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Inland Leaders Call For Voice In Banking Rescue Plan

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San Bernardino and Riverside counties on Tuesday adopted resolutions urging federal lawmakers to give local governments a role in resolving the nation's liquidity meltdown.

The call for local participation comes after Monday's failure by Congress to pass a $700 billion rescue plan for Wall Street institutions holding the bad debts of homebuyers who entered unsound mortgages. Those mortgages spurred a runaway housing economy and led to its demise. 

Securities acquired by the federal government in a rescue would be secured by mortgages on the properties now held by floundering financial institutions. Once the Treasury takes control of those assets, Inland county supervisors said they want the federal government to create contracts with regional public-private partnerships to oversee their disposition. 

Regional partnerships would raise local capital to augment the federal investment while regional boards would manage the upkeep and sales of properties within their region, the supervisors said.

"Local business leaders and governments know more than outside interests about the issues and real estate economies in their own backyard," said Roy Wilson, chairman of the Riverside County Board of Supervisors. "Our participation is crucial in ensuring the secure investment of taxpayer dollars."

"The fate of our communities and neighborhoods should not be left to a bureaucracy or business interests thousands of miles away that have little if any knowledge about the local impacts of their decisions," said Paul Biane, Chairman of the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors.

Riverside and San Bernardino counties  --  which for years led the nation in population growth - have suffered some of the most significant negative economic consequences in the country from their unprecedented and almost unparalleled rates of foreclosures stemming from unsound mortgages, economist John Husing said. 

"Establishing regional public-private partnerships to make sure these properties are systematically released into the market would restore their values while helping preserve and rehabilitate neighborhoods suffering economically and socially as a result of the foreclosure crisis," Husing said. "This benefit is further amplified by maintaining and increasing the number of owner-occupied homes."

As recently as last week, cities and counties in Inland Southern California learned they would be receiving $133.5 million of nearly $4 billion in federal funds to deal with blighted neighborhoods affected by the high number of foreclosures.

Riverside County, which has the fourth largest foreclosure rate in the nation, is slated to receive the third-largest allocation of almost $49 million. 

Biane said if a federal plan goes forward, local interests must have a voice in the process. Biane said there would be greater public accountability from a regional public-private partnership.

Washington lawmakers need to recall the savings and loans crisis of the early 1990s and remember the negative impacts on communities that resulted from turning foreclosed properties over to distant business interests simply looking to turn a quick buck, Biane said.

"They dumped properties for far less than their market values. Solid neighborhoods and property values were further harmed. Communities and taxpayers were left holding the bag," Biane said.

Civic and elected leaders also see an opportunity to boost needed stocks of affordable housing, under the emerging plan. Some Inland county supervisors said they would like to see language built in to a partnership plan that would require a percentage of the mortgage assets be set aside for low and moderate income buyers.

"The fine details need to be worked out but we have an opportunity to lift ourselves out of a very dire situation and we need to take it and make sure we do the most with it," said Wilson, chairman of the Riverside County supervisors.

Car Companies Cop Congressional Loans

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By William Reed

These days, 11-figure expenditures barely attract notice.  While Congress was grappling with the 12-figure $700 bailout plan for the financial industry, the powerful Michigan delegation got House approval for $25 billion in loans for the troubled U.S. auto industry.

Lawmakers that pushed for the legislation hailed it as key to saving thousands of jobs in the state.  Detroit Rep. Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick, chair of the 43-member Congressional Black Caucus, played a major role in passage of the legislation. What many will call "corporate welfare" enables General Motors, Ford and Chrysler to get at least $5 billion each.  This allows them to borrow money at interest rates as low as 4 percent.  Over several years, the automakers could save hundreds of millions in financing costs.  The car companies will have five years before they start repaying the loans.

