By Doug Cunningham
New Orleans firefighters Thursday unveiled rebuilt fire stations throughout the city. They were restored through a massive effort launched by the New York City District Council of Carpenters and the Leary Firefighters Foundation in 2007. Hurricane Katrina destroyed or damaged 22 New Orleans fire stations. International Association of Firefighters President Harold Shaitburger says the federal government never did its part, so 200 union brothers and sisters in the Carpenters union donated 8,000 hours of time to rebuild the fire stations.
By Doug Cunningham
Talks are underway on a new contract between the UAW and John Deere & Company. The union says its goal is an agreement that benefits the approximately 9500 John Deere workers it represents, the company and the communities where John Deere employees work and live. The current contract expires September 30th. The talks will affect John Deere operations in Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Georgia and Colorado.
UAW Says Toyota’s Closing Of NUMMI Auto Plant Is Devastating News For Thousands Of Workers – 08/28/09
By Doug Cunningham
The United Auto Workers union says Toyota’s decision to close the California auto plant known as NUMMI is devastating news for thousands of workers. The plant was a GM-Toyota joint venture and the only plant where Toyota worked with union workers. UAW President Ron Gettelfinger says Toyota profited from 25 years of union worker productivity and the plant was benefiting from the U.S. taxpayer funded cash for clunkers program. The UAW says this is no time to close a highly successful auto manufacturing plant in one of Toyota’s most important markets. In addition to the
As the unemployed approach the end of unemployment benefits, one fed chief suggests the real unemployment rate is 16 percent. Jesse Russell reports:
1.5 million Americans are expected to come to the end of their unemployment benefits by the end of the year with more than 500,000 exhausting benefits by the end of September. Those projections by the National Employment Law Project come a day after a Federal Reserve official said the real U.S. unemployment rate is closer to 16 percent, significantly higher than the 9.4 percent claimed by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Those comments were made by Atlanta Fed Chief Dennis Lockhart during a chamber of commerce speech in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Lockhart expressed that the number is his personal opinion and doesn’t reflect those of the Federal open Market Committee. According to Lockhart his 16 percent unemployment rate includes those who would like to work, but have stopped looking “and those who are working fewer hours than they want.” As for workers about to fall off the roles, California is expected to be hit the hardest come the end of September. More than 79,000 unemployed will exhaust benefits in the state with the Texas seeing the second highest number drop off at nearly 47,000. According to the government 6,133,000 people filed continuing unemployment claims last week, down 119,000 over the week prior.
A new report finds that if health care costs are not brought under control through comprehensive health care reform, Medicare premiums and out-of-pocket costs will soon eat up more than one-third of a retiree’s Social Security benefits. A typical senior couple would need to save $300,000 for medical bills not covered by Medicare.
The report, America’s Seniors and Health Insurance Reform: Protecting Coverage and Strengthening Medicare, was issued by the Department of Health and Human Services. Says Edward C. Coyle, executive director of the Alliance for Retired Americans:
Today’s report shines a bright light on why retirees have a lot to gain from health reform. Moreover, it shows the wholly unacceptable medical and financial consequences of inaction.
I hope that deeply disturbing findings such as these will move the health care debate away from divisive, insurance industry-backed scare tactics and toward swift passage of a health care bill that will help older Americans.
The report notes that some of the rising Medicare costs can be traced to the extra subsidies paid to private insurance companies in the Medicare Advantage program—the Bush-era experiment in privatizing Medicare. It also points to soaring prescription drug costs, waste and fraud by some Medicare service providers for such things as home care. The report also says:
Medicare is not isolated from the rest of the health system. Its costs—and cost problems—reflect the gaps and problems that younger Americans experience….A recent study found that previously uninsured near-elderly adults with heart disease, stroke or diabetes had 13 percent more doctor’s visits, 20 percent more hospitalizations and 50 percent higher total medical costs once under Medicare than people with these chronic diseases who had prior insurance.
Health care reform legislation now being debated will help lower costs to seniors by:
- Closing the “donut hole” in Medicare Part D, the provision that guarantees insurance companies keep getting their monthly premiums even when they aren’t giving you any benefits.
- Allowing Medicare to negotiate for volume discounts with the drug companies. Savvy seniors know you should pay less when you buy in bulk.
