Economic Report: February Housing Starts Jump 22 Percent – 03/18/09
The construction industry received some good news on Tuesday as numbers for construction starts were released. The numbers showed housing starts increasing in February by 22 percent, that number was bolstered by an 82 percent increase in apartment building construction and is the largest single month gain in 19 years. Also receiving a solid boost was the permitting for the construction of single family homes. That number had a significant increase of 11 percent.
New Gallup Poll: 53 Percent Support Employee Free Choice Act – 03/18/09
By Doug Cunningham
A new Gallup poll released Tuesday shows 53 percent of Americans support the Employee Free Choice Act labor law reform. It makes union organizing easier by letting workers choose to unionize whenever a majority sign government certified union cards. Current law allows employers to force an election, allowing employers to intimidate workers with an anti-union campaign that often includes illegal threats and firing of pro-union workers in the weeks or months it takes for the election to happen.
Hundreds Turn Out To Support Single Payer Healthcare At “Stacked Deck” Forum – 03/18/09
By Doug Cunningham
Hundreds of people turned out in favor of single payer national health care at the Vermont regional healthcare reform forum Tuesday. Traven Leyshon is on the Executive Board of the Vermont AFL-CIO. He says these forums are packed with insurance and business reps.
[Leyshon]: “Well, it was clearly a stacked deck. We had several hundred single payer supporters there and we had people saying that the administration must act on the principle that healthcare is a human right. not a commodity. That was clearly the overwhelming sentiment. But entrance into this was by invitation only. And it was stacked in favor of big corporations, the insurance companies and the Chamber of Commerce.”
Hundreds Turn Out To Support Single Payer Healthcare At Stacked Deck Forum – 03/18/09
pBy Doug Cunningham/p
pHundreds of people turned out in favor of single payer national health care at the Vermont regional healthcare reform forum Tuesday. Traven Leyshon is on the Executive Board of the Vermont AFL-CIO. He says these forums are packed with insurance and business reps./p
p[Leyshon]: “Well, it was clearly a stacked deck. We had several hundred single payer supporters there and we had people saying that the administration must act on the principle that healthcare is a human right. not a commodity. That was clearly the overwhelming sentiment. But entrance into this was by invitation only. And it was stacked in favor of big corporations, the insurance companies and the Chamber of Commerce./p
Is A Third U.S. Economic Stimulus Needed? – 03/18/09
By Doug Cunningham
To counter spiraling unemployment and continuing turmoil in housing and stock markets, a third round of economic stimulus is needed. That’s according to economist Dean Baker at the Center for Economic and Policy Research. Baker also says the value of the dollar should be allowed to fall to address the trade imbalance. Baker says the first two economic boosts were not enough to counter the worst economy since the Great Depression.
Recent Mass Layoffs Are Revised Upward – 03/18/09
On the heels of two of the worst months for layoffs in years some company are now queuing up for round two. Jesse Russell reports:
January and February saw some of the largest mass layoffs in years. Now many of the company’s that made cuts over the last few months are adjusting those numbers upwards. Caterpillar announced on Tuesday it would be cutting an additional 2,500 U.S. jobs from the roster and close a plant in Georgia. In January the construction equipment company announced it would be cutting 22,100 jobs and the company has offered buyout options to more than 25,000 employees. On top of the closure of the Georgia plant the company will be reducing work forces at a second Georgia plant, two Illinois plants, and an Indiana plant.
OSHA Moves to Protect Workers from ‘Popcorn Lung’
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), reversing years of foot dragging while the agency was controlled by the Bush administration, is moving quickly to protect workers from a serious lung disease caused by diacetyl, the artificial butter flavoring added to popcorn and other food products.
OSHA announced yesterday that it was fast-tracking a standard to protect workers from exposure to diacetyl by withdrawing a last-minute Bush-issued procedure known as an advance notice of proposed rule making. That notice, say safety experts, could have added two years to the standard-setting process.
In recent years, hundreds of workers in plants where diacetyl is produced or applied to food have developed the rare and sometimes fatal disease, bronchiolitis obliterans, also known as “popcorn lung.”
Just days ago, a federal jury awarded $7.5 million to a man from Sioux City, Iowa, who had developed popcorn lung from his work as a butter flavor “mixer” in the 1990s. But Ronald Kuiper, 69, died of lung and heart failure the day before the March 12 verdict. At the time of his death, less than 30 percent of his breathing capacity remained, according to the Des Moines Register.
With the Bush notice withdrawn, the safety agency is moving a step further along in the rule-making process. Says Labor Secretary Hilda Solis:
I am alarmed that workers exposed to food flavorings containing diacetyl may continue to be at risk of developing a potentially fatal lung disease. Exposure to this harmful chemical already has been linked to the deaths of three workers. These deaths are preventable, and it is imperative that the Labor Department move quickly to address exposure to food flavorings containing diacetyl and eliminate unnecessary steps without affecting the public’s ability to comment on the rule-making process
Celeste Monforton, a former OSHA policy analyst who now teaches at George Washington University’s School of Public Health and Health Services, told BNA’s Daily Labor Report (subscription required) the Bush-issued advance notice was unnecessary because OSHA has gathered an abundance of scientific data on the risks of diacetyl over the years and that the procedure was likely to delay final action for as long as two years.