Black Americans hold 13 percent of auto industry jobs and have significant interest in the Detroit 3's survival.  With approval of the low-interest loans, the U.S. auto industry won help it urgently needs to rework its vehicles.  The plan was in the Congressional queue months before the Wall Street bailout came to the fore.  But the loans are one of several government aids - from research funds to consumer tax credits - automakers will increasingly rely on to build technology they need to survive.  The automakers first sought an installment of loans totaling about $6 billion, but the nationwide credit crunch crimped their ability to borrow.  The $25 billion is just a down payment, automakers will seek another $25 billion next year to retool old assembly lines and develop advanced, fuel-efficient technology.

The idea behind the loans is to buy time while the Detroit 3 revamp their lineups, develop new hybrids and other fuel-sippers, and convert old SUV plants into factories turning out cars able to compete with comparable Japanese models.  Consumers reeling from $4 gas have fled the big trucks and SUVs the manufacturers milked for two decades, and Detroit's smaller cars tend to rate poorly compared with competitors.  The domestics' U.S. market share is now about 48 percent, a staggering fall of nearly 20 points since the start of the decade.  GM and Ford are expected to produce about 1.3 million fewer cars this year than in 2007.  Even cheap loans will do little to help erase years of red ink and it's going to take some time to make a dent in their debt load.

Blacks have a stake in the trillion-dollar automotive industry, and many jobs are at jeopardy if the Detroit 3 stay in the doldrums.  But, as taxpayers it's time to consider what "a billion" actually means:  Counting non-stop, one number a second, it would take almost 32 years to count to 1 billion.  A billion here and a billion there and soon it adds up to real money that has to be repaid.  But the reality is that automakers face a life-threatening crisis if the U.S. car market doesn't rebound.  General Motors reported a second-quarter loss of $15.5 billion and Ford Motor reported an $8.7 billion loss.  GM and Ford could start to run out of cash by the second half of 2009.  Chrysler's sales are down even more than Ford and GM.

Vehicle purchases are the second-largest purchase most Black families make.  Import and domestic dealers, in total, have annual new car and truck sales of about $480 billion.  Annual new and used car and truck sales in the US amount to a near-trillion dollar business.  Minorities accounted for 22 percent of the US new-car market, but just 5 percent of dealerships.

African Americans should hope the loan infusion doesn't just produce more of the same for them in the automotive marketplace.  Due to discrimination, Black buyers have to spend more than other groups at the time of their purchase of vehicles.  On top of their taxpayer burden to the industry, Blacks shouldn't have to pay higher loans rates than whites on 60 to 72 month contracts after they've paid an average price of $30,000 for a new car or truck.

The Labor Movement in the U.S.

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AFL-CIO Advocates for Equality

As part of our continued coverage on the  labor union movement, one local organizing campaign discusses the importance of union dues.

From the AFL-CIO Communications Team

Union membership helps raise workers' pay and narrow the income gap that disadvantages minorities and women. Union workers earn 30 percent more than nonunion workers, according to the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics. Their median weekly earnings for full-time wage and salary work were $863 in 2007, compared with $663 for their nonunion counterparts.

The union wage benefit is even greater for minorities and women. Union women earn 33 percent more than nonunion women, African American union members earn 37 percent more than their nonunion counterparts,  for Latino workers, the union advantage equals 51 percent and for Asian American workers, the union advantage is 4 percent.

Union members in low-wage occupations on average earn a great deal more than nonunion workers in the same occupations, often lifting their earnings above the official poverty level. For example, union cashiers in 2006 earned an average of $11.87-46 percent more than nonunion workers in the same occupation. Over a year's time, having a union card could translate into more than $7,800 in additional pay for such a low wage worker. While the nonunion cashier's earnings, on average, leaves a worker $3,746 below the poverty line for a family of four, the union cashier's earnings, on average, brings the worker $4,075 above the poverty line for a family of four.

According to Professor Harley Shaiken of the University of California-Berkeley,[1] unions are associated with higher productivity, lower employee turnover, improved workplace communication, and a better-trained workforce.

Prof. Shaiken is not alone. There is a substantial amount of academic literature on the following benefits of unions and unionization to employers and the economy:

    * Productivity

    * Competitiveness

    * Product or service delivery and quality

    * Training

    * Turnover

    * Solvency of the firm

    * Workplace health and safety

    * Economic development


According to a recent survey of 73 independent studies on unions and productivity: "The available evidence points to a positive and statistically significant association between unions and productivity in the U.S. manufacturing and education sectors, of around 10 and 7 percent, respectively."

