Outten & Golden: Empowering Employees in the Workplace

Posts Tagged ‘government policy’

Dumb, Dumber and the Downgrade

Tuesday, August 9th, 2011

Image: Bob RosnerThe recent debt ceiling debate and S&P downgrade of the U.S. government reminded me of a fight between an ex-spouse and boss over who can make your life the most uncomfortable. You realize that they both have lots of weapons to do it and there is precious little that you can do to change the outcome.

Congress fiddled and S&P lit the match last week and the rest of us will suffer. That’s the bad news. The good news? It shouldn’t be any more than nine to eighteen years that we’ll be stuck in purgatory. At least that’s what a S&P official said when asked how long it took previous downgraded countries to regain their AAA rating.

Ironic that a rating agency would start the ball rolling on this most recent downgrade, when it was the rating agencies sloppy ratings that started the recession in the first place by giving their highest ratings to what could only be charitably called junk bonds. Or worse.

But my favorite moment, is when the Treasury Department found a $2 trillion dollar mistake in the rating agency’s calculations about how bad our fiscal hole is moving forward.

It was Senator Everett Dirksen who said, “A billion dollars here, a billion dollars there, soon it adds up to real money.” Senator, the quote still works, you’ve just got to change the “b” to a “t”.

One more metaphor, you know how I love my metaphors. This one comes from Africa, “When the elephants fight it’s the grass that suffers.”

We can dig ourselves out of this mess. But so many of our institutions need to be cleaned out an refocused on actually addressing our long terms financial health. I guess that last statement would officially make me an optimist. Or crazy.

Okay, I’ll accept a combination of both.

We can rise above this but only when we put self interest in the side and do what’s best for everyone moving forward. Okay, I’ve not seen it in my lifetime, but I’ll choose to keep an upbeat tone to this missive.

Wish us luck. We’ll need it.

About the Author: Bob Rosner is a best-selling author and award-winning journalist. For free job and work advice, check out the award-winning workplace911.com. Check the revised edition of his Wall Street Journal best seller, “The Boss’s Survival Guide.” If you have a question for Bob, contact him via bob@workplace911.com.

Republican FAA Shutdown Costs 4,000 Jobs, Threatens 90,000

Thursday, July 28th, 2011

Image: Mike HallWhen Republican House leaders forced a shutdown of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) last week, they not only forced the layoff of 4,000 FAA workers, they also put at risk nearly 90,000 construction jobs at airports around the country.

FAA funding expired after midnight Friday because Republicans blocked temporary funding in an effort to overturn a new rule making union elections among rail and airline workers more democratic.

With a long-term FAA funding bill stalled, Congress could have passed temporary spending authority, as it has 20 times in the past without controversy. But  like their tactics on debt ceiling negotiations, Republicans  are demanding their way at any cost.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka called on Republicans “to stop playing ideological games” and to:

get down to the serious business of creating jobs, instead of laying off FAA aviation experts and tens of thousands of construction workers, who are already experiencing close to 20 percent unemployment rates nationally. Adding insult to injury, just as the government reaches its debt limit, this disruption of the FAA means that aviation taxes—totaling up to $200 million a week—that normally fund our aviation infrastructure may instead end up in the airlines’ pockets.

Says AFL-CIO Transportation Trades Department (TTD) President Edward Wytkind:

Here we go again. House Republican leaders are playing political games at the expense of vital services and thousands of good jobs….Unfortunately in this game there are no winners. Republican leaders are holding hostage a simple funding extension of vital air safety programs, forcing furloughs on 4,000 FAA employees, jeopardizing thousands of construction jobs as airport projects are at risk and even sticking it to rural America by threatening their air service.

The FAA partial shutdown means no one is collecting the tax on airline tickets, costing the federal government $200 million a week.

It also means airport improvement construction jobs will be lost in every state and FAA aviation experts furloughed in 35 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. In Florida, for example, a total of 3,088 jobs are shut down or at risk, in Illinois it’s 3,286 and in Ohio it’s 1,358.

The laid off FAA workers include engineers, scientists, research analysts, administrative assistants, computer specialists, program managers and analysts, environmental protection specialists and community planners.

