Skyline of Richmond, Virginia

U.S. Study: No Lack of American Engineers (Editor’s note: Plenty of Corporate Greed and a Definite Lack of Patriotism by Corporations)


A new study argues that the offshoring of U.S. jobs is caused by cost savings and not a shortage of U.S. engineers or better education in China. However, the study warns that the United States is losing its global edge.

A commonly heard defense in the arguments that surround U.S. companies that offshore high-tech and engineering jobs is that the U.S. math and science education system is not producing a sufficient number of engineers to fill a corporation’s needs.

However, a new study from Duke University calls this argument bunk, stating that there is no shortage of engineers in the United States, and that offshoring is all about cost savings.

This report, entitled “Issues in Science and Technology” and published in the latest National Academy of Sciences magazine further explores the topic of engineering graduation rates of India, China and the United States, the subject of a 2005 Duke study.

In the report, concerns are raised that China is racing ahead of both the United States and India in its ability to perform basic research. It also asserts that the United States is risking losing its global edge by outsourcing critical R&D and India is falling behind by playing politics with education. Meanwhile, it considers China well-positioned for the future.

Duke’s 2005 study corrected a long-heard myth about India and China graduating 12 times as many engineers as the United States, finding instead that the United States graduates a comparable number.

“You had the brightest kids worrying about their jobs being outsourced. We thought, if kids at Duke were worried, then let’s do a study about what’s going on in education,” Vivek Wadhwa, executive in residence at Duke University’s master’s in engineering management program and a co-author of the study, told eWEEK at the time.

“The first thing you do in a study is you look at the facts. But we couldn’t find any facts. The more we dug, the more we looked, the more we discovered there were no facts,” said Wadhwa.

However, Duke’s 2005 study reported serious problems with the quality of Indian and Chinese bachelor-level engineering graduates, and predicted both shortages in India and unemployment in China. The current report finds these predictions to be accurate, with China’s National Reform Commission reporting that the majority of its 2006 graduates will not find work. There are also oft-heard whisperings of a engineering shortage in India, though private colleges and “finishing schools” are going far to make up for the Indian deficiencies, the report said.

Yet, it is cost savings, and not the education of Indian and Chinese workers, or a shortage of American engineers that has caused offshore outsourcing, the study asserts.

“Respondents said the advantages of hiring U.S. engineers were strong communication skills, an understanding of U.S. industry, superior business acumen, strong education or training, strong technical skills, proximity to work centers, lack of cultural issues, and a sense of creativity and desire to challenge the status quo,” wrote Wadhwa in the 2007 report.

“The key advantage of hiring Chinese entry-level engineers was cost savings, whereas a few respondents cited strong education or training and a willingness to work long hours. Similarly, cost savings were cited as a major advantage of hiring Indian entry-level engineers, whereas other advantages were technical knowledge, English language skills, strong education or training, ability to learn quickly, and a strong work ethic.”

The report concludes by stating that outsourcing will continue to build enough momentum that the next big piece to be offshored is R&D, and that these jobs will require more Master’s degrees and PhDs, something China graduates more of in engineering than the United States. The number of India’s engineering PhD’s has remained flat, while China’s has surged, the report said.. (click on link to read rest of article)

Economic Comparisons Numbers on Presidential Administrations Since Reagan


Bush Econovomits




Carter## -218,000

Reagan## 175,000

Bush II## -70,000 (He brags on this-wow)



Clinton## 41%

Bush I## -21

Reagan## 17

Carter## ## 5

Bush II## ## 4 ( he calls this Zoom?)

How? Yes, much money has been made as the stocks climbed out of deep hole.

Example—Cisco zoomed from $75 to $15. Deep hole. Then, over six years it zoomed to $35.

S& P just recently reached it’s 2000 Level.

One-Half the Dow thousands just go back to 2000 level. Not Dow 30.


Average annual income to buy an average priced home

2000-3.2 years## -2006—5.4 years

An increase of 68% over six years.

The next noise you hear will be Foreclosure Boom


Ignore gasoline—home prices—education prices—heath care prices

Everything is beautiful if you can control the numbers.



Increase in each decade

1970—1207 Billion

1980## 2266

1990## 2612

2000## 3693 (6 years)

Increase per year for each decade


1980## 226

1990## 261

2000## 615 (6 years) will hit 800?

Life is grand when Chairman and all Federal Reserve Officials are “Conservative” Republicans

Ok! So the Europeans can buy our goods now—

In 2000 it took $.83 to buy a Euro. Now it takes $1.37

3 course-set lunch—London-$61.50—Nyc-$45

Four Seasons Room—London-$1,000—Nyc-$465


1980—Less than 1000 Billion (after 200 years)

1990## 4,000 (12 years of Conservative Republicanism)

2000## 5700

2007-## 8881 (7-10-07) wow! More Spend and Borrow let Kids Pay Tomorrow Conservatism


Clinton last budget 1.84 Trillion. Bush up to 2.9 with one budget to go.

Reagan increased Total Sending by 80%. Bush may tie LBJ at 60%.

Note how Heritage-AEI and all Conservatives count only one-half of the budget as their presidents responsibility. Watch them on Revenues. They will cheat. They will use correlations where there is no connection.


Total National Savings has gone negative for first time since Conservative Big Crash


Corporate profits at all time high

Buy overseas at $.50 cent per hour labor and sell to suckers as tho $10 per hour labor

Keep minimum wage as low as possible.

Use two part time instead one full time

Do not pay Insurance.

Maximize Profits like good Christians.

Ever hear of optimizing profits?

Buy Washington. It is cheap.


Republican Federal Reserve let Clinton end with a 6.5 % rate then few months later gave Bush a 1% rate. If this Federal Reserve is non-partisan I will shoot a 61 tomorrow.

Greenspan gave Clinton 13 significant rate hikes during campaign years.

Everything is beautiful if you are Mega-Rich.

Clarence Swinney

Political Research Historian since 1991 on Reagan-Clinton-Bush II administrations

Burlington nc

Beth Hafer Campaign Forges Ahead with Communication Workers of America Endorsement In Congressional Race (PA- 18th)


Beth Hafer Campaign Forges Ahead with Communication Workers of America Endorsement; Wins First Union Endorsement of Race

PITTSBURGH, PA - Democratic congressional candidate Beth Hafer picked up momentum today, winning the first union endorsement in the race to represent Pennsylvania’s 18th congressional district. The Communication Workers of America, District 13 put their support behind Hafer, stating that she is the most qualified candidate for the job.

“A union member herself, Beth Hafer is a passionate and tenacious advocate for Pennsylvania’s working families,” said Jim Short, Vice-President of the Communication Workers of America, District 13. “We enthusiastically support Beth’s candidacy and her vision for the future. Beth’s plans for job creation and economic growth will supercharge Southwestern Pennsylvania and make the region stronger than ever.”

