Lede: Flight attendants are working to get Congress to approve an FAA Re-Authorization bill that includes some workplace protections in the air. Doug Cunningham reports.
By Doug Cunningham
Front and center for flight attendants is health and safety on the job. Bill McGlashen is Executive Assistant to the President at the Association fo Flight Attendants –CWA. He says it’s vital that Congress include protections for flight attendants in the FAA Re-Authorization, because the FAA has sole jurisdiction over the airlines.
New rules were unveiled Friday that Vice-President Joe Biden hopes will protect the retirement savings of U.S. workers. One of the rules would prevent retirement advisers from steering workers into funds that they have a vested interest in unless they are working off of a certified unbiased computer model. The goal is to limit conflicts of interest that may undermine reliability of investment advice. A second rule is aimed directly at protecting retirement plans reached via collective bargaining agreements.
50,000 California state workers were illegally furloughed, according to an Alameda County Superior Court Judge. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger furloughed the workers in a bid to bridge a $20 billion budget shortfall. According to the court the workers are owed back pay for the time they were off the job. The administration plans to appeal the decision to the state Supreme Court and has expressed confidence that the court will rule in its favor.
United Steelworkers (USW) President Leo W. Gerard recently sat down for a Q&A session with Richard McCormack, editor and publisher of Manufacturing & Technology News. McCormack, an expert in economic competitiveness and globalization, is editor of the new book, Manufacturing A Better Future for America, for which he wrote the first chapter, “The Plight of American Manufacturing.”
Gerard: How do we make politicians understand how vital manufacturing is?
McCormack: Politicians need to be hit over their heads with a baseball bat as forcefully as is possible, with Americans insisting that they at least acknowledge that a country that doesn’t make what is consumes is going to fail. It is a simple concept. There are many historical precedents of countries and empires failing after having lost their productive capacity. It is an ancient concept: a country that does not have industry cannot support an army.
Gerard: Ralph E. Gomory, the retired IBM senior vice president for Science and Technology and a winner of the Heinz Award for Technology, the Economy and Employment, says the interests of American corporations have diverged from the interests of America, yet politicians act as if they’re still the same. Can you explain what that means both in terms of the economy and employment?
McCormack: Ralph Gomory has made one of the most profound and important observations on the current global economic situation. He says that outsourcing is not free trade. Yet the federal government still represents the interests of the powerful companies that are firing millions of American workers and shifting those jobs offshore.
Domestic manufacturers have told me repeatedly that the greatest protectionists in our country are the corporate and financial companies that are doing everything in their power to protect their assets in China. To influence policy in their favor, the multinationals, retailers, importers and foreign producers fund think tanks, trade associations, lobbyists, lawyers and public relations firms. These are the real protectionists, not American businessmen who want to save American jobs and the American middle class.
The U.S. government continues to craft policies that are beneficial for companies that outsource jobs
Gerard: Would you talk about how something as positive-sounding as free trade devastated American industry?
McCormack: A friend of mine works at the Commerce Department. He says that free trade is a farce. The United States has tariffs of 2 percent or 3 percent on incoming products. Yet the United States trades with countries with tariffs that are 10 times higher. Is that free trade? He has a simple solution to the U.S. trade crisis: hold up a mirror to any nation trading with the United States. Whatever their tariffs are on U.S. products entering their country that is what the U.S. tariff should be on their products entering America.
How can U.S. producers compete when they must pay for all of the costs that foreign producers don’t have to add to the price of their product?
U.S. manufacturers have to abide by a thousand EPA rules and OSHA standards. Not so in China. That is a huge advantage. The United States government lets American companies that have set up shop in China get away with not having to abide by American standards – even though
Foreign producers should NOT have this unfair advantage. It is an outrage that the United States has allowed this to occur.
Gerard: When I go to Washington, what I hear is that we don’t need manufacturing. That’s old and dirty. So many politicians say the U.S. can move to a financial and service economy.
