Friday, February 27, 2009

SOS - Save Our Services 2009

SAVE OUR SERVICES – SOS 2009

BARGAINING POLICY OF
UNITED STEELWORKERS
LOCALS 12775 and 13796
EMPLOYED AT NORTHERN INDIANA PUBLIC SERVICE COMPANY


WE MAKE THE FOLLOWING COMMITMENTS:

OUR CUSTOMERS – As proud Steelworkers and NIPSCO employees, we have always understood that our responsibility is to provide the public with courteous, dependable gas and electric service – service that starts when a union member takes the call and ends only when a union member completes the job.

OUR COMMUNITIES – As proud Steelworkers and citizens of our communities in Northern Indiana, we have always understood that safe, reliable gas and electric service is fundamental to sustaining our quality of life, economic development, and good jobs for our families, friends and neighbors.

OUR FUTURE – As proud Steelworkers, we have always understood that by our own unity, as well as by supporting the customer and the public, we can provide our families with a decent standard of living and a secure future.

We have acted on these principles time and time again. In 1997, we made a commitment to our customers and the public when we created the “Save Our Services” campaign. Again, in 2002, we followed through on that commitment when we created a coalition with the elected officials throughout Northern Indiana to fight the proposed closing of local service hubs. And in 2003, we reinforced that commitment when we successfully opposed NIPSCO’s efforts to impose new fees on ESP customers. In 2009, the Steelworkers will file as interveners in the NIPSCO rate case to ensure the accountability of NIPSCO and to see that they abide by previous IURC orders in regards to service and staffing.

As we enter 2009, we look ahead to our upcoming negotiations. Keeping our principles in mind, as well as the current state of the economy, and keeping aware of our dual responsibility to the public and to our members, we are determined to:

  • Insist that NIPSCO provide the training, equipment and staff to ensure a higher level of safe and reliable gas and electric service, which our customers pay for and deserve.
  • Sustain the standard of living of our members and their families; and
  • Ensure a sustainable standard of living for current retirees and future retirees.

Our priorities are:

Safety and Health on the job
The safety of the public and of our members is our primary concern. When either is at risk we are all at risk. We strive for a safer, healthier workplace in concert with the environment and public safety. Nothing underlines our concern for safety more than the loss of our brothers and sisters - good people, struck down in their prime, doing their jobs serving the public. We will insist that our jobs be done in a safe manner that protects us all from the very real inherent hazards in the delivery of gas and electric service.

Job Security
The duties performed by the majority of our members require high levels of skill. These skills can only be acquired through specialized training and on-the-job experience. Continual reduction of the number of employees in the face of an expanding customer base can only further undermine the reliability of our service. To this end, we will bargain to ensure appropriate staffing levels to maintain a skilled and dedicated workforce.

Limits on Contracting Out/Outsourcing
We are the face and the voice of the Company and we are customers. When our work is contracted out we suffer a loss of jobs and lose the ability to impact the quality, timeliness, and cost of the services provided to our customers. The IBM outsourcing contract alone cost NIPSCO 1.6 billion dollars, with little to no accountability to our customers for their decisions. We will therefore negotiate to ensure that we continue to perform our work within the NIPSCO territory.

Successorship Protection
In recent years, our industry has been undergoing a transformation unlike anything in the history of gas and electric utilities. The transformation has been characterized by mergers, sales, and the dismantling of companies that had been in existence for many years. In a number of cases, these events harmed the consumers who depend on the utility involved and the employees who had dedicated their working lives to build the companies and facilities where they worked. To protect against both of these eventualities, we will propose strong protections so that in the event of a sale of any of NIPSCO’s facilities, the jobs of our members are protected and a skilled and dedicated workforce remains to serve the public.

Wages
Steelworkers at NIPSCO perform work that requires a high degree of skill and is often dangerous. We will insist that the work of our members be rewarded with a standard of living that reflects industry standards and is commensurate with our efforts and dedication to our customers.

