The bad news? A record number of people are on food stamps, unemployment benefits are getting cut in states across the country, and the Women, Infants, and Children nutritional assistance program could get cut. The wealthy paying 25 percent less in taxes than in the 1990s doesn't really help things, and adding insult to injury, Eric Cantor says that unemployment benefits are "pumping up" the jobless. And the graph at upper right? Yup, that's happening.
A few good things did get talked about this week, like a jobs program for veterans—particularly important in light of this diary by Downtowner—some ideas for better manufacturing policy and a bill being introduced in the Senate to end discrimination against unemployed job applicants. Stitch those three ideas and about a dozen more like them together and you have the beginnings of an actual jobs plan. But don't worry! Republicans have a plan—to eliminate 300,000 jobs.
In the workplace
Union organizing and contracts
Most union organizing drives and negotiations never make it into the public eye; they may show up in local news here and there, but unless you pay attention you don't hear much about them. So here's a small sampling of little skirmishes in the war on workers going on around the country.
- It's not just the Onion News Network. Workers at another nonfiction (aka reality) television production company, Optomen Television, have joined the Writers Guild of America East. Optomen produces shows including Monsters Inside Me, Samantha Brown’s Great Weekends, and Worst Cooks in America. Contract negotiations at two other reality production companies are set to begin in the next week.
- Via the AFL-CIO blog:
Members of the United Steelworkers (USW) employed at 13 paper mill sites in 10 states ratified a new four-year master economic agreement with Georgia-Pacific. The agreement establishes the terms for USW-represented Georgia-Pacific mills.
- This one did not end well for workers or patients: Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center in Santa Fe, NM, pushed for and won a contract that makes it easier for management to short-staff shifts and prevents nurses and technical workers from refusing to work overtime. So patients end up with inadequate staffing levels and exhausted nurses.
- Lockout, lockout, and another lockout, this one ending for better or for worse, depending who you talk to. These days, when workers and management can't agree on a new contract, workers don't go on strike; management locks them out.
Workplace safety has its place in discussion of the war on workers because while accidents do happen, it's important to understand that a lot of "accidents" are because companies have disregard for their employees' safety, and that strong regulations and enforcement are enormously important. When someone dies or is injured because of foreseeable hazards that went unfixed, it's a lot less accidental than it should be. Do we live in a society that has regulations and enforces them, or not?
- In Colorado, a grain elevator company pleaded guilty to workplace safety violations leading to the death of a teenage worker:
When he was killed, Rigsby was 15 feet off the ground performing a job called "walking the grain," in which workers step around the edge of a grain bin, dislodging clumps as they flow into the container.
Rigsby lost his footing at a hatch opening for the bin. He was sucked inside, where the weight of the grain crushed his chest, prosecutors said.
The teenager was not equipped with a safety harness.
- In the world of safety violations, "serious" means that serious injury or death could result, and "willful" means the violation involves voluntary disregard. A small sampling of cases showing up in local news: In Connecticut, a filter manufacturing plant got its initial $121,000 fine knocked down to $63,000 over 29 safety violations, 24 of them serious. In Wisconsin, a company faces up to $378,000 in fines for 18 violations, 13 of them willful; as we see in the previous case, that fine is very likely to be cut significantly. In New Jersey, a company faces up to $135,000 in fines for two willful and 18 serious violations.