Sunday, March 31, 2013

Today's Teamster News 03.31.13

North Korea increases tensions with South by issuing threat over factories  Guardian   ...North Korea has explicitly said that it may target the Kaesong industrial park – an important trade zone that is run jointly with South Korean expertise and North Korean labour...
The Walmartization of the American food chain is making communities poor and poorly fed  DailyKos   ...Walmart ... and a few other companies are consolidating control of the entire American food chain, hurting small farmers and food producers, other grocery stores and their workers, consumers, and local economies...
EU in 'denial' that sick economy costs lives, say health experts  Reuters   ...Europe's financial crisis is costing lives, with suicides and infectious diseases on the rise, yet politicians are not addressing the problem, health experts said...
Iceland Indicts Bankers Over Financial Crisis   American Banker   ...Iceland's special prosecutor, hired in 2009 to investigate suspicious activities at several major banks, indicted fifteen bankers — including two chief executives — earlier this month over illegal activity tied to the meltdown of the country's banking system in the fall of 2008. The bankers are accused of stock-price manipulation and securities fraud...
Corporations, pro-business nonprofits foot bill for judicial seminars  Center for Public Integrity   ...Conservative foundations, multinational oil companies and a prescription drug maker were the most frequent sponsors of more than 100 expense-paid educational seminars attended by federal judges over a 4 1/2-year period...
UAW membership rises 0.5% to highest it has been since 2008  Toledo Blade   ...The union added 1,794 members from 380,719 in 2011...
Indiana's wages show 5-year growth, but not as much as public assistance  Indianapolis Star   ...Much of the state’s improvement over the past five years is attributable to the growth in public assistance...

Saturday, March 30, 2013

This Koch bro has a cause: Counterfeit wine

You probably thought all the Koch brothers do is relentlessly attack workers in their never-ending quest to turn America into a feudal serfdom.

But you'd be wrong. Bill Koch has taken up the noble cause of fighting counterfeit wine. Opposing Views reports,
Oil magnate William "Bill" Koch has decided to file suit after buying several bottles of wine he believed belonged to Thomas Jefferson. 
Koch recently took California businessman Eric Greenberg to court alleging that Greenberg sold him $300,000 worth of bogus vintage Bordeaux in 2004 and 2005. 
Opening arguments began Wednesday in Manhattan. Koch said the wine, some of which bought through Christie's, touted as being from Thomas Jefferson's estate was inauthentic. 
“This case is a simple case about a seller who failed to disclose key information that any buyer would want to know before spending thousands of dollars on a purchase,” Koch's attorney John Hueston said.
Bill Koch is actually the least evil of the brothers. Years ago he blew the whistle on brothers Charles and David for stealing oil from federal and Native American lands. He couldn't stomach the family business, Koch Industries, and left it, telling 60 Minutes it's a criminal enterprise.

Bill Koch also provides plenty of entertainment value. Lately he's been fending off charges that he imprisoned a disgruntled former employee on his Colorado ranch. Then there was his palimony trial. The Village Voice reported,
In 1995—a year after he got married—he tried to evict his mistress, an elegant, blond former model named Catherine de Castelbajac, from a condo he owned at the Four Seasons Hotel in Boston. Castelbajac refused to leave, and filed a palimony suit, claiming Koch had promised to support her financially for the rest of her life. Soon, the embarrassing details of the geeky billionaire's love life emerged in a Boston courtroom. Jurors learned that Bill was seeing three other women aside from Castelbajac (including his first wife, Joan Granlund, and a girlfriend, Marie Beard, with whom he would have a daughter). Koch and Castelbajac exchanged lurid love notes via fax, such as one Castelbajac signed, "Hot Love from Your X-rated Protestant Princess." When jurors finally ordered Castelbajac to leave the apartment, they didn't sympathize with either party. "Neither of them is a prize," mechanic William Tracia Jr. told the Boston Globe.
Still, he exhibits some of his brothers' sociopathic tendencies. He spent $68 million on a sailboat and crew to win the America's Cup, and laundered some of the money through a tax-exempt foundation. He moved to Palm Beach to avoid paying taxes. He's been fighting a Cape Cod wind farm for years because it would spoil his view.

He'd rather spend money on expensive hobbies than on worker safety. The only two coal miners to die in Colorado over the past decade died in a mine owned by his company. He collects art and wine, with a collection of 40,000 bottles worth more than $12 million. The Cape Cod Times has photos of his wine cellar here.

Bill Koch has been described as "like Ahab" in his quest to punish the person who sold him the fake wine. We suspect he's not alone in his zeal to smack down commoners who inconvenience the oligarchs. Premium-wine enthusiast Paul Ryan comes to mind. 

Fast Track is unconstitutional. And it will be used to pass the NAFTA on-steroids TPP unless we stop it

The Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP, is likely to be extremely unpopular once people find out about it. Most ordinary people hate these job-killing, corporation-empowering deals. That's why presidents since Richard Nixon used so-called Fast Track authority to ram them through Congress.

Fast Track authority lets the president submit a bill for a mandatory vote by a deadline, with no amendments allowed, Senate rules waived and debate limited in both chambers of Congress. Fast Track expired in 2007, so President Obama must reinstate it to pass the TPP. Look for that to happen this summer.

Margaret Flowers and Kevin Zeese at truthout explain why Fast Track is unconstitutional:
Under Fast Track, the president was allowed to negotiate and sign trade agreements with whatever countries the executive branch selected - all before Congress voted on the agreement. Fast Track meant that the Congressional committee processes were circumvented and the executive branch was empowered to write lengthy implementing legislation for each trade pact without Congress. These executive-only authored bills required US law to conform to the trade agreement... 
Indeed, Fast Track turned the US Constitution on its head. Under Article I Section 8, Congress has exclusive authority "to regulate commerce with foreign nations" and to "lay and collect taxes [and] duties." Under the Constitution, the president is empowered to negotiate treaties, but Congress must vote to approve them. Thus, Fast Track took constitutional power from Congress and prevented the checks and balances needed to prevent an imperial presidency. 
For most of the history of the United States, treaties and trade agreements went through the normal congressional process described in the Constitution. Fast Track is a relatively new concept that coincides with an era of increasing presidential power... If Congress had reviewed agreements such as the WTO and NAFTA beforehand and civil society had been able to participate in a democratic process, would the United States have made the mistake of passing these laws that have so injured our economy and others? 
Fast Track is very unpopular, so now President Obama and others who advocate for it do not use the term. Instead they call it by the euphemism "Trade Promotion Authority." But changing the name does not change what it is - a method of ceding the constitutional power of Congress and undermining the checks and balances built into the constitutional framework. 
Congress needs to consider what agreements such as the TPP will do to jobs, trade balances and the environment. Since Nixon, Fast Track has been used by presidents to go way beyond trade and tariffs. These agreements have been used to change US law by establishing "rules related to domestic environmental, health, safety and essential-service regulations, including deregulation of financial services; establishment of immigration policies; creation of limits on local development and land-use policy; extension of domestic patent terms; establishment of new rights and greater protections for foreign investors operating within the United States that extend beyond US law; and even limitation of how domestic procurement dollars may be spent." 
Thus, not only has the constitutional power of Congress to regulate commerce with foreign nations been undermined, but a whole host of domestic laws have been rewritten to satisfy international trade.

