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Group study shows more employment declines to come

01.15.09

January 2009 Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton edition of The Union News

Group study shows more employment declines to come

By PAUL TUCKER
theunionnewsswb@aol.com

REGION, December 15th- The Conference Board Employment Trends Index (ETI) signals more strong employment declines are in the future.

The ETI declined further in November falling to 102.9, down 1.6 percent from the October figure and down over 13 percent from a year ago.

The Conference Board for more than 90 years, has created and disseminated knowledge about management and marketplace to help businesses strengthen their performance and better serve society. The group operates as a global independent membership organization. It publishes information and analysis, makes economics based forecasts and assesses trends.

“Thus far, the United States economy has lost 1.9 million jobs and the declines in the ETI suggest job losses could very well surpass 3 million by mid 2009. The continued deterioration in the labor market will exert significant downward pressure on wages,” said Gad Levanon, Senior Economist at the Conference Board.

The ETI aggregates eight labor-market indicators, each of which has proven accurate in its own area, they include:

• The Initial Claims for Unemployment Insurance (The United States Department of Labor).
• The Percentage of Firms With Positions Not Able to Fill Right Now (National Federation of Independent Business).
• Number of Employees Hired by the Temporary Help Industry (The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics).
• Part-time Workers for Economic Reasons (The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics).
• Industrial Production (Federal Reserve Board).
• Real Manufacturing and Trade Sales (The United States Bureau of Economic Analysis).

The 16 month-long decline in the ETI is seen in all eight of its components, most notably over the past six months in temporary help and part-time workers for economic reasons.

Lake-Lehman teachers union members picket union office

01.15.09

January 2009 Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton edition of The Union News

Lake-Lehman teachers union members picket union office

By PAUL TUCKER
theunionnewsswb@aol.com

HANOVER TOWNSHIP, December 31th- On December 22nd teachers represented by the Lake-Lehman Education Association, which is affiliated with the Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA), Route 315 in Plains Township, went on strike against the Lake-Lehman School Board in Luzerne County.

Because of progress made during contract negotiations between the parties on January 3rd, the union members returned to their jobs on January 5th. The next negotiating meeting between the parties is scheduled for January 13th.

After striking, PSEA Union members began picketing schools of the district and also marched in front of some of the nine members of the Lake-Lehman School Board including in front of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Union Local 163 Building on Sans Souci Parkway in Hanover Township.

According to John Holland, PSEA Northeastern Region Field Director and Chief Negotiator for the Lake-Lehman Education Association, the tactic of picketing board members was used to bring public awareness of the school boards failure to reach a fair contract agreement with the teachers union. “We were protesting the lack of reaching a new contract. The members have not received a pay increase for three years. We picketed one of our own members. I’m aware the IBEW wasn’t happy with us, but there is at least four union members on the board and we feel they should support us,” said Mr. Holland.

Mr. Holland stated one of the Lake-Lehman School Board members is a PSEA member employed by another school district and was also picketed by the union. “We picketed one of our members on the same day.”

“Union members should watch-out for other union members. I know the electicians union have supported us, but we believe their union member should be in support of us getting a fair contract,” added Mr. Holland.

The IBEW Local 163 member that serves on the Lake-Lehman School Board is Charles Balavage.

Michael Kwashnik, Business Manager and Principal Officer of Local 163 told the newspaper he was disappointed with the action of the Lake-Lehman Education Association. “I will take the high road, but I’m disappointed,” said Mr. Kwashnik.

He stated although Mr. Balavage is a member of Local 163 he is not an officer of the union and works for a electrical contractor. “It never entered my mind to picket their union office when one of their members voted against us in Hazleton.”

In the previous edition of the newspaper, it was reported PSEA member Paulette Platukis changed her vote from supporting the Hazleton Area School District signing a Project Labor Agreement (PLA) with the Northeastern Building and Construction Trades Council labor federation to not supporting the legislation. Under a PLA, the district would be required to hire union construction workers but would not restrict the hiring of nonunion contractors from bidding on any capital building project by the school district.

