Rejects UAL Bid for Secret Hearings
An attempt by United Airlines to seal the record of its financial
presentation to the Presidential Emergency Board (PEB) was swept aside when
board chair Helen Witt agreed with Machinists legal representatives who
argued to keep the hearings open.
The confrontation came on the second day of testimony before the board
appointed by President Bush to make settlement recommendations in the
high-profile contract dispute at United. Lawyers for the company told the
board their presentation contained extremely sensitive financial information
and asked for the testimony to be sealed and excluded from the public record
The company also requested signed confidentiality statements from IAM
representatives as a pre-condition to be present in the hearing room during
United’s motion was immediately challenged by the IAM team who made an
extensive financial presentation the day before. “If there was ever a time
for United Airlines to be forthcoming with its employees, this is it,”
said GVP Robert Roach Jr., GVP.
After leaving the hearing room briefly to deliberate, the 3-member board
returned and ruled in favor of the union and rejected the company’s
All testimony will be included in the transcript released by the board with
Scandal Threatens White House
White House PR operatives scurried to distance the Bush
administration from the growing scandal enveloping Enron Corp., a
Texas-based firm with close ties to both President Bush and his father, as
well as other administration figures.
Enron’s bankruptcy filing wiped out the life savings, and pensions of
thousands of its employees, but top officials bailed out with millions of
dollars from stock sales before the collapse.
The firm contributed more than $500, 000 to various Bush campaigns, and its
hefty campaign contributions to Attorney General John Ashcroft forced him
and a top aide to step away from Justice Department probes into the
spreading scandal. Ashcroft received more than $57,000 in campaign
contributions from Enron in his failed run for a Senate seat.
At the same time officials from the accounting firm that regularly monitored
Enron’s financial affairs admitted its employees had destroyed thousands
of Enron-related documents that could be vital to Justice Department
investigators. Officials from Arthur Andersen said staffers destroyed “a
significant, but undetermined number” of Enron-related documents. The
Securities and Exchange Commission said it is widening its investigation to
include Andersen’s role in the affair.
Stimulus Bill Ignores Workers
Look for President Bush to make a major effort to jam a major
“corporate relief package” through Congress later this month. Bush’s
$100 billion stimulus plan is packed with huge tax giveaways to Big
Business and the wealthiest taxpayers.
There is nothing for laid-off workers and their families.
The White House claims the measure sets aside $12 billion for unemployment
insurance and health care subsidies, money to provide assistance for workers
to maintain or obtain healthcare coverage. But those funds are in the form
of block grants to the states with no requirement that the funds must be
spent on those programs.
“We need real relief for laid-off workers and their families,” said IP
Tom Buffenbarger, “not this Band-Aid approach to a major problem.” He
urged IAM members to contact their congressional delegations and urge them
to put working families at the top of the list where they belong.
in the Family
President Bush has named a management attorney and OSHA
critic to the Labor Department’s top legal post. His name is Eugene Scalia
and, yes, he is the son of Justice Scalia. As Labor Department solicitor,
Scalia will have jurisdiction over an array of issues ranging from workplace
safety to pension rights. He has been a harsh critic of the department’s
policies on workplace safety issues and doesn’t believe ergonomics are
Scalia has said, “employees most likely to complain of musculoskeletal
discomfort are those who do not like their jobs.” That comment came in
comments on behalf of United Parcel Service. He faces confirmation hearings
before a Senate committee chaired by Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-MA.
On a related note, the 28-year-old son of retiring Sen. Strom Thurmond has
been named U.S. attorney for the state of South Carolina. The 97-year-old
Thurmond, who bolted the Democratic Party to run as a Dixiecrat in 1948 and
who later joined the GOP, will retire at the end of his Senate term.
Unemployment Claims Remain High
The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment
last week exceeded 395,000. While down from 451,000 new claims a week
earlier, it was not good news for those who claim no economic stimulus is
The manufacturing sector suffered the most during this prolonged slowdown.
In December, manufacturing employment fell by 133,000 making the
total drop for the year 1.3 million. Nearly
every manufacturing industry continued to loose jobs during the month.
Transportation equipment, which includes motor vehicle and aircraft
manufacturing lost 18,000 jobs in December making its unemployment rate rise
from 3.2 percent in 2000 to 6.1 percent for 2001.
What a difference a year makes! The unemployment rate rose from 3.7 percent
in December 2000 to 6.8 percent in December 2001.
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