Shop Talk: saving jobs, preventing disasters and more

Not paid at all for three pay periods

Ryszard Abucewicz of Chicago wasn't paid at all for three consecutive pay periods.

He is in a new video by Interfaith Worker Justice that zeroes in on wage theft, a national epidemic that isn't getting the media's attention.

IWJ notes that every day across the country, millions of workers in low-wage jobs are being robbed of billions of dollars they are owed by their employers.

A study released by the group says 60 percent of nursing home workers, 100 percent of poultry plant workers and 90 percent of restaurant workers are denied their fair pay at some time.

Kim Bobo, IWJ executive director, says wage theft is "the crime wave no one talks about. It's really all around us. There are workers who are not getting paid minimum wage, not paid overtime, are misclassified as independent contractors so employers can avoid having to pay benefits, who don't get all their tips. Some get laid off and don't get their last paycheck. For some workers, they work all day and don't get paid at all."

To learn more about IWJ's campaign against wage theft, click here.

 

3,750 jobs saved at Kansas City plant

The United Auto Workers praised Ford Motor Co's announcement Jan. 18 that it will invest $400 million in its Kansas City, Mo., assembly plant over the next two years, which will save at least 3,750 jobs at the plant plus thousands of other supporting jobs.

Ford says it will produce a new line of next-generation vehicles at the plant.

This plant investment was part of strategic economic incentives created by the Missouri Manufacturing Jobs Act, passed during a special legislative session called by Democratic Governor Jay Nixon last summer.

 

Coal mine disaster 'preventable'

The April coal mine explosion at the Massey Energy Co.'s Upper Big Branch (W.Va.) mine that killed 29 miners "was preventable" if the mine had been in compliance with federal safety rules. Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) officials told families of the victims Jan. 18.

MSHA officials briefed the families on its findings in a closed-door meeting, but family members spoke with reporters later and said MSHA coal administrator Kevin Strickland said the blast could have been prevented if a coal cutting machine had been properly maintained and if highly explosive coal dust had been controlled.

Without working water sprayers, investigators said, a small methane ignition grew into a huge one. Floating coal dust fueled it, and when it finally blew, the resulting blast was fed by coal dust spread throughout the mine, which explains an explosion that turned corners and killed along a two-mile path.

So far, no one has been jailed for criminal neglect regarding conditions at the mine. Federal prosecutors continue their criminal investigation.

Massey says it does not believe faulty equipment played a part in the disaster and that coal dust in the mine had been properly maintained.

 

Union credited with saving 700 jobs in Indiana

Workers at a General Electric refrigerator plant in Bloomington, Ind., have been fighting to keep the facility open in the cutthroat global economy. Now, two years after the company said it was going to shutter the plant, workers are celebrating. Instead of closing the plant, GE has announced it will invest $93 million in upgrades and begin to produce energy-efficient refrigerators at the plant.

Not only will that save the jobs of the plant's 700 workers, most of whom have 20 years or more experience, it will create 200 new jobs, which GE will move back to Bloomington from Mexico.

Workers credit their union, Electrical Workers IBEW, Local 24449, for much of the turnaround. Tammy Gilstrap, one of them, said, "We have a great union that is willing to go out and do what it can to save our jobs. We have a lot of dedicated employees in here and if we can get new technology, that'll be a good future for us."

 

He wants working families to pay

If new House Budget Committee Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) gets everything on his budget-cutting wish list, it would be, says a news analysis from the Economic Policy Institute: "A massive transfer of wealth from the middle class to wealthy Americans and corporations and a wholesale dismantling of the social programs that all Americans rely on, including Medicare and Social Security."

Republican leaders are pushing to slash federal discretionary spending by 20 percent, including job-creating infrastructure programs, education, health, housing, workplace safety and other vital family support programs.

In "Paul Ryan's Plan for Millionaires' Gains and Middle-Class Pain," EPI analyst Andrew Fieldhouse says Ryan's roadmap is: "riddled with policies that ignore the lessons learned from the Great Depression and underscored by the Great Recession. Ryan's plan still swears by the failed Bush-era economic policies of cutting taxes for the wealthy while neglecting the middle class and national investments.

"It even proposes the partial privatization of Social Security, an increase in taxes on the middle class, the elimination of corporate taxes and the privatization of Medicare."

The Ryan plan would raise taxes on most Americans earning less than $200,000 while cutting millionaires' taxes in half. Fieldhouse says the wealthiest 0.1 percent of taxpayers - families making $3 million or more - would see an average yearly tax cut of $1.7 million.

In addition, the plan would replace the corporate income tax with an 8.5 percent business consumption tax, which Fieldhouse says, "would be passed on to consumers in the form of a value-added tax (that would fall heavily on low and middle income people)."

 

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