Pensions
Those who went before us negotiated a pension plan that provided for economic security upon their retirement. While we have accepted changes to our pension plan, it remains a priority to protect our pension benefit by resisting the recent risky schemes that have undermined a worker’s ability to have a secure retirement. It is also our intention to improve that security by negotiating retirement improvements for our members and retirees.

Medical Benefits
Medical costs have been the fastest rising item in the budgets of both active and retired members. We will hold the Company and all parties accountable for the cost efficiency and availability to discuss our medical benefits. We will bargain over medical benefits and not leave those benefits to the whims of corporate management. While we recognize that the real answer to the unconscionable increases in the cost of health care may not be found at the bargaining table, we will strongly resist efforts to transfer these economic risks from a very profitable utility company to workers and retirees.

We are offering to engage in a frank and constructive dialog with the Company on these issues, leading to a fair and equitable contract. We are prepared to stand our ground. In any event, we are confident that our unity, commitment and principles will prevail.


Unanimously adopted by the officers and grievance committees of Locals 12775 and 13796

February 25, 2009
Source: USW Local 12775 website

Thursday, February 26, 2009

NIPSCO Liar

The Northern Indiana Public Service Company (NIPSCO) is demanding that their poor old shaky retirees pay more for their medical insurance premiums.

Although NIPSCO has agreed to meet periodically with specified members of the United Steelworkers Union to confer and make recommendations for the most efficient and cost-effective operation of the medical plan, and to agree on projected premium and other plan costs, get this, NIPSCO has refused to meet with the specified union members.

Now I want to know who the liars are. What NIPSCO management people agreed to meet periodically with specified members of the union but won’t do it? Do the liars work for NIPSCO or do the liars work for NiSource? I would assume that the liar or liars work for NIPSCO because the agreement was made by NIPSCO.

So, is the Liar Gary Neale, or Doug Bobillo, or Tim Dehring, or Bret Mcintyre, or Mel Stasinski, or Jerry Godwin, or Joel Hoelzer, or Jim Petroskey? In other words, which one of the above persons will step up and say, “hey, I’m the liar”. I agreed to meet but I won’t do it.”

I guess if any of the persons named above doesn’t work for NIPSCO any more, I can’t hold those persons responsible. So who then is to blame? Who is the liar? Will the liar please step forward? The CEO? Who is the CEO of NIPSCO? Who’s in charge at NIPSCO? Who’s the liar at NIPSCO? Who’s responsible for enforcing the contract at NIPSCO? Does the buck stop anywhere?

Who at NIPSCO is responsible for not meeting with the union to keep medical insurance premiums as low as possible but at the same time wants to increase medical insurance premiums for the retirees? Who is it?

Who ever you are, it’s a damn good thing I’m not you’re boss.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Letter to NiSource

In this morning's newspaper, the headline article explains that the NiSource (parent company of the Northern Indiana Public Service Company) Directors are paid $165,000.00 per year for attending about a dozen meetings.

Since I heard yesterday that NIPSCO wants to put the screws to their retirees by increasing their medical insurance premiums, and at the same time is wanting to increase my electric rate by 15%, I've decided to try to find a part time job.

After thinking long and hard about it, I've decided to put my name in the hat for a directors job.

If someday I'm selected for this job because of a vacancy, I promise to earn my $165,000.00 by attending each and every meeting. In fact, I'll come an hour before the meeting starts and stay one hour after it ends.

Thanks NiSource.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Stinking NIPSCO

I just learned today some of the things the Northern Indiana Public Service Company (NIPSCO) is wanting to do to their retirees.

Today, the Executive Board's of USW 12775 and 13796 started the development of the bargaining policy for the 2009 Contract negotiations. Today was the first time I realized that these crooks at NIPSCO attempted to steal the medical benefits from many of our retirees. Nothing beats a good kick in the pants for a job well done and giving your entire working life to this rotten company.

I'll be doing my best to find out what else NIPSCO is trying to do, not only to their retirees but to their active bargaining unit members as well, and at the same time, their wanting to raise their stinking rates. Do you believe that? NIPSCO wants to raise their rates and screw their retirees at the same time.

