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4/21/2005

Horizon Miners Find New Hope

United Mine Workers of America President Cecil Roberts Hails Trustees' Vote to Admit Horizon Retirees in UMWA 1993 Benefit Plan

United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) President Cecil Roberts hailed today's vote by the UMWA 1993 Benefit Plan trustees to admit retirees from Horizon Natural Resources Inc. and their dependants to the 1993 Benefit Plan, which restored full health care benefits to nearly 2,500 people.

"This victory is the first ray of light these good people have seen in months," Roberts said. "Their lives have been needlessly and unjustly turned upside down since last August, and this is a first step towards restoring to them the health care benefits that are rightfully theirs."

In August, 2004, a U.S. Bankruptcy Court judge terminated the health care benefits for about 5,000 active UMWA members, retirees and dependents at Horizon as part of his ruling that liquidated the company's assets. Some 2,500 retirees and dependents were eligible for coverage through the UMWA 1992 Benefit Fund. Health care benefits for the remaining 2,500 have been paid directly by the UMWA for the last six months, however those benefits will expire on April 30.

"Much more needs to be done before benefits are assured for the long term," Roberts said. "The 1993 Fund is already in a precarious financial position, and adding these beneficiaries will only add to the 1993 Fund's problems. Without quick action by CongressCthis yearCthe 1993 Fund will be in serious financial difficulty."

"Congress has the ability to help these people, and there are several ways it can do it," Roberts said. "Which ever way it chooses, Congress must act quickly to do the right thingCthe responsible thingCand give these retirees and their dependents the peace of mind they've earned."

"These people worked hard for 30, 40, even 50 years in the mines, putting their lives on the line every day to provide our nation with the energy it needs, and always believing the promise they were given by Harry Truman in 1946--reaffirmed by two United States presidents and two acts of Congress--that they would have health care when they retired," Roberts said. "A single bankruptcy judge ripped that promise away. It's incumbent on Congress to live up to America's promise to these miners, and do it now."

Unlike the CBF and 1992 Benefit Fund, which are included in the Coal Act and have mandatory employer contribution rates set by congressional statute, the 1993 Fund is solely funded by employer contributions negotiated in collective bargaining agreements. Current contribution rates are inadequate to cover benefits due to the skyrocketing cost of health care. The current contract does not expire until December, 2006.

4/19/2005

APRIL 19th: GEARING UP TO PASS FREE CHOICE ACT

In an effort to reform the nation’s basic labor laws, the union movement is mobilizing to pass the Employee Free Choice Act. A bipartisan group of members of Congress will introduce the act on April 19. Some 57 million U.S. workers say they would join a union if they could, based on research by Peter Hart and Associates. But when workers try to gain a voice on the job by forming a union, employers routinely respond with intimidation, harassment and retaliation. The Employee Free Choice Act would require employers to recognize the union once a majority of workers signed cards authorizing union representation. It would provide mediation and arbitration for first-contract disputes and establish stronger penalties for violation of rights of workers seeking to form unions or negotiate first contracts. The bill was also introduced last year and gained more than 240 co-sponsors, but the Republican leadership would not allow it to go to the floor. “Behind the closed doors of the workplaces of America, workers face incredible—often ruthless—opposition when they try to come together in a union,” said AFL-CIO President John Sweeney. “These employers are literally robbing working people and their communities of better lives.” Visit http://www.aflcio.org/ after 4 p.m. April 19 to view a webcast of the bill’s introduction and to hear from workers whose freedom to form unions and bargain was violated.

Some 42 million U.S. workers say they would join a union if they could. But when workers try to get a voice on the job by forming a union, employers respond with intimidation, harassment and retaliation. And federal law doesn’t address this injustice.

Working families are mobilizing to reform the nation’s labor laws. Members of Congress are backing unprecedented legislation to give workers who want to join unions a fair chance to do so.

The Employee Free Choice Act would ensure that when a majority of employees in a workplace decide to form a union, they can do so without the debilitating obstacles employers now use to block their workers’ free choice. More than 36 senators and 207 House representatives co-sponsored the bills.

The Employee Free Choice Act will:

More

4/14/2005

Chinese Currency Law Could Save U.S. Jobs

China’s unfair manipulation of its currency is driving up the U.S. trade deficit and costing U.S. manufacturing jobs—and a bipartisan group of members of Congress, unions and businesses have joined together to back a bill in Congress that seeks to preserve U.S. jobs.

The Chinese Currency Act of 2005, introduced today by Reps. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) and Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.), along with 14 co-sponsors, would define currency manipulation as a violation of existing U.S. trade laws and World Trade Organization rules. It also would require the U.S. secretary of defense to identify when products imported from China threaten U.S. businesses—including many manufacturing operations—vital to the nation’s security.

