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New studies examine economics of immigration

08.30.09

September 2009, Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton edition of The Union News

New studies examine economics of immigration

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

REGION, August 19th- Two reports were released by the Center for Immigration Studies in Washington, DC that provided detailed information on the United States labor force.

The first of the studies, “Jobs Americans Don’t Do,” provided a look at the concentration of immigrants across the 465 occupations that comprise the labor market in the nation. The second study, “Worse Than It Seems,” examines the broader measure of unemployment, referred to by the government as U-6, which includes people who would like to work but have not looked for a job recently, as well as those working part-time who want full-time work.

Of the 465 civilian occupations, only four are majority immigrant. The four occupations account for less than one percent of the total United States workforce. Moreover, even in these four occupations, native born Americans comprise 47 percent of workers.
According to the findings many jobs often thought to be overwhelmingly immigrant are in fact majority native born including:

• Maids and housekeepers: 55 percent native born.
• Taxi drivers and chauffeuffeus: 58 percent native born.
• Butchers and meat processors: 63 percent native born.
• Grounds maintenance workers: 65 percent native born.
• Construction laborers: 65 percent native born.
• Porters, bellhops and concierges: 71 percent native born, and
• Janitors: 75 percent native born.

In June 2009, the unemployment rate for native born Americans was 9.7 percent, but the broader U-6 measure was 16.3 percent. The U-6 measure includes people who would like to work but have not looked for a job recently, as well as those working part-time involuntarily. There are 12.7 million unemployed native born Americans, but using the U-6 measure the number is 21.7 million.
The unemployment rate for native born Americans between the ages of 18 years old and 29 who have only a high school education is 18.5 percent, while their U-6 measure is 30.3 percent.

The unemployment rate for native born blacks with less than a high school education is 27.5 percent, with their U-6 measure is 42 percent. The unemployment rate for young, native born blacks between the age of 18 to 29 with only a high school education is 25.8 percent, while their U-6 measure is 37. 4percent. Also, the unemployment rate for native born Hispanics with less than a high school education is 22.6 percent, with their U-6 measure is 36.5 percent

Region’s unemployment rate increases to 9.0 percent

08.30.09

September 2009 Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton edition of The Union News

Region’s unemployment rate increases to 9.0 percent

BY PAUL LEESON
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

LEHIGH VALLEY, August 6th- According to labor data provided by the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry in Harrisburg Center for Workforce Information and Analysis, the Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) seasonally adjusted unemployment rate increased by two-tenths of a percentage point from the previous report to 9.0 percent. The MSA includes Lehigh, Northampton, and Carbon Counties of Pennsylvania and Warren County, New Jersey. Twelve months ago the unemployment rate for the region was 5.5 percent.

There are fourteen Metropolitan Statistical Area’s in Pennsylvania and the Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton Metropolitan Statistical Area is tied with the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton MSA for the fourth highest unemployment rate in the Commonwealth.

The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate in Pennsylvania is 8.3 percent, unchanged from the previous report, which was released approximately four weeks ago. There are 537,000 Pennsylvania residents without jobs. Pennsylvania has a seasonally adjusted workforce of 6,436,000 and 5,899,000 of them have employment. The national seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was reported to be 9.5 percent, increasing by one-tenth of a percentage point from the previous report. There are 14,729,000 residents nationally unemployed with more than 13,600,000 receiving unemployment benefits, which does not include workers who benefits have expired. The national unemployment rate is 16.5 percent when workers who have recently lost their jobs but were unable to find full-time employment are counted in.

The data shows the Erie MSA has the highest unemployment rate in the state at 9.6 percent. The Reading MSA has the second highest unemployment rate in the state at 9.2 percent, with the Williamsport MSA third at 9.1 percent.

The State College MSA has the lowest unemployment rate in Pennsylvania at 5.8 percent, increasing by two-tenths of a percentage point from the previous report. The Lebanon MSA has the second lowest unemployment rate in the state at 6.9 percent, increasing by one-tenth of a percentage point from the previous report. The Harrisburg/Carlisie MSA has the third lowest unemployment rate at 7.3 percent, also increasing by one-tenth of a percentage point from the previous report.

The Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton MSA has the third largest civilian labor force in Pennsylvania at 424,900, rising by 4,900 during the past twelve months.

The Philadelphia MSA has the largest civilian labor force in Pennsylvania at 3,000,200 with 257,100 residents not working. The Pittsburgh MSA has the second largest civilian labor force in Pennsylvania at 1,223,700, with 92,500 residents unemployed. The Harrisburg/Carlisle MSA has the fourth largest civilian labor force in Pennsylvania at 286,400, with 21,000 residents unemployed. The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton MSA has the fifth largest civilian labor force in the state at 284,200 with 25,500 residents not working.

The Williamsport MSA has the smallest civilian labor force in Pennsylvania at 60,000. The Altoona MSA is the second smallest at 64,600 followed by the Johnstown MSA at 69,100.

Carbon County has the highest unemployment rate in the MSA at 10.7 percent, increasing by three-tenths of a percentage point from the report before and rising by two full percentage points from twelve months ago. Carbon County has 3,400 civilians not working, increasing by 100 from the previous report and increasing by 1,300 from twelve months ago.

Northampton County has the lowest unemployment rate in the MSA at 8.6 percent, increasing by two-tenths of a percentage point from the previous report and increasing by three and two-tenths percentage points during the past twelve months. Northampton County has 13,300 residents not working, increasing by 300 from the previous report and rising by whopping 5,100 during the past twelve months.

Lehigh County has a unemployment rate of 9.8 percent, increasing by two-tenths of a percentage point from the previous report and increasing by three and five-tenths of a percentage points from twelve months ago. Lehigh County has 16,200 residents not working which is 300 more than four weeks ago and a whopping 6,400 more than one year ago.

Pennsylvania gubernatorial candidate Tom Knox meeting members of labor community

08.30.09

Pennsylvania gubernatorial candidate Tom Knox meeting members of labor community

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

REGION, August 20th- Tom Knox, a 2010 Democratic Pennsylvania gubernatorial candidate, is reaching-out to members of organized labor throughout the Commonwealth stating why he should receive their support in next years May Primary election.

Mr. Knox, a Philadelphia businessman, met with the affiliated union members of the Building and Construction Trades Council of the Lehigh Valley on July 22nd in Allentown.

Bill Newhard, President of the labor federation, stated the labor organization wants to “meet and greet” the candidates for governor. Current Pennsylvania Governor Edward Rendell is serving his second term and by law can not seek a third four-year term in 2010.

Mr. Knox was the first gubernatorial candidate to contact the newspaper requesting to be interviewed. The interview has not yet be scheduled but, the 2010 campaign has been discussed with him.