Keep tuned, because this blog will be used to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth about this infamous company.

Monday, February 23, 2009

War did not end the Great Depression

by Morton J. Marcus

War did not end the Great Depression

It’s time to set the record straight. It was not World War II that moved America out of the Great Depression.
When we talk about the American economy, we discuss the actual or “Real” goods and service produced in this county. To compare one year with another, we must remove price changes so that we can measure output in constant dollars.

This measure of economic activity is called Real Gross Domestic Product (GDP). In 2008, the real value of goods and services produced in this country stood at $11.7 trillion, adjusted to prices of 2000. In 1929, GDP peaked at $865 billion in the constant prices of 2000. Thus our economy last year was 12.5 times larger than in 1929.

From that peak of $865 billion in 1929, the U.S. economy contracted to $636 billion in 1933, a decline of 27 percent. Those four years of contraction (1930 to 1933) saw annual decreases in Real GDP of -8.6%, -6.4%, -13.0%, and -1.3% respectively. Thereafter followed four years of recovery. In 1937, real GDP stood at $911 billion or 5.3% above the 1929 level.

Not only was the severe recession over, but the American economy was back to a higher level than its previous peak. There was a brief setback in 1938, but even then we stayed above the 1929 level. From there on, beyond 1938, the economy moved still higher to reach today’s unimaginable levels of wealth.

Thus, when war production began to support our European allies in 1939, the American economy had already recovered. Federal spending on the armaments and personnel of war moved the economy still further ahead. But the base of the economy had been reestablished not just above the bottom in 1933, but above the1929 peak as well.

It is spending, not tax cuts, that directs the flow of resources. After WWII, the great strides of this nation were made by federal spending and federal support of private spending. The GI bill, federal spending, not tax breaks, sent millions of veterans to college. A side benefit was a decrease in the number of persons seeking employment that allowed wages to rise dramatically.

The Marshall Plan (federal spending) made it possible for Europe to buy the goods from us that they needed to rebuild their economies. Insuring loans for housing Americans was a promise of federal spending, an underwriting of private lending. Highway, bridge, sewer and water systems benefited from federal assistance.

Those who argue today that federal spending will not do the job of getting us out of our current difficulties neglect the truth of the past. Those who argue that this crisis is greater than that of the early 1930s base their arguments on supposition, not evidence. The decline in the first year of this recession has been at an annual rate of 2.2 percent while in the first year of the Great Depression that fall was 8.6 percent.

Unemployment rates and the stock market declines are not (yet?) near the magnitudes of the Great Depression. While not as deep as the Great Depression, this downturn is more extensive because more of us have money in the stock market and more of us have investments in the homes we own. Thus, even without the severity of the Great Depression, the current crisis has bearing on the lives of a large percent of the population.
Today the federal government and the Federal Reserve are acting more promptly than in the Great Depression when a large portion of the populace was satisfied to let the markets adjust themselves. Today we have Unemployment Compensation, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid to soften the blows of the recession.

Recessions leave serious scars on families and institutions. What is lost in production cannot be recovered. Opportunities foregone may never be available again. However heroic the measures of the moment, the decline in wealth, while transitory for some, will be permanent for many. And remedies of the past are not necessarily helpful in times as different as ours from those of Cal Coolidge and Al Capone.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

We Won on Buy America. Now Let's Make It Work.


AAM Action Update
February 21, 2009

We won an important victory last week when Buy America rules, which require the purchase of U.S. materials for infrastructure projects, were included in the final economic recovery bill signed by President Obama. (Visit our AAM Action page to see your terrific work in communities like Elkhart, IN; Peoria, IL; and Ft. Myers, FL.)

Only massive public support for Buy America (84% of the American people) helped push this through a reluctant Congress. And your voices didn't just help. In this fight, all of you who called and emailed Congress actually made it happen.

But there's more work to do. Believe it or not, we could still be thwarted. There is still well-placed opposition that can block Buy America during the actual implementation phase.