Hafer has long been a strong voice for positioning the Pittsburgh metropolitan area at the forefront of the emerging alternative energy industry. Those plans along with her commitment to improving health care and education have resonated with voters, as has her call to restore integrity to Congress.

“I am proud to have the support of the hard working men and women in the CWA,” said Hafer. “Their needs and concerns have been pushed by the wayside in Washington, thanks to representatives more interested in the privileges of their position than in the privilege of serving their constituents. That will change once I am elected.”

District 13 represents 24,000 workers in Pennsylvania and Delaware and approximately 10,000 in the greater Pittsburgh region.

Policing Corporate Pricing Policies


Policing Corporate Pricing Policies

Among the top priorities of the current and next Congressional sessions should be new laws to regulate corporate pricing policies. In particular, our nation needs strict new federal laws against price-gouging and predatory pricing.

We all know about price-gouging. We see it everyday when buying gasoline, diesel fuel, home heating oil, prescription drugs and many other products or services. Price-gouging is the result of an “all the market will bare” corporate mentality, as opposed to the more traditional “reasonable rate of return on investment” corporate mentality which prevailed in most corporate boardrooms before the 1980’s Reagan Revolution changed government policies and societal attitudes. This is the truly darkside of the Reagan Era. We are still suffering from the negative impacts as consumers and citizens.

Much of what is wrong with America developed out of the Reagan Era “greed is good doctrine.” It thoroughly corrupted the Republican Party and made serious inroads among elements of the Democratic opposition. It corrupted government policy and negatively influenced many average American citizens.

I believe we should return to the traditional Christian outlook that excessive greed is a serious sin. This is not just a Christian doctrine. Almost every religion and moral code developed around the world agrees that greed is usually an evil thing.

Excessive greed is what price-gouging is all about if you apply even a minimum of common sense to examining the issue. Greed is always present. It is why we have armed robberies, burglaries, piracy and scores of other criminal activities. Economic activities judged by society to be detrimental to most consumers, workers or other businesses are usually outlawed or at least heavily regulated by government. It is clear that price-gouging falls into this category of detrimental economic activity. It should be banned.

Corporations that exploit market conditions to abuse consumers should face huge fines. The fines should be multiples of all profits derived from the price-gouging. Zero profits should be retained by those corporations from the price-gouging activities. There is a legal pattern in much of American government regulation of corporate misbehavior that actually permits the corporations involved to retain large portions of illegally obtained profits. This must be stopped.

Corporate executives who are responsible for price-gouging consumers should face long mandatory jail terms. There should be no parole options. The dollar amounts involved should be reflected in the length of the jail terms imposed. The personal assets of those executives should be seized as well as art of the punishment for illegal price-gouging.

It is time to get tough on corporate criminals. These corporate criminals are undermining the health of the American economy, crippling the finances of hundreds of millions of American citizens and undermining our long-term national security for their personal gain. They are truly bad citizens.

Predatory pricing is the tactic of temporarily selling below cost products or services just to drive competitors out of business. After smaller competitors are driven out of business, the predators can then raise prices to price-gouging levels since consumers can no longer buy from the now bankrupt small competitors. Chain stores often use this tactic to destroy local businesses. Corporations like Wal-Mart have the economic ability to destroy small competitors in one small town after another because they have hundreds or thousands of other stores located outside the local market to subsidize the predatory behavior in the local market.

Many states have laws against predatory pricing but not all states. It is time to make the legal prohibition national in scope. It is time to adopt penalties for predatory pricing that are very similar to those I propose for price-gouging.

American consumers and small businesses deserve a fair playing field that promotes economic morality and fair competition. They deserve true economic justice. It is time for the nation to turn our backs toward the Reagan Era “greed is good” ethos and return to our traditional values.

Written by Stephen Crockett (co-host of Democratic Talk Radio and Editor of Mid-Atlantic ). Mail: P.O. Box 698, Earleville, Maryland 21919. Email: . Phone: 443-907-2367.

Feel free to publish without prior approval.

Pennsylvania Elects Union Members to Office


Pennsylvania Elects Union Members to Office

by Seth Michaels, Nov 21, 2007

The union movement played a major role in Pennsylvania’s state and local elections this year by knocking on doors and getting out the vote—and by electing other union members to public office. Union members ran for, and won, elected offices across the state.

At least 23 active and retired union members were elected or re-elected in Pennsylvania this month. Topping the ticket: newly elected state Supreme Court Justice Seamus McCaffrey, who as a Philadelphia police officer was a member of the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP). McCaffrey earned more than 1.2 million votes and joins Justice Tom Saylor, a former member of the Amalgamated Meat Cutters and Butchery Workmen (AMCBW), on the court.

Other union members who will serve as elected leaders around the state include 12 county commissioners, three city and borough councillors, two judges and five other elected officials.

The efforts in Pennsylvania parallel similar successes in New Jersey, where dozens of union members ran for and won elected office this year. Seven members of New Jersey’s state legislature are current or former union members, and 26 other union candidates won local offices. (A full list of New Jersey’s winning union candidates is available from the original article at the link above in PDF format.)

The election of so many current and former union members is a step toward better laws and policies that benefit working families.

Here are the successful union candidates in Pennsylvania’s 2007 elections:

Supreme Court Justice: Seamus McCaffrey, FOP
Supreme Court Justice: Tom Saylor, AMCBW
Allegheny County Council Member: Joan Cleary, SEIU
Allegheny County Council Member At-Large: John DeFazio, United Steelworkers (USW)
Beaver County Commissioners: Joe Spanik, Laborers (LIUNA), Tony Amadio, PSEA
Beaver County Common Pleas Judge: Kim Tesla, LIUNA/USW
Beaver County Prothonotary: Nancy Werme, Teamsters
Erie County Council Member: Phil Fatica, PSEA
Fayette County Register of Wills: Donald Redman, Mine Workers (UMWA)
Fayette County Prothonotary: Lance Winterhalter, UMWA
Lancaster City Council Member: Joe Morales, PSEA
Lycoming County Commissioner: Ernie Larson, Bricklayers
Mercer County Commissioners: Brian Beader, Electrical Workers (IBEW), Ken Amman, USW
Montour County Commissioner: Jerry Ward, AFSCME
Moore Township Tax Collector: Michael Wallery, USW
Philadelphia Traffic Court Judge: Bob Mulgrew, IBEW
Schuylkill Haven Borough Council: Mike Devlin, IBEW
Schuylkill County Commissioners: Mantura Gallagher, PSEA, Frank McAndrew, FOP
Westmoreland County Commissioner: Tom Ceraso, Utility Workers
Westmoreland County Prothonotary: Ron Diehl, USW
Wilkes-Barre City Council: Tony Thomas, USW

The Future of the Corporation


The Future of the Corporation
By Robert Kuttner
The Boston Globe

Wednesday 21 November 2007

Last week, superinvestor Warren Buffett, America’s second richest man, testified before the Senate Finance Committee on the subject of why people like him can well afford to pay taxes. In fact, Buffett is ceasing to be among the very wealthiest because he is giving most of his fortune away to philanthropies while he is still alive.