- Ending wasteful taxpayer subsidies to the private insurance companies who run Medicare Advantage plans.
- Keeping seniors healthier by eliminating the co-pay for Medicare preventive services such as checkups and cancer screenings.
- Offer an opportunity for early retirees to buy into Medicare.
Coyle also notes that as part of a health care reform package, a strong public option will hold insurance companies accountable and keep their premiums and business practices in check. Says Coyle:
Medicare is a great American success story—it has reduced senior poverty by two-thirds. Today’s report shows how health reform can both expand Medicare’s benefits for seniors and also strengthen Medicare’s finances by eliminating wasteful taxpayer subsidies to the big insurance companies.
Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.)—who brags about blocking health care reform (more on that later)—now wants to block President Obama’s choice of Patricia Smith to be the top Department of Labor lawyer.
Earlier this week, Enzi apparently got around to reading the transcripts of Smith’s May 7 confirmation hearing for solicitor of labor. Now, some three-and-a-half months after sitting through the hearing and voicing no objections to Smith’s answers or nomination, he wants Obama to withdraw Smith’s name, reports BNA’s Daily Labor Report (subscription required).
The Solicitor of Labor oversees enforcement of the nation’s most important labor laws and sets enforcement priorities. During her hearing before the Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions (HELP) Committee, Smith told the panel—including Enzi—she would bring to the job a “philosophy of proactive enforcement.”
The various divisions and agencies within the department, cannot by themselves, secure full compliance with the many important laws the department is charged with enforcing. They must have the full backing and cooperation of the attorneys in the solicitor’s office to prosecute violators.
Smith, who is currently commissioner of the New York State Department of Labor, was praised by HELP Committee chairman, the late Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.). In a statement prior to her confirmation hearing, Kennedy called her “uniquely qualified…with the experience, skill and vision to revitalize the agency in its core mission to support, protect and advocate for workers.”
The Solicitor of Labor must truly be the workers’ lawyer, with a clear vision of how to prioritize limited resources to most effectively promote workers’ rights. This is a weighty task, but one that Patricia Smith is eminently qualified to shoulder…with Patricia Smith at the helm, the Solicitor’s office will have a new focus, and a new commitment to putting the needs of American workers first.
Perhaps that’s what really has Enzi’s knickers in a knot.
Meanwhile, here’s Enzi proudly telling a Gillette, Wyo., town hall meeting that he’s the man responsible for blocking health care. Keep in mind, he is one of the so-called bipartisan “Gang of Six” Senate Finance Committee members who supposedly are crafting some sort of “compromise” health care reform bill.
If I hadn’t been involved in this process as long as I have and to the depth as I have, you would already have national health care. It’s not where I get them to compromise, it’s what I get them to leave out.
Thanks to Brian Buetler at TPM for posting the Enzi claim. We’ll let Mans Be, who commented on the TPM post, have the final words.
“If I Hadn’t Been Involved, You Would Already Have National Health Care.”
- Not losing health care coverage when you lose your job.
- People able to get care when they get sick.
- Insurance companies unable to stiff policyholders who actually make claims.
Yeah, that would really suck. Thanks a lot, Mike.
As the green revolution picks up steam, more and more homeowners are either building new energy-efficient homes or retrofitting their current dwellings. The members of the Plumbers and Pipe Fitters (UA) are working hard to be among the unions in the forefront of residential green building.
When a homeowner in Minneapolis wanted to build an energy-efficient home recently, he called on the journeymen and apprentices of Plumbers Local 15 and Pipe Fitters Local 539 to create a showcase, an energy efficient house complete with all the latest technology.
According to the UA Journal, the entire house uses radiant heat. The sidewalks and driveway are equipped with snow melting capability—a big help in Minnesota. Twenty-seven roof drains send water into two pipes that empty into a 5,000-gallon cistern, which irrigates the 3,000 square-foot living roof. Plumbers installed nearly 4,000 feet of piping and tubing for the house.
Building green residences is nothing new to locals 15 and 539. In fact, the Local 539 service technicians are required to be certified through the union’s STAR training program, a five-year course which provides the equivalent of 32 hours of college credit in all aspects of piping. The local also is looking for a new facility to build a new state-of-the-art training facility.
