Category: Union Matters

Even Super Good Times Sometimes Stop Rolling

Sam Pizzigati

Sam Pizzigati Editor, Too Much online magazine

India’s self-styled “King of the Good Times,” the Kingfisher beer and airline baron Vijay Mallya, seems to be in store for lots of not-so-good times. This past September, a local court ordered the sale of the super yacht Mallya had abandoned in Malta — complete with 40 crewmembers — after his arrest in London on fraud and money-laundering charges. Earlier this month, another court ruling awarded the abandoned crew almost $1 million in back pay. Mallya is now fighting extradition to India. The cells in India’s Mumbai Central Prison, he’s complained to British authorities, lack natural light. The 62-year-old is also tweeting regularly that he’s not getting “fair treatment” from politicians and the media. Mallya’s yacht, meanwhile, has begun a new life as a charter boat renting for $850,000 per week.

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What's Wrong with GM?

Corporations’ stranglehold on our economy was put on further display last week, when General Motors announced it was laying off up to 14,000 workers across North America.

On a special episode of “State of the Unions,” co-host Tim Schlittner talked with AFL-CIO Industrial Union Council Executive Director Brad Markell, a lifelong UAW member, about what the layoffs say about the state of the economy as a whole:

Tim Schlittner: “Reading the CEO’s statement, Mary Barra, where she says this is about making GM agile, resilient and profitable, then thinking about all the stock buybacks, thinking about some of the incentives they got in the tax law that just passed. Mary Barra made about $22 million last year—that’s 295 times more than the GM median employee—my feeling is like this is crap. That’s just a crap excuse for hoarding more at the top, at the expense of the workers that make GM go. Am I wrong to say that?”

Brad Markell: “I think there are a couple issues there from my point of view. Mary Barra makes a lot of money and executive pay is out of control in this country. Part of what’s the problem with executive pay is how is it incentivized? It’s not that Mary Barra making $22 million is going to kill the company. It’s what does she do to get there, right? What does she do to make those cuts and—and those things that Wall Street wants to see because so much of it’s stock options—so instead of playing to the real economy, you’re playing to Wall Street. That’s a problem.”

Tim Schlittner: “And the stock went up that day. So Wall Street saw this decision to close these plants and basically took that as a positive sign, which shows to me an economy that is completely out of whack.”

Take a listen to the full episode here.

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Charmer Has a Severe Case of Upper Class Angst

Sam Pizzigati

Sam Pizzigati Editor, Too Much online magazine

The business press has pinned the label “charming” on Iain Tait, the 40-something with an inside track at becoming the top banana at one of the UK wealthy’s top wealth managers. But Tait himself acknowledges that money managers can be “strongly opinionated” and “picky.” What these days has Tait at his prickly pickiest? The prospect of Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn becoming the UK’s next prime minister. His wealthy clients, Tait told one British journalist last week, are worrying themselves sick about Corbyn’s egalitarian, pro-worker leanings: “It is now, without a doubt, the first thing that clients ask us: ‘What can we do to protect our wealth against Corbyn?’” Fears about Corbyn, Tait adds, “have doubled over the past couple of weeks.” What are Tait and his wealthy pals not particularly worried about? The new stats showing that British workers have just experienced the weakest paycheck decade since the 1870s.

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New NAFTA’s Not Done

The leaders of the United States, Canada and Mexico held a signing ceremony last week at the G-20 summit to advance the “new NAFTA” agreement. But as politicians celebrated thousands of miles away, working people made clear that the job isn’t done. “Despite today’s theatrics, the work of fixing NAFTA is far from over,” said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka (UMWA). “As it stands, this agreement has not earned the support of America’s working families. Without major improvements, this supposed overhaul will prove to be nothing more than a rebranded corporate handout.” 

Negotiators still have a long way to go in crafting a reformed North American Free Trade Agreement that truly advances the needs of working people. President Trumka lined out a few key steps, including:

  • Swift and certain enforcement mechanisms, including comprehensive Mexican labor law reform and a strong U.S. implementation bill.
  • Securing tools to combat outsourcing in key sectors such as aerospace, meatpacking, food processing and call centers.
  • Tightening auto rules of origin.
  • Eliminating rules that keep prescription medicine prices sky high and interfere with the creation of workplace safety and other public interest protections.

“Working people have lived through the devastation of failed, corporate-written trade deals for too long,” said President Trumka. “That’s why we will continue the fight for an agreement that creates good jobs and raises wages here at home while protecting the rights and dignities of workers across all borders.”

Feds Find Kentucky Fails To Meet Standards For Worker Safety

From NPR

Kentucky is one of 28 states that OSHA has granted permission to run their own worker safety programs.  Every year, federal OSHA conducts an audit of all the state plans to ensure they are "at least as effective" as the federal agency at identifying and preventing workplace hazards.

This year, they’ve found that Kentucky is not meeting that standard, and Lisa Hobbs agrees.

In December 2016, Lisa’s husband, Pius “Gene” Hobbs, was raking gravel with the Meade County public works crew when a dump truck backed over him. On the loud worksite, Hobbs couldn’t hear the backup beeper and was crushed to death.

More than a year later, Lisa still worried about the truck endangering others, and she had reason to feel that way—the crew’s truck beeper was gone.

Listen to this special NPR report about the state of Kentucky’s failing worker safety program and how they had to investigate 44 deaths within a two-year period.

3.4 Million American Jobs Wiped Out by U.S.-China Trade

Scott Paul and Robert E. Scott join Leslie Marshall to discuss a new EPI report entitled, "The China toll deepens: Growth in the bilateral trade deficit between 2001 and 2017 cost 3.4 million U.S. jobs, with losses in every state and congressional district."