Tell the White House NOW: No cuts to Social Security

The White House leaked to the Wall Street Journal and The New York Times yesterday that President Obama is considering Social Security and Medicare cuts in his budget.

Tell him "Noooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Do it today.

Susie Madrak at Crooks & Liars tells us why it's important to pile on as quickly as possible:
There's a reason they let this story out on Good Friday, they're counting on you not noticing or being too busy to do anything about it. 
The White House phone number is 202-456-1414, the comments line is 202-456-1111 (get ready to hold). Or you can email the White House here. Or here.

Just do it.

Today's Teamster News 03.30.13

President Obama considering putting social insurance cuts in his budget  DailyKos   ...The New York Times and Wall Street Journal are reporting that President Obama is "strongly considering" including cuts to social insurance program benefits in his budget...
Walmart's CEO Paid 1,034 Times More Than The Median Walmart Worker: PayScale  Huffington Post   ...Half of Walmart workers made less than $22,400 in 2012, according to PayScale, which is below poverty level for a family of four...
Banks Seek to Overturn Judge’s Ruling in Critical Mortgage Case  New York Times   ...banks have been overwhelmed with lawsuits filed by federal and state authorities, as well as private investors. The lawsuits center on a dismal chapter in banks’ histories when Wall Street sold billions of dollars of subprime mortgages that soured, causing the banks and investors to incur vast losses...
ALEC: The Scheme to Remake America, One State House at a Time  Huffington Post   ...behind that mantra lies a vast network of corporate lobbying and political action aimed to increase corporate profits at public expense without public knowledge...
Deal Reached to Force Paid Sick Leave in New York City  New York Times   ...New York City is poised to mandate that thousands of companies provide paid time off for sick employees, bolstering a national movement that has been resisted by wary business leaders...
Governor Scott Walker’s Proposed Budget (opinion)  The Progressive   ...If budgets reflect values, then Governor Scott Walker’s proposed 2013-2015 budget is proof that Wisconsin has regressed back to the days of the robber barons and the paternalistic values of the Victorian era in which they accumulated their wealth...
Guest column: Trying to destroy our public institutions, one by one  Lafayette Journal & Courier  ...beyond the debate about economic theory is a sustained, well-funded campaign by the Koch Brothers, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), think tanks and many politicians to destroy public institutions that masses of working people have struggled historically to construct...
Michigan's right-to-work law takes effect today, but impact may take a while to see  Detroit Free Press   ...Indiana has seen 19 consecutive months of private-sector job growth. Its per-capita income grew 3.4% in 2012, more than the national growth of 2.7%, according to statistics released Tuesday. Yet its unemployment rate, which matched the national rate of 8.2% when right-to-work legislation took effect, was pegged at 8.6% in January...
Company gets bigger state contract even as unemployment rate falls  Miami Herald   ...Also known as WIN, the Tennessee-based firm has a state contract to run the online skills assessment that critics say has acted as a barrier to thousands of people seeking jobless benefits. The company, a major contributor to Florida politicians, saw its annual contract increase from $2 million to $2.7 million last June, even as the number of people it was serving was plummeting...
Teamsters Strike at Republic Services/Allied Waste in Youngstown, Ohio  Waste Management World   ...Sanitation workers go on Unfair Labor Practice strike; co-workers in Evansville, Ind. and Urbana, Ill. refuse to work in show of support...
YRC, Teamsters will discuss proposed change of operations in Dallas  Kansas City Business Journal   ...Representatives of YRC Worldwide Inc. and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters will meet on April 19 in Dallas to discuss the company’s proposed change of operations request...

Friday, March 29, 2013

Why does Wisco's economy suck? It's Walker

Wisconsin's economic performance is one of the worst in the United States. It ranked 44th in job creation from 2011 to 2012. It ranked 41st in personal income growth from 2011 to 2012. The state needs 243,127 jobs just to make up for those lost in the recession and to keep up with population growth.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, which endorsed Job-killer Gov. Scott Walker in last year's recall election, offers a clue about why it's so hard to find a decent job in Wisconsin.
Wisconsin ranked 11th among the 50 states in 2010 in private-sector job growth, outperforming the nation as a whole. But it dropped to 38th in 2011, Gov. Scott Walker's first year in office.
mid coast views does follows up on the clue:
The single largest contributor to this dismal performance was the dramatic decline in state and local government income, the direct result of Governor Walker’s austerity economic policies... 
Wisconsin’s state and local government employees’ incomes shrank by $529 million dollars, a 2.55% decline. Only Louisiana under the leadership of Tea Party favorite, Governor Booby Jindal, experienced as steep a decline according to the analysis.
And if you're wondering why the U.S. job market sucks so bad for most of us, the Economic Populist has one answer:
Government spending declines were the drag on the economy and sucked out -1.41 percentage points from 4th quarter real gross domestic product growth. 
It isn't government that needs to get out of the way. It's the politicians who don't understand -- or care -- the role government plays in creating jobs.

The first honest cable company (VIDEO)

This video is quickly going viral. Bet you can guess why.

21 jaw-dropping crimes committed by Wall Street banks

Some will rob you with a six-gun,
some with a fountain pen.
Or a credit default swap.
Here is a selection of crimes by banks that have gone pretty much unpunished. Oh, the banks did pay to settle prosecutors' charges, but that amounted to a cost of doing business. The person who should have prosecuted the banks for their crimes just left the U.S. Department of Justice for a $4 million-a-year job at a lobbying firm.

And because the banks weren't prosecuted, they've gotten too big to prosecute. The crime spree continues.

Here, then, is a sampling of ways the criminal enterprises known as banks are destroying America. (Hat tip to Washingtons Blog and The Daily Beast.)

  1. Charging illegal mortgage fees to about a million military veterans.
  2. Stealing billions from U.S. taxpayers by illegally manipulating interest rates
  3. Charging millions in storage fees to store gold bullion without buying or storing any gold
  4. Cheating homeowners from the government help they were entitled to by pretending to lose homeowners' documents, failing to credit payments and lying to them.
  5. Laundering money for terrorists.
  6. Stealing money from companies by diverting cash to the CEO (i.e., bribery) during initial public offerings. 
  7. Forging foreclosure documents in order to evict people from their homes.
  8. Stealing from pension funds by charging for phony transactions.
  9. Stealing hundreds of millions of dollars from taxpayers by rigging bids for bond issues.
  10. Bribing credit rating agencies for higher ratings.
  11. Systematically evading payment of fees to local governments, forcing them to cut services or raise taxes.
  12. Cheating pension funds of hundreds of millions of dollars by telling them crap products were solid investments and then making money by betting against the crap products. 
  13. Kicking 54 military families out of their homes (it's illegal).
  14. Abetting Bernie Madoff's fraud and then withholding evidence from prosecutors. 
  15. Lying to investors about a complex securities transaction.
  16. Overcharging 10,000 military families for their mortgages. 
  17. Stealing millions from homeowners by adding credit insurance to their loans without telling them.  
  18. Defrauding investors by selling them investments designed to fail and then betting on their failure. 
  19. Lying to pension funds and other investors about the financial problems of a pending acquisition. While the pension funds lost money, the CEO got a $64 million retirement package.
  20. Manipulating the oil market to raise prices.
  21. Conspiring with Greece to hide its debt and then betting that Greece couldn't repay the debt.
And guess what. There's more.

