Skyline of Richmond, Virginia

Healthcare reform funding- “A Less Than Honest Policy”

12.30.09

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/29/opinion/29herbert.html?_r=2

The New York Times

December 29, 2009
Op-Ed Columnist

A Less Than Honest Policy
By BOB HERBERT

There is a middle-class tax time bomb ticking in the Senate’s version of President Obama’s effort to reform health care.

The bill that passed the Senate with such fanfare on Christmas Eve would impose a confiscatory 40 percent excise tax on so-called Cadillac health plans, which are popularly viewed as over-the-top plans held only by the very wealthy. In fact, it’s a tax that in a few years will hammer millions of middle-class policyholders, forcing them to scale back their access to medical care.

Which is exactly what the tax is designed to do.

The tax would kick in on plans exceeding $23,000 annually for family coverage and $8,500 for individuals, starting in 2013. In the first year it would affect relatively few people in the middle class. But because of the steadily rising costs of health care in the U.S., more and more plans would reach the taxation threshold each year.

Within three years of its implementation, according to the Congressional Budget Office, the tax would apply to nearly 20 percent of all workers with employer-provided health coverage in the country, affecting some 31 million people. Within six years, according to Congress’s Joint Committee on Taxation, the tax would reach a fifth of all households earning between $50,000 and $75,000 annually. Those families can hardly be considered very wealthy.

Proponents say the tax will raise nearly $150 billion over 10 years, but there’s a catch. It’s not expected to raise this money directly. The dirty little secret behind this onerous tax is that no one expects very many people to pay it. The idea is that rather than fork over 40 percent in taxes on the amount by which policies exceed the threshold, employers (and individuals who purchase health insurance on their own) will have little choice but to ratchet down the quality of their health plans.

These lower-value plans would have higher out-of-pocket costs, thus increasing the very things that are so maddening to so many policyholders right now: higher and higher co-payments, soaring deductibles and so forth. Some of the benefits of higher-end policies can be expected in many cases to go by the boards: dental and vision care, for example, and expensive mental health coverage.

Proponents say this is a terrific way to hold down health care costs. If policyholders have to pay more out of their own pockets, they will be more careful — that is to say, more reluctant — to access health services. On the other hand, people with very serious illnesses will be saddled with much higher out-of-pocket costs. And a reluctance to seek treatment for something that might seem relatively minor at first could well have terrible (and terribly expensive) consequences in the long run.

If even the plan’s proponents do not expect policyholders to pay the tax, how will it raise $150 billion in a decade? Great question.

We all remember learning in school about the suspension of disbelief. This part of the Senate’s health benefits taxation scheme requires a monumental suspension of disbelief. According to the Joint Committee on Taxation, less than 18 percent of the revenue will come from the tax itself. The rest of the $150 billion, more than 82 percent of it, will come from the income taxes paid by workers who have been given pay raises by employers who will have voluntarily handed over the money they saved by offering their employees less valuable health insurance plans.

Can you believe it?

I asked Richard Trumka, president of the A.F.L.-C.I.O., about this. (Labor unions are outraged at the very thought of a health benefits tax.) I had to wait for him to stop laughing to get his answer. “If you believe that,” he said, “I have some oceanfront property in southwestern Pennsylvania that I will sell you at a great price.”

A survey of business executives by Mercer, a human resources consulting firm, found that only 16 percent of respondents said they would convert the savings from a reduction in health benefits into higher wages for employees. Yet proponents of the tax are holding steadfast to the belief that nearly all would do so.

“In the real world, companies cut costs and they pocket the money,” said Larry Cohen, president of the Communications Workers of America and a leader of the opposition to the tax. “Executives tell the shareholders: ‘Hey, higher profits without any revenue growth. Great!’ ”

The tax on health benefits is being sold to the public dishonestly as something that will affect only the rich, and it makes a mockery of President Obama’s repeated pledge that if you like the health coverage you have now, you can keep it.

Those who believe this is a good idea should at least have the courage to be straight about it with the American people.

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EDITOR’S NOTE: Here is a link to a related article that shows how bad the Senate bill is:

“Affordable” Health Care http://emptywheel.firedoglake.com/2009/12/27/affordable-health-care/

The House version has a very good funding system!

Analysis shows $1 trillion wage loss by workers through 2012

12.29.09

JANUARY 2010, Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton edition of The Union News

Analysis shows $1 trillion wage loss by workers through 2012

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

REGION, December 5th- According to a study released by the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR), an independent economic think tank in Washington, DC., despite growing economic optimism, the economy is still far from full recovery.

“From the standpoint of jobs, the economic variable that most concerns Americans, we are not even one third of the way through the recession. Unemployment will cost workers more in terms of lost wages and salaries in 2010 and 2011 than they have this year,” states John Schmitt, a senior economist at the Center for Economic Research Center.

The report called, “The $1 Trillion Wage Deficit,” estimates the earnings loss of Americans from the beginning of the recession through 2012. The findings show that United States workers will lose a total of over $1 trillion in wages and salaries as a result of the Great Recession and the economy will continue to shed hundreds of thousands of jobs over the next three years under current policy.