“It is time for bipartisan congressional action to address the illegal actions of the Chinese government,” AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Richard Trumka said during an April 7 Capitol Hill press conference where he announced AFL-CIO support of the bill, along with Ryan, Hunter and representatives of the China Currency Coalition, a group of unions and businesses. “Currency manipulation is illegal and it undermines America’s industrial base. We are frustrated and angry at the administration’s refusal to move aggressively on this issue.”


Since 1995, China has artificially pegged its currency at about 8.28 yuan to one U.S. dollar rather than letting the international financial markets set the exchange rate, as do virtually all the other nations. With China’s rapid economic growth, its currency would be much more valuable in the global market if the price was allowed to fluctuate.

Undervaluing its currency—some experts say by as much as 40 percent—gives China an unfair advantage in the international marketplace and is a main cause for the record $162 billion U.S. trade deficit with China last year. Such a huge trade deficit, more than 30 percent higher than in 2003, undercuts domestic manufacturing and destroys good U.S. jobs because the nation is importing, on a large scale, products that previously were produced domestically. The rise in the United States’ trade deficit with China between 1989 and 2003 caused the loss of 1.5 million U.S. jobs, according to the Economic Policy Institute.

The United States now imports more than $600 billion worth of goods and services more than the nation produces, undercutting domestic manufacturing and services and increasing U.S. debt to the rest of the world. The enormous trade deficit is a key factor contributing to the loss of nearly 3 million manufacturing jobs since 2001.

Last fall, the China Currency Coalition, which includes the AFL-CIO and the Industrial Union Council (IUC), filed an unfair trade petition against the Chinese government for currency manipulation. The Bush administration rejected the petition without even reading it.


4/11/2005

UMWA Releases Video of Cannelton Rally

Video from the Feb. 24 th UMWA rally at Massey's Mammoth Mines To Protest America's Bankruptcy Laws.

The nine people were arrested at the protest rally, including UMWA International President Cecil Roberts.

Click Here To Watch Video (Real Player Format)

4/08/2005

WV Legislature passes bill in support of Horizon Miners

United Mine Workers of America President Cecil Roberts Hails West Virginia Legislature's Passage of Resolution In Support of Horizon Miners

Roberts Calls on Congress to Act Swiftly to Reform Bankruptcy Laws, Strengthen Coal Act

United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) International President Cecil Roberts praised the West Virginia Legislature's passage of Senate Concurrent Resolution (SCR) 58, saying that, "With this demonstration of its strong support for the active and retired Horizon miners, the Legislature is sending a clear message to Congress that quick action needs to be taken to prevent what happened to these coal miners from happening again to any other coal miners or any other working family anywhere in America."

SCR 58 calls on Congress to investigate the loss of insurance coverage for active and retired coal miners due to Horizon's bankruptcy and determine what changes need to be made to the nation's bankruptcy laws to "ensure that workers' health and pension benefits are protected."

"The UMWA has not wavered in its position that the decision of a single bankruptcy court judge should not be allowed to strip away the health care benefits the Horizon miners and retirees spent their lives working to earn," Roberts said. "It's especially galling that the judge ignored the will of Congress and paid no heed to the obligations Horizon or any successor company has to contribute to retiree health care benefits under the Coal Act. As U.S. Senator Robert C. Byrd said so eloquently last week on the floor of the United States Senate, 'One judge overturned a sixty year-old promise that had been codified by the Congress and endorsed by three presidents. It was a disgraceful, shameful act.'"

"The emotional and financial impact on these miners, retirees and their families have been and will continue to be tremendous burdens for them," Roberts said. "The UMWA has helped where we can, especially with respect to providing temporary health care coverage. But it's incumbent upon Congress to act to make sure no other group of workers ever have to suffer like the Horizon miners and their families have."

4/07/2005

Community Expresses Outrage

Community Expresses Outrage of Economic Development Director’s Rejection of 500 Union Jobs

Decision Costs Region Millions

Members of the Madisonville, KY, community met Tuesday night to discuss Madisonville-Hopkins County Economic Development Corporation Executive Director Danny Koon’s decision to turn away a company that would have supplied 500 new jobs to the region because the business’s employees were represented by a union.

Over 100 people packed the Holy Temple Church in Christ showing their disapproval of Koon’s decision that was reported by the Henderson Gleaner in October 2004. The article quotes Koon as boasting that he turned away a company that had the potential of supplying 500 new jobs to the region because the business had a contract with the United Auto Workers. According to the article, Koon stated that the Madisonville-Hopkins County Economic Development Corporation does not, “look at any companies that have representation with a bargaining group.”

