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    Highlights—September 4, 2004
  • U.S. Department of Labor: The History of Labor Day. Excerpt: "Labor Day differs in every essential way from the other holidays of the year in any country," said Samuel Gompers, founder and longtime president of the American Federation of Labor. "All other holidays are in a more or less degree connected with conflicts and battles of man's prowess over man, of strife and discord for greed and power, of glories achieved by one nation over another. Labor Day...is devoted to no man, living or dead, to no sect, race, or nation."

  • An Eclectic List of Events in U.S. Labor History. Excerpt: Most citizens of the United States take for granted labor laws which protect them from the evils of unregulated industry. Perhaps the majority of those who argue for "free enterprise" and the removal of restrictions on capitalist corporations are unaware that over the course of this country's history, workers have fought and often died for protection from capitalist industry. In many instances, government troops were called out to crush strikes, at times firing on protesters. Presented below are a few of the many incidents in the (too often overlooked) tumultuous labor history of this country.

  • Common Dreams Progressive Network: AFL-CIO President John J. Sweeney Remarks for Labor Day Media Roundtable. Excerpt: This Labor Day finds union members deeply and actively involved in campaigning for a fundamental change in the direction of this country because they, like other working Americans, see the bottom falling out of their basic way of life—and it’s been falling out fast in the last three and a half years under the policies of President George Bush. They see work being devalued. They see good jobs with health care and pensions becoming rare. And they see forces lined up to give more and more power to corporate interests that are driving job standards down. As I travel the country, I see what this means for working families. The plant worker whose job went to China and who now works in a grocery store for half the pay and no benefits. The middle-aged couple who both lost their jobs and are doing everything they can to hold onto their house. The I.T. worker who trained her replacement in India, can’t find another job and has exhausted her unemployment benefits. The young couple with a child who work full-time, but don’t have health insurance. I’m sure you know the statistics, but let me just remind you that President Bush promised 5 million new jobs - - and he’s 6 million jobs behind on that promise. He will be the first President since Hoover and the Great Depression to end his term with more people out of work than when he began. But it’s not just about the number of jobs. The fact is that we are losing good jobs, and those we are gaining are not as good.

  • AlterNet: No Picnic. Excerpt: Labor Day 2004 is anything but a picnic for the vast majority of America's 147 million member labor force. No matter how you slice it, most US workers are worse off than they were at this time last year. The average real wage – that is, adjusted for inflation – has actually fallen over the past year. This is in spite of the fact that the economy has grown by 4.7 percent. In other words, even when the economy is growing, most of the people who make it grow aren't getting anything out of it. This continues a long-term trend – briefly interrupted in the late 1990s – that has dominated the last 30 years. Over the last three decades the median real wage has grown by only about 8 percent. In other words, the majority of the American labor force has failed to share in the gains from economic growth. This by itself is an outrage and ought to be a major political issue in an election year. Prior to the "Age of Greed" it was normal for the wages of most workers to grow with productivity. If that had happened over the past three decades, the typical (median) family income would be more than $60,000, instead of the $43,300 that it is today. This is not a utopian "what if" scenario but rather what would have actually occurred if most American workers had not lost so much bargaining power. Most of this loss stems from policy changes rather than just "market forces." For example, the decline in union membership and strength results from legal and institutional changes that have made it extremely difficult for workers to organize unions and bargain collectively. Tens of thousands of workers are illegally fired each year for organizing or attempting to join a union, and companies can refuse to bargain with unions for years even when they are legally obligated to do so. Human Rights Watch found that the United States had a "culture of near impunity" for employers who violate basic labor rights.

  • New York Times: I.B.M. Offers $10,000 to Owners of Contaminated Houses. Excerpts: The I.B.M. Corporation announced yesterday that it was willing to pay $10,000 each to the owners of nearly 500 contaminated homes in the upstate village of Endicott if the owners give up their right to sue for property damages caused by industrial pollution. Residents have complained that ventilation systems I.B.M. has installed in their homes since 2002 to prevent toxic vapors from building up in the basements have hurt property values. Last year they asked Attorney General Eliot Spitzer for help in protecting home values. ... Residents of Endicott had a mixed reaction to the announcement of the payment program. "My gut reaction is that sounds like a buyout," said Edward M. Blaine, the director of a community outreach program who has owned a house in there for 31 years. Mr. Blaine, 52, said he was not sure that he would accept the money and give up his right to sue if he cannot sell his house at market value. "If I had to say yes or no right now I'd probably say no," he said. "I need to think about it." Joseph T. Havel has no doubt. "I'm not taking it," Mr. Havel said. "It's like a payoff, isn't it?" Mr. Havel is a taxidermist who used to work in his basement until state environmental officials discovered that the plume of groundwater contamination was giving off vapors that were seeping into the many basements, including his. He has since abandoned the basement and built a workshop in the garage. "If I tried to sell my house right now, I probably wouldn't get any more than $60,000," he said. "People across the street from me have been trying to sell for over a year." He said the house had an assessed value of $102,000.

