Friday, April 30, 2010

A President That All Workers Can Be Proud Of

According to our records, this is the first Presidential Proclamation marking Workers Memorial Day

Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release April 28, 2010

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This year marks the 40th anniversary of both the Occupational Safety and Health Act and the Federal Coal Mine Health and Safety Act, which promise American workers the right to a safe workplace and require employers to provide safe conditions. Yet, today, we remain too far from fulfilling that promise. On Workers Memorial Day, we remember all those who have died, been injured, or become sick on the job, and we renew our commitment to ensure the safety of American workers.

The families of the 29 coal miners who lost their lives on April 5 in an explosion at the Upper Big Branch Mine in West Virginia are in our thoughts and prayers. We also mourn the loss of 7 workers who died in a refinery explosion in Washington State just days earlier, the 4 workers who died at a power plant in Connecticut earlier this year, and the 11 workers lost in the oil platform explosion off the coast of Louisiana just last week.

Although these large-scale tragedies are appalling, most workplace deaths result from tragedies that claim one life at a time through preventable incidents or disabling disease. Every day, 14 workers are killed in on-the-job incidents, while thousands die each year of work-related disease, and millions are injured or contract an illness. Most die far from the spotlight, unrecognized and unnoticed by all but their families, friends, and co-workers -- but they are not forgotten.

The legal right to a safe workplace was won only after countless lives had been lost over decades in workplaces across America, and after a long and bitter fight waged by workers, unions, and public health advocates. Much remains to be done, and my Administration is dedicated to renewing our Nation's commitment to achieve safe working conditions for all American workers.

Providing safer work environments will take the concerted action of government, businesses, employer associations, unions, community organizations, the scientific and public health communities, and individuals. Today, as we mourn those lost mere weeks ago in the Upper Big Branch Mine and other recent disasters, so do we honor all the men and women who have died on the job. In their memory, we rededicate ourselves to preventing such tragedies, and to securing a safer workplace for every American.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim April 28, 2010, as Workers Memorial Day. I call upon all Americans to participate in ceremonies and activities in memory of those who have been killed due to unsafe working conditions.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this twenty-eighth day of April, in the year of our Lord two thousand ten, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-fourth.


Source: United Steelworkers

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

OSHA - Was A New Day for Workers

In 1970 I was working as an Ash and Auxiliary Operator at the Northern Indiana Public Service Company Bailly Generating Station near Chesterton, Indiana.

It was a coal fired power plant that had a positive pressured boiler which allowed any leak in the boiler shell or associated duct work to spew poisonous flue gas and smoke into the plant proper.

The workers were subjected to this terrible atmosphere day after day causing sinus problems, vomiting, various illnesses and breathing problems.

Mechanics and electricians actually had to have oxygen pumped into a mask they had to wear just to fix even the most minor problem.

Operators would wear breathing apparatuses just to make their assigned routine inspections.

Visitors to the plant would bcome sick when taken to the upper elevations.

I remember very well seeing a poster on the union bulletin board informing workers of the newly established "Williams-Steiger Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970", informing workers that they could complain to our government about health and safety violations without fear of reprisal or discipline from employers.

Although I didn't file a complaint to OSHA, the poster did have the result of convincing me that I had the right to complain to the NIPSCO management without any fear (I had only five years with NIPSCO at the time.)

Usually, a grievance would require waiting a long period of time before any member of management would even recognize a complaint, but in this particular instance, I found myself in the plant manager office in a few days and free to tell it like it was.

I can't remember what the exact result of that meeting was, but must say that that OSHA poster played a big part in my work history from then on.

Today is Workers Memorial Day and the birthday of the Occupation Safety and Health Administration and I suppose that's what brought this experience to mind.

It took some time to get it done, but through the determination of the members of the United Steelworker Union, today the workers at that plant have a negative pressured boiler which doesn't spew the poisonous gases near the workers anymore.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

National Workers Memorial Day 2010

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

From the mine accident on April 5, 2010, twenty nine West Virginia mine workers lost their lives. Every day in America, 16 workers die on the job. Imagine the outcry if that was a military statistic. In Indiana last year, four and a half out of every 100,000 workers, lost their lives and over 108,000 workers were injured or became sickened on their job. How safe are you? Who would care and provide for your family if this happened to you? Safety is your right under the law not an option!

The Occupation and Safety Act was signed into law on April 28, 1970 to provide standards for maintaining a safe workplace for you and your fellow workers. Each year for 16 years we have come together in this community on National Workers Memorial Day to remember our lost co-workers and to promote safe and disease free work environments. Please join us this year to honor the ones we have lost and to applaud those who are working hard to keep their workplace safe.

Workers Memorial Day Services 2010

Date: Wednesday April 28, 2010
Time: 5:30 - 6:15 PM
Place: Regional Workers Memorial Site on the river walk
Howard Park, South Bend, Indiana

We request local Unions and their members to observe a
moment of silence at noon on Wednesday in remembrance of
the workers who were not able to
come home from their job in 2009

Monday, April 26, 2010

Show Me Your Papers

Wow. How would you like to be walking down the street sometime and have a police officer come up to you and say, "show me your papers." Most of us would be pretty upset about that, but assuming the officer had a good reason, we would most likely show him our drivers license thinking that would suffice. But wait, he doesn't want our drivers license, he wants to see your birth certificate and Social Security card. But you don't have those documents on your person. Until you can provide them, he calls for a backup car or paddy wagon to transport you to the police department to be held until you're able to provide them. Sound absurd?

Well, that's what the state of Arizona just passed into law. Sounds crazy, I know, but the issue of illegal immigration is what prompted that state to pass such a law. Scary huh?