"Koon's decision hurts us all, especially our children,” said Madisonville resident Rodney Miller. “Union jobs are what this community needs. Our children shouldn't have to work low paying jobs and shouldn't have to move away to find work. Our kids deserve good paying jobs like the ones Koon's turned away.”

Pastor Raymond Marion of the Holy Temple Church of God in Christ and NAACP Madisonville chapter president presented data that detailed just how much Koon’s decision cost the Madisonville region.

“Five hundred jobs at $15 per hour represents $15.6 million dollars in wages and each industrial job anchors 4.2 other jobs in the economy,” said Bishop Marion. “That equals 2,100 jobs at $10 an hour each which equals $43.7 million dollars. When you calculate in fringe benefits at 25% for the $15 per hour it raises the wage and benefits package to $20 per hour” Marion said.

Marion’s calculations come from the research department of the United Auto Workers and the Economic Policy Institute. In addition to higher wages, studies demonstrate that unions have been able to preserve the most important benefits for their members, while non-union workers have not been able to withstand the huge employer push to cut coverage and shift costs on to employees. Union workers are far more likely to be covered by health care and retirement benefits than nonunion workers and far less likely to be forced to contribute to the cost of those plans.

“All of this represents $59.3 million annually that could have come in to the Madisonville community, as well as 2,600 jobs,” Marion said. “Koon’s decision cost the community a lot economically - $59.3 million per year to be exact.”

Hopkins County Magistrate Coletta Wheeler assured the community that Koon’s actions did not reflect all of Madisonville and Hopkins County officials and deeply regrets Koon’s remarks.

"I have the highest respect for unions. Without the right to organize where would we be?" Wheeler said.

4/06/2005

Activists Spotlight Wal-Mart’s Role as Corporate Bad Actor

Community activists from Inglewood, Calif., are taking their campaign to tell the truth about Wal-Mart’s anti-worker, anti-community policies to Wal-Mart’s headquarters in Bentonville, Ark., where the world’s largest retailer is holding a media blitz this week to polish its tarnished image.

As part of Wal-Mart’s yearlong, high-cost public relations campaign, the corporate giant invited selected journalists from around the country to Bentonville for interviews, tours and presentations.

The nation’s largest company, Wal-Mart, is facing the largest civil rights class action lawsuit ever certified against a private employer in this country. Filed on behalf of 1.6 million current and former female employees, the suit says the company discriminates against women in pay and promotions. Wal-Mart last month agreed to pay $11 million to resolve federal charges that it employed undocumented workers to clean its stores. The company also paid $135,540 in February to settle charges of violating child labor laws involving young workers’ use of dangerous equipment.

The retail giant’s image also has been badly damaged by numerous reports documenting the company’s low wages and unaffordable health benefits and from growing community opposition to state and local tax breaks for Wal-Mart, which last year made $10 billion in profits.

“We believe that the hundreds of millions of dollars Wal-Mart is investing in public relations would be far better spent on addressing the problems Wal-Mart has created for America’s communities,” says the Rev. Altagracia Perez, who helped lead the campaign to defeat Wal-Mart’s ballot initiative in Inglewood and who traveled to Bentonville this week. We challenge Mr. Scott [Wal-Mart CEO] that the time has come for action, not words.”

One year ago, 61 percent of the mostly African American and Latino voters in Inglewood, near Los Angeles, rejected a ballot measure that would have allowed Wal-Mart to build a supercenter and exempt it from local and state planning reviews. Despite community opposition, Wal-Mart has since purchased the land where it hoped to build the project and is expected to announce new plans for an Inglewood store soon.

The activists held a Tuesday press conference and attempted to deliver a letter to Lee Scott. The letter called on Wal-Mart to sign a legally binding community benefits agreement that will protect the rights of the Inglewood community and guarantee living wage jobs, affordable family health care, fair pension benefits, job training and advancement, freedom from retaliation and basic rights on the job.

Wal-Mart Costs Communities

Workers across the country are spreading the word about Wal-Mart’s high cost to the nation. An AFL-CIO analysis of workers’ reliance on public health assistance in 13 states, The Wal-Mart Tax: A Review of Studies Examining Employers’ Health Care Cost-Shifting, released March 31, shows Wal-Mart ranks as one of the nation’s largest corporate offenders in shifting the cost of health care for workers and their dependents to the public.