Today's Teamster News 03.29.13

Something is rotten in the state of Walmart  Corrente   ...Wal-Mart Stores Inc is considering a radical plan to have store customers deliver packages to online buyers, a new twist on speedier delivery services that the company hopes will enable it to better compete with Inc...
The Same-Old, Same-Old Labor Market  Atlanta Fed macroblog   ...the monthly average of 17,000 state, local, and federal government jobs lost since March 2010 has been nearly matched by average monthly increases of better than 14,000 jobs in manufacturing...
Lanny Breuer Cashes in After Not Prosecuting Wall Street Execs, Will Receive Approximate Salary of 4 Million Dollars (opinion)  Buzzflash   ...Breuer was building his value in the marketplace at the DOJ, while Wall Street executives who nearly destroyed the American economy went unprosecuted...
Russia Is Next In Line To Restrict Cash Transactions  zero hedge   ...Russia may ban cash payments for purchases of more than 300,000 rubles (around $10,000) starting in 2015 - starting with a higher ($19,500) restriction in 2014...
Train hauling Canadian oil derails in Minnesota  Reuters   ...A mile-long train hauling oil from Canada derailed and leaked 30,000 gallons of crude in western Minnesota on Wednesday...
Protest greets Snyder as he promotes right-to-work at Pancakes and Politics  Detroit Free Press   ...David Hecker, president of the American Federation of Teachers in Michigan, said the start of the new law represented a terrible day for Michigan...
Wisconsin's jobless rate rises again in February  Milwaukee Journal Sentinel   ...February's somber employment news came on the same day that the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics released a separate report showing that Wisconsin ranked 44th out of the 50 states in private-sector job creation...
Arrests at Chicago schools protest  The Guardian   ...More than 100 demonstrators taking part in mass civil disobedience were arrested in Chicago on Wednesday as several thousand people marched against the largest proposed round of school closings in recent memory...
Teamsters Strike at Republic Services/Allied Waste in Youngstown, Ohio  IBT   ...Sanitation workers employed by Republic Services/Allied Waste [NYSE: RSG] went on strike in Ohio last night to protest the company’s violations of federal labor law...
Teamsters, ABF extend contract deadline  The Press-Enterprise   ...The two sides announced Thursday that the current labor deal would be extended until the end of April while talks continue...
Construction Division Holds Meeting for Stewards, Union Officers  IBT   ...Stewards from local unions across the country recently met with representatives from the IBT’s Building Material and Construction Trades Division for training on grievance procedures, jurisdiction and future work under the National Pipeline Agreement....

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Great news! Ga. House blocks ban on unemployment for seasonal workers

Teamsters have been fighting for their unemployment benefits since last summer. Today they scored a victory.
This just in: The Georgia House of Representatives voted to protect 60,000 seasonal workers from a ban on collecting unemployment benefits.

Brother Eric Robertson from Teamsters Local 728 tweeted:
Successfully got language that eliminated unemployment benefits for school workers removed from HB 361. 60,000 workers protected. 
Teamsters represent school bus drivers who work for private companies. Traditionally they collect unemployment benefits when they're laid off over the summer. But this year, Labor Commissioner Mark Butler decided he didn't have to pay them. Teamsters are fighting that decision in the courts.

They proved today that when Teamster fight, Teamsters can win.

Here's the Atlanta Journal Constitution on the House action:
The House blocked a plan to bar seasonal employees such as bus drivers from receiving unemployment benefits over the summer. 
The measure was added in the Senate to House Bill 361, which began life as a bill to allow many workers to opt out at any time from automatic payroll deductions for union dues. 
Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, ruled Thursday that the Senate amendment violated the constitutional requirement that any bill deal only with one topic. 
The bill now goes back to the Senate in its original form. 
The ban on jobless benefits in the bill would affect seasonally unemployed bus drivers and other private-sector workers whose employers contract with public-sector entities such as school systems. Supporters said it would save the state up to $10 million annually.

100 NY Teamsters, pawns in political games, to be laid off 04.03.13

Local 72 members, in solidarity.

One hundred Teamster brothers and sisters from Local 72 will be laid off from their jobs on the New York State Thruway at close of business on Wednesday, April 3.

Marty Latko, the local's president, wrote an impassioned letter about this injustice. We thought we'd share it with you:
Sisters and Brothers:
"These are the times that try men's souls."
Thomas Paine (1737-1809), American revolutionary 
Organized labor finds itself in a time of crisis. Employers want layoffs and givebacks, with nothing given in return. Since when did this become the trade-off for lifetimes of dedicated service? 
The Thruway Authority, under the control of its political manipulators, has been transitioning what was once a totally self-sufficient, user-funded superhighway efficiently staffed by loyal, hardworking New Yorkers, into just another financial burden on the backs of the taxpayers of New York. 
The Canal System was forced on the Thruway Authority in the early 1990's by a governor playing the shell game with State finances. That move has been costing the Thruway somewhere in the neighborhood of $100 million annually ever since. 
Despite the Thruway charging significantly less than many other toll roads, the political manipulators have repeatedly rejected reasonable and sensible toll increases, and have even eliminated tolls, all for political gain. 
There have always been the political appointees. We don't have to agree with that, but we get it. However, do you actually keep around high-priced political hacks while you lay off necessary, skilled employees that actually play a daily role in the maintenance, safety and operation of the Thruway? 
Now, the Thruway Authority wants to offset the results of all of those political games. How? For one thing, the State has decided to contribute $85 million to the Authority. All of the taxpayers of New York, whether or not they utilize the Thruway, will now be chipping in for the first time. You can bet that this is just the beginning of taxpayer subsidy for what should have remained a purely user funded operation.

But the most devastating effects of the attempt to offset those political games are going to be felt by the individual loyal, hardworking employees who have been targeted for layoff. The impact on them, and their families, cannot be measured. 
The Thruway Authority claims that layoffs can be averted by giving in to demands that employees contribute 16% toward individual health care coverage and 31% to family coverage. That equates to hundreds of dollars less in each employee's monthly pay. None of us can afford that. If layoffs can be averted, then that must mean that the Authority needs each employee targeted for layoff, because, as everyone knows, employers don't keep unnecessary people on the payroll (with the exception of those political appointees, of course). No doubt, then, that the loss of anyone of those targeted employees is going to result in compromised service and safety for the motoring public. 
Nobody has to use the Thruway unless they want to. There are plenty of alternate routes. But since the 1950's, motorists have been drawn to the Thruway because it has been well-maintained, safe and user friendly. Each of our members is part of that long. history of service to the motoring public by loyal, dedicated workers. Many sacrifices have been made by our members in return for the benefits that they have earned. A politically manipulated Thruway Authority that uses the threat of layoffs to attempt to divide us will not be tolerated.
Fraternally yours, 
Martin A. Latko
President, Teamsters Local 72 

Mexican vigilantes seize town. And we want to open our border to Mexican trucks?

