also took time to recognize International Vice Presidential Sections, lodges, and individuals for their contributions and support of the Boilermakers’ Campaign Assistance Fund (CAF) and the Legislative Education Fund (LEF).

See related story on Legislator of the Year Rep. Linda Sanchez.