A majority of workers live paycheck-to-paycheck according to a new study. The shocking numbers found that 61 percent of workers depend on the paycheck coming down-the-line to pay bills and buy food. That is a drastic increase from 49 percent in 2007. Perhaps most surprisingly is 30 percent of workers who said they earn more than $100,000 per year are currently living paycheck. That’s a jump of nine percent since 2008. The survey was conducted by Careerbuilder.com.
America’s jobless may get another reprieve from the approaching unemployment benefit abyss. Jesse Russell reports:
By Doug Cunningham
AFL-CIO President Rich Trumka is delivering a message to Wall Street today – strong financial reform legislation is needed and runaway executive pay needs to be controlled. Trumka, along with newly elected AFL-CIO Vice President Arlene Holt-Baker and Secretary Treasurer Liz Shuler are all in New York as part of a push for jobs health care and financial system reform.
Trumka says unions are key in the struggle to achieve critical economic reforms.
Health care activists around the nation tomorrow will tell the huge private health insurance companies that are spending millions of dollars to derail health care reform:
“Big Insurance: We’re sick of it!”
In Philadelphia, AFL-CIO Executive Vice President Arlene Holt Baker will lead a rally and march from the steps of City Hall to CIGNA’s world headquarters to call on their executives to stop standing in the way of quality affordable health care for all.
Says Holt Baker:
Here’s the way we in labor see things—America is in a big fight over health care. The American people are on one side. Big Insurance is on the other side. Only one of us will win. We know if the insurance companies win, we all lose.
Other demonstrations are planned at the headquarters and local offices of Aetna, UnitedHealthcare and Wellpoint—including its subsidiary Blue Cross Blue Shield.
Check out our friends at Health Care for America Now (HCAN) to find an event near you. HCAN, the AFL-CIO, the Health Care for America Education Fund (HCAEF) and MoveOn are among the National Day of Action sponsors of events with the theme “Big Insurance: Sick of it!”
According to HCAN, the Big Insurance companies are spending $1.4 million a day
to oppose reform because they profit by keeping the system as it is, by denying claims, raising premiums, co-pays and deductibles at will, making health care decisions instead of our doctors, denying care because of pre-existing conditions.
As the private health insurance industry focuses on blocking affordable health care for everybody, people who aren’t covered and can’t get decent health care are dying—one every 12 minutes.
A Harvard University study released last week found that some 45,000 people a year in the United States die because they don’t have health insurance and access to good care. After factoring in education and income, smoking, drinking and obesity, researchers found that the uninsured had about a 40 percent higher risk of death, linking 45,000 American deaths a year to lack of insurance. In 1993, it was 25 percent.
Without proper care, uninsured people are more likely to die from complications from preventable and treatable diseases such as high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease.
One of the study’s authors, Dr. Steffie Woolhandler, told CBS News:
We have lots of good treatments for high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol that can now prevent complications, that can now lengthen our patients’ lives—but we can’t do anything for our patients if they can’t afford to come to our offices.
Woolhandler also said that in cities around the country, many clinics and public hospitals that offer low-cost health care are closing their doors.
The United Steelworkers (USW) announced that workers overwhelmingly ratified a new four-year agreement covering some 10,300 union members at seven Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co. plants. The new pact provides job security and maintains quality, affordable health care for the union members.
The agreement also protects six of the seven plants from closure during the term of the agreement and provides for minimum staffing levels. As part of the deal, Goodyear committed to invest $600 million in capital expenditures in the plants, keeping them up to date and globally competitive.
USW President Leo Gerard said:
During this difficult economic period, this contract gives our members job security for the next four years.
The deal comes a few days after President Obama backed America’s workers and U.S. manufacturing by providing relief to the domestic consumer tire industry in response to surging exports of tires from China.
USW Vice President Tom Conway, chairman of the Goodyear bargaining committee, says the Goodyear contract and the China tire decision are connected.
There never was any doubt that tire imports from China have injured domestic production workers. We’ve had six tire plants employing 7,000 workers shut down because of the tire import surge from China.
The six plants are located in: Akron, Ohio; Gadsden, Ala.; Buffalo, N.Y.; Topeka, Kan.; Danville, Va.; and Fayetteville, N.C. Another plant in Union City, Tenn., was severely impacted by the deluge of cheap tires from China, and a local agreement negotiated by USW provides for up to 600 workers to receive buyouts. The Union City plant is one of the plants that stands to benefit from Obama’s action if the market returns to previous demand, according to the USW.
A Goodyear plant in Tyler, Texas, closed more than a year ago, a victim of the cheap, imported tires from China, the union said.
There are six jobless workers for every job that is open. The official unemployment rate stands at 9.7 percent and is expected to top 10 percent in the coming months. By the end of this month, some 400,000 workers will run out of unemployment insurance (UI) benefits—another 1 million by the end of the year.
Tomorrow, the U.S. House of Representatives is expected to throw a lifeline to many workers due to exhaust their UI benefits before finding new work. Legislation to provide an additional 13 weeks of benefits to workers in high unemployment states is likely to win approval, and the Senate could take it up later this week.
Rep. Jim McDermott (D-Wash.), who introduced the bill (H.R. 3548), says the added weeks of benefits will help
hundreds of thousands of Americans who lost their jobs through no fault of their own in this so-called Great Recession.