Wal-Mart reports its national average wage for full-time employees is $9.68, which means a full-time worker who works 34 hours a week—Wal-Mart’s definition of full-time—earns $17,114.24 per year, well below the 2005 federal poverty level of $19,350 for a family of four.

Instead of paying its workers enough to support their families, Wal-Mart passes the buck to communities and taxpayers while undercutting local businesses and forcing many to close down. Each Wal-Mart store employing 200 people costs taxpayers approximately $420,750 annually in public social services for its employees, according to Everyday Low Wages: The Hidden Price We All Pay for Wal-Mart by the staff of Rep. George Miller (Calif.), the House Education and the Workforce Committee’s senior Democrat.

“I hear Wal-Mart say, ‘If we raise our prices poor people won’t be able to afford to shop at our stores.’ The truth is, Wal-Mart is creating more and more poor people by replacing good jobs with poverty jobs,” says Elinonai Padilla, an Inglewood supermarket employee who also is traveling to Bentonville this week.

Wal-Mart rakes in profits at the rate of $20,000 per minute—while benefiting from at least $1 billion in economic development assistance from states and municipalities in the past decade. Fortune magazine last month rated Wal-Mart as the nation’s largest company with revenues of $288 billion. Fortune also currently rated Wal-Mart as the world’s largest company.

Scott’s 2004 CEO compensation package was nearly $23 million and five members of the Walton family who are major company stockholders have a combined net worth exceeding $90 billion, making them half of the 10 wealthiest individuals in the United States. Yet fewer than half of Wal-Mart workers participate in the company’s health plan.

Taking Away U.S. jobs

Wal-Mart is the single largest importer of foreign-produced goods in the United States, and the majority of its private-label clothing is manufactured in at least 48 countries around the world—and almost none in the United States.

Wal-Mart’s biggest trading partner is China. The world’s largest retailer bought some $12 billion in merchandise in 2002, from China, nearly 10 percent of all Chinese goods sold in this country that year. The U.S. deficit with China was $162 billion in 2004 and Wal-Mart bought $18 billion in merchandise from China last year—one-ninth of the U.S. trade deficit with China, according to The Charlotte Observer.

Such a huge trade deficit undercuts domestic manufacturing and destroys good U.S. jobs because the nation is importing, on a large scale, products that had been produced domestically.

“I never did like Wal-Mart because I saw what Wal-Mart does to communities—they run off competition instead of playing fair,” says Steve Ratcliff of Circleville, Ohio. His employer, Thomson Electronics, a Wal-Mart supplier, shut down and moved to China because of Wal-Mart’s pressure to lower prices. “They make other businesses pull out or sell out and it kills the downtown area when they come in. I’ve lived just outside of Circleville all my life and Wal-Mart really did make it a ghost town.”

Ratcliff and other workers affected by Wal-Mart’s policies are interviewed on the documentary “Is Wal-Mart Good for America?” The Public Broadcasting System’s “Frontline” TV show will rerun the documentary nationwide on April 26. Check your local listings for times.

Wal-Mart's expensive PR campaign cannot hide the naked truth

Wal-Mart's management meets with media today, in an effort to clean up the company's badly soiled image. This unprecedented two-day event takes place at company headquarters in Bentonville, Arkansas, of course. It is part of the retail giant's expensive public relations campaign, with which it tries to defend itself against growing criticism against its behaviour.
Once again, instead of changing the way that it treats its own workers, and others, Wal-Mart tries to buy a better reputation. This is like in the famous children's story by H C Andersen about the emperor without clothes. Only he himself believed that he was wearing the finest of dresses, told so by his flattering advisors, while the public saw the real emperor, naked and exposed.

In only a short time during the first months of this year, Wal-Mart has succeeded to destroy whatever effects its media campaign may have had.

Wal-Mart has decided to close a store in Canada rather than accept that its workers join their trade union UFCW and negotiate a collective agreement.

Wal-Mart has been caught for illegally using children to work with dangerous tasks, and for a sweetheart deal with the George W. Bush government which effectively hinders labour inspectors to catch it.
Wal-Mart has been exposed in a large number of US states as the worst employer when it comes to denying affordable health insurance from its employees and their children, regularly topping the list of companies whose workers have to depend on tax-payer financed healthcare.

Wal-Mart has been fined heavily for exploiting undeclared migrant workers at substandard rates and under poor conditions.

Wal-Mart is engaged in the largest class action lawsuit ever in the United States, for discrimination of its women workers.

And on and on, the list could be much longer. What is dangerous, of course, is that the Bentonville-based retail multinational is leading the way for efforts by big business to cut wages and social benefits, to relegate growing number of workers and their families to the ranks of the working poor and to deny them affordable health care - all this driven by the pure and naked corporate greed of the largest company in the world, and its super-rich owner family, the Waltons.

