- Working Families Rally For Health Care Reform In Nation’s Capital – AFSCME Says Public Option is Vital
- President Obama Officially Creates White House Council On Automotive Communities And Workers
- Illinois Workers Benefit From Blagojevich Minimum Wage Increase Legacy
- Boston Newspaper Guild Members Get Details Of Tentative Agreement At Boston Globe
- Economic Report: Most Workers Say Employers Taking Appropriate Actions To Deal With Recession
Economic Report: Most Workers Say Employers Taking Appropriate Actions To Deal With Recession – 06/25/09
Seven in 10 workers believe the company they work for is taking appropriate actions to deal with the recession. The survey from Robert Half International also found most employees believe their employer will come out stronger once the recession is over. However, three out of ten employees reported that their company is off track to cope with the recession.
By Doug Cunningham
Boston Newspaper Guild members got a close look at the details of the tentative agreement reached at the Boston Globe Wednesday and union members will now vote on whether or not to accept it. Wages are cut by nearly 6 percent and job security is gone. But that’s an improvement over an imposed wage cut of 23 percent that the Globe implemented after workers in the guild rejected an earlier concessions package.
Some Illinois workers will be impacted by the legacy of former Governor Rod Blagojevich’s on July 1. Jesse Russell reports:
In 2006 former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich signed into law legislation that would increase the minimum wage a little bit every year until it reaches $8.25 in 2010. That next raise for Illinois minimum wage workers is coming on July 1. The increase will boost the hourly minimum wage for an estimated 400,000 workers by .25 to $8 per hour. The federal minimum wage is currently $6.55 per hour, but that will also see a jump to $7.25 per hour on July 24 of this year.
President Obama Officially Creates White House Council On Automotive Communities And Workers – 06/25/09
On Tuesday President Barack Obama signed an executive order that creates the White House Council on Automotive Communities and Workers. The executive director of the council is Obama’s car czar Ed Montgomery and the goal is for the council to tackle issues impacting communities that have been dealt a severe blow by the downturn in the economy. The panel also includes Labor Secretary Hilda Solis and Obama;s economic adviser Larry Summers.
Working Families Rally For Health Care Reform In Nation’s Capital – AFSCME Says Public Option is Vital – 06/25/09
By Doug Cunningham
As thousands of workers and their unions rally today in Washington for comprehensive health care reform AFSCME Legislative Director Chuck Loveless says private insurers cannot continue to monopolize health care.
[Loveless]: “It’s extremely important that insurance companies have to compete with a government plan option. And if the government plan option is not in he mix, we’re not gonna get the kind of reform that we want to see.”
Loveless says AFSCME wants to see employers pay their fair share and health care reform should NOT include taxing the health benefits of working families.
With thousands of union, health care and community activists set to descend on Capitol Hill tomorrow in what could be the largest ever rally for health care reform, the AFL-CIO is telling House committees this week that comprehensive reform must lower costs, improve quality and cover everyone.
Last week, House Democrats introduced a health care reform plan that AFL-CIO President John Sweeney calls:
a crucial roadmap for what health care reform should look like. Working families are desperate for an American solution that encourages choice, competition and opportunity for all Americans to choose the health care that works for them.
This week, the three House committees that developed the health care reform roadmap—Education and Labor, Energy and Commerce, and Ways and Means—are holding a series of hearings on the plan. In testimony for all three panels, Gerald Shea, AFL-CIO assistant to the president, says reform must build upon what works.
For the majority of Americans, what works in our current health care system is employer-based coverage—the backbone of health care coverage and financing in America. Over 160 million people under age 65 have health benefits tied to the workplace.
The House plan, says Shea, “outlines a reasonable and effective” pay-or-play requirement for employers. In pay or play, employers must provide coverage for their workers or pay into a fund. Shea says the public health insurance option in the House draft will:
inject competition into the health care system and lower costs for employers and workers alike.
He outlines three other areas the AFL-CIO says must remain in the committees’ health care reform proposal to stabilize and build upon the employer-provided coverage system.
- Special assistance for firms that maintain coverage for pre-Medicare retirees, which will prevent further deterioration of the employer-based system;
- Health care delivery reforms to get better value from our system and containment of long-term costs; and
- Insurance market reforms, individual subsidies, Medicaid expansion and improvements to Medicare, which will help make affordable coverage available to everyone.
The public health insurance option, improving and making more efficient the way health care is delivered, and a pay-or-play option will generate significant savings and revenue to help finance health care reform. But, especially in the short run, other revenue will be needed. Shea says the AFL-CIO supports President Obama’s funding plans, including
savings in Medicare and Medicaid, limiting the itemized deductions for households in the top two tax brackets and other modifications to reduce the tax gap, as well as making the tax system fairer and more progressive.
