By Doug Cunningham
Growth in both the U.S. manufacturing and service sectors has slowed. Combined with the housing sector disaster, these developments are raising recession fears. But another worry is stagflation. In trying to head off a recession with interest rate cuts, the Federal reserve could end up with both a stagnant economy and inflation. Former fed Chair Alan Greenspan this week in London said that inflation could get out of hand, even as the economy slows.
By Doug Cunningham
A Philadelphia judge is awarding current and former Wal-Mart workers in Pennsylvania $62 million more in damages because Wal-Mart didn’t pay them for off-the-clock work and missed rest breaks. The jury found Wal-Mart required workers to work without pay by directing them not to record all their hours on the companies computerized pay system.Last year a jury in the case awarded $78.5 million to Wal-Mart workers. The jury found that by cheating workers out of their paid breaks and forcing them to work off the clock, Wal-Mart saved more than $49 million.
By Doug Cunningham
The Bush National Labor Relations Board is attacking workers union rights again. This week in a partisan vote the NLRB allowed union recognition by a company to be negated if at least 30 percent of employees want to do that.
This ruling in the Dana Corp./UAW case is designed to blunt union success in getting employers to agree to majority sign-up – where a union is recognized when a majority fo the workers sign union cards certified by the NLRB. It reverses decades of precedent and continues Bush misuse of an agency originally set up to protect workers rights to collectively bargain and form unions.
Activists around the world are mobilizing for a three-day protest in support of the courageous struggle of the Burmese people for freedom. The protests begin today with bloggers. Tomorrow, students will show solidarity with the students in Burma, and on Saturday, freedom-loving people around the world will come together for a massive global day of action to free Burma.
Tens of thousands of Buddhist monks and ordinary citizens and workers are challenging Burma’s military dictatorship in the streets of Burmese cities like Rangoon and Mandalay in what is being called the Saffron Revolution. In response, the regime has launched a vicious attack on its own people. Some reports say thousands of people have been killed by the military following days of protest, and 200 monks have been murdered by the military who crushed their skulls against a brick wall (see video).
More propaganda from the Bush administration (yeah, what’s new?).
Still, the shamelessness of this latest out of the noise machine is stunning. In a letter to several members of Congress, U.S. Commerce Secretary Carlos M. Gutierrez challenges their assessment of Colombia’s paramilitary brutality against union leaders and workers. This sudden interest in workers’ lives in Colombia is part of Bush’s attempt to pass the U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement. According to today’s Daily Labor Report (subscription required):
In an Oct. 2 letter, Gutierrez said during his visit to Colombia last month, he and the members of Congress who accompanied him on the trip had found that the Colombian government is pursuing those who commit violence against trade unionists “comprehensively, aggressively, and successfully.”
We reported that working families and members of Congress have made it clear there will be no free trade agreement with Colombia until that country makes significant progress toward ending violence against trade unionists. Colombia also must honor internationally recognized human and workers’ rights and prosecute high-ranking officials who are connected with murderous paramilitary groups, they say.
Now comes a report that demonstrates just how little the government of President Alvaro Uribe is doing to bring to justice those committing the murders. An analysis by the U.S. Labor Education in the Americas Project (USLEAP) shows convictions in only three trade union murder cases in the first half of 2007. Of the 236 murders of union members that occurred between 2004 and 2006, the government has secured convictions in only five cases. Nearly 400 trade unionists have been murdered since Uribe’s inauguration in August 2002. To read the entire report, click here.
The analysis is based on information provided by the Colombian government.
Now that Bush has vetoed legislation renewing and strengthening the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), the 2008 presidential candidates have come forward to have their say on the bill.
The responses show the strikingly different visions of Republican and Democratic candidates on health care issues. Six Democratic candidates have spoken out strongly in favor of the bipartisan SCHIP legislation, which would ensure that the SCHIP program could cover an additional 4 million eligible children. In contrast, the leading Republican candidates support Bush’s veto.
The candidates supporting passage of the children’s health bill include Sens. Joe Biden (D-Del.), Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) and Barack Obama (D-Ill.), as well as former Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.) and Gov. Bill Richardson (D-N.M.).
According to the World Bank, workers “have the best protection” in the former Soviet republic of Georgia. But Georgia, just last year, did away with most of its worker-protection rules, removed many working conditions from collective bargaining and allowed any worker to be dismissed without valid reason. Further, unions can be banned altogether if officials believe they are stirring up “social conflict.”
So how does Georgia rate such a lofty position from the World Bank? The problem, according to Peter Bakvis, director of the Washington, D.C., office of the International Trade Union Confederation/Global Unions (ITUC), is that the World Bank
gives the best scores to countries that have the least amount of regulations, whether they be minimum wages; maximum hours of work; advance notice for mass lay-offs; severance pay; rules concerning priority in hiring or firing, including some types of affirmative action rules; and payroll taxes to finance workmen’s compensation, social security or health care.
Countries that have the least of these get the best score, no matter how workers are treated or what success the countries have or have not achieved in terms of employment creation.
By Doug Cunningham
An around the clock rescue operation has managed to bring most of the 3200 trapped South African gold miners back to the surface safely. Hundreds were still trapped Thursday, but the rescue efforts were ongoing and all were expected to be rescued. The miners were trapped when a water pipe collapsed a shaft. The operation to free the trapped miners is expected to conclude today. There were no deaths. The mine will be closed for a few weeks for repairs. Peter Bailey of the National Union of Mineworkers says the gold mining industry in general is very negligent on safety. The union says this should be a wake-up call for the industry.