Scott Paul is President of the Alliance for American Manufacturing (AAM), a partnership established by some of America’s leading manufacturers and the United Steelworkers union.

Robert E. Scott is Senior Economist and Director of Trade and Manufacturing Policy Research at the Economic Policy Institute (EPI).
EPI is a nonprofit, nonpartisan think tank created in 1986 to include the needs of low- and middle-income workers in economic policy discussions.

 

In Australia, ‘Sound and Fury, Signifying Nothing’

Sam Pizzigati

Sam Pizzigati Editor, Too Much online magazine

In Australia, people still get angry about CEO pay packages that would draw a ho-hum in the United States, and that has John Mullen, the board chair at Aussie telecom giant Telstra, more than somewhat bent out of shape. At Telstra’s annual meeting earlier this month, 62 percent of the company’s shareholders gave an advisory thumbs down to the $4.5 million the Telstra board has okayed for CEO Andy Penn. That brought Mullen to his feet for a “furious” retort. He told the Telstra board’s critics to “get real” about the tough business climate the company is facing. Corporate directors, he went on, don’t “sit around like witches of Macbeth scheming as to how they can manipulate incentive schemes to give improper benefit to already excessive executive salaries.” Mullen’s “staunchly” delivered defense of CEO Penn, who this past June announced a plan to lay off 8,000 workers, left critics distinctly unimpressed. Last year, economist Jason Murphy points out, Aussie CEO pay overall increased six times faster than worker wages.

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Reposted from Sam Pizzigati

In New York, the Art of a Deal Gone Bitterly Bad

Sam Pizzigati

Sam Pizzigati Editor, Too Much online magazine

“If you gain fame, power, or wealth,” the philosopher Philip Slater once noted, “you won’t have any trouble finding lovers, but they will be people who love fame, power, or wealth.” Tell me about it, David Mugrabi might be thinking right about now. The billionaire art dealer and his wife Libbie Mugrabi are currently contesting a bitter divorce that has the New York couple in and out of the courts and the headlines. In July, the two tussled in a tug-of-war over a $500,000 20-inch-tall Andy Warhol sculpture. Libbie claims the incident had her fearing for her life, and a friend has testified that David angrily called her and Libbie “low-lifes” and “gold-diggers.” The latest installment: Last Tuesday, lawyers argued over how much Libbie should get for a vacation she and their two kids will be taking this Thanksgiving. Libbie’s lawyer asked for an amount commensurate with the couple’s “$3.5-million-a-year lifestyle.” The judge okayed $4,000, then added: “No one’s going to starve in this family.”

Your Vote is the Last Line of Defense Against One-Party Control

Hugh J. Campbell

Hugh J. Campbell Son of a steelworker, Philadelphia, Pa.

The bottom line of Adam Serwer’s The Guardrails Have Failed is: “As for Kavanaugh, every opinion he writes, every decision he joins, and every day he sits on the bench will be tainted with illegitimacy.” Senators who represent a shrinking portion of the population confirmed a justice more Americans oppose than support. He was nominated by a president for whom most of the electorate did not vote. Republican control of the three branches of government is countermajoritarian. With the guardrails of separated powers broken, the last remaining defense for American democracy and the rule of law is the electorate itself.

Since April 8, 2017, when Neil Gorsuch became Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, the United States Government has been controlled by one political party. Why is this important?

In his Oct. 15, 2011 Senate Judiciary Committee testimony on separation of powers, Justice Antonin Scalia tells us: The real constitution of the Soviet Union, that constitution did not prevent the centralization of power in one person or in one party. And when that happens, the game is over, the Bill of Rights is just what our Framers would call a “parchment guarantee.”

Unless the Republican party ceases to control the legislative branch of the U.S. government in January, 2019, centralization of power will continue in one party, the Republican Party, for another 24 months, and if Donald Trump has his way, that centralization of power will be in one person.

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Keeping Cancer Cures a Corporate Profit Center

Sam Pizzigati

Sam Pizzigati Editor, Too Much online magazine

Who knew fighting cancer could be so lucrative? Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center CEO Craig Thompson, for one. Last year, Thompson pulled down nearly $600,000 in cash and stock from his service on two for-profit drug company boards, all on top of his $6.7 million in Sloan Kettering pay the year before. No wonder Thompson looked the other way while his chief medical officer “failed to disclose” in medical journal articles that he had received millions from companies that could be banking on matters he was writing about. In September, that scandal went public, and Thompson at first insisted that working with for-profit companies must remain a priority. Last week, amid mounting public outrage, Thompson retreated and announced he would resign his corporate board seats. But the real scandal remains: a hospital-Big Pharma complex that focuses single-mindedly on patentable pharmaceuticals that generate huge returns for corporate execs and shareholders.

Union Matters

Even Super Good Times Sometimes Stop Rolling

Sam Pizzigati

Sam Pizzigati Editor, Too Much online magazine

India’s self-styled “King of the Good Times,” the Kingfisher beer and airline baron Vijay Mallya, seems to be in store for lots of not-so-good times. This past September, a local court ordered the sale of the super yacht Mallya had abandoned in Malta — complete with 40 crewmembers — after his arrest in London on fraud and money-laundering charges. Earlier this month, another court ruling awarded the abandoned crew almost $1 million in back pay. Mallya is now fighting extradition to India. The cells in India’s Mumbai Central Prison, he’s complained to British authorities, lack natural light. The 62-year-old is also tweeting regularly that he’s not getting “fair treatment” from politicians and the media. Mallya’s yacht, meanwhile, has begun a new life as a charter boat renting for $850,000 per week.

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Who Really Pays for Tax Cuts?

Who Really Pays for Tax Cuts?