So, step two involves getting Buy America resolutions passed at the State and Local levels to ensure that the promise of the law is fulfilled for American manufacturing. Our Alliance for American Manufacturing (AAM) field team -- AAM Action-- will be working with local elected officials to ensure that Buy America is strictly enforced.

Now, you need to get involved with your state legislative representatives, and even your city hall. If we don't fight for our jobs and our children's future, who will?


To learn more about Buy America at the state level, click here, or watch our video and download a fact sheet. You can also attend one of the upcoming Town Hall meetings and rallies. To find a meeting near you, click here.

Lastly, we want you to tell us about your efforts. Send us an email. If we publish your email on our blog, we'll send you a limited edition "Keep It Made in America" t-shirt.

Keep fighting the good fight.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Propagandists mask Free Choice Act facts

February 8, 2009

By Beth Thew
The Spokesman-Review

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce calls it “Armageddon.”

Home Depot’s CEO called it “the demise of a civilization,” and said his fellow corporate executives who didn’t contribute big bucks to defeat it “should be shot, should be thrown out of their (expletive) jobs.”

What has Corporate America so apoplectic with fear and anger? A fatal epidemic? A terrorist nuclear threat? A new Michael Moore movie?

It’s legislation before Congress called the Employee Free Choice Act. It would increase fines and penalties against employers that refuse to negotiate union contracts or that illegally threaten or fire workers who support forming unions.

But the provision that strikes fear in the heart of Corporate America is allowing the workers to decide for themselves whether they want to form a union through the traditional government-supervised ballot election or by signing authorization cards.

It doesn’t eliminate “secret ballot elections,” as you’ve been told. It lets the workers decide if they want one, instead of letting the boss decide, as he now does.

Here is the sad truth. If you support forming a union in America, your employer can – and often will – harass, demote or fire you. It doesn’t matter that it’s illegal. Federal labor laws are so weak, and so weakly enforced, that it could take years of litigation just to prove you were unlawfully fired. Even then, the fines are minuscule.

We, as Americans, should be ashamed. This country, which prides itself for protecting the freedom of association, is listed by Human Rights Watch alongside Third-World dictatorships as a violator of basic human rights on this issue.

Today, the illegal suppression of unions is a simple cost of doing business. It’s seen as cheaper than granting your employees a union contract with higher wages, better benefits and a voice on the job.

Workers who belong to unions earn 30 percent more than non-union workers, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. They are 59 percent more likely to have employer- provided health coverage and 72 percent more likely to have pensions.

Corporations know this. They don’t want their employees to unionize. And right now, they have the system rigged.

That’s why they so aggressively oppose attempts to reform labor laws to make it easier to form unions. And that’s why, as you read this, they are spending millions to convince you the EFCA will take away your sacred right to “secret ballot” election and lead to intimidation by union thugs like me.

They are lying to you. The EFCA doesn’t eliminate the secret ballot, it lets workers choose if they want one.

As for union thugs on your doorstep, union-authorization cards have always been a part of the election process established by the National Labor Relations Act. In the 70 years that labor organizers have been seeking card signatures, there have been fewer than 50 cases of union misconduct or coercion documented by the National Labor Relations Board. That’s less than one case per year.

Compare that to 29,559 cases in 2007 alone of workers receiving back pay in cases where employers were charged with violating workers’ rights under the National Labor Relations Act.

We have example after example of companies right here in Eastern Washington where workers have reached out to union organizations asking for representation. The results have been intimidation and threats by the employers; fear mongering from the employers to the point of retreat from employees. This doesn’t sound like the America or the community that I know and love.

Notoriously anti-union companies like Wal-Mart and Home Depot want you to believe you need their protection from the Employee Free Choice Act and from jack-booted union thugs that will come crashing through your front window to take your money.

When are we going to stand up for our rights, and stop listening to this disingenuous, self-serving propaganda from multinational corporations?