  • Society of Actuaries: Retirement Planning - Calculating Risk of Retirement Woes. Excerpt: A new retirement calculator -- dubbed "The Retirement Probability Analyzer" -- is available from the Society of Actuaries Web site for people who want their projections to be a bit more sophisticated than those offered by most online calculators. Most free, online retirement calculators let you test the durability of your nest egg using basic factors, such as age, life-expectancy, monthly income expectations and the size of your savings. But the Retirement Probability Analyzer takes it a few steps further, by also accounting for pension assets, expected investment returns, and the effects of an immediate annuity investment. Unlike many other retirement calculators, the Retirement Probability Analyzer doesn't seek to tell people how much money they might need to retire. Instead, it aims to help retirees and near-retirees estimate -- based on the amount they have now -- how long their funds might last.

  • New York Times: Citing Higher Costs, U.S. Plans Rise in Medicare Premium. Excerpts: A day after President Bush heralded his efforts to help the elderly cope with increased medical expenses, federal officials announced the largest premium increase in dollars in the Medicare program's history, raising the monthly expense by $11.60 to $78.20. The increase, which amounts to 17 percent, results largely from increased payments to doctors and reflects rising medical expenses generally, officials said. The rise has nothing to do with a program that will start in 2006 to offer prescription drugs, for which beneficiaries must pay a separate premium. The increase immediately became grist for an increasingly contentious presidential campaign. Phil Singer, a spokesman for the Kerry campaign, released a statement saying, "After doing nothing about the record increases in the cost of health care over the last four years, George Bush is presiding over a Medicare system that is socking seniors with the largest premium hike in the program's 40-year history." Scott Stanzel, a spokesman for the Bush campaign, said that "President Bush has worked to increase health care access and affordability, including guaranteeing Medicare recipients prescription drugs."

  • Vault's IBM Business Consulting Services message board is a popular hangout for IBM BCS employees, including many employees acquired from PwC. Some sample posts follow:
    • "Any discount with Cell, DSL?" by "adios_73". Full excerpt: I will be joining IBM BCS after labor day. In the offer, nothing mentions about the discount with mobile phone plan or DSL? anybody could tell us some? In addition, which model of IBM laptop be used for BCS consultant? thanks

    • "Laugh" by "feldspar". Full excerpt: That's because BCS doesn't reimburse broadband/internet charges anymore and won't cover your mobile bill either unless you are Band 8 (Mgr) or higher, or have Partner approval. In the past, consultants were classified as "Mobile Employees" which entitled us to reimbursements for ISP, second phone line, cell, fax, printer, office supplies, etc. but the firm recently stated that consultants were technically not "Mobile" employees (what?) and reclassified all staff from "Mobile" to "Field" or "Work Partly from Home" some such status. However, you will be encouraged to sign up with one of the firm's "preferred" cellphone carriers as IBM no doubt gets some kind of financial kick-back. In return, you'll get between 5-15% off of your monthly bill, depending on the provider. Use IBM's preferred vendors anyway, as you don't want your expenses pushed back from the Accounting folks in the rare instance that your Partner approves expensing your mobile bill; you won't be reimbursed unless you're with a preferred carrier. Also keep in mind that the actual reimbursement policy for phones may vary by sector (or project), however, as I believe P&L is calculated by industry so the different sectors seem to write up their own rules. Either way, don't hold your breath. Laptop: it depends. You may get a newer model ThinkPad -- no one (except for possibly Partners and APs) receives the most current or top-of-the-line ThinkPads. They're usually a year or two or three old. If you're really unlucky, you'll get the old laptop of a consultant who recently resigned. Seems quite likely, since so many folks have been leaving.

    • "Free at last, free at last........Thank God" by "deep_eye". Full excerpt: First, a strong and heartfelt thanks to all whose insights, advice and wisdom on this board gave me the kick in the pants to get moving on a new job campaign and leave the festering environment of BCS behind. It paid off! Not only am I going, but at a 45% salary jump with a real authentic bonus plan - I know, hard to believe, but true - there really is another world out there. My hope for you all is that either things improve here, or you too, are able to transition on to an organization where you will be respected and rewarded. Second, to those of you who are convinced that this is still some kind of Shangra-La and that the posts are the rantings of a handful of complainers, hopefully, you too, will wake up and smell the brew. Life is too short to go through the meat grinder every day - good luck.

    • "Quailty (sic) vs Quantity" by "Dose of Reality". Full excerpt: The gross hire rate is definitely above plan, even though revenue and bookings are below plan. We are replacing departing staff, and resignations are much higher than plan. The other driver is the fact that at the elevated utilization targets, it is much more difficult to find the right staff available when a project is sold. The higher the overall utilization, the less “prime stock” we have on our shelves, and the less likely we will have the right product at the right time. There has been a moderate amount of “just-in-time” hiring to close these acute gaps. More important than the quantity of staff turnover and recycling is the quality of the incoming staff. From what I have seen, both the experience level and talent level of the new hires are significantly lower than that of the staff they are replacing. There are still a few pockets of experienced selling and PM talent, but they are the exception not the rule. We are getting a combination of inexperienced newbies and retreaded experienced hires whose careers have stalled and are desperately seeking “greener pastures”. Our skill leverage factors are way off-spec.