According to H. Alexander Maloumian, Knox for Governor Deputy Campaign Manager, Mr. Knox has met with building trades unions in Philadelphia, York, Reading, and Harrisburg. Unions in Harrisburg and Wilkes-Barre have also met with the candidate.

Rural areas of Pennsylvania hardest hit by unemployment

08.29.09

September 2009, Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton edition of The Union News

Rural areas of Pennsylvania hardest hit by unemployment

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

REGION, August 15th- Months of layoffs have resulted in the loss of 182,000 jobs in Pennsylvania since the start of the recession. The labor market in the state is weaker today than it has been at any point since the early 1980’s. The Pennsylvania unemployment rate in the second quarter of 2009 was 8.1 percent, up from 4.5 percent in the fourth quarter of 2007.

The recession also has disproportionately impacted rural Pennsylvania, which has seen the largest increase in unemployment rates during the downturn. In the fourth quarter of 2007, the unemployment rate in rural portions of the Commonwealth was 4.9 percent, compared to 4.4 percent in urban areas. By the second quarter of 2009, the overall unemployment rate in rural areas of Pennsylvania was a full percentage point higher than the urban rate at 8.9 percent.

In the second quarter of this year, the following rural counties have the highest unemployment rates in Pennsylvania: Cameron (17 percent), Elk (14. 4 percent), Fulton (13.7 percent), Mercer (11.6 percent), Potter (11.4 percent), Bedford (11.2 percent), Huntingdon (11.2 percent), McKean (10.6 percent), Clearfield (10.5 percent), and Carbon (10.3 percent).

“The hardship of rising unemployment has not been equally shared. Our estimates show that the unemployment rate among African-Americans in Pennsylvania was 12.9 percent in the second quarter compared to 7.2 percent for whites. As a result, the gap between African-American and white unemployment rates has doubled over the course of the recession,” said Mark Price, Pd.D. and Labor Economist for the Keystone Research Center in Harrisburg, an nonprofit, nonpartisan economic research organization.

Following the 1981 recession, unemployment in rural Pennsylvania reached a staggering 17 percent compared to 12 percent in rural Pennsylvania, explained Stephen Herzenberg, Ph.D., and Economist and Executive Director of the Keystone Research Center.

“It is quite troubling to see rural unemployment rates begin to pull away from urban unemployment rates. Like the rising unemployment rate for African-Americans, the disparate impact of this recession on people in rural areas points toward the need for more investment in education and workforce development,” said Mr. Herzenberg.

For African-Americans in Pennsylvania, the rise in unemployment during this recession is now as great as the increase in unemployment experienced during the severe 1981 recession.

“This recession has hit African-Americans just as hard as the brutal recession of 1981, which illustrates that the Commonwealth has tremendous work left to do in ensuring equal opportunity for African-Americans. Perhaps the greatest challenge we face in this regard is achieving more equity in school funding,” added Mr. Price.

Meanwhile, the United States Department of Commerce reported that gross domestic product (GDP) contracted at a 1 percent annual rate in the second quarter of 2009, a improvement over the 6.4 percent decline in the previous quarter. The improvement was likely due to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act which added more than 2 percent to GDP in the second quarter through increases in direct government spending, the extension of unemployment benefits, increases in food stamp benefits, and one-time payments to Social Security beneficiaries.

Mr. Price said he is concerned that the remaining stimulus spending will not be large enough to offset the negative impact of budget cuts being made by state and local governments across the country.

OSHA establishes “Watch List” to strengthen program

08.29.09

September 2009 Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton edition of The Union News

OSHA establishes “Watch List” to strengthen program

BY PAUL LEESON
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

REGION, August 14th- The United States Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), in an effort to crack down on fraudulent trainers, is continuing to strengthen the integrity of its 36 year old Outreach training Program by publishing an “Outreach Watch List” of those who have their trainer authorizations either revoked or suspended.

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, OSHA’s role is to promote safe and healthful working conditions for America’s working people by setting and enforcing standards, and provide training, outreach and education.

OSHA recently conducted an undercover investigation as part of its heightened effort to address fraudulent activity by trainers authorized through the OSHA Outreach Training Program. The investigation of a 10-hour course conducted by Don Barker, environmental health and safety director for Thor Construction in Las Vegas, revealed several examples of failure to comply with program guidelines. Barker’s infractions included submitting falsified information regarding the instructional time spent on the topics, failing to collect and retain required documentation and inappropriately advising students not to contact OSHA to report hazards.

OSHA revoked Barker’s Outreach Training authorization after he declined to appeal the decision and his name has been added to the “Watch List” on OSHA’s Web site. To review if any trainer is listed from the Lehigh Valley the watch List is available at: https://www.osha.gov/dte/outreach/construction general industry/watchlist.html. The list is updated weekly.

OSHA is monitoring training programs and has provided a hotline at (847) 297-4810 for individuals to file complaints about fraud and abuse.

“Trainers who fail to provide appropriate safety training will pay a stiff price for their fraudulent behavior. A tighter record control procedure has been instituted requiring trainers to sign their reports and certify the class was conducted in accordance with OSHA’s guidelines. Trainers face civil and criminal penalties under federal law if reports or certifications are found to have been falsified,” said Jordan Barab, acting assistant secretary of labor for OSHA.

The voluntary Outreach Training Program has grown to a national network of more than 16,000 independent trainers eligible to teach workers and employers about workplace hazards and provide OSHA 10-hour course completion cards. The program’s success has prompted some states and cities to legislate a requirement that workers complete training to earn an OSHA 10-hour card as a condition of employment.

Trainers are authorized by completing a one-week OSHA trainer course through an OSHA Training Institute Education Center. The trainers are then eligible to teach 10-hour programs that provide basic information to workers and employers about workplace hazards and OSHA, and 30-hour courses in construction, maritime and general industry safety and health hazards.

New Jersey: Get the Latest News on Chris Christie

08.28.09

New Jersey: Get the Latest News on Chris Christie

by Seth Michaels, Aug 25, 2009

http://blog.aflcio.org/2009/08/25/new-jersey-get-the-latest-news-on-chris-christie/

Every day, it seems there are new developments in the race for New Jersey governor. Candidate Chris Christie, a longtime Bush political appointee, has been the subject of close scrutiny in the state and voters want to know the real story.

You can get all the latest news about Chris Christie and the race for New Jersey governor at The Real Chris Christie, a project of the New Jersey State AFL-CIO. The newest feature at the site is a news feed that pulls in the latest headlines about Christie, including:

Christie’s possibly illegal pledge to give former Bush-era federal colleagues state jobs;

An undisclosed $46,000 loan from Christie to an aide while he was serving as U.S. Attorney;

and Christie’s conversations with fellow Bush political operative Karl Rove about a run for governor—while he was still serving as U.S. Attorney.

In addition, The Real Chris Christie site looks at where the candidate stands on issues like the economy, health care, education and workers’ rights.