Note: Beth Thew is secretary-treasurer of the Spokane Regional Labor Council, AFL-CIO.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Learn the Truth about the Employee Free Choice Act

As most of you know, passage of the Employee Free Choice Act is one of America's top priorities. The Employee Free Choice Act will help make the economy work for all of us again by ensuring that workers have a free choice and a fair chance to join a union. Today's workplaces are tilted in favor of lavishly-paid CEOs, who get golden parachutes while middle-class families struggle to get by. The Employee Free Choice Act gives us a chance to restore the balance, giving more workers a chance to form unions and get better health care, job security, and benefits.

The right wingers, corporate thugs, misguided souls and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce are doing everything they can to misrepresent this legislation by saying that workers won't keep secret-ballot elections. The fact is that workers DO keep secret-ballot rights under the Employee Free Choice Act. They would simply gain an additional way to seek a contract and union representation through majority signup. The bill still provides for a secret-ballot election if employees want it. Most working men and women will use the Majority Signup method to avoid the coercion, threats, intimidation and even firings that companies use to discourage employees from forming a union.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Recovery Bill Passes with little help from Renoblicans

According to U.S. government reports, the economy lost 598,000 jobs in January, and the unemployment rate rose to 7.6 percent. Congressional leaders said the country is facing its deepest economic crisis since the Great Depression, one that calls for swift, bold action."

The stimulus bill provides $311 billion in appropriations, including the following critical investments that create jobs, support for the states and the country's future:

· Investments in infrastructure and science -- $120 billion

· Investments in health -- $14.2 billion

· Investments in education and training -- $105.9 billion

· Investments in energy, including over $30 billion in infrastructure -- $37.5 billion

· Helping Americans hit hardest by the economic crisis -- $24.3 billion

· Law enforcement, oversight, and other programs -- $7.8 billion

Funding for energy programs in the bill includes upgrading the energy grid, research into clean coal technology and $6 billion in loan guarantees for renewable energy projects. It includes a 3-year extension of the production tax credit for wind energy. In addition, the bill expands and extends Trade Adjustment Assistance benefits, with specific funding programs to help workers and families hit hardest by the economic crisis. These programs include nutrition assistance, child care development, head start and the homeowners' assistance program.

The USW has a 'Make Our Future Work' program with union leaders across the nation involved in oversight on the provisions of the economic stimulus bill to be sure state and local infrastructure investment projects meet the terms of the Buy America provision.

Friday, February 13, 2009

U.S. Chamber of Commerce is Wrong

Donohue Wrong

In the February 3 edition of the South Bend Tribune, Thomas J. Donohue, president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce whined about the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) claiming that “Card Check” would eliminate secret ballots in elections where workers decide whether or not they want a union.

Donohue is wrong. His use of the term “Card Check”, more accurately referred to as “Majority Signup”, simply means that a union could be certified if more than half of the workers sign a card saying they want that union to represent them.

Under current law, if 30% of workers petition for a secret ballot unionization vote, they'll get it. Under the EFCA, if 30% of workers petition for a secret ballot unionization vote, they'll get it. The EFCA doesn’t change anything here. Workers would have the same right to have a secret ballot vote to unionize as they have today.

Here’s the difference. Under current law, if the workers come to the employer with a majority's worth of signed cards saying they want a certain union to represent them, for some strange reason, the employer has veto power over that. The employer can say, I don't accept these cards, and I demand that we start all over and have a secret ballot election about this issue.

Under the EFCA, that management veto power is taken away. Under the EFCA, the right to choose the certification method is placed back where it belongs, with the employees. If the workers at a given company choose to certify their desire for a union through the card check process, the employer must accept their decision.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Workers, Be Patient, Help is on the way

The Senate Health Education, Labor and Pensions Committee has approved President Obama's choice for Secretary of Labor, Hilda Solis.

How nice it will be for workers to finally have a Department of Labor that will once again be on their side.

Adios to Elaine Chao, former Labor Secretary who did as much as she could to cause human suffering and death by weakening safety standards and supporting Bush's big corporate buddies.

Hilda Solis should prove a big help when it comes to passing the Employee Free Choice act. The Corporate right wingers must be worried to death. The U.S. Senate should be voting on her nomination any day now.

What a difference an election makes.

