Tag: AFL-CIO

AFL-CIO Joins NAM to Back OSHA On-Site Consultation Program for Small Business

The AFL-CIO posted an open letter to Rep. Issa (R-CA) from California Labor Federation Legislative Advocate Mitch Seaman reacting to an article in POLITICO about the Congressman seeking input from companies, business groups and think tanks on federal regulation. The AFL-CIO snidely and incorrectly cited part of the article that reported the National Association of Manufacturers’ call for oversight of OSHA’s regulatory proposals that would gut employer compliance programs (e.g. on-site consultation).

The National Association of Manufacturers responded to your request for marching orders by naming OHSA consultations as “high-priority regulations that can cost manufacturing jobs.” Not to nitpick, but OSHA consultations are free services provided by OSHA—or a state OSHA program—that identify potential hazards before they happen. This is a win-win that creates both safer and less expensive work environments. As workers, we are curious as to exactly how jobs are created by eliminating a free service that saves employers money and reduces workplace injury.

Marching orders? What silliness.

Still, we’re pleased to see the labor group’s apparent agreement with the NAM about the value of the consultation program, as the blogger describes them as “a free service that saves employers money and reduces workplace injury.” Absolutely. We feel strongly that OSHA should not hinder a successful program that allows small businesses to voluntarily approach OSHA for advice on how to make their businesses both more productive and safer for their employees. The NAM joined with numerous other organizations in the Coalition for Workplace Safety’s comments to OSHA which urged the agency not to remove important aspects of the program that encourage company participation. It’s rare when the AFL-CIO and the NAM can find common ground on policy, but we were optimistic that we may have found a new ally in our effort to protect an important OSHA program.

Labor’s newfound support is especially welcome since the AFL-CIO submitted comments to the agency’s regulatory proposal calling for major changes that would have made it much more difficult for employers to use the OSHA program effectively. Let’s hope that the members of the California Labor Federation can make AFL-CIO’s staff in Washington aware of why they agree with the NAM when they describe the program as a “win-win that creates both safer and less expensive work environments.”

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U.S. Just Keeps Getting More Isolated in Global Trade

The China Post yesterday reported that Taiwan and Singapore will begin formal negotiations on a free trade agreement (FTA) to eliminate obstacles to trade between the two economies. This marks just the latest announcement of new negotiations.  The European Union, for example, is negotiating with Argentina, Brazil, CAFTA, India, Saudi Arabia, Vietnam, and the United Arab Emirates, among others.  Japan, China, Colombia, and others are busily cutting trade deals with each other.

All in all, as of today, the World Trade Organization (WTO) reports that there are 290 FTAs in force around the world.  The United States is a party to just 17 FTAs, and is being increasingly isolated as one of the few countries whose manufacturers, farmers, and service providers will face trade barriers around the world – a prescription for export loss and job losses.

All this is because of the mistaken view of the AFL-CIO, observers like Lou Dobbs, and the Global Trade Watch who refuse to let the facts get in their way.  They keep saying, “Since NAFTA we have lost five million jobs,” putting the job loss blame on growing manufactured goods deficits “caused by U.S. trade agreements.”

What’s wrong with this picture is that our manufactured goods deficit with our FTA partners hasn’t grown.  It is smaller today than in 2000, which is when our job loss started.  There was no growing deficit.  It shrunk. This is the case whether one looks at the Commerce Department’s correctly calculated figures or the trade opponent’s bloated deficit figures. Either way, the facts show our manufactured goods deficit with our FTA partners is smaller today than when the job loss started. They just don’t get it: The increase in the deficit has been with countries that have NOT entered into FTA agreements with us. That’s where the problem is.

How sad that mythology is allowed to prevail over factual analysis –- and is leading to policies that are killing U.S. jobs rather than supporting them.

Frank Vargo is vice president, international economic affairs, for the National Association of Manufacturers.

[Editor's note: “Due to an editor’s error, an important ‘not’ was omitted. The corrected sentence is: ‘They just don’t get it: The increase in the deficit has been with countries that have NOT entered into FTA agreements with us.”]

