Article 43

 

Monday, May 21, 2012

The Rise Of The New Economy Movement Part 1

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Truth has a power of its own. Art has a power of its own. That age-old lesson that everything we do matters ֖ is the meaning of the peoples struggle here in the United States and everywhere. A poem can inspire a movement. A pamphlet can spark a revolution. Civil disobedience can arouse people and provoke us to think, when we organize with one another, when we get involved, when we stand up and speak out together, we can create a power no government can suppress. We live in a beautiful country. But people who have no respect for human life, freedom, or justice have taken it over. It is now up to all of us to take it back.
- Howard Zinn.

Solidarity has always been key to political and economic advance by working families, and it is key to mastering the politics of globalization.
- Thomas Palley

By Gar Alperovitz
AlterNet
May 20, 2012

As our political system sputters, a wave of innovative thinking and bold experimentation is quietly sweeping away outmoded economic models. In ‘New Economic Visions’, a special five-part AlterNet series edited by Economics Editor Lynn Parramore in partnership with political economist Gar Alperovitz of the Democracy Collaborative, creative thinkers come together to explore the exciting ideas and projects that are shaping the philosophical and POLITICAL VISION of the movement that could take our economy back.

Just beneath the surface of traditional media attention, something vital has been gathering force and is about to explode into public consciousness. “The New Economy Movement” is a far-ranging coming together of organizations, projects, activists, theorists and ordinary citizens committed to rebuilding the American political-economic system from the ground up.

The broad goal is democratized ownership of the economy for THE 99 PERCENT in an ecologically sustainable and participatory community-building fashion. The name of the game is practical work in the here and now - and a hands-on process that is also informed by big picture theory and in-depth knowledge.

Thousands of real world projects—from solar-powered businesses to worker-owned cooperatives and STATE-OWNED BANKS—are underway across the country. Many are self-consciously understood as attempts to develop working prototypes in state and local “laboratories of democracy” that may be applied at regional and national scale when the right political moment occurs.

The movement includes young and old, Occupy people, student activists, and what one older participant describes as thousands o people in their 60s from the ‘60s” rolling up their sleeves to apply some of the lessons of an earlier movement.

Explosion of Energy

A powerful trend of hands-on activity includes a range of economic models that change both ownership and ecological outcomes. Co-ops, for instance, are very much on target - especially those which emphasize participation and green concerns. The Evergreen Cooperatives in a desperately poor, predominantly black neighborhood of Cleveland, Ohio are a leading example. They include a worker-owned solar installation and weatherization co-op; a state-of-the-art, industrial-scale commercial laundry in a LEED-Gold certified building that usesand therefore has to heat - only around a third of the water of other laundries; and a soon-to-open large scale hydroponic greenhouse capable of producing three million head of lettuce and 300,000 pounds of herbs a year. Hospitals and universities in the area have agreed to use the co-ops services, and several cities - including Pittsburgh, Atlanta, Washington, DC and Amarillo, Texas are now exploring similar efforts.

Other models fit into what author Marjorie Kelly calls the “generative economy” - efforts that inherently nurture the community and respect the natural environment. Organic Valley is a cooperative dairy producer in based in Wisconsin with more than $700 million in revenue and nearly 1,700 farmer-owners. Upstream 21 Corporation is a socially responsible holding company that purchases and expands sustainable small businesses. Greyston Bakery is a Yonkers, New York “B-Corporation” (a new type of corporation designed to benefit the public) that was initially founded to provide jobs for neighborhood residents. Today, Greystone generates around $6.5 million in annual sales.

Recently, the United Steelworkers union broke modern labor movement tradition and entered into a historic agreement with the Mondragn Cooperative Corporation and the Ohio Employee Ownership Center to help build worker-owned cooperatives in the United States along the lines of a new union-co-op model.

The movement is also serious about building on earlier models. More than 130 million Americans, in fact, already belong to one or another form of cooperativeand especially the most widely known form: the credit union. Similarly, there are some 2,000 municipally owned utilities, a number of which are ecological leaders. (Twenty-five percent of American electricity is provided by co-ops and public utilities.) Upwards of 10 million Americans now also work at some 11,000 employee-owned firms (ESOP companies).

More than 200 communities also operate or are establishing community land trusts that take land and housing out of the market and preserve it for the community. And hundreds of
“social enterprises” use profits for social or community serving goals. Beyond these efforts, roughly 4,500 Community Development Corporations and 1.5 million non-profit organizations currently operate in every state in the nation.

The movement is also represented by the “Move Your Money” and “bank transfer” day campaigns, widespread efforts to shift millions of dollars from corporate giants like BANK OF AMERICA to one or another form of democratic or community-benefiting institution. Related to this are other “new banking” strategies. Since 2010, 17 states, for instance, have considered legislation to set up PUBLIC BANKS ALONG THE LINES OF THE LONG-STANDING BANK OF NORTH DAKOTA.

Several cities - including Los Angeles and Kansas City - have passed “responsible banking” ordinances that require banks to reveal their impact on the community and/or require city officials to only do business with banks that are responsive to community needs. Other cities, like San Jose and Portland, are developing efforts to move their money out of Wall Street banks and into other commercial banks, community banks or credit unions. Politicians and activists in San Francisco have taken this a step further and proposed the creation of a publicly owned municipal bank.

There are also a number of innovative non-public, non-co-op banks - including the New Resource Bank in San Francisco, founded in 2006 with a vision of bringing new resources to sustainable businesses and ultimately creating more sustainable communities.Ӕ Similarly, One PacificCoast Bank, an Oakland-based certified community development financial institution, grew out of the desire to create a sustainable, meaningful community development bank and a supporting nonprofit organization.Ӕ And One United Bankthe largest black-owned bank in the country with offices in Los Angeles, Boston and Miami - has financed more than $1 billion in loans, most in low-income neighborhoods.

Ex-JP Morgan managing director John Fullerton has added legitimacy and force to the debate about new directions in finance at the ecologically oriented Capital Institute. And in several parts of the country, alternative currencies have long been used to help local community buildingnotably דBerkShares in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, and ԓIthaca Hours in Ithaca, New York.

