AT&T Reaches Midwest Agreement With Communications Workers of America – 07/16/09
AT&T has reached a tentative agreement with workers in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Ohio. The company is currently in contract negotiations with the Communications Workers of America. The Midwest contract is just a small part of negotiations for 120,000 workers nationwide. It provides a 3 percent increase in wages for the next two years and a cost-of living adjustment on top of a 2.75 percent increase during the third year.
Black And Hispanic Unemployment In New York Sharply Higher Than For Whites – 07/16/09
Back-to-back studies show glaring racial unemployment discrepancies in the country’s Empire State. Jesse Russell reports:
Earlier this week New York City’s Comptroller released unemployment data showing a major discrepancy of unemployment rates based on race. The Fiscal Policy Institute also compared their own numbers for the last year ending on April 30th. Chief Economist James Parrott said they discovered that while minorities continued to lose jobs, white workers actually gained jobs.
[Parrott]: The number of white non-hispanics with jobs actually increased by 130,000 whiles the combined employment of blacks, Hispanics, and Asians fell by 60,000. Now this is a city where members of minority groups account for 62 percent of the resident New York City workforce.
AFL-CIO, AFSCME & UAW Praise Congressional Health Care Reform Action – 07/16/09
By Doug Cunningham
The AFL-CIO says working people can breathe a sigh of relief over health care reform being passed by Senate and House committees. AFL-CIO President John Sweeney says the Kennedy-Dodd bill passed by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee moves health care reform a step closer o the goal line. The labor federation says it makes health care more affordable while improving coverage. The AFL-CIO applauded two House committees for passing “America’s Affordable Health Choices Act”. That bill, the labor federation says, meets President Obama’s goals of controlling health care costs while expanding coverage. Both the Senate and House versions of health care reform include a public option plan.
Tentative Deal Reached in AT&T Midwest Talks
After nearly five months of negotiations, the Communications Workers of America (CWA) and AT&T today reached a tentative agreement in contract negotiations covering some 18,500 employees in the telecom company’s Midwest region.
The union will submit the agreement to the district’s membership for a ratification vote. The current contract expired April 4, and employees have worked under terms of the expired deal while negotiations continued.
The three-year proposed agreement includes pay and pension increases in each year of the pact, as well as provisions addressing cost-of-living adjustments. Employees will retain their health care benefits.
The agreement also includes new transfer opportunities and other employment-security gains that strengthen AT&T’s quality workforce. The agreement also creates broader earnings and job opportunities for some sales titles and premises technicians, who install AT&T services at customers’ homes.
CWA President Larry Cohen says the negotiations reflected the current tough economic times and demonstrate again that the current health care structure in the United States is unsustainable.
This tentative agreement maintains our members’ standard of living and safeguards quality health care benefits, which is critical to the well-being of all families. It’s important now to move forward in the remaining negotiations and resolve our outstanding issues.
I’m pleased that AT&T will continue to work with us and others on comprehensive health care reform, so that companies like AT&T that provide quality health care are no longer penalized in this country.
For details of the tentative agreement, click here.
Negotiations are continuing in four other regions where CWA contracts expired April 4.
Members of the Electrical Workers (IBEW) are also in talks with AT&T in Illinois and northwestern Indiana where contracts expired June 27. CWA contracts in AT&T’s Southeast region expire Aug. 8, and negotiations begin in that region July 20. A total of some 120,000 employees are covered under the various contracts.
Bankers Are Creating a Slot Machine with Our Money
The nation’s financial markets were a disaster waiting to happen, and the recent crash has given progressives the perfect opportunity to create a more fair and prosperous economy, says a leading author.
Les Leopold, author of The Looting of America, says the nation’s economic disaster was caused by a financial crash that has been brewing for 30 years. It began when policymakers created a trifecta of deregulated financial markets, tax codes that favored the rich and new trade rules.
[These policies] were supposed to lift all boats; instead, we got a gigantic bubble which burst.
Leopold, executive director of two nonprofit educational organizations—the Labor Institute and Public Health Institute—spoke last night at the National Labor College (NLC) in Silver Spring, Md.
Over the past three decades, Leopold says, real wages dropped for working people while the super rich prospered under the new policies. In 2006, for example, the top 0.1 percent of the nation—about 130,000 people—had as much income as the bottom 50 percent—some 64 million people. From an economic perspective, he says, if you let income get that skewed, you’re going to have a financial crash.
That’s what happened in 1929 before the Great Depression and again in 2008, he says. So much money poured into the hands of the rich that it created a demand for new ways to invest, and Wall Street responded with a series of shaky financial packages.
It was like we gave Wall Street the keys to the car and watched them crash it right in front of us.
Any financial reform must consider that putting so much money in the hands of so few is a recipe for disaster, Leopold says.