    • "A Case of chasing an ever shrinking tail" by "Dose of Reality". Full excerpt: The implied resource strategy, whether by design or due to obliqueness is to continue to recycle staff. It is clear that the effect of the compensation and reward model is to cap longevity at 2 to 3 years, at least for the performers that are not just coasting along in the bottom 25%. No one in the average to above average and up categories will stay and continue to perform with stagnant mediocre base salary and no reward for performance. We will continue to ratchet compensation and staff quality down in a self-sustaining death spiral - lower resource quality yields lower revenue, which yields lower profits and higher targets, which yields more compensation squeezes, which yields lower resource quality..... The push to make the quarterly numbers will not allow us to reverse course. We are so highly leveraged operationally that revenue contraction magnifies the effect many times over. The organizational model with its layers of management fat requires growth to sustain it. It will bottom out eventually, but we will no longer be competitive in the consulting space. We will be left with "B" players and newbies, who may eventually get some recognition, but on a different plane from where we started. No one ever saved their way to prosperity. It's a variation on a theme - We believe our people are our most critical liabilities.

    • "2004 voluntary attrition" by "tsm94". Full excerpt: In talking with several RDMs and partners the voluntary attrition rate for BCS is around 25% - 30% as of June / July for 2004. This includes people who have transferred from BCS into other lines of business within IBM. In response, we've increased our hiring plans for 2004. However, as someone else noted, those coming in are "just in time" hires and lack the experience of those being replaced. This situation is likely to get worse if BCS continues to miss targets and raises / bonuses opportunities look grim. In addition, as we watch colleagues depart, we lose our network and sense of 'belonging' (assuming it once existed)- this attrition will only increase as quality staff continue to leave and are replaced by inferior clones.

    • "It's even sadder" by "deep_eye". Full excerpt: When you really think about it. I personally know several extremely talented people who left when their requests for even meager raises were laughed out of the room. Now, IBM will pay premiums for individuals who have limited experience, skills (in some cases no skills or experience at all in the practice area they hire into)or aptitude for consulting. I've seen a few of them already, 3 months ago, their greatest concern was whether they could simultaneously hit the keg party and still be able to pass their Finance 101 final the next day - this will be the future core of BCS - Great strategy, someone should get a bonus for it.

    • "The Irony Is..." by "Dose of reality". Full excerpt: ...someone will get a bonus for it. Bonuses in the higher echelons are based on yearly profit performance. Cost reductions help in the short term. The problem is that they create a much larger "off-book" liability – the loss of organizational cohesiveness and momentum. The “payment” on this liability is due in 12 to 18 months - the amount of time it takes to run out the contracts that were sold when the current crop of experienced employees were in good faith killing themselves for their perceived career opportunity, and the amount of time it takes for a critical mass of staff to depart. Leadership will worry about that next year. That’s why we have had three years of this – it’s a vicious cycle, and we are running out of levers to pull to maintain the illusion of company health. But then again, whom do you blame? They are just playing the game according to the rules that have been set up for them.The idea of a balanced scorecard for management is just too foreign to IBM. Also, there is always another crop of fools to come in and help to bail water.

  • "ibmoptioneer": Redeployment - Round 1. Full excerpt: Colleagues, IGS will have its first major round of "re-deployments" in the next few days and weeks. This is the new way of reducing salaries, benefits and headcount without a single severance payment. The sheep will be herded and sent down the cattle chute to be shorn of their dignity then tarred and feathered. and to those of you who think this only happens to you once a year...you're in for a surprise. Plan of 2-5 "re-deployments" a year with each action reducing your salary more...

  • "ibmoptioneer": Re: notified redeployment program. Full excerpt: The "wow" is yet to come. That's when they do this (redeployment) to an employee several times a year, to reduce labor costs and keep the lower classes in check. Management now has a potentially foolproof way to create 2-tier labor force, one that has and one that doesn't have while at the same time promoting the fact they have no layoffs and markedly reduced severance expenses. Instant labor expense reductions based on market conditions. We are now no different than tools to be displayed on the wall and used and disposed of at management's will. The next stop? A brain dump to take your knowledge and make sure you can't use it anywhere else. They take everything else not attached to your body now when you leave. That's coming, my friends...and your apathy brought it.

  • "rtporbust": re: notified redeployment program. Excerpt: I am sorry to hear that you are being outsourced. Unfortunately, if you refuse the offer of comparable employment, IBM will take that as your resignation. In other words, if you refuse what they call comparable - including a cut in pay, band, and even a change in shift - then they will regard it as if you quit, instead of that you were terminated. Bottom line? You will not be able to collect unemployment insurance. No money until a new paycheck comes rolling in. This is a new, diabolical little scheme to reduce the amount of unemployment insurance IBM has to pay ... and to prevent you from collecting unemployment until you find something new - after they decided you had to go.

