Labor & Economic News Blog

Thursday, June 30, 2005

Options in the event of a BART strike
BART is currently negotiating labor contracts, and if a settlement is not reached it is possible that BART service may be disrupted as early as Wednesday, July 6. Customers disrupted by a BART strike can try to beat the traffic backup with these options and resources.


BART offers modest raises
BART officials put a new contract proposal on the table Wednesday in the hopes of avoiding a strike, one day before agreements with the two unions representing the majority of the transit agency's labor force expire.


Union reacts negatively to BART's new offer / Health benefits cut, up to 4% raise spread over the next 4 years
With a strike deadline looming next week, BART presented its unions Wednesday with what it called "a major new offer'' that would cut health benefits while charging more for them and grant up to 4 percent pay raises over four years.


Fed Raises Interest Rate by Quarter-Point
The Federal Reserve raised a key interest rate Thursday and signaled that Americans' borrowing costs probably will keep heading higher.


U.S. agency tries to define small business / Suggestions at hearing include number of employees, revenue
Business representatives gathered at a hearing in San Francisco Tuesday to figure out the best way to define the size of a small business. Some argued that 500 should be the maximum number of employees a company could have in order to be considered a...


SF Chronicle, unions in talks -- no strike vote scheduled
Labor contracts covering 1,500 workers at The San Francisco Chronicle and its online unit,, expire at midnight Friday. Representatives of the newspaper and its largest union said that they are actively negotiating new contracts and that business will continue as...


WTO Report Urges Asia to Cooperate
Asian countries should explore cooperation agreements to ensure stable fuel supplies now that record oil prices are combining with booming industries in some countries, the World Trade Organization said Thursday.


British economic slowdown continues amidst rate cut hopes
Britain's economy grew at a much slower rate than expected during the first quarter of 2005, according to revised official data, strengthening the case for an interest rate cut.


Jobless claims unexpectedly fall
The number of Americans seeking initial jobless compensation unexpectedly fell 6,000 last week to 310,000, its lowest level in more than two months, the government said on Thursday.


May Income Growth and Spending Both Slow
Personal income growth slowed sharply in May and people's spending didn't increase at all, but analysts viewed the weakness as temporary and not a signal of a serious slowdown of the economy.


Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Current Account Trade Deficit at New High
The deficit in the broadest measure of international trade rose to an all-time high of $195.1 billion from January through March of this year as the country sank deeper into debt to Japan, China and other nations.


US leading indicators suggest US economy cooling
Another sign of US economic cooling emerged as the Conference Board reported its index of leading economic indicators fell 0.5 percent.


Winn-Dixie to eliminate 326 stores, 22,000 jobs
Supermarket chain's moves part of plan to emerge from bankruptcy; Ceasing operations in 4 states


Wednesday, June 15, 2005

China shoe firms in EU spotlight
European shoe firms claim their livelihoods are in danger European Union (EU) Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson has called for an investigation into whether Chinese shoemakers are dumping shoes in Europe.


Thursday, June 09, 2005

Europe must forge closer political ties with southeast Asia: Singapore
The European Union should build closer political ties with southeast Asian countries or risk harming strong economic links that are already enjoyed, Singapore's foreign minister warned.


Greenspan sees no serious slowdown in US economy
Alan Greenspan, Federal Reserve chairman, said on Thursday that the Federal Reserve was not concerned about a serious slowdown in US growth and will continue to raise interest rates - but made no effort to send a signal on how much further rates would rise.


Jobless Claims Post Biggest Drop in 7 Weeks
The number of people filing new claims for unemployment benefits fell by 21,000 last week, the biggest decline in seven weeks, the government reported Thursday.


Wednesday, June 08, 2005

“It’s time to go back to Gary,” William Lucy told 1,500 delegates to the 34th annual convention of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists (CBTU), meeting in Phoenix, Arizona, last week. “It’s time to go back to Gary to talk among ourselves as trade unionists, as social activists, as political leaders, as academics about what it will take to move our communities forward.”