Some scholars have found an even larger positive relationship between unions and productivity.  According to Brown and Medoff, "unionized establishments are about 22 percent more productive than those that are not."

Product/ Service Delivery and Quality

According to Professors Michael Ash and Jean Ann Seago, heart attack recovery rates are higher in hospitals where nurses are unionized than in non-union hospitals.

Another study looked at the relationship between unionization and product quality in the auto industry.  According to a summary of this study prepared by American Rights at Work:

"The author examines the system of co-management created through the General Motors-United Auto Workers partnership at the Saturn Corporation...The author credits the union with building a dense communications network throughout Saturn's management system. Compared to non-represented advisors, union advisors showed greater levels of lateral communication and coordination, which had a significant positive impact on quality performance."


Several studies in have found a positive association between unionization and the amount and quality of workforce training.  Unionized establishments are more likely to offer formal training.  This is especially true for small firms.  There are a number of reasons for this: less turnover among union workers, making the employer more likely to offer training; collective bargaining agreements that require employers to provide training; and finally, unions often conduct their own training.


Professor Shaiken also finds that unions reduce turnover.  He cites Freeman and Medoff's finding that "about one fifth of the union productivity effect stemmed from lower worker turnover.  Unions improve communication channels giving workers the ability to improve their conditions short of ‘exiting.'"


Labor's enemies assert that unions drive employers out of business, but academic research refutes this claim.  According to Professors Richard Freeman and Morris Kleiner, unionism has a statistically insignificant effect (meaning no effect) on firm solvency. Freeman and Kleiner conclude "unions do not, on average, drive firms or business lines out of business or produce high displacement rates for unionized workers."

Workplace Health and Safety.

Employers should be concerned about workplace health and safety as a matter of enlightened self-interest.  According to an American Rights at Work summary of a study by John E. Baugher and J. Timmons Roberts:

"Only one factor effectively moves workers who are in subordinate positions to actively cope with hazards: membership in an independent labor union.  These findings suggest that union growth could indirectly reduce job stress by giving workers the voice to cope effectively with job hazards."

for educational purposes only.  Not an endorsement of unions.



The Labor Movement in the U.S.

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SEIU Local 721 Advocates for Fairness


ImageLocal Organizing campaigns have served as an intrical part in the labor union movement whether for equal rights or a fair living wage within today's economy. As part of our educational series on the labor union movement, one local organizing campaign where union organizers and workers submitted a petition to Riverside County's Human Resources Department, seeking to unionize the county's temporary medical workers was rejected.

There's a threat to quality jobs and services in Riverside County.

A March 2008 study by the Center on Policy Initiatives found that the County of Riverside employs temporary workers at double the rate of similar-sized, neighboring counties. Many workers are involuntarily in temporary jobs for a year or more, performing functions that should be permanent jobs.

The County does not provide healthcare coverage for temporary workers--forcing taxpayers to subsidize the cost of their care. The workers also do not receive vacation days, sick days, or payment of Social Security, and they are paid less than permanent workers doing the same jobs.

The study's findings indicate that African Americans and women are disproportionately placed in temporary jobs.

Besides the harm to employees, temporary work diminishes the continuity necessary for quality services provided by the county, especially healthcare services. Three grand jury investigations conducted in the last four years have linked the overuse of temporary employees to numerous quality-of-service problems. Temporary work dampens the local economy by lowering the rate of homeownership. And it leads to turnover and inefficiencies that have cost County taxpayers millions of dollars.

It's the wrong direction for our county. That's why a group of temporary employees has come together with community members and the members of SEIU Local 721 to do something about it.

The Service Employees International Union is 2 million working people and 50,000 retirees united to improve services and our communities throughout North America.

SEIU members are winning better wages, health care, and more secure jobs at home, while uniting their strength with their counterparts around the world to help ensure that workers, not just corporations and CEOs, benefit from today's global economy.