The UA has identified green technologies as a prime focus for the future of the union and the plumbing industry. Such technologies use less energy and natural resources than traditional technologies, have minimal impact on the environment and use materials that can be reused or recycled.
UA members are using these innovative new technologies in construction and retrofitting in both commercial and residential projects. The union has developed numerous unique approaches directed toward helping members and contractors gain leadership in this area.
UA President William Hite says the green future includes:
everything from energy efficient building practices, water conservation efforts in the plumbing industry and the usage of environmentally compatible building practices and materials….I believe the opportunities for the UA in this relatively new field are enormous.
Last year, the UA unveiled its Green Training Trailer that is touring the country to introduce UA apprentices, journeyman-level workers and green building expo participants to renewable energy technologies and sustainable building concepts. The 40-foot-long mobile classroom provides an overview of a number of power-generating technologies, including fuel cells, wind power and solar systems. It also covers new water treatment processes.
UA also is a founding member of the Green Mechanical Council, an alliance of manufacturers, skilled professionals, universities and other organizations dedicated to promoting environmentally friendly equipment and processes that maximize energy efficiency, conserve water and use renewable and sustainable fuel sources. The council—called “GreenMech”—conducts education and training activities.
To help working Americans prepare for the next generation of jobs, the AFL-CIO created the Center for Green Jobs. The center will partner with affiliated unions to help pave the way to good union jobs in a variety of the country’s unionized and greening industries. The center also will spread the lessons of AFL-CIO affiliates who have successfully joined the green economy, especially in manufacturing.
Congress is still on recess, but the fight for the Employee Free Choice Act continues across the country and in the media. Here are two great op-eds that explain why we need to pass the Employee Free Choice Act.
America’s working families are locked in a time vise. Our work hours are getting longer, our paychecks and benefits are shrinking, and we are struggling to raise and care for our families. The surging unemployment rate is only adding to our anxiety about holding down a job while juggling work and family responsibilities.
The challenges are grave. However, as a long-time advocate of family friendly workplace policies, I see a perfect opportunity to create new workplace standards that are good for the bottom line and for our working families. It’s called the Employee Free Choice Act….
As the debate over the Employee Free Choice Act continues in Congress, we are likely to hear heated rhetoric about the relevance of unions in today’s economy and society. The evidence is clear. Unions make a significant difference in fostering workplaces that promote a healthy and viable balance between work life and home life.
In the Great Falls Tribune, Montana state Sen. Dave Wanzenried calls the Employee Free Choice Act both “a matter of fairness” and a critical policy to rebuild a health economy:
The health of our economy depends on workers receiving a fair share of the economic growth they help create. This keeps our consumer-driven economy running.
History shows us that the greatest prosperity for the greatest number of people in this country has been in periods when the greatest number of workers belonged to unions. Currently, workers belonging to unions make 28 percent more, are 52 percent more likely to have employer-provided health insurance, and are nearly three times more likely to have defined-benefit pension plans than their non-union counterparts. According to data from the Small Business Administration, small businesses go bankrupt less frequently in states with high rates of union membership.
…labor has helped lift the standard of living for everyone and we should all be proud of that.
The death of Sen. Edward Kennedy has sparked tributes from around the globe, from those who knew him best in his home state of Massachusetts, to world leaders. We include some of these here, mindful that as former Labor Secretary Robert Reich wrote:
Most Americans will never know how many things Ted Kennedy did to make their lives better, how many things he prevented that would have hurt them, and how tenaciously he fought on their behalf.
Be sure to stop by the Edward Kennedy tribute site at: www.tedkennedy.org/tributes.
* Ted Kennedy was not just a senator for Massachusetts; he was our senator—a senator for working people, for poor people, for the old and the vulnerable. For all those who needed a champion, he was our champion. He personified a sense of aspiration that has become America’s aspiration—to make things better, to make them more fair, to make our nation more compassionate and hopeful, to make life work for working men and women.