The election is little more than three months away, so it’s time to take a close look at Christie’s record and actions. Check out The Real Chris Christie http://therealchrischristie.org/ for the latest developments.

NLRB nominee challenged by business organization

08.28.09

September 2009, Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton edition of The Union News

NLRB nominee challenged by business organization

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

LEHIGH VALLEY, August 14th- The majority of the mainstream media has failed to report the Obama Administration had sent to the United States Senate the nominiations of Craig Becker, Mark Gaston Pearce, and Brian Hayes to be members of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) in Washington, DC. however, this newspaper published the information in the previous edition. Meanwhile, the largest business group in the nation has objected to one of the nominations.

If confirmed by the Senate, the NLRB would have a full complement of five members for the first time since December 7th, 2007. The sitting members are Chairman Wilma Liebman and Member Peter Schaumber.

President Obama announced his intention to nominate labor law attorney’s Craig Becker and Mark Gaston Pearce for the two vacant Democratic seats on the NLRB. The intent to nominate Mr. Hayes to fill the vacant Republican seat was announced shortly before the nominations were sent to the Senate.

Mr. Hayes currently serves as the Republican Labor Policy Director for the United States Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions. Mr. Hayes’s term would expire on December 16th, 2012. Mr. Pearce, in private practice with a Buffalo, New York law firm, would have a term ending August 27th, 2013. Mr. Becker, Associate General Counsel of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and the American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), would have a term ending December 16th, 2014.

Chairman Liebman’s term expires on August 27th, 2011, and member Schaumber’s term ends August 27th, 2010. By tradition, three of the five NLRB seats are filled by individuals of the same political party of the President in office.

The United States Chamber of Commerce announced on July 27th, the organization is urging the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions to hold a hearing on the nomination of Mr. Becker to the NLRB.

In a letter sent by the organizations Executive Vice President for Government Relations, R. Bruce Josten, the Chamber cited concern over what the business group stated was Becker’s “out-the-mainstream” views on the National Labor Relations Act (NLRAct).

Specifically, the Chamber of Commerce cited public writings in which Mr. Becker states that employers have no legitimate role to play when their employees are targeted by a labor union organizing campaign.

The Chamber of Commerce cited an article Mr. Becker wrote in the Minnesota Law Review that he believes, “employers should be stripped of any legally cognizable interest in their employees’ election of representatives.”

Also, Mr. Josten’s letter, obtained by the newspaper, expresses concern that Mr. Becker’s ties to the SEIU, an avid proponent of the “Employee Free Choice Act,” could lead him to advance “Card Check” organizing through administrative action by the National Labor Relations Board.

“While the views articulated in Becker’s articles are alarming in and of themselves, what is especially troubling is that Mr. Becker does not necessarily believe that such changes require Congressional approval,” wrote Mr. Josten.

First Pre-Apprenticeship Initiative in the Lehigh Valley class completed, event held

08.28.09

September 2009 Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton edition of The Union News

First Pre-Apprenticeship Initiative in the Lehigh Valley class completed, event held

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

REGION, August 24th- On August 20th the youths that were enrolled in the newly created Lehigh Valley Pre-Apprenticeship Initiative during the summer received their certification for completing the course. The event was held at the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Union Local 375 building on Liberty Street in Allentown.

In May, unions affiliated with the Building and Construction Trades Council of the Lehigh Valley announced the creation of the initiative at the Career Link on Union Boulevard in Allentown. The labor federation together with United Community Services sponsored the program.

The program was funded by the Lehigh Valley Workforce Investment Board with the initiative headquarters and classrooms located at Local 375 building. Funds for the project were provided through Pennsylvania’s allocation from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

According to William Newhard, President of the labor federation, eligible youths from the Lehigh Valley that were enrolled in the program were given both acadenic preparation and work experiences to enter the building trades apprenticeship programs.

Journeymen construction workers assisted the youths in getting to know all about construction and construction unions. Additionally, the youths studied math, construction safety, and building trades work readiness. The pre-apprenticeship program mirrors a real apprenticeship program by providing an opportunity to earn and learn. Pre-apprenticeship requirements are the same as real apprenticeship requirements.

William Dorward, Area Marketing Representative of the Sheet Metal Workers International Association Union Local 19, which represents employees which installs duct work for heating and air conditioning and metal roofs within the construction industry, told the newspaper a pre-apprenticeship program in the Reading area is very successful. Mr. Dorward said the Reading program was established more than five years ago.

Vicki Henshaw, who has worked in the Lehigh Valley within youth social services for many years directed the summer program. She told the newspaper plans are already underway to continue the program in 2010.

Mark Snyder, Business Representative of the United Association of the Plumbing and Pipefitting Industry Union Local 690, attended the August 20th event and stated his union was pleased to be involved in the program. Local 690 represents plumbers working within the building and construction industry throughout the Lehigh Valley.

Mrs. Henshaw stated there were fourteen youths that completed the course including: Joshua Hernandez, Kara Holloman, Xavier Isley, Jessica Lantigua, Melido Matos, Ashley Neas, Tyreek Owens, Kamil Payano-Sosa, Kyree Riddick, Sandy Sanchez, Cecilia Torres, Crystal Torres and Bryan Valek.

The youths, their families, program supporters, and invited quests participated in the event which included food, soda and special presentations

The Swiss Menace

08.19.09

The Swiss Menace
by Paul Krugman

http://www.progressiveexchange.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=4629&Itemid=479

It was the blooper heard round the world. In an editorial denouncing Democratic health reform plans, Investor’s Business Daily tried to frighten its readers by declaring that in Britain, where the government runs health care, the handicapped physicist Stephen Hawking “wouldn’t have a chance,” because the National Health Service would consider his life “essentially worthless.”

Professor Hawking, who was born in Britain, has lived there all his life, and has been well cared for by the National Health Service, was not amused.

Besides being vile and stupid, however, the editorial was beside the point. Investor’s Business Daily would like you to believe that Obamacare would turn America into Britain — or, rather, a dystopian fantasy version of Britain. The screamers on talk radio and Fox News would have you believe that the plan is to turn America into the Soviet Union. But the truth is that the plans on the table would, roughly speaking, turn America into Switzerland — which may be occupied by lederhosen-wearing holey-cheese eaters, but wasn’t a socialist hellhole the last time I looked.

Let’s talk about health care around the advanced world.

Every wealthy country other than the United States guarantees essential care to all its citizens. There are, however, wide variations in the specifics, with three main approaches taken.

In Britain, the government itself runs the hospitals and employs the doctors. We’ve all heard scare stories about how that works in practice; these stories are false. Like every system, the National Health Service has problems, but over all it appears to provide quite good care while spending only about 40 percent as much per person as we do. By the way, our own Veterans Health Administration, which is run somewhat like the British health service, also manages to combine quality care with low costs.