McCormick: This argument is what has led to the demise of the United States. People are just starting to realize that as manufacturing goes offshore, high-end jobs in design and research and development go with it. When a plant closes, the supply chain disappears. This supply chain includes materials and parts producers, software providers, like CAD (computer-aided design), ERP (enterprise resource planning) and dozens of other high-tech equipment providers, machine tool companies, maintenance, accounting, packaging – the list goes on to include such things as the local restaurants, janitorial services and those dependent on the plant’s tax revenues, like librarians, county clerks, police officers and teachers. These are service jobs, all of which depend on manufacturing.
One manufacturing job supports 15 other jobs. No other category of job has such a high multiplier. The United State must do whatever it can to start creating manufacturing jobs.
Click here for the full interview.
Steve Stallone is president of International Labor Communications Association and secretary/editor of the California Media Workers Guild, TNG-CWA Local 39521. Evelina Alarcon is chair of the Cesar Chavez National Holiday campaign. They are reporting from the 10-year commemoration of the free the Charleston Five campaign.
Even in this tough economy with its high unemployment, “Now is not the time to retreat,” AFL-CIO Executive Vice President Arlene Holt Baker told a town hall meeting in Charleston, S.C., yesterday. She urged unionists and activists “not to back down” on workers’ major goals: a good jobs program, the Employee Free Choice Act and health care reform.
The town hall meeting was part of a larger 10-year anniversary commemoration of the victory to free the Charleston Five, members of the Longshoremen (ILA), who were arrested and charged with conspiracy to riot after state police attacked their picket line. A global movement to free them eventually led to the charges being dropped.
Holt Baker said:
We have to be as bold as the Charleston Five to turn the economy around. We have to go to the streets. We have to be ready to go to jail.
Noting that 38 percent of jobless workers have been unemployed for 27 weeks or longer, Holt Baker said the recently passed Senate jobs bill is “not big or bold enough.” She called for a federal program that would put Americans back to work rebuilding schools, roads, bridges and alternative energy resources that create good, green union jobs.
As more workers lose their jobs, Holt Baker said, local governments are shredding the social safety net, slashing services and programs and laying off the public workers who provide them. And she added that a sustainable economy requires reform that makes health care accessible to all Americans-like Stacey Clark
A single mother, Clark, who has a college degree, told town hall participants that she had a good career in human resources recruiting until she was laid off two years ago. But for the past two years, she has been unemployed or underemployed. She said she has applied for between 10 and 20 jobs a day, has worked as a captain’s mate and as a kayak instructor and worked waiting tables. She just landed a part time job at Plumbers Local 421 in South Carolina, a job with benefits.
I cried when I was told I had qualified for health insurance.
Clark said she lost her home and she and her 16-year old son had to move in with another family. Statistics alone can’t explain the personal affects of unemployment. She added:
My whole world had fallen apart. No one talks about what it does to a family and to one’s emotional stability. I had feeling that I had failed.
Ken Riley, president of ILA Local 1422, said he has heard stories across the country of unemployment, poor working conditions, low pay and lack of health care.
“South Carolina is becoming a third world region. Boeing is the latest example,” he said, referring to the company’s move to shift production from union-strong Seattle to Charleston after getting massive local tax breaks and assurances of no union representation at the new plant.
The workers there won’t make as much as those in Seattle. And the local politicians are giving away the store-these tax breaks are hurting our schools and our communities.
Sen. Jim Bunning (R-Ky.) has a message for the 1.2 million jobless workers who will lose their unemployment insurance (UI) benefits and COBRA health coverage in March when the two programs expire Feb. 28.
Bunning has single-handily blocked a vote on a 30-day extension by being the only senator to oppose a unanimous consent motion to vote on the bill which was passed earlier by the House.
For hours last night, Bunning refused to budge and according to Politico, when Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) urged Bunning to relent, his response was, “Tough sh*t.”