Active protest efforts are also underway. The Occupy movement, along with many others, has increasingly used direct action in support of new banking directionsԗand in clear opposition to old. On April 24, 2012 over 1,000 people protested bank practices at the Wells Fargo shareholder meeting in San Francisco. Similar actions, some involving physical occupationsӔ of bank branches, have been occurring in many parts of the country since the Occupy movement started in 2011. Large-scale demonstrations occurred at the Bank of Americas annual shareholder meeting in May 2012.

What to do about large-scale enterprise in a “new economy” is also on the agenda. A number of advocates, like Boston College professor Charles Derber, contemplate putting worker, consumer, environmental, or community representatives of “stakeholder groups” on corporate boards. Others point to the Alaska Permanent Fund which invests a significant portion of the state’s mineral revenues and returns dividends to citizens as a matter of right. Still others, like David Schweickart and Richard Wolff, propose system-wide change that emphasizes one or another form of worker ownership and management. (In the Schweickart version, smaller firms would be essentially directly managed by workers; large-scale national firms would be nationalized but also managed by workers.) A broad and fast-growing group seeks to end corporate personhood,Ӕ and still others urge a reinvigoration of anti-trust efforts to reduce corporate power. (Breaking up banks deemed too big to fail is one element of this.)

In March 2012, the Left Forum held in New York also heard many calls for a return to nationalization. And even among Small is BeautifulӔ followers of the late E. F. Schumacher, a number recall this historic build-from-the-bottom-up advocates argument that ғ[w]hen we come to large-scale enterprises, the idea of private ownership becomes an absurdity. (Schumacher continuously searched for national models that were as supportive of community values as local forms.)

Theory and Action

A range of new theorists have also increasingly given intellectual muscle to the movement. Some, like Richard Heinberg, stress the radical implications of ending economic growth. Former presidential adviser James Gustav Speth calls for restructuring the entire system as the only way to deal with ecological problems in general and growth in particular. David Korten has offered an agenda for a new economy which stresses small Main Street business and building from the bottom up. (Korten also co-chairs a “New Economy Working Group” with John Cavanagh at the Institute of Policy Studies.) Juliet Schor has proposed a vision of “Plentitude” oriented in significant part around medium-scale high tech industry. My own work on a Pluralist Commonwealth emphasizes a community-building system characterized by a mix of democratized forms of ownership ranging from small co-ops all the way up to public/worker-owned firms where large scale cannot be avoided.

Writers like Herman Daly and David Bollier have also helped establish theoretical foundations for fundamental challenges to endless economic growth, on the one hand, and the need to transcend privatized economics in favor of a “commons understanding,” on the other. The awarding in 2009 of the Nobel Prize to Elinor Ostrom for work on commons-based development underlined recognition at still another level of some of the critical themes of the movement.

Around the country, thinkers are clamoring to meet and discuss new ideas. The New Economy Institute, led primarily by ecologists and ecological economists, hoped to attract a few hundred participants to a gathering to be held at Bard College in June 2012. The event sold out almost two months in advance! An apologetic email went out turning away hundreds who could not be accommodated with the promise of much bigger venue the next year.

And that’s just one example. From April to May 2012, the Social Venture Network held its annual gathering in Stevenson, Washington. The Public Banking Institute gathered in Philadelphia. The National Center for Employee Ownership met in Minneapolisalso to record-breaking attendance. And the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies (BALLE) held a major conference in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Other events planned for 2012 include the Consumer Cooperative Management Associationגs meeting in Philadelphia; the U.S. Federation of Worker Cooperatives gathering in Boston; a Farmer Cooperatives conference organized by the University of Wisconsin Center for Cooperatives; and meetings of the National Community Land Trust Network and the Bioneers. The American Sustainable Business Council, a network of 100,000 businesses and 300,000 individuals, has been holding ongoing events and activities throughout 2012.

Daunting Challenges

The New Economy Movement is already energetically involved in an extraordinary range of activities, but it faces large-scale, daunting challenges. The first of these derives from the task it has set for itself - nothing less than changing and democratizing the very essence of the American economic systems institutional structure.

Even viewed as a long-range goal, the movement obviously confronts the enormous entrenched power of an American political economic system dominated by very large banking and corporate interests - and bolstered by a politics heavily dependent on the financial muscle of elites at the top. (One recent calculation is that 400 individuals at the top now own more wealth than the bottom 160 million.)

A second fundamental challenge derives from the increasingly widespread new economy judgment that economic growth must ultimately be reduced, indeed, even possibly ended if the dangers presented by climate change are to be avoided, and if resource and other environmental limits are to be responsibly dealt with.

Complicating all this is the fact that most labor unions - the core institution of the traditional progressive alliance - are committed to growth as absolutely essential (as the economy is now organized) to maintaining jobs.

History dramatizes the implacable power of the existing institutionsחuntil, somehow, that power gives way to the force of social movements. Most of those in the New Economy movement understand the challenge as both immediate and long-term: how to put an end to the most egregious social and economically destructive practices in the near term; how to lay foundations for a possible transformation in the longer term.

And driving the movements steady build up, day by day, year by year, is the growing economic and social pain millions of Americans now experience in their own lives - and a sense that something fundamental is wrong. The New Economy Movement speaks to this reality, and just possibly, despite all the obstaclesas with the civil rights, feminist, environmental and so many other earlier historic movements - it, too, will overcome. If so, the integrity of its goals and the practicality of its developmental work may allow it to help establish foundations for the next great progressive era of American history. It is already adding positive vision and practical change to everyday life.

Gar Alperovitz, Lionel R. Bauman Professor of Political Economy at the University of Maryland, is a Founding Principal of The Democracy Collaborative, as well as historian, political economist, and writer.

