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Democratic Talk Radio needs funds to buy radio time during this crucial 2008 election year.

01.30.08

Democratic Talk Radio needs funds to buy radio time during this crucial 2008 election year.

We want to give real working Americans a voice on the radio this election cycle!

Labor unions in Delaware, Maryland and Pennsylvania might be able to assist in helping me personally fund Democratic Talk Radio without spending any money. In fact, their members will receive no cost benefits at the same time. This will not work in all cases but I really want to discuss the options with organized labor leaders.

We are seeking advertisers, sponsors and donations. If you can help, please contact us.

Online donations can be made via PayPal from the PayPal Donation Center button on our website at http://66.39.111.188/store.html.

You can mail donations to our office at the following address:

Democratic Talk Radio
698 Old Baltimore Pike
Newark, Delaware 19702

You can purchase ads on Democratic Talk Radio programs in Allentown, Pennsylvania or Jacksonville, Florida. Both stations stream on the Internet. We plan to archive all programs including the ads on the Program Archives page of Democratic Talk Radio http://www.DemocraticTalkRadio.com. Ads will be priced at either 1 or 2 -30 second ads per station based on the kind of ad (commercial rate) vs. (labor union rate, political candidate rate, non-profit rate, website ad rate), the particular market and number of ad plays contracted.

I can be reached by email at demlabor@aol.com or by cell phone at 443-907-2367 to discuss advertising or other funding ideas. We are willing to offer our show in your area if you can arrange a station and funding.

Sincerely,

Stephen Crockett

Co-host, Democratic Talk Radio

Heckuva Job!- the President is nominating Robert Battista for another term as Chair of the National Labor Relations Board

01.29.08

Heckuva Job!

The White House announced today late Friday that the President is nominating Robert Battista for another term as Chair of the National Labor Relations Board:

The President intends to nominate Robert J. Battista, of Michigan, to be a Member and designate Chair upon confirmation of the National Labor Relations Board, for the remainder of a five-year term expiring 12/16/09. Mr. Battista recently served as Chairman of the National Labor Relations Board. Prior to this, he served as a Partner at Butzel Long. Mr. Battista received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Notre Dame and his JD from the University of Michigan Law School.

That would be the same Robert Battista who has presided over the Board as it issued an unprecedented slate of anti-worker decisions.

Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA) has already gone on the record opposing the appointment:

It’s unbelievable that President Bush would renominate Mr. Battista to the Board, after he led the most anti-worker, anti-labor, anti-union Board in its history. America’s hard-working men and women deserve a Board that will uphold their rights, not undermine them. With these nominations, the Administration has again demonstrated its hostility to fairness and justice in the workplace.
Posted by Jason Lefkowitz

http://www.changetowin.org/connect/2008/01/heckuva_job.html

The President on wage growth

01.29.08

The President on wage growth

Last night, in his State of the Union Address, President Bush stated, “Wages are up, but so are prices for food and gas.” Putting it this way has caused some confusion. Many people have the impression that the buying power of their paychecks is falling; meaning wages adjusted for inflation are down. The President’s statement is ambiguous in this regard.

We clear up the ambiguity in this recent issue brief: http://www.epi.org/content.cfm/ib240 real wages, both hourly and weekly, fell last year by about one percent. The reason folks feel they are being squeezed is because they are, tricky rhetoric aside.

About EPI

The Economic Policy Institute (EPI) is an independent, nonprofit, nonpartisan research institute – or “think tank” – that researches the impact of economic trends and policies on working people in the United States and around the world.

Economic Policy Institute
Communications Department
1333 H Street, NW
Suite 300, East Tower
Washington, D.C. 20005

PA Republicans vote against Miner’s Safety Act

01.28.08

Found this at Democratic Underground Labor Forum

## ## ## ## ## ## ## ## ## ## ## ## ## ## ## ## ## ## ## ## ## ## ## ## ## ## ## ## ## ## -
“This is dispciable. PA Republicans Jim Gerlach, Tim Murphy, Phil English, and others voted down HR 2768, which seeks to upgrade and make improvements in Miner’s safety. President Bush has threatened to veto it, and once again republicans are lock and step with the president to deter progress on this important domestic issue. Boy is John Edwards right… after the Quecreek, Sago, and utah mine tragedies these republicans should be ashamed of themselves. Call your senator and tell them to vote up on HR 2768.

http://www.opencongress.org/bill/110-h2768/show

Union Membership Sees Biggest Rise Since ’83 - New York Times

01.26.08

By STEVEN GREENHOUSE
Published: January 26, 2008

The roll of American workers belonging to labor unions climbed last year by the largest number since 1983, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Friday.