It’s like drugs. You can regulate the supply, but if you don’t cut the demand (so much money in the hands of the rich), nothing will change. Wall Street will simply come up with new schemes.
The test for whether a proposed solution to the financial crisis should simply be whether it is moving money out of Wall Street to the real economy and from the top of the economic scale to the bottom, Leopold says.
Progressives should be fighting for sweeping changes to narrow the wage gap. While unions have been sounding the alarm for decades about the growing inequality, most people ignored it, he says. The union agenda of raising the minimum wage, increasing tax levies on corporations and the super-rich and passing the Employee Free Choice Act are all key policies that will help restore balance to the economy, he adds.
Leopold also called for wage caps across the board on Wall Street and a new tax on financial transactions.
The financial reform policies being pushed by the Obama administration and Congress are filled with “incredible rhetoric, but with weak knees,” Leopold says.
The $13 trillion bailout of the financial markets has put all of Wall Street “on welfare,” and now is the time for progressives to push hard for real change. But progressives are letting the banking industry and others get away with framing the debate on reform, Leopold says.
He points to the notion among many in Congress that reforms should not hinder the financial market’s ability to innovate.
[Financial innovation] is a lot of bunk. They’re just creating a better casino game. We have to be very cautious. [The bankers] are not creating an iPod; they’re creating a slot machine with our money.
As Momentum Builds, Workers Speak Out on Employee Free Choice
Wisconsin health care workers deliver thousands of postcards in support of Employee Free Choice to Sen. Herb Kohl.
With momentum building for the Employee Free Choice Act, workers across the country are taking the lead in the fight–speaking out at town hall meetings and rallies and asking their senators to pass this critical bill and make the economy work for everyone.
Here are a few of the ways workers are making a difference:
Ken Bruner, a Vietnam veteran, helicopter pilot and the president of Office and Professional Employees (OPEIU) Local 107, spoke at a roundtable about the Employee Free Choice Act in Louisiana last week and said the freedom to form unions can benefit workers and businesses alike.
Health Care Bill by Senate Finance Committee Should Include House’s Funding Strategy
A health care reform package that includes a public health insurance plan option, shared employer responsibility, cost containment and an end to private insurance company abuses was approved by a key Senate committee this morning.
Says AFL-CIO President John Sweeney:
This legislation demands shared responsibility so families are less burdened. It will make health care more affordable by controlling costs and improving quality. And most importantly, it will provide coverage for all and help reduce the ranks of the uninsured and underinsured. Sen. Chris Dodd and Chairman Kennedy’s hard work and dedication have put forth a bill that moves us one step closer to the finish line.
The action by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee comes one day after the House version of health care legislation was introduced. But unlike the House bill, the HELP committee’s measure does not address financing.
The Senate Finance Committee is reported to be close to finalizing the financing mechanisms for health care reform. Next, the two bills from HELP and Finance will have to be shaped into a single bill before the full Senate votes. After a series of hearings, the House is expected to vote on health care reform before it adjourns for its summer recess July 31.
Under the House version, about half the cost of health reform comes from Medicare modernization, the public health insurance option and the shared responsibility ”pay or play” requirement for employers.
But instead of taxing working families’ health care benefits, as some senators proposed, the House bill lands on the side of fairness. It calls for a small surtax on the nation’s wealthiest 1 percent to help provide health care for all Americans. In most cases, all or a large part of the surcharge is offset by the savings comprehensive health care reform will bring.
The House bill’s small tax surcharge applies to individuals making more than $280,000 a year and married couples with annual incomes over $350,000. A study by the Commonwealth Fund estimates that the House bill would save the average American household more than $1,600,a year in reduced health care costs, with those earning more than $150,000 annually seeing a yearly savings of $1,656 to $2,948.
With the proposed 1 percent surcharge, a single person earning $280,000 might see a savings of $148 a year or pay a health care reform surcharge of a little more than $1,100. A married couple with a $350,000 annual income would see a surcharge of between $552 and $1,884 a year.
The small surcharge doesn’t seem to be much of a burden on someone making $134 an hour ($280,00 a year), $192 an hour ($350,000 a year) or more.
No doubt health care reform opponents like the private health insurance industry, the health care lobby and conservative groups will scream loudly and repeatedly about raising taxes. But put into a common-sense perspective, the health care surcharge makes great sense.
A small surtax on the wealthiest 1 percent buys health care reform for America. That’s not much to finally get a handle on costs that are dragging down the entire economy. Even the wealthy will get a big chunk of their money back in savings. Their premiums won’t go up as fast, and no one will have to pay the hidden $1,000 insurance premium add-on to cover costs for uncompensated care.