“Dynastic wealth, the enemy of a meritocracy, is on the rise,” Buffett told the senators. “Equality of opportunity has been on the decline. A progressive and meaningful estate tax is needed to curb the movement of a democracy toward a plutocracy.”

Buffett also proposed higher taxes on the wealthy in order to give working people a break on their payroll taxes, which now cost three Americans in four more than they pay in income taxes. And he supports taxing hedge fund bonuses at the same rate as ordinary income, so that billionaire hedge fund managers don’t pay taxes at a lower rate than the people who clean their offices.

The conservatives on the committee were somewhat nonplussed, since Buffett is a poster boy for capitalist entrepreneurship. He isn’t supposed to hold such views. And indeed, few Americans of great wealth do.

Another one who does is William Gates Sr., who writes in the current issue of the magazine Politico with coauthor Chuck Collins that “Without our society’s substantial investments in taxpayer-funded research, technology, education, and infrastructure, the wealth of the Forbes 400 richest Americans would not be so robust.”

The source of great wealth is not just private entrepreneurs, but the society they inhabit and the public resources on which they build.

Collins, a Bostonian who gave away an inherited fortune while still in his 20s, has organized a new group called Business for Shared Prosperity.

One of the leaders of that group is Jim Sinegal, chief executive of Costco, which offers a business model that radically contrasts with rival Wal-Mart.

Sinegal not only provides decent wages and health insurance for his employees, but was part of a small group of business leaders who actually lobbied for an increase in the minimum wage.

One has to admire citizens like Buffett, Gates, Collins, and Sinegal, patricians who look beyond their own personal fortunes to the fortunes of the Republic and who lay constructive civic roles beyond their business interests.

The problem is that there are not nearly enough of them. And their attitudes run contrary to the gospel of our era that the prime duty of a corporate executive is to make as much money as possible for shareholders, no matter what the cost to employees, communities, or the environment. I recently attended a conference called the Summit on the Future of the Corporation, which brought together enlightened corporate executives and their critics.

Half the people attending were corporate leaders convinced that socially responsible businesses could solve everything from environmental degradation to uplift of the poor. As engaged consumers and informed investors reward benign corporations with their pocketbooks, they contended, more corporations will be socially virtuous.

The other half of the room responded that most corporations, even those that want to do the right thing, are largely undermined by the cutthroat competitive environment in which they operate.

Pay decent wages, try to keep good jobs at home, provide good health and retirement benefits, swear off dubious products like junk food for kids - and some competitor who takes the low road is likely to out-compete or underprice you.

Further, much of what passes for socially responsible behavior by large corporations is so much marketing and “green-washing.”

It’s nice that Wal-Mart promotes long-life light bulbs, but when is Wal-Mart going to pay a good wage?

Some businesses like Costco can perhaps do it all (and God bless them). But for the most part, standards need to be set and financed socially.

That project calls not just for discerning consumers and investors but for engaged citizens crusading for public laws and public funds.

Leaders like Warren Buffett should be prized, both as executives whose civic values shame their peers, and as advocates for better tax-and-spend policies generally. If society is to get the resources so that healthcare and secure retirement (not to mention child care and job training) are not left to the whims and public relations of corporations, Congress had better follow Buffett’s lead on tax equity, and restore our ability to finance these benefits as citizens.

## ## ##

Robert Kuttner’s new book is The Squandering of America: How the Failure of our Politics Undermines our Prosperity.

(In New Jersey) GOP retirements could prove crucial


Article link

GOP retirements could prove crucial
With two of the state’s Republican U.S. representatives saying they won’t run again, Democrats are taking aim.
By Cynthia Burton

Inquirer Staff Writer

When two New Jersey congressmen announced their retirement in a recent 10-day span, the Republican Party lost a pair of incumbents with a combined $2 million head start on campaign fund-raising.
Those retirements, which would be a setback anywhere, could be especially painful for the GOP in New Jersey, where Democrats hold the political power and are able to raise the most money. And the winners of congressional races are usually those who spend the most money.

In 2006, the last time the U.S. House of Representatives was up for election, only 6 percent of the winners beat better-financed opponents, according to an analysis of federal campaign-spending reports by OpenSecrets.Org, a nonpartisan think tank. In New Jersey, every congressional candidate with the bigger war chest won.

The first surprise retirement came from Burlington County’s U.S. Rep. James Saxton, who on Nov. 9 said he would not seek reelection, citing health reasons. He had $1.3 million in ready cash for a forthcoming campaign.

The second came Monday, from U.S. Rep. Mike Ferguson of central New Jersey, who at 37 said he wanted to spend more time with his family. He became the 21st congressman to announce his retirement this year, with most of them - 17 - Republicans. Ferguson had $760,000 in available campaign funds.

Republican political consultant Larry Weitzner acknowledged the loss of the funds “is certainly a factor.”

“You have two incumbents with sizable war chests, and now you have new people starting all over,” he said.

But, he said, money “will not be the decisive factor” if Republicans field the right candidates. Democrats took the retirements as good news.

“A Democratic candidate can be certain she’s not walking into that race $1 million behind,” said Pat Politano, a longtime Democratic consultant who worked for candidate Linda Stender against Ferguson in 2006. “It’s an even playing field now. If anything, I would view it as a financial advantage for Democrats.”

With or without the retirements, analysts say New Jersey Republicans in split districts are on shaky ground in the 2008 presidential election year. New Jersey is enough of a blue state that Democrats had already targeted Saxton and Ferguson.

A third GOP congressional seat also may be in play. Assemblyman Jeff Van Drew, the Cape May County resident who became the first Democrat in memory to be elected state senator from the rigidly Republican county, could run against seven-term Republican U.S. Rep. Frank LoBiondo. In a recent interview, Van Drew said he wouldn’t think about a congressional run until after the holidays.

Of New Jersey’s 13 members of Congress, seven are Democrats and six are Republicans. The state’s governor and two U.S. senators, as well as most members of both houses of the state Legislature, are Democrats. In the recent round of State House races, Democrats picked up a seat in the state Senate, bringing their advantage to 23 to 17; Democrats lost two seats in the Assembly, but maintained a commanding 48-32 majority.

Because Democrats hold power in New Jersey, they can raise more money than Republicans. And money will be a major factor in both races, especially in Saxton’s district, which is in two expensive television markets. The district runs from the Delaware River through Burlington and Ocean Counties to the Atlantic Ocean. Candidates will have to spend about $1.2 million on television advertising in the New York market each week in the final stage of the race, and at the same time write a check for $300,000 per week in the Philadelphia market. Most of Ferguson’s old central Jersey district is in the New York market.