  • "ibmmike2006": re: notified redeployment program. Full excerpt: Brian, Now don't you wish you had a person, sitting beside you (Your Union Steward) across the table from the manager who is telling you your job is gone as a result of Offshoring with IBM chasing short term profits at the expense of long term employees??? My wife is a Union member, pays her dues and when job discussions come up like a layoff or even some personnel issue, she can request her Union Steward to sit beside her as management sitting across his big desk discusses an issue with her. There are some things that the Union cannot attend, but, those instances are rare where the steward is locked out. My wife is kind of shy, so it helps to have someone there to provide a "Check and Balance" to arrogance or demeaning conversations that can take place by a manager behind closed doors especially when they bring out the "jack boots". It keeps the manager "on their toes" which is good, lessens the manager "abuse" as there is a witness, and probably, like civil rights, is the right thing to do. She could still be laid off, but, it would have to be done with a respect and dignity for the employee and not a big black boot.

    The myth that Unions prevent layoffs is just that, a myth just propaganda by the AntiUnion folks. Unions came about because of abusive employers, forgetting that employees are "People too". I guess it is easy for those who are not in the sights and targetted...yet to hide and crawl in cracks to lower their visibility as not to be raised up to the bullseye. Everyone is a target as they age at IBM except, of course, third level and above managers. They seem to find a nitch and latch on to it until they want to retire unlike, non-management. It must give them comfort, knowing that my pension I will never see, all those years of tax writeoffs by IBM, will now be funding the IBM executives SERP and EDCP for their retirement, in the case of Sam, $677,000 a month for life with an income worth $300,000,000 if Sam lives to the ripe old age of 85 with 25 years of $8,125,000 annual SERP pension. Oh yes, $160,000 comes out of the IBM Pension Trust fund (Congress limited Pension Trust payouts) that non-executives have their pension funded from. The other $7,965,000 comes from the SERP funded from 40 something's who lost their pension due to "downsizing", the $18 Billion dollar surplus and the other older employees who were forced out before their pension maximizes in their late 50's and early 60's.

    What is the difference between civil rights of a minority, and the "civil job" rights of a non-minority employee? Do employees have rights? Oh, unlike human civil rights, job civil rights have no laws it seems. Right to work, fire at will, and get out. Look for another job, and so what your house if foreclosed, your savings is gone, and your commitment to your kids education is forfeited. If you look at the fellows, the IBM executives, these guys are all in their 50's with sights of retiring after age 60. Yet, they seem to have no respect for long term IBM employees their age and give them 30 days to find a job. What is wrong with this picture? Well, while you are employed, you can do something. Join a Union for $10 bucks a month.

  • Linda Guyer: Reasonable vs Comparable job offers. Full excerpt: To everyone here, Look at what is happening to employees, including perelandra777. IBM is setting all the terms and the rules. When the rules aren't written down, IBM gets to decide what happens to an employee. Like management discretion for severance. Like how many days does an employee get to look for another job before being ousted. Your entire job and career are decided for you. Don't you feel a bit helpless and powerless in this situation?

    Folks, if there were a union in place - and by a union I mean you and me and other employees joining together and deciding we want to be a union and represent ourselves - everything would be negotiable. We could participate in the definition of "comparable" and "reasonable". We would not have to accept IBM's definitions. We could negotiate the length of time for looking and the terms of new jobs that are acceptable. No one would be in the dark wondering what would happen to them!

    I am sorry but I've just been to the CWA National Convention where employees of companies other than IBM have no medical co-pays, have seniority if downsized for other positions in the company before any outsiders are hired, have grievance procedures that the company must adhere to, and on and on. I want to cry about what could be at IBM for employees if they would only get out of their thick shell of fear and join the union. http://www.allianceibm.org. JOIN NOW OR BE IBM ROADKILL!

  • Janet Krueger: Re: Any employees here? Excerpt: In the old days (60s and 70s), when a project was phased out, IBM would do their absolute best to find the people who were no longer needed equivalent jobs. If there were openings in other locations, but not at the original location, IBM would pay for both M&L and extensive retraining, EVEN IF there were non-IBM workers available that could be hired more cheaply. And if the people did not want to be relocated for family reasons, they were left on the payroll at the original location, and told to do 'self-education' until their skills could be utilized there...

    To name a specific example, when over 1,000 electrical engineers were no longer needed in Poughkeepsie and Kingston after FS was canned, some of them were left on the payroll in NY with nothing to do for over a year. And many were transferred to other locations and retrained into entirely different career paths. Not at all like today's IBM!!!

    And don't tell us that today's economy is different -- at the time there were few, if any, jobs available, and the competition was blissfully laying workers off without worrying about them. What did IBM get out of the deal, you might wonder... The most loyal and dedicated workforce in the country, many of whom regularly worked 100-hour work weeks without complaint if the customers needed help; definitely something that cannot be easily acquired!!!

  • "rick914": Re: Any employees here? Full excerpt: I will pipe in here since I DID go through the process. Yes I was given 30 days to find a job. When I did apply I was over qualified, or the position had just been filled (the 4 or 5 job postings that told me that are still open- still has friends inside who can look). I did have a few managers just out right tell me they needed folks but there was a division wide freeze on hiring because of the layoffs. If you applied for another division they had to have an opening for a 'new hire from the street' before you could be considered. Now Jetski I know you always know better and have been thru this process before so please tell me IBM's side of the story?