Union membership rose by 311,000, to 15.7 million, the bureau said, despite a decline in such membership in manufacturing, long organized labor’s stronghold.

As a result, union membership as a share of the total work force rose last year for the first time in a quarter-century, inching up to 12.1 percent from 12 percent the year before. A total of 7.5 percent of private-sector workers were in unions, and 35.9 percent of public-sector workers.

Labor leaders hailed the increase, saying it was a harbinger that the union movement, which represented 20.1 percent of the work force in 1983, was bottoming out after decades of decline.

But some economists questioned whether the numbers in fact signaled a turnaround. In an analysis for the liberal Center for Economic and Policy Research, Ben Zipperer and John Schmitt wrote that “the increase is small and may well reflect statistical variation rather than an actual increase.”

Still, many labor experts had been expecting an actual decline in membership, largely because of a sharp drop in manufacturing jobs, especially in the automobile industry. The bureau’s report showed that for the first time, Western states had a higher unionization rate last year, 14.7 percent, than did the Midwest, 13.8 percent.

Membership grew most strongly in construction and health services, it found.

“We’re pleased but not satisfied,” Stewart Acuff, organizing director of the A.F.L.-C.I.O., said of the report. “It is significant that these numbers represent real growth.”

Mr. Acuff said the increase had resulted from a variety of unionization drives, including those that organized 40,000 child care workers in Michigan and more than 40,000 child care workers in New York.

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/26/us/26labor.html?_r=1&ref=us&oref=slogin

Video link- US recession fueled by low wages and consumer debt

01.26.08

United Steelworkers wants Congressman Charlie Dent to support Toxic Product legislation

01.25.08

February 2008 edition of the Union News

United Steelworkers wants Congressman Charlie Dent
to support Toxic Product legislation

By PAUL TUCKER
theunionnewsabe@aol.com

REGION, January 17th- The United Steelworkers of America (USW) Union conducted a nationwide day of action at 100 Congressional offices on January 16th including in the Lehigh Valley to bring attention to the need of protecting Americans from dangerous imports.

According to Jerry Green, President of the USW Local 2599, Lehigh Street in Bethlehem, the Steelworkers Union wants legislators to support the Food and Product Responsiblity Act, that helps protect American families, workplaces and communities from toxic imports.

The legislation requires companies that produce and bring toxic products into the United States to cover the full costs of any potential recalls.

Mr. Green told the newspaper the USW is working to inform the public that cheap goods have high costs and to demand that elected officials protect the citizens.

On January 16th, the union joined with other members of the labor community, community, and environmental organizations at congressional offices across the nation to ask for political action that will protect the quality of life by protecting the economy, the environment and the most vulnerable populations from toxic imports.

Local 2599 held a event in front of Republican 15th District Representative Charlie Dent office on West Broad Street in Bethlehem. The action was attended by USW and other union members from the Lehigh Valley including the International Association of Fifefighters (IAFF).

Mr. Green said the event had nothing to do with political affiliation of the local congressional member. “This isn’t about Democrat or Republican, it’s about making products safer.”

He added the union wanted to put all members of congress on notice that our trade laws must champion safety and environmental standards as well as worker rights.

Mr. Green told Gregg Bortz, Congressman Dent’s spokesperson who was in the office at the time of the event and spoke to Mr. Green, the union would like Mr. Dent to support the legislation. “I told Gregg, we expect Charlie Dent to support the legislation,” said Mr. Green.

The USW is conducting “safe homes” events across the nation where they provide lead testing for children’s toys, highlighting the dangers of toxic trade. On Wednesday, Januard 23rd, Local 2599 will be conducting a event at the Steelworkers union hall in Bethlehem in which the public is invited to participate.

In the spring the USW plans to organize another round of nationally coordinated protest actions to bring more visibility to the issue of toxic trade and the need for new trade policies.

“Toxic toys, red-leaded steel, poisoned pet food and contaminated human food are just a few of the dangerous imports flooding into the United States. Meanwhile our jobs are being exported to countries without strong labor, environmental, health or consumer safety protections,” added Mr. Green.

THREE AFT FACULTY UNIONS ENDORSE HR 676

01.25.08

THREE AFT FACULTY UNIONS ENDORSE HR 676

College faculty unions in three states have endorsed HR 676, legislation that would institute a single payer system in the U.S. introduced by Congressman John Conyers (D-MI).