“I can’t think of a district across the country that is more expensive” than the Saxton seat, said Carrie James, spokeswoman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. “There are media markets that are more expensive, but it’s only one media market.”

Ken Spain of the Republican committee declined to comment about campaign finances. Both races are toss-ups, said David Wasserman of the Cook Political Report, a nonpartisan political analysis service. He put the Ferguson seat on his toss-up list after Ferguson said he would retire.

“The key question in both races right now is: Since the Democratic field looks set, who do the Republicans nominate?” said Wasserman.

For the Saxton seat, State Sen. John Adler (D., Camden) already has considerable support and about $200,000 in his campaign account. For the Ferguson seat, Linda Stender, a Democratic assemblywoman from Union County, had been looking for a rematch with Ferguson, who beat her by 1 percent in the 2006 race after outspending her by a 3-2 ratio. She has about $200,000 to face a soon-to-be-named Republican.

Names surfacing to take Ferguson’s place on the ballot include State Sen. Leonard Lance of Hunterdon County, who lost his minority-leader seat to State Sen. Thomas H. Kean Jr. last week.

For Saxton’s seat, Republicans are mulling over a list that includes freeholders from Ocean and Burlington Counties and State Sen. Diane Allen (R., Burlington), who announced yesterday that top GOP fund-raisers Candice Straight and Lew Eisenberg are on her advisory committee. Also in the running are David Norcross, a national GOP committeeman, and Virginia Haines, a former state lottery director.

## ## ## ## ## ## ## ## ## ## ## ## ## ## ## ## ## ## ## ## ## ## ## ## ## ## ##
Contact staff writer Cynthia Burton at 856-779-3858 or

Employees at CBS News Vote to Authorize a Strike


Employees at CBS News Vote to Authorize a Strike
by Brian Stelter

Several hundred CBS News employees represented by the Writers Guild of America have voted to authorize a strike against the company, union officials said yesterday.

The vote enables the guild to call a strike at any time, although a walkout is not imminent. A strike could affect CBS television and radio newscasts, both nationally and in four local markets.

A wider strike by 10,500 television and film writers started two weeks ago.

Approximately 500 CBS News writers, producers, editors, artists and assistants are represented by the guild; 81 percent of the nearly 300 who voted last week supported a strike. The contract with CBS expired in April 2005, and the president of the guild said he hoped the vote will bring both sides back to the negotiation table for the first time since January.

“This is a wake-up call to CBS News management. We’re saying that we are really at the end of our rope,” said Michael Winship, president of the Writers Guild of America, East.

In a statement, CBS called the vote unfortunate and said the company’s contract offer remained on the table. The network said it had proposed a 3 percent salary increase for television and network radio employees and a 2 percent increase for their local radio counterparts in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Washington.

“They want this two-tier wage system, and we don’t feel that’s fair,” Mr. Winship said.

In the event of a strike, about 200 employees would be affected on a given day. Nonunion staff member would most likely handle the writing and production responsibilities for newscasts. In the statement, CBS said it was fully prepared.

The guild also represents writers at ABC News, who have worked without a contract since January 2005. Negotiations between the guild and ABC stalled a year ago, but no strike authorization vote has been held.

Condemn the Bush Labor Board’s Assault on Workers


Take Action Link

Franklin Roosevelt spent his life fighting for working people. And one of the cornerstones of his legacy is the National Labor Relations Board ## an agency created specifically to defend workers from abuse on the job.

But George W. Bush has packed the Board with his cronies, and the result is tragic: a Labor Board that serves corporate bigwigs at the expense of workers.

Join me in condemning the Bush Labor Board and demanding that it return to its original mission: protecting workers!

Take Action Today: Condemn the Bush Labor Board Take Action Link

By now, the story is all too familiar: an agency originally set up to protect the people is perverted by George W. Bush into a source of cushy jobs for his cronies and a mechanism for supporting corporate interests above all others.

It’s especially tragic to see this happen to the National Labor Relations Board ## an agency specifically created to help working people resist abuse on the job.

If there was any doubt about what kind of Board Bush created, it was erased in September when the Bush Board issued a flood of anti-worker decisions.

Why the rush? Because the terms of two conservative members of the Board are about to expire ## and with them Bush’s power to force through anti-worker decisions with a 3-2 vote.

The result: an unprecedented rush of decisions that use bizarre logic to prop up corporate interests at every turn. (I’ve posted some of the worst examples on the CtW Connect blog.)

We believe it’s time for the National Labor Relations Board to stop serving corporations and get back to its original mission: protecting workers. That’s why we’re condemning the Bush Labor Board and laying out a plan for change.

Sign our condemnation petition and help us show the National Labor Relations Board that the time for change is now!

Take Action Today: Condemn the Bush Labor Board Take Action Link
Thanks for all that you do,

Greg Tarpinian
Executive Director, Change to Win

Striking Nurses in W. Va are Met With Intimidation, Harassment and Car Fires!

11.20.07 /

By Richard Negri, Union Review.

A worker action turns ugly.

After hearing that nearly 700 nurses striking at Appalachian Regional Heath Care (ARH), who are represented by the Kentucky and West Virginia Nurses Associations/United American Nurses are being met with underhanded and violent measures brought against them … I thought it was time to raise even greater awareness of this situation.

I hold many discussions with nonunion workers who somewhere along the line will talk about the coercion they believe occurs with union workers organizing. I almost always reply with, “it happens on both sides;” this story is case-in-point.

The nurses began striking on October 1, since then ARH has heightened its intimidation of the striking workers with hired security guards on the picket lines who routinely harass the nurses. The company also has resorted to surveillance cameras taking shots of who walks the picket and when. And now, though it is not clarified yet that its their doing, the company appears to have orchestrated the burning of a car that belonged to one of the union staff who was on hand to assist the nurses.

According to a statement released by the union, a UAN representative left the picket line at the Beckley, WV ARK facility Sunday night. He drove a short distance before realizing he had a flat. He returned to the picket line for assistance, and when he and others returned to his car, they found it had been lit on fire with brush doused in flammable liquid.

FULL story at link.

U.S. IN THE TIME OF EMPIRE?- by Chris Hedges



Link to article in Philadelphia Inquirer

Chris Hedges
is a senior fellow at The Nation Institute and author of “American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America”

All great empires and nations decay from within. By the time they hobble off the world stage, overrun by the hordes at the gates or vanishing quietly into the pages of history books, what made them successful and powerful no longer has relevance. This rot takes place over decades, as with the Soviet Union, or, even longer, as with the Roman, Ottoman or Austro-Hungarian empires. It is often imperceptible.