The House health care surtax is a fiscally responsible investment. It will pay steady returns every year.
Manufacturing a Better Future for America
The United States cannot revive its economy without first rebuilding the nation’s manufacturing base, several experts say. While most of us understand how devastating the loss of a plant can be to a community and to the economy, policymakers don’t get it, they add.
During a roundtable discussion yesterday in Washington, D.C., several contributors to a new book, Manufacturing a Better Future for America, spelled out the case for a bold new U.S. industrial policy.
Simply put: For nearly 300 years, the United States invested in producing goods and, as a result, became the richest nation in history. But for the past few decades, policymakers have systematically dismantled our manufacturing base through bad tax policies and short-sighted trade agreements that encourage consumption of cheap foreign imports and provide incentives for U.S.-based companies to export jobs.
As a result, some 40,000 U.S. manufacturing plants closed between 2001 and 2008, resulting in the loss of millions of family-supporting jobs. From 2001 to 2007, some 2.3 million jobs were lost just from the nation’s huge trade deficit with China alone.
Manufacturing is the economic engine of the United States, and the Obama administration must commit to an industrial strategy that puts people back to work and focuses on making things, says United Steelworkers (USW) President Leo Gerard.
Scott Paul, executive director of the Alliance for American Manufacturing (AAM), which sponsored the roundtable and published the book, points out that “much of the conventional wisdom about manufacturing is wrong or out of date.”
To build a strong economy that works, we must understand what’s really happening today.
A big factor in the decline of manufacturing is so-called free trade. The reality is that in a global economy, some other countries don’t always play by the rules, says Economic Strategy Institute President Clyde Prestowitz, who co-authored the chapter on trade. Many nations are actively pursuing investment and production while the United States depends on imports and lets its manufacturing move offshore, he says. At the same time, those nations have laws that restrict the amount of goods that can be imported from other countries.
Prestowitz quotes a top executive of a U.S.-based company building a plant in China saying: “Everybody knows that if you are going to sell anything in China, you have to make it in China,” and the same thing is true in many of the U.S. trading partners. Those countries have thriving manufacturing bases while U.S. lawmakers allow ours to dwindle away, he adds.
Several of the panelists pointed out the Obama administration’s hesitation to insist that the nation’s automakers use U.S.-made parts as an example of the need for the White House to more actively support U.S. manufacturing.
Peter Navarro, a professor at the University of California-Irvine, who wrote the chapter on foreign incentives, points out that China, for example, manipulates its currency to keep its prices low and make imports expensive, benefits from lax environmental and health rules and forces companies to turn over their technology to do business in China.
At the same time, the promise of new green jobs is not enough to revive the economy alone, Prestowitz said. It actually could increase the trade deficit because so many of the green materials are made overseas. While U.S. workers may get jobs installing green technology, the real wealth is going to the producers.
The bottom line, says Richard McCormick, editor of the book, is that the United States
is broke because it has stopped producing what it consumes. The mindset among America’s economic elite that the country does not need an industrial base has put the country and the world economy in a ditch. Only with a revitalized manufacturing base can America assure itself a prosperous and hopeful future.
The AFL-CIO long has called for new policies to revitalize manufacturing, including:
Fair trade policies that reduce the U.S. trade deficit, protect U.S. trade laws and require inclusion of enforceable workers’ rights and environmental standards in trade agreements.
Revised tax laws that eliminate incentives for corporations to move production overseas and punish those that do; opposition to reform of the Foreign Sales Corporation (FSC) tax that would encourage shifting manufacturing jobs overseas; replacing FSC with tax incentives that help American manufacturers create U.S. jobs and help workers cope with retiree health care and pension costs.
Legislation that penalizes companies that incorporate overseas to avoid taxes and denies government contracts to these companies.
Strengthening the manufacturing base for national defense and homeland security through procurement reform, enhanced “Buy American” requirements, an updated assessment of critical defense manufacturing capabilities and limits to “offsets” that drain critical technology and good jobs.
Remembering Former Mine Workers President Sam Church
Former Mine Workers (UMWA) President Sam Church, 72, died yesterday in Bristol, Va.
Church, who first entered the mines in 1965, served as UMWA president from 1979 to 1982. He also served as UMWA vice president and in several local and district offices.
Says AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Richard Trumka, who succeeded Church:
Sam was a good friend and a good labor leader. He was a union man from the top of his head to the tips of his toes. He will be greatly missed.
After leaving office, Church returned to work in the mines. Current UMWA President Cecil Roberts says Church’s dedication to the union and working families “never wavered.”
Sam did not stop being a leader in our union once he was no longer president. He continued to remain active in the affairs of the union, particularly with respect to our political and legislative activities in Virginia.
He is survived by his wife, Patti, and a son, Nathaniel.