|ONLINE VERSION||MARCH 2001|
|NEWS IN BRIEF
Southern to Cut Jobs
Southern to Cut Jobs
January 23 Wire Reports reported that Norfolk Southern Corp., the fourth-largest U.S. railroad company, said it will eliminate up to 6% of its work force — as many as 2,000 employees — reduce its track network and slash its quarterly dividend by 70% as it continues to struggle to incorporate portions of Conrail Inc.
Management and union jobs will be cut, according to Susan Terpay, an NS spokeswoman. The cuts are in addition to the elimination of several hundred maintenance workers last year and early retirements offered to 870 managers. The dividend will be cut to 6 cents a share from 20 cents and the company will shed as many as 4,000 miles of track in the next two years.
NS is struggling with congestion that began when it started running part of Conrail last year. The company said last month it would fire or layoff 1,300 workers and that fourth quarter profit fell below analyst forecasts.
The track reductions, through sale or abandonment, may cut the company's 21,800-mile system by 18%. The Norfolk, Virginia based company also plans to dispose of 12,000 freight cars and close or consolidate 10 facilities such as railyards or repair shops.
Just a week earlier, in the January 18 issue of the Association of American Railroads Train-It, it was reported that NS plans to spend $806 million for capital improvements in 2001. "The anticipated spending includes $449 million for roadway improvements and $256 million for equipment.
"Roadway spending includes $264 million for rail, crosstie, ballast and bridge programs; $63 million for new or improved intermodal facilities; $35 million for marketing and industrial development initiatives; $35 million for signal and electrical projects; and $23 million for environmental projects and public improvements such as grade crossing separations and crossing signal upgrades."
Over 8,000 locomotive engineers, members of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers, walked off the job at 12:01 on the morning of January 27, shutting down the nation's largest rail carrier, the Union Pacific Railroad.
The strike was triggered by UP's imposition of new qualification standards for personal leave days for engineers shortly after the first of the year. The shutdown affected freight traffic over the railroad's 38,654 miles of track in 23 states.
"It was something we were forced to do," said Edward Dubroski, BLE International President. "Union Pacific chose to unilaterally impose new working conditions on locomotive engineers, in defiance of federal law."
A temporary restraining order was issued later that morning by Federal Judge Strom in Omaha, Nebraska, UP's headquarters location.
Speaking at the U. S. Conference of Mayors winter meeting on January 17, 2001, Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-MS) outlined his transportation agenda for the 107th Congress, calling for more investment in the nation's railroads. "I think we need a national passenger rail system," he said. "Will it be cheap? No, but we can do this."
Lott noted that one of his top priorities is to pass the High-Speed Rail Investment Act, the $10 billion bonding proposal to improve rail infrastructure for Amtrak that died in Congress last year. "We've got to do that," he said. Lott added that there is a need to continue funding Amtrak, saying that it is "not fair" to order Amtrak to begin covering its operational costs — as Congress mandated in the 1997 Amtrak Reform and Accountability Act — without providing it with more support. Lott later equated Amtrak to a public good like water and sewer systems, calling the passenger rail service "something you have to provide for people."
In addition, Lott said he intends to submit a bill that would move railroad tracks out of the center of urban areas, and place them in outlying areas — to help improve safety and take advantage of valuable urban real estate.
In December the Department of Transportation reported that, using data from Management Information System annual reports, FRA has determined that the 1999 rail industry random testing positive rate was .82 percent for drugs and .13 percent for alcohol. Since the industry- wide random drug testing positive rate continues to be below 1.0 percent, the Federal Railroad Administrator determined that the minimum annual random drug testing rate for the year 2001 will remain at 25 percent of covered railroad employees. Since the random alcohol testing violation rate has remained below .5 percent for the last two years, the Administrator determined that the minimum random alcohol testing rate will remain at 10 percent of covered railroad employees for the year 2001.
On January 24, the Senate confirmed Norman Mineta as Secretary of Transportation. Sonny Hall, President of the AFL-CIO Transportation Trades Department lauded the United States Senate in the following statement issued on the same day.
"We congratulate the Senate for moving so expeditiously in confirming Norman Mineta as the next Secretary of Transportation. We are glad Secretary Mineta will be able to get to work so quickly in this important post. He is a man of great stature and caliber, and we are pleased the Senate gave him this unanimous vote of confidence. Secretary Mineta understands the transportation needs of our nation and will be an excellent leader of the Department of Transportation.
We look forward to working with Secretary Mineta, a strong supporter of transportation workers during his career in public service. We have a number of important issues facing us in areas such as infrastructure investment, safety and worker protections and the Bush administration would be well advised to heed the counsel of this highly qualified Cabinet Member."
In a close vote, John Ashcroft was confirmed as U.S. attorney general Feb. 1. The 58-42 Senate vote followed weeks of debate over the Missourian's controversial civil rights record, opposition to affirmative action and a St. Louis school desegregation plan and his stands against workers' and women's rights. "Mr. Ashcroft has promised to enforce the law fairly for all," said AFL-CIO President John J. Sweeney. "The AFL-CIO and America's working families now call on those senators who voted in favor of John Ashcroft to hold him accountable for keeping that promise — for the nation and all our citizens."