  • Communications Workers of America: Fired Comcast Worker Regains Job, Back Pay Under NLRB Settlement. Excerpt: Stephen White, who was spotlighted at the Democratic National Convention as a victim of growing corporate abuses against workers, won reinstatement to his job at Comcast Corp. White had been fired in March from his Comcast job in Montgomery County, Md., for trying to organize a union. In a settlement reached with the National Labor Relations Board that settled outstanding unfair labor practice charges, White regained his job plus back pay of more than $22,000. The Communications Workers of America filed charges on behalf of White and other Comcast workers who have been fired or otherwise punished for exercising their legal right to union representation, and has challenged the company for other anti-union tactics. CWA has been working with Comcast employees nationwide who want a union voice but have been thwarted by the company's continuing attack on worker rights.

  • Republican National Committee: Text of Bush's acceptance speech. Excerpts: Many of our most fundamental systems the tax code, health coverage, pension plans, worker training were created for the world of yesterday, not tomorrow. We will transform these systems so that all citizens are equipped, prepared and thus truly free to make your own choices and pursue your own dreams. ... Another priority in a new term will be to help workers take advantage of the expanding economy to find better, higher-paying jobs. In this time of change, many workers want to go back to school to learn different or higher-level skills. So we will double the number of people served by our principal job training program and increase funding for community colleges. I know that with the right skills, American workers can compete with anyone, anywhere in the world. ...

    As I've traveled the country, I've met many workers and small business owners who have told me they are worried they cannot afford health care. More than half of the uninsured are small business employees and their families. In a new term, we must allow small firms to join together to purchase insurance at the discounts available to big companies. We will offer a tax credit to encourage small businesses and their employees to set up health savings accounts, and provide direct help for low-income Americans to purchase them. These accounts give workers the security of insurance against major illness, the opportunity to save tax-free for routine health expenses, and the freedom of knowing you can take your account with you whenever you change jobs. And we will provide low-income Americans with better access to health care: In a new term, I will ensure every poor county in America has a community or rural health center.

    In this time of change, government must take the side of working families. In a new term, we will change outdated labor laws to offer comp-time and flex-time. Our laws should never stand in the way of a more family-friendly workplace.

    Editor's note: Excerpts from Senator John Kerry's acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention are provided in the July 31, 2004, edition of these highlights.

  • MS-NBC: Workers feel overworked, overwhelmed. Excerpts: Nearly two out of three say workload has increased this year. Excerpts: Even though the economy has added 1.5 million jobs over the past year, that has not come close to making up for the 2.6 million jobs that disappeared in the recession of 2001 and its aftermath. Employers have responded to increasing demand mainly by squeezing more out of existing workers — often after multiple rounds of layoffs. ... DiPietro said it is long past time for companies to stop rewarding employees simply on the basis of how many hours they work and to focus instead on results, a concept known as performance-based management. "With salaried employees especially it’s really difficult in many professions to stand out,” he said. The result is that many companies have a fostered culture in which workers succeed by arriving at the office before their boss, staying late, working weekends and staying in touch constantly. But there is a better way, he said. “Best-practices companies are focusing more on the achievement of goals,” he said. “It puts the focus on the more important thing which is the work — not the number of hours it takes to achieve the work.”
    • "ctman1452" comments. Excerpt: The Plutocrats dream is the middle class nightmare for us as we all are finding out if capitalism is unmoderated by government. There are only two classes in a such a capitalist society; the rich and everyone else. The main initiatives in the "Ownership society" are reducing or eliminating those government interventions and moderating programs that have evolved to enhance and better the life of most of the middle class. ... And yet his (President Bush's) folky charm like Clinton's sophisticated and well crafted words were highly on display too. Yet he and his scripted protagonists use the lowest common denominator of mind control; the "Big lie". If you say something about someone long enough and loud enough many people start to believe it; they attacked Kerry and denigrated his character to cover their lack of any real achievement for middle class America and wrapped themselves in the flag of war leadership which became a form of self fulfilling prophesy after the Iraq war was initiated. The key questions remains "Are you better off now than four years ago". Do the trends in those four years portend better times in the next four years?"

  • Communications Workers of America: Hundreds Decry Bush Assault on Overtime. Excerpt: As Bush administration rules rolling back overtime rights for millions of workers took effect Aug. 23, CWA members and hundreds of other unionists protested in front of the U.S. Department of Labor - a building one activist denounced as "the scene of the crime." Speakers blasting the new regulations included Republican Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, a steady champion of workers' rights among the Capitol's dwindling number of GOP moderates. "The fight is not over," Specter told the cheering, sign-waving crowd. "The band of Senate moderates may be small, but it can be decisive and determinative. Your voice today will be heard." By giving employers the right to reclassify many workers as administrators, executives or "learned professionals," economists project the new rules could cost at least 6 million people their right to overtime pay. The rules are the most sweeping changes ever to the 1938 Fair Labor Standards Act, which established the 40-hour workweek and required employers to pay time and a half for extra hours.