Dying empires cling until the very end to the outward trappings of power. They mask their weakness behind a costly and technologically advanced military. They pursue increasingly unrealistic imperial ambitions. They stifle dissent with efficient and often ruthless mechanisms of control. They lose the capacity for empathy, which allows them to see themselves through the eyes of others, to create a world of accommodation rather than strife. The creeds and noble ideals of the nation become empty cliches, used to justify acts of greater plunder, corruption and violence. By the end, there is only a raw lust for power and few willing to confront it.

The most damning indicators of national decline are upon us. We have watched an oligarchy rise to take economic and political power. The top 1 percent of the population has amassed more wealth than the bottom 90 percent combined, creating economic disparities unseen since the Depression. If Hillary Rodham Clinton becomes president, we will see the presidency controlled by two families for the last 24 years.

Massive debt, much of it in the hands of the Chinese, keeps piling up as we fund absurd imperial projects and useless foreign wars. Democratic freedoms are diminished in the name of national security. And the erosion of basic services, from education to health care to public housing, has left tens of millions of citizens in despair. The displacement of genuine debate and civil and political discourse with the noise and glitter of public spectacle and entertainment has left us ignorant of the outside world, and blind to how it perceives us. We are fed trivia and celebrity gossip in place of news.

An increasing number of voices, especially within the military, are speaking to this stark deterioration. They describe a political class that no longer knows how to separate personal gain from the common good, a class driving the nation into the ground.

“There has been a glaring and unfortunate display of incompetent strategic leadership within our national leaders,” retired Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez, the former commander of forces in Iraq, recently told the New York Times, adding that civilian officials have been “derelict in their duties” and guilty of a “lust for power.”

The American working class, once the most prosperous on Earth, has been politically disempowered, impoverished and abandoned. Manufacturing jobs have been shipped overseas. State and federal assistance programs have been slashed. The corporations, those that orchestrated the flight of jobs and the abolishment of workers’ rights, control every federal agency in Washington, including the Department of Labor. They have dismantled the regulations that had made the country’s managed capitalism a success for ordinary men and women. The Democratic and Republican Parties now take corporate money and do the bidding of corporate interests.

Philadelphia is a textbook example. The city has seen a precipitous decline in manufacturing jobs, jobs that allowed households to live comfortably on one salary. The city had 35 percent of its workforce employed in the manufacturing sector in 1950, perhaps the zenith of the American empire. Thirty years later, this had fallen to 20 percent. Today it is 8.8 percent. Commensurate jobs, jobs that offer benefits, health care and most important enough money to provide hope for the future, no longer exist. The former manufacturing centers from Flint, Mich., to Youngstown, Ohio, are open sores, testaments to a growing internal collapse.

The United States has gone from being the world’s largest creditor to its largest debtor. As of September 2006, the country was, for the first time in a century, paying out more than it received in investments. Trillions of dollars go into defense while the nation’s infrastructure, from levees in New Orleans to highway bridges in Minnesota, collapses. We spend almost as much on military power as the rest of the world combined, while Social Security and Medicare entitlements are jeopardized because of huge deficits. Money is available for war, but not for the simple necessities of daily life.

Nothing makes these diseased priorities more starkly clear than what the White House did last week. On the same day, Tuesday, President Bush vetoed a domestic spending bill for education, job training and health programs, yet signed another bill giving the Pentagon about $471 billion for the fiscal year that began Oct. 1. All this in the shadow of a Joint Economic Committee report suggesting that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have been twice as expensive than previously imagined, almost $1.5 trillion.

The decision to measure the strength of the state in military terms is fatal. It leads to a growing cynicism among a disenchanted citizenry and a Hobbesian ethic of individual gain at the expense of everyone else. Few want to fight and die for a Halliburton or an Exxon. This is why we do not have a draft. It is why taxes have not been raised and we borrow to fund the war. It is why the state has organized, and spends billions to maintain, a mercenary army in Iraq. We leave the fighting and dying mostly to our poor and hired killers. No nationwide sacrifices are required. We will worry about it later.

It all amounts to a tacit complicity on the part of a passive population. This permits the oligarchy to squander capital and lives. It creates a world where we speak exclusively in the language of violence. It has plunged us into an endless cycle of war and conflict that is draining away the vitality, resources and promise of the nation.

It signals the twilight of our empire.

## ## ## ## ## ## ## ## ## ## ## ## ## ## ## ## ## ## ## ## ## ## ## ## ## ## ##
Chris Hedges is preparing a forthcoming book titled “I Don’t Believe in Atheists.”

230,000-strong union endorses Clinton


LAS VEGAS (AP) — Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Rodham Clinton on Saturday accepted the endorsement from a 230,000-member union and appeared at a rally with a young Hispanic lawmaker who promised her ground support in the early caucus state…..

Link to rest of the USA Today article

….SMART, the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers, will merge the Sheet Metal Workers’ International Association and the United Transportation Union in January.

Steelworkers ‘Skeptical’ About Sparrow’s Point Deal


Steelworkers ‘Skeptical’ About Sparrow’s Point Deal

BALTIMORE ## A United Steelworkers official says he was encouraged but still skeptical after meeting today with the leader of the group that plans to buy the Sparrows Point steel mill near Baltimore.

Closing of the 1.35 billion dollar deal announced August 2nd is taking longer than expected. That prompted the union local representing the plant’s approximately 2,500 workers to ask international union leaders this week to reconsider their support for the deal.

United Steelworkers Local 9477 President John Cirri says he met for about three hours with Craig Bouchard, co-founder of Chicago Heights, Illinois-based steel distributor Esmark. Bouchard is also chairman of E2 Acquisition, the international investment group that was formed to buy Sparrows Point from Mittal Steel NV, of the Netherlands.

Bouchard said in an e-mail that he hoped the meeting would help foster the local’s trust in E2.

Esmark and Wheeling-Pittsburgh Corporation are the lead partners in E2.

## ## ## ## ## ## ## ## ## ## ## ## ## ## ## ## ## ## ## ## ## ## ## ## ## ## ## ##
EDITOR’S NOTE: Another good article found at the Democratic Underground Labor Forum

CWA Will Not Endorse in 2008 Democratic Presidential Primary


The Associated Press
Wednesday, November 14, 2007; 6:35 PM

WASHINGTON ## Another union is sitting out the Democratic presidential primary.

The Communications Workers of America announced Wednesday that it will not immediately endorse any of the Democratic presidential candidates. Instead, the union will allow its local unions and councils to make their own decisions on endorsements.

The union made its decision after asking members to vote during a six-week online poll.

“Voters made clear that they preferred no endorsement by the national union at this time,” union president Larry Cohen said.

Cohen said CWA members were split among the three Democratic front-runners, Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York and Barack Obama of Illinois and former Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina.

But when asked whether the union should endorse anyone, a slight majority of the 30,000-plus votes were for no endorsement, he said.

FULL story at link …..