The Bush administration’s OSHA refused in September 2007 to issue an emergency standard setting diacetyl exposure limits for workers. The next day the U.S. House of Representatives voted to require OSHA to issue the emergency standard, but the bill never won final passage in the Senate. The Bush administration issued the rule-making notice on its last day in office.
On the Hill, Fire Fighters Push for Bargaining Bill
Vice President Joe Biden, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and other congressional leaders told more than 1,000 members of the Fire Fighters (IAFF) yesterday that legislation protecting the freedom of firefighters in all states to join unions and bargain for a better life will be approved and signed into law.
Today, IAFF members are on Capitol Hill shoring up support for that bill and other vital working family legislation as part of the union’s 2009 Legislative Conference in Washington, D.C.
In his opening remarks, IAFF President Harold Schaitberger said that it has been 74 years since the National Labor Relations Act—which covers private-sector workers, but not firefighters and other first responders and public employees—became law.
We’re not going to allow our members to wait any longer. We’ve waited long enough. It’s time for passage of our collective bargaining bill. It’s been 74 years that we’ve been waiting on the outside looking in for that federally guaranteed right.
More than 20 states do not fully protect the bargaining rights of firefighters and other first responders. Two states—Virginia and North Carolina—prohibit public safety employees from collectively bargaining. Said Biden:
The Public Safety Cooperation Act, blocked by the last administration, will pass this time and the president will sign it. He will sign it with pride.
The bill would protect the collective bargaining rights of tens of thousands of firefighters, police officers, emergency medical technicians and other public safety officers. Last year, the bill passed the House, but Republican senators were able to block Senate consideration. The legislation guarantees first responders:
The right to join a union.
The right to have their union recognized by their employer.
The right to bargain collectively over hours, wages and terms and conditions of employment.
A fact-finding, mediation or arbitration process for resolving an impasse in negotiations.
Enforcement of these rights, and of written contracts, through state courts.
Schaitberger also stressed that the IAFF will bring its strength and influence to bear in the fight for the Employee Free Choice Act to restore the freedom of workers to join unions and bargain for a better life.
Turning to the economy, Schaitberger said the economic crisis is forcing cities and states to drastically cut budgets, threatening public safety.
The results are in small towns like Greenfield, Ohio, and in the largest cities like New York City, our members are faced with furloughs, layoffs, brownouts, shutting down companies and closing stations. Without an enormous influx of resources, the budgets that provide the very foundation for our nation’s public safety would likely be raided.
Now is not the time to allow the frontline of our nation’s homeland defense to be weakened.
Biden said the Obama administration is committed to getting firefighters the equipment, training and additional staffing they need to do their jobs.
We’ve already increased funding for stations, equipment, better training, more protective clothing….We’re committed to increasing funding for SAFER, which will go directly to fire departments so they can hire more trained firefighters to work by your sides—and this is important—retain the firefighters who are in danger, of being laid off.
Click here to read Biden’s full remarks and here to watch Schaitberger’s and Pelosi’s remarks, as well as those of Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Homeland Security Department Secretary Janet Napolitano, who also spoke to the delegates.
AIG, CNBC: Poster Demons for a Bigger Problem
It took awhile, but now the public is angry—reeaaalllly angry—over the economic wreckage Wall Street has wrought on our nation. Much of the outrage is directed toward AIG, the insurance giant that’s giving billions in taxpayer money in the form of bonuses to the same egregiously overpaid wretches who brought the company to its knees. New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo just revealed that AIG paid 73 employees bonuses of $1 million or more; 11 of whom are no longer there.
But the “messenger” also is getting its comeuppance, with questions now raised about why CNBC acted as cheerleader for major financial wizards even as they were summoning chaos in our financial markets.
At FixCNBC.com, you can sign an open letter to CNBC asking the financial news station to
publicly declare that its new overriding mission will be responsible journalism that holds Wall Street accountable. As a down payment, we ask you to hire some new economic voices—people who have a track record of being right about the economic crisis and holding Wall Street executives’ feet to the fire.
The problem, of course, is bigger than AIG and CNBC. Both have exhibited abhorrent behavior, but both are only poster demons: AIG is a stand-in for the many large corporations that elevate greed above public good—and continue to do so—and CNBC representative of journalists who years ago became too star-struck with the elite and its lifestyle to hold truth to power.
National reporters attend the same dinner parties as the political and financial rulers, their kids go to the same ritzy private schools and they go home each night to the same posh neighborhoods. The rise of the business and political reporter elite has accompanied the dwindling numbers of reporters assigned to a labor “beat” (there are fewer than five in the country now) and coverage of such nontrendy issues as low-wage workers and the impoverished.
Channeling anger at a few well-chosen targets is good. Fixing the nation’s political and economic structural bias, now weighed heavily in favor of the rich at the expanse of everyone else, is a lot better.