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Posted by Elvis on 05/21/12 •
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Sunday, May 20, 2012

Rise Of The Union Lockout

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Even minimum wage jobs are hard to find. So should I go do some strike work or go to a homeless shelter next month? I mean if these guys dont want to WORK I do.
- Rising Of The Telcom Underclass Part 8

You work everyday. You work hard. Your performance review is stellar. The company is massively profitable. This makes you happy, as it is your contribution put to fruition. High fives all around. The executives take a pay raise for OUTSTANDING LEADERSHIP. The investors get a huge dividend. You get a pay cut.
- Slashdot

Solidarity has always been key to political and economic advance by working families, and it is key to mastering the politics of globalization.
- Thomas Palley

More Lockouts as Companies Battle Unions

By Steve Greenhouse
NY Times
January 22, 2012

America’s unionized workers, buffeted by layoffs and stagnating wages, face another phenomenon that is increasingly throwing them on the defensive: lockouts.

From the COOPER TIRE factory in Findlay, Ohio, to a country club in Southern California and sugar beet processing plants in North Dakota, employers are turning to lockouts to press their unionized workers to grant concessions after contract negotiations deadlock. Even the New York City Opera locked out its orchestra and singers for more than a week before settling the dispute last Wednesday.

Many Americans know about the highly publicized lockouts in professional sports - like last years 130-day lockout by the National Football League and the 161-day lockout by the National Basketball Association - but lockouts, once a rarity, have been used in less visible industries as well.

“This is a sign of increased employer militancy,” said Gary Chaison, a professor of industrial relations at Clark University. Lockouts were once so rare they were almost unheard of. “Now, not only are employers increasingly on the offensive and trying to call the shots in bargaining, but they’re backing that up with action - in the form of lockouts.”

The number of strikes has declined to just one-sixth the annual level of two decades ago. That is largely because labor unions ranks have declined and because many workers worry that if they strike they will lose pay and might also lose their jobs to permanent replacement workers.

Lockouts, on the other hand, have grown to represent a record percentage of the nation’s work stoppages, according to Bloomberg BNA, a Bloomberg subsidiary that provides information to lawyers and labor relations experts. Last year, at least 17 employers imposed lockouts, telling their workers not to show up until they were willing to accept managements contract offer.

Perhaps nowhere is the battle more pitched than at American Crystal Sugar, the nation’s largest sugar beet processor.

Last summer, contract negotiations bogged down, with the company insisting that its workers agree to higher payments for health coverage, more outsourcing and many other concessions. Shortly after the 1,300 unionized workers - spread among five plants in North Dakota, Minnesota and Iowa - voted overwhelmingly to reject those demands, the company locked them out and hired replacement workers.

That was on Aug. 1, more than five months ago, and since then the workers and their families have been scrounging to make ends meet. Some face foreclosure and utility disconnection notices.

American Crystal has hired more than 900 replacement workers to keep its plants running. Federal law allows employers to hire such workers during a lockout, although they cannot permanently replace regular employees. Employers can pay the replacements lower wages, although as is the case with American Crystal, the companies sometimes need to offer higher wages and help pay for housing to attract replacements.

With many private-sector labor unions growing smaller and weaker, and with public-sector unions under attack in numerous states, some employers think the time is ideal to use lockouts, a forceful approach they were once reluctant to use.

Many employers, though, say they have little choice.

Robert Batterman, a labor lawyer who represents employers, said whether it was the N.F.L. or Sothebys, which locked out 43 art handlers in Manhattan last July, “the pendulum has swung too far toward the employees, and the employers are looking in these tight economic times to get givebacks.”

“Employers,” he continued, “are using lockouts because unions are reluctant to do what the employers consider reasonable in terms of compromising. Employers are looking to reset their collective bargaining relations.”

After being out of work since Aug. 1, Paul Woinarowicz, a warehouse foreman employed at American Crystal Sugar for 34 years, sees another rationale for lockouts.

“Its just another way of trying to break the union,” said Mr. Woinarowicz, a member of the bakery and confectionery workers union. “People here in the Red River Valley are really mad at American Crystal. It was just like a knife stuck in your heart.”

With American Crystal earning record profits before the lockout, the workers strongly opposed its push for concessions. Mr. Woinarowicz noted that the companys most recent quarterly report showed a sharp decline in production and profits - a development the workers said showed the lockout was taking a toll. American Crystal said the drop was due to a smaller sugar beet crop and higher operating costs.

American Crystal accuses union negotiators of being inflexible and denies that it is seeking to break the union. For many employers, lockouts have proved highly successful. Last July 17, Armstrong World Industries locked out 260 workers at its ceiling tile plant in Marietta, Pa., after they rejected the companys offer as stingy on pensions and health coverage.

After being locked out for five months, the workers accepted a contract only slightly different from the one they had originally voted down. Union officials said the workers knew Armstrong had the upper hand.

There have been several recent lockouts at hospitals, often after nurses engaged in a one-day walkout. To hire replacement nurses from a staffing company, hospitals often have to commit to hiring them for at least a week, so a one-day nurses’ strike is often followed by a four-day lockout. But at some health care facilities, like West River nursing home in Milford, Conn., where management locked out 100 workers on Dec. 13, companies see lockouts as a way to wrest concessions and set an example for workers at their other facilities.

DeMaurice Smith, executive director of the National Football League Players Association, said the football, hockey and basketball leagues ordered lockouts in recent years for a clear reason: to gain leverage in negotiations.

“The lockout is designed to put you at a distinct disadvantage,” he said, saying it places huge pressures on players who typically have short professional careers. The National Hockey Leagues lockout of 2004-5 canceled an entire season.

Mr. Smith said, “A lot of players have careers of two or three years, and you might get a player who asks, At what point is this fight worth one-third of my career?”

For Jeannie Madsen, a lab technician at American Crystal, the lockout has meant strains for her and her fiance, also a worker there. With her former husband also locked out and suspending child support payments, she said she could not afford new school clothes and shoes for her children and had to stop paying her daughters orthodontist bills. She said Wells Fargo would soon foreclose on her home.

“What’s most upsetting is that it’s affecting the lives of many innocent children,” she said.

The sides are holding occasional negotiations but remain deadlocked.

Ms. Madsen said the company was continually putting up barriers to a settlement, essentially pressing the workers to surrender. Company officials did not return phone messages, but Brian Ingulsrud, the compan’s vice president for administration, wrote in an editorial for a Fargo newspaper that “American Crystal Sugar remains committed to good-faith negotiations.”

