Philly Transit Strike Possible This Weekend Over Piling More Health Costs Onto Workers, Lack Of Pay Raises – 10/30/09
Transit riders in Philadelphia are being advised to prepare for a strike. The union has said that if an agreement with the transit authority is not reached by the end of the week workers will walk off the job at 12:01 a.m. on Saturday. A strike by the workers could bring to a halt trains, buses, and trolleys. At issue are plans by the agency to increase workers contribution to health care coverage and a lack of wage increases for the first two years of the contract.
By Doug Cunningham
By Doug Cunningham
Senator Joe Lieberman is against a public option in healthcare reform right now. But he was for it before he was against it. Jesse Russell explains.
The unwillingness of political leaders to act boldly for the nation’s economic future has put our prosperity in danger, and it’s past time to do something about it, union leaders and lawmakers said today.
Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell (D) told the closing session of the Building the New Economy conference in Washington, D.C., that other nations, especially India and China, have made a huge commitment to rev up development of efficient energy sources and threaten to leave the United States in the dust. Said Rendell:
Time is running out. The science and technology are there, but do we have the will? The time of American economic dominance is fast disappearing. If we have an America that doesn’t make anything, then we become a second- or third-rate power.
Rendell, United Steelworkers (USW) President Leo Gerard and Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) made up the final panel for the conference.
Rendell says the United States has the resources and creativity to develop a new green economy that provides good jobs and rebuilds communities, but lawmakers need to be pushed to act—and act quickly.
He urged conference participants to go home and “sound the clarion call to the American people” and actively write letters, op-eds, whatever it takes to get the country aroused over the issue of rebuilding manufacturing by taking the lead on creating green technology.
A major part of rebuilding the economy includes updating the nation’s infrastructure, all three speakers said. Blumenauer said the time to act is now.
We have been dragging our feet too long. We just replaced the most anti-infrastructure administration in history. We need to recast our vision for the 306 million Americans in this water-stressed, energy-short economy that barely has been pulled back from the abyss.
Just as previous presidents such as Franklin Roosevelt and Dwight Eisenhower launched major infrastructure projects that redefined the nation, we need to take strong action now, Blumenauer said. Not only will rebuilding our electrical grids, schools, water supply lines, roads, bridge and other parts of the infrastructure benefit our country as a whole, Blumenauer said.
It is the quickest way to put Americans back to work in every state and city.
Gerard added that it is “unacceptable” to let America’s manufacturing capacity slip to between 8 percent and 11 percent of our Gross Domestic Product when other countries are ramping up their industrial capacity.
Our government has been too timid in dealing with our competitors, especially China, which has violated trade laws and used its government-backed export industry to undercut U.S. companies, resulting in huge job losses and plant closures, Gerard said.
While our economic roots were being ripped out, our government is telling China to just slow down.
We need jobs that create wealth, Gerard said—jobs that take a raw material, and through creativity and hard work add value to the product before selling it. He also said we need to create tough laws that restrain Wall Street’s greed and prevent the same people who got us into this mess from ever doing it again.
He likened the deregulation of Wall Street to letting your 3-year-old child loose for eight hours in the world’s largest candy store.
You know what happens when you come back and get them. Their stomachs are full of candy and sugar. It’s coming out of their pockets, and you know they’re going to puke on your shoes. I’m tired of Wall Street puking on my shoes.
|CWA member Elisabeth Choate, fourth from right, warned shareholders about Frontier’s transaction with Verizon.|
Robert Masciola of the AFL-CIO Organizing Department describes how workers at Frontier Communications are calling attention to a deal with Verizon that workers say is bad for shareholders and workers.
Shareholders for Connecticut-based Frontier Communications and its top executives heard from an employee about how the proposed deal to acquire Verizon’s assets in West Virginia and 13 other states “may be good for Verizon, but will leave Frontier a much weaker company.”
With support from CWA Local 1298 in Connecticut and the AFL-CIO, Elisabeth Choate traveled to Stamford, Conn., to attend the Frontier special meeting where shareholders voted to approve the deal.