The second route to universal coverage leaves the actual delivery of health care in private hands, but the government pays most of the bills. That’s how Canada and, in a more complex fashion, France do it. It’s also a system familiar to most Americans, since even those of us not yet on Medicare have parents and relatives who are.

Again, you hear a lot of horror stories about such systems, most of them false. French health care is excellent. Canadians with chronic conditions are more satisfied with their system than their U.S. counterparts. And Medicare is highly popular, as evidenced by the tendency of town-hall protesters to demand that the government keep its hands off the program.

Finally, the third route to universal coverage relies on private insurance companies, using a combination of regulation and subsidies to ensure that everyone is covered. Switzerland offers the clearest example: everyone is required to buy insurance, insurers can’t discriminate based on medical history or pre-existing conditions, and lower-income citizens get government help in paying for their policies.

In this country, the Massachusetts health reform more or less follows the Swiss model; costs are running higher than expected, but the reform has greatly reduced the number of uninsured. And the most common form of health insurance in America, employment-based coverage, actually has some “Swiss” aspects: to avoid making benefits taxable, employers have to follow rules that effectively rule out discrimination based on medical history and subsidize care for lower-wage workers.

So where does Obamacare fit into all this? Basically, it’s a plan to Swissify America, using regulation and subsidies to ensure universal coverage.

If we were starting from scratch we probably wouldn’t have chosen this route. True “socialized medicine” would undoubtedly cost less, and a straightforward extension of Medicare-type coverage to all Americans would probably be cheaper than a Swiss-style system. That’s why I and others believe that a true public option competing with private insurers is extremely important: otherwise, rising costs could all too easily undermine the whole effort.

But a Swiss-style system of universal coverage would be a vast improvement on what we have now. And we already know that such systems work.

So we can do this. At this point, all that stands in the way of universal health care in America are the greed of the medical-industrial complex, the lies of the right-wing propaganda machine, and the gullibility of voters who believe those lies.

Correction: In Friday’s column I mistakenly asserted that Senator Johnny Isakson was responsible for a provision in a House bill that would allow Medicare to pay for end-of-life counseling. In fact, he is responsible for a provision in a Senate bill that would allow a different, newly created government program to pay for such counseling.

Specter to Support Cloture on Card Check

08.16.09

Specter to Support Cloture on Card Check

By Matthew Murray
Roll Call Staff

http://www.rollcall.com/news/37775-1.html

Recent party switcher Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.) will vote to cut off debate on a forthcoming Employee Free Choice Act compromise, the lawmaker confirmed Friday following his appearance at the Netroots Nation convention in Pittsburgh.

“I expect the cloture vote to occur on a modified version of the [EFCA] legislation,” Specter said in a statement. “And I will support that cloture vote.”

Specter’s pledge to support a yet-to-be-introduced “card check” compromise, which is still being negotiated, comes after he told the crowd that he supports having up-or-down votes — without explicitly naming the EFCA compromise legislation.

Specter said he generally expects “to support [Senate Majority Leader Harry] Reid [D-Nev.] on a bill he wants to bring up,” before citing his vote last Congress on previous card-check legislation.

“That was illustrated by when there were 49 Republican Senators a couple of years ago and the Employee Free Choice Act came up [and] I was the sole Republican who voted for cloture, so we could take up the bill,” Specter said. “Legislation ought to be considered by the Senate.”

Specter’s announcement comes as he faces a bloody 2010 primary fight against Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Pa.), who is running to the ideological left of the five-term Senator and questioning his Democratic bona fides.

Before Specter bolted the GOP in April, he had said he would not support the card-check bill this Congress, saying during a highly publicized floor speech on March 24 that he would not cast the deciding vote to cut off debate on the contentious legislation

“The problems of the recession would make this a particularly bad time to enact the Employee Free Choice Act. Employers understandably complain that adding such a burden would result in further job losses,” Specter said on the Senate floor earlier this year. “Knowing that I will not support cloture on this bill, Senators may choose to move on and amend the [National Labor Relations Act] as I have suggested or otherwise. This announcement should end the rumor mill that I have made some deal for my political advantage.”

He later softened his stance on the bill, saying he would be open to a compromise on the measure that makes it easier for employees to join unions.

Earlier this summer, Sens. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) began a series of closed-door negotiations with fence-sitters like Specter and Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.), whose home state is headquarters to the massive nonunionized retailer Wal-Mart.

The business community expressed concern Friday with Specter’s announcement, as well as with how a potential compromise deal is being hatched.

“We’re very concerned with the comments made by Sen. Specter,” said Keith Smith, director of employment and labor policy at the National Association of Manufacturers. “It’s very concerning that such a jobs-killing piece of legislation is being hatched out through these nontransparent discussions with a small group of Senators.

“Of all the discussion items that we’ve seen, the provisions of a potential alternative version of this bill are just as onerous as the current provisions of the Employee Free Choice Act itself,” he added.

While the business community fumed in the wake of Specter’s announcement, a labor coalition spokesman said in an e-mail that “clearly it’s a positive sign.”

“The Senator is heeding the calls of working families who want to see real labor law reform this year so the economy can work for everyone,” American Rights at Work spokesman Josh Goldstein said.

American Medical Association defends support of healthcare bill

08.16.09

AMA defends support of healthcare bill
By Jeffrey Young

http://thehill.com/leading-the-news/ama-defends-endorsement-of-healthcare-bill-2009-08-15.html

The American Medical Association is telling members that even though it backs the House’s healthcare reform bill, it will seek improvements to the legislation.

Physicians, including AMA members, are split over healthcare reform and the AMA’s move to endorse the House bill last month sparked complaints. In a document distributed recently to its members and published on its website, the AMA asserts it “will continue to work with members of the House of Representatives to improve the bill.”

Though the measure includes $240 billion worth of increased Medicare payments for doctors, it also would create a government-run “public option” insurance program that would compete with private insurers, a prospect that unnerves healthcare providers worried the government will not pay them enough for their services.

The document also seeks to reassure members that the AMA does not support nationalized health insurance, outlawing private insurance or mandatory end-of-life counseling, giving bureaucrats the authority to dictate what treatments a doctor prescribes or rationing care.

The AMA is the only major healthcare industry lobbying organization to endorse the House bill.

Although groups such as the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) and the American Hospital Association (AHA) have generally supported the healthcare reform efforts of President Barack Obama and Congress, the AMA went further by offering explicit support for a piece of legislation.

By getting out in front of other healthcare groups last month, the AMA says it is well situated to influence changes to the reform bill as it moves through the legislative process. “We believe our support helps put us in a very favorable position to craft a single bill for final passage,” the document says.

Medicare funding is vital to physicians. The complex formula that calculates how much Medicare pays doctors is flawed and would have required the government to cut payments in recent years by as much as 21.5 percent. The House bill includes a new payment policy and more than $240 billion in spending to implement it.