SOURCE

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Here’s a couple of articles from last week’s In These Times.

Waste Company Locks Out Teamsters in Bid to Eliminate Pensions

By Josh Eidelson
May 14, 2012

Following private sector trend, Republic Services/Allied Waste insists on 401(k) plans

At 9 p.m. Tuesday night, the countrys second-largest waste disposal company locked 79 workers out of their jobs. The day before, Republic Services/Allied Waste gave the Evansville, Ind., workers an ultimatum: accept management’s last, best and “final” offer, or be locked out of work. The union, Teamsters Local 215, blames the lockout on managements insistence on permanently eliminating workers’ pensions.

“It’s a kind of extraordinary move in labor relations to lock workers out unilaterally,” says Louis Malizia, assistant director of the Teamsters Capital Strategies Department. “So there could be a return to workthe company need only open the gates and then let workers continue to work while they try to resolve issues at the bargaining table.”

Republic Services did not respond to a request for comment, but in an interview with an NBC affiliate, local general manager Mark McKune blamed the conflict on the union’s rhetoric: “When threats of war were made across the table at the company, the company felt it was necessary to take this step.” Republic has a contract with the city of Evansville to collect trash and recycling. McKune told the Evansville Courier & Press that “with replacement workers filling in for locked-out Teamsters, customers were experiencing only minimal service disruptions.”

Local 215 represents Republics Evansville drivers, mechanics and landfill staff.  Republic and the Teamsters entered negotiations on a new contract in March. In April, a 25-day extension on their current contract expired, and Republic began training other employees to do the work of the Evansville Teamsters. Tuesday night, Republic exercised its legal right to lock out the workers - denying them any work until they reach a deal acceptable to management.

While strikes decline in the United States, statistics suggest that lockouts are on the rise. As I reported last week, Teamsters in New York City have been locked out by Sothebys auction house for nine months.

Clark University Industrial Relations Professor Gary Chaison says that when an employer “is willing to so spoil their relationship that hes willing to lockout workers, they can gain an edge in bargaining.” “Even the threat of a lockout,” says Chaison, “is usually enough to get them to agree to far more in bargaining than they would otherwise:  ԓUnions will say, this is not the time and place for a fight, and they’ll settle for something less.”

Teamsters Local 215 says it offered to extend the current contract into the future, but Republic insisted on eliminating pensions and replacing them with a 401(k). In a Tuesday statement, Local 215 President Chuck Whobrey said, It is outrageous that in the middle of negotiations Republic would start making threats to the jobs of 80 loyal workers. “Our members provide a public health service to the city of Evansville, and they deserve to be able to retire with dignity. We are committed to the bargaining process, and these threats are uncalled for.”

The Teamsters and Republic have filed National Labor Relations Board charges against each other over alleged violations of federal labor law.

Whobrey told the Courier & Press that by locking out workers, Republic had reneged on an agreement to continue negotiations. Republics McKune told the paper that while Republic had never offered to move off of its final offer, “We told them they could call us or e-mail us at any time regarding our proposal. We havent heard anything.” Whobrey told the paper last week that workers would vote sooner or laterӔ on whether to accept managements offer.

The Evansville lockout follows a strike by Republic workers in four cities in March. As I reported for Alternet, that strike began in Mobile, Ala., where Teamsters charged that Republic attempted to back out of an already agreed-to contract settlement. The strike spread to New York, Ohio and Washington state, where Republic workers walked off the job in solidarity (some had the right to strike because their contracts had expired; others took advantage of contract language protecting their right not to cross picket lines).

After a week of rolling strikes, the two sides returned to the table and emerged with a deal the Teamsters hailed as a victory. During their strike, Mobile workers said that if called upon in the future, they would be eager to mount solidarity actions on behalf of Teamsters in other cities.

While lockouts are legal, Chaison says there’s a big difference between whether they can do something legally and whether they can do it as a practical matter, making public supportvery important. When Republic holds its annual shareholder meeting Thursday, the Teamsters plan to draw attention to an estimated $23 million in benefits Republic has earmarked for the estate of its CEO when he dies.

Malizia says he’ll present a shareholder resolution, on behalf of the Teamsters General Fund, “to give shareholders a voice” on such benefits: “We feel that like other severance-style agreements, shareholders should be given the right to vote on whether we feel that these executives were worthy of such” sums and whether “their performance at the company at the time and the circumstances merit such a compensation payout.” In the past, the Teamsters Fund has also questioned Republic’s political spending.

Malizia says the shareholder resolution was not motivated by the lockout; he notes that the Teamsters introduced a similar resolution last year and it received 45 percent support. But Malizia says that it “draws a sharp contrast when we’re talking about multi-million dollar death benefits when the company is seemingly locking out workers over their right to continue to have a defined-benefit pension.”

In general, defined-benefit pensions are funded entirely by management, as part of an employee’s compensation; a pension fund promises a certain annual payout to retirees with sufficient years of service, based on the length of their tenure. 401(k)s are individual investment funds, funded by employee contributions and sometimes matching contributions (capped at a certain amount) by employers. A Feburary study of public employee retirement funds by David Madland and Nick Bunker of the progressive Center for American Progress Action Fund found that dollar-for-dollar defined-benefit pension plans are much more efficient.

In interviews with the Courier & Press last week, McKune said that withdrawing from the pension and contributing to the 401(k) would cost Republic more over the next three years than remaining in the pension. He said that despite that cost, Republic was seeking to make our employees have a good retirementœ by switching to the 401(k), citing concerns over the solvency of the pension.

Local 215 President Whobrey retorted that the company was pushing the 401(k) in order to save money long-term. Whobrey told the paper that even the maximum 401(k) match would be less than the $107 per week Republic now puts into each employees pension, and many employees would not make 401(k) contributions, freeing Republic from contributing anything to their retirement at all.

As In These Times has reported, private pensions are in decline across the country. In bankruptcy negotiations at American Airlines, earlier this year unions declared a defensive victory when managementԒunder pressure from the federal Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporationagreed to freeze workersח pensions rather than liquidating them entirely. Under the pension freeze, employees wont accrue any additional pension benefits - and Transport Workers Union President Jim Little told In These Times he doesnt expect the pensions will ever be unfrozen.

