It was a triple whammy of bad news for the U.S. economy on Tuesday. The most troubling, consumer confidence is way down – dropping 12 points since last month. Wholesale prices are up by one percent – double what economists had been projecting. And home prices continue to decline – dropping nine percent in the final quarter of 2007. Tied together Americans are left feeling poorer.
By Doug Cunningham
The UAW is on strike against American Axle and Manufacturing in Michigan and New York. Thirty-six hundred workers hit the picket lines Tuesday. The company is attacking wages and benefits, demanding a $14 an hour pay cut and elimination of future retiree health care. It also wants to wipe out defined benefit pensions for active workers. The UAW says such deep sacrifices can’t be expected from workers without offering something substantial in return.
By Doug Cunningham
The California Labor Federation and ACORN are backing a bill that would guarantee paid sick leave to all workers in the state. Jeremy Smith is a legislative advocate for the federation.
[Smith]: “This has already been passed in San Francisco, so we know that it can work, that it does work and that our studies have shown that this is supported by a great many people in California.”
About six million California workers – roughly 40 percent of the state’s workforce, have no paid sick days. Maine, Ohio and Washington, D.C. are also considering guaranteeing paid sick days.
Crandall Canyon mine owner Robert Murray has been subpoenaed to appear before a House committee, Jesse Russell reports:
Last year the world watched as the tragic events at Utah’s Crandall Canyon Mine unfolded. Six miners and three rescue workers perished during the incident and when the U.S. House Education and Labor Committee held hearings shortly thereafter to investigate, mine co-owner Robert Murray refused to voluntarily make an appearance. At the time Committee Chairman George Miller vowed that he would continue to pursue the investigation:
[Miller]: “Let me be very clear: this committee will not be deterred from getting all of the information we need to do our independent investigation. We will not tolerate obstruction or delay by either the Department or by the company in pursuit of that information and this investigation.”
Fed up with demands for cuts in pay and benefits, some 3,600 workers at American Axle & Manufacturing in Michigan and New York, members of the UAW, walked out today after the current contract expired.
Contract talks broke off with major issues unresolved. The Detroit-based company is demanding wage reductions of up to $14 an hour, as well as elimination of future retiree health care and defined-benefit pensions for active workers.
UAW President Ron Gettelfinger says:
The UAW has a proven record of working with companies to improve their competitive position and secure jobs. But cooperation does not mean capitulation. Our members cannot be expected to make the extreme sacrifices American Axle is asking for with nothing in return.
All workers have suffered in the seven years that President Bush has been in office. But black workers, even those in unions, have been hit hardest.
African American incomes are dropping at the same time fewer African Americans belong to unions. The percentage of African Americans who either are members of or represented by unions fell by half from 31.7 percent of all black workers in 1983 to 15.7 percent last year, according to a new report by the Center for Economic Policy and Research. Still, several studies have shown African Americans are more likely to join unions than other workers.
The report, The Decline in African-American Representation in Unions and Manufacturing, 1979–2007, shows much of the decline is due to the loss of manufacturing jobs. Between 1979 and 2006, the share of all African American workers who worked in manufacturing declined from 23.9 percent to 9.8 percent, a drop of nearly 60 percent. Manufacturing jobs, especially good-paying union jobs in the auto industry, played a big role in creating the black middle class.
Margaret Priebe, communications director at the Cincinnati AFL-CIO Labor Council, sends us this report.
As cold rain turned into blistering snow, a large group of union members from the Cincinnati AFL-CIO Labor Council and allies rallied outside a campaign event in Cincinnati for Sen. John McCain this morning with a critical question for the senator: Where’s the plan?
This group of some 50 working people rallied to bring attention to McCain’s “do-nothing” policy on foreclosures that are affecting thousands of working families in Ohio, a state with 153,196 home foreclosure filings in 2007—88 percent more than in 2006. The past two days in Ohio, McCain offered nothing but campaign platitudes and empty rhetoric to address the growing housing crisis. Meanwhile, greedy subprime lenders are forcing families out of their homes daily—more than 12,000 Cincinnati working families have had the American Dream stolen from them by greedy corporate subprime lenders in the last year alone. What’s John McCain’s response? Do nothing.
Today, three weeks after President Bush cut health care funding by 77 percent for Sept. 11 first responders, many of whom are developing serious and deadly illnesses because of their work at Ground Zero, some 200 9/11 workers rallied on Capitol Hill this morning, calling on Congress to restore the health care money.
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health estimates the cost of treating Ground Zero workers is about $218 million year and is expected to grow as the workers’ illnesses worsen and as more firefighters, police officers, emergency medical technicians and rescue and recovery workers develop Ground Zero-related diseases.
The Utility Workers union represents 70,000 active and retired workers in the gas, water, electrical and nuclear industries. It is the fourth AFL-CIO affiliated union to endorse Obama.
D. Michael Langford, the national president of the UWUA, said Obama’s policies on energy were what made him stand out in a strong field.
Sen. Obama understands our issues, supports our goals and will do what is right for utility workers, our families, our communities and our country. We join him in his fight for change in America that will put working people first.