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OpenMarket: Labor and Employment

  • SEIU Split in California?

    January 29, 2009 2:55 PM

    Ousted officials from a Bay Area local of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) announced yesterday that they were forming a new union, and asked members to join. They were ousted from the local, United Healthcare Workers-West (UHWW), after a long-threatened takeover by the union's national office became official on Tuesday, as the local was placed in trusteeship, for alleged "financial malpractice."

    From the SEIU national office to claim such concern about corrupt practices now seems strange, particularly in California. A Los Angeles-based local, with which the national SEIU wants to merge UHWW, has recently been involved in a serious corruption scandal. The Los Angeles Times, which broke the story on the scandal last August, also reported:

    A source close to the union said Trossman was informed six years ago of allegations involving Freeman's finances and personal relationships. It is unclear whether a review was undertaken at that time;  Trossman said that the SEIU might have performed an audit of the local because of the allegations, but that he couldn't be sure.

    In addition, questions have been raised concerning the union's connection to Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich.

    For more on SEIU, see here.

  • Obama Distorts Ledbetter v. Goodyear Case, In Signing Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act

    January 29, 2009 12:58 PM

    In signing his first bill into law, Obama didn't let facts get in the way of a good story, or milking a political wedge issue. He falsely claimed that Lilly Ledbetter, whose pay discrimination claim was dismissed by the Supreme Court as untimely, worked at Goodyear "for nearly two decades before discovering that for years, she was paid less than her male colleagues for doing the very same work." Actually, Ledbetter knew by 1992, if not earlier, that she was being paid less than the male employees she claimed should have been paid the same as her. Small wonder that the Supreme Court's 2007 ruling in Ledbetter v. Goodyear dismissed her claim as untimely. (She brought the claim after the supervisor she accused of discrimination had died, and shortly before she retired).

  • CA Restaurant & Bar Owners (not drinkers) Will Feel the Pinch of Nickel Tax

    January 28, 2009 3:22 PM

    February 1st 2009 is the day that California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's per-drink tax increase will go into effect throughout the state. The tax hike will be a seemingly small 5 cent increase on beer, wine, and spirits in an attempt to in an attempt to shrink the state’s budget deficit of $40 billion.

    Is this a wise idea? Well, “sin taxes” like those applied to drinking and smoking are, generally, intended as deterrents against an activity some government agent believes is harmful to “the public”. But discouraging people from drinking in California is like Vegas charging gamblers extra money each time they place a bet in a casino--it could have very negative consequences for economic well-being of an industry that the state relies on for a thriving economy.

    In 2005 the wine industry provided California with $3.2 billion in taxes, licenses and fees. California wineries, both as agriculture and tourism are profit-powerhouses within the American economy (California wine production has a $51.8 billion impact on California and $125.3 billion on the U.S. economy at large and provides 800,000 people with jobs), but like just about all other industries wine production is suffering through the current financial crisis. Worldwide, sales are down for wine, especially at the higher price points (though you wouldn't know it if you happened to be an economist at the white house) and things are likely to get worse as the global economy falters.

  • Stay Put, Now Go

    January 27, 2009 12:25 AM

    Today, Spiked Online features two worthwhile pieces on two different ways in which environmental correctness can be deployed to disguise class snobbery -- against two different segments of the great unwashed.

    Brendan O'Neill on how green elitists want the traveling masses to stay put:

    Under the heading ‘Chav-Free Activity Holidays’, AA [travel agency Activities Abroad] said: ‘...Children with middle-class names such as Duncan and Catherine are eight times more likely to pass their GCSEs than children with names such as Wayne and Dwayne. This got us thinking. Are there names you are likely to encounter and not encounter on an Activities Abroad holiday?’ (1) It did some quickfire research and discovered that on an AA trip you are unlikely to encounter people called ‘Britney, Kylie-Lianne, Dazza, Chardonnay, Chantelle and Candice’ (in short, thugs and slags), and are far more likely to run in to people called ‘Sarah, Alice, Lucy, Charlotte, James and Joseph’ (in short, middle class and mild)....