In Anchorage, Alaska, the Representative Assembly of Local 4996, United Academics-AAUP/AFT, endorsed HR 676 reports local President Carl Shepro. The local represents 950 faculty members on the three major campuses of the University of Alaska system.

In New York, Local 3998, Long Island University Faculty Federation, NYSUT/AFT, has also endorsed HR 676 reports local President Ed Donahue.

In Philadelphia, AFT Local 2026 endorsed HR 676. Local 2026 represents 1,300 faculty and staff at the Community College of Philadelphia. Local 2026 Co-presidents, John Braxton and Karen Schermerhorn, said after the vote, “Health insurance was the single largest issue in our bargaining for our contract last year. We came away with our health benefits largely intact, but we know it will be even harder next time to negotiate a contract without health insurance take-aways. This country needs to catch up with the rest of the industrialized world and treat health insurance as a benefit that all citizens deserve, and take the responsibility away from individual employers and individual unions.”
#30#

HR 676 would institute a single payer health care system in the U.S. by expanding a greatly improved Medicare system to every resident.

HR 676 would cover every person in the U. S. for all necessary medical care including prescription drugs, hospital, surgical, outpatient services, primary and preventive care, emergency services, dental, mental
health, home health, physical therapy, rehabilitation (including for substance abuse), vision care, chiropractic and long term care. HR 676 ends deductibles and co-payments. HR 676 would save billions annually by eliminating the high overhead and profits of the private health insurance industry and HMOs.

HR 676 currently has 88 co-sponsors in addition to Conyers. Co-sponsors and bill text are here:

http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d110:h.r.00676:

HR 676 has been endorsed by 358 union organizations in 48 states including 94 Central Labor Councils and Area Labor Federations and 32 state AFL-CIOs (KY, PA, CT, OH, DE, ND, WA, SC, WY, VT, FL, WI, WV, SD, NC, MO, MN, ME, AR, MD-DC, TX, IA, AZ, TN, OR, GA, OK, KS, CO, IN, AL & CA).

For further information, a list of union endorsers, or a sample endorsement resolution, contact:

Kay Tillow
All Unions Committee For Single Payer Health Care## HR 676
c/o Nurses Professional Organization (NPO)
1169 Eastern Parkway, Suite 2218
Louisville, KY 40217
(502) 636 1551
Email: nursenpo@aol.com
01/24/08

NLRB finds merit in APWU charges against DHL

01.25.08

February 2008 edition of the Union News

NLRB finds merit in APWU charges against DHL

By PAUL TUCKER
theunionnewsabe@aol.com

REGION, January 15th- The American Postal Workers Union (APWU) held a press conference to announce the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Region Four in Philadelphia has found merit in “Unfair Labor Practice” (ULP) charges filed by the union against DHL global package system issuing a complaint and scheduling an hearing on the matter.

On January 14th, APWU Union Organizer and spokesperson Richard Shelley held the press conference and stated the NLRB would conduct an hearing in Philadelphia beginning on March 8th, 2008 on the charges filed by the union.

Mr. Shelley told the newspaper the NLRB combined several charges filed on different dates into one complaint.

In September 2007 workers at the DHL distribution center on Nestle Drive in Breinigsville voted 217 to 135 not to be represented by the APWU for the purpose of collective bargaining in a election held by the NLRB. The union wanted to represent all full-time and regular part-time package workers employed at the DHL Nestle Way facility. Under NLRB rules, the union needed 50 percent plus one of the eligible to vote employees to cast ballots in favor of the union to become the bargaining representative of the workers.

The union is attempting to organize the DHL system nationwide, and believes the Allentown facility is the second most important for the union to organize in the nation. A facility in Wilmington, Ohio is the largest and the most important to organize if the APWU is to be successful in getting the DHL employees under contract, said Mr. Shelley.

On July 3rd, 2007, the APWU filed a ULP charge with the NLRB alleging management of the company, through supervisors, managers, and agents, engaged in intimidation by attempting to stop employees from passing out union literature at the facility by surveillance.

On September 10th, the union filed a charge against DHL, alleging the employer conducted five additional unfair labor practices leading-up to the election. The APWU alleged DHL, through their supervisors and managers, threatened employees with work rule changes if the union was voted in.

On October 4th, the APWU filed another charge against the Crossroads Group Labor Relations Consultants, a anti-union consultant company that specializes in keeping unions from winning representation elections, which was hired by DHL during the organizing campaign. The union alleges the company was hired to orchestate an anti-union campaign at the DHL Allentown location.