Jolene M. Molitoris, the first woman to ever head the Federal Railroad Administration, resigned her position effective December 31, 2000 to become president and chief executive officer of GeoFocus, Inc., a satellite and wireless technology company that provides services to the transportation industry.
Molitoris was appointed FRA Administrator by President Clinton in April of 1993. During her tenure, she focused much of her time and energy on increased partnerships between rail labor, management and the FRA.
"Under Jolene Molitoris' leadership, rail labor has finally had a legitimate seat at the table at the FRA," Transportation Trades Department President Sonny Hall said. "From day one, she made rail safety one of her top priorities and she made it clear that she intended to seek out and listen to America's railroad workers and their unions. Her tenure at the FRA has been characterized by accomplishment and railroad workers are especially grateful for the farsighted leadership she has provided."
During Molitoris' nearly eight years at the FRA helm, train accident fatalities have declined by 87%, rail worker casualties have been reduced by 34% and highway-rail crossing fatalities have declined by 35%.
Deputy Administrator Jack Wells is serving as the FRA's Acting Administrator.
Men and women who served in the U.S. Armed Forces can now proudly display their military service involvement with VetSignia Window Stickers.
The unique stickers are 2 inches by 4 inches, black on shiny silver metalized film, with an American flag background. Thirty-three different stickers are available: for WWII, Korea, Vietnam, Persian Gulf, Expeditionary, Peacetime and services—Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, Coast Guard and Merchant Marine.
Veterans who served in the past four major wars can display the war they served in and their branch of service.
Stickers for those who served in overseas expeditionary campaigns such as Panama, Somalia, Bosnia, etc. show Branch of Service and Expeditionary.
VetSignia stickers show combinations like: WWII/U.S. Navy, Persian Gulf/U.S. Air Force, U. S. Army/Expeditionary, etc.
Veterans who served in peacetime can get stickers that show their Branch of Service.
Retired veterans designed and make the attractive, long-lasting stickers. "The idea came up during a Vets' bull session," says Bob Kline, the WWII Marine who handles requests for the stickers. "We were brainstorming about how we could help fellow veterans get recognition on more than just a few special holidays. The stickers let veterans say, ‘I did it when it had to be done and I'm proud of it.'"
The stickers are $4 each or 3/$10 (shipping and handling included). Send requests to Bob Kline, Box 382, Blue Bell, PA 19422. Be sure to include your branch of service and war served, expeditionary, or peacetime.
In several issues of the BMWE JOURNAL, most recently the November/December 2000 issue, we have printed facts on the importance of one vote. Although the one vote portion of one of the facts was correct, it was not Andrew Jackson (as we said) but was Andrew Johnson who was impeached by the House but acquitted in the Senate on May 26, 1868 by a one-vote margin.
In the November/December 2000 issue of the BMWE JOURNAL we printed an article about holiday cards available for purchase from the National Railroad Museum with a portion of the proceeds to provide support for the Museum. Regrettably the editor erred by printing the article before being made aware that the cards are not union-made. The editor apologizes for her mistake and hopes that readers' future decisions will be governed by this current information.
Pointing out that many of its goals have been met, the United Farm Workers of America has called off the 16-year boycott of nonunion California table grapes.
"Cesar Chavez's crusade to eliminate use of five of the most toxic chemicals plaguing farm workers and their families has been largely successful," said UFW President Arturo Rodriguez in announcing the boycott's end.
Three of the pesticides — Dinoseb, parathion and Phosdrin — "are gone," Rodriguez wrote, adding that a fourth, methyl bromide, is scheduled to be banned by the year 2005 and severe restrictions have been placed on use of the fifth, Captan.
Rodriguez made the announcement in a letter to the St. Louis-based National Farm Worker Ministry, an arm of the National Council of Churches.
In addition, he wrote, "it is not fair to ask our supporters to honor a boycott when the union must devote all of its present resources" to organizing and bargaining. In the past six years alone, Rodriguez pointed out, the UFW has won 20 union-representation elections and bargained 24 new or first-time contracts with growers.
With original animation and footage from the Labor Party Founding Convention (which was attended by over 50 BMWE members) this ten-minute video is a must for every worker's video collection and is also perfect for making a presentation to various membership groups. Order by faxing a request to 202-234-5266. The low $6 price includes shipping.
And by faxing a request to the same number you can receive a copy of the Labor Party Documents booklet. Available in units of 25 copies for $50 plus $3 shipping, the 24-page collection includes the Labor Party's Call for Economic Justice, the Constitution, the Implementation Agreement and Electoral Strategy.
From the January 2001 Party Builder, an official publication of the Labor Party:
Our Health Care System is a Disgrace
Health care premiums increased by 8.3% last year according to a nationwide survey of employers by the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Health Research and Education Trust (www.kff.org). That increase is five percentage points more than the overall inflation rate and four percentage points more than the rise in workers' earnings. And in the coming year, prescription drug benefits are expected to increase at an annual rate of 20% while premiums for federal workers and retirees will rise an average of 10.5% — a 36% increase since 1998.
