More than 299,000 workers were laid off during the month of March, the most on record since 1995. Florida saw the largest increase in jobless claims last week clocking in at 9,303 new claims. Overall 640,000 initial claims for unemployment were filed nationwide last week up 27,000 since the week prior.
More than half of GM’s North American plants will be shuttered for major portions of the summer. Jesse Russell has the report:
On Thursday General Motors announced plans to shut down 13 out of 21 North American plants in an attempt to save on costs and reduce inventory. Plants will be idled for various times throughout the summer with nine of the plants being idled for three weeks in June. Two plants will be closed the longest including a Texas plant that will be shut down for nine weeks and an Indiana plant that will stop production for 11 weeks. The goal is to cut production by 190,000 vehicles to show the Obama administration the company has a commitment to shrinking stock. If all goes according to plan then only 525,000 GM vehicles will be available to stock the nation’s dealerships resulting in more room for 2010 models. The company has an estimated four months worth of unsold vehicles on the market.
AFSCME’s President Gerald McEntee Says Labor Can Still Overcome GOP Filibuster On Employee Free Choice Act – 04/24/09
By Doug Cunningham
AFSCME is launching a TV ad campaign it says spotlights Republicans as the “party of no” – road-blocking economic recovery, health care reform and the Employee Free Choice Act labor law reform. AFSCME President Gerald McEntee says when it comes to overcoming the “roadblock Republicans” on the Employee Free Choice Act labor can still break a Senate filibuster without compromising the labor law reform. McEntee says labor will ask President Obama to help.
[McEntee]: “We’re gonna ask him to help, we’re gonna ask Biden to help. And it’s too early for any kind of compromise. I mean, it is time that workers in America – without intimidation and without fear of their jobs or penalty – were able to pick a union if they so desire.”
The folks at the watchdog group Media Matters have been taking a close look at media attacks on President Obama and his policy proposals in the opening months of his administration, and they’ve found many examples of media fear-mongering, disinformation and just plain weirdness in the first 100 days.
One of the worst is this piece of rot from Rush Limbaugh, who attacks Obama for his support of the Employee Free Choice Act. Apparently, Limbaugh gets his information about how union formation works not from workers who’ve tried to form unions, but from fictional TV shows. He thinks that bus drivers like Theresa Gares, nurses like Kelly Beringer or casino dealers like Aneil Patel are lead-pipe-toting cartoon mobsters. Limbaugh will say anything to keep workers from having a voice on the job.
The team at Media Matters has picked a dozen of the most outlandish moments of unfair attacks and unhinged rhetoric, and they’re holding a contest to determine which is the “Worst Media Moment” of Obama’s first 100 days. Limbaugh’s attack on workers’ freedom to form unions is our choice for the worse.
Here’s what Media Matters has to say:
The first 100 days of the Obama administration are coming to a close, and there has certainly been no shortage of unhinged and outrageous media moments…
Now it’s your turn to weigh in. Watch the most outrageous media moments from the first 100 days, and vote for which you think is the worst.
With real policy changes under way that help real working families, the defenders of the malfunctioning status quo presume they can kill the legislation by shouting louder and amping up the rhetoric. Let’s talk back.
Vote here to vote for Limbaugh’s smear of hard-working U.S. workers as the Worst Media Moment of the first 100 days.
Mark is living and working with a potentially deadly condition—brain lesions—but he has not seen a doctor in five years. At his last doctor visit in 2004, he was told not to do any strenuous work, but that’s difficult when you make your living as an auto mechanic.
Mark described his situation in the 2009 Health Care for America Survey, sponsored by the AFL-CIO and our community affiliate Working America. He wanted to let others know how hard it is to afford health insurance under the current system.
I haven’t been able to afford the health insurance I should have due to having a ‘eat or insure’ situation. As an auto mechanic, there isn’t a day—sometimes a minute—goes by that I’m not worried I’m going to strain and have a serious problem. My productivity has been hampered, to say the least. I’ve lost jobs because I’m so cautious I can’t perform effectively. I don’t know if I’m truly at risk, but the warning I received when I last had coverage, naturally, remains with me.
You can share your health care experiences with us by taking the online survey here. If you participate in the survey, you have the option of telling your health care story in writing or in a video.
One of the most frequent concerns we’re seeing is that retirees who have paid into the insurance system for decades no longer can afford to use it. Take Marla who, along with her husband, is unable to afford medical bills, even though they both have insurance and have been paying premiums for more than 40 years.
We put off going [to the doctor] because the cost is prohibitive. My husband needs to see an orthopedist because his knees are painful. I had back surgery last year and have a chronic condition that requires expensive medication.
Marla says she was raised to pay her own way, but now it’s impossible to pay for her family’s health care.