However, adds Shea, the proposal to finance health care reform through a tax on employer-provided health coverage:
is an extraordinarily bad idea that would undermine efforts to stabilize the employer-provided health care system. Employers would likely respond by increasing employee cost-sharing to a level at which benefits would become unaffordable for low-wage workers, or by eliminating benefits altogether.
Taxing health care benefits would not bring down health care costs, either. It would just shift more of those costs onto workers.
If you are in Washington, D.C., tomorrow, join us on Capitol Hill and tell Congress loud and clear, “Health care reform can’t wait.”
In the statement, many of America’s top economists, including Nobel Prize laureates, explain why the new law to protect workers’ freedom to form unions and bargain is more than desirable—it’s essential. Released by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), the statement builds on a February call for the legislation that has gathered growing support among economists.
The 230 economists, coming from top institutions in 33 states, point to the erosion of working family incomes as a key factor in our economic crisis—and the need for the freedom of workers to bargain collectively, without fear of management abuses, as key to recovery. The signers say:
As economists, we believe this is a critically important step in rebuilding our economy and strengthening our democracy by enhancing the voice of working people in the workplace.
These economists join hundreds of academics and other experts from across the country, from historians to business professors, as well as a broad coalition of faith, environmental, small business and civil rights groups, who are supporting the Employee Free Choice Act.
Today, a bipartisan group in Congress said they will reintroduce a major legislative overhaul of the nation’s failed trade policies to put good jobs at the center of a coherent global economic strategy.
The Trade Reform, Accountability, Development and Employment (TRADE) Act, which has 106 co-sponsors, was first introduced last year but did not come to the floor. It would require a review of existing trade agreements, establish standards for future trade agreements, protect workers’ rights and help restore congressional oversight of trade agreements.
Rep. Mike Michaud (D-Maine), the bill’s sponsor, said at a Capitol Hill press conference today:
We all know that we live in a globalized world. But we need to ensure trade is fair for our workers and economy. The TRADE Act shows what we are for in future trade agreements—and paves the way on how to fix our existing agreements.
The co-sponsors reflect broad support in Congress for a new direction on trade. They include eight committee chairs, 45 subcommittee chairs, 17 Blue Dogs, 13 New Democrats and 19 members of the Congressional Black Caucus, among many others.
Specifically, the TRADE Act would:
- Require a comprehensive review of existing trade agreements with an emphasis on economic results, enforcement and compliance and an analysis of non-tariff provisions in trade agreements.
- Spell out standards for labor and environmental protections, food and product safety, national security exceptions and remedies that must be included in new trade pacts.
- Set requirements regarding public services, farm policy, investment, government procurement and affordable medicines and compare them with components of current trade agreements.
- Require the president to submit renegotiation plans for current trade pacts prior to negotiating new agreements and prior to congressional consideration of pending agreements.
- Create a committee made up of the chairs and ranking members of each committee whose jurisdiction is affected by trade agreements to review the president’s plan for renegotiations.
- Restore congressional oversight of trade agreements.
You can read a full text of the bill here.
The Obama administration and the European Union (EU) announced yesterday they plan to jointly file a complaint at the World Trade Organization (WTO) over China’s trade restrictions on exports of key raw materials used to manufacture products such as baseball bats, contact lenses and plumbing fixtures.
When China joined the WTO in 2001, it committed to remove the export restrictions on the raw materials. The export restraints are significant because China is the largest global producer of many of the raw materials in question—bauxite, coke, zinc, silicon metal, silicon carbide, fluorspar, yellow phosphorous, magnesium and manganese.
United Steelworkers (USW) President Leo Gerard applauded the WTO filing, saying:
China should have removed these trade barriers years ago as violations of WTO commitments that hurt our workers across a number of manufacturing industries. China must stop destroying our family-supportive jobs by tilting the playing field in their favor.
Today’s action sends a signal that America is beginning to get serious about enforcing the rules. But it’s only the first step in what must be a comprehensive approach to get China to start playing by the rules.
For the past two years, the Bush administration considered filing such a case but failed to act. U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk said after two years “it was well past time” to act.
We are deeply troubled at what appears to be a conscious policy to create unfair advantages for Chinese industries that use these raw materials.
The WTO complaint follows a victory for workers last week when the International Trade Commission ruled in favor of a trade petition filed in April by the USW to slow a torrent of tire exports to the United States in recent years. Those exports have cost thousands of U.S. jobs.
Under WTO rules, the parties have up to 60 days to try to resolve the dispute. At that point, the United States would be able to request that a dispute settlement panel hear the case. The WTO process, ncluding a panel report and any appellate ruling, takes about a year.