  • The Daily Mis-Lead: Bush To Alter Economic Stats Again. Excerpt: Last week, the Census Bureau released statistics showing that for the first time in years, poverty had increased for three straight years, while the number of Americans without health care increased to a record level. But instead of changing its economic and health care policies, the Bush administration today is announcing plans to change the way the statistics are compiled. The move is just the latest in a series of actions by the White House to doctor or eliminate longstanding and nonpartisan economic data collection methods. In a Bush administration press release yesterday, the Census Bureau said next week it "will announce a new economic indicator" as "an additional tool to better understand" the economy. The change in statistics is being directed by Bush political appointees and comes just 60 days from the election. It will be the first modification of Census data in 40 years.

  • TechsUnite.org: WashTech members invited to Kerry forum. Excerpts: Kerry, who arrived late, said, "I'll make this quick - I know you have to get to Canada to buy your drugs," referring to how many American who live along the Canadian border do make the trip for affordable prescription drugs. In his speech to the crowd, Kerry focused primarily on the issues of jobs, health care and the environment. He said if elected president, he would "Bring you jobs that pay you more than the jobs going overseas," addressing the major concern of tech workers: Offshoring. Kerry pointed out that the economy still hasn't recovered after three and half years of Bush policies. He said Bush's continually saying prosperity is "right around the corner," is something Herbert Hoover often said as well. Some of the statistics Kerry listed were:
    • 1.4 million Americans lost health care coverage in 2003; 5 million since Bush took office
    • Wages are down an average of $1,500/year
    • Average credit card debt is $9,000 per person
    • Someone files for personal bankruptcy every 19 seconds
    How Kerry plans to alleviate the situation is through rebuilding manufacturing; insisting on labor and environmental standards in trade agreements to give U.S. workers a fair playing field on which to compete; addressing the issues of global warming, air and water quality; research for curing diseases and investing in alternative energy. "All of these solutions create jobs," assured Kerry. Kerry stated he would make health care for all his first legislation once elected. To pay for these programs he would roll back Bush's tax cuts for the wealthy.

  • CWA News: In My Opinion: A Nation of Health Care Haves and Have-Nots. By Morton Bahr, CWA President. Excerpts: Here's a stark fact: Today, for the first time in more than 40 years, the majority of all private sector employees have no coverage at work, reports the independent Labor Research Association. Only 45 percent participated in employer health plans in 2003, a drop from 52 percent in 2000 and 66 percent in 1990, according to Labor Department figures. (Among full-time workers only, coverage dropped from 76 percent in 1990 to 56 percent in 2003.) From 2001 to 2003, that amounted to almost 9 million workers under age 65 who lost employer health benefits, according to the Center for Studying Health System Change. Not all were counted among the rising number of uninsured because many became eligible for taxpayer-funded programs for low-income workers. The number of Americans completely without health insurance coverage stood at 43.6 million in 2002, having jumped by 2.4 million in a single year.

  • CWA News: BellSouth Settlement Brings Job Security Gains, Health Care Protection. Excerpts: Intense negotiations with BellSouth Corp., produced a tentative settlement that achieves CWA's goals of strengthening job security and safeguarding health care for workers and retirees, among other gains. The agreement covers some 46,000 workers in nine states. The new five-year contract package boosts across the board wages by more than 10.5 percent over the contract term, with an additional 4 percent lump sum this year. It also provides for pension increases of 12.5 percent and team incentive awards, based on BellSouth's profitability, of 12 percent over the contract term. These awards are based on workers' total wages. CWA District 3 Vice President Jimmy Smith said the CWA bargaining team "worked very hard and successfully accomplished the goals our members set out earlier this year: improving job security, gaining access to new jobs in the growth areas of BellSouth, and of course, maintaining our quality health care for active and retired members." ... The tentative settlement preserves fully paid health care premiums for active workers and retirees. It includes some increases in health care co-payments for medical services and prescription drugs, but overall, at a much lower level than BellSouth was initially seeking from workers and retirees. Since June 14, when negotiations got underway, BellSouth had pressed for extensive health care cost shifting to workers and retirees. CWA made it clear to the company that it would work with BellSouth, as it has for decades with major employers, on measures to ensure quality health care and contain costs, but it would not accept the company's demand to shift premium costs to active and retired workers.

  • CWA News: Bush Camp to Jobless: Pop Pills, Stop Whining. Excerpt: Tell your jobless friends or those flipping burgers because they lost a higher-paying job with benefits that the "compassionate" Bush re-election team has figured out how to help: anti-depressants. "Why don't they get new jobs if they're unhappy - or go on Prozac," offered Susan Sheybani, an assistant to Bush campaign spokesman Terry Holt. Her comment, overheard by a Reuters news service reporter, came on the heels of recent advice from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce president, who said people affected by outsourcing should "stop whining." He called for even more jobs to be sent overseas, arguing in a speech in San Francisco that outsourcing is good for corporations' bottom lines.