The study uses recent data from the Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and projections from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) on economic performance through 2012.

“To put this into context, the total cost of the recession in terms of lost wages is substantially higher than the estimated ten-year cost of current health care reform,” added Mr. Schmitt.

The analysis shows lost wages and salaries twenty-five percent higher in 2010 ($310 billion) than in 2009 ($247 billion). In 2011, losses will be $252 billion, higher than losses for 2009.

And in three years from now in 2012, losses will still be three times higher at $147 billion, than they were in 2008, the first full year of the recession.

The study suggest African Americans and Latinos will be especially hard hit, with the recession causing them wage losses of $142 billion and $138 billion, respectively.

The report’s cost estimates do not include the cost of lost health insurance or pension coverage, lost earnings from reductions in hours for workers who keep their jobs, or any cuts stemming from belt-tightening pressures in the workplace because of the recession. The recession began in December 2007.

Carpenters Union complaint still under investigation

12.29.09

JANUARY 2010, Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton edition of The Union News

Carpenters Union complaint still under investigation

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

EMMAUS, December 8th- The complaint filed at the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Region Four office in Philadelphia by the Metropolitan Regional Council of Carpenters of Southeastern Pennsylvania Union in Philadelphia against American Millwork and Cabinetry Inc. in Emmaus is still under investigation.

The union filed the Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) charge on October 28th, 2009 alleging the nonunion employer violated the National Labor Relations Act (NLRAct).

According to the complaint, the employer operates an architectural millwork facility on Broad Street in Emmaus and has approximately 20 employees.

The Union alleges on the ULP Section 8 (a), subsections (1) and (3) was violated by the employer.

The newspaper discovered the complaint during an monthly review of ULP charges filed at the NLRB office. Also the newspaper has learned the Union has filed a second ULP against the Employer on December 3rd.

The International Brotherhood of Carpenters Union Local 600 in Bethlehem represents Carpenter Union members in the Lehigh Valley and is affiliated with the Regional Council of Carpenters of Southeastern Pennsylvania, State of Delaware and Eastern Shore of Maryland.

According to the NLRB, the target date for the completion of the agency’s investigation was December 2nd, 2009. However, the NLRB Field Examiner is still conducting the investigation in whether there is merit in the Carpenters Union complaint and will likely released their findings by the end of December.

The October 28th ULP alleges the employer has interferred with, restrained and coerced employees in the exercise of the rights guarenteed under Section 7 of the NLRAct.

“On October 12, 2009, it by its officers, agents and representatives discriminated against and is discriminating against Kevin Wetherhold in retaliation for his membership in and activities in support of the Metropolitan Regional Council of Carpenters by laying him off” states the complaint.

The employer representative named on the complaint to be contacted is George Reitz however his position with American Millwork and Cabinetry Inc is not identified.

The Union alleges on the complaint filed on December 3rd, the Employer created the impression that it was engaging in surveillance of employees’ Union activity and retailiating against Mr. Wetherhold.

Polls Suggest Republicans May Not Gain as Much as They Think

12.28.09

Polls Suggest Republicans May Not Gain as Much as They Think

by: RDemocrat

Hillbilly Report.org article link

With the state of the economy and the healthcare fight, Republicans all over the airwaves see themselves as poised to make huge gains in the House and Senate late next year in the mid-term elections. However, here in the real world, a place that seemingly does not exist in the Republican mindset the numbers may tell a different story. While President Obama and the Congress have lost some of their shine and popularity, it appears as if the American people simply despise the Republican Party, their leaders and tactics.

Over at Kos they have partnered with Reasearch 2000 to keep a running poll of the approval ratings of the President, Congress and both parties and the numbers are quite telling this time around.

President Obama still remains mostly popular as his Approval rating is at 54% with disapproval at 41. I think had he fought for his Progressive base and not lost many of them those numbers would be higher.

http://www.dailykos.com/weeklytrends

In the Congress, Democrats are not faring quite as well. Nancy Pelosi comes in with a 42% approval and 50% disapproval. Again, I think this can be linked to Progressives showing disappointment in their leadership and abandoning ship somewhat.

More proof of that comes with Harry Reid’s numbers. It is almost a concensus among Progressives that Reid and the body he leads in the Senate quite simply sold us down the river. His numbers, more than Pelosi’s reflect that. He chimes in at 31% approval while a whopping 59% disapprove. Again, the abandonment of our base has cost him dearly.

Overall Congressional Dems have 39% approval and 55% disapproval and the Democratic Party as a whole has 41% approval and 54% disapproval.

Now, all these numbers do suggest an opening besides Obama’s but when you look closer maybe not so much. You see, the GOP’s standing among Americans is worse than terrible.

Looking at their Congressional leadership both Mitch McConnell and John Boehner are at a whopping 17%. 65% disappove of McConnell while 63% disapprove of Boehner.

In the Congress, the GOP fares even worse with only 15% of Americans approving of their tactics. At 69% disapproval almost seven in ten Americans cannot stand them. The Republican Party as a whole barely have one in four Americans in their corner at 28%. 62% of Americans oppose them.

