By Jesse Russell
Even with a struggling housing market, jobs seem to be decently weathering the storm. A new report from the Labor Department says that jobless claims dropped to 330,000 last week. Retail sales also surged in the last month by 1.2 percent with half of the increase due to the jump of gasoline prices. It was the largest jump in sales since May, but because it is tied to surging gas prices it is not viewed as a sign of strength by economists.
By Jesse Russell
The Transport Workers Union is taking one more shot at organizing ramp workers at Continental Airlines. The union has made numerous attempts to organize the airlines 7900 baggage handlers over the last few years and all of the votes have been close. They lost by only 300 votes during their last go. Voting ends on January 9.
Blue Shield is under fire in California for allegedly violating laws that knocked more than 200 people off of medical coverage. Jesse Russell takes a look:
California’s Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner is seeking $12.6 million in fines against Blue Shield. He is accusing the insurance company of violating claims-handling laws 1,262 times. The result of those violations, according to Poizner, has been more than 200 individuals losing medical coverage. This is the first time in California history that the Department of Insurance has taken legal action over cancellation policies. Blue Shield issued a strongly worded statement on Wednesday saying the company is “outraged by the excessive penalties for nonsubstansive issues” and that the company is being fined for practices that have been “approved” for years by the department. Blue Shield of California Life and Health covers 167,000 individuals in the state.
By Doug Cunningham
Dr. John Logan of the London School of Economics says U.S. workers face far more obstacles to forming unions than workers in other developed nations. Eighty to ninety percent of workers in European countries like France and Sweden have unions.
[Logan]: “In all of these other counties employees do not experience this same sense of fear – they’re not terrorized by aggressively anti-union employers when they try to form unions and engage in collective bargaining. You get fifty percent support you get a union. You get a contract. It’s that straightforward.”
Dr. Logan says more than 50 percent of non-union U.S. workers say they want unions, but can’t get them. He calls that a “representation gap” and says that gap is bigger in the U.S. than anywhere else in the world.
The Bush administration is threatening to furlough 100,000 civilian employees of the Defense Department and another 100,000 contract workers if Congress does not rubber-stamp his request for nearly $200 billion in supplemental funds for operations in Afghanistan and Iraq.
President Bush claims that without the added $189.3 billion he is seeking in a no-strings-attached new war spending bill, the Defense Department would be forced to begin the furloughs in February in order to continue combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) says the Bush threats are “political theater” and are
…unnecessarily upsetting countless families throughout the region and across the country during the holiday season and is quite simply a political tactic by the administration to pressure Congress to continue writing blank checks for its failing Iraq policy.
Oregon’s race for the U.S. Senate is likely to be among the country’s most watched next year, and yesterday the Oregon AFL-CIO endorsed Democratic state Rep. Jeff Merkley, who is challenging incumbent Republican Sen. Gordon Smith.
Merkley is speaker of the Oregon House of Representatives. He helped lead the Democratic campaign that won control of the State House in 2006.
Oregon AFL-CIO President Tom Chamberlain says the Merkley endorsement was the result of a “stringent and democratic process” in Oregon. The vote was taken by the state federation’s Committee on Political Education (COPE) Board, which includes a representative of each affiliated union.
It rarely makes the headlines, but the National Labor Relations Board is constantly making critical decisions that affect workers’ lives, especially the freedom to join a union and bargain collectively.
In the past five years, the Republican-majority NLRB has systematically removed the rights of millions of workers to join unions and made it harder for others by shifting the balance of power heavily toward employers.
Now, workers and their allies have a new tool to expose the insufficiency of U.S. labor law and raise awareness of NLRB decisions. The workers’ advocacy group American Rights at Work has launched a new blog, “Eye on the NLRB,” which follows and analyzes recent board rulings.
There’s one thing millions of poor kids won’t be unwrapping this holiday season—health care from the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP). Yesterday, President Bush vetoed, for the second time, a bill to reauthorize the program and give some 10 million mostly low-income children health care coverage.
Bush vetoed the first bill in October, and an override attempt failed, even though the bill won big majorities and had significant bipartisan support in both the House and Senate. Congressional negotiators then crafted a second version to address objections by Bush and some Republican lawmakers.
More than 10,000 delegates and observers from around the world are gathered in Bali, Indonesia, for the 10-day U.N. Climate Change Conference. Of the 90 union delegates, more than 20 are from North America, including Roxanne D. Brown, assistant legislative director of the United Steelworkers (USW), who sends us this report. U.S. delegates have sent us a series of posts from Bali, here, here, here and here.
An unmistakable determination is in the air among the approximately 90 trade union delegates to the climate change conference in Bali, Indonesia. These unionists from countries as far away as Japan and as near as Canada and Mexico are ensuring that the voices of working men and women from around the world are being heard on climate change. The Bali meeting is the 13th conference of the parties to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).