It hardly seems right that the trucking industry's greed would force open U.S. borders to a country as lawless as Mexico.

The Huffington Post reports that earlier this week 1,500 Mexican "self defense" vigilantes took control of Tierra Colorado, which is on the highway between Mexico City and Acapulco.

The vigilantes are masked townspeople taking matters into their own hands because the police are involved with criminals. These are the same police who are supposed to be providing the U.S. government with credible safety information about Mexican truck drivers. You know, so we keep the bad drivers and criminals out of the U.S.

Some Mexican trucks are allowed to drive freely on U.S. highways. They're part of a failing pilot program to open the borders to Mexican trucks. Only a handful of trucks are going beyond the border zone.

Regardless of the danger posed by violent drug cartels, corrupt police and vigilante squads, the trucking industry will continue to pressure the U.S. government to fling open the border. And there are concerns the latest job-killing trade deal -- the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP, or NAFTA on steroids -- would put pressure on the U.S. government to open the border to all Mexican trucks, not just a handful in a pilot program. TPP talks, which just concluded the 16th round, are expected to wrap up by October.

So the news report about vigilantes seizing a town suggests (a) this is not the time to open the border to unsafe Mexican trucks (b) this is not the time to sign onto a trade deal, either.

According to the news report, the vigilantes seized police at a checkpoint on the road and searched residents' homes. One tourist was slightly wounded when he refused to stop at the checkpoint.

Huffington Post reported:
Members of the area's self-described "community police" say more than 1,500 members of the force were stopping traffic Wednesday at improvised checkpoints in the town of Tierra Colorado, which sits on the highway connecting Mexico City to Acapulco. They arrested 12 police and the former director of public security in the town after a leader of the state's vigilante movement was slain on Monday... 
The vigilantes accuse the ex-security director of participating in the killing of vigilante leader Guadalupe Quinones Carbajal, 28, on behalf of local organized crime groups and dumping his body in a nearby town on Monday. They reported seizing several high-powered rifles from his car, and vigilantes were seen toting a number of sophisticated assault rifles on Wednesday, although it was not clear if all had been taken from the ex-security director's car. 
"We have besieged the municipality, because here criminals operate with impunity in broad daylight, in view of municipal authorities. We have detained the director of public security because he is involved with criminals and he knows who killed our commander," said Bruno Placido Valerio, a spokesman for the vigilante group. 
Placido said vigilantes had searched a number of homes in the town and seized drugs from some. They turned over the ex-security director and police officers to state prosecutors, who agreed to investigate their alleged ties to organized crime.
Let's just keep that border closed.

Woot! Mich. Teamsters ratify great 1st contract before RTW4Less takes effect

Marcine Washington: "It feels good to finally have a structure."

Today is a sad day in Michigan tempered by joy for 1,500 Teamster men and women. No Rights At Work takes effect, but Teamster nurses and support staff at Genesys Convalescent Center in Flint ratified first contracts. Genesys Health System employees also ratified a strong contract just before the No Rights At Work deadline.

Best of all, the Local 332 members ratified an 8-year union security agreement that strengthens the bargaining units. All Genesys Teamsters must pay dues as a condition of employment. The agreement, which covers 1,535 employees, was ratified just before Michigan's anti-union law would have made the security agreement illegal.

Alison Smith: "Thank God for our union."
The first contracts (there are two bargaining units) were ratified just six months after Genesys Convalescent Center employees voted overwhelmingly to become Teamsters in October. Marcine Washington, a ward clerk, says she's happy with the outcome:
It took 10 years. Ten years. I'm just glad that people stayed strong and organized. It feels good to finally have structure.
"Thank God for our union," said Alison Smith, an LPN. "We now have a voice."

Latrice Henderson, a dietary aide, said she felt the Center needed more organization. And,
I'm extremely happy to be part of Teamsters.
Nina Bugbee, president of Local 332, said the union had been burning the candle at both ends for the last week to get the contracts ratified. Bugbee thanked General President James P. Hoffa, Joint Council 43 President Greg Nowak, labor attorney heroes Sam McKnight, Lisa Smith and David Radtke, along with Local 332 officers, agents, office staff, stewards and members.
We all make one hell of a Teamster team! 
Latrice Henderson: "I'm extremely
happy to be part of Teamsters."
Bugbee said the plan now with Local 332's mobilized members to put boots on the ground to knock Gov. Rick Snyder out of office -- and "turn this thing back around to head in the right direction for workers.

Local 322 Business Agent Chris Cates shared details of the Genesys Convalescent first contract with Michigan Live:
The major component of the contract was to fix an issue in staffing, Cates said. When negotiations began there were 28 vacancies for nurse aids, she said. Throughout the negotiation process all the vacancies were filled and a process was agreed upon to fill vacancies in a timely manner. 
A charge nurse was also added to each shift to help out with any extra responsibilities that are needed, Cates said. 
"That is an extra pair of hands they get every shift, weekend, and holidays to help them," she said. "They very much want someone to listen to them." 
Employees were also wanted something done with how employees were disciplined, Cates said. Employees were being disciplined differently for the same offense, so the contract includes a process to follow for certain actions.

Teamsters strike law-breaking Republic Waste in OH, IN, IL

Picketing outside of Youngstown landfill. Stay strong, brothers.

Striking sanitation Teamsters employed by Republic Services are picketing outside of the Carbon Limestone landfill near Youngstown right now. Teamster sanitation drivers are honoring the picket line and Teamsters are refusing to work at Republic facilities in Evansville, Ind., and Urbana, Ill.

Picketing Teamsters carried signs saying "I am a man on strike," an allusion to the Memphis sanitation workers strike in 1968. Martin Luther King, Jr., was assassinated while supporting that strike.

Ken Hall, Teamsters general secretary-treasurer, explained why Republic Teamsters walked off the job:
For more than a year now, Republic has been trying to squeeze every last cent out of their workers by cheating them out of pay, ignoring health and safety protections, raising their health care costs, and cutting their retirement benefits.
Trash tycoon Bill Gates owns about 26 percent of Republic. He's tried to mitigate his image as a greedy billionaire by giving money to improve sanitation overseas. His failure to remedy Republic's abuses of workers and the environment in the U.S. bring new meaning to the words "hypocritical" and "unpatriotic."

According to the press statement just issued,
Sanitation workers employed by Republic Services/Allied Waste [NYSE: RSG] went on strike in Ohio last night to protest the company’s violations of federal labor law. Workers at Republic’s Carbon Limestone landfill outside of Youngstown put up a picket line instead of reporting to their shifts late yesterday.  
Teamster solidarity in Urbana, Ill. 
The striking workers are members of Teamster Local Union 377. They are exercising their rights under federal law to strike in protest of Republic illegally changing working conditions without bargaining and the company’s continued refusal to provide pertinent information related to bargaining. 
Sanitation workers at other Republic locations have subsequently refused to work in a show of support of their striking colleagues. Sanitation drivers in Youngstown are honoring the picket lines of their striking co-workers at the landfill. In addition, workers at Republic/Allied Waste in Evansville, Ind. and Urbana, Ill. refused to work today in support of the striking employees at Republic’s landfill. 
The sanitation workers who are refusing to work in Evansville and Urbana are members of Teamster Local Unions 215 and 26, respectively. These workers have the right under federal labor law to refuse to cross picket lines or to refuse to work in support of striking workers at other Republic/Allied Waste locations.

