Five Hundred Horizon Flight Attendants Ratify Contract – 12/23/09
By Doug Cunningham
Five hundred Horizon Airline flight attendants represented by the AFA-CWA have ratified a new contract. It includes pay raises and flexibility improvements. The union says the two-year deal provides a solid foundation for the future for these flight attendants.
Utah Transit Authority Board Imposes Contract Against Wishes of 99 Percent Of Its Workers – 12/23/09
Defying an overwhelming vote by employees, the Utah Transit Authority board of trustees adopts a new two-year contract on Monday. Ninety-nine percent of workers represented by the Amalgamated transit Union Local 382 voted against the new contract proposal. According to Utah state law workers can not strike and if they do the authority can force workers back to work via the courts. Any workers who continue to strike can be disciplined as if they didn’t show up for work.
Physicians For a National Health Program Urges Defeat Of Senate Health Insurance Reform – 12/23/09
By Doug Cunningham
Physicians For A National Health Program is urging the U.S. Senate to defeat the health care reform bill in its current form. The 17,000-member doctor organization says it will do more harm than good. These doctors urge a Medicare-for-all single payer solution. They say the Senate health reform gives huge subsidies to insurance companies while taxing health benefits, forcing people to buy private insurance policies and cutting Medicare.
Worker Productivity Jumps 8.1 Percent–Wages Don’t – 12/23/09
By Doug Cunningham
Economic productivity of the American worker jumped by 8.1 percent in the third quarter, but pay raises of eight percent are nowhere to be found. Instead, wages are stagnating and workers are under huge stress with larger workloads while fearing for their jobs. Professor Thomas Kochan at MIT’s Sloan School of Management says this productivity boost isn’t being accompanied by rising wages.
Bankrupt Visteon Seeks To Dump Pensions Of 21,000 Workers Onto Pension Benefits Guaranty Corporation – 12/23/09
Visteon is seeking to shift pension obligations the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation. Twenty-one thousand workers would be impacted if the automotive supplier is allowed to drop three of its four pension plans. According to the Detroit News, workers will collectively lose $100 million in benefits under the federal organization. Visteon is currently in the midst of bankruptcy proceedings and is in the process of reorganization.
Stanford: Don’t Believe the Spin on Unions in Canada
In a new column in the Globe and Mail, economist Jim Stanford looks at the way Big Business lobbyists use myths about Canada to block policy changes in the United States.
While much of this disinformation is aimed at health care reform, Stanford notes, corporate front groups and pundits also are using the same tactics to oppose the Employee Free Choice Act.
Stanford notes that one method of attack is via hired-gun “studies” that misrepresent the facts. Speaking about one such “study” that uses Canadian data to try to argue that the Employee Free Choice Act would cost jobs, Stanford says:
This study’s methodology was bizarre and inconsistent; it wouldn’t pass muster in an elementary statistics course. But its findings are repeated ad nauseam by business lobbyists and anti-union editorialists, pulling out all the stops to keep American unions on the defensive.
As Stanford notes, even as Canada has a higher rate of union membership than the United States, it also has a “sizable employment advantage”—debunking the shoddy logic underneath the anti-Employee Free Choice campaign.
For more great scholarship on union membership and employment, visit the York University Center for Research on Work and Society here.
The Gift America Needs Most: Manufacturing
In Columbus, Ohio, a 5-year-old girl jumped onto Santa’s lap last month and asked if he could give her dad a job as an elf.
Mike Smith, who works the Santa station at the Polaris Fashion Place in Columbus, asked why, the Wall Street Journal reported. The little girl in the Dora the Explorer sweatshirt responded:
Because my daddy’s out of work, and we’re about to lose our house.
Happy Holidays, America!
The gift this country needs most this holiday season is an economy built on a solid foundation, one that will provide middle class, family-supporting jobs now and into the future.
That present would not be another version of Monopoly for Wall Street wannabees. It would not be Barbie-goes-to-the-mall-credit-cards for youngsters in families already maxed out on their plastic and their mortgages.
The metaphorical gift our economy could really use is an Erector Set—a strong steel construction kit from which the intrepid manufacture airplanes, automobiles, robots on motorized tracks, backhoes, helicopters, skyscrapers, cranes, even working Ferris wheels.
That’s because, most of all, this economy needs manufacturing. Enthralled by the glitz, glamour and bogus bonuses of Wall Street, we’ve allowed multinationals to export our grit and grimy factories overseas. Factories that made clothing, sports shoes, large appliances, tires, glass and so much more in big and small U.S. towns—now transferred to China and Indonesia and India, lured not just by cheap labor, but also by lavish government subsidies and absent environmental regulations.
Manufacturing, the basis of any strong economy, has continuously declined as a percentage of the U.S. gross domestic product since its World War II peak, when it was 28.3 percent. Its new low is less than half of that—12 percent.
Here’s the most obvious difference between an economy based on manufacturing and one based on Wall Street: You can hold the handlebars of a Harley-Davidson in your hands, but just try grasping a derivative.