    AA’s anti-chav advertising tactics are disturbing, and more than a little dumb, but are they really so shocking? Poisonous snobbery towards ‘chavvy’ and working-class holidaymakers is rife today – only it tends to be expressed in code, in underhand concerns about CO2 emissions, trails of noxious gases in the blue sky, the dangers of cheap flights, and the denigration of foreign cultures by unthinking Brits. AA’s mistake was to forget the coded lingo and state out loud the prejudices that underpin new forms of oh-so-superior eco-travel. Perhaps it has done us a crude service, then, by revealing for all to see the naked loathing of the young and horizon-exploring working classes that motivates much of the contemporary debate on tourism.

  • Apparent Hold on Solis Nomination

    January 26, 2009 8:03 PM

    The confirmation of Rep. Hilda Solis (D-Calif.) as Labor Secretary has run into an unexpected delay, as an unidentified Republican senator appears to have placed a hold on her nomination. That may not prevent her nomination, since presidents get fairly wide latitude in cabinet appointments. Still, as a Las Vegas Review-Journal editorial notes today, Republican senators are right to ask more questions:

    Sen. Mike Enzi of Wyoming, ranking Republican on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, has been outspoken in his criticism of Rep. Solis' testimony in her confirmation hearing, focusing his criticism on her responses concerning the "card check" bill that would allow unions to bypass secret ballot elections in their attempts to win recognition as collective bargaining agents -- a change which organized labor has made a high priority.

    Asked Thursday whether he was satisfied with the answers given to date by Rep. Solis -- who voted for the so-called Employee Free Choice Act in the House in 2007 -- Sen. Enzi replied, "What answers? She doesn't even recognize her own record when giving the answers."

  • Krugman is Wrong - Again!

    January 26, 2009 3:05 PM

    Boy, that wacky Paul Krugman. The newly-crowned Nobel laureate (they should be allowed to wear a laurel wreath everywhere they go, so we'd know of their brilliance), fresh from revealing how little he understands the history - or purpose - of liberalism, shows he knows diddly-squat about Air Traffic Control.

    In today's column he argues, plonkingly,

    Here’s how to think about this argument: it implies that we should shut down the air traffic control system. After all, that system is paid for with fees on air tickets — and surely it would be better to let the flying public keep its money rather than hand it over to government bureaucrats. If that would mean lots of midair collisions, hey, stuff happens.

    Unfortunately for Krug, the fact is that the public sector does a pretty poor job of Air Traffic Control. Not because of large numbers of accidents - that doesn't happen anywhere much these days - but in terms of waste and inefficiency. American ATC is based on a system of beacons from the early days of air transport. Those have long since been superseded in safety terms by GPS and other innovations, but the system is still based on them. Liberalizing ATC actually makes a huge amount of sense, which is why plenty of governments around the world have done it, without seeing mid-air collisions, erm, explode. As I say in the new Agenda for Congress:

  • Robbing Driving Peter to Pay Train-Riding Paul

    January 26, 2009 11:45 AM

    Facing a budget shortfall, officials of South Florida's Tri-Rail commuter train are seeking help from the state -- or rather, from drivers who rent cars in Florida. Tri-Rail, which runs between Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach counties, wants Tallahassee to impose a $2 surcharge on car rentals to keep the train going. Thankfully, the proposal is meeting opposition. Reports The Palm Beach Post:

    But opponents, such as state Rep. Carl Domino, say the $2 fee would further depress tourism across the state.

    "In an environment where tourism is weak, do you want to send the message to tourists that they're going to have to pay even more money to come to Florida?" said Domino, R-Jupiter.

    Ever since gas hit $4 a gallon, Tri-Rail ridership figures have smashed expectations, reaching levels not thought possible until 2020, Stevens said. About 4 million riders took the train last year, 23 percent more than in 2007. Ridership has more than doubled since 2005.

    The numbers have dipped only slightly as gas prices have fallen - evidence, say officials, that those who try using the commuter rail tend to stick with it

    That a slight fare increase spread across so many new riders would boost Tri-Rail's finances should be obvious, but apparently not to the people who run Tri-Rail -- which makes state Rep. Domino's infusion of sanity especially welcome.