Can a city or county also pass such a law? If a city were predominately made up of say, Mexican Americans, could they require people with a Polish Acsent to also "show me the papers".

What about Irish, or German?

Somehow this all doesn't sound very American to me. Sounds Nazi like, (show me your papers).

I suppose Arizonians are freedom lovers?

Monday, April 19, 2010

Watch for the Morels

Morel mushrooms will soon be showing themselves. Usually around Mothers Day in Northern Indiana.

Keep your eyes peeled, everyone.

Friday, April 16, 2010

The Potential for Green Jobs

With over 11 million jobs needed to get back to pre-recession levels, we need to look at all options to both secure our current jobs and create new, family and community-supportive jobs. One option to move us in this direction is through “green jobs.” If done right, Steelworker members stand to benefit if our country makes the commitment to supporting and creating these jobs.

What is a Green Job?

A green job can be thought of as a blue collar job done for a green purpose. Consider this: If you’ve ever driven past a wind turbine, you’re looking at over 8,000 parts. Someone had to manufacture or mine every one of them, as well as assemble and maintain them.

The typical wind turbine, like those made by Steelworkers in Pennsylvania, includes:

  • 250 tons of steel,
  • Three tons of copper for the generator and power cables,
  • 250 yards of concrete for anchoring,
  • Titanium components for the rotator hubs,
  • Gears and gear boxes,
  • Bearings, and many more components.
Steelworkers make or mine all of these components, which makes the jobs we have part of the emerging clean energy economy.

But, it’s not just wind turbines. Steelworkers make glass for solar panels and energy-efficient light bulbs, we process the natural gas powering some city buses, we make goods with recycled paper content, we produce biofules, we make activated carbon to filter our drinking water and remove harmful pollution from industrial processes, we make “greener” alternatives to typical products such as energy-efficient air conditioners made without ozone-depleting refrigerant.

When the manufacturing, mining and other work for the emerging clean energy economy is done domestically, and our industries are given the support they need to become more efficient, we secure our jobs. We also strengthen the tax base, ensuring funding for the public sector jobs that build strong communities.
Source: USW Rapid Response

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Two Days in One

For the last twelve years, when we wake in the morning, I go out and get the newspaper while Elaine makes the coffee. We read the paper and drink our coffee then she goes to quilting and I head for the garden or to the computer.

At noon she rings the dinner bell. After lunch, we take a ninety minute nap.

When we waken, Elaine makes the coffee while I get the mail. We read the mail and drink our coffee. She then goes to her quilt room while I head to the garden or the computer.

At dinner time she rings the dinner bell. After dinner we read or watch a movie.

The point is this. With a nice nap, each day turns into two. So with that way of thinking, we've actually been retired 24 years rather than twelve.

Try it, you might just like it.

I wish those teabaggers could learn to enjoy life half as much. They have the money. They have the education. They just seem so sad and angry all the time.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

NIPSCO Retirees to get help

Many employers provide prescription drug coverage to their retirees who are on Medicare. NIPSCO isn't that generous and most of their retirees have to buy Medicare Part D which is insurance for prescription drugs.

Many NIPSCO retirees find themselves in the Medicare Part D "donut hole" where they have to pay full cost of their prescription drugs even while continuing to pay the premium (crazy) and struggle with the cost of their medications.

The medical insurance reform that President Obama signed into law a couple weeks ago will provide help for these retirees by providing those who find themselves in the donut hole with $250 this year (2010).

Next year (2011) when they find themselves in the "donut hole", their brand name drugs will be 50% cheaper.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Social Security A Great Program

Social Security is the most affordable and fiscally responsible program in America.

Social Security owes no money to anyone. It's prohibited by law.

Social Security is extremely efficiently managed. It pays all benefits in full and on time, and doesn't need a bailout.

Contributions are the only source besides the interest it gets from bonds.

What a great program. Social Security can pay full benefits through 2037 and even longer if tax cuts for the top 1% are allowed to expire.

Friday, April 02, 2010

What is Currency Manipulation

Currency manipulation is the practice of artificially setting exchange rates by the central banks of some of the U.S. trading partners in order to gain an unfair advantage. In addition to distorting the market, it is an illegal practice under both U.S. law and international agreements.

A number of our trading partners are manipulating the currency markets to keep the U.S. dollar artificially high, and their own currencies artificially low. By exploiting the world currency markets, countries like China and Japan effectively subsidize their exports to the U.S., and place a tariff on U.S. shipments to them. This manipulation is taking place on a massive scale. By some estimates, China’s Yuan is undervalued by as much as 40 percent in comparison to the U.S. dollar.

How does this happen?

Typically currency manipulation occurs when a country fixes the exchange rate of its currency relative to the currency of another country. It can include a requirement for a fixed exchange rate or the mandatory use of a country’s central bank for foreign exchange sales. This is done to give a country an unfair competitive advantage.

The effects of China’s manipulated and subsidized currency, for example, are extensive. First, China’s currency manipulation has contributed to the dramatic increase in the U.S. bilateral trade deficit with China, which now tops $268 billion a year. China has amassed foreign exchange reserves of more than $1 trillion, far surpassing any other nation’s reserves. China’s currency manipulation also attracts foreign investment into China and away from American manufacturing facilities. This flow of investment has already cost American workers their jobs.

When countries adopt artificial exchange rates that are not based on market forces, they not only exacerbate the U.S. trade imbalance, but they create global trade imbalances.

Additionally, currency manipulation results in a sizeable difference in labor costs. This difference creates the illusion of a comparative advantage for a given country. Ultimately, currency manipulation is a subsidy that can put American manufacturers at an unfair disadvantage in the global marketplace.

Source: Alliance for American Manufacturing