With fears of a recession looming, Congress opened its 2008 session today looking to address health care, energy costs and a host of economic issues. Democratic leaders have said a top priority will be to shape a bipartisan economic stimulus package to jumpstart the struggling economy.
“American families are facing rising energy and grocery prices, exploding health care costs or no coverage at all, and losing value in their homes or actually losing their homes to the sub-prime mortgage crisis,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). “Americans want Congress and the administration to take action to jumpstart our economy; Democrats look forward to working in a bipartisan way in the coming weeks.”
Congressional leaders are also planning a vote next week to override President Bush’s second veto of legislation expanding the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP). Other issues Congress is set to address include the sub-prime mortgage crisis, consumer safety surrounding Chinese imports and pending free trade agreements with Columbia, Panama and South Korea.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. would have been 79 today. It was forty years ago this April when he was assassinated in Memphis, TN while lending his support to the striking Sanitation Workers in their fight for justice and respect on the job.
To honor him and to mark the 40th anniversary of the strike, this year’s annual AFL-CIO Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday Observance is being held in Memphis. The IAM will join other labor and civil rights organizations from around the country who are gathering January 17-21 for workshops, community service projects and a parade.
“Dr. King was an activist and friend to workers and the labor movement,” said IAM Executive Assistant Diane Babineaux, who will be leading a delegation of IAM members to Memphis. “He believed that justice for workers, indeed the working poor, would come about when they were given the opportunity to bargain for better wages and better working conditions.”
As the U.S. observes Rev. King’s birthday each year on the third Monday of January, IAM Headquarters will be closed January 21.
With the nation’s broken healthcare system emerging as a key issue in the 2008 elections, the AFL-CIO and Working America’s 2008 Health Care for America Survey is asking working families to share their experiences about the nation’s healthcare system.
The AFL-CIO and Working America will run the survey through February, relaying the results to the presidential, congressional, state and local candidates in order to ensure that candidates at every level understand what working families are experiencing.
More than 600 people have already shared stories about their struggles with the nation’s healthcare system, citing such problems as rapidly climbing costs and struggles in dealing with insurancecompanies.
District 78 of Toronto, ON, is off to a good start this year with a pair of first-agreements. Security guards employed at Hawthorne Security in Arnprior ratified a one-year contract that provides a wage increase of 8.5 percent, in addition to additional sick-leave and uniform and safety-boot allowances. The new members provide security services to Arnprior Aerospace Inc., whose workers are represented by IAM Local 1542.
In Bowmanville, ON, a first collective bargaining agreement was reached for 28 new Local 901 members employed by the Kingsway Arms Retirement Home. The three-year accord calls for wage increases of 3 percent each of the first two years and 3.5 percent in the third year. Other contract highlights include drug and dental plan benefits, vision care, sick leave, life insurance and a uniform allowance. These new members include receptionists, nursing, kitchen and housekeeping staff.
A new contract with Nefab, Inc. in Peterborough, ON, was also ratified recently by members of Local 905. This new deal provides for wage increases of three percent in each year of the three-year agreement. Other contracts improvements include a new vision-care package and the removal of discriminatory injured-worker accommodation language. The 107 members produce custom, specialty packaging for machinery used in a variety of industries across Canada.
An extremely weak employment picture for December is increasing fears that a recession may be on the horizon. The unemployment rate increased from 4.7 percent to 5 percent in December, according to figures released Friday by the Labor Department. Employers last month added just 18,000 jobs, the lowest number in more than four years.
Manufacturing and construction were the hardest hit industries, with job losses of 31,000 and 49,000, respectively. Over the year, factory jobs are down 212,000, or 1.5 percent, the most in four years.
Job growth for all of 2007 was only one percent, with just 1.3 million jobs added. In comparison, job growth in the late 1990’s was over 2.5 percent, with more than three million jobs being created.