Last Wednesday, locked-out workers told the Courier & Press that they’d been picketing a Republic facility since 4:30 a.m. that morning. Asked how long they would stay, one replied: “As long as it takes.”

SOURCE

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Amid Sabotage Investigation, Honeywell Lays Off Plant’s Entire Union Workforce

By Mike Elk
May 17, 2012

Last Thursday, May 10, at around 2 p.m., managers walked into Honeywell’s uranium conversion plant in Metropolis, Ill., and told workersboth union and nonunion - they had to leave the plant immediately. Multiple workers present say a manager explained the sudden dismissal by noting that the company had to investigate “sabotage” of plant equipment.

Since May 10, Honeywell has allowed 100 of 170 nonunion salaried workers to return to work, and has allowed 90 of its 100 nonunion contactors to continue working in the plant. But none of the plant’s 168 hourly union employees have been allowed to return to work - the company has informed them that they’ve been laid-off indefinitely. All laid-off union workers were immediately left without pay and health insurance. In contrast, when Honeywell locked out USW union workers in June 2010, it waited nearly three months to cut off their health insurance.

The Metropolis plant is no stranger to contentious labor relations. In 2010 and 2011, it was the scene of a tense 13-month long lockout of United Steelworker (USW) members. That dispute was resolved last fall when the union ratified a new contract. Since then, however, the work environment has been tense; several key USW Local 7-669 leaders have been fired by Honeywell. Local 7-669 leaders say Honeywell is trying to bust the union.

For many workers, the order by management to leave the plant felt like lock-out dחj vu. I have been through a lockout and it felt like this. If this isnɓt a lockout, I dont know what it is,Ғ Local 7-669 President Stephen Lech says.

But unlike a lockout - a tactic companies sometimes resort to when contract negotiations have stalled - laid-off union members cannot picket the worksite location. If the union did so, a company can claim that the union is engaged in an “illegal strike” and the union would then be subject to heavy fines. Lech says the union is looking into all legal options and being very careful.

“I would not suggest that company would create a circumstance to frame the union, but if they were presented with a circumstance, I know they would love to find a way to use it somehow against the union,” Lech says.

“The sudden layoffs may be a violation of their contract language,” he says. The contract states that Honeywell must give workers at least five days notice of any layoffs. Metropolis workers were given no notice. “If the circumstance allows it, we will certainly picket and go down the road of action,” says Lech.

Asked Wednesday whether or not the lay-offs were legal, Metropolis plant manager Larry Smith hung up. Honeywell, which is based in New Jersey, did not respond to further request for comment. Company spokesman Peter Dalpe told the Chicago Tribune that he can’t comment on the specific damage, but added that the equipment was not operational. Dapel also told the Tribune that the company intends to resume production after it assesses the damages and inspects the plant.

Joey Ledford, a spokesman for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which oversees the plant, told the Chicago Tribune, We are standing by watching their investigation and we will do our own follow up.”

SOURCE

Posted by Elvis on 05/20/12 •
Section Dying America
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Saturday, May 19, 2012

Desperate Times Demand Revolutionary Measures

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Don’t waste any more time or energy on the presidential election than it takes to get to your polling station and pull a lever for a third-party candidate-just enough to register your obstruction and defianceחand then get back out onto the street. That is where the question of real power is being decided.
- Chris Hedges, May 2012

Towards Sociopolitical-environmental Collapse

By Prof. Peter Phillips
Global Research
May 14, 2012

Runway capitalism is moving unrelentingly towards sociopolitical-environmental collapse cheered on by a two-headed single party machine known as the US Congress. Activists, who see the coming disasters as catastrophic, are seeking revolutionary change through non-cooperation, and occupy disruptions. Yet, many are the still delusional hopefuls desperately fumbling with traditional responses; including “Kum ba yah” marches, and the futile support for progressive left-leaning candidates seeking positions of influence inside the Washington beltway.

Do we understand that habeas corpus is no longer a legal protection in the US or that THE US PRESIDENT CAN TORTURE AND KILL AMERICAN CITIZENS, let along anyone in the world?

How can we ignore the inconvenient truths of WARRANTLESS WIRE TAPS and electronic monitoring for everyone?

Why do we tolerate that US-NATO forces killing people in over one hundred countries in the world using special service operatives, private assassins and drones - a million civilians deaths in Iraq alone?

How can we be so blind as not to see our corporate media is a PROPAGANDA FOG MACHINE for the one percent? These questions, reflecting the reality of America today, are so far from the values of our traditions that accepting any aspect of authority from Washington DC is a sacrilege to our honor. We are in desperate times.

In Congress, wealth begets membership, and wealth is the reward for correct action. The members in the House and Senate have a collective net worth of $2.04 billion, up from $1.65 billion, in 2008.  While at the same time, Americans’ household net worth has continued to declined and the number of people living in POVERTY has risen for the fifth year in a row.

The American Congress is in reality an artificial organization serving as cheerleader to the TRANSNATIONAL CORPORATE CLASS of the world. Congress offers its members little more than a transitional path into the good life of corporate affluence as long as the members remain loyal to party discipline.

Our legitimate electoral process has been completely usurped by the Supreme Court ruling that a corporation’s free speech rights allow unlimited campaign spending, and congressional lobbying knows no bounds. Any candidate willing to serve in the Democrat or Republican parties in the US congress today, even as a gadfly of resistance, is stepping beyond the pale of constitutional government.

Even if a Progressive Democrat of America Moves On into the congressional circle, the magnitude of compromise demanded makes effective action impossible other than occasional symbolic votes of resistance. Those stepping out of party lines will invariably result in orchestrated opposition during the next selection cycle - Just ask Cynthia McKinney.

Reform is not an option. The only action possible is a complete and total return to the social justice values of our US Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

We cannot allow extrajudicial killings, privacy invasions into our homes, and police state interceptions in the commons. We cannot allow global capitalism to continue to kill and impoverish billions of people and destroy the planet.