Lucy, Secretary-Treasurer of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) and President of the CBTU since its founding in 1972, was also a convener of the historic National Black Political Convention in Gary, Indiana, that same year. In the intervening decades, Black fortunes have waxed and waned – depending on who’s doing the measuring. However, under George Bush’s administration, African Americans as a people have been dealt a series of catastrophic blows, including assaults from within the labor movement, itself.


French PM sets out economy plans
French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin has set out his plans to revitalise the country's economy and get France working again. In his first policy speech, he said job creation was a priority. He suspended previously planned income tax cuts.


Africa debt deal moves welcomed
Campaigners seeking to end poverty in the developing world have cautiously welcomed US and UK moves to cancel the debts of Africa's poorest countries.


Frosty reception for San Francisco hotels' offer / Co-payment changes fail to impress union
The union representing workers at 14 San Francisco hotels won't formally reject the employers' most recent offer until they resume talks today, but the response has already been telegraphed. "To say our people were unimpressed is an incredible..."


Frosty reception for San Francisco hotels' offer / Co-payment changes fail to impress union
The union representing workers at 14 San Francisco hotels won't formally reject the employers' most recent offer until they resume talks today, but the response has already been telegraphed. "To say our people were unimpressed is an incredible..."


Workers in the UK are among the unhappiest in Europe
Workers in the UK are among the unhappiest in Europe, and those who work with others are the least likely to express job satisfaction, according to a survey published today. Just 47% of UK employees said they were either happy or very happy with their current position, compared with 68% of Scandinavian workers and 61% of French employees.


Bank of England to shun rate cut though economy slows: analysts
Bank of England (BoE) policymakers are widely expected to leave the central bank's key interest rate steady at 4.75 percent for a 10th month in a row Thursday though there are signs Britain's economy is slowing.


Economy to improve in 2nd half of 2005 (Reuters)
The U.S. economy is expected to grow faster in the second half of 2005 than in the first half, according to a survey by the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia released on Wednesday.


Tuesday, June 07, 2005

China Orders All Web Sites to Register
Authorities have ordered all China-based Web sites and blogs to register or be closed down, in the latest effort by the communist government to police the world of cyberspace. Commercial publishers and advertisers can face fines of up to 1 million yuan.


GM to cut 25,000 jobs, shut more plants
WILMINGTON, Del. -- General Motors Corp. plans to eliminate 25,000 manufacturing jobs in the United States by 2008 and close plants as part of a strategy to revive North American business at the world's largest automaker, its chairman said today.Speaking to shareholders at GM's 97th annual shareholder meeting in Delaware, Chairman and Chief Executive Rick Wagoner said the capacity and job cuts should generate annual savings of roughly $2.5 billion. GM now employs 111,000 hourly workers in the United States.


Northwest recruiting replacement flight attendants
MINNEAPOLIS -- Northwest Airlines Corp. is recruiting replacement flight attendants in case of a labor dispute or strike, even as negotiations with its flight attendants' union continue.


Monday, June 06, 2005

NWA wants change in pension rules
When Northwest CEO Doug Steenland testifies Tuesday before the U.S. Senate Finance Committee, what he says will potentially affect 70,339 retirees and employees who participate in Northwest's pension plans, including 21,990 Minnesotans.


Accountants are kings among U.S. 2005 graduates
While it is not quite the days of the dot-com boom, when companies lured graduates with promises of six-figure salaries and ping-pong tables in the workplace, corporate recruiters are once again combing campuses for the best of the Class of 2005.


Bush says US economic growth on track
President Bush said on Saturday that the U.S. economic expansion was solid, with thriving small-business and factory sectors, despite a report showing weak payroll growth.


Friday, June 03, 2005

New York City Council Plans to Loosen Limits on Political Contributions by Unions.
New York Times
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The New York City Council is poised to greatly increase how much unions are allowed to donate to political candidates in city elections


F.A.A. Says Controllers Abuse Overtime
New York Times
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Abuses by some air traffic controllers who handle