Even though congressional Democrats oppose one of the AMA’s other big priorities – caps on malpractice lawsuit damages – getting a new Medicare payment formula enacted would be a major victory for the group.

But the move to endorse the House bill carries risk for the AMA, which must bring skeptical members on board with a strategy that has caused consternation among those physicians worried about broadening the scope of the federal government’s involvement in the healthcare system.

The AMA is not alone in dealing with a membership split over the direction Obama and his allies in Congress are taking healthcare reform.

When the AHA joined the AMA, PhRMA, the Advanced Medical Technology Association, America’s Health Insurance Plans and the Service Employees International Union to promise Obama they would find $2 trillion in savings in the healthcare system, members of the AHA and other groups pushed back.

Likewise, physicians and their lobbying representatives are divided over the House bill. The American College of Surgeons and the American Academy of Family Physicians have endorsed the measure, for example, while the American Association of Neurological Surgeons and a handful of state medical societies oppose the bill.

The anxiety that underlies this divide is evident in the “frequently asked questions” for which the AMA provides its answers in its document.

“Why is the AMA supporting H.R. 3200?” the first question says. “H.R. 3200 contains many elements that reflect AMA priorities for health system reform,” is the reply.

But via subsequent questions and answers, the AMA makes clear that there are elements of the House bill it does not expect to survive the legislative process. Indeed, the group appears to be counting on it.

On the public option in particular, the AMA writes, “We believe that, as the legislative process continues, alternatives and modifications to the public option will be considered and the final product will be considerably different than the provisions contained in the original version of H.R. 3200.”

The AMA’s gamble could well pay off. The Senate Finance Committee – the only of Congress’s five healthcare committees yet to introduce a bill – is trying to hash out a bipartisan measure that would not include a public option.

Even with a public option, the AMA pushes back against charges it has endorsed “socialized medicine” by endorsing the House’s measure. “The AMA continues to oppose nationalized health insurance, and we continue to express opposition to elements of public plan proposals that we believe could lead us down the road to a single-payer system or ‘socialized medicine,’” the document says.

The AMA also tackles some of the more extreme accusations against the healthcare reform bill.

“H.R. 3200 would not provide the government with the authority to decide what medical treatments patients will receive,” the document says. “The bill would not ration care; it would expand access to health care coverage and increase the information needed to support strong clinical decision-making.”

The AMA also notes that the end-of-life counseling benefit the bill would create is voluntary, contrary to assertions by conservative critics that these consultations are intended to encourage elderly and sick people to submit to euthanasia.

Addressing email campaigns by critics of the Democratic healthcare reform proposals on rationing and other issues, the AMA described such messages as “extreme claims based on cursory readings of the legislation supplemented by conjecture and misinterpretations that do not reflect an accurate understanding of current law, medical practice or insurance regulation.”

“As is true with all email spam, messages that are repeatedly forwarded from an unknown original source should not be trusted. Physicians are encouraged to consult with the AMA, their state societies and specialty societies about the accuracy of any legislative interpretations that cause them concern,” the document says.

Nurses rally for new labor agreement with new operators of Wilkes-Barre medical center

08.15.09

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

Nurses rally for new labor agreement with new operators of Wilkes-Barre medical center

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, July 28th- Nurses, their family members, community leaders, and members of the labor community from the Wyoming Valley attended a rally on July 25th to show support for the Wilkes-Barre General Hospital workers that are represented by the Pennsylvania Association of Staff Nurses and Allied Professionals (PASNAP) Union. PASNAP is affiliated with the California Nurses Association (CNA) and their Pennsylvania office is located in Conshohocken. PASNAP represents around 450 nurses employed at the medical center located on North River Street in Wilkes-Barre.

Approximately 125 people attended the rally, which included State Representative Eddie Pashinski (Democrat-121st District), the Pennsylvania State American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) President Bill George, and the Greater Wilkes-Barre Labor Council President Sam Bianco. The rally was held on Wilkes-Barre Public Square at noon.

The Wilkes-Barre General Hospital is owned and operated by Community Health System (CHS) Inc., the largest owner of for-profit hospitals in the country. The current labor agreement between CHS and PASNAP expires at the end of August. The two sides have been bargaining but according to Bill Cruice, Executive Director of PASNAP, CHS’s contract proposals will drive dedicated and experienced nurses away from the hospital. Their health plan proposal would force nurses to self-ration needed health care for themselves and their families.

Another major issue between the parties is staffing. The Tennessee based CHS contract proposal would decrease the amount of current staffing levels. The company has operated the Wilkes-Barre Hospital since May 2009 after purchasing the medical facility for $271 million.

The rally was part of a series of community events by the union that includes petitioning the public and passing out yard signs. The union is planning to conduct information picketing at the hospital.

Hospital employees and their supporters gathered at 11:00 am at the River Commons at Union Street, several blocks away from Public Square, and marched holding signs and chanting “patients before profits.” The union believes CHS contract proposals shows the employer is more interested in making more profit than operating a patient caring medical center.

According to Terry Marcavage, PASNAP Staff Representative, the employer is refusing to agree to safe nursing levels and their contract proposals for health care would toss employees into the ranks of the under-insured, by forcing nurses to self-ration health care for themselves and their families, while their CEO Wayne Smith, paid himself $22 million last year.

EFCAct legislation does not include card-check provision

08.15.09

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

EFCAct legislation does not include card-check provision

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, August 1st- The main provision wanted by labor unions has been dropped from the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA)/Card Check legislation that will be likely be introduced in the United States Congress after their summer recess.

The legislation was passed by the House of Representatives in 2008, with both Congressman Chris Carney (Democrat-10th District) and Congressman Paul Kanjorski (Democrat-11 District) voting in favor. However, the legislation failed in the Senate with Pennsylvania Senator’s Robert Casey Jr. (Democrat) and Arlen Specter (Republican) voting for the bill. Mr. Specter has since changed his party affiliation to Democrat but announced on March 24th, 2009 would not support the legislation.

Under the prior EFCA legislation, employees would be allowed to sign authorization cards seeking union representation and the union would be recognized when a majority of cards are signed. However, under the legislation if thirty percent or more of the employees sign authorization cards requesting for the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) conduct an secret ballot election the agency will do so.

Labor groups, including the American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) labor federation in Washington DC, and business groups, including the United States Chamber of Commerce, Wal-Mart, Lowe’s and McDonald’s Restaurants that opposed the legislation, spent millions of dollars in advertising and lobbying attempting to influence legislators on the EFCA.

The AFL-CIO mobilized union members and their families across the nation requesting them to contact their legislators asking them to support the legislation, including Senator Specter. Under Senate rules, at least 60 Senator votes are needed to force a vote on the legislation by the full-Senate.