    "Who uses this transit system?" asked Domino. "Shouldn't the people who use it pay for it?"

  • The New Green Economy?

    January 21, 2009 4:13 PM

    I've spent a while crunching the numbers relating to energy and environment spending in the stimulus bill. The bill will spend about $80 billion on energy and environment, which can be broadly broken down into the following categorizations:

    Electricity infrastructure/efficiency - $35.6 billion
    Renewable projects - $11.95bn (mostly $8bn in loan guarantees and $2.4bn for clean coal)
    Climate science/general energy academic research - $9.3bn!!! (including $1.9 for nuclear research)
    EPA programs (Superfund cleanup etc) - $12.2bn
    Other environmental (National Forest Service, National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management etc) - $10.899bn

    So that means around $57 billion of the total is aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

    Thanks to Jonathan Tolman, we can work out how many jobs this will create. As he says, not every program gives a figure for created jobs, but about 5/8ths of them do. That $50 billion is supposed to create just under 1 million jobs, but many of these are in the traditional environmental areas of clean-up.

    Of the $57 billion aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions, just over half the expenditures have job numbers associated with them. Those total $32.3 billion, for a total of 353,000 jobs, at $91,000 per job. These are overwhelmingly related to the (much-needed) creation of a smart electricity grid, and improving the efficiency and weatherization of the housing stock, which will be a good thing even if global warming turns out not to be a problem*.

  • Whither Union Transparency?

    January 20, 2009 12:27 PM

    As Barack Obama is sworn in as the nation's 44th President today, Rep. Hilda Solis (D-Calif.) will likely be the next Secretary of Labor. As I've noted here recently, her cozy relationship with organized labor should raise concern among not only lawmakers and the public, but among rank-and-file union members who could soon find it harder to find out how union leaders spend their dues. The Department of Labor, under outgoing Secretary Elaine Chao, has enacted stronger reporting requirements. Reports The Los Angeles Times:

    The federal government has adopted new financial disclosure rules for labor organizations that officials say would help expose the sort of corruption allegedly found in the largest California chapter of the Service Employees International Union.

    The U.S. Labor Department, in the final hours of the Bush administration, has toughened standards to require most unions to publicly report nearly all compensation and expenses for officers and employees, the agency announced Friday.

    Also broadened were disclosure requirements for the sale and purchase of property, with the aim of revealing whether any union officers or employees profit from the transactions.

    In the alleged SEIU scandal, the Los Angeles-based local's former president, Tyrone Freeman, has been accused by the union of enriching himself and his family with more than $1 million in misappropriated dues money. The SEIU ousted him after The Times reported on his spending practices last summer.

    Unsurprisingly, union chiefs are howling, deriding the requirements as "onerous," and calling for them to be pulled back -- except for one.

  • How gullible are we?

    January 15, 2009 4:43 PM

    Scrolling through the $825 billion dollar monstrosity, my first question is--how many unemployed construction workers do they think there are? Don't they realize that they will be competing with the private sector beyond those currently unemployed?

    We signed our name to a blank check. (CEI opposed it.) Now they want us to sign again and again—bailout, stimulus, whatever they're calling it today.  But as Martin Hutchinson said, “Stimulus plans also raise the chance of a Great Depression because of the deficits they cause.”

    The Wall Street Journal reported today that Americans are in favor of Obama's stimulus with 89% in favor of deficit spending to create more renewable energy and energy efficiency.

    Here's some hard questions that should be asked about those "green" projects, though:

    1.How long will it take the projects to break ground?

    2. How many permanent jobs will be created and at what cost?

    3.Of those permanent jobs, are they sustainable without government subsidies? EIA has reported that solar energy is subsidized to the tune of $24.34 per megawatt hour, wind $23.37 and "clean coal" $29.81. By contrast, normal coal receives 44 cents, natural gas a mere quarter, hydroelectric about 67 cents and nuclear power $1.59.

    4.What is the current unemployment rate of the industry to be “stimulated?”


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