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Invective, Insults and Other Currency of Labor’s Campaign Realm

Reading recent reports of union spending in the 2010 campaigns — “Public-Sector Union AFSCME Now No.1 Spender in 2010 Election Cycle,” for example — it occured to us that AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka hadn’t been quite as vociferous in his insults as of late.

We haven’t seen accounts of him accusing people of “economic treason” since his Oct. 6 speech to the Illinois AFL-CIO’s constitutional convention. The union leader may have realized he crossed the line with this vicious accusations — or recognized the invective wasn’t politically productive.

The populist attacks continue to pour forth from the underlings, though. Here’s the AFL-CIO’s politcal director, Karen Ackerman, in an Oct. 18 “State of the Field” memo to political directors:

[The] same corporations and right wing groups that created the economic crisis are spending record amounts of undisclosed money to lie to voters about which candidates will fight for the middle class.

Despite the challenges we face, we are turning working people’s anger into action and fighting for economic patriots who will stand with working people.

And if you oppose these “economic patriots,” you are …

For more on campaign spending, we commend this The Corner post by Daniel Foster, “Which Outside Group is Spending the Most on the Election?”

UPDATE (Monday): Guess Alexi Giannoulias didn’t get the message. Ron Kirk takes justifiable offense.

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Why the Labor-Backed ‘One Nation’ Rally Failed to Measure Up

Byron York of The Examiner answers the question of why the “One Nation” rally organized by Big Labor last Saturday failed to match the earlier Glenn Beck Rally.

Because the labor movement is shrinking, aging and divided. Because the best program its leaders (and co-sponsors at the NAACP) could put together was one featuring Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, Richard Trumka, Van Jones and Harry Belafonte. And because George W. Bush is no longer in the White House. Put those factors together, and Big Labor’s big march fell flat

York notes several points we cited prior to the march: The public sector unions are growing, the private sector ones shrinking.

In broad terms, the public-sector unions lean farther left, while the private-sector unions still count among their number old-fashioned blue-collar moderates who don’t necessarily want to pay higher taxes to hire more public-sector employees. “The differences between them aren’t violent, angry, screaming differences,” says Fred Siegel, a scholar in residence at New York’s St. Francis College and a fellow at the Manhattan Institute, “but they’re important differences.”

What does a tired and aging movement do? It puts on a program with tired and aging leaders. Sharpton has long ago worn out his welcome among anyone beyond the hard-core Democratic base; the same is true for [Jesse] Jackson. The 83-year-old Belafonte’s appearance at the rally was impressive, but mostly as a vision from an earlier era. Trumka’s appeal does not go beyond the labor movement, and the young gun in the group, Van Jones, left the White House last year amid scandal. It wasn’t exactly an all-star lineup.

Is “impressive” the right term for Belafonte’s remarks? He railed against President Obama and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. If you were a union member who believes those military efforts are justified, you were out of place at the One Nation rally. If you were a union member who did not support the hard-left “progressive” agenda at the rally, well, why were you there?

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One Nation? Sure, Except for Those Tea Party ‘Haters’

It’s fair to say the “One Nation” rally planned for Saturday in Washington is a response to the Tea Party, right? The plans came together after the Glenn Beck event at the Lincoln Monument.

The Tea Party’s not our thing, but we raise the point about rallies and counter-rallies after seeing that the AFL-CIO is using Executive Vice President Arlene Holt-Baker to pitch the One Nation event to its members.

One finds it hard to accept a pitch for national unity and “pulling together” coming from Ms. Holt Baker. In a September 16 webcast with the AFL-CIO officers on their anniversary of assuming office, she offered this (audio):

Moderator: Our next question is for Executive Vice President Arlene Holt Baker, and we received two very similar questions from two very different locations. Bill in New Jersey and Dan, all the way in Geneva Switzerland, say, the legitimate revolt of American workers against a system that has cheated them has been hijacked by the Tea Party, which has used hate and a bad economy to build its momentum. What can we do to stop their momentum, and lead the workers – poor and the middle class – in this country in a progressive direction?