On July 16th, the Senate negotiators dropped the card-check provision of the legislation. However, the revised legislation would require shorter unionization campaigns, faster elections, and a mediation system should the parties fail to reach an agreement within 120 days.

The Chamber of Commerce and business groups, which opposes the legislation, are now attacking the revised legislation by stressing how damaging they believe arbitration will be to employers.

The legislation is expected to easily pass in the House of Representatives where only a majority vote is needed. President Obama stated he would sign the measure should it reach his desk.

Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton Region’s unemployment rate continues to increase

08.15.09

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

Region’s unemployment rate continues to increase

BY PAUL LEESON
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, July 30th- According to labor data provided by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Department of Labor and Industry, the region’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate is 9.0 percent, increasing by one-tenth of a percentage point from the previous report, which was released approximately four weeks before.

The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) includes Lackawanna, Luzerne and Wyoming Counties.
The unemployment rate is three and one-tenth of a percentage points higher than a year ago. The last time the region had a unemployment rate this high was in March 1994.

The MSA’s unemployment rate continues to remain higher than the state percentgage. The unemployment rate in the state is 8.3 percent, unchanged from the previous report. Pennsylvania has a seasonally adjusted civilian labor force of 6,436,000 with 537,000 not working and 5,899,000 with employment. The national unemployment rate is 9.5 percent, increasing by one-tenth of a percentage point from the previous report. The national rate has increased by one full percentage point during the past three reports. There are 14,729,000 civilians in the nation without employment. The number does not include civilians that have exhausted their unemployment benefits.

The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton MSA civilian labor force decreased by 600 from the previous report to 284,200. There are 25,500 civilians not working in the MSA, increasing by 200 from the previous report, and increasing by a whopping 8,800 from one year ago. The number would be even higher if the residents that have exhausted their unemployment benefits were part of the percentage.

The MSA has the fifth largest labor force in Pennsylvania. The Philadelphia MSA has the largest labor force at 3,000,200 with 257,100 not working; the Pittsburgh MSA is second at 1,223,700 with 92,500 without jobs; the Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton MSA has the third largest labor force at 424,900 with 38,300 not working; and the Harrisburg/Carlisle MSA has the fourth largest civilian labor force at 286,400 with 21,000 without employment.

Of the 14 MSA’s within Pennsylvania, the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre/Hazleton MSA is tied with the Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton MSA for the fourth highest unemployment rate. The Erie MSA has the highest unemployment rate in the state at 9.6 percent. The Reading MSA has the second highest unemployment rate in Pennsylvania at 9.2 percent with the Williamsport MSA third at 9.1 percent.

The State College MSA has the lowest unemployment rate in Pennsylvania at 5.8 percent. The Lebanon MSA has the second lowest unemployment rate in the state at 6.9 percent with the Harrisburg/Carlisle MSA and the Lancaster MSA tied for the third lowest at 7.3 percent. The Pittsburgh MSA has the fourth lowest unemployment rate in at 7.6 percent.

Lackawanna County has the lowest unemployment rate in the MSA at 8.4 percent, which increased by one-tenth of a percentage point from the previous report and jumping two and eigth-tenths of a percentage points from one year ago. Lackawanna County has a labor force of 107,800, decreasing by 300 from the last report. There are 9,100 Lackawanna County residents without jobs, increasing by 100 from the previous report and increasing by a whopping 3,100 from twelve months ago.

Luzerne County has the highest unemployment rate in the MSA at 9.3 percent, which is unchanged from the report before. The unemployment rate is 3 and one-tenth of a percentage point higher from one year ago. Luzerne County has a labor force of 161,700, the largest in the MSA. The labor force decreased by 500 from the previous report and increased by 1,600 from twelve months ago. Of the labor force 15,000 do not have a job, unchanged from the previous report and increasing by a whopping 5,300 from one year ago.

Wyoming County has a unemployment rate of 9.1 percent, increasing by one-tenth of a percentage point from the report before and increasing by 3 and two-tenths of a percentage points from one year ago. Wyoming County has a labor force of 14,600, unchanged from the previous report and increasing by 200 from twelve months ago. There are 1,300 Wyoming County residents without jobs, which is unchanged from the previous report and jumping by 400 from twelve months

Republican Death Trip -by Paul Krugman

08.15.09

Republican Death Trip

http://www.progressiveexchange.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=4614&Itemid=479

by Paul Krugman

“I am in this race because I don’t want to see us spend the next year re-fighting the Washington battles of the 1990s. I don’t want to pit Blue America against Red America; I want to lead a United States of America.” So declared Barack Obama in November 2007, making the case that Democrats should nominate him, rather than one of his rivals, because he could free the nation from the bitter partisanship of the past.

Some of us were skeptical. A couple of months after Mr. Obama gave that speech, I warned that his vision of a “different kind of politics” was a vain hope, that any Democrat who made it to the White House would face “an unending procession of wild charges and fake scandals, dutifully given credence by major media organizations that somehow can’t bring themselves to declare the accusations unequivocally false.”

So, how’s it going?

Sure enough, President Obama is now facing the same kind of opposition that President Bill Clinton had to deal with: an enraged right that denies the legitimacy of his presidency, that eagerly seizes on every wild rumor manufactured by the right-wing media complex.

This opposition cannot be appeased. Some pundits claim that Mr. Obama has polarized the country by following too liberal an agenda. But the truth is that the attacks on the president have no relationship to anything he is actually doing or proposing.

Right now, the charge that’s gaining the most traction is the claim that health care reform will create “death panels” (in Sarah Palin’s words) that will shuffle the elderly and others off to an early grave. It’s a complete fabrication, of course. The provision requiring that Medicare pay for voluntary end-of-life counseling was introduced by Senator Johnny Isakson, Republican — yes, Republican — of Georgia, who says that it’s “nuts” to claim that it has anything to do with euthanasia.

And not long ago, some of the most enthusiastic peddlers of the euthanasia smear, including Newt Gingrich, the former speaker of the House, and Mrs. Palin herself, were all for “advance directives” for medical care in the event that you are incapacitated or comatose. That’s exactly what was being proposed — and has now, in the face of all the hysteria, been dropped from the bill.

Yet the smear continues to spread. And as the example of Mr. Gingrich shows, it’s not a fringe phenomenon: Senior G.O.P. figures, including so-called moderates, have endorsed the lie.

Senator Chuck Grassley, Republican of Iowa, is one of these supposed moderates. I’m not sure where his centrist reputation comes from — he did, after all, compare critics of the Bush tax cuts to Hitler. But in any case, his role in the health care debate has been flat-out despicable.

Last week, Mr. Grassley claimed that his colleague Ted Kennedy’s brain tumor wouldn’t have been treated properly in other countries because they prefer to “spend money on people who can contribute more to the economy.” This week, he told an audience that “you have every right to fear,” that we “should not have a government-run plan to decide when to pull the plug on grandma.”