Protecting and even rewriting our Constitution and our Bill of Rights will require revolutionary acts. We must retool our elections and eliminate/ignore the dark clouds of corporate media. A mass movement at this level requires grass roots action by a core of at least ten percent of our population. Getting one out of ten people actively involved is not at all impossible; this is where our traditional values meet human rights. We are a people of hope that only need to overcome our fears and find the voice of our values by using radical democracy for human betterment for all.

The right to vote is a long held value. We are often asked, “Why waste your vote on an independent third party candidate, who will never has a chance to win.” Can voting for a candidate who reflects your own political values and beliefs be a wasted vote? It seems that voting for your true beliefs is a self-actualizing act, and compromising ones values to pick the lesser of two evils is self-alienating. Therefore, we urge all to continue to vote, but find candidates outside of the two party oligopoly. Maybe someday, self-actualized voting will be fashionable. 

Peter Phillips is a professor of political sociology and social movements at Sonoma State University. He is the president of Media Freedom Foundation/Project Censored, and co-host with Mickey Huff of the weekly Project Censored Show on KPFA. He is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization (CRG).

SOURCE

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To be taken by surprise

It is my opinion that some people are too zealous for the Republican Party. They will do anything to raise the chance of a vote, and they will attack anyone who might take away even a minute amount of voters. As was the case when I ran as the WriteIn President. There was no way I would win, but I tapped into something that scared the hell out of these hate filled people. So much so, that I was harassed, threatened, and eventually taken out of sharing my idea’s. The police and the medical people that did terrible things to me because I had an opinion about how to make a better America. For the record, I do hope there will be many writein electoral people at the next election; as well as, the next presidential.

I do not want a leader who puts another country in front of American interest. As is the case with leaders in the Senate and Congress who say we must make sure Israel gets 3 billion dollars in donations while government resources, and senior programs are cut. I think making all of government take a pay cut. That means the President, the Congress, and the Senate. I now understand why I was such a threat to the Republican Extremist. I am able to spark imagination in our society! The one thing any dictator does when they take power is to destroy the poets, the teachers, and the thinkers. Yet, by the grace of the lord. I am once again a free man. Most people who get tortured in America shut down and shut up. Well, I am not most people. I am a child of God.

You can use your connections to the police to intimidate us. You can stop us from marching on Wall Street, and you can detain our leaders who promote the 99% movement. Nevertheless, each time you take away one of us who speaks in a way that motivates the masses to sign petitions, other will rise. It has taken time.., and determined prayer to stand up to these evil people. Those who have so much money, yet refuse to share or pay their taxes. WE need leaders who will force a flat tax on all people. That way regardless of how much money you make, every one will pay the same 15% instead of us paying 36% in taxes while the rich use loop-holes to only pay 10% This can be changed, and it takes every person who votes to sign petitions. If you do not understand what a petition is, you have only yourself to blame.

The one thing those in power do not want is for you to know you can invoke change through petition, and writein candidates. IF you only seek to keep this 2 party monopoly going, then our schools will continue to lose money; as well as, most social programs. If you really think it is in the best interest of America to give Tax Free Bonuses while your neighbors go hungry then by all means do nothing. You are so lazy, you might as well say: I love those in power!!! I do not, and I will not let them intimidate me. I have the right to vote, I have the right to sign petitions, and we can change the laws, that in time will change the system. If you want one vote for one American. Then the time to start is now. Do you have the courage to take back your constitution?

- Anonymous

Posted by Elvis on 05/19/12 •
Section American Solidarity
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Hopelessly Unemployed In 2012

empty_pockets.jpg

Losing your job at 50 or 60 is not good for your health.  There is compelling evidence that no matter who you compare the older job loser to, he or she does worse physically and mentally.
- William Gallo, Yale University School of Medicine

According to the Wall Street Journal, the average unemployed job hunter searches five months, then gives up.

I’d say that’s about right.  In 2004 I spent four solid months looking - waking up at 5AM to make searching for a job - my mission for 10-12 hours a day, five days a week.

I even went knocking on doors dressed up in my Sunday suit. 

And struck out.

AFTER THAT there was nowhere else to look, and nothing else to do.  So I pretty much GAVE UP, and experienced DEEP DEPRESSION.

Thank goodness for staffing agencies. They kept me semi busy with temp jobs - one for forty five minutes, another for four days, and one for six months - with UNEMPLOYMENT CHECKS IN BETWEEN - until a real job with benefits manifested from pure LUCK about a year and half later.  The small checks, money saved up, credit cards, and refinancing the mortgage gave me enough cashflow to get the bills paid.

Things aren’t as good TODAY. I can’t even land a TEMP JOB, or get UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE. And I’m UNDERWATER WITH THE MORTGAGE, so refinancing the house is out.

Being broke caused some FRIENDS TO DISAPPEAR, when I really need their support.  It happened eight years ago, and again now.  Are they afraid I’m gonna ask for money?

A few others email job hits.  One lady I worked with - WHO GOT LAYED OFF IN 2009 - talked for over an hour, filling me in on what she learned about job hunting the past couple of years.  To those people I’m deeply grateful.

A childhood friend of 40 years won’t sign a JOB CREATION PETITION.  Talk about lack of compassion. NEOCON neantherthal. I’d rather be stabbed in the heart. Less painful.

To keep DEPRESSION, panic attacks, and STRESS in check WHILE WAITING for my retirement savings to run out - I KEEP ACTIVE at the health club, fly up north to visit my elderly mom, and VOLUNTEER helping people WORSE OFF than me.

Psychotherapy for JOB LOSS DEPRESSION and ANTIDEPRESSANTS are OUT OF THE QUESTION, but to help keep my hopes up I religiously splurge on a lottery ticket every Saturday, and still dream about FINDING MY SOULMATE, even though I’m in my 50s.

There’s only so much any of us can control, so I try to be mindful to cherish what I have right now - and live each day as if it were my last. That doesn’t mean fly to Vegas tonight and act irresponsibly by gambling away the house, or think PRAYING TO GOD without filling out job applications is gonna miraculously manifest a great new career.  It means some things are gonna happen regardless of what I do, or how I feel.

