Jan 282014

onaschoutsmall  by Bill Onasch

What Goes Around…
These two stories were posted on our Labor Advocate news updates last Tuesday:

CO2 emissions are being ‘outsourced’ by rich countries
China pollution wafting across Pacific to blanket US

If we were talking about NFL football these might be considered offsetting fouls requiring no penalty. Unfortunately, the topic is actually threat to the air humans breathe and the accumulation of greenhouse gas that is changing the planet’s climate. It’s more a classic case of what goes around comes around.

The rich countries have caught a break because of wind patterns in another big outsource–Beijing’s Bad Air Would Be Step Up for Smoggy Delhi. India doesn’t share their pollution as generously as the Chinese.

Some are in a position to adjust to such unpleasantness creeping in to the countries deemed rich. If the French Riviera loses its charm Russian multi-billionaire Roman Abramovitch can give new sailing orders to the captain of the Eclipse, the world’s largest private yacht–bigger than a Navy frigate. Roman is one of eighty-five individuals identified by an Oxfam study as being blessed with a collective net worth nearly as big as that of fifty percent of the world’s population.

Though I live in the richest country in history, my personal net worth wouldn’t cover the fuel cost to move the Eclipse from Nice to Capri. I suspect most readers are in the same class boat. Our lack of both social and physical escape mobility means confronting the reality of the threat to our biosphere as well as income inequality.

President Obama is expected to take up both issues in his State of the Union Address tonight. I will comment on the action plan of the leader of the Free Enterprise World in the next WIR.

There’s some similarities between recent contract votes at Boeing in Seattle and nationally at YRC Worldwide. Both are extended long term contracts laden with concessions. Both had their initial demands soundly rejected by union ranks. Each company prevailed in a second vote with the assistance of the national union leadership involved.

Boeing is highly profitable and demanded give-backs just because they could. YRC W is a different kettle of fish. The old, stable Yellow Freight headquartered in suburban Kansas City became transformed in to a global conglomerate, acquiring Roadway about ten years ago, and then several smaller American outfits as well as major stakes in two Chinese logistics companies.

Overextended when the Grear Recession hit they were saved from bankruptcy by Teamsters agreement to substantial “temporary” wage cuts.

More recently, the company again warned of new cash shortage that wouldn’t get them past this year. They claimed to have creditors lined up to keep them going–but only if the union signed on to a long term extension with some further give-backs. Like Boeing at first, YRC W presented this as an ultimatum with no negotiation with the union. That was a tactical mistake on the carrier’s part and they lost that round as 61 percent of union members voting said no.

The Teamsters national leadership then encouraged the company to make some minor adjustments and they both campaigned hard among the 26,000 Teamsters for acceptance. On Sunday the vote results were announced: 12,267 in favor to 6,314 against.

A Kansas City Star report by Mark Davis says,

“With the vote, Teamsters workers agreed to extend into March 2019 the 15 percent pay cut they’ve lived with since 2009 as well as reduced pension contributions from YRC Worldwide. The new pact also adds concessions on raises for this year and next, among other changes.”

Reuters quoted Teamsters president Jim Hoffa,

“This was a very difficult vote for our members, but in the end they did what they believe will give this company the best chance to stay in business and protect their jobs….Now we will hold management’s feet to the fire to make sure our members’ jobs are protected.”

The track record of give-backs saving jobs is not good. For example, the Teamsters and other unions tried for years to prop up Interstate Bakeries (Wonder/Hostess) with deep concessions only to eventually face bankruptcy liquidation and loss of all union jobs.

A better option would be to nationalize this trucking giant before it gets sucked completely dry and turn it around under worker management.

Maybe They’ll Get Left Overs From Davos
I don’t know how they dispose of any fish eggs or truffles remaining when the Mountain Few of the annual Swiss conclave of the rich and famous, aka World Economic Forum, go home.  I’m sure the Capital Area Food Bank in Washington, DC would appreciate anything they could send their way. Executive director Nancy Roman told the New York Times,

“We are going to increase our efforts to get more donations and try to serve as many people as possible, given our resources. But make no mistake, if the food stamp program is cut, we’re going to see much longer lines of people seeking help with their food budgets, and we can’t help them all.”

Food stamps, or SNAP as they are now known, got cut by an average of 38 dollars a month last November when Congress allowed a stimulus bill to expire. A new bipartisan deal between the House and Senate Agriculture committees announced Monday would trim another one percent off the food safety net–but its fate is uncertain in the House where the cracked tea pots are demanding much greater slashes.

Meanwhile the other end of the safety net–unemployment insurance–is unraveling at alarming speed. After Congress allowed funding for extended benefits beyond 26 weeks to expire at the end of 2013 the states, as expected, followed suit.

North Carolina went farther earlier by capping the benefit at 20 weeks and reducing the dollar payments. Those wielding the hatchet in Raleigh point to a big drop in the unemployment rate. But BLS figures show that for every worker getting a job two are dropping out of job search.

President Obama recently visited North Carolina to announce a plan. It didn’t feature a promise of jobs or even restored unemployment insurance. But the state is going to get a public/private venture “manufacturing research center.” Perhaps when they figure out how to make things they will share their findings with he rest of us.

Size Matters
Teachers in British Columbia have long battled attacks on wages and conditions by Liberal provincial governments. One law of particular outrage banned them from negotiating the number of students in class. They fought back both through “illegal” strikes and court action. They have just won a second major judicial victory. From The Canadian Press,

“B.C. Supreme Court Justice Susan Griffin ruled the government didn’t negotiate in good faith with the union after a court decision struck down the original legislation in 2011. In a ruling released Monday, Griffin said the government’s strategy was to provoke a strike by the union, giving the government support for imposing legislation on the B.C. Teachers Federation. The judge says Monday’s decision means the deleted terms in the teachers’ collective agreement, such as class size, have been retroactively restored and can also be the subject of future bargaining. Griffin said it was appropriate to award damages of $2-million against the government in relation to its unlawful actions in extending the unconstitutional prohibitions.”

This award will also be cheered by teacher unions south of the border. It will be of particular interest to the Chicago Teachers Union who are barred by the Illinois legislature from negotiating class size in Chicago Public Schools.

That’s all for this week.
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Bill Onasch is a paid up NWU member

Bill Onasch is a paid up NWU member


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