Today's Teamster News 03.28.13

Iraqi oil: Once seen as U.S. boon, now it’s mostly China’s  McClatchy   ...Ten years after the United States invaded and occupied Iraq, the country’s oil industry is poised to boom and make the troubled nation the No.2 oil exporter in the world. But the nation that’s moving to take advantage of Iraq’s riches isn’t the United States. It’s China...
Post analysis of Dow 30 firms shows declining tax burden as a share of profits  Washington Post   ...Most of the 30 companies listed on the country’s most famous stock index, the Dow Jones industrial average, have seen a dramatically smaller percentage of their profits go to U.S. coffers over time, even as their share prices have driven the Dow to an all-time high...
Cyprus crisis: capital controls loom as banks race to re-open  The Guardian   ...Protests are mounting in Cyprus as the full extent of Monday's EU-IMF bailout sinks in...
As Supreme Court Hears Challenge to ALEC Voting Bill, Two More States Introduce It  Center for Media and Democracy   ...Within days of the U.S. Supreme Court hearing a challenge to an Arizona voting registration law that had been adopted as a "model" by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), two more states advanced bills that appear to track the ALEC/Arizona template...
 Michelle Rhee takes on teachers' unions  Los Angeles Times   ...StudentsFirst, the advocacy group Rhee founded … is positioning itself as the political counterweight to teachers' unions….Among StudentsFirst's major donors is the Walton Family Foundation, funded by heirs to the fortune generated by Wal-Mart, which has vigorously opposed unions...
When workers die: “And nobody called 911″  Salon   ...A man is scalded by nearly boiling water and citric acid. His fate points to a dark reality for temp workers...
Sweatshops still make your clothes  Salon   ...It’s been 16 years since Charles Kernaghan made Kathie Lee Gifford cry on national television, revealing that her Wal-Mart-sold clothing line was produced by Honduran children working 20-hour shifts. ... not that much has changed...
Howard Dean Launches Campaign To Flip State Legislatures  Huffington Post   ...Dean said that Democracy for America's "Purple to Blue Project" would work to swing state legislatures from Republican to Democrat, starting in Virginia, then adding three states in 2014...
Assembly passes rewrite of city labor laws by slim 6-5 margin  Anchorage Daily News   ...The Anchorage Assembly Tuesday night narrowly passed a rewrite of city labor laws that tips the balance of power in negotiations with city unions more toward management...
Union research shows pension overhaul will cost workers, taxpayers  Palm Beach Post   ...Public employee unions fighting the House pension overhaul rolled out research Tuesday that says the move will cost taxpayers more — challenging the view of House Speaker Will Weatherford and other proponents that closing the traditional plan to new workers will reduce state costs...
Jim Greer, Florida ex-GOP chairman, gets 18 months in prison  Orlando Sentinel   ...An Orlando judge on Wednesday sentenced Jim Greer, former high-flying chairman of the Florida GOP, to 18 months in prison for stealing $125,000 from the party...
Governor calls unions the voice of American workers  People's World   ..."We live in a time in which more and more capital is concentrated in fewer and fewer hands," Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon told about 250 union delegates and activists here at the annual AFL-CIO Labor Legislative Conference on March 25 and 26...
Wisconsin gets an "F" for disclosing its spending  Milwaukee Journal Sentinel   ...Wisconsin is one of five states Tuesday that received an "F" for how it makes government spending available online...
Genesys Convalescent Center, Teamsters Local 332 reach first contract agreement  Michigan Live   ...After joining a union in the fall, Genesys Convalescent Center employees recently approved their first contract...
Teamsters-UNFI hearing in Moreno Valley  The Press-Enterprise   ...A hearing on whether United Natural Foods violated labor laws during a contentious union organizing campaign last year has been moved to Moreno Valley to accommodate Inland-area workers, a federal spokesperson said on Wednesday, March 27...
Teamsters leader says efforts to overturn right-to-work laws are 'swelling'  Michigan Live   ...The lame duck legislative push for so-called right-to-work laws in Michigan was driven by corporate special interests, chief among them being Grand Rapids’ own Dick DeVos...
Teamsters Take Demands For U.S. Workers' Rights To National Express Group Headquarters  IBT   ...Teamster school bus drivers who work at National Express Group PLC (NEX: LN) rallied with British members of Unite the Union outside the company's headquarters today, demanding the multinational transport company honor the human rights of its North American workers...

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Whoa! Missouri AG sues over Bill Gates' explosive radioactive landfill

It burns. It stinks. It explodes. It's radioactive. Thank you,
Republic Services. 
Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster today sued Republic Services over its burning, exploding, radioactive landfill near St. Louis.

Microsoft co-founder and trash tycoon Bill Gates owns about 26 percent of the waste company, by far the largest shareholder.

Here's what the attorney general said today about the lawsuit:
Attorney General Chris Koster today filed a lawsuit alleging that Republic Services, Inc., owner of the Bridgeton Landfill in St. Louis County, has violated a number of Missouri’s environmental laws in its operation of the landfill. Since January 2013, an underground landfill fire at the Bridgeton facility has intensified, causing violations of Missouri’s air, hazardous waste, solid waste and clean water laws. 
"The nearby residents, schools, senior care facilities and a local hospital all have dealt with terrible, ongoing odor problems from the Bridgeton Landfill that have impacted their ability to go about normal activities," Koster said. 
"For St. Louisans who have not been directly exposed to the site, it is difficult to describe the effects this situation is having on local neighborhoods and businesses. While we have been assured by Republic Services that they have developed a remediation plan and are implementing that plan as expeditiously as possible, it is important that we ensure the corporation’s promises are binding and enforceable in a court of law," Koster added. 
Koster said that, in addition to addressing the odor problems and correcting the environmental violations, his lawsuit seeks to provide remedies to help local residents and businesses deal with the ongoing effects of the burning waste. The lawsuit also seeks to ensure that Republic, rather than taxpayers, pays for the costs of experts hired by the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to perform ongoing, intensive environmental testing. Koster noted that DNR has committed to share the experts’ analysis and test results with the public as quickly as possible.
Republic abuses its workers as much as it abuses the environment. Read more at

And go get 'em, Koster.

Europe is limiting CEO pay. Why can't we?

Europeans disgusted with CEO looting of their companies are starting to do something about it. Earlier this month, Swiss voters backed some of the world's toughest controls on executive compensation. Swiss public companies will now have to put their CEO's pay to a shareholder vote.

The Netherlands in 2010 capped executive bonuses and might even tighten the limit to 20 per cent of salary. The United Kingdom is considering reforms to give shareholders a vote on pay, as well as ways to make compensation deals more transparent, reports the Naked Capitalist.