A movement in West Virginia and 13 other states led by CWA and the Electrical Workers (IBEW) opposes the deal—and the unions are not alone. Fran Hughes, chief deputy attorney general for West Virginia, doesn’t believe Frontier has the ability financially to live up to the commitments it has made to the West Virginia Public Service Commission.
Choate, a CWA Local 2276 leader who works as a programmer at Frontier’s facility in Bluefield, W.Va., put it this way at the special meeting:
Shareholders should look carefully at what we are buying.
No other phone company in the U.S. has attempted a deal of this complexity and size that includes integrating almost 5 million access lines across 14 states. The next largest deal ever attempted—with FairPoint Communications in northern New England—has been beset with customer-service, order-fulfillment and billing problems. Before the FairPoint deal was announced, its stock price was almost $20 a share. Today, its stock is trading at about 20 cents a share. And yesterday, the company declared bankruptcy.
Ron Collins, CWA District 2 vice president, pointed out that “Frontier says that its goal in the 14 states is to cut expenses by 21 percent or $500 million annually by 2013.”
To achieve savings of this magnitude, Frontier will need to substantially reduce its workforce and deeply cut other costs. By comparison, when FairPoint purchased Verizon’s access lines, it projected reducing costs by only 8 to 10 percent. Yet, FairPoint has not come close to achieving even those savings. The magnitude of savings projected by Frontier for a transaction of this size is totally unrealistic.
The governors of Mississippi, Louisiana and Alabama are pushing the U.S. Defense Department to award in 2010 a $35 billion to $40 billion tanker contract to European-owned EADS/Airbus rather than U.S.-based Boeing Corp.
In doing so, Republican Govs. Haley Barbour, Bobby Jindal and Bob Riley are seeking to pit worker against worker, North against South, as a ploy to cover what’s really at stake: family-supporting jobs.
See, these governors loooove job creation in their states—as long as those jobs don’t pay much. Or offer affordable health insurance and retirement security. And especially as long as those jobs aren’t union.
If Boeing is awarded the contract for the refueling tanker aircraft, 44,000 family-supporting production jobs will be created across the country. In contrast, the few thousand jobs created under an EADS contract would be low-paid assembly jobs with no union protection.
In announcing a new alliance to lobby for the Europeans to win the tanker contract, Barbour made clear what’s really at stake for this set of anti-worker politicians: Killing union jobs because unions are the best defense against the type of corporate serfdom these latter-day peasant-masters want to perpetuate. At this week’s launch of the Aerospace Alliance, Barbour said that if the Gulf Coast site is chosen,
you don’t have to worry about [workers] being out on strike when America needs them.
The Republican governors’ divide-and-conquer tactic has been used time and again by anti-union management: Create division between workers so they will not join in solidarity against the real threat—corporate puppet masters and their political puppets.
In the short-term, the tanker contract is about jobs. But it’s also about the future of the nation’s economy. Unless production-related employment in the United States is increased, our nation will sink further behind the industrialized world in research and development and the high-level involvement in manufacturing that propelled our economy to the top.
Granting the tanker contract to Boeing is a step toward returning critically needed production jobs to the United States. And it’s a step away from the corporate-serfdom fantasized by corporate-bought lawmakers.
This is a cross-post from the Firedoglake blog.
Over the next decade, America is poised to invest $2 trillion in infrastructure, health care and a greener economy, but that money must be invested strategically to build a new economy, not just retool the current model, which is not working.
Speaking this morning at the Building the New Economy conference in Washington, D.C., AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said the global economic collapse requires us to think of long-term strategies to rebuild and restructure our economy, with a revitalized manufacturing sector at its core.
The one-day conference, sponsored by the Institute for America’s Future and the Alliance for American Manufacturing (AAM), is bringing together political, business, environmental and union leaders and economists to discuss the fundamental changes needed to create an economy that provides sustainable long-term growth and creates across-the-board prosperity.
In conjunction with the conference, the institute released a new report, “Making It in America: Building the New Economy: Where We’re Going. How We’ll Get There.” The report calls for a comprehensive approach to economic recovery that includes investing in education, rebuilding the nation’s infrastructure, creating a national policy to promote manufacturing and developing new energy technologies.