I never dreamed I would be put to work at 57 years of age when I can hardly go. My husband is a Vietnam War-era veteran but can’t get into the VA [Veterans Affairs medical program]. He tried four years ago and was told our income was too high. Go figure! Just die!
We plan to share the results of the survey with national and state leaders and the media. Congress, the Obama administration and the media are hearing about health care reform from drug companies and insurance companies. We want to make sure they hear from working families as well.
Voices like Timothy’s, who says the time for reform is now.
More and more people lose their jobs every day. In our factory, some of our members have been in and out of work for over a year. No matter what insurance plan a member elects, there is no such word as cheap. We still have to pay all of our monthly bills in order to maintain our homes. I have not had to give up my insurance to be able to afford feeding my family or keep a roof over their heads, but some of the people I work with had to drop coverage or lose their homes. With a nation this great, no one should be without health care. We need reform now.
AT&T reported first quarter profits of $3.3 billion—yet the company is trying to cut quality jobs, wages and benefits with the more than 100,000 union workers who are behind the giant telecom’s success.
“We Are The Network,” a report released today by the Communications Workers of America (CWA), shows AT&T outperforming its competitors, and its stock is beating the Dow Jones average. Analysts are optimistic about the company’s future growth prospects, as it continues to introduce new technologies and bring together its customers’ voice, broadband, video and wireless services.
AT&T wants to shift more health care costs to employees—a move that will save only a fraction of 1 percent of operating costs and one that has a great cost to AT&T in terms of employee morale, according to the union. Such a move would lower workers’ standard of living at a time when the company posted a $3 billion profit, says CWA, which represents the workers.
According to the report:
Employees are looking to AT&T to set the right priorities so that working together, we can continue to build the digital economy that is so critical to the economic growth and future of our country.
On the eve of the company’s annual meeting set to begin tomorrow, thousands of CWA members will participate in an unprecedented demonstration of unity and support in the union’s largest-ever membership meeting. During the 30-minute online meeting, video streamed over the Internet at www.cwaunion.tv at 9 p.m. EDT, CWA members will get an update on negotiations, hear field reports on mobilization and learn what else can be done to support the bargaining team.
The workers are still on the job at AT&T across the nation, even though their contracts with the telecommunications giant expired earlier this month with many key issues not resolved.
The union says the contracts will not be extended. Workers are keeping open their option to strike. The AT&T workers recently voted overwhelmingly to authorize a strike if a fair contract isn’t reached.
Several CWA districts have filed unfair labor practices charges with the National Labor Relations Board, saying AT&T has refused to provide the information necessary to resolve many outstanding issues.
CWA Executive Vice President Annie Hill sums up the situation this way:
AT&T is very successful and profitable, even in these bad economic times. That makes it all the more difficult to understand why AT&T is demanding that workers take on even more health care costs than they already pay. This company takes care of executives and investors. It needs to set the right priorities and maintain quality jobs and quality benefits for workers.
Support for the Employee Free Choice Act is growing across a range of faith groups. The Rev. Gail McAfee, a North Carolina minister, is among religious leaders who say that the Employee Free Choice Act is important to workers, to communities and to the cause of a strong, fair economy. McAfee, one of many allies of workers in the religious community, joins with state AFL-CIO President James Andrews in The Fayetteville Observer to back the Employee Free Choice Act.
They explain clearly how the process of forming a union is broken today, and how the Employee Free Choice Act would level the playing field and give workers the chance they deserve to bargain for a better life.
Working people are hit harder than any other group by today’s economic hardships. With health-care costs rising, jobs disappearing and hard-earned pensions slipping away, the people are losing faith in that fabled vision—the American Dream.
That’s why passing comprehensive legislation that protects working-class people and their jobs is so important. The Employee Free Choice Act, a bill recently introduced in the U.S. Senate and House, makes it easier for workers to bargain for a better life.
McAfee and Andrews offer a useful corrective to the myths propagated by the opponents of Employee Free Choice. They explain clearly how our broken system fails to provide a level playing field and provide workers with the fairness and dignity they deserve.
While giving workers more rights may scare some business interests, it shouldn’t scare us. The whole community benefits when unions are stronger. It’s not a coincidence that, as union membership has declined, we’ve seen a shrinking middle class, more low-paying jobs and a huge increase in the number of people without health insurance. The gap between rich and poor has grown wider in the U.S. than in any other industrialized nation.
Working families are under increased economic stress and the evening news seems to highlight the pain of Wall Street while on Main Street, layoffs and rising food prices impact the day-to-day lives of workers. By supporting the Employee Free Choice Act, we can stand up with workers and communities, and create an atmosphere of hope in this period of economic turmoil.
McAfee and Andrews say the Employee Free Choice Act is critical to turning around our economy, reducing the growing tide of inequality and restoring dignity to workers struggling for justice and a fair share. Read the entire op-ed here.