Crossroads Group Labor Relations Consultants is located in San Clemente, California.

The APWU charge alleges that Michael Penn, a agent and employee of DHL, threatened to sue Elias Sleiman, a employee of DHL and an active supporter of the Union, for truthful statements made about Mr. Penn in a union newsletter, published to inform employees about the organizing campaign. The purpose and effect of this threat was to silence union supporters, the union alleges.

Mr. Shelley said if the NLRB finds the company violated the National Labor Relations Act by engaging in unlawful labor practices, they could order another election be held or name the APWU as the employees bargaining representative.

Organized labor likely to support Sam Bennett for Congress In Pennsylvania 15th Race

01.25.08

February 2008 edition of the Union News

Organized labor likely to support Sam Bennett for Congress

By PAUL TUCKER
theunionnewsabe@aol.com

REGION, January 13th- Sam Bennett, 2008 Democratic party candidate in the U.S. House of Representatives 15th District, is likely to receive most of the support of organized labor in the April 22nd primary election and if successful, in the November general election.

Ms. Bennett told the newspaper organized labor is involved with her campaign and some local unions in the Lehigh Valley have already donated the maximum amount of funds allowed to her campaign. Ms. Bennett is attempting to become the Democratic party nominee in the April primary election and challenge two-term incumbent Republican Congressman Charlie Dent.

Any candidate for congress will need to file nomination petitions with at least 1,000 signatures by February 12th to be on the April ballot. William Hall of Northampton County also announced he would seek the Democratic nomination.

Ms. Bennett has attended the most recent meeting of the delegates to the Building and Construction Trades Council of the Lehigh Valley labor federation in Allentown to discuss her campaign and why the working people and their unions should support her candidacy. The organization meets twice monthly at the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Union Local 375 building on Liberty Street in Allentown.

“Charlie (Dent) hasn’t been there for labor. I promise to go to Washington and be their voice,” said Ms. Bennett.

During 2007 Congressman Dent voted against raising the federal minimum wage and did not support the Employee Free Choice Act, which passed the House of Representatives but failed to become law when the legislation failed in the Senate.

The legislation would have replace how union elections are conducted in workplaces with a “card check” system.

William Newhard, President of the labor federation confirmed Ms. Bennett will likely receive most if not all of the financial support of the 20 affiliated local unions of the organization and their members will be asked to vote for her in the election.

In 2007, Workers’ Wages Saw Biggest Drop in 17 Years

01.24.08

In 2007, Workers’ Wages Saw Biggest Drop in 17 Years

The numbers are in on how much working people made in 2007, and they ain’t pretty.

This week, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released the latest data in their Current Employment Statistics survey. These figures cover workers’ earnings as of December 2007.

The BLS reports that after you adjust for inflation, real wages dropped by 0.9 percent over the last year. The Daily Labor Report notes that this is the biggest one-year drop in average weekly pay since 1990.

Link to article on the Change To Win Blog

More Than 1,600 Public Officials Back Employee Free Choice

01.24.08

Workers mobilizing to make passage of the Employee Free Choice Act a key issue in the 2008 elections are making sure local lawmakers are lining up behind the bill.

So far, 1,672 state and local elected officials across the country, including 18 governors and state legislatures, have signed up in support of the legislation either by backing a resolution or by signing on to a letter. Some 106 local county boards or city councils have passed resolutions urging their representatives to vote for employee choice.

At a recent meeting, the Johnstown (Pa.) City Council unanimously passed a resolution supporting the Employee Free Choice Act. The Johnstown Regional Central Labor Council led the fight for the resolution, along with City Council member Nunzio Johncola, an AFSCME member.

So far, 33 municipalities and counties in Pennsylvania have passed resolutions in favor of the legislation. The Democratic State Committee also unanimously passed a resolution backing the Employee Free Choice Act at its quarterly meeting earlier this month.

If passed, the federal legislation would allow workers, not employers, to decide how they want to choose a union. Employers also would face stiff penalties for illegal behavior, such as being liable for fines of up to $20,000 per charge for violating labor laws.

When the Employee Free Choice Act becomes law, workers like Deirdre Kirkwood won’t have to risk their careers and their livelihood to fight for their rights. Earlier this month, Kirkwood was fired from her job as a nurse at Parkview Community Hospital in Riverside, Calif., while trying to form a union with United Nurses Associations of California/Union of Health Care Professionals, an affiliate of AFSCME.

http://blog.aflcio.org/2008/01/24/more-than-1600-public-officials-back-employee-free-choice/

Statement from AFL-CIO President John J. Sweeney on House Vote for Children’s Health Care

01.24.08

January 23, 2008 ## “It is hard to believe in this weakening economy that anyone could justify denying working people the means to take care of their children’s most basic needs.