The cornerstones of a new economy must be significant public investment, a national industrial policy and a new global financial and trade strategy, various experts said.
The nation has paid a high price for failing to invest in manufacturing, Trumka says:
Instead of paying workers to innovate and to make things we could export, the business of America has become finance.
Wall Street and transnational corporations have been defining U.S. financial and trade policy to fit their will. Their push for short-term profits has undermined domestic manufacturing and helped drive it offshore in a global race to the bottom.
United Steelworkers (USW) President Leo Gerard said the huge trade deficit, especially with China, was part of the cause of the financial meltdown. On trade, Gerard and Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) called for a review of U.S. trade deals. Gerard said he would like to see a review of how much each deal, since 1994, has actually helped the U.S. economy.
The concept that cheap Chinese goods are good for our country is crazy. It’s led to lost jobs and devastated communities. [See video.]
U.S. Steel CEO John Surma said we could start changing our trade policies by actually enforcing the rules already in the deals. No company can compete with nations like China, which breaks the rules openly and gets away with it. The Obama administration must stay strong on China’s illegal dumping, currency manipulation and other trade violations, he said.
At the same time, we must reduce the trade deficit and not depend on China to finance our growing debt. Having China as our financial master and trading partner is a lot like Neville Chamberlain’s accommodation policies in World War II and will lead to destruction, he said.
Every major economic recovery has been driven by strong federal investment in infrastructure, DeLauro pointed out. Trumka agreed, saying:
Congress and the Obama administration must target resources to the industrial heartland, where we have the skilled workers, the engineering talent and the idled capacity.
Surma pointed to China’s recent investment of $600 billion in infrastructure development and the resulting economic boom as an example of the kind of investment that could pay off big in a short time in the United States.
It also is critical to pass health care reform, Trumka said.
We simply can’t have a robust economy when health care costs are sucking it dry, leaving little room for other investments and threatening the health and learning ability of the next generation to enter the workforce.
Today, U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi unveiled a comprehensive reform bill that would guarantee coverage for 96 percent of the U.S. public.
Among other things, the bill, H.R. 3962, includes a public option, expands Medicaid coverage to families who earn up to 150 percent of the federal poverty level, provides help for middle-class families to get coverage and sets tough new rules for insurers, making sure that no one can be denied care or be rejected from coverage because of pre-existing conditions. It’s fairly funded through a combination of employer responsibility, cost savings and a surtax on the extremely wealthy—and does not get its funding from taxes on middle-class workers’ benefits. All that, and it will reduce the deficit in the long term.
It’s the kind of change America voted for last fall. You can read the full bill here.
AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka praised the House bill and promised that in the weeks to come, working families would fight hard to make sure that real reform passes this year:
Today’s release of a progressive health care reform bill by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi puts America’s working families one big step closer to getting quality and affordable health care, and it’s a model for fair financing.
The inclusion of a public plan option ensures that we reduce skyrocketing health care costs by holding insurance companies accountable and forcing them to compete. The public option also ensures that all Americans can get coverage no matter what.
The bill does not attempt to finance reform on the backs of the working middle class. In addition, the employer responsibility provision ensures a fair share of financing from employers and prevents employers from increasing costs for everyone by dumping people into subsidized programs.
More news from the fight for health care:
- Ron Pollack of the health care advocacy group Families USA says the House bill “sets the gold standard” for coverage and affordability.
- At the Denver Post, Mike Cerbo of the Colorado AFL-CIO has a great op-ed about the urgent need for health care reform as costs rise for working families.
- At Working America’s blog Main Street, Mitchell Hirsch warns we can’t let health care reform legislation get weakened and watered down. Will we listen to working families and pass the strongest reform bill possible—or will we undermine affordability and coverage to appease a small minority of senators? The stimulus bill could provide lessons.
- Also via our friends at Working America, Doug at Balloon Juice says that as we look at cost curves and vote counts, we also need to remember that real people’s lives are at stake here.