  • New York Times commentary by Paul Krugman: Bush's Own Goal. Excerpt: A new Bush campaign ad pushes the theme of an "ownership society," and concludes with President Bush declaring, "I understand if you own something, you have a vital stake in the future of America." Call me naïve, but I thought all Americans have a vital stake in the nation's future, regardless of how much property they own. (Should we go back to the days when states, arguing that only men of sufficient substance could be trusted, imposed property qualifications for voting?) Even if Mr. Bush is talking only about the economic future, don't workers have as much stake as property owners in the economy's success? But there's a political imperative behind the "ownership society" theme: the need to provide pseudopopulist cover to policies that are, in reality, highly elitist.

    The Bush tax cuts have, of course, heavily favored the very, very well off. But they have also, more specifically, favored unearned income over earned income - or, if you prefer, investment returns over wages. Last year Daniel Altman pointed out in The New York Times that Mr. Bush's proposals, if fully adopted, "could eliminate almost all taxes on investment income and wealth for almost all Americans." Mr. Bush hasn't yet gotten all he wants, but he has taken a large step toward a system in which only labor income is taxed. The political problem with a policy favoring investment returns over wages is that a vast majority of Americans derive their income primarily from wages, and that the bulk of investment income goes to a small elite. How, then, can such a policy be sold? By promising that everyone can join the elite.

    Right now, the ownership of stocks and bonds is highly concentrated. Conservatives like to point out that a majority of American families now own stock, but that's a misleading statistic because most of those "investors" have only a small stake in the market. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that more than half of corporate profits ultimately accrue to the wealthiest 1 percent of taxpayers, while only about 8 percent go to the bottom 60 percent. If the "ownership society" means anything, it means spreading investment income more widely - a laudable goal, if achievable.

    But does Mr. Bush have a way to get us there? There's a section on his campaign blog about the ownership society, but it's short on specifics. Much of the space is devoted to new types of tax-sheltered savings accounts. People who have looked into plans for such accounts know, however, that they would provide more tax shelters for the wealthy, but would be irrelevant to most families, who already have access to 401(k)'s. Their ability to invest more is limited not by taxes but by the fact that they aren't earning enough to save more.

  • Los Angeles Times: Bush Makes His Pitch for 'Ownership Society'. The agenda includes Social Security, housing and healthcare, with people, not government, making more decisions — and more payments. Excerpt: In George W. Bush's America, there seem to be few societal problems a little ownership wouldn't help solve. Social Security in trouble? Let workers set up private accounts to partially finance their own retirements. Healthcare system broken? Get Americans to self-insure and monitor their own medical expenses. Communities in distress? Help more low-income people buy homes. ... But the very features that make the "ownership society" appealing to some demographic groups make it a potentially bad deal for others, critics said. They said the president's proposals to promote private retirement and medical savings accounts represented back-door assaults on Social Security and Medicare, the big government insurance programs that shielded millions of people from poverty by spreading risk among rich and poor, healthy and sick. If workers begin to view privatized Social Security accounts as the preferred vehicle for retirement savings, it might be easier to gradually scale back the traditional government-financed insurance pool, they said. If enough Americans open personal healthcare savings accounts, it might be easier for employers to scale back medical benefits and for government to reduce coverage under Medicare and Medicaid. "These programs were designed to be insurance systems," said former Clinton administration Labor Secretary Robert B. Reich. "If you privatize them, you leave individuals vulnerable to bad luck. The very nature of social insurance is that it is social." Opponents said the new tax-preferred savings accounts, though theoretically available to everyone, would mainly appeal to wealthy Americans with enough discretionary income to take full advantage of them. They cited studies showing that only a small percentage of Americans currently made maximum allowable contributions to 401(k) plans and Individual Retirement Accounts.

Coverage on H1-B and L1 Visa and Off-Shoring Issues
  • From Mike Emmons of http://www.OutsourceCongress.org/: Greg Spotts movie American Jobs will debut very soon. He has interviewed many people across the country, regarding job loss, replacement. We were interviewed in April and will be a part of his movie. We are the Siemens folks that were ordered to train our foreign replacement workers from Tata Consulting India in the USA on congressional H-1b and L-1 visas. He's also interviewed others from the tech industry. The movie has been noted in several newspapers across the country and from what I hear, it was previewed at the Democratic National Convention last month. News stories: Seattle Times: Outsourcing: The Movie. Orlando Business Journal: 'American Jobs' filmmaker in Orlando to interview former Siemens employees.

  • ComputerWorld: Outsourcing issue flares up at chip conference. One panelist called it 'a really bad deal for workers'. Excerpt: On Monday, the same day the California Senate passed a bill that would ban state agencies from contracting services to companies that use overseas labor, opponents and proponents of offshore outsourcing clashed at a conference at Stanford University. A panel of two venture investors, a scholar, a laid-off software engineer and two chip industry chief executives debated the issue. Most panelists came out in favor of moving jobs overseas, to the dismay of many attendees at the Hot Chips event, sponsored by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. ... Meanwhile, the California bill banning outsourcing for government agencies is expected to pass the state assembly, according to local news reports. The bill will then land on the desk of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who has yet to take a position on it.