By voting against health insurance for children, the President and a few partisan members of Congress are making life even harder for the millions of families who are already struggling to pay the mortgage, the rent, the heat or any number of household bills as they pile up.

The idea that these families could purchase private insurance is absolutely ludicrous and shows how out of touch President Bush and the obstructionist Republican minority in Congress are with what life is really like for working people in this country. The cost of health care is out of control.

Equally ridiculous in the face of a slowing economy is to continue the failure to recognize that health care for children is a factor in the fiscal health of America.

The State Children’s Health Insurance Program has been a great success. Studies show children enrolled in the program are healthier, which means they require fewer expensive medical services. Studies even show kids with coverage through this program do better in school. Even President Bush’s friends on Wall Street would agree, that is an investment well worth making.”

Article link

CALIFORNIA AFL-CIO ENDORSES HR 676

01.23.08

CALIFORNIA AFL-CIO ENDORSES HR 676

Oakland, California. The Executive Council of the California AFL-CIO has unanimously endorsed HR 676, single payer health care legislation introduced by Congressman John Conyers. With over 2.1 million members the California State Federation is the largest state affiliate of the AFL-CIO.

Rose Ann DeMoro, Executive Director of the California Nurses Association/National Nurses Organizing Committee (CNA/NNOC), introduced the endorsement resolution shortly after being elected to the Executive Council of the state federation. The CNA/NNOC has set up a website a http://www.GuaranteedHealthcare.org.

California is the 32nd state AFL-CIO to endorse HR 676.

AFL-CIO Proposes 5-Point Economic Stimulus Plan

01.22.08

AFL-CIO Proposes 5-Point Economic Stimulus Plan

by Mike Hall, Jan 18, 2008

http://blog.aflcio.org/2008/01/18/afl-cio-proposes-5-point-economic-stimulus-plan/

Unemployment is climbing. The stock market is dropping. The housing boom is bust. Corporate earnings are tanking. The nation’s economy is in the worst shape it’s been in years. Maybe even headed toward recession. Working families are worried.

The Bush administration today proposed a growth package of as much as $150 billion, which insiders familiar with the details say may include $800 tax rebates for individuals and $1,600 for households, along with business incentives. Although it is “encouraging” that President Bush recognizes the need to act quickly to stimulate the economy, Bush focuses too much emphasis on tax cuts—both business and personal, according to AFL-CIO President John Sweeney. Bush’s plan does not address crucial problems facing working families or target tax benefits to those families who need them the most and will spend them the fastest.

In a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Sweeney wrote:

In particular, we are concerned that the President’s income tax cut proposal would not be sufficiently stimulative because it fails to target lower-income and middle-income households who, as the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) wrote last week, are likely to spend a larger share of any tax benefit they receive.

Today, the AFL-CIO outlined several proposals to develop a short-term stimulus package that “offers the biggest bang for the buck” and began to address the underlying causes of today’s economic anxiety.

In addition, with many state tax codes linked directly to federal tax rates, Sweeney warns the business tax cuts could lead to a reduction in state revenues, resulting in economically depressing budget cuts and tax increases by state governments.

Noting that compromise will be needed to quickly enact a stimulus package, Sweeney urges Reid and Pelosi to “insist on legislative measures” that will deliver the biggest boost to the economy and protect state and local budgets.

The five points the leaders are urged to include are:

Extension of unemployment benefits.

Increased food stamp benefits.

Tax rebates targeted to middle-income and lower-income taxpayers.

Fiscal relief for state and local governments to avoid the economically depressing effect of tax increases and budget cuts.

Acceleration of ready-to-go public investment in school renovations and bridge repair.

For the long term, Congress also must address the deep and serious underlying causes of today’s economic woes. Says Sweeney:

While it is appropriate for Congress to focus on measures that have an immediate economic impact as it crafts a short-term stimulus package, this is no excuse to put our heads in the sand and do nothing about the underlying longer-term problems afflicting our economy.

Wage stagnation is at the heart of the economic problems facing today’s ordinary working families.

Wage stagnation, which began in the 1970s, has led to longer working hours, higher consumer debt, and increasing reliance on home equities. But today home values are plummeting, home foreclosures are on the rise, consumer debt is reaching unsustainable levels, and prices for energy, health care, and education are soaring out of reach for many working families.