—AFL-CIO President John Sweeney
* Ted Kennedy epitomized humanity in every sense of the word. His larger-than-life presence was only outpaced by his kindness in the form of even the smallest, most humane gestures. —Robert Haynes, president, Massachusetts AFL-CIO
* His death will be greeted with a great sense of sadness here because of his long standing affection for this country, not just with the peace process, but on many other issues, including emigration. —Mary McAleese, president of Ireland
* Because of Senator Kennedy, millions of American families have been able to achieve the American Dream, afford an education for their children, are safer on their jobs and have a secure retirement, Cohen said. We will extend that legacy when we achieve one of Senator Kennedy’s greatest passions, health care for all. —CWA President Larry Cohen
* He worked tirelessly to lift Americans out of poverty, advance the cause of civil rights, and provide opportunity to all. He fought to the very end for the cause of his life-ensuring that all Americans have the health care they need. —Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.)
Beyond what he achieved on the national stage, Ted Kennedy was an empathetic and caring man. He stayed in contact with families who lost loved ones on 9/11 and remained in touch long after the cameras were gone. The tragedies he experienced made him especially compassionate when others endured their own hardships. —AFSCME President Gerald McEntee
* Senator Kennedy was one of the greatest champions of older Americans in our nation’s history. Senior citizens are deeply indebted to him for his lifetime of achievements and leadership, from the beginning of his Senate career until the end. —Alliance for Retired Americans
* Sen. Kennedy will always be a part of the AFT family. And we will honor his memory by continuing his life’s work-his passion for social justice, his special concern for the most vulnerable among us, and his belief that government can and should be a force for good. There is so much left to be done, but we will pursue our shared goals with the commitment and courage that Sen. Kennedy brought to every cause he championed. —AFT President Randi Weingarten
* Senator Edward M. Kennedy was the field general in the fight for civil rights. An eloquent advocate, a skilled strategist, and an unequaled coalition-builder, Ted Kennedy was the most effective senator of his generation and a leader in achieving every major legislative advance during his service in the Senate. From the Civil Rights Act of 1964 through the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009, the cause of civil and human rights had no better friend than Senator Edward M. Kennedy. —Wade Henderson, president, Leadership Conference on Civil Rights
* We have lost a great light in our lives and our politics, and it will never be the same again. —Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.)
* Unwavering in his principles and yet open-hearted to those who disagreed with him, the Senator always went the extra mile to fight for American workers, children, women, seniors and families. —Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.)
* Even facing illness and death, he never stopped fighting for the causes which were his life’s work…. He led the world in championing children’s education and health care, and believed that every single child should have the chance to realize their potential to the full. —Gordon Brown, prime minister of Great Britain
* His spirit will continue to lift the hearts of all who seek fairness and compassion in our lives. —Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.)
* Senator Kennedy was Congress’s moral compass regarding issues affecting working Americans. It was his vision and tenacity as a Senator and national leader that propelled millions of Americans to middle-class jobs and lives. —Ed Wytkind, president, AFL-CIO Transportation Trades Department
* Senator Kennedy’s death is an incalculable loss to the country. His leadership on so many issues, and his emphasis on reducing unfairness in our lives made him one of our greatest national assets. —Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.)
* He fought to open doors of opportunity for those who had been shut out of society, and worked tirelessly to make the American dream real for everyone, from all walks of life. —Ron Gettelfinger, president, UAW
* He played a particularly important role in the formative days of the Northern Ireland Peace Process. He maintained a strong and genuine interest in its progress. He used his political influence wisely. He was the voice of moderation and common sense. —Brian Cowen, prime minister of Ireland
* Ted Kennedy appealed to the best in us, to the American verities that are written not on water but in stone. He appealed to our sense of justice, to our sense of responsibility to each other, and to our uniquely American sense of hope and possibility. —Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.)
* While we have lost an American treasure today, Senator Kennedy’s rich legacy, historic legislative record and deep commitment to positive change for all Americans will continue to be felt for generations to come. —Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.)
* [Kennedy was] a voice for those who would otherwise go unheard. —Ban Ki-moon, secretary-general of the United Nations
* America has lost an older brother in the death of Ted Kennedy. We must all be fortunate that we are still alive, and around to fight for a public health insurance plan available for all Americans that Ted would have loved to fight for. —Mike Elk, Campaign for America’s Future
* In his honor and as a tribute to his commitment to his ideals, let us stop the shouting and name calling and have a civilized debate on health care reform which I hope, when legislation has been signed into law, will bear his name for his commitment to insuring the health of every American. —Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.V.).