Arlene Holt-Baker: Well, Bill and Dan, certainly the question posed is one that we are attempting to deal with. Certainly, the Tea Party, they have attempted to capture the anger and the frustration that so many Americans have because of this economy that’s not working for them.

And they’re using a tactic that is as old as the beginning of time, and that is the “divide and conquer” tactic. They promote hate over hope, and they believe that what they can do to the American people is to divide us in a way that we will forget about our own economic interest, because we’ll be thinking about that division and that hate, if you will, or those “isms” that always come up. (continue reading…)

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One Nation March: Labor’s Ever-Widening ‘Progressive’ Agenda

Last year for the first time in history, organized labor in the United States represented more government workers than private-sector employees.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, private-sector unionization fell to 7.2 percent in 2009, down from 7.6 percent the previous year.

Labor’s declining relevance to workers in the private sector has many roots: Generally improved wages and job conditions, the imperative of workplace flexibility, global competition, and union corruption all play a part.

There’s another important but less recognized factor: Organized labor’s leadership has abandoned the very reason unions first came into existence, which is to represent the economic interests of its workers. In their drive to amass political power, union leaders have aligned themselves with left-wing and “progressive” groups who often agitate against the interests of union workers and show contempt for their deeply held beliefs.

Take the “One Nation” march scheduled for Saturday in Washington. The unions are major sponsors and organizers, busing in union members and doing PR for the effort. The SEIU touts its leadership, the AFL-CIO is making a huge online push for the march, and AFSCME is promoting the effort.

Then take a look at other groups on the list of endorsing organizations, the “partners.”

(continue reading…)

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DISCLOSE: Don’t Limit Advocacy, Just Be a Better Advocate!

The Senate has scheduled a cloture vote on a motion to proceed to S. 3628, the DISCLOSE Act, at 2:15 p.m. (Procedural details.) You’ll remember that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid voted no the last time the Senate debated cloture on the bill, which allows him to make a motion to reconsider it.

Jacob Sullum at Reason has a good column on the politics of the issue, “Ad Rage,” challenging the latest line of partisan argument that corporate campaign spending has already overwhelmed the public debate this election season. Sullum concludes by referring to President Obama’s last weekly address, in which the President choose to condemn campaign advertising rather than issues the public considers more pressing, that is, the economy and jobs.

Toward the end of his speech on Saturday, Obama accidentally told the truth. “You can make sure that the tens of millions of dollars spent on misleading ads do not drown out your voice,” he said. ”Because no matter how many ads they run—no matter how many elections they try to buy—the power to determine the fate of this country doesn’t lie in their hands. It lies in yours.”

Exactly right, Mr. President. No matter how shadowy or flush with corporate dollars an interest group is, the only thing Citizens United allowed it to do is speak. Advocacy has no impact unless it persuades people. So why not talk about the issues instead of impugning the motives of people who take a different position on them than you do?

In July, the National Association of Manufacturers sent a “Key Vote” letter to the Senate opposing S. 3628, the DISCLOSE Act, and related procedural votes.
(continue reading…)

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Card Check: Union Leader Implies Lame-Duck Push for EFCA

It’s hard to imagine, but AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka continues to claim that there will be action on the Employee Free Choice Act. It’s not clear he’s referring to Congressional action, but in an online chat Thursday, he used the phrase, “before the end of the year.” A reference to a lame-duck push?

In response to a question from Marti in California about the Employee Free Choice Act, Trumka said:

There is no question the Employee Free Choice Act has to become law and workers need it. EFCA is necessary so more people can get bargaining power and we can get fair share of  the economic pie.

The Republicans are locked in against but we have we have president who supports it along with vast majority of the House and Senate and the public… We’re working on it every day.. .Stay tuned because before the end of the year, you are going to hear something about the Employee Free Choice Act because we are working on it every day.

The comments suggest a question that should be posed to incumbents members of Congress running for re-election: “No matter what the outcome of the Nov. 2 election, will you commit to voting against the Employee Free Choice Act or any other similar expansion of labor union power in a lame-duck session of Congress?”