Sweeney’s letter points to several solutions to solving the wage stagnation, including:

Ensuring transparency and effective regulation of our housing and financial markets.

Reactivating the historically successful fiscal and monetary policies that place a higher priority on full employment.

Fixing our flawed trade policies.

Investing in the high-paying green jobs of the future.

Fixing our broken labor laws so that workers who want to form a union can bargain with their employers for better wages and benefits.

Ensuring affordable health care and retirement security.

GET A JOB?

01.21.08

Joe
Smith started the day early having set his alarm clock (MADE IN JAPAN ) for 6am. While his coffeepot ( MADE IN CHINA ) was perking, he shaved with his electric razor ( MADE IN HONG KONG). He put on a dress shirt (MADE IN SRI LANKA ), designer jeans (MADE IN SINGAPORE ) and tennis shoes ( MADE IN KOREA ).
After cooking his breakfast in his new electric skillet ( MADE IN INDIA ), he sat down with his calculator (MADE IN MEXICO ) to see how much he could spend today.
After setting his watch ( MADE IN TAIWAN ) to the radio ( MADE IN INDIA) he got in his car (MADE IN GERMANY) filled it with GAS from Saudi Arabia and continued his search for a good paying AMERICAN JOB
At the end of yet another discouraging and fruitless day checking his Computer (Made In Malaysia ), Joe decided to relax for a while. He put on his sandals ( MADE IN BRAZIL ) poured himself a glass of wine (MADE IN FRANCE) and turned on his TV ( MADE IN INDONESIA),
and then wondered why he can’t find a good paying job in AMERICA .

Y’all gotta Keep this one circulating, please.!

Amtrak deal with union averts strike

01.19.08

Amtrak deal with union averts strike
By DEVLIN BARRETT, Associated Press Writer

Yahoo News link

Amtrak said Friday it has reached a preliminary deal with nine labor unions averting a potentially devastating strike at the end of January.

Details of the agreement will not be released until it is ratified by affected union members in coming weeks, according to a statement from Amtrak.

But people familiar with the agreement, speaking on condition of anonymity because the details have not been announced, said it adopts the recommendations of a presidential emergency board report issued Dec. 30. The board’s report, which recommended that Amtrak grant back wages to its workers, triggered a 30-day countdown until a strike became legal.

“We have averted a possible strike that could have had a crippling effect on the lives of millions of Americans,” Amtrak president and CEO Alex Kummant said in a statement.

Joel Parker, a spokesman for the Transportation Communications International Union and a lead negotiator, said the tentative contract includes back pay totaling more than three times what Amtrak was offering and none of the concessions on work rules that Amtrak had been seeking.

It includes wage increases that average 35.2 percent over the life of the agreement from January 2000 through Dec. 31, 2009 — or about 3.1 percent per year, according to a union official involved in the deal.

The labor dispute, which had continued despite years of unsuccessful mediation, involved about 10,000 employees whose last contract ended Dec. 31, 1999.

“I hope I never have to go through another eight years without an agreement,” said Dan Pickett, head of the Passenger Rail Labor Coalition. “We’ve got a real morale problem, and we have to show that we can work together with Amtrak from this point forward.”

Amtrak spokesman Cliff Black said there appears to be a “pretty universal feeling” that the agreement will be ratified.

Had Amtrak workers had walked out for the first time in the railroad’s 36-year history, the 71,000 people who use the service every day would not have been the only ones impacted. Hundreds of thousands of people who ride commuter trains also would have suffered because many such services depend on Amtrak employees or infrastructure, particularly in the Northeast.

“A strike is no good,” said Omar Eldin, a structural engineer who commutes to New York from Matawan, N.J. “The public pays the price.”

“I knew they would settle,” said Letti O’Loughlin, a real estate agent who lives in East Orange, N.J., and commutes to Harlem. “You shut down Penn Station, which is the hub of transportation in New York City, and it would be absolute chaos.”

Amtrak, which depends heavily on federal subsidies, was concerned about how it would afford the back wages, which would average nearly $13,000 per employee. The railroad had offered to give each worker a lump signing bonus of $4,500 instead of back pay.

Amtrak had said the back pay would cost Amtrak about $150 million more than what the company had offered.

“This is a fair and balanced settlement between Amtrak and its workers,” said Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., who pressed both sides to come to an agreement. “It’s good that the two sides were able to come together in time to save riders from what would have been a crippling shutdown of our rail system.”

___

Associated Press writers Devlin Barrett in Washington, and Janet Frankston Lorin and Clare Trapasso in New York City contributed to this report.

