The U.S. economy is in a free-fall and taking millions of U.S. jobs down with it.
The Department of Labor reports the unemployment rate soared to 7.2 percent last month – the highest since World War II. According to the department, 2.6 million people lost their jobs last year alone, bringing the total number of people currently without work to a whopping 11.1 million.
The manufacturing sector continues to experience the steepest losses with a record number of plant closings and mass layoffs. Factory job losses totaled 791,000 in 2008, with nearly half of the decrease occurring near the end of the year.
Unfortunately, all signs indicate things will only get worse before they get better. Boeing announced it will put 4,500 people out on the street by the end of 2009. The same goes for AK Steel, which expects to let go of about 45 Ohio workers after announcing a five percent pay cut for 1,500 salaried workers just last month. The list goes on.
President-elect Barack Obama says the latest numbers are “sobering.” He’s proposing an $800 billion stimulus package, which includes an emphasis on infrastructure and energy. Obama asserts his plan will create between three and four million jobs by 2010, with manufacturing and construction experiencing particularly strong growth.
Congress is currently analyzing and debating the particulars of the proposal. A final package is expected to hit Obama’s desk shortly after he is sworn into office.
The U.S. House of Representatives passed two landmark bills to help end the pay gap between men and women and make it easier for workers to pursue pay discrimination claims. The two bills were some of the first items of business considered by the new 111th Congress, and demonstrate the increased commitment to working family issues after the Democratic victory in November.
The House passed the Paycheck Fairness Act by a 256 to 163 vote. The bill will help close the pay gap between men and women who are performing the same jobs. U.S Census Bureau data shows women still earn just 78 cents for every dollar earned by men.
The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay act passed by a 247-171 vote.
The bill reverses a May 2007 Supreme Court decision made it extremely difficult for workers to pursue pay discrimination claims. The bill restores the law to what it was prior to the 2007 decision. For more information on the legislation, go to http://edlabor.house.gov.
Members of District 837 in Hazelwood, MO, voted this week to reject a contract offer from GKN Aerospace in St. Louis, MO, and followed it with a second vote authorizing a strike.
The outcome of the vote, however, does not initiate an immediate strike. The current contract requires the issuance of a seven-day letter of intent to strike required before such strike actions would occur.
District 837 representatives notified the company of the vote results and proposed a prompt return to the bargaining table to address unresolved issues. “If the company does not notify the union shortly of their intent to meet, we will exercise our right under Article 2, Section 3 of the contract by issuing a seven-day notice of intent to strike,” said District 837 President and Directing General Chairman Gordon King in a bulletin to members. “It could be much better for you to continue drawing a paycheck while we wait to see if the company will offer a new proposal worthy of your acceptance.”
Additional information and updates can be found on the District 837 website at http://www.iam837.org.
Hundreds of union members from across the U.S. will travel to New Orleans, LA, this week for the 2009 AFL-CIO Martin Luther King, Jr., Holiday Observance. The annual event will be marked by speakers, workshops and community service activities that will include restoration of residences and playgrounds damaged by Hurricane Katrina and Rita.
This year’s MLK observance marks the second time in three years that the AFL-CIO is returning to the storm damaged Gulf Coast, where evidence of the historic 2005 hurricane season is still clearly visible in working class communities.
In addition to community service activities, union members will also celebrate the election of President-elect Barack Obama to the highest political office in the country and examine what this election will mean for the nation and working families.
Visit here for more information about the 2009 MLK Observance.
IAM members of Local 1660 in Lachine, Quebec, who are employed there by Asea Brown Boveri (ABB) Incorporated, have won a new collective bargaining agreement.
In addition to wage increases of three percent in each year of the three-year accord and the establishment of new job classifications, members will also receive a signing bonus upon ratification of the agreement. The creation of a summer schedule and improved sick pay rules are also included.
The 19 members of Local 1660 ratified the agreement by a margin of 88 percent. The IAM also represents ABB employees at the company’s St. Laurent facility in suburban Montréal.
Despite the economic downturn, IAM members of Local 778 in Kansas City, MO, who work at Honeywell FM&T were able to continue an annual tradition of supporting a local food pantry known as Harvesters. The 2009 drive surpassed the previous year’s giving by over $990, netting a total of $22,105.35.
The effort to support Harvesters includes management representatives, who stand side-by-side with union members seeking donations as employees enter the plant. Local 778 members have supported Harvesters for over 10 years, with yearly donations increasing even as head counts decreased.
“My thanks also go out to all the employees here at Honeywell FM&T for their kind contributions that help our community to be one of the best in helping each other,” said Local 778 President Leo Berroteran.