SEIU is the fastest-growing union in North America. Focused on uniting workers in three sectors to improve their lives and the services they provide, SEIU is:

  • The largest health care union, with 900,000 members in the field, including nurses, LPNs, doctors, lab technicians, nursing home workers, home care workers

  • The largest property services union, with 225,000 members in the building cleaning and security industries, including janitors, door men and women

  • The second largest public services union, with 850,000 local and state government workers, public school employees, bus drivers, and child care providers for educational purposes only.  Not an endorsement of unions.

The Labor Movement in the U.S.

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ImageWith the Labor Day holiday Kicking off the month of September, The Black Voice News will run a series on the labor movement in the United States.  Week one will focus on the history/timeline of the labor movement. Week Two will highlight education in the movement, Week Three focuses on the sacrifices in the struggle, and Week Four focuses on the positives of being in a union and benefits of being a union worker. Functioning as legally recognized representatives of workers in numerous industries, the most prominent unions are found among public sector employees such as teachers and police.
Activity by labor unions in the United States today centers on collective bargaining over wages, benefits, and working conditions for their membership and on representing their members if management attempts to violate contract provisions. American unions remain an important political factor, both through mobilization of their own memberships and through coalitions with like-minded activist organizations around issues such as immigrant rights, trade policy, health care, and living wage campaigns.  If you would like your union activities highlighted in this series, contact BVN Editor Lee Ragin at leeragin@blackvoicenews.com 


Labor History Timeline


The Supreme Court rules that a maximum-hours law is unconstitutional.


San Francisco Streetcar Workers Union is crushed after 25 workers are killed and hundreds wounded in battles with strikebreakers; San Francisco and Los Angeles women trade unionists form the Wage Earners Suffrage League.


Los Angeles Times building bombed by Ironworkers national secretary-treasurer John McNamara and his brother James; 20 workers die.


The McNamaras, on advice of their attorney, Clarence Darrow, confess guilt ; confession four days before election ruins labor/Socialist candidate Job Harriman's bid for Los Angeles mayor; LA stays open shop town for another quarter century; California Legislature passes workers comp and eight hour day for women laws.


Massachusetts adopts the first minimum-wage act for women and minors.


California's Wheatland Hop Riot begins with protest against horrible working conditions on Durst ranch, leads to statewide witch hunt against IWW members and other labor activists; the U.S. Department of Labor gets the power to act as mediator and to appoint commissioners of conciliation in labor disputes.


The Clayton Act passes, limiting injunctions in labor disputes. Picketing and other union activities declared legal.


Preparedness Day Bombing: labor activist Tom Mooney convicted on perjured testimony of setting off a bomb; "Defend Tom Mooney" a labor demand until Governor Culbert Olson pardons him in 1939; S.F. Riggers and Stevedores dock strike fails; the Adamson Act establishes an eight-hour day for work on railroads. The law is enacted to eliminate a threatened nationwide railroad strike.


California Legislature passes Criminal Syndicalism Act, on the books until 1968, providing sweeping anti- union powers to law enforcement agencies; California teacher union locals form the California State Federation of Teachers.


John L. Lewis is elected president of the United Mine Workers of America, at the age of 40, taking control of the largest labor union in the nation.


U.S. Supreme Court rules that the Clayton Act does not legalize boycotts and does not protect unions against injunctions against them for restraint of trade.


Marine and Transport Workers Industrial Union (IWW) strikes the west coast, briefly shutting down harbors before being brutally repressed.


Several Hollywood unions sign first Studio Basic Agreement; the Railway Labor Act requires employers to bargain collectively and bars discrimination against employees for joining a union. It sets provisions for settling railway labor disputes through mediation, voluntary arbitration and fact-finding boards.


U.S. Supreme Court upholds the Railway Labor Act prohibiting employers from interfering or coercing workers choosing bargaining representatives.


The Davis-Bacon Act passes, providing for payment of prevailing wage rates to laborers and mechanics employed by contractors and subcontractors on public construction.