Good Jobs Are Where the Money Is

01.19.08

Good Jobs Are Where the Money Is

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/19/opinion/19herbert.html?_r=2&ref=opinion&oref=slogin&oref=slogin

By BOB HERBERT

I think of the people running this country as the mad-dashers, a largely confused and inconsistent group lurching ineffectively from one enormous problem to another.

They’ve made a hash of a war that never should have been launched. They can’t find bin Laden. They’ve been shocked by the subprime debacle. They’re lost in a maze on health care.

Now, like children who have eaten too much sugar, they are frantically trying to figure out how to put a few dollars into the hands of working people to stimulate an enfeebled economy.

They should stop, take a deep breath and acknowledge the obvious: the way to put money into the hands of working people is to make sure they have access to good jobs at good wages. That has long been known, but it hasn’t been the policy in this country for many years.

Big business and the federal government have worked hand in hand to squeeze the daylights out of working people, stripping them (in an era of downsizing and globalization) of much of their bargaining power while ferociously pursuing fiscal policies that radically favored the privileged few.

My colleague at The Times, David Cay Johnston, took a look at income patterns in the U.S. over the past few decades in his new book, “Free Lunch: How the Wealthiest Americans Enrich Themselves at Government Expense (and Stick You With the Bill).”

From 1980 to 2005 the national economy, adjusted for inflation, more than doubled. (Because of population growth, the actual increase per capita was about 66 percent.) But the average income for the vast majority of Americans actually declined during that period. The standard of living for the average family has improved not because incomes have grown, but because women have gone into the workplace in droves.

The peak income year for the bottom 90 percent of Americans was way back in 1973 — when the average income per taxpayer (adjusted for inflation) was $33,001. That is nearly $4,000 higher than the average in 2005.

It’s incredible but true: 90 percent of the population missed out on the income gains during that long period.

Mr. Johnston does not mince words: “The pattern here is clear. The rich are getting fabulously richer, the vast majority are somewhat worse off, and the bottom half — for all practical purposes, the poor — are being savaged by our current economic policies.”

His words are echoed in a proposed stimulus plan currently offered by the Economic Policy Institute in Washington. (The plan is available on its Web site, epi.org.) Stressing that any stimulus package should be “fair,” the authors of the institute’s proposal wrote:

“The distribution of wages, income and wealth in the United States has become vastly more unequal over the last 30 years. In fact, this country has a more unequal distribution of income than any other advanced country.”

Economic alarm bells have been ringing in the U.S. for some time. There was no sense of urgency as long as those in the lower ranks were sinking in the mortgage muck and the middle class was raiding the piggy bank otherwise known as home equity.

But now that the privileged few are threatened (Merrill Lynch took a $9.8 billion fourth-quarter hit, and the stock market has spent the first part of the year behaving like an Olympic diving champion), it’s suddenly time to take action.

There is no question that some kind of stimulus package geared to the needs of ordinary Americans is in order. But that won’t begin to solve the fundamental problem.

Good jobs at good wages — lots of them, growing like spring flowers in an endlessly fertile field — is the absolutely essential basis for a thriving American economy and a broad-based rise in standards of living.

Forget all the CNBC chatter about Fed policy and bargain stocks. For ordinary Americans, jobs are the be-all and end-all. And an America awash in new jobs will require a political environment that respects and rewards work and aggressively pursues creative policies designed to radically expand employment.

I’d start with a broad program to rebuild the American infrastructure. This would have the dual benefit of putting large numbers of people to work and answering a crying need. The infrastructure is in sorry shape. New Orleans comes to mind, and the tragic bridge collapse in Minneapolis.

The country that gave us the Marshall Plan to rebuild postwar Europe ought to be able, 60 years later, to reconstitute its own sagging infrastructure.

There are also untold numbers of jobs and myriad societal benefits to be reaped from a sustained, good-faith effort to achieve energy self-sufficiency. Think Manhattan Project.

The possibilities are limitless. We could create an entire generation of new jobs and build a bigger and fairer economy for the 21st century. If only we were serious.

US Supreme Court Broadens Its Review Of Employment Disputes

01.19.08

US Supreme Court Broadens Its Review Of Employment Disputes
http://www.dj.com/ January 18, 2008: 02:23 PM EST

WASHINGTON -(Dow Jones)- The U.S. Supreme Court on Friday broadened its review of employment disputes in the workplace by adding three new appeals to an already busy employment-law docket.