So while Democrats have been taking a hit, the Republicans are less popular than ever. Their policies have been proven failures and the American people have not yet forgotten how bad the messed the country up when they controlled government. It seems to be a concensus in America that Republicans simply cannot be trusted to govern. Let us hope they keep doing exactly what they are doing.

As for the Democrats I have a bit of advice for the coming year. Stop abandoning your base and fight for us if you want your numbers to improve. Quit fighting for Corporate America and “reaching out” to Republicans and Democrats that should be and give us a real choice. Fight for the average, working American like the Democratic Party has long been depended on to do.

If Democrats do this I actually predict they will lose very few if any seats and may actually gain a few in 2010. It is really up to the President and our leadership at this point whether they will stay in a huge majority or not.

The Need to Help Labor Radio Survive

12.23.09

The Need to Help Labor Radio Survive

In these terrible economic times, it is hard to keep the bills paid for most working families. We all are struggling to stay in our homes, keep our old cars on the road and food on the table. Americans are certainly worried with good reason about keeping their jobs and affording healthcare. All of these problems can be traced more or less directly to excessive corporate power in America both economically and politically.

The current healthcare insurance reform debate has highlighted for everyone how much the balance of power has shifted in terms of public debate against the interests of American workers and towards the interests of giant corporations. Corporate media has not given a real voice to labor leaders who represent the millions of American workers most heavily impacted by this issue. Right Wing talk radio has distorted elements of the issue, the process and relevant facts beyond all recognition. Most of the opposition to real change from the American public comes from not hearing the truth. Lack of balance in this debate reveals the one-sided nature of corporate media.

Why was single-payer, universal healthcare deemed “off the table” when it is the norm in nearly every other industrialized nation in the world? It was corporate power! The corporate media deemed it “radical” and working Americans had no effective voice in framing the debate. We will all suffer as a result.

Corporate power killed the Fairness Doctrine in broadcasting. This means that the public airwaves are solely being used even in political terms for private profit. Since corporations have huge spending advantages over their workers’ organizations (labor unions), workers have been effectively shut out of the public debate. It has impacted politics, government policy and American working family living standards for decades.

The relative lack of effective working families-oriented media has resulted in awful government policies that have ruined American manufacturing, killed Americans in unjustified wars and by denying healthcare, gutted pensions, legalized predatory lending, polluted our environment, weakened civil liberties, curtailed voting rights and given the wealthiest of the wealthy near veto rights over government policy. Instead of government acting as a check and balance to international corporations it far too often has become a tool of them. The ruination of the American economy has assisted the excessive concentration of wealth in our nation and weakened American democracy.

We cannot reverse this anti-working family, anti-American democracy course without getting our message to the American people. We must create a media network to help offset one-sided corporate media. Labor radio certainly will play a key role if it survives!
Progressive organizations and individuals inside and outside organized labor must find a way to help struggling labor radio programs survive the current economic crisis. Will they? I do not know the answer.

Labor radio heroes, like Rick Smith of the Rick Smith Show and Charles Showalter of The Union Edge, already have given the cause thousands of hours and thousands of dollars personally trying to fill the void. This writer has done the same for 9 years with my own Democratic Talk Radio program (although I would never call myself a hero) by donating tens of thousands of hours and spending around $40,000 personally.

Currently, the Union Edge is taking a short break from the airwaves do to the lack of financial support. Democratic Talk Radio may have to do the same. It is time for those able to assist to step up.

Progressive groups should shift part of their advertising to progressive media outlets instead of channeling nearly all of it into corporate media outlets. Advertising and/or underwriting the right kind of media will multiply many times over the impact of each dollar invested. As a movement and as individuals, we must get smarter in how we use our very limited resources.

Support should go to progressive magazines like the Progressive, the Progressive Populist, the Nation and similar publications. Vitally important blogs and Internet sites like Buzzflash.com, Truthout.org and OpEd News.com will play key roles in creating an alternative non-corporate media.

Labor radio and progressive radio are only going to survive if labor unions, union activists and progressives fund the shows. Some of the best labor radio shows are:

Workers Independent News (Live)
Building Bridges
The Rick Smith Show
America’s Workforce
The Union Edge
Democratic Talk Radio
AFGE “Inside Government”
Heartland Labor Forum

Anything that you can do to support and build these radio shows, Internet sites and publications will help balance excessive corporate power. Like building the labor movement by joining a union, each individual action is small but working together will help everyone. The game is rigged against us as working people but doing nothing means remaining forever the victims of excessive corporate power.

Each little individual action is a small victory for economic and political justice that makes it easier to win the next one.

Written by Stephen Crockett (host of Democratic Talk Radio http://www.DemocraticTalkRadio.com and Editor of Mid-Atlantic Labor.com http://www.mid-atlanticlabor.com ). Mail: 698 Old Baltimore Pike, Newark, Delaware 19702. Phone: 443-907-2367. Email: demlabor@aol.com .

Feel free to publish or re-print without prior approval.

Here is some Health Care Insurance Companies information collected by Democratic Talk Radio co-host Walt Garvin

12.22.09

Here is some Health Care Insurance Companies information collected by Democratic Talk Radio co-host Walt Garvin.