As health care costs escalated in the past two decades, employers increasingly shifted health costs to employees. In 1980, the percentage of workers with employer coverage required to contribute to health premiums was 25% for single coverage and 50% for family coverage. By 1995, 66% of workers contributed to single coverage and 80% contributed to family coverage. In 1997 the average household in the United States spent $1,841 on health care — premiums, co- payments, doctor and hospital bills, prescription drugs and medical supplies — a $700 increase from 1987.
Nearly half of the more than one million Americans who filed for bankruptcy protection in 1999 did so at least in part because they could not cope with medical bills or other financial consequences of illness or injury. And while in 1999, for the first time in 12 years, the number of people without health insurance decreased, we still have 42.6 million uninsured, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Largest U.S. Corporations Pay No Tax
A December 2000 report by the Citizens for Tax Justice and the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy examines the profits and federal income taxes of 250 of the nation's largest and most profitable corporations over the 1996-98 tax period. Some of their findings:
Forty-one companies paid no taxes in at least one year despite reporting a total of $25.8 billion in profits. Rather than paying the $9 billion owed in federal taxes (the corporate tax rate is 35% of profits for big corporations), they received $3.2 billion in rebates from the federal government.
Texaco, which reported $3.4 billion in U.S. profits, received $304 million in tax rebates over the three years.
If all 250 companies paid the full 35% corporate tax rate on their combined profits of $735 billion (1996 - 1998), the government would have received $257 billion. Instead, tax breaks lowered the total taxes paid by $98 billion.
Industries paying less than half the corporate tax rate over the 1996-98 period include:
The report, Corporate Income Taxes in the 1990s, is available at www.itepnet.org or 202-737- 4315.
CEO Pay Skyrockets Again
CEO compensation rose from 85 times more than the average blue collar wage in 1990 to some 475 times what blue collar workers earned in 1999, according to Business Week. Some CEOs did far better than the average. In 1997, Jack Welch, General Electric's top dog, was paid 1400 times the average wage earned by Mexican industrial workers.
The Rich Get Richer
The richest one percent of Americans held an estimated 40.1% of the country's wealth in 1997—up from 35.7% in 1989 and 20.5% in 1979.
Stock Market Boom Goes to Wealthy
A myth has crept into our society that stocks are now widely held by most Americans. The reality is that most working families own little or no stock and therefore do not benefit from the boom. On the contrary, since most of the recent increases in the value of stock are due to a rise in corporate profits from squeezing workers' wages, layoffs and reducing long-term investments—the boom is at the expense of workers. Consequently, between 1996 and 2000, 86% of the stock market's advances went to the wealthiest 10% of the population.
Former President Clinton, congressional and union leaders rededicated the AFL-CIO headquarters building in Washington, D.C. on January 8 after a three-year remodeling project. Clinton, who used the occasion to call for a higher minimum wage, said that over the last eight years, "We've proved that America is better off when labor, business and government work together for the benefit of all Americans. The next four years are going to be rough on you, but you will have all of the evidence [of a stronger economy] on your side." He urged unions to stress organizing. "You've got to keep winning new members ... I hope you will continue to swell the ranks of your members." Introducing Clinton, Susan Hagan, a 42-year-old member of Electrical Workers Local 38 in Cleveland, said "the success that my family and families across America have enjoyed is because of his unending devotion to public service. We will miss you, Mr. President."
In his remarks, AFL-CIO President John Sweeney said, "Today as we rededicate this building, we renew our vow to revitalize our movement and restore the voices of working families in our workplaces, our communities, our government and in the global marketplace."
Other dignitaries attending the ceremony included Labor Secretary Alexis Herman, White House Chief of Staff John Podesta, Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-MA) and Irena Kirkland widow of AFL-CIO President Emeritus Lane Kirkland. A cornerstone was placed at the building in 1955, when it was the American Federation of Labor building. After the merger of the AFL and the Congress of Industrial Organizations, it was dedicated in June 1956 as the AFL-CIO building. The renovation includes a new completely open lobby, a new driveway and entrance, a sit-in cafeteria and an expanded Executive Council room dedicated to former AFL-CIO President George Meany.
Six AFL-CIO constituency groups adopted a joint agenda that includes organizing, fighting discrimination, making women and minorities count, defending immigrant rights and strengthening Social Security. "We want everyone to know that in the union movement, all workers — regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, religion or sexual orientation — are united in their pursuit of social and economic justice," said Pride at Work Co-Chair Nancy Wohlforth. The groups are the A. Philip Randolph Institute, Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance, Coalition of Black Trade Unionists, Coalition of Labor Union Women, Labor Council for Latin American Advancement and Pride at Work.
A multimedia exhibit by artist James Williams will be shown through April 2 at the American Labor Museum/Botto House National Landmark in Haledon, N.J. The exhibit features three very large murals and a dozen other pieces, along with video interviews of steelworkers in Mexico, New York and Ontario, Canada, and sounds of an operating steel mill. The museum, at 83 Norwood St. in Haledon, is open Monday-Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tours for large groups are offered Wednesday-Saturday, 1-4 or by appointment.