(re-posted from the Democratic Underground Labor Forum Democratic Underground Labor Forum)

Latest News on the contract situation with our union brothers and sisters from the Amtrak unions


Below is the latest Amtrak contract update.
Please post at all headquarters.
Visit for the latest updates.

An Injury To One Is An Injury To All
Newsletter of the Pennsylvania Federation November 2007

United States Government Releases
Amtrak’s Unions from Mediation

President Bush Expected to Appoint
Emergency Board to Stop Strike

After nearly eight years the Bush Administration has released us from bargaining and under law we are permitted to strike Amtrak, over our unresolved contract, on December 1, 2007. All of Amtrak’s non-operating unions have been released and are on the same timetable as us. There probably will not be a strike on December 1 because it is almost certain that President Bush will exercise his right to appoint a Presidential Emergency Board (PEB) that will put any strike on hold while the PEB holds hearings and issues recommendations for settlement. We have a right to go on strike if we are unable to negotiate a settlement after these recommendations are issued. This deadline will most likely occur in the middle of January 2008.

In the past Congress has prevented rail strikes by taking the recommendations of the PEB and imposing them on labor and management as the new contract. They do this because they believe our role in the economy is vital and we should not be permitted to strike. The fact that they do not want to pay us as if the economy depended on our work is outrageous. These facts frame the circumstances we find ourselves in and we must consider them as we work our way through this crisis.

We believe we are entitled to the terms of our last two national freight agreements as a basis for resolution of this dispute. Those two agreements (2000-2004 and 2005-2010) had modest wage increases, health benefit cost sharing increases, benefit improvements and no work rule changes. Amtrak has offered to settle the dispute for modest wage increases, greater health benefit cost sharing increases than national, benefit improvements, eliminating half of the health care for our disabled members, health care cost sharing for retired employees and work rule changes that will break our union and destroy the working lives of our members.

We have formed a bargaining coalition with the Brotherhood of Railway Signalmen, the National Council of Fireman and Oilers and the American Train Dispatchers Association. We will be represented jointly at the PEB by a very competent law firm provided by the Teamsters, top notch economists and other experts. If seventy years of precedent is followed, the PEB should recommend that our settlement be around the terms of our last two national freight agreements.

This is not a hard case to argue. A fair PEB could very quickly put an end to this eight year nightmare by following decades of convention and recommending the terms of our national freight agreements.

However, we have good reasons to believe that George Bush will not appoint a fair PEB. .

After the Bush recommendations are issued the role that Congress plays in this dispute will determine our working futures. Your help is needed to ensure that Congress plays a positive role and does not simply impose these recommendations. Below is a chart of the issues showing where the Labor and Amtrak agree and disagree.

Positions of Management and Labor

Wages Amtrak Labor
delete Harris COLA $1.71 delete Harris COLA $1.71
restart it in 2010

$.75 (4.2%) plus $.27 (1.5%) - 1/1/2000
17.5% - date of signing 6.087% - 7/1/2002
1.5% - 4/1/2008 3.0% - 7/1/2003
3.5% - 10/1/2008 3.25% 7/1/2004
3.5% - 10/1/2009 2.5% 7/1/2005
3.0% 7/1/2006
3.0% 7/1/2007
4.0% 7/1/2008
4.5% 7/1/2009

Total: 30.2% Total: 30.84%

Retroactivity: none Full retroactivity to all employees.
Based upon a BMWED average
Amtrak rate of $19.47 this would
pay out:
$11,448 straight time
$15,417 avg overtime

Signing Bonus $4500.00 none

Medical Benefits Cost 166.25/month 166.25/month
Sharing 15% of Health, Dental, AD&D and 15% of Health
Life capped at $200.00 eff capped at $200.00 eff 1/1/2010

Prescription Drugs Generic $10.00 Generic $10.00
Co-Pays Brand $20.00 Brand $20.00
Non Formulary $30.00 Non Formulary $30.00

Office Visit Co-Pays Primary Care $20.00 Primary Care $20.00
Specialist $35.00 Specialist $35.00
Emergency Room $50.00 Emergency Room $50.00

Retiree Cost Sharing $50.00/month None

Reducing Health from 48 months to 24 months None
Insurance to Disabled

Supplemental no improvements ( remain at 1992 increase to 2007 levels
Sickness levels)

Expense Away from no improvement $5.90 per day improvement (20%)
Home Per Diem

Amtrak’s Additional Union Busting Work Rule Demands

The National Freight Agreements have no work rule changes in them. This was the compromise to produce these two voluntary settlements. Despite this, Amtrak is insisting that the Union agree to work rules that will destroy our jobs. Some of these work rule demands include outsourcing (contracting out) our work without restriction, a management right to discipline employees without a hearing, eliminating management’s incentive to answer grievances, increasing management’s right to force assign employees to positions on different shifts and far from home, split shifts, variable work weeks for all workers, increasing the basic day to 12 hours, paying overtime only after 40 hours, and withholding pay from employees out of service before proof shown that there has been any wrong doing. Obviously, if any of these rules are agreed to our jobs will become significantly less secure and more abusive.

Amtrak Workers Denied Due Process

We live and work in a bizarre and unfair world. The Bush Administration appoints our management and he has appointed a management that is hostile to American workers and to Amtrak. The Bush Administration appoints our mediators and he has appointed individuals who do not believe in collective bargaining and think Unions should be illegal. And finally, the Bush Administration appoints the people who will attempt to determine the outcome of our dispute.

All Americans are entitled to due process under law and this situation does not remotely resemble due process. When the Bush Presidential Emergency Board issues its’ Union busting recommendations we will need to convince Congress not to impose these recommendations as our new contract. It the politicians will not permit a strike, we are at least entitled to a fair hearing. For the last eight years we have not received a fair hearing and we will not receive one with this Presidential Emergency Board.

Please look over this material carefully. If we are going to win this fight it will require a major membership mobilization and this can only be accomplished if the rank and file understands the issues and the process. We will need every member to step forward and support the work of the Union in this next period if we are to have any hope of saving our jobs and protecting our conditions of work.







Pennsylvania Federation BMWED - IBT
121 North Broad Street - 5th Floor
Philadelphia, PA 19107

Employee Free Choice Act Momentum Grows


Employee Free Choice Act Momentum Grows

On the eve of a major national protest against the policies of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), the union movement is making good on its pledge to make passage of the Employee Free Choice Act a major issue in the 2008 elections.

Last week, Alaska AFL-CIO President Vince Beltrami and local Electrical Workers leader Larry Bell delibered 250 handwritten letters to the state offices of Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Ted Stevens, both Republicans. They told the senators’ staffs to expect to hear more from Alaska’s working families about the importance of the Employee Free Choice Act.

That kind of mobilization is spreading across the country as momentum grows to elect a Congress and president who will honor the freedom of working people to choose a union without employer interference. The act would level the playing field by allowing workers to decide for themselves how they want to choose a union. Current NLRB rules allow employers to determine what means workers must use to join a union.