One of the cases accepted turns on whether federal law prevents an employer from firing someone after they participate in an internal sexual harassment investigation. That case, Crawford v. Nashville, 06-1595, involves a Nashville school district payroll coordinator who was fired after she told an internal investigator the school district’s employee relations director harassed her.

So far in this term, the justices have agreed to hear more than 10 cases that center on disputes between employers and workers. Among other issues, the Supreme Court will settle legal questions about age discrimination, pension benefits, workplace retaliation and disability rights.

In the Nashville case, Vicki Crawford was fired following a 2002 internal investigation of sexual harassment allegations against Gene Hughes, the employee relations director. According to legal filings, the investigation followed several reports of misconduct but didn’t result in disciplinary action against Hughes. But Crawford and two other employees who participated in the harassment investigation were fired.

Crawford turned to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and brought a lawsuit under Title VII of the Civil Rights act. A U.S. District Court ruled her participation in the internal investigation of Hughes wasn’t covered by retaliation provisions in the federal discrimination law. The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati agreed.

U.S. Solicitor General Paul Clement, in a brief filed by the federal government, urged the Supreme Court to review the appeal and rule Crawford’s lawsuit were covered. “Internal investigations are an integral aspect of Title VII and there is no reason to leave cooperating witnesses unprotected,” Clement said.

The high court will hear arguments in the spring or fall of 2008.

Two other employment law matters were granted Friday:

- The high court will decide whether a rating scale used by the Knolls Atomic Power Laboratory discriminated against older workers in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act. The laboratory, which operates under an Energy Department contract, fired employees in a staff reduction
after scoring them on performance, flexibility and the criticality of their skills, plus points for years of service.

Of 31 people laid off under the system, 30 were over the age of 40. At issue in the case are legal questions on how “reasonable factors other than age” are determined when deciding whether the federal age discrimination law was violated.

The case is Meacham v. Knolls Atomic Power Laboratory.

- The court will also decide whether MetLife Inc. (MET) can both determine disability benefits and pay the claims of a Sears Holdings Corp. (SHLD) employee on long-term leave from the retailer. A federal appeals court ruled this dual role was improper. The Supreme Court will decide how courts should take such conflicts into account when reviewing disability cases under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act.

The case is MetLife v. Glenn, 06-923.

-By Mark H. Anderson, Dow Jones Newswires
202-862-9254
mark.anderson@
dowjones.com

Board Backs Workers in Amtrak Contract Dispute

01.17.08

Board Backs Workers in Amtrak Contract Dispute
by Mike Hall, Jan 16, 2008

http://blog.aflcio.org/2008/01/16/board-backs-workers-in-amtrak-contract-dispute/

At the end of December, the Presidential Emergency Board (PEB) appointed to investigate the long-running contract dispute between Amtrak and nine labor unions came down squarely on the side of the workers. The nearly 10,000 workers have been seeking a new contract and a general wage increase since the beginning of 2000—more than eight years.

The board’s report, submitted Dec. 30, recommends adoption of nearly all of the unions’ proposals. The AFL-CIO Transportation Trades Department (TTD) says the PEB’s report:

is the basis for agreement. Amtrak should come to the bargaining table and reach a negotiated settlement with its unions based on the recommendations of the PEB. Rail labor has repeatedly stated its desire to settle this dispute voluntarily, without a strike.

However, under the executive order that established the PEB in November, if an agreement is not reached by Jan. 30, workers would be free to strike the national passenger railroad and Amtrak could lock out the workers or impose contact terms. Also, Congress could step in and recommend implementation of the board’s recommendations.

Negotiations have been off and on since 2000 for a new pact. Although the previous contract ran out Dec. 31, 1999, terms of contracts under the Railway Labor Act do not expire. Talks between the rail unions and Amtrak resumed this week.

The PEB’s recommendations include the wage increases proposed by the unions, full retroactive pay and no work rule changes. The PEB said the unions’ wage proposals were:

the most fair and equitable package of compensation after consideration of the relevant factors.

In rejecting Amtrak’s proposal for dramatic work rule changes—including nearly unlimited contracting out rights, schedule changes and combining jobs and crafts—the board pointed to Amtrak workers’ increased productivity.

The evidence introduced by Amtrak in support of its claimed need for these sweeping reforms was weak, at best, and with respect to many of the proposals bordered on nonexistent.

For a closer look at the PEB’s recommendations from the TTD, click here http://www.ttd.org/Library/facts%20sheet,%20summaries,%20studies/Amtrak%20Hill%20Talking%20Points%20Final.pdf .