” Last night we discussed Health Care Insurance companies!
Here are the facts regarding the current status of America’s top Health Care Insurance Companies:

UnitedHealth Group had revenues of $21.7 billion in the third quarter of this year, an increase from last year’s $20.16 billion third-quarter revenues.
- Net earnings for UNH for the third-quarter of 2009 were $1.03 billion, up from $920 million in Q3 2008.

Aetna had revenues of $8.7 billion for the third quarter of 2009, an increase from last year’s $7.6 billion in the third quarter.
- Overall net earnings for Aetna in Q3 2009 were up 18 percent from Q3 2008.

Humana reported total revenues of $7.7 billion in the third quarter of 2009, an increase from $7.14 billion last year at this time.
- Net earnings per share for Q3 2009 were up 63 percent from Q3 2008
- Overall net income for Q3 2009 were up nearly 65 percent compared with this time last year.

AFLAC Q3 2009 revenues rose to $4.5 billion during the third quarter, a 22.6 percent increase from $3.6 billion last year at this time.
- Net earnings per share for Q3 2009 were up 266.7 percent from last year’s $.21 per share.
- Overall net earnings for Q3 2009 totaled 363 million, a 263.1 percent increase from $100 million in Q3 last year.

WellPoint had revenues of $15.4 billion in the third quarter of this year, an increase from last year’s $14.9 billion in third-quarter revenues.

Health Net reported revenues for Q3 2009 of $3.9 billion, an increase from $3.8 billion a year ago.

Read ‘em and weep (for American consumers)!

Walt”

Pennsylvania Progressive: PA AFL-CIO Calls Out Dems on Taxing Health

12.22.09

Pennsylvania Progressive: PA AFL-CIO Calls Out Dems on Taxing Health

http://www.thepennsylvaniaprogressive.com/diary/2007/pa-aflcio-calls-out-dems-on-taxing-health-benefits

Written by one of the Democratic Talk Radio co-hosts John Morgan on his Pennsylvania Progressive site.

In solidarity,

Stephen Crockett

Host, Democratic Talk Radio
Editor, Mid-Atlantic Labor.com

Carhaul campaign makes progress at GM

12.22.09

Carhaul campaign makes progress at GM

http://www.teamsters355.com/index.cfm?zone=/unionactive/view_article.cfm&HomeID=147618

Cross-posted from www.Teamsters.org - Discussions between Teamster leaders and executives with GM have resulted in a commitment from the automaker to protect existing Teamster jobs, and further talks are planned to discuss future carhaul work at GM that union members have traditionally done.

“This is a significant development, but more discussions need to occur to make sure more work at GM is done by Teamster carhaulers,” said Fred Zuckerman, Director of the Teamsters Carhaul Division.

Based on the progress at GM, the Teamsters are suspending campaign activities at GM until further notice with the expectation that a final settlement will be reached in the immediate future.

The union’s campaign to save Teamster jobs in the carhaul industry continues at Chrysler and Toyota. Chrysler has not shown the same willingness as GM and Ford to discuss saving Teamster jobs with the union, and Toyota is now making threats to move Teamster carhaul work to non-union carriers.

Zuckerman praised the United Auto Workers (UAW) for its help and support on this issue with the Big Three automakers.

“I also want to thank all the Teamster carhaulers and Teamster members who have helped this campaign. We are making progress but our work is not done,” Zuckerman said.

HARRISBURG WORKERS AND COMMUNITY LEADERS CONTINUE FIGHT FOR GENUINE HEALTHCARE REFORM

12.21.09

AFL-CIO
Media Advisory
For Immediate Release

Contact: Marty Marks (412) 352.0317

HARRISBURG WORKERS AND COMMUNITY LEADERS CONTINUE FIGHT FOR GENUINE HEALTHCARE REFORM

Local Workers and Union Leaders to Hold Roundtable Discussion on the Inadequacies of the Senate Healthcare Bill

Harrisburg, PA – On Tuesday, December 22nd at noon at the Harrisburg Region Central Labor Council Headquarters, workers will join with community leaders and activists for a roundtable discussion regarding the changes that must be made to the bill currently in the senate, in order for it be worthy of the support of working men and women. A focus of the discussion will be the tax on workers’ healthcare plans, he need for a public option as a way to break the stranglehold of the insurance industry over consumers, and the necessity for employers to pay their fair share.

“The Senate bill bends to the insurance industry and asks working people to pay the costs. The AFL-CIO intends to fight on behalf of all working families to make the changes necessary and win real health care reform,” said Michael Fedor, Director for the Central PA AFL-CIO, America’s largest labor federation. “This is why we are continuing roundtable discussions all across America to give workers a voice in the ongoing historic debate to reinvent health care in our country,” explained Fedor.

The roundtable in Harrisburg on Tuesday is one of six taking place in Pennsylvania. Workers with their personal healthcare stories, leaders who negotiate health care benefits in the collective bargaining process and community allies working for health care reform will be participating.

Remote one on one interviews with speakers are available before or after the event. Call Marty Marks at 412.352.0317 to arrange.