The bill will cover workers in the 27 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico where the jobless rates are 8.5 percent or higher. Beth Shulman, chairwoman of the National Employment Law Project’s (NELP’s) board of directors, says the bill is “a good first step” but problem of long-term joblessness impacts workers in every state who need and should receive additional assistance.
Every state has experienced record increases in unemployment rates and unemployment claims over the course of the recession, and in every state, long-term jobless workers will be exhausting all benefits by the end of the year without being able to find work.
This past summer, McDermott introduced a bill to provide extended benefits to jobless workers in all states. But because expected opposition from Republican leaders would have delayed or even derailed the bill, he decided to move a scaled down version “in order to respond to the urgent needs of Americans who were about to run out of benefits.”
Some three-quarters of the long-term jobless live in the states covered by the bill. If the jobless rates in the remaining states hit the 8.5 percent threshold, workers there also will qualify for the extension.
The bill provides extended benefits to workers in Alabama, Arizona, California, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, New Jersey, North Carolina, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Washington, West Virginia and Wisconsin.
Two years after voting for the UAW, gaming employees at casinos in Atlantic City, N.J., still don’t have contracts. But they are standing firm in support of their freedom to bargain.
Management at Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino still refuses to bargain with the union despite a National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ruling last year that management engaged in unfair labor practices. The NLRB ordered the casino to negotiate in good faith, but that hasn’t happened, the union says.
Meanwhile, the Trump Plaza casino workers are living paycheck to paycheck, some of them without health insurance coverage. Yet Donald Trump, the chairman and largest shareholder in Trump Entertainment Resorts Inc., which owns the Trump Plaza, made $32 million in 2007.
You can learn more and join the effort to get a fair deal for Atlantic City casino workers here.
UAW Secretary-Treasurer Elizabeth Bunn says:
It’s important that management respect the principle of majority rule by sitting down to bargain with workers who won a fair election and won the right to negotiate with their employer.
Trump Plaza is just one of the casinos where management refuses to bargain. Workers at Bally’s and Caesars casinos in Atlantic City voted overwhelmingly in July to authorize a strike if they are unable to reach a contract agreement with management.
Says Joe Ashton, director of UAW Region 9, which includes New Jersey:
The real conflict here is between workers who want a union and an employer who refuses to bargain.
Two years is too long to wait between an election and bargaining. That’s one of the reasons members of our union are working hard to pass the Employee Free Choice Act. The arbitration provisions of the bill would prevent situations like this and encourage both sides to come to the bargaining table to reach fair settlements.
The legislation provides the mediation and arbitration assistance to help settle a contract when a company and a newly certified union cannot agree on a contract after three months.
Marybeth Lichholt, a dealer at Trump Plaza for 22 years, says workers are determined to get a fair deal:
The majority of my co-workers remain in support of our union and we’re confident we are going to prevail and get a contract. We overwhelmingly voted in a fair election for union representation. Trump Plaza needs to respect our rights.
The latest obstacle to fair contracts for the casino workers comes in the form of a petition filed last week with the NLRB Region 4 to decertify the UAW as the dealers’ representative at Trump Plaza. The UAW is confident the action will not succeed. Bunn pointed out that 68 percent of workers at Trump Plaza voted for the union in 2007:
Thirty percent is just about the same number of people who voted against forming a union two years ago.
We believe the next vote at Trump Plaza should be on a fair contract proposal that will benefit all workers.
The AFL-CIO’s new leadership team is kicking off its first days with a tour around the country, listening to workers and energized to turn around the economy. Today, they visited Atlanta to focus on the foreclosure crisis that has driven millions out of their homes—and the banks that enabled it.
AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, Secretary-Treasurer Liz Shuler and Executive Vice President Arlene Holt Baker brought a message to an area hit by more than 40,000 foreclosures in just the past six months: We need an economy that protects everyone, not just finance-industry CEOs.
Speaking to a breakfast of faith leaders and community activists in Atlanta, Trumka said the finance industry undermined the economy by engaging in predatory practices in the hopes of profiting off of the most vulnerable:
It’s time banks are held accountable for the pain they’ve inflicted on families now faced with financial ruin, even foreclosures and bankruptcy. The banks and their fly-by-night business partners took advantage of people who wanted to buy a home, knowing full well they’d have to default, and lose their homes to the bank.
Trumka said that our economic crisis is due to the greed and irresponsibility of an economy that worked for only a few, while most workers struggled with stagnant wages and debt:
Our financial system is a shambles and we’re not going to restore its luster until we rein in the abuse by financial institutions like Wachovia that threw our economy into crisis.
They profited on a broken economic model—the idea they could crush unions, cut wages and benefits, and then lend workers the money to live a decent life, knowing they couldn’t pay it back.
Even worse, Trumka said, is the fact that banks took billions from the government—billions meant to open the credit markets and get the economy moving again—but are expending their taxpayer-provided resources on bonuses for executives and lobbying against financial reforms. Workers across the country must demand accountability, Trumka said, including a federal consumer protection agency with the power to prevent unfair financial practices.
This afternoon, Trumka, Holt Baker and Shuler went to Atlanta’s Hartsfield Airport to hold a rally with Delta flight attendants who are fighting for a fair contract. Shuler and Holt Baker are spending the rest of today at community roundtables with women and young workers. Trumka will head to New York tonight for a major speech on financial reform tomorrow. By Wednesday, the three officers will return to Pittsburgh to meet with world leaders and global union activists during the G20 Conference.