Monday, February 09, 2009

President Obama in Elkhart, Indiana

〈 The President’s visit to Elkhart, Indiana today, where unemployment has tripled to 15% over the last year, underscores the impact of this economic crisis in real terms. Across the political spectrum people are looking for swift action.

〈 The President heard first hand from the people of Elkhart how dire their economic situation is. As we saw during the campaign, the conventional wisdom in Washington does not always reflect what people in America are thinking and experiencing. They are very clear that the Recovery and Reinvestment Plan is needed now.

〈 President Obama’s recovery plan will put Americans back to work doing the work America needs, creating or saving 3-4 million jobs over the next two years while transforming the economy for the 21st century.

〈 The Recovery Plan addresses long-neglected needs in energy, education, healthcare and infrastructure that are critical to laying the foundation for a robust and 21st century economy: investing in renewable energy to help us move toward energy independence; modernizing our schools; computerizing medical records to save costs and lives; and repairing our infrastructure. Specifically, the plan will:

o Modernize more than 75% of federal buildings and improve the energy efficiency of two million American homes, saving consumers and taxpayers billions while reducing our dependence on foreign oil. The plan will also double renewable energy generating capacity over three years.

o Make the immediate investments necessary to ensure all of America’s medical records are computerized within five years, reducing medical errors and saving billions in health care costs.

o Equip thousands of schools, community colleges, and public universities with 21st century classrooms, labs, and libraries.

o Expand broadband across America, so that a small business in a rural town can connect and compete with their counterparts anywhere in the world.

o Enact the largest investment in America’s crumbling roads, bridges, waterways and transit systems since the creation of the national highway system.

o Provide immediate tax relief for 95 percent of American workers.

〈 If we don't move swiftly to put the Economic Recovery Plan in motion, our economic crisis could become a national catastrophe. Millions of Americans will lose their jobs, their homes, and their health care.

〈 Independent analyses by Macroeconomic Advisers and Moody’s Inc. have confirmed that the Recovery Plan will create or save 3-4 million jobs over the next two years. The jobs created will be in a range of industries from clean energy to health care, with over 90% in the private sector.

〈 The most important number for President Obama is the number of jobs the plan will create. He will only sign a bill that:

o Meets his test of creating or saving more than 3 million jobs.

o Has unprecedented accountability and transparency, including allowing Americans to track the money on the website Recovery.gov



Putting the Jobs Numbers in Perspective


Last month, the economy lost 598,000 jobs. That’s like losing every job in the state of Maine (employment of 612,000 in December 2008).

In the past 2 months, the economy lost 1.2 million jobs. That’s like losing every job in Pittsburgh (1.1m in Dec ’08) or the entire Cleveland metropolitan area (1.1m in Dec ’08).


Ø Or Idaho (629k) and New Hampshire (647k)

Ø Or West Virginia (757k) and Montana (443k)

Ø Or Delaware (432k), New Mexico (840k), and Rhode Island (469k)


In the past 3 months, the economy has lost 1.8 million jobs. That’s like losing every job in Connecticut (1.7m) or South Carolina (1.9m).


In the past 4 months, the economy has lost 2.2 million jobs. That’s like losing every job in Silicon Valley and the entire San Francisco area (2.0m) or all of Louisiana (2.0m).



What happens to the U.S. economy in the absence of stimulus?


Administration forecast:
  • Unemployment rate will peak at 9.6%
  • The output gap will be over $1 trillion in each of 2009, 2010, and 2011. Thus, the cumulative gap is over $3 trillion.
  • The economy will lose another 5 million jobs, for a total job loss of 7.6million

Mark Zandi, economy.com (1/21/09 forecast):

  • Unemployment rate will peak at 11.1%
  • Payroll employment will decline another 6.4 million, for a total job loss of 9million.