Again, that’s what a supposedly centrist Republican, a member of the Gang of Six trying to devise a bipartisan health plan, sounds like.

So much, then, for Mr. Obama’s dream of moving beyond divisive politics. The truth is that the factors that made politics so ugly in the Clinton years — the paranoia of a significant minority of Americans and the cynical willingness of leading Republicans to cater to that paranoia — are as strong as ever. In fact, the situation may be even worse than it was in the 1990s because the collapse of the Bush administration has left the G.O.P. with no real leaders other than Rush Limbaugh.

The question now is how Mr. Obama will deal with the death of his postpartisan dream.

So far, at least, the Obama administration’s response to the outpouring of hate on the right has had a deer-in-the-headlights quality. It’s as if officials still can’t wrap their minds around the fact that things like this can happen to people who aren’t named Clinton, as if they keep expecting the nonsense to just go away.

What, then, should Mr. Obama do? It would certainly help if he gave clearer and more concise explanations of his health care plan. To be fair, he’s gotten much better at that over the past couple of weeks.

What’s still missing, however, is a sense of passion and outrage — passion for the goal of ensuring that every American gets the health care he or she needs, outrage at the lies and fear-mongering that are being used to block that goal.

So can Mr. Obama, who can be so eloquent when delivering a message of uplift, rise to the challenge of unreasoning, unappeasable opposition? Only time will tell.

Paul Kanjorski introduces legislation intended to help businesses and create jobs

08.13.09

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

Paul Kanjorski introduces legislation intended to help businesses and create jobs

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, August 2nd- Congressman Paul Kanjorski (Democrat, 11th District), introduced H.R. 3380, the promoting Lending to America’s Small Businesses Act, on July 30th.

The legislation would enable credit unions to make more small business loans and create jobs at a time when the country needs a financial boost. America’s credit unions could held fill the void of the commercial banks and entities that have pulled back their lending activities during the financial crisis. Currently, credit unions face statutory limitations and many of them have so far been forced to sit on the sidelines, Mr. Kanjorski stated.

“During this time of economic uncertainly, many businesses, especially small businesses, are facing extreme difficulties accessing credit in order to create and maintain jobs. H.R. 3380 aims to fix this problem by using credit unions as a resource to boost lending to small businesses. By permitting credit unions to expand their lending to small businesses, we can work to turn around our difficult financial situation at no cost to taxpayers,” said Mr. Kanjorski, which represents Scranton, Wilkes-Barre and Hazleton.

Pennsylvania unemployed workers to receive more benefits

08.13.09

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

Pennsylvania unemployed workers to receive more benefits

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, August 4th- The Pennsylvania House of Representatives unanimously passed legislation that would tap federal stimulus dollars to extend benefits by seven more weeks for a total of 79 weeks for workers that have exhausted their unemployment benefits.

“This is tremendous news for 25, 430 people who had their benefits expire in July and the 60,000 people who will be affected before the end of the year. Thousands of families will get seven more weeks of benefits while they continue to look for new employment in this challenging job market,” said Representative Marc Gergely (Democrat, Allegheny), who authorized the legislation.

The average weekly unemployment payment in the state is $305.00, regardless of family size, or $15,860 per year. The figure is $6,190.00 below the federal poverty guidelines for a family of four.

Pennsylvania lost nearly 180,000 jobs since the nationwide recession began in December 2007. According to the Department of Labor and Industry, the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate in June was 8.3 percent in Pennsylvania, unchanged from the previous month. The rate is up 3 full percentage points from this time last year.

Mr. Gergely’s legislation would temporarily switch the mechanism Pennsylvania uses to trigger extended unemployment benefits from the current insured unemployment rate, (the percentage of workers covered under the unemployment law who are out of work), to the total unemployment rate (the percentage of all workers in Pennsylvania who are out of work).

Under the stimulus law, the federal government will cover the cost of providing the seven additional weeks of unemployment benefits in Pennsylvania. Governor Edward Rendell will sign the legislation.

The Wealthy Elites Play the Racists for Pawns at a Town Hall Meeting in Maryland

08.13.09

The Wealthy Elites Play the Racists for Pawns at a Town Hall Meeting in Maryland

BuzzFlash Guest Commentary

http://blog.buzzflash.com/node/9188

By Maria Allwine

On Monday night, Maryland Senator Ben Cardin held a town hall meeting at Towson University, just north of Baltimore. A long-time BuzzFlash reader and Baltimore activist, Maria Allwine, provided this account.

I was at the protest before Monday night’s town hall meeting on healthcare hosted by Maryland Sen. Ben Cardin. Here are my impressions of last night:

I went to the rally and got there about 5:35 – already there were signs posted saying the event (a huge line already waiting to get in) had reached capacity. I hoped members of Healthcare-Now of MD were there early.

The organized right-wingers were there in droves – I estimate (and I am not the best guesser) at least 1,000, maybe more. They were bused in from all over MD from what I was hearing. There were maybe 500 of us, perhaps more – again a guesstimate. Osler Drive was lined up on both sides for a very long way but the majority of them were the right-wingers. They were all along the west side of Osler and a good deal of the east side where we were. I’ll be interested to read the estimates from a more reliable source than myself.

I have never seen such hatred, vitriol and racism in all my life – and I do not say that lightly. It made me physically ill – I could stand the heat, but I couldn’t stand the hatred and racism. We all read about it, we know it – but having it in your face in such large and angry numbers is hard to deal with. There were posters of Obama as Hitler, the Democratic Nazi Party, Keep Your Laws Off My Body (except for abortion – I asked) and various and sundry examples of ugliness. Some Lyndon LaRouche supporters along with anti-immigration and tort reform. Also a lot of “killing the elderly, euthanasia” type signs. And of course, our favorite – “No Socialism.” As I looked across Osler at these people, they were screaming and angry – and they often came over to where we were to provoke us and to out-shout us. The comments to me as I walked up and down with my signs were appalling. Just ugly, ugly, ugly.

I am telling you this for a reason.

Folks, this is NOT about healthcare or anything remotely resembling policy or any particular issue. This is about the naked anger of the right wing being out of power and not accepting a black man as President combined with their own racism – it’s thinly veiled at best, but it’s racism. I venture to say that this is the least thinly veiled racism I’ve seen for a long time – they have taken those gloves off.

When people say “I work, I’m not paying for anyone else” – that’s about African-Americans and Latinos - period. I stated so to a couple of young women and of course they countered me with extreme anger and then one took my picture to show her children what’s wrong with America (I worry about that – these people love to post pictures of people they want to make targets). Later I asked one older woman very calmly – she was calm herself – if she cared about other people besides her own family and loved ones. She looked me in the eyes and said “NO, I don’t”. I was lost for words. I heard over and over people saying “I work, I don’t want to pay for anyone else.”