Spain is raising taxes on severance packages. So is France. And in France, according to Too Much,
 ...the newly elected government of President Fran├žois Hollande has placed a 450,000 euro cap — about $580,000 — on executive pay at the 52 companies where the French government holds a majority stake.
In Germany, politicians say they'll bring up executive pay in Parliament.

So why can't we do it in America? The Atlantic reports that the disparity between workers and CEOs is worse in the U.S. than other countries:
American CEOs do earn more than their foreign counterparts, and the disparity between U.S. executive pay and that of average American workers is much greater than the gap between those two groups in most other countries. But the runaway growth in CEO salaries has been so dramatic in recent years -- even in the notoriously worker-friendly E.U. -- that it isn't all that surprising that European policymakers are acting to halt it.
Here's a chart that shows how much worse:

However, American and non-American CEOs are much closer when you take into account certain factors. The Atlantic cites another report that shows
Overall, American chief executives made 26 percent more than their foreign counterparts, according to the 2012 report, if you control for the size of firm, its sales and the type of board and ownership it has. 
These days, large companies everywhere are likely to pay their executives rates that would be considered competitive in any country, thanks to the increasing globalization of the workforce and the entry of more and more firms into international markets.
(Another good argument to oppose the Trans-Pacific Partnership NAFTA-on-steroids trade deal.)

The German newspaper Der Spiegel recently expressed the proper outrage at corporate executives who plunder their companies while workers struggle to get by.
There are many faces of injustice. A member of Volkswagen's executive board recently said that he thought it was unfair that he earned €6 million ($7.8 million) last year... 
The market economy thrives on a certain amount of societal inequality. The chance to earn more money and accumulate more wealth animates people to improve their performance. But there is also an invisible limit, and when it is exceeded, the gap between those at the top and those at the bottom becomes big enough to jeopardize social harmony... 

Georgia's war on workers gets nasty

WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather

Anti-worker politicians in Georgia are taking their war on workers to a whole new level. The labor commissioner is withholding unemployment benefits for school workers laid off in the summer, and now the Legislature is considering a bill to ban them.

Teamsters Local 728 is fighting hard against this blatant attack. They're challenging the labor commissioner in the courts and they're lobbying lawmakers. They even plan a march from Atlanta to the U.S. Department of Labor in Washington on April 20.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that state lawmakers are taking the attacks even further. Other parts of the same bill would allow union members who want to freeload -- drop out of the union but still get the benefits -- to do so whenever they want.
The state Senate approved a measure that would make changes to Georgia’s labor laws, including a proposed ban on whether some employees such as school bus drivers would qualify for unemployment benefits. 
The 36-16 vote along party lines Monday sends House Bill 361 back to the House for consideration because it was changed in committee. Opponents on Tuesday said the General Assembly’s own lawyer warned that the bill could be unconstitutional, but supporters were unmoved. 
HB 361 would additionally allow workers to opt out at any time from automatic payroll deductions for union dues — although it exempts certain groups, including MARTA workers, teachers, law enforcement officers and firefighters. Current law says workers must have only an annual option to opt out. 
The ban on jobless benefits in the bill affects seasonally unemployed bus drivers and other private sector workers whose employers contract with public sector entities such as school systems. Supporters said it is expected to save the state up to $10 million annually.
Georgians, you can send an email to your representatives here to urge them to vote no on these attacks on workers.

Today's Teamster News 03.27.13

Real wages decline; literally no one notices  Angry Bear   ...Real wages fell 0.2% in 2012, down from $295.49 (1982-84 dollars) to $294.83 per week, according to the 2013 Economic Report of the President….Yet no one in the media noticed, or at least none thought it newsworthy...
Has trade weighed down wages?  manufacture this   ... trade with less-developed countries lowered wages in 2011 by roughly $1,800 for a full-time, full-year worker earning the average wage for employees without a four-year college degree...
Store Charges Browsing Customers $5 'Just Looking' Fee  Daily Finance   ...A store in Australia is apparently taking an extreme approach to eliminating showrooming, alerting would-be customers that they'll be charged $5 if they come in to browse but don't buy anything...
Customers Flee Wal-Mart Empty Shelves for Target, Costco  Bloomberg   ...Wal-Mart doesn’t have enough bodies to restock the shelves, according to interviews with store workers. In the past five years, the world’s largest retailer added 455 U.S. Wal-Mart stores, a 13 percent increase ... In the same period, its total U.S. workforce, which includes Sam’s Club employees, dropped by about 20,000, or 1.4 percent...
Wal-Mart sues grocery union, others over trespassing in Florida  Reuters   ...Wal-Mart Stores Inc (WMT.N) has sued a major grocery workers union and others who have protested at its Florida stores, the latest salvo in its legal fight to stop "disruptive" rallies in and around its stores by groups seeking better pay and working conditions...
The Lesson From Cyprus: Europe Is Politically Bankrupt  The Automatic Earth   ...people from Portugal to Spain to Italy to Greece to Cyprus and Ireland are worse off today than they were when they first adopted the euro. Moreover, their economies are all getting worse as we speak and projected to plunge further...
Europe Expands Investigation Into Derivatives Market  New York Times   ...European Union antitrust regulators have expanded their investigation into whether a small network of big banks unfairly controls the derivatives market...
US military veterans face inadequate care after returning from war – report  Guardian   ...Almost half of the 2.2 million troops deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan report difficulties on their return home, but many receive inadequate care from the US Department of Defense and Veterans Affairs...
Paycheck protection bill: Measure hurts unions, working families (LTE)  News-Leader  ...The paycheck deception bill aims to strip away (Missouri) public sector workers’ right to choose whether or not to have union dues automatically deducted from their paychecks, and it would infringe on these workers’ freedom of speech by making contributing to a political fund more difficult...
Montana Senate backs bill requiring 'dark money' groups to ID donors  Missoulian   ...The Senate, in a vote Monday that exposed the split among Republicans, endorsed an overhaul of Montana’s campaign finance law to require anonymous “dark money” political groups to disclose their donors...
Senate GOP pushes union dues, unemployment changes  Associated Press   ...The Georgia business lobby won another victory as the Senate approved a change on paycheck deductions for union dues and limited unemployment benefits for certain temporary workers...
Proposed Income Tax Cut Likely to Hurt, Rather than Help Wisconsin Economy  Wisconsin Budget Project Blog   ...n the 1990s, the five states with the deepest tax cuts grew at less than a third the rate of all the other states over the next economic cycle...
Kasich signs SB 47, starts clock for opponents to shut down bill  Plain Dealer   ...Gov. John Kasich signed legislation Friday that would make it harder for Ohio voters to repeal laws. Now the clock is ticking for opponents who could void the controversial bill...

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Could happen: Corporations forced to disclose spending on ALEC, stink tanks and astroturf groups

Corporations are secretly spending billions of dollars on politicians to do their union busting. (That's how No Rights At Work got passed in Michigan.) The union pension funds that invest in those corporations should -- at the very least -- know if they're donating money to anti-worker candidates, stink tanks or ALEC, the escort service for corporations and politicians.