Who: Workers, union leaders from the Harrisburg Region Central Labor Council and the National AFL-CIO and community allies

What: Roundtable discussion on healthcare reform from the workers perspective

Where: Harrisburg Central Labor Council, 522 South 22nd St., Harrisburg, PA

When: Tuesday, December 22, 2009

###

Marty Marks
National AFL-CIO Communications

Books about the labor movement and labor issues

12.20.09

Now available from a link on this site located on the upper right side toolbar. Buying them there helps fund this website.

Link reads “Click here to visit UCS Online Book Catalog to purchase items.”

Military construction funding includes local projects in Lehigh and Monroe Counties

12.20.09

JANUARY 2010, Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton edition of The Union News

Military construction funding includes local projects in Lehigh and Monroe Counties

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

REGION, December 2nd- Pennsylvania United States Democratic Senators Arlen Specter and Robert Casey have announced that the Senate has approved federal funding for several construction projects throughout the Commonwealth including in the Lehigh Valley.

Both Mr. Specter and Mr. Casey voted for the funding which is contained in the Fiscal Year 2010 Military Construction Appropriations Bill. The legislation still must be approved by the House of Representatives and signed by President Obama before funding is final.

“These projects are vital to Pennsylvania’s economic development and the overall security of the United States. I am pleased my colleagues have approved this important funding to improve Pennsylvania’s military projects and strengthen our nation’s defense,” stated Mr. Casey.

The funding secures $12.4 million for the Air Reserve Base in Pittsburgh which will cover the demolition of two Visiting Airmen Quarters and the construction of a new 3-story, 60 room facility to support the 911th Airlift Wing.

In addition the bill includes $3.2 million worth of funding for an Electronics Maintenance Shop at Tobyhanna Army Depot in Monroe County and $15 million to build an Armed Forces Reserve Center in Allentown

SEIU Local 668 members ratify new three year contract

12.20.09

JANUARY 2010, Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton edition of The Union News

SEIU Local 668 members ratify new three year contract

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

REGION, December 12th- Workers represented by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), the Pennsylvania Social Service Union (PSSU) Local 668, East Lehigh Street in Bethlehem, have ratified a new three year contract agreement with the Carbon, Monroe and Pike Mental Health/Mental Retardation Program (CMP/MHMR).

According to Neil Brown, Business Agent of Local 668, which negotiated the MHMR contract for the union, the membership voted on November 20th to approve the new agreement. Local 668 represents approximately 75 employees of the organization including caseworkers and clerical workers.

The Carbon, Monroe and Pike Counties jointly operate a mental health and mental retardation program with offices in each county. According to the agency the program’s mission is to partner with consumers, family members, service providers and community members to assist individuals and families with emotional, behavioral, or developmental issues in becoming self-sufficient and obtaining an improved quality of life. This is accomplished by creating and maintaining an environment that promotes and supports recovery and resiliency and by linking individuals and families to necessary and desired supports.

Mr. Brown told the newspaper under the terms and conditions of the new agreement his members will receive a bonus of $750.00 the first year of the pact; an increase of two and a half percent in wages the second year; and an wage increase of three percent in the third.

The previous contract expire on August 31st and the two sides agreed to work under the terms and conditions of the previous pact while negotiations continued for a successor agreement.

Mr. Brown stated under the new contract employees will receive longevity pay after being employed for five years.

Economist believes stimulus package was too small

12.20.09

JANUARY 2010, Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton edition of The Union News

Economist believes stimulus package was too small

BY PAUL LEESON
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

REGION, December 9th- In the third quarter of 2009, Pennsylvania underemployment rate, which includes the unemployed, workers unable to find full-time work, and other jobless individuals, stood at 14.2 percent, meaning more than 900,000 people in the Commonwealth are either unemployed or underemployed.

In the first quarter of this year Pennsylvania was losing more than 25,000 jobs a month and in the last three months the Commonwealth has been losing about 4,000 jobs a month.

According to the United States Department of Labor (DOL) the national job market showed some signs of improvement in November as total nonfarm employment fell to 11,000 jobs for the month and the unemployment rate dropped to 10 percent.

Estimates released by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) suggest the improvement in the economy is due in large part to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRAct). The CBO suggest there were between 25,000 and 65,000 more jobs in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in the third quarter than there would have been in the absence of the economic recovery package.

However, according to Mark Price, Ph.D., and Labor Economist for the Keystone Research Center in Harrisburg, the economic stimulus was too small to counter the most severe collapse in the private sector in more than a generation.

“Although we’d be in much worse shape without the recovery package, the staggering number of people unable to find enough work makes it clear that the stimulus was too small,” said Mr. Price.

“With all signs pointing to a prolonged period of joblessness for hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvanians, futher efforts to put people back to work are desperately needed,” said Stephen Herzenberg, Ph.D., and Economist and Executive Director of the Keystone Research Center.

“Failure to spur further job creation threatens to drive increasing numbers of families into poverty, a result which has been shown to hurt the educational achievement of young children. Joblessness also threatens to lead companies to pare back their investments in training and research and development,” added Mr. Herzenberg.