Wal-Martization is an attack against and a risk for organised civil society and cohesion. This is why communities, religious and civil groups, trade unions, moderate political leaders and others are stepping up their cooperation and action to defend the right of families to security and dignity. Wal-Mart's big money and expensive PR campaigns will not defeat this popular movement and community force.

4/04/2005

MEDIA ALERT - MADISONVILLE, KY

Community Leaders Call Meeting to Question Economic Development Director’s

Rejection of Union Jobs

Members of the Madisonville-Hopkins County community will meet Tuesday night to discuss Madisonville-Hopkins County Economic Development Corporation Executive Director Danny Koon’s rejection of new businesses to the region whose workers are represented by a union.

As reported by the Henderson Gleaner in October 2004, Koon turned away a company that had the potential of supplying 500 new jobs to the area because the business had a contract with the United Auto Workers. Koon stated in the article that the Madisonville-Hopkins County Economic Development Corporation does not, “look at any companies that have representation with a bargaining group.”

Speakers at the meeting will include:

  • Bishop Raymond Marion, pastor, Holy Temple Church of God in Christ; president, NAACP Madisonville chapter;
  • John Dugger, Secretary, Pennryrile Area Central Labor Council;
  • Marvin Sisk, International Union of Electronic, Electrical, Salaried, Machine and Furniture Workers-Communications Workers of America (IUE-CWA)

What: Community Meeting to discuss Economic Development Corporation’s actions and policies

When: Tuesday, April 5th , 6:30 p.m.

Where: Holy Temple Church of God in Christ, 150 Lunsford St., Madisonville.

March Employment Report Dismal

From AFL-CIO


Today’s extremely disappointing employment report reflects a job market stuck in the quagmire of bad public policies. Last month’s job growth fell way below expectations and was far too little even to accommodate new entrants to the workforce. More than 21 percent of the unemployed have been jobless for at least six months, and the number of long-term unemployed is at its highest level since December 2004. The number of individuals working part-time because they could not get full-time work increased. And we lost another 8,000 manufacturing jobs. All in all, the jobs report is frightening confirmation of the imbalance and unevenness of our economy.

Workers struggling to meet rising health care costs, gasoline prices and utility bills are falling further behind, victims of an economic recovery that is weak. Corporate profits are growing briskly but wages are stagnant and good-paying jobs continue to disappear. American consumer spending has grown strongly, but production has not. As a result, we must borrow over $2 billion dollars a day from abroad in order to buy the things we consume, but do not produce at home.

We need policies that produce a strong and more balanced economy that provides jobs with family supporting wages and benefits. Unfortunately, President Bush is more interested in tax cuts favoring the wealthy, budget cuts that hurt ordinary Americans and privatization of Social Security, a radical step that would only add to the economic insecurity that already plagues so many of our nation’s working families.

MORE WAL-MART WORKERS ON MEDICAID

In its home state of Arkansas, Wal-Mart leads all the state’s companies in the number of workers and their children forced to rely on the state Medicaid program for low-income, uninsured children and adults and other public assistance programs. A report by the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette showed 3,971 employees of Wal-Mart, the state’s largest employer, receive public assistance. By contrast, the state’s seventh largest employer, Triad Hospitals Inc., has just three employees on public rolls. Recent studies in Georgia, Tennessee, Washington, Massachusetts, Wisconsin, West Virginia and Connecticut also show a disproportionate number of Wal-Mart workers and their children on public health programs. Fewer than half of Wal-Mart’s workers are covered by the company’s health plan because of long waiting periods for eligibility and high costs.

Manufacturing Lost 8,000 Jobs in March

The manufacturing sector of the economy continued to lose jobs last month, and the U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported disappointing job numbers for March.

BLS said manufacturing lost 8,000 jobs in March and that only 110,000 new jobs had been created last month, less than half the number predicted by many economists. The BLS reported the March job figures on April 1.

Textile and apparel lost 7,000 in March, BLS said. Job losses in air transportation continue to mount, BLS added, bringing to 127,000 the number of positions lost in that sector in the last four years.

Many economist were predicting large job gains for March, with a consensus of around 200,000. Bloomberg News’ survey or 74 economists predicted job gains of 262,000 for March.

The March job figures reflect an increase in the percentage of people who say jobs are hard to find, the Conference Report said March 30. The New York-based research group said the percentage of people who feel jobs are harder to find rose to nearly 24 percent in March. The Conference Board also said its confidence index fell to 102.4 in March, down from 104.4 in February.