  • CNET News.com: For CEOs, offshoring pays. Excerpts: Chief executive officers at the companies shipping the most U.S. jobs overseas seem to be pocketing some of the savings, according to a new report. The study, published by two groups concerned with economic inequality, found that average CEO compensation at the 50 firms outsourcing the most service jobs abroad increased by 46 percent in 2003. CEOs at the 365 large companies surveyed by Business Week only saw an average raise of 9 percent, according to the report from the Institute for Policy Studies and United for a Fair Economy. ... "These 50 CEOs seem to be personally benefiting from a trend that has already cost hundreds of thousands of U.S. jobs and is projected to cost millions more over the next decade," the report said.

  • Associated Press: Labor Secretary Defends Job Outsourcing. Excerpts: "People talk about (outsourcing) a lot," Chao said in an interview after appearing before Missouri delegates at the Republican convention. "The anxiety belies the numbers." Vice presidential candidate John Edwards seized on Chao's remarks and called it another example of President Bush's misguided economic policies. "Today a member of his cabinet said that outsourcing American jobs overseas creates jobs," Edwards said. "Like most Americans, I have no idea how they could say that." Chao said the administration is concerned about every lost job, but realizes job shuffling is part of a dynamic economy that constantly requires workers to get new training.

  • CIO Today: U.S. Election 2004: The Offshoring Factor. Excerpts: Not everyone agrees that government is powerless to solve the offshoring dilemma. "Politicians could take the savings back by taxing and red-taping offshore outsourcing to death," W.C. Bradley CIO Jim Poole says. "Companies that commit to offshore outsourcing now may regret it after the election." ... But are politicians prepared to take action? Yes, says presidential candidate John Kerry. "We should not have an economic strategy that celebrates outsourcing or treats it as always inevitable. We live in a global economy and we cannot and should not stop outsourcing. But we should not encourage outsourcing with special breaks and a failure to enforce our trade agreements and trade laws," Katie McCormick Louieveld, a member of Kerry's campaign economic policy team, told NewsFactor's CIO Today. President Bush also was given an opportunity to address the issue with NewsFactor's CIO Today, but neither his campaign officials nor his White House staff wanted to comment. Instead, Ali Harden, a campaign publicist, said, in effect, that the President was too busy to comment. ... There also could be a security risk to shipping jobs and technology overseas. "John Kerry is very concerned that much of the critical technological inputs for our national defense and homeland security are being outsourced to foreign countries. He believes this has the potential to threaten our national security. That is why he supports stronger 'Buy American' guidelines for defense and homeland security," says Louieveld. ... Voters will decide at the polls which candidate's tax cut plan is most likely to save jobs. President Bush believes tax cuts to companies will create more jobs at home -- a claim disputed by the findings of the U.S. Labor Department and every technical worker now seeking employment at the local Wal-Mart. Kerry believes giving tax cuts to companies that create jobs for Americans at home, and enforcing trade agreements so that jobs exported are better balanced with jobs imported, is the answer.

Now on the Alliance@IBM Site:
  • Yahoo! News: R.I.P. - The American Call Center? Excerpts: Offshoring clearly has become an entrenched trend in the contact-center industry. Some 3,000 U.S. call centers will close by 2008, according to a new report by Datamonitor.

  • Voice of America union Local question new direction of Broadcasting.

  • Endicott Interconnect Technologies Employees' Page (updated 08/17/04). Excerpt: EI now has a serious attrition problem along with EI business plan bugs. Daily, EI employees are resigning for new jobs. We just heard that 600 applications and resumes sent to Lockheed Martin, came from EI employees! A unionized EI could help stop some attrition and help attract new employees and benefit everyone at EI, including owners. EI fired two project managers in EI's Panel Manufacturing business. The reasons for these dismissals are not clear; however, once again these firings represent the loss of long term expertise at this fledgling company. As it stands, EI has lost the trust of the workforce and promises are not enough. EI employees need contracts, to restore any faith in the EI business venture. It would be a good business move for EI to start working with the Alliance@ IBM/CWA Local 1701. Something needs to be done to keep the expertise of the former IBM employees at EI. A labor contract would be a good start.
In Politics:
  • American Progress Action Fund: President Bush: Flip-Flopper-In-Chief

  • Nailing the frames of the Republican National Convention, by George Lakoff, professor of linguistics at UC Berkeley.

  • In These Times: We’re Not in Lake Wobegon Anymore, by Garrison Keillor. Excerpt: Something has gone seriously haywire with the Republican Party. Once, it was the party of pragmatic Main Street businessmen in steel-rimmed spectacles who decried profligacy and waste, were devoted to their communities and supported the sort of prosperity that raises all ships. They were good-hearted people who vanquished the gnarlier elements of their party, the paranoid Roosevelt-haters, the flat Earthers and Prohibitionists, the antipapist antiforeigner element. The genial Eisenhower was their man, a genuine American hero of D-Day, who made it OK for reasonable people to vote Republican. He brought the Korean War to a stalemate, produced the Interstate Highway System, declined to rescue the French colonial army in Vietnam, and gave us a period of peace and prosperity, in which (oddly) American arts and letters flourished and higher education burgeoned—and there was a degree of plain decency in the country. Fifties Republicans were giants compared to today’s. Richard Nixon was the last Republican leader to feel a Christian obligation toward the poor.


"The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have too much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little." — Franklin D. Roosevelt
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