Teamsters Union Local 773 files labor complaint against local bus company

12.20.09

JANUARY 2010, Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton edition of The Union News

Teamsters Union Local 773 files labor complaint against local bus company

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

REGION, December 4th- The International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT) Union Local 773, Hamilton Street in Allentown, filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Region Four office in Philadelphia alleging a Lehigh Valley employer violated the National Labor Relations Act (NLRAct).

According to the Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) charge, First Student Transportation, Route 100 in Macungie Borough, violated Section 8 (a), subsections (1) and (5) of the NLRAct.

The Union alleges the employer through its agents, has failed and refused to bargain in good faith with the Union, which represents of all bus drivers, bus aides, sub drivers, mechanics and washers.

“The Employer unilaterally and without notice to or bargaining with the Union ceased the payment of wheelchair premiums and longevity bonuses when due and suspended payment of the referral bonus,” states the ULP.

The complaint states there are approximately 150 workers at the employers Macungie facility.

Steelworkers President appointed to Advisory Council

12.18.09

JANUARY 2010, Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton edition of The Union News

Steelworkers President appointed to Advisory Council

BY PAUL TUCKER
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

REGION, December 11th- The United Steelworkers Union (USW) Local 2599 President Jerry Green was appointed on November 24th to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Advisory Council by Pennsylvania House of Representive Keith McCall (Democrat-122nd Legislative District). Mr. McCall is the speaker of the House of Representatives in Harrisburg.

“It is an honor for me to appoint you to this important position. I am certain all of your work will be a positive reflection not only on the Council, but also on the House of Representatives. This appointment was made because I know your qualifications make you well suited for this position,” states Mr. McCall’s November 24th letter to Mr. Green.

Local 2599 represents approximately 1,000 USW members throughout the Lehigh Valley. Mr. Green was first elected to serve as President of Local 2599 in 2000. He is a former employee of Bethlehem Steel and lives in Bethlehem.

“I’m honored to be appointed to this position. I will work hard for the labor community on the Council,” stated Mr. Green.

The Council is made up of eight members, four employee representatives and four employer representatives, plus the Pennsylvania Labor and Industry Secretary.

Also the House of Representatives Speaker, the Senate President Pro Tem and the Minority Party Leaders of the House and Senate each appoint an employee and employer representative to serve on the Council. Each Council member serves two years from the date of the appointment.

When contacted by the newspaper, Mr. McCall stated Mr. Green was appointed to the Council because of his outstanding experience as the USW President and unique legal perspective he brings as a paralegal. “His entire career has been dedicated to protecting the rights of working people, and he will be an outstanding addition to the Council,” said Mr. McCall.

According to Mr. McCall’s office, the Council’s goal is to hold hearings and gather testimony on Workers’ Compensation issues from the public and for interested parties. The data is used to create reliable studies and surveys concerning compensation claims, injury rates, and litigation. The council also submits an annual report to the legislature and in involved in helping make common-sense changes to the state’s labor laws.

Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton Local unemployment rate increases to 9.8 percent

12.18.09

JANUARY 2010, Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton edition of The Union News

Local unemployment rate increases to 9.8 percent

BY PAUL LEESON
THEUNIONNEWSABE@AOL.COM

REGION, December 8th- According to labor data provided by the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry Center for Workforce Information and Analysis in Harrisburg, the Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) seasonally adjusted unemployment rate increased by three-tenths of a percentage point to 9.8 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 6.1 percent.

There are fourteen Metropolitan Statistical Area’s in Pennsylvania and the Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton Metropolitan Statistical Area has the third highest unemployment rate in the Commonwealth. Since December 2007, the unemployment rate for the MSA has increased in twenty of the past twenty-four months.

The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate in Pennsylvania is 8.8 percent, unchanged from the previous report, which was released approximately four weeks ago. There are 561,000 Pennsylvania residents without jobs. That number does not include workers who have exhausted their unemployment benefits. Pennsylvania has a seasonally adjusted workforce of 6,340,000 and 5,779,000 of them have employment. The national seasonally adjusted unemployment rate reported is 10.2 percent, increasing by four-tenths of a percentage point from the previous report. There are 15,700,000 residents nationally unemployed. That number also does not include workers who benefits have expired and stopped looking for work.

The data shows the Erie MSA has the highest unemployment rate in the state at 10.1 percent. The Williamsport MSA has the second highest unemployment rate in the state at 9.9 percent.

The State College MSA has the lowest unemployment rate in Pennsylvania at 6.1 percent, with the Lebanon MSA second at 7.4 percent. The Altoona MSA and the Harrisburg/Carlisle MSA are tied for third lowest unemployment rate in Pennsylvania at 7.8 percent.

The Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton MSA has the third largest civilian labor force in Pennsylvania at 416,800, dropping by 2,800 from the previous report and dropping by 4,500 during the past twelve months. There are 40,800 residents in the MSA without jobs, rising by 800 from the previous report and increasing by 14,900 during the past twelve months.