CBO:

  • Unemployment rate will peak at 9.2%
  • The GDP gap will be $1.0 trillion in 2009; $1.1 trillion in 2010; and $0.8trillion in 2011, for a three-year cumulative gap of $2.9 trillion.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

The Treasonous Right

For the last eight years, the right wingers have done nothing but spend, spend, spend on their wars and torcher rooms and give, give, give, to their rich friends.
The people have had it with Republicans and their rich friends and their tax breaks. So what did we do? We took over the congress and voted us a new President. So what do the right wingers do now? They do nothing. Nothing to help. Nothing to reverse the downward spiral they've caused while our country goes further and further into the toilet. The Sauders, and the Pences and the Buyers and the Burtons and the rest of these traitors are worthless....absolutely worthless. Unless of course, when it comes to causing human pain, misery, suffering and death. When it comes to those things, they can't be beat.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

The Facts on 'Buy America' and Domestic Sourcing



As the House and Senate debate the merits and specifics of an economic recovery package for the U.S. economy, considerable misinformation has been spread on the impact of including domestic sourcing provisions for infrastructure investment. Some parties have erroneously claimed that such requirements are illegal or could serve as the basis for a wider trade conflict.

The bill that passed the House recently (H.R. 1) contains specific language requiring the use of American-made iron and steel for any infrastructure projects. It is possible that a Senate bill may expand this requirement to all manufactured goods. In truth, these ‘Buy America’ provisions are fully consistent with existing U.S. trade obligations and can help to strengthen the U.S. economy and create jobs.

Below is a string of popular myths being floated by conservatives to strengthen their opposition to the inclusion of the “Buy American” provisions in the economic recovery package and the facts that “debunk” them! Please refer to the facts below as you continue your efforts to win passage of this crucial piece of legislation.

Myth: Manufacturing doesn’t need any help.

Fact: 4 million U.S. manufacturing jobs have been lost since 2000, amounting to losses of nearly one-fourth of all U.S. manufacturing jobs. In 2007 alone, the U.S. shed 800,000 manufacturing jobs. Factory orders now stand at record lows while the U.S. racked up a $700 billion trade deficit in 2007. (U.S. Census Bureau data)

Myth: This is a major and unprecedented expansion of Buy America laws.

Fact: The U.S. has had such laws in place for 70 years, starting with the Buy American Act of 1933. The Department of Defense has had its own Buy America provision (The Berry Amendment) since 1941. In addition, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), and Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) all have long-standing Buy America provisions. In part the provisions in H.R. 1 simply provide greater transparency in the use of Federal funds.

Myth: This violates our trade agreements.

Fact: The Visclosky Amendment in H.R. 1 contains complete flexibility to ensure that the U.S. complies with all international commitments for procurement and will allow the waiver of domestic preference when required by trade agreement obligations. These trade agreements do however allow for domestic preference under a number of circumstances. The amendment merely insures that U.S. materials will be preferred when it is permitted. These preferences were negotiated for a reason. It would be irresponsible not to utilize them to the fullest extent possible.

Myth: This will ignite a trade war and deepen the depression.

Fact: Total two-way U.S. trade in goods and services amounted to approximately $4 trillion in 2007. In comparison, the economic recovery bill is projected to include approximately $90 billion for infrastructure projects. Ensuring that some of the $90 billion used to rebuild American infrastructure is spent on American materials is a tiny fraction of the $2 trillion in goods that the U.S. purchased from the rest of the world in 2007. (U.S. Census Bureau data)

Myth: As the world’s “largest exporter,” the U.S. could be hurt by not buying foreign-made goods because our trading partners would then refuse to buy from us.

Fact: Actually, the U.S. is, by far, the world’s largest importer, soaking up a net $819 billion in goods in 2007 (U.S. Census Bureau data). The U.S. imports far more than it exports, a balance of sales that our trading partners are anxious to preserve. This is not about restricting imports. It is about using taxpayer dollars, when allowed by our international obligations, to purchase U.S.-produced goods. As the global downturn has progressed, many industrialized countries such as France and China have already taken similar action to support their domestic manufacturing base.

Myth: This will raise the cost of projects.