We add the qualifier “or any other similar expansion” because there may be an attempt to enact single elements from the Employee Free Choice Act that would give labor unions a free hand to force a union certification or favorable first contract (through binding arbitration).

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‘Treason! Treason!’ Trumka Shouted with Sputtering Rage

The rhetoric coming from Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO, would be ludicrious if it weren’t so poisonous.

Speaking in Columbus, Ohio, the national union leader took the usual populism to a new, ugly level.

Some of our politicians, and some of America’s biggest corporations have given up on America. Companies are sitting on $837 billion without creating jobs. Banks are clutching a trillion dollars in profits without lending to small businesses and consumers. Too many companies aren’t investing in the future, or in the country that made them great. All they want to do is scrape every ounce of flesh from our hides — for their profit.

Well I say that is economic treason!

The big health insurance companies – the same ones that racked up tens of billions in profits last year and paid their CEOs megabucks – they say they need premium increases of 20 percent or more for no reason at all – except guess what? Greed.

That’s economic treason! [...]

Right. And the punishment for treason is what, Trumka? Is that the next step?

One of Trumka’s political allies should tell him to knock it off. Stop questioning people’s patriotism. Stop debasing the public debate. Stop stirring up hate.

(Hat tip: Mytheos Holt, Battle ’10 blog.)

UPDATE (3 p.m.): The AFL-CIO Blog is now highlighting Trumka’s invective, “Trumka: Union Votes Can Beat False Populism and Economic Treason.” When repetition robs this particular accusation of its impact, how will Trumka ratchet up the rhetoric? What slur could possibly come next?

Thing is, you don’t start using rhetoric like this in speeches without first kicking it around the office, talking about it with colleagues. So, the use of this ugly attack comes not in the heat of the moment, but rather as a cynical exercise. Guess our blog headline should have read, “‘Treason! Treason!’ Trumka Shouted with Faked Rage.”

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President Reaffirms ‘Plan B’ on Card Check

President Obama met with a family in Fairfax, Va., this afternoon to help sell his economic message, and in a follow-up discussion, he was asked a question about the long-pending Employee Free Choice Act, i.e., “card check.” His response reprised remarks in August when he told the AFL-CIO’s Executive Council that, while his administration will keep “fighting” to pass the bill in the Senate, he has already begun effecting the legislation’s goals through executive agencies and rulemaking, including action by the National Labor Relations Board.

The President’s remarks today again confirm what we’ve forecast for quite some time now: Passing the card check bill has become so difficult that so union leaders and their allies now plan to achieve their goals through executive branch actions. If Congress has to be replaced at the policymaking branch of government, so be it.

We’ll post the transcript of his remarks when it becomes available.

UPDATE: (9/14/10 1:40pm)

The White House has released the transcript of the President’s remarks, which are available here. Here is an excerpt from his response to the question on the status of the Employee Free Choice Act (emphasis ours):

Frankly, we don’t have 60 votes in the Senate. So the opportunity to actually get this passed right now is not real high. What we’ve done instead is try to do as much as we can administratively to make sure that it’s easier for unions to operate and that they’re not being placed at an unfair disadvantage.

The Wall Street Journal recognizes in an editorial today that by failing to enact card check through Congress, labor leaders and their allies that include NLRB Board Member Craig Becker, are seeking to use executive branch resources to give labor leaders the type of labor law changes they seek. Click here  for the editorial and see below for an excerpt:

As Big Labor has realized it won’t get “card check” legislation through Congress, it is turning to its secret weapon inside the Obama Administration—labor lawyer Craig Becker. And as many Senators feared when he was nominated, Mr. Becker is using his position on the National Labor Relations Board to bypass the will of Congress.

President Obama gave Mr. Becker a recess appointment in March after Senate Democrats refused to confirm him to the NLRB, the agency charged with fairly overseeing union elections. As a top lawyer for the Service Employees International Union, Mr. Becker had suggested that the NLRB has the legal authority to impose card check—which eliminates secret ballots in union elections—without the approval of Congress. And lo, at the end of August the NLRB dropped the bombshell, when, in a 3-2 decision, it decided to revisit its important 2007 Dana Corp. ruling.

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