The Philadelphia MSA has the largest civilian labor force in Pennsylvania at 2,948,900 with 267,000 residents not working. The Pittsburgh MSA has the second largest civilian labor force at 1,206,700, with 99,600 residents unemployed. The Harrisburg/Carlisle MSA has the fourth largest civilian labor force in the state at 281,100, with 22,000 residents unemployed. The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre MSA has the fifth largest civilian labor force at 279,100 with 27,000 residents not working.

The Williamsport MSA has the smallest civilian labor force in Pennsylvania at 59,000. The Altoona MSA is the second smallest at 63,200 with the Johnstown MSA the third smallest at 67,700.

Carbon County has the highest unemployment rate in the MSA at 11.2 percent, increasing by three and nine-tenths percentage points from twelve months ago. Northampton County has the lowest unemployment rate in the MSA at 9.6 percent, rising by three and five-tenths percentage points during the past twelve months. Lehigh County has a unemployment rate of 9.9 percent, rising by three and seven-tenths of a percentage points from one year ago.

Would cutting the minimum wage raise employment?

12.16.09

Would cutting the minimum wage raise employment?

by Paul Krugman

http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/12/16/would-cutting-the-minimum-wage-raise-employment/

It seems that more and more Serious People (and Fox News) are rallying around the idea that if Obama really wants to create jobs, he should cut the minimum wage.

So let me repeat a point I made a number of times back when the usual suspects were declaring that FDR prolonged the Depression by raising wages: the belief that lower wages would raise overall employment rests on a fallacy of composition. In reality, reducing wages would at best do nothing for employment; more likely it would actually be contractionary.

Here’s how the fallacy works: if some subset of the work force accepts lower wages, it can gain jobs. If workers in the widget industry take a pay cut, this will lead to lower prices of widgets relative to other things, so people will buy more widgets, hence more employment.

But if everyone takes a pay cut, that logic no longer applies. The only way a general cut in wages can increase employment is if it leads people to buy more across the board. And why should it do that?

Well, the textbook argument — illustrated in this little writeup — runs like this: lower wages lead to a lower overall price level. This increases the real money supply, and therefore liquidity. As people try to make use of their excess liquidity, interest rates go down, leading to an overall rise in demand.

Even in this case, it’s hard to see the point of cutting wages: you could achieve the same effect, much more easily, simply by having the Fed increase the money supply.

But what if we’re in a liquidity trap, with short-run interest rates at zero? Then the Fed can’t achieve anything by increasing the money supply; but by the same token, wage cuts do nothing to increase demand.*

Wait, it gets worse. A falling price level raises the real value of debt. To the extent that debtors are more likely to cut spending in such a case than creditors are to increase it — which seems likely — the effect of the wage cuts will actually be a fall in demand.

And one more thing: to the extent that people expect further declines in wages and prices, this raises real interest rates, which is even more contractionary.

So proposing wage cuts as a solution to unemployment is a totally counterproductive idea. Not that I expect any of this discussion to make any impact on those proposing it.

* Somebody is going to ask, what about the real balance effect? Doesn’t a falling price level make people wealthy, by raising the real value of the money they hold. The answer is, consider the magnitudes. Before the crisis, the monetary base — the system’s “outside money” — was around $800 billion. (It’s a much more confusing situation now, so I won’t try to parse the current numbers here). This means that even a 10 percent fall in the price level, which is very hard to achieve, would raise real wealth by only $80 billion. Compare this with the effects of the decline in housing and stock prices, which reduced household wealth by $13 trillion in 2008. The real balance effect is totally trivial.

Labor Holds Emergency Meetings To Discuss Senate Bill, May Formally Oppose

12.16.09

Labor Holds Emergency Meetings To Discuss Senate Bill, May Formally Oppose

by Sam Stein

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/12/16/labor-holds-emergency-mee_n_394070.html

Two of the country’s largest labor groups, the SEIU and the AFL-CIO, are each holding emergency executive meetings today to discuss whether they should support the latest round of health care compromises made by Senate Democrats.

Though there’s no official word yet, early indications based on talks with various officials are that the groups will either formally oppose the legislation or, less dramatically, just not fight very hard to ensure its passage.

Labor leaders are fuming at the concessions that Democratic leadership made in the last few days to win the support of the caucus’s most conservative members, notably Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.). A bill that already included one highly objectionable provision (a tax on so-called Cadillac insurance plans) was stripped of a provision beloved by labor: a public alternative to private insurance coverage. Frustration boiled over even further after the leadership succumbed to Lieberman’s demand to jettison even the compromise to the public option ## a proposal to expand Medicare to those as young as 55.

Together, the changes have spurred emotional internal debates about the approach labor should take to the Senate bill. Dennis Rivera, the Health Care Chair at the SEIU, was slated to appear at a Capitol Hill press conference on Wednesday to push for senators not to filibuster reform. He pulled out from the event, which was sponsored by the pro-reform group Families USA, because of uncertainty about the union’s position.

“We just couldn’t do it,” said an SEIU official. “We haven’t even seen the manager’s amendment… At this point, we have to make the final decision about how to proceed. There is an emergency meeting tonight to figure that out.”