Says AFSCME President Gerald McEntee:

FAA employees should not have their livelihoods jeopardized because a few politicians want to play political games.  The FAA employees we represent are hardworking public servants who are committed to maintaining what is undeniably the most efficient aviation system in the world.  Congress should pass a short-term extension at once and recommit themselves to passing a long-term bill that does not take away the rights of working men and women.

The union election rule in question, adopted last year by the National Mediation Board (NMB), says air and rail union elections should be decided by a majority of votes cast. Previously, each worker who did not cast a vote in an air or rail  representation election was automatically counted as a “No” vote. If the old rule were applied to Congress, not a single sitting member would have been elected.

Larry Cohen, Communications Workers of America (CWA) president, says:

It’s a sad day when extremists would rather shut down the FAA and force the layoff of thousands of workers than allow airline workers to vote in a union election under the same standards used in every other American election.

This blog originally appeared in Afl-CioNow Blog on July 25, 2011. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Mike Hall is a former West Virginia newspaper reporter, staff writer for the United Mine Workers Journal and managing editor of the Seafarers Log. He has written for several federation publications, focusing on legislation and politics, especially grassroots mobilization and workplace safety. When his collar was still blue, he carried union cards from the Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers, American Flint Glass Workers and Teamsters for jobs in a chemical plant, a mining equipment manufacturing plant and a warehouse. He has also worked as roadie for a small-time country-rock band, sold his blood plasma and played an occasional game of poker to help pay the rent.

Michael Steele and the Demise of Working America

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2009

Back in April 2009, GOP chairman Michael Steele appeared as a guest on a republican-oriented talk radio show. A caller to the program voiced his opinion and stated he did not believe the U.S. is in a state of economic crisis. Steele laughed in agreement and claimed that “[t]he malls are just as packed on Saturday.”

San Rafael, California is located 20 minutes north of the Golden Gate Bridge along U.S. Highway 101. With a population of approximately 50,000, it retains the flavor of a small town without sacrificing any of the amenities you’ll find in the most sophisticated of communities.

Nearly every week for the last six months, as I drive along “Mainstreet” on my way to work, I’ve noticed a new storefront that has gone vacant. These are not the vacant addresses that once housed “Old Navy” or “The House of Knives;” and 4th Avenue is not a strip mall. These were shops and boutiques that operated and prospered for the last 20 or more years by catering to the desires and whims of what had been one of the most prosperous communities in the nation. But ever since the mask was removed from Bush’s depression last summer, many of these privileged professionals are finding themselves squeezed financially in the same wringer as the rest of America’s middle class has been for quite some time. As a result, one by one, these shops are falling by the wayside.

The American economy we see today is the end-result of political policies that have been transforming American society for the past 30 years. Based on slogans such as privatization, de-regulation, free trade, out-sourcing, “conservatism,” tax reform, and right to work, legislators have been giving American business what it wants since the days of President Regan. They have turned this country into a place that no longer resembles the country it was when I grew up in the 1950’s and 1960’s.

San Rafael, CA is a long way from Flint, Michigan, the town where I grew up.

Flint was never a place that you would mistake as being a center of sophisticated culture. It had always been a blue-collar town. But in its own way, it had once been a pretty prosperous place. Flint was probably the first urban center in America to feel the crunch created by those economic and business policies that destroyed industrial America. You could say that Flint had been America’s canary in a cage, because that town began dying in the 1970’s.

Type the words “Flint Michigan” into your browser or into the search bar over at You Tube. Take a look at what conservatism has done to America. Flint residents living next door to an abandoned property are now able to purchase that property for $1.00. The city will come in, demolish and remove any existing building on that property and fill in the holes. Thereafter, the new owner only needs to keep the property looking presentable. Another strategy being used is to provide incentives for residents in out-lying areas of the city to move in closer to the city center, so that city services can be discontinued to the abandoned areas.

In the wake of the policies listed above, community after community across America have been pushed over the brink of the same slippery slope as Flint, Michigan was abandoned to years ago when business (General Motors) moved out. Michael Steele’s words prove he remains as ignorant of where America stands today as John McCain was during his failed presidential bid, and Steele’s words are just as irrelevant as is the Republican party. The trouble is, that leaves America with only one other political party. From the looks of it, the Democrats have been cowed for so long by their minority status that following their return to a leadership position, they immediately bowed the knee to the masters of corporate Amerika. That being the case, I can’t see how we’ll ever emerge from the wreckage that’s been left behind.

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