The Anti-Injunction Act passes, prohibiting some federal injunctions in labor disputes and outlawing "yellow-dog" contracts - agreements where an employee agrees not to join a union. Wisconsin adopts the nation's first unemployment insurance act. Franklin Delano Roosevelt is elected president, as the country endures its fourth year of depression.


International Ladies Garment Workers Union, led by organizer Rose Pesotta, runs successful strike of mostly Latina garment workers in Los Angeles; 20,000 cotton workers strike throughout California's central valleys; the National Industrial Recovery Act passes, guaranteeing the right of employees of companies with government contracts to organize and bargain collectively. Later declared unconstitutional.


San Francisco General Strike: the key event of modern west coast industrial unionism, led by longshoremen and sailors; Alameda County workers go out too, including streetcar drivers, calling for the municipalization of the privately-held streetcar company; general strikes in other cities.


The National Labor Relations Act, also known as The Wagner Act, establishes the right of workers to organize and bargain collectively. The federal Social Security Act passes the same year. Unemployment insurance program is authorized by the act.


The Anti Strikebreaker Act makes it unlawful to bring in strikebreakers from outside the state; the Public Contracts Act establishes a minimum wage, the eight hours a day and a 40 hours week on government contracts. Includes child and convict labor provisions, health and safety requirements; the Executive Council of the American Federation of Labor votes to expel all labor members who claim affiliation with the Congress of Industrial Organizations, or CIO, which is being led by the UMW president John L. Lewis.


California CIO Council formed by several unions disagreeing with AF-of-L focus on craft unionism; CIO unions organize on industrial basis, and are committed to civil rights; 99-day maritime workers strike in California is a sharp contrast to the violence of the 1934 maritime and General Strikes; U.S. Supreme Court rules the National Labor Relations Act constitutional.


Culbert Olsen becomes the first Democrat to be elected Governor in the 20th century in California, with broad support of newly powerful unions; the Fair Labor Standards Act provides for a 25¢ minimum wage and time-and-a-half for hours worked in excess of 40 hours a week; John L. Lewis, seeking to organize steelworkers, secures a labor contract with the president of the world's largest steel company, United States Steel, but the smaller companies that collectively were known as "Little Steel" brutally fought steelworkers. Scores of deaths and injuries occurred as the United Steelworkers of America struck at Little Steel plants across the industrial northeast.


California Governor Culbert Olsen fulfills campaign promise and frees Tom Mooney


Thousands of workers at North American Aviation in southern California go on a wildcat strike, only to have it broken up by federal troops.


Shipyards in Oakland, Richmond, San Francisco, Sausalito and Vallejo employ 240,000 union workers around the clock during World War II; aircraft factories and shipyards in Los Angeles and San Pedro; African-American workers struggle for inclusion in AFL Boilermakers Union.


The Committee on Fair Employment Practices is created by President Roosevelt. The intent is to eliminate discrimination in war industries and in government for reasons of race, creed, color or national origin. This comes about after A. Philip Randolph, of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Cars Porters, makes clear that he will organize a national March on Washington for Jobs & Freedom, unless the Administrations acts on the issue of employment discrimination. Exactly 20 years later, Randolph leads the March on Washington, at which a minister by the name of Martin Luther King gives an address that captivates the nation.


Jurisdictional conflict between IATSE and other unions lead to series of strikes by militant Conference of Studio Unions in Hollywood; studio bosses successfully pit one group of unions against another; beginning of Red Scare in Hollywood, the state and nation.


Oakland General Strike: California voters reject Proposition 11, which would have created a Fair Employment Practices Act.


Longest farmworker strike to that time: National Farm Labor Union Local 218, led by Ernesto Galarza, vs. DiGiorgio Fruit Corporation; doesn't end until 1950; the anti-labor Taft-Hartley Act passes over President Harry Truman's veto. It rolls back protections contained in the NLRA for worker militancy.


ILWU leaves CIO rather than be ejected for "Communist domination." Ten other CIO unions are kicked out; the Fair Labor Standards Act is amended to prohibit child labor.


California union membership hits all-time peak as percentage of the non-farm labor workforce: 40.8%


AFL and CIO unions in California join with community groups to create a coalition for a Fair Employment Practices Act, chaired by Oakland labor and civil rights leader C. L. Dellums.