Everyone, in fact, should be able to find out where publicly traded corporations are spending their political dollars.

The Securities and Exchange Commission is actually considering a rule that would force corporations to disclose their political spending. The SEC received a record 469,000 comments on the proposal. Only five of those comments were negative. Typically, the SEC gets fewer than 100 comments on its proposed rules.

Mark Gruenberg at People's World quotes  Lisa Gilbert, director of Public Citizen's Congress Watch, about the proposal:
Using new regulatory powers it got from the Dodd-Frank financial reform/crackdown law - enacted after Wall Street's speculative frenzy and collapse produced the Great Recession - the SEC is considering making firms more publicly accountable to their shareholders. That includes public worker pension funds. 
Its latest proposal is to order firms to justify their political spending to shareholders publicly and in advance, and to explain how such spending is "good for business," Gilbert said. If enacted, that proposal would take effect at once. 
Shareholders would then get a chance to weigh in, and possibly even vote, before firms spend their money for politicking by lobbies such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce or secretive political institutions such as ALEC. The Chamber alone spent $36 million directly - and millions more indirectly - in last year's campaign, she said.
Michael Drucker writes in Independent View that shareholders should have the ability to opt-out of using their money for political campaigns. He explains how the SEC proposal would close a loophole in campaign finance reporting:
Federal law already requires political action committees to disclose corporate donations. By putting in place comprehensive disclosure rules, however, the SEC can plug a major loophole in the law, forcing companies to also reveal what they give to tax-exempt “social welfare” groups and trade associations, including chambers of commerce. 
These entities have often been used as vehicles for political spending by way of so-called issue ads, ads that purport to be educational, but are often veiled attempts to support a specific candidate or even party. 
In other words, the SEC could, in a single stroke, do what Congress and the courts have been unable or unwilling to do: require publicly traded companies to report all of their political spending.
Mary Jo White is President Obama's choice to lead the SEC, and it's likely her nomination will be approved. Drucker notes that all it will take to enact the rule is a yes vote by White and two of the four commissioners.

Let's hope she decides to do the right thing.

Automakers, dairy farmers balking at TPP, the pending NAFTA-on-steroids trade deal

Add automakers to the growing list of U.S. industries opposed to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the job-killing trade deal expected to wrap up in October.

Alan Mulally, CEO of Ford Motor Co., says he's against Japan entering talks for the TPP, a deal that will strengthen multinational corporations at the expense of individual rights, government sovereignty and the U.S. standard of living.

Mulally spoke to reporters today in Bangkok. Reuters reported he reiterated his opposition to the deal:
Ford has been vocal in opposing Japan's entry into the talks for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TTP), a U.S.-led Pacific free trade pact, until Tokyo opens its market to more U.S. cars. 
"It's the most closed automobile market in the world," Mulally said, highlighting the combination of non-tariff barriers on vehicle imports and distribution. 
"They should open up their market, they should restructure their industry, and that's why we're encouraging the people negotiating the free trade agreements that they deal with that." 
Japan announced last week it wants to join TPP negotiations. The countries involved in the talks -- including Canada, Australia and Vietnam -- will decide in April whether to let Japan join. New Zealand's trade minister said he's sure they'll find a way to say yes.

Meanwhile, U.S. dairy farmers and workers got even more reason to worry that the TPP will destroy their livelihoods. In a news conference yesterday, New Zealand Prime Minister John Key said he would pull out of a trade deal if it didn't include agriculture. By "agriculture" he meant dairy farms, which enjoy all sorts of government protection.

We're taking Key's comment as a signal that New Zealand's dairy industry intends to dump milk, cheese and butter on the U.S. market as soon as the ink is dry on the TPP.

Sign the petition here to stop this attack on U.S. dairy and automotive jobs.

VIDEO: 'Unions fought hard for your right to party (on weekends)'

Brother Stephane Lacroix from Teamsters Canada shared this video with us. It's the winner of the Canadian Labour Congress 2013 One Minute Message Contest. Enjoy.

Today's Teamster News 03.26.13

Resolved That in Order to Create Millions of New Jobs In the United States, Our Government Should Set A National Goal to Balance Our Trade Account by January 1, 2020  Virginia 8th Congressional District Democratic Committee   ...It is hereby RESOLVED that the 2012 8th District Democratic Convention should take the lead in helping grow jobs in our Commonwealth and our nation by adopting this resolution that the United States set a goal and commit itself to balancing its trade no later than January 1, 2020...
Why Don’t Politicians Care about the Working Class? (opinion)  Fiscal Times   ...the indifference of both parties to the problems of the unemployed – the failure to take any real action to help after it became clear the initial stimulus package was far, far from enough – speaks to the lack of political power of the majority of people in the U.S. today...
Markets take fright at idea that Cyprus savings raid could become bailout model  The Guardian   ...Fears that bank accounts could be raided in any future eurozone bailouts spooked markets on Monday, as Cypriots prepared for their banks to reopen for the first time in over a week on Thursday following a deal to secure a €10bn lifeline...
Unions brace before Michigan right-to-work law takes effect  Detroit Free Press   ...On Thursday, Michigan's right-to-work law takes effect, a stunning shift in this symbolic capital of organized labor...
Hey, Pa., let's have a drink! (opinion)  Philadelphia Inquirer   ...a sober citizen might think soft issues of consumer convenience and market-driven ideology should take a back seat to real-world issues wrapped around jobs, education, pension crises and transportation/infrastructure...
Budget fight likely means Ohioans won't get proposed income tax cut  Plain Dealer   ...Kasich's fellow Republicans who control the Ohio General Assembly aren't buying his plan to extend the sales tax to nearly all services...
Florida House pension limits rooted in controversial group  The Palm Beach Post   ...Jonathan Williams, a policy director for the American Legislative Exchange Council, told The Palm Beach Post that the organization’s three days of meetings in August 2011 helped affirm the need among many legislators to take a hard look at public employee benefits...
Indiana government, sponsored by Koch   NUVO   ...The pundits who keep wondering where Republicans are headed should pay attention to what's happening in Indiana. Indiana legislators, armed with prefab bills written by ALEC, and talking points manufactured in think tanks, are acting as shills for corporate power...
Indiana jobless payment cuts kick in April 8   ...Due to automatic federal spending cuts, known as sequestration, beginning Monday, April 8, 2013, weekly payments of Federally Extended Unemployment Insurance benefits, also known as EEUC or weeks 27-63 of benefits, will be reduced by 10.7% as determined by the U.S. Department of Labor...
Utah’s real ‘land grab’ The Salt Lake Tribune   ...many of our elected officials, including Gov. Gary Herbert, advocate the transfer to state ownership of up to 30 million acres of federally owned land in Utah ... the main proponents of this idea are fine with leasing or selling off the lands because their real agenda is to make those lands available for mineral extraction or for sale to private interests...

Monday, March 25, 2013

Someone's trying to screw you out of your pension

Not if Wall St. gets its
If you're lucky enough to have a pension, someone, somewhere, is trying to take it away from you. And let's face it, most Americans can't possibly afford to retire on their savings alone. Three out of four Americans nearing retirement in 2010 had less than $30,000 in their retirement accounts.