The AFL-CIO, likewise, is hosting an executive council meeting to discuss the legislation. Richard Trumka, the president of the union conglomerate, has been one of the foremost champions of a public plan. And on Tuesday, one of his close allies, Leo Gerard, the president United Steelworkers Union, hinted that opposition to the bill is in the offing.

“I believe that the House [of Representatives] has got a good bill,” Gerard told MSNBC’s Ed Schultz. “Hopefully it is going to have to go to committee, we’re going to fight like crazy to make sure that we get a good bill. I’m not prepared to give up. I want to fight and get a good bill out of this. The American people deserve this and President Obama, whose values are right, he deserves this.”

Labor’s stance could have big ramifications. Progressive Senate Democrats held their noses as the legislation was watered down at the behest of Lieberman and others. Off the Hill, however, former Democratic National Committee chair Howard Dean called for the current Senate proposal to be “killed” ## and others echoed his concerns.

The labor community has already poured massive resources into the health care debate. Now there is a growing concern that the money and time may have not been well spent. As one high-ranking labor official emailed the Huffington Post:

“What is really frustrating folks here is that it’s impossible to make and implement plans to pressure senators when the White House and Reid keep undermining the efforts no one from the outside can put any credible pressure on Senators because they know the White House will back that Senator up whatever they do. If the White House is going to cave to a Senator who spent the entire election campaigning with McCain and calling Obama a traitor how are we supposed to have any leverage over anyone?

“If Lieberman ## who has done so many horrible things directly to Obama ## can get away with this on Obama’s signature issue it makes it infinitely harder for us to pressure senators, on issues in the future, because there is no fear of retribution or coercion from the White House. They only pressure progressives, not anyone in the middle.”

Howard Dean: ‘Kill the Senate Healthcare Bill’

12.16.09

Howard Dean: ‘Kill the Senate Healthcare Bill’

http://trueslant.com/erikkain/2009/12/15/howard-dean-kill-the-senate-healthcare-bill/

Personally, I am in complete agreement only adding that we need to defeat in Democratic primaries all the elected Democrats who have made themselves obstacles to real healthcare reform (including a robust public option) and all Republicans opponents in general elections!

EPI: Small Business Owners and Their Employees Stand To Gain Under Senate Health Bill

12.15.09

Small Business Owners and Their Employees Stand To Gain Under Senate Health Bill

The steady erosion of the share of working people whose employers provide health insurance coveragehas been most acute among the half of adult workers employed by businesses with 50 or fewer employees.

The chief reason for this disparity is that small businesses are charged much higher premiums than large ones are for each covered employee – nearly one-fifth more for the same coverage. The predictable result is that just over one in three workers at firms with fewer than ten employees now has employer-provided coverage, while almost all workers at firms of 200 or more employees are covered.

The reform package proposed by the Senate on November 18 would go a long way toward rectifying this inequity. A new issue brief titled “Senate Health Bill Scores Big for Small Business,” published today by the Economic Policy Institute, explains how. Elise Gould, EPI’s director of health policy research, and researcher Alexander Hertel-Fernandez point out the roadblocks that are putting health care coverage further out of reach for small businesses and explain how the Senate’s approach would help overcome those obstacles.

The higher costs to small businesses are a byproduct of the way that insurance rates are calculated and the fact that small businesses, by definition, do not have a large enough pool of employees to spread out the costs and enable them to qualify for more advantageous rates. What’s more, the report shows, small businesses also have a much smaller number of insurers to choose among, and they pay much higher administrative costs – from 20 to 25 percent of premium costs, as opposed to 10% paid by larger firms. The smaller pool of employees also means that if one or more suffer serious illnesses, premiums can rise substantially, making it difficult if not impossible for employers to anticipate what their costs will be from one year to the next.

“The current health care insurance system creates a sizeable penalty for small businesses that want to offer coverage to their employees,” said Gould.

Gould and Hertel-Fernandez find that the vast majority of small businesses stand to gain from the legislation currently being considered by the Senate and that small businesses as a group are some of the largest winners from health reform.

“The Senate’s proposal would provide small businesses with the opportunity to purchase quality coverage at stable, affordable rates,” said Hertel-Fernandez.

Major improvements cited by the authors would include:

Insurance coverage will become much easier to purchase for small firms with the creation of new regulated insurance markets.

Insurance costs will become much more stable and predictable for small firms, even if one or more of their workers requires medical care or their workforce number or composition changes from year to year.

Very small, low-wage firms would see considerable reductions in their premiums due to new tax credits, with savings averaging 8-10% of total premium costs according to the Congressional Budget Office.

Firms with fifty or fewer workers are not subject to any penalties if they choose not to provide health insurance to their workers.

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.

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Hyperlinks
If the hyperlinks (above) don’t work, copy and paste these addresses into your browser:
Issue Brief: http://www.epi.org/publications/entry/ib268/
Elise Gould: http://www.epi.org/pages/economist/#gould
Alexander Hertel-Fernandez: http://www.epi.org/pages/economist/#hertel
EPI Newsroom: http://www.epi.org/content.cfm/newsroom_index
Describing EPI: http://www.epi.org/content.cfm/newsroom_describing_epi