The paper traders on Wall Street bundle mortgages into exotic financial instruments called derivatives, sell those, buy pseudo-insurance to secure them, then engage in legal betting on whether the “instruments” will soar or fail. This kind of activity caused the financial collapse in 2008. Frankly, beyond being incredibly risky, these transactions don’t create true wealth; they just generate big bonuses.
In manufacturing, an entrepreneur takes raw material and adds energy, ingenuity, tools and labor to create a product, like steel, that has real value and can be sold on the market to someone who needs it to combine with other materials to make finished merchandise like motorcycles or refrigerators. And those manufactured items are durable and valuable.
In the process of manufacturing, many people are employed—to get the raw materials, whether it’s limestone or iron or trees, to transport it to a factory, to generate electricity to run the factory, to transform the raw material at the factory, to deliver the product to the buyer, to pave the roads and build the bridges and repair the railroads necessary for all that transportation, to design the highways and factories and overpasses, to feed all the workers lunch.
Tragically, the Great Recession caused by Wall Street has hit manufacturing hard. While unemployment is at a 25-year high of 10 percent, the unemployment in manufacturing has run a couple of percentage points higher than that. More than 2.1 million manufacturing workers have been thrown out of their jobs since the recession began in December 2007.
These workers are the parents of children in Dora the Explorer sweatshirts who are asking Santa for elf jobs.
These are the workers who have cut back on doctor visits or medical treatments—although almost half are suffering from depression or anxiety, a New York Times/CBS poll of unemployed adults showed.
These are the workers who told the pollsters that the frustration and stress of unemployment has provoked conflicts and arguments with family and friends.
These are the workers who have lost their homes or have been threatened with eviction or foreclosure, who have difficulty paying bills and have resorted to borrowing money from friends and relatives. These are the workers profiled by Anne Hull of the Washington Post in a story that began by describing desperate laid-off Warren, Ohio, residents in a pawn shop:
At campaign time, they are celebrated as the people who built America. Now they just want to know how much they can get for a wedding band.
These are workers selling their precious keepsakes to survive 15 percent unemployment in an area along the Mahoning River that once was the world’s fifth-largest steel producer—until it lost 50,000 of those family-supporting manufacturing jobs and another 11,500 middle-class jobs at the Lordstown General Motors plant, all in a decade.
These workers could be holding good, steady factory jobs if the United States had implemented a manufacturing strategy, the way China, Japan, Germany, even the Netherlands, did long ago.
Just last week, the Obama administration offered a gift to all those who believe in manufacturing. It is that strategy for America. Its formal name is the White House Plan to Revitalize American Manufacturing.
For that 5-year-old girl in the Dora the Explorer sweatshirt. For her furloughed father and her family. For the future of this country, let’s give ourselves the gift of a future constructed on a solid economic foundation. Let’s implement that plan to revitalize American manufacturing immediately. Millions of unemployed workers can’t wait.
Chamber the Bah-Humbuggiest in JwJ’s Scrooge of the Year
Do you hear chains rattling? That’s the ghost of Christmas Past tracking down the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber is the 2009 winner of the annual contest by Jobs with Justice (JwJ) to spotlight the greediest, most cold-hearted organization or person that personifies the spirit of Ebenezer Scrooge.
Voters singled out the Chamber for its narrow, radical agenda advocating for anti-worker, profit-focused solutions to the broken health care, labor and environmental systems.
Jobs with Justice Executive Director Sarita Gupta says the Chamber was up against some pretty Scrooge-worthy opponents.
[But] the similarities between Scrooge and the Chamber of Commerce were hard to beat. The ghost of years past would show that the policies they’ve promoted, including deregulation and maximizing profits at the expense of workers, are directly connected to the destruction of America’s middle class.
The Chamber has spent millions of dollars lobbying against legislation that would benefit workers and families—the Employee Free Choice Act, health insurance reform, paid sick days and environmental regulations. Its extreme positions have led some companies and local chapters of the Chamber to disaffiliate from the national group. Says Gupta:
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has developed into a front group for a few narrow interests, not a membership association that represents the voice of mainstream American businesses.
Other Scrooge candidates included:
Bank of America, nominated for its role in the sub-prime lending crisis and failure to extend credit to small businesses.
Hyatt Hotels for their Scrooge-like firing of 100 housekeepers in Boston and other anti-worker actions.
Publix Supermarkets for resisting the call to be part of the solution to human rights violations in Florida fields by continuing to buy tomatoes from growers prosecuted for modern-day slavery.
Student loan lenders Sallie Mae and Citibank for their expensive, variable rate loans for students.
An impressive write-in campaign also was waged for United Airlines because the company slashed workers’ wages and pensions while continuing to award lavish bonuses to top executives.
The Chamber of Commerce joins an infamous group. Last year’s winner was the entire lot of Wall Street executives whose unchecked corporate greed led to our nation’s economic disaster.