Accepting and trusting in the Universe is lot EASIER SAID THAN DONE while WATCHING the world CHANGE.  If UNEMPLOYMENT DEPRESSION doesn’t do me in - INSOMIA may.  Worrying about the future makes for a lot of sleepless nights.  FIVE MILLION OTHER UNEMPLOYED, SUFFERING AMERICANS share my pain, knowing the prospects of regaining meaningful employment are SLIM.

The gym is a real EYE-OPENER to the SEVERITY of the unemployment problem.  I go there the same time every day, and work out alongside the same people, so we all pretty much know eachother.

The mid 50’s guy who spots me on the bench press is out of work two years. His wife’s paycheck keeps his family going. The 40 year old lady on the stair machine next to me has a job, but her husband who worked on the SHUTTLE AT NASA - doesn’t.  Another lady - a 55 year old layed off bookkeeper - can’t find any work other than a part time job at the local supermarket - 20 hours at $8.50/hr = $170 per week.  STORIES like these are the norm.

This is my world.  Again.

For eight years I’ve been writing here about the DEMISE of the middle class, escalating POVERTY, AGE BIAS against older folks, and PREYING of the poor. There’s still no end in sight.

THANKSGIVING is about five months away, and it’s starting to look like it’s gonna be worse THAN 2005.

Do you still wonder why some people take nice, peaceful trips to AOKIGAHARA Japan near beautiful MOUNT FUJI?

To end their lives.

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Average Job Seeker Gives Up After 5 Months

By Sara Murray
Wall Street Journal Blogs
June 8, 2011

Jobless Americans who dropped out of the work force typically searched for work for five months before ultimately giving up last year.

The amount of time the unemployed spent hunting for jobs rose sharply last year. Those out of work tended to search for about 20 weeks before quitting in 2010, compared to 8.5 weeks in 2007, according to a recent Labor Department report. The report studied how long unemployed workers took to either find a new job or quit looking.

Labor-force participation, the share of Americans who are working or looking for jobs, has fallen to its lowest percentage since the mid-1980s. Thats partly because people have grown discouraged about their ability to find jobs and have given up looking. With those workers on the sidelines, the unemployment rate has been lower than it otherwise would be.

The official unemployment rate hit 9.1% in May. Including all of those who had part-time jobs but wanted to work full-time as well as those who want to work but had given up searching, the rate was 15.8%.

While sidelined workers can keep the jobless rate lower, they weigh on the economy in other ways. The nation loses their output - from the goods or services they would provide in their jobs as well as the spending that would come from their paychecks. And, if they move onto programs such as Social Security disability, the government could end up supporting them for the rest of their lives.

Those lucky enough to finally land a job last year found they had to spend more time searching. Job seekers took a median of more than 10 weeks to find new positions last year. Thats up from five weeks in 2007 before the recession began.

And, in what’s likely to create a more persistent problem for the U.S. labor market, the odds of finding a job steadily decreased the longer someone was out of work. Some 30% of Americans who had been out of work for less than five weeks found new jobs last year.

Those odds deteriorated for the LONG-TERM UNEMPLOYED. Of those who had been unemployed for more than six months, slightly more than 10% found new jobs. Nearly 19% dropped out of the workforce.

The problem endures this year: As of May, 6.2 million had been out of work for more than six months and more than 4 million [5 million in April 2012 ed.] haven’t work in more than a year.

SOURCE

Posted by Elvis on 05/19/12 •
Section Dealing with Layoff • Section Personal
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Friday, May 18, 2012

Disappearing Friends

true-friend.jpg

Fake friends are like shadows: always near you at your brightest moments, but nowhere to be seen at your darkest hour.
- Demotivation

Where Do Friends Go when You’re Coping with a Crisis?

By John M. Grohol, PsyD
Psychology Central
May 18, 2012

Have you ever noticed that when something bad happens (like JOB LOSS) to you or to someone close to you in your life (like a son or daughter, or a parent), some friends might offer help, while others disappear? This seemingly becomes more the case as we get older.

I was reading this interesting essay in The New York Times today and stumbled upon an explanation for this behavior the guy quoted in the article called it stiff arming or pseudo-care. A friend offers help to you in your time of need, but then disappears.

Why do people do this? Are they afraid bad luck is catching?

The author of this essay describes how both her daughters suffered serious health problems in the same year - one from a rare disease, and the other from ANOREXIA. Then she noticed that some of her long-time friends seemingly disappeared for nearly the entire year, coinciding with her daughters’ health problems.

The friends who had disappeared had daughter’s exactly the same age as ours.

[Dr. Jackson Rainer, a professor of psychology at Georgia Southern University] describes this kind of distancing as “stiff-arming” creating as much space as possible from the possibility of trauma. Its magical thinking in the service of denial: If bad things are happening to you and I stay away from you, then I’ll be safe.

Such people often wind up offering what Dr. Rainer calls pseudo-care, asking vaguely if there’s anything they can do but never following up. Or they might say they’re praying for the family in crisis, a response he dismisses as ineffectual at best. “A more compassionate response,” he said, “ “I am praying for myself to have the courage to help you.”

True empathy inspires what sociologists call instrumental aid. There are any number of tasks to be done, and they’re as personal as your thumbprint, Dr. Rainer said.

If you really want to help a family in crisis, offer to do something specific: drive the carpool, weed the garden, bring a meal, do the laundry, go for a walk.

The author of the essay, Harriet Brown, also notes that, “The more vulnerable people feel, the harder it may be to connect.”

Indeed, I suspect this reaction comes down more to an individual’s sense of vulnerability and security in the world. Some people are simply not comfortable around other peoples adversity. It’s the same kind of feeling many of us have while visiting someone in the hospital What do you say? How can you help? You feel awkward and out of place.

Even though it is indeed “magical thinking” to believe that distancing oneself from others’ trauma will somehow make us more safe, its one that we irrational human beings can’t help from engaging in.