Edward Siedle at Forbes believes we're on the precipice of the biggest retirement crisis in the history of the world. He writes:
Corporate America and the financial wizards behind the past three decades of so-called retirement innovations, most notably titans of the pension benefits consulting and mutual fund 401(k) industries, are down-playing just how bad things are already and how much worse they are going to get.
It was 30 years ago that pensions were replaced by 401k plans. Siedle says that grand experiment is a disaster, and most Americans know it.
It is now apparent that 401ks will not provide the retirement security promised to workers. As a former mutual fund legal counsel, when I recall some of the outrageous sales materials the industry came up with to peddle funds to workers, particularly in the 1980s, it’s almost laughable—if the results weren’t so tragic. 
ALEC, the escort service for state lawmakers and corporations, is behind attacks on state employee pensions. In Florida, the state House of Representatives approved a bill to close the Florida Retirement System's traditional pension to new employees. Instead, they'd get a 401k. John Kennedy in The Palm Beach Post reports the attacks started two years ago in New Orleans...
...where dozens of Florida lawmakers gathered for a conference hosted by a controversial advocacy group that helps corporations and conservative interest groups write bills for legislatures across the country. 
Jonathan Williams, a policy director for the American Legislative Exchange Council, told The Palm Beach Post that the organization’s three days of meetings in August 2011 helped affirm the need among many legislators to take a hard look at public employee benefits... 
Nationally, the greedy billionaires at Fix the Debt are lobbying hard for cuts to Social Security. (It's always nice when plutocrats lecture the rest of us on the need to live with less.) If they succeed, Siedle predicts four waves of trouble:

First, retirees come back to work. Even those with pensions find the cost of unsubsidized health insurance is greater than they anticipated.

Second, workers will delay full retirement. This won't do much to help the staggering jobs crisis faced by young people today.

Third, workers will realize they have to work until they drop.

And fourth, for the overwhelming majority of Americans:
At some point, lack of savings, lack of employment possibilities and failing health will catch up with (them). 
Read the whole thing here and prepare to get depressed.

10 shocking facts about corporate exploitation of America; it's even worse than we thought (UPDATE)

(UPDATES to ADDto 7th graf to CORRECT the correction on corporate ownership.)

Excessive corporate power is causing the standard of living to fall for 90 percent of Americans, according to David Cay Johnston, a Syracuse University law professor.

Johnston recently published a book called 'The Fine Print,' which describes how corporations get rules and regulations written in their favor so they can milk Americans, a penny at a time. A review of the book notes,
No other modern country gives corporations the unfettered power found in America to gouge cus­tomers, shortchange workers, and erect barriers to fair play. A big reason is that so little of the news . . . addresses the private, government-approved mechanisms by which price gouging is employed to redistribute income upward.”
In a recent interview with Alternet's Joshua Holland, Johnston tells us:
What big business -- and that’s those 2,600 companies which own 80 percent of the business assets in America – what those 2,600 companies have figured out, and their leaders have figured out, because people running these firms are very smart people, is that it is easier to mine Congress and the state legislatures for gold than to go out and earn it in the marketplace.
You are being systematically exploited by powerful corporations every day. These companies squeeze their trusting customers for every last cent, risk their retirement funds, and endanger their lives. And they do it all legally. How? It’s all in the fine print. 
Johnston shares 10 outrageous facts about how corporations rob American workers and consumers blind. It's even worse than we thought. We originally posted that .43 percent of the corporations in America own 80 percent of all business assets. Johnston called to tell us our math was off, and we corrected the number to an almost incomprehensible .0043 percent. Believe it or not, it's still worse. Johnston contacted us again to say it's a truly unbelievable .00043 percent. Here's the rest:
  1. .00043 percent of the corporations in America own 80 percent of all business assets.
  2. The bottom 90 percent of Americans' average real income, as reported on tax returns, went up by $59 from 1966 to 2011 (adjusted for inflation and as reported on tax returns).
  3. For each extra dollar of annual income going to the bottom 90 percent of households since 1966, $311,233 went to households in the top 1 percent of the top 1 percent.
  4. Despite massive bank fraud during the oughts, there has not been a single prosecution of any significant person involved. During the savings and loan crisis of the 1980s, a federal regulator named Bill Black got 1,000 high-level felony convictions and 3,000 convictions overall.
  5. Over the past 50 years, the amount of federal corporate income tax receipts increased 764 percent. Personal  income taxes 2,540 percent. Social Security taxes rose 4,881 percent.
  6. In 2011 the average adjusted gross income of the vast majority fell to $30,437 per taxpayer, its lowest level since 1966 when measured in 2011 dollars.
  7. The pipeline industry rakes in $1 billion a year by collecting one penny from every American every day. It got itself exempted from the corporate income tax but still collects it from consumers.
  8. The average monthly cost for cable TV, phone and internet service in the U.S. is $160. In France it's $40 to $70.
  9. U.S. internet speed is 28th in the world, behind Bulgaria.
  10.  In 21 states, state taxes withheld from workers' paychecks can be kept by the company. Not every employer gets the windfall, but 2,700 big companies do. 

Today's Teamster News 03.25.13

UNFIT FOR WORK: The startling rise of disability in America  NPR   ...There used to be a lot of jobs that you could do with just a high school degree, and that paid enough to be considered middle class. ... people who lost those jobs ... (have) been going on disability...
Corporate-Backed Trans-Pacific Partnership Shrouded in Secrecy  truthout   ...legislators around the world are being kept in the dark about what they're voting on until the deal is hammered out; it's expected to be completed this year. When it's finished, if the experience of Congress here is any indication, legislators will be feeling extraordinary pressure from corporate lobbyists and their heads of state to accept the deal without a fuss...
Cyprus reaches last-minute deal on 10 billion euro bailout  Reuters   ...Cyprus clinched a last-ditch deal with international lenders to shut down its second-largest bank and inflict heavy losses on uninsured depositors, including wealthy Russians, in return for a 10 billion euro ($13 billion) bailout...
Pro-Democracy Movement Rises Against 'Disaster Capitalism' in Detroit  Common Dreams   ...Community and pro-democracy activists in Detroit have no intention of rolling over and playing dead for Kevyn Orr, the city's new 'emergency manager' appointed by Republican Gov. Rick Snyder, who will begin his contract to run the city as a one-person government on Monday...
Right-to-work goes into effect March 28  Associated Press   ...When Michigan's right-to-work law takes effect Thursday it will signal the latest sign of turmoil in the union movement that has seen nationwide membership shrink to its lowest levels since at least the 1930s...
Real mess: Public works employees forced to bring toilet paper to work  KCTV   ...It's a real stink in one central Missouri town after male public works employees were forced to bring their own toilet paper to work...
Wisconsin: Hundreds of pardon apps sitting on gov's desk  Associated Press   ... Gov. Scott Walker has refused to consider any of at least 1,400 pardon applications since he's taken office...
Ohio lawmakers take up wind, solar energy rule  Fuel Fix   ...The American Legislative Exchange Council, a policy advisory group dominated by Republicans and targeted by liberals, is a leading force behind the push against the renewable energy targets...