Fact: Additional cost—if any—is more than justified. Purchasing high-quality American-made materials yields an enormous productivity dividend, both in terms of jobs created and the overall reward to the economy. Infrastructure investment would undoubtedly create millions of new U.S. jobs, but there is also the importance of revitalizing the American manufacturing base, which is uniquely capable of generating 4-5 new jobs for each employed manufacturing worker. There are also provisions in Buy America laws to protect American taxpayers (Source: Heintz, Pollin, Garrett-Peltier, “How Infrastructure Supports the U.S. Economy”).

Myth: This is poor economics.

Fact: Supporting domestic manufacturing by purchasing American-made products is the one method that will not result in the “leakage” of U.S. funds overseas, a problem cited by such mainstream economists as Business Week’s Michael Mandel. A concerted domestic procurement program could actually increase U.S. manufacturing job creation by 33% while ensuring that taxpayer dollars actually go directly to job creation.

Myth: The recovery package won’t stimulate jobs, just spending.

Fact: A recent University of Massachusetts study finds that infrastructure investment could create as many as 18,000 jobs for every $1 billion invested.

Myth: This is special treatment for manufacturing.

Fact: The recent TARP legislation and auto rescue package were limited to domestic banks and automakers, yet no objections were raised. This is simply the use of U.S. taxpayer money to sustain vital American jobs.

Myth: The U.S. is setting a bad example.

Fact: The U.S. has been a leading party in reaching broad international procurement agreements, has adhered to all related obligations, and has set a strong example of sourcing materials globally for its domestic governmental projects. By contrast, other countries have held themselves out of the reform movement and have instead opted to promote their own manufacturing base through closed self-procurement programs. A good example is China, which, in addition to a recent $586 billion stimulus program, continues to subsidize its own producers via deliberate (and illegal) currency undervaluation. Until countries like China make the same commitments, and sign-on to internationally accepted procurement agreements, the U.S. will accomplish nothing by making yet more unilateral concessions.

Myth: Buy American provisions are controversial.

Fact: The Visclosky Amendment was adopted in committee on a 55-0 vote. A domestic sourcing amendment related to textiles was adopted by the full House of Representatives on a voice vote. A Harris Interactive poll released last week shows that more than 90% of the public surveyed support Buy American requirements.

Source: Alliance for American Manufacturing

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

10 Key Facts about the Employee Free Choice Act

1. America’s workers want to form unions. Research shows nearly 60 million would form a union tomorrow if given the chance.

2. Too few ever get that chance because employers routinely block their efforts to form unions—and our current legal system is too broken to stop them. As many as one-quarter of employers illegally fire workers who try to form unions.

3. The Employee Free Choice Act would give workers a fair chance to form unions to improve their lives by:

* Allowing them to form unions by signing cards authorizing union representation.
* Providing mediation and arbitration for first-contract disputes.
* Establishing stronger penalties for violation of employee rights when workers seek to form a union and during first-contract negotiations.

4. In the 110th Congress, the Employee Free Choice Act had widespread support.

5. More than three-quarters of Americans—78 percent—support strong laws that make it easier for employees to bargain for better health care, pensions, wages and working conditions.

6. Allowing working people to choose for themselves whether to have a union is the key step toward rebuilding America’s middle class. Union membership brings better benefits and fair wages and a real voice on the job. It’s no accident that the 25-year decline in workers’ wages in our country has paralleled a 25-year slide in the size of America’s unions.

7. The Employee Free Choice Act would put democracy back into the workplace. Majority sign-up would ensure the decision whether to form a union was made by majority choice, not by the employer unilaterally.

8. Workers can still vote under the Employee Free Choice Act. At any time, if 30 percent of the workers want an election, they can have one. And once they have a union, workers also vote to elect their union representatives.

9. The Employee Free Choice Act has the support of hundreds of respected organizations and individuals—major religious denominations, academics and civil and human rights groups and others.

10. The AFL-CIO union movement is working in many ways to restore good jobs, health care and retirement security—but passing the Employee Free Choice Act is our top priority because we cannot create balance for working people or rebuild the middle class unless workers genuinely have the freedom to form unions for a better life.

Source: AFL-CIO