The American Federation of Labor merges with the Congress of Industrial Organizations, to form the AFL-CIO, the world's largest labor federation.


California AFL and CIO unions join in grassroots effort to defeat Oakland Tribune publisher William Knowland in his bid for Governor, and to stop Knowland's "Right to Work" Proposition 18; California AFL and CIO unions reunite in the California Labor Federation, AFL-CIO.


California Governor Edmund G. ("Pat") Brown signs the Fair Employment Practices Act; the national Labor Management Reporting and Disclosure Act becomes law. Protects rights of union members by requiring reporting of union business practices and safeguarding union election procedures.


ILWU signs Mechanization and Modernization Agreement, which pioneers the tradeoff of members' job security for the employers' right to introduce labor-saving equipment.


The Manpower Development and Training Act passes, requiring the federal government to deal with unemployment resulting from automation and technological changes. Executive order grants federal employees the right to bargain collectively.


The Equal Pay Act is signed. It prohibits different wages based upon worker's sex under the Fair Labor Standards Act.


The Civil Rights Act is signed into law. Title VII bars discrimination; The Economic Opportunity Act becomes law, providing work and education programs, loans to low-income farmers, businesses and other community anti-poverty programs.


United Farm Workers Organizing Committee formed by merger of Cesar Chavez's National Farm Workers Association & the Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee, AFL-CIO, during the Delano grape strike in California.


Amendments to the Fair Labor Standards Act extend minimum wage protection to 10 million workers previously excluded.


California Legislature passes Meyers-Milius-Brown Act, legalizing collective bargaining for public sector workers (except public education), in response to series of actions organized by mostly social workers organized by SEIU; the national Age Discrimination Act becomes effective, making it illegal for employers, union, and employment agencies to discriminate in hiring and discharge against persons 40 to 65 years old.


Hawaii becomes the first state to allow state and local government employees the right to strike; President Nixon signs the Occupational Safety and Health Act, authorizing the Secretary of Labor to establish safety and health standards at work.


The Employee Retirement Income Security Act becomes law, regulating all private pension plans and, to a limited extent, private welfare plans.


Rodda Act passes in California, legalizing collective bargaining for public education employees, after a decade of strikes and organizing by teachers; the Trade Act of 1974 passes. Designed to help workers who lose their jobs because of imports.


The Age Discrimination in Employment Act is amended, raising compulsory retirement for most workers from 65 to 70. Eliminates age 70 mandatory retirement wage for federal workers; President Jimmy Carter signs the Civil Service Reform Act, providing an independent appeal process, protection against abuse in the merit system and incentive for good and skilled management.


First Comparable Worth strike in United States, conducted by AFSCME Local 101 in San Jose; women achieve pay equity in city government jobs; President Ronald Reagan warns the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization (PATCO) that he would fired every member if they struck. They did and he did, resulting in the termination of all 10,000 federal air traffic controllers.


The Job Training Partnership Act (JTPA) establishes local partnership from private and public employers who receive federal funds for job training and employment. Replaced the Comprehensive Employment and Training Act (CETA).


First AFL-CIO sponsored Union Summer, in which hundreds of young activists are trained and then placed with union organizing drives.


California's Industrial Welfare Commission overturns state regulations for overtime pay after an eight hour day. California workers now only receive time-and-a- half after forty hours work in a week.


Voters defeat Proposition 226 in California, known to union members as the "Paycheck Deception Act," which was designed to cripple unions' ability to spend money on politics and legislative action.


Governor Gray Davis and the state Legislature bring back daily overtime provisions repealed by the Industrial Welfare Commission appointed by former Governor Pete Wilson; southern California home care workers vote to join SEIU, which negotiates a contract covering 74,000 workers, the largest unit brought into the labor movement in fifty years; the AFL-CIO votes to support amnesty and to end employer sanctions for employing immigrants illegally in the country. 1905

The Supreme Court rules that a maximum-hours law is unconstitutional.

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BVN National News Wire