And a lot of “healthcare is a privilege, not a right” – “ you people just keep wanting more” - a lot in that vein. And of course excoriating “socialism” was a favorite. I asked one man, who was screaming at us how he could live with so much hatred every day. He whipped around and yelled at me “I keep it coming every day” – he was so angry I thought he was going to have some kind of attack. These are people we see on the street every day, I’ve worked with them – and when I say they are filled with hate, I do not exaggerate. I finally had to leave around 7 pm – I couldn’t take any more of the ugliness. I was literally sick to my gut.

Make no mistake – these people are lying and have been told to lie. They have no facts and are not dissuaded by those who do and want to discuss them. There is NO engaging these people – they are way beyond that. That’s not what they’re there for. That’s why I say we must stop discussing policy and start discussing strategy and tactics.

In my opinion, we (the left, the progressives and the Congresspeople who are with us) are making a mistake by ignoring these people. This is not about the people at these events; it’s about who is controlling them. And that is the wealthy elites who will do anything, including destroying what is left of the democracy we remember, to protect what they have, the corporations who control Congress and who actually rule this country and the extremists who are driven by hatred and racism. They are working together and if we do not develop an effective strategy and new tactics to counter them, this country – and us – are doomed.

There is an excellent article on AlterNet regarding fascism. If you haven’t read it yet, I urge you to do so. We have all talked about this over these past years and we all worry about it but I think this article is absolutely right. And I think we better pay attention to what is happening right underneath our noses. It might be reassuring to say that these people are fringe, the minority, etc. But it’s not just them – it’s the most powerful moneyed interests in this country who are bankrolling and controlling them. The angry mobs are the storm troopers and they are the angriest people I’ve ever seen. They are happy to be controlled and happy to do the bidding of their masters. In my opinion they would be happy to do away with the likes of us.

Think we aren’t about to lose what’s left of this democracy? I urge you to think again. And then I urge all of us to rethink our strategy and tactics. The first thing we need to do is call what is happening by its right name – fascism – over and over again. And we need to call out the corporations and bad actors who are bankrolling these people.

Here is another good article which mentions a Baltimore law firm’s involvement with Dick Armey and its lobbying efforts to kill healthcare reform – not to mention the enormous sums of money they rake in doing it. Scroll down to the “FreedomWorks and the K Street Lobbyist” paragraph for info on a once-venerable Baltimore law firm. This is the kind of thing that needs to be exposed in the media and talked about. The only way the media will discuss it is if we discuss it constantly.

I hope the report from inside Sen. Cardin’s meeting is more positive than mine! I’m posting this because what I witnessed tonight must be a wake-up call to us – not something to ignore. This will not go away – and indeed will only get worse.

BUZZFLASH GUEST COMMENTARY

Study shows Americans have questions about recovery plan

08.11.09

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

Study shows Americans have questions about recovery plan

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, July 22nd- While main stream media continues to report the economic showdown is improving, a study recently released shows that nearly half of Americans (45 percent) thinks the economy has not yet hit bottom and will worsen.

By comparison, just one in three (32 percent) indicate the American economy is now trending upward, while 20 percent say it is at the bottom right now.

Only 54 percent of American approve of President Obama’s handling of the economy, and 26 percent strongly disapprove of his performance of the economy versus those who strongly approve at 24 percent.

“The recent drop in consumer confidence coupled with the jobless report is evident in these numbers,” said Bill Cullo of Stewart and Partners of Alexandria, Virgina, an research and consulting firm specializing in communications research and strategy development. The group provides research driven insights to help clients make decisions that lead directly to making improvements in their business.

According to the study, a separate question reveals that only 27 percentof Americans expect their own financial situation to be better off one year from now.

Other survey findings reveal that the public is split on whether the President is on the right track (47 percent) or wrong track (42 percent) in expanding the role of government.

In addition, solidifying the country’s credit rating and strengthening the dollar (32 percent) was cited as the most important issue for the President and the Congress to address.

That was chosen from a list of seven issues that included reforming healthcare (26 percent), addressing the North Korea nuclear threat (9 percent), and curbing foreclosures (9 percent). The survey was conducted by using a random digit dial (RDD) sampling method, telephone interviews were conducted among adults at least 18 years old throughout the United States.

“Americans are starting to ask questions about the effectiveness of the taxpayer dollars that have been spent thus far on the stimulus. As a result, the President’s economic plan is at a crossroad,” added Mr. Cullo.

Federal and state minimum wage increases to $7.25 per hour

08.11.09

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

Federal and state minimum wage increases to $7.25 per hour

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSSWB@AOL.COM

REGION, July 20th- On Friday July 24th the federal minimum wage increased to $7.25 per hour.

The United States Department of Labor (DOL) announced with this change, employees who are covered by the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) will be entitled to be paid no less than $7.25 per hour.

“This administration is committed to improving the lives of working families across the nation, and the increase in the minimum wage is another step in the right direction. This well-deserved increase will help workers better provide for their families in the face of today’s economic challenges. I am especially pleased that the change will benefit working women, who make up two-thirds of minimum wage earners,” said Secretary of labor Hilda Solis.

The increase is the last of three provided by the enactment of the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2007, which amended the FLSA to increase the federal minimum wage in three steps: to $5.85 per hour effective July 24th, 2007; to $6.55 per hour effective July 24th, 2008; and on July 24th 2009 to $7.25 per hour.

Under the law, states could force employers to pay more than the federal minimum wage but the states can not pay less.

According to the DOL, the latest change will directly benefit workers in 30 states including: Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming. Those states minimum wage is currently at or below the federal minimum wage or there is no state minimum wage. The new wage will also benefit workers in the District of Columbia, where the minimum wage is required to be $1 more than the federal minimum wage.

According to the DOL, a American family with a full-time minimum wage earner would see their monthly income increase by about $120.00. That is more than a week’s worth of groceries for an average family of four or more than one week’s utility bills. The $120.00 buys three tanks of gas for a small car, Ms. Solis stated.

The DOL added the increase will not only benefit full-time workers. About half of minimum wage workers are part-timers, and they too, are going to see an increase to their incomes.

An employer must pay the higher wage when states rate and the federal rate differ.

In Pennsylvania more than 107,000 workers will likely benefit from the boost in the minimum wage. Approximately 68,000 minimum wage workers will benefit directly from the increase, which for a full-time worker will add $208.00 to their paychecks over the next year.

Another 40,000 workers whose wages fall between $7.25 per hour and $7.35 per hour would likely benefit indirectly from the increase in the minimum wage. While the new minimum wage will not mandate raises for these workers, they are likely to receive them as their employers seek to retain higher quality workers than are currently available at the new minimum wage.

Research shows that increases in the minimum wage lead households with a minimum wage worker to increase their spending and will add $5.5 billion over the next year to the United States economy.