Worse still, the NLRB recently ruled that employers that voluntarily recognize a union based on majority sign-up must notify the workforce that just 30 percent of them can petition for an election—even if bargaining is under way.

In a debate with Michael Flaherty, a partner in the union-busting law firm Jackson-Lewis, AFL-CIO Organizing Director Stewart Acuff (see video) says the Employee Free Choice Act is needed because the whole NLRB election process is:

… a process of intimidation and coercion. It’s old-fashioned worker intimidation in a very sophisticated manner.

On Nov. 15, in more than 20 cities, workers will march and rally at NLRB offices to protest the board’s anti-worker decisions and push for an end to the Bush board’s reign. They’ll tell the NLRB it should be “Closed for Renovations” because workers would be better off without it until a president is elected who will replace its pro-employer members.

In Washington, D.C., more than 1,000 union members, religious leaders and civil rights supporters are expected to rally in front of NLRB headquarters. Elsewhere, workers plan to march in every section of the country, including Los Angeles; Austin, Texas; Nashville, Tenn.; and Albany, N.Y. For more information on events in your area, contact your local central labor council.

Presidential candidates will be asked about their support of the Employee Free Choice Act during the national meetings of the Young Democrats, the Stonewall Democrats and the Eastern Caucus of the Democratic National Committee, which kick off Nov. 16 in New Hampshire. Workers from across the state who are fighting to join unions or gain first contracts will address the groups.

At the same time, local support for the Employee Free Choice Act is growing daily. Columbus, Ohio, is the most recent local government to endorse the bill.

In addition, the Boyd County (Ky.) County Commission recently called on the state’s members of Congress to back the bill. Two of the Boyd County commissioners are union members, one from the IBEW and the other from the Carpenters.

And working families are determined to defeat Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, the Kentuckian who led the opposition to the bill in the Senate. McConnell faces re-election in 2008.

In Pennsylvania, Cambria County commissioners recently became the 12th local board in the Keystone State to pass a resolution supporting the Employee Free Choice Act.

Finally, in Arkansas and Colorado, working families and their unions are launching statewide campaigns for the legislation. They will begin by collecting handwritten letters from union members across the state and plan a voter education program on the Employee Free Choice Act at worksites and at local union meetings.

Also, in Arkansas, the state AFL-CIO is working to set up a meeting to give workers the opportunity to tell Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D) how hard it is to join a union.

Workers Set to Protest Bush Labor Board’s Anti-Worker Rulings


Nov. 13, 2007 From AFL-CIO Blog

Since the Bush administration stacked the National Labor
Relations Board (NLRB) with aggressively pro-employer members,
the NLRB has become “Kryptonite for America’s workers,” says
AFL-CIO President John Sweeney. After a long list of anti-worker
rulings in September, the NLRB issued a new series of decisions
that make it harder for workers to form unions and easier for
employers to bust unions. On Thursday, thousands of workers in
more than 20 cities across the country will march to NLRB
offices and tell the Bush NLRB, “No More.”

Workers Set to Protest Bush Labor Board’s Anti-Worker Rulings

Clinton and Edwards Differ on Peru Trade Deal


John Edwards, Hillary Clinton Campaigns Clash Over Peru Free Trade Agreement

By David Anderson

Published Nov 10, 2007

Clinton and Edwards Differ on Peru Trade Deal

The House of
Representatives passed a new trade deal with Peru yesterday. The agreement, known as the United States-Peru Trade Promotion Agreement, passed the House with 215 votes in favor and 132 votes against.

Debate over the agreement re-ignited the conflict over trade policy that has raged between proponents and opponents of free trade agreements since the passage of NAFTA in the 1990’s. The debate spilled over into the presidential election with Democratic candidate John Edwards criticizing rival Hillary Clinton’s support for the agreement.

Early in the afternoon John Edwards’ campaign issued a statement condemning the House vote.

“I’m disappointed by today’s vote to approve the Peru trade deal and expand the failed NAFTA model that has cost us more than a million jobs,” Edwards was quoted as saying. He called for trade agreements that protect American workers and contain strong protections for labor rights, waged, and the environment. Edwards called upon Clinton to take a position on the issued, saying that voters deserved to know the truth.

Hillary responded by praising passage of the agreement by the House in a statement issued on her campaign website. “I have long said that we need smart trade policies that advance labor rights, the environment, and our economic standing in the world,” she was quoted as saying. According to Clinton the new Peru trade agreement, which still needs to pass the Senate, contains strong protections for the environment and labor rights. She said that the agreement would allow American goods to enter the Peruvian market free of tariffs. The agreement would benefit American workers as well, Clinton claimed. As president Clinton said that she would seek to vigorously enforce trade agreements. “I will also expand the Trade Adjustment Assistance program so that workers negatively affected by the global economy get the help they need,” Clinton added.

The Edwards campaign fired back in a statement issued late in the evening hours. Edwards was quoted as saying, “I am terribly disappointed by Senator Clinton’s support for the Peru trade deal.” He accused Clinton of supporting the interests of corporations, lobbyists, and President Bush and ignoring the needs of millions of American workers.

The Peru trade agreement was signed back in April of 2006 and has been subject of criticism from environmentalists and labor rights advocates. For example, a joint statement issued by the Friends of the Earth and Sierra Club criticized the agreement for not doing enough to put into place a set of trade policies that would achieve progress towards environmental sustainability. The statement did praise aspects of the agreement though, such as a measure aimed at stemming the trade of illegal lumber and thereby reducing rates of deforestation in Peru.

Bush Board Launches Massive New Assault on Workers


Bush Board Launches Massive New Assault on Workers

Link to post at Change To Win Blog

With its term coming to an end, the Bush Administration’s craven fealty to the most extreme interests of corporate America is reaching unprecedented heights in agency rule making throughout the government. It is hard to believe that any is more egregious however than the massive assault on worker rights by the Bush majority on the National Labor Relations Board last month.

In the month of September alone, on the eve of the close of the fiscal year, the Bush NLRB issued 61, mostly anti-worker, decisions ## fully 20 percent of its total output of decisions for the year.

The National Labor Relations Board was established to encourage “the practice and procedure of collective bargaining” and to protect the “exercise by workers of full freedom of association, self-organization, and designation of representatives of their own choosing, for the purpose of negotiating the terms and conditions of their employment or other mutual aid and protection.”

We have said for years that the NLRB system is broken and has become a tool of corporate interests and not the worker interests it was supposed to serve. That is why the labor movement and its progressive allies are pushing to amend the law with the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA). But the recent NLRB decisions say that the corporate Bush backers are not satisfied. They want the law completely eviscerated before Bush leaves office to make it even more difficult for a new President and Congress to address the problems of the denial of worker rights in America.