But the solutions suggested are a good way to help combat the thinking in others. Ask your friends to help out with specific things the more specific the better. This may not stop others from their distancing behavior, but it has a good chance of making yourself feel less isolated. It also makes them feel like they’re doing something that is actually helping you, which is an empowering feeling.

If you’re on the other side of the coin and find that you’re isolating yourself from a friend who has had some crisis in their life, reach out to them. Ask them for specific things you might do to help. It may be just the boost they’re looking for to lighten their day.

SOURCE

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Coping With Crises Close to Someone Elses Heart

By Harriet Brown
August 16, 2010

Over the last few years, my family has weathered our share of crises. First our younger daughter was hospitalized for a week with Kawasaki disease, a rare condition in children that involves inflammation of the blood vessels, and spent several months convalescing at home. Soon after she recovered, our older daughter landed in the hospital with anorexia, which proved to be the start of a yearlong fight for her life.

Somewhere in the middle of that process, my mother-in-law was given a diagnosis of advanced lung cancer, and died less than 11 months later.

So we’ve had plenty of opportunities to observe not only how we dealt with trauma but how our friends, family and community did, too. For the most part, we were blessed with support and love; friends ran errands for us, delivered meals, sat in hospital waiting rooms, walked, talked and cried with us.

But a couple of friends disappeared entirely. During the year we spent in eating-disorder hell, they called once or twice but otherwise behaved as though we had been transported to Mongolia with no telephones or e-mail.

At first, I barely noticed; I was overwhelmed with getting through each day. As the year wore on, though, and life settled in to a new if unpleasant version of normal, I began to wonder what had happened. Given our preoccupation with our daughters recovery and my husband’s mothers illness, we were no doubt lousy company. Maybe we’d somehow offended our friends. Or maybe they were just sick of the disasters that now consumed our lives; just because we were stuck with them didn’t mean our friends had to go there, too.

Even if they were completely fed up with us, though, they had to know that my husband and I were going through the toughest year of our lives. I would have understood their defection if our friendship had been less close; as it was, I couldn’t stop wondering what had happened.

In the wake of 9/11, two wars and the seemingly ever-rising tide of natural disasters, weve come to understand the various ways in which people cope with crisis when it happens to them. But psychologists are just beginning to explore the ways we respond to other people’s traumas.

“We all live in some degree of terror of bad things happening to us,” said Barbara M. Sourkes, associate professor of pediatrics at the Stanford University School of Medicine. “When you’re confronted by someone elses horror, there’s a sense that its close to home.”

Dr. Sourkes works with families confronted with the unfolding trauma of a child’s serious, and possibly fatal, illness. “Other peoples reactions are multifaceted,” she said. “There’s no formula, and it’ll change from person to person. The only certainty is that traumatic events change relationships outside the family as well as within it.”

Often the closer one feels to the family in crisis, the harder it is to cope. “Most people cannot tolerate the feeling of helplessness,” said Jackson Rainer, a professor of psychology at Georgia Southern University who has studied grief and relationships. “And in the presence of another’s crisis, there’s always the sense of helplessness.”

Feelings of vulnerability can lead to a kind of survivors guilt: “People are grateful that the trauma didn’t happen to them, but they feel deeply ashamed of their reactions. Such emotional discomfort often leads them to avoid the family in crisis;” as Dr. Sourkes put it, “They might, for instance, make sure they’re never in a situation where they have to talk to the family directly.”

Awkwardness is another common reaction “not knowing what to say or do.” Some people say nothing; others, in a rush to relieve the feelings of awkwardness, blurt out well-intentioned but thoughtless comments, like telling the parent of a child with cancer, “My grandmother went through this, so I understand.”

“We have more of a societal framework for what to say and do around bereavement than we do when you’re in the midst of it,” Dr. Sourkes said. “Families say over and over, It’s such a lonely time and I don’t have the energy to educate my friends and family, yet they don’t have a clue.”

The more vulnerable people feel, the harder it may be to connect. A friend whose son suffered brain damage in an accident told me that the families who dropped them afterward had children the same age as her son. They could picture all too vividly the same thing happening to their children; they felt too much empathy rather than not enough.

That was true for us, too, I realized. The friends who had disappeared had daughters exactly the same age as ours.

Dr. Rainer describes this kind of distancing as “stiff-arming” - creating as much space as possible from the possibility of trauma. It’s magical thinking in the service of denial: If bad things are happening to you and I stay away from you, then Ill be safe.

Such people often wind up offering what Dr. Rainer calls “pseudo-care,” asking vaguely if there’s anything they can do but never following up. Or they might say they’re praying for the family in crisis, a response he dismisses as ineffectual at best. “A more compassionate response,” he said, is “I am praying for myself to have the courage to help you.”

True empathy inspires what sociologists call instrumental aid. “There are any number of tasks to be done, and they’re as personal as your thumbprint,” Dr. Rainer said. “If you really want to help a family in crisis, offer to do something specific: drive the carpool, weed the garden, bring a meal, do the laundry, go for a walk.”

I tested that theory recently, when a friends mother went through a series of medical crises and moved to an assisted-living facility in our town. Normally, I might have been guilty of pseudo-care, asking if I could do anything but never really stepping up. Instead, I e-mailed her a list of tasks I could do, and asked if any of them would be helpful.

To my surprise, my friend responded by asking if I’d visit her mother on a day she couldn’t. Her mother was glad for the company, and my friend felt reassured, knowing that her mother wasn’t alone.

And I had the chance to do something truly useful for my friend, which in turn let me show her how much I cared about her. The time I spent with her mother turned out to be a gift for me.

Thinking back to my own years of crisis, I wondered why I’d focused on the friends who didn’t come through when so many others had. In retrospect, I wished Id taken a slightly more Zen-like attitude.

“The human condition is that traumatic events occur,” said David B. Adams, a psychologist in private practice in Atlanta. “The reality is that we are equipped to deal with them. The challenge that lies before us is quite often more important than the disappointment that surrounds us.”

Harriet Brown is the author of “Brave Girl Eating: A Family’s Struggle With Anorexia.”

SOURCE

TOXIC FRIENDS

Posted by Elvis on 05/18/12 •
Section Spiritual Diversions
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