In September, 2008, the nine member Hazleton Area School District passed the PLA resolution seven to one. However, in early November the board revoted and rejected the PLA five to four, with Ms. Platukis being one of the members that reversed her vote.

Mr. Kwashnik said using the PSEA logic, his members should have picketed their office.
Mr. Holland said he wasn’t aware of the problem regarding the changed vote of Ms. Platukis. “I didn’t know a PSEA member was a problem in Hazleton. The action of our member is unconscionable. If I was told of the situation, we would have gotten involved,” added Mr. Holland.

Mr. Kwashnik stated while the union members were picketing, a Local 163 union officer went out to them to discussed the situation with them. “They were out there for about an hour,” added Mr. Kwashnik.

The Stimulus Killers

01.15.09

The Stimulus Killers

by Joe Conason

http://www.observer.com/2009/politics/stimulus-killers

Would it be rude to ask whether the Republicans have any new proposals to save the country from this worsening recession? The question arises not because anyone expects the minority party to burst forth with creative ideas, but because conservatives in Congress and the media seem so determined to thwart or stall the economic stimulus plans of President-elect Barack Obama.

To listen to the Senate Republicans and their leader, Mitch McConnell, is to hear once more the old nostrums of tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy, along with pleas for “bipartisan input” and complaints about “wasteful spending.” The House Republicans chime in with the same drearily familiar themes, as the minority leader, John Boehner, warns against “irresponsible spending on government programs” and urges the new administration to put any stimulus bill online for “at least one week” while making sure there are no “special-interest earmarks.”

Leaving aside the boilerplate rhetoric about wasteful federal spending—which never troubled the Republicans on either side of Capitol Hill when they were legislating record deficits—these recommendations seem harmless enough. Putting the stimulus bill online for public comment sounds like something Mr. Obama might want to do. He scarcely needs advice about communicating with the public from the other party. Abolishing earmarks was the dominant economic theme of the Republican campaign last fall, which was soundly rejected by voters. Awful as certain porky earmarks may be, they represent a miniscule portion of the federal budget—and they remain just as irrelevant to the global economic crisis as they were three months ago.

So is that all? Reviewing the recent comments of Mr. McConnell and Mr. Boehner, it is impossible to find much substance that actually addresses the problems of rising unemployment, falling demand, shrinking production and disappearing credit. There is no fresh policy platform and no honest effort to confront the costs of deregulation and disinvestment.

Expecting an original thought from the politicians who lead the Congressional caucuses may be unfair, but the dearth of ideas extends across the precincts of the right, from commentators and media outlets to think tanks.

The Heritage Foundation, for instance, provides no new proposals for coping with the recession. According to its policy analysts, the new administration should simply do what conservatives were demanding long before the bottom fell out. They want extensions of the 2001 and 2003 tax reductions “for as long as possible,” or better yet, to “make them permanent.” And they want further reductions in tax rates on individuals, small businesses and corporations through 2013, preferably “lowering the top rate by 10 percentage points and reducing rates by similar amounts for lower-income-level taxpayers,” whatever that means.

Much the same kind of material can be found in right-wing commentary on Web sites and in magazines, where the argument revolves around silly claims that federal spending cannot increase employment and demand, or that the New Deal was a failure because it didn’t end unemployment and poverty forever after those first hundred days. In short, conservatives are clamoring for more of the same and nothing but the same.

When read carefully, their real message is that the best thing to do for America is to do nothing at all, except to maintain or worsen the inequities of our tax system. Then at some point in the future, perhaps at the end of this year or next, the marketplace will work its magic and growth will resume.

According to the right’s leading economic analysts, such passive policies will result in the best outcome someday. After all, they say, every other recession in American history ended eventually, a truism that offers very little comfort to someone losing a home today.

Such calls for government to do nothing at all tend not to be heard from people who will seek reelection next year, and are relegated instead to columns in the financial press and buried in policy papers. Yet inertia is their program, whether we listen to the Republican Congressional leaders, the Heritage analysts or the conservative pundits, and so is the objective. They are determined to prevent or reduce any constructive action by the new administration. They cannot let go of their ideology, regardless of the pain that will be inflicted as the recession deepens.

jconason@observer.com