The onslaught of decisions that are a direct violation of the intent of the National Labor Relations Act that established the NLRB is particularly interesting given that more than half of the decisions were on cases that are over four years old. For an agency notorious in its use of delay as a way to deprive workers of their rights, the sudden spate of decisions suggests that the Bush Administration is in full court press mode and will use its last months in office to gut as much as it can in the area of worker, consumer, environmental, and other protections.

This President has not only run roughshod over the Constitution, he has also destroyed the administrative rules by which our progressive laws have been enforced. And he plans on finishing the job before he leaves office. Labor, consumer, environmental, and other advocates for the American Dream need to link arms together to stop him.

Greg Tarpinian is the Executive Director of Change to Win.

UPDATE: Some readers have requested specific examples of decisions from this group that illustrate why they’re so bad. Here you go:

Harder to join a union, easier to get rid of a union

Dana Corp., 351 NLRB No. 28 (Sept. 29, 2007) – In its fervor to undermine majority sign-up - the right of a majority of workers to sign a card to express their desire to gain a voice on the job and join a union - the Board reversed 40 years of precedent and invented a new rule: even when more than 50% of the workers sign cards indicating they want a union and the employer respects that choice, a 30% minority of employees may, within 45 days of voluntary recognition, petition to decertify the union, prevent the parties from bargaining, and force employees to suffer through the NLRB’s lengthy and divisive election process. Adding insult to injury, the NLRB ruled that employers would henceforth be required to post notices making sure employees are aware of their rights to overturn the union’s representation, but the notice does not include any mention of employees’ right to form a union free from interference.
Wurtland Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, 351 NLRB No. 50 (Sept. 29, 2007) – The Board took the opposite view about the reliability of signing a card when it comes to getting rid of a union! In this case, the NLRB ruled that signatures on a petition were sufficient to get rid of an existing union and the Board rejected its own election process, arguing that employees who want to get rid of their union should not have to endure the delay involved in a decertification election. In Dana, the NLRB said that signature cards were not true indicators of employee support.
Harder for illegally fired workers to get back pay

St. George Warehouse, 351 NLRB No. 42 (Sept. 30, 2007) – The NLRB reversed 45 years of precedent and shifted burdens of proof onto illegally fired workers, making it harder for those workers to recover back pay.
The Grosvenor Resort, 350 NLRB No. 86 (Sept. 30, 2007) - The Board announced a new rule that workers who were found to have been illegally fired but who wait more than two weeks before giving up on getting their job back and looking for a new job work will be denied back pay for that period so as not to “reward idleness.”
Easier for Employers to Fire and Intimidate Union Supporters

BP Amoco Chemical-Chocolate Bayou, 351 NLRB No. 39 (Sept. 29, 2007) - The Board ruled that it was perfectly permissible for an employer to target union supporters for layoffs, and then to force them to sign release forms, as a condition to receiving severance pay, that prevented them or anyone else from challenging the legality of their termination.

Posted by Greg Tarpinian, Executive Director, CtW

Why the Rush on Trade?


Why the Rush on Trade?

By Harold Meyerson
Wednesday, November 7, 2007; Page A21

The House is set to vote today on a free-trade pact with Peru. What’s not clear is why.

The Bush administration, of course, supports trade deals with just about anyone, as it has made clear by promoting an accord with Colombia, where murdering a union activist entitles the killer to a get-out-of-jail-free card. But Congress is run by the Democrats now, and some of its leaders have sought to craft a different kind of trade bill ## one that takes workers’ rights and the environment almost as seriously as it does the right of global companies and investors to do what they will anywhere they roam. In particular, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charles Rangel and trade subcommittee Chairman Sander Levin have taken it upon themselves to devise these new-model trade bills.

How successful they’ve been is open to interpretation. “For the first time,” Levin wrote in a letter to his Democratic colleagues, “the U.S.-Peru FTA incorporates international labor standards in the trade agreement, enforceable like all other provisions.” This could be a breakthrough, since the enforcement of labor standards has generally been relegated to explicitly unenforceable side agreements in our trade pacts.

But Mark Barenberg, a Columbia University law professor who has drafted petitions for the AFL-CIO protesting the lack of labor rights in China, questions whether the Peru accord signals a breakthrough at all. The agreement, he argues in a paper released yesterday by groups opposing the pact, “does not require the Parties to comply with core labor rights” but rather with “vague, undefined, and unenforceable labor ‘principles’ and with their own domestic labor laws.” Rangel and Levin have won a pledge from the Peruvian government to toughen its labor laws, but, writes Barenberg, the agreement actually imposes lighter sanctions for labor standard violations than current trade law does.

The pact has created a rift in the labor movement. Some unions, led by the Teamsters and Unite Here (the hotel and clothing workers union), staunchly oppose the bill. Others are holding their fire in the hope that their non-opposition now will position them better to defeat upcoming pacts ## with Colombia and South Korea in particular ## that they feel pose a more direct threat to their members or to labor generally.

Democrats have reverted to their accustomed divisions on trade as well, after mustering near-unanimous opposition to the Central American Free Trade Agreement ## the last accord to emerge from the Bush administration without Democratic input ## in 2005. Barack Obama supports the pact while John Edwards opposes it. Hillary Clinton has yet to take a position, though she has suggested the nation may need a little “timeout” from new trade agreements pending a review of the effects previous pacts have had on American workers.

In the House, some longtime opponents of these trade accords, such as Toledo’s Marcy Kaptur, oppose the Rangel-Levin effort. Particularly striking, however, is the opposition from Democratic freshmen. When they swept into office last November, Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch division counted 27 of the 30 new members as critics of free trade.

Today, a number of those new House members who took previously Republican seats last year will vote against the pact.

In general, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid have avoided votes on issues that divide their party ## but not, evidently, when the issue is trade. The party’s Wall Street backers, who always have friends on the Ways and Means Committee, want those votes to go forward, while many in labor adhere to the idea Clinton floated: that a strategic pause is needed to reassess the effects of such pacts and to implement some offsets to the leveling effects that globalization has had on the incomes of American workers.

In essence, the calls for a timeout on trade pacts are the corollary of demands for a timeout on immigration. Both proposals arise chiefly from working-class Americans whom our more-pro-business-than-business government has left at the mercy of every downward pressure on incomes. Democrats have an advantage over Republicans, since they support policies that would mitigate these trends, such as universal health insurance and protections for workers who wish to form unions, while Republicans have no incomes strategy.

The Republicans will probably counter by ratcheting up their war not just on illegal immigration but on immigrants themselves.

But why the Democratic rush on trade? Globalization does pose real challenges to working- and middle-class Americans. Democrats should wait until they’re in a position ## say, in 2009 ## to begin to restore some security to Americans’ economic lives before they return to cutting trade deals. Their electoral prospects, and the nation’s economic prospects, demand no less.