18 May 2012

Safety Inspections Save Lives, Don’t Hurt Business

This is a crosspost from AFL-CIO Now We’ve known this for decades and now the journal Science has empirical proof that workplace safety and health inspections by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) save lives, reduce employers’ costs for workers’ compensation and do not have any negative economic effect

17 May 2012

Behind Locked Capitol Doors, Missouri Republicans Honor Limbaugh

This is a crosspost from AFL-CIO Now. If only the rest of Rush Limbaugh’s career was behind closed doors and out of earshot of the public like this week’s secret induction of Limbaugh into the Hall of Famous Missourians. In an almost clandestine operation at the state Capitol in Jefferson City,

24 Jun 2011

Koch $$ Funds Chorus of Lies on Social Security

There’s a cacophony of misinformation from Fox News, right-wing think tanks and extreme conservative politicians about Social Security. “Privatize it,” they yell. “It’s going broke,” they scream. “Raise the retirement age,” they bellow. But who is conducting this dissonant symphony? The latest video installment of Koch Brothers Exposed from the Brave

05 May 2011

Mine Execs Want To Police Themselves On Safety

[caption id="" align="alignright" width="400" caption="Glace Bay Coal Mine Tour by Bobcatnorth (Away), on Flickr"]Glace Bay Coal Mine Tour[/caption]

The day after federal mine safety officials announced a series of “outrageous” safety violations at a Massey Energy West Virginia coal mine, mining industry officials were on Capitol Hill calling for fewer federal inspections and a voluntary safety program.

At the hearing before the Education and Workforce’s Workforce Protections Subcommittee, the Republican majority allowed just one worker’s witness, Mine Workers (UMWA) President Cecil Roberts, while three mine industry executives testified. Said Roberts:

The disaster at Upper Big Branch, as well as the other deaths and illnesses that continue to plague the mining industry make it clear that Congress must do more to protect miners. Operators should be required to make better efforts to prevent illnesses and injuries in the first place. After all, the mining industry has shown time and time again it is not very effective at self-policing.

Roberts said the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) needs more enforcement tools, not fewer. He called for stronger safety rules, frequent and unannounced inspections and tougher penalties. (Click here for his full testimony.)

But Anthony Bumbico, vice president of Arch Minerals, the nation’s second largest coal company, lobbied for a voluntary approach to safety, patterned after an OSHA program known as the Voluntary Protection Program (VPP).

The Charleston Gazette’s Ken Ward points out on his Coal Tattoo blog, “It’s worth remembering that most coal-mine deaths are the result of mine operators violating long established safety laws and regulations.”

He writes that the mining industry has been pushing for a voluntary approach, “basically eliminating MSHA” for years, and that the employer-based program was “a pet project” for Bush administration MSHA chief Dave Lauriski.

something to either do away with required quarterly inspections or to create a program for “focused inspections” of only the mines with the worst previous safety performance. The National Mining Association, oddly enough, pushed for this previously just two months after the Sago disaster back in March 2006.

19 Apr 2011

Doctors, Teachers, Bakers and More Win Union Voice

While Republican lawmakers and right-wing talking heads try to demonize the union movement, physicians, nurses, flight instructors, technicians, bakers and more are the latest workers to choose a voice on the job with AFL-CIO unions. More than 1,900 AT&T technicians across Communications Workers of America (CWA) District 3 in the Southeastern United

18 Apr 2011

Financial Martial Law Imposed in First Mich. City—Walker Denies Seeking Similar Powers

On Friday, Benton Harbor, Mich., became the first town in that state to get crushed under the boot of Gov. Rick Snyder’s (R) “financial martial law,” when his appointed so-called “emergency manager” suspended the decision-making powers of city officials. In Wisconsin today, Gov. Scott Walker (R) denied reports that his administration is

24 Mar 2011

It’s Undeniable: U.S. Chamber and Climate Deniers Share Warm Relationship

We all know that the Chamber of Commerce comes down on the wrong side of just about every issue that matters for working families. But here’s a staggering statistic to show you just how far out of the mainstream the Chamber swims. In the 2010 midterm elections, the Chamber spent

22 Mar 2011

U.S., Canadian Workers Blast Golden Parachutes for Walker’s Banker Backers

In a show of cross-border solidarity today, Canadian union members joined their U.S. counterparts in a march and rally at the Vancouver, B.C., shareholder meeting of a Canadian bank that bought the Wisconsin bank where top executives gave big campaign contributions to Gov. Scott Walker (R). Those execs now are about to pop open their “golden parachutes.”

In December, the Bank of Montreal (BMO) announced it was buying Marshall & Ilsley (M&I) Bank for $4.1 billion, even though the bank has underperformed by nearly 40 percent during the past four years compared with regional banks of a similar size, according to a report from the CtW Investment Group. In addition, it has yet to repay $1.3 billion in taxpayer bailout money through the TARP program.

But BMO has agreed to pay $18 million in severance payments to Mark Furlong, M&I chairman and CEO, along with $65 million in severance to 15 other M&I executives. BMO also has agreed to pay for the executives’ taxes that are generated by these huge payments.

According to election records, Furlong and other M&I executives were the largest non-party donors to Walker’s campaign.

After the march and rally, organized by British Columbia Federation of Labor (BCFED), Wisconsin workers—including members of the Wisconsin Education Association Council (WEAC) and Sheet Metal Workers (SMWIA)—entered the shareholder meeting to challenge the the multimillion-dollar payouts to the M&I executives. BMO directors are up for re-election. In a statement, the BCFED says:

Today, the BC and Canadian labor movements join with our sisters and brothers in Wisconsin and the United States to condemn the attack on workers and demand that BMO end their support of union busters like Mark Furlong and Scott Walker.

Furlong’s payout is awful big for someone who “tanked” M&I’s profits writes Capital Times business reporter Mike Ivey.

Furlong joined M&I in 2001 as chief financial officer and became M&I bank president in 2005. He was named CEO in 2007, replacing Dennis Kuester, who is now retired and living in a mansion in Florida. (continued)

Both Kuester and Furlong were behind M&I’s strategy to get rich by making real estate loans in red hot markets like Arizona and Florida. When the bubble burst, M&I’s profits tanked, taking its stock price along down. M&I shares are now worth about $7.70 today, down some 85 percent from the $50 peak back in June 2008.

This is a crosspost from AFL-CIO Now

24 Jan 2011

Dying to Work

This is a crosspost from The Huffington Post by Stewart Acuff, Utility Workers (UWUA) chief of staff and assistant to the president. It is 9 p.m. on a very cold Philadelphia night as I sit down to write this. I’ve just returned from a closed casket viewing of my 19-year-old

30 Dec 2010

Republicans Take Cue from Pinocchio on Health Care Reform

Republicans have never let facts stand in the way of their attacks on health care reform. Who can forget the whopper lie that the new health care reform law would hasten your grandmother’s earthly exit? Or the one about heart patients waiting in long lines for their ration of cardiac medicine? The latest