As of this morning, he continues to block the bill and reports from the Hill indicate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) will now try to move a year-long extension next week. But even if that bill pass quickly and retroactively covers jobless workers who will lose their benefits between Feb. 28 and when the long-term is signed law, hundreds of thousands of unemployed will go weeks without help.
In Bunning’s home state, the unemployment rate is 10.7 percent and in some areas, such as Magoffin County, as high as 21.7 percent. But that’s just “tough sh*t,” says Bunning.
Nationwide, long-term unemployment continuing to rise-currently at an all-time high of 40 percent of all unemployed, people who desperately need the UI lifeline. But that’s just “tough sh*t” says Bunning.
What really upsets Bunning? Missing a University of Kentucky basketball game. Here’s how Politico describes the scene.
On the floor, Bunning leaned back in his chair, legs crossed, as he listened to a slew of Democratic senators talk about the bill he is blocking.
Around midnight, Bunning took the microphone again and said:
I have missed the Kentucky-South Carolina game that started at 9 o’clock, and it’s the only redeeming chance we had to beat South Carolina, since they’re the only team that has beat Kentucky this year.
Two words, Senator……
California has launched an investigation into possible illegal premium increases and denial of claims by the state’s seven largest health insurance companies.
Yesterday, state Attorney General Jerry Brown issued subpoenas for detailed financial records and other information records to Aetna Health, Anthem Blue Cross, CIGNA, Health Net, Blue Shield of California, Kaiser Permanente and PacifiCare.
Earlier this month Anthem Blue Cross announced it was raising premiums in California by as much as 39 percent for its 800,000 customers, despite a $4.7 billion 2009 profit by its parent firm WellPoint. The insurer is now facing a congressional hearing and Obama administration scrutiny over its rate hikes.
In September, California Nurses Association/National Nurses Organizing Committee (CNA/NNOC) released a report that which states that since 2002 the state’s largest health insurers rejected more than one in five medical claims. Data from the last half of 2009 shows the rejection rate has jumped to more than one in four (26 percent), with PacificCare leading the way, rejecting 41.7 percent of claims, according to the CNA/NNOC report.
CNA/NNOC Co-President Geri Jenkins says the repeated rate hikes and increase claims denials reveal “an arrogant industry”
indifferent to the pain and suffering caused by routine care denials or economic catastrophe prompted by outrageous price gouging. The denials and pricing practices are both motivated by the prime directive that seems to surpass everything else for these companies-squeezing their patients and providers alike for profits and revenues regardless of who gets hurt along the way.
The attorney general’s investigation will include an examination of how much the plans are spending on health care versus non-health care costs such as marketing, administration and profits. The plans have been asked to provide detailed information on how they spend policy-holders’ premiums and how they review claims and decide whether and how much to pay the doctor or hospital for the service.
More than 100 working people marched from to the state capitol in Columbus, Ohio, yesterday to call on lawmakers to focus on creating jobs and making Wall Street pay for the economic crisis it created. They sent the message that it is time to help working people and put Main Street back to work.
Ohio’s jobless rate is 10.9 percent. The state has lost millions of jobs due to the decline in manufacturing.
Marchers chanted “Good jobs now, make Wall Street pay,” and carried signs saying, “Dear Wall Street: you destroyed millions of jobs. Fix your mess.” Some dressed as Wall Street executives to highlight the role of greedy executives in creating the economic crisis.
At the rally, sponsored by the AFL-CIO’s community affiliate Working America, speakers said Congress and the White House must take serious and immediate action to invest in jobs
Ohio AFL-CIO President Joe Rugola said corporations and Wall Street executives have destroyed working people’s jobs. He said it is up to working people to hold our elected officials accountable to create a new economy that works for working families.
Working America’s Regional Director Dan Heck said:
Ohio working people have been slaughtered by a bad economy, bad decisions made by the last administration and Wall Street greed. Working people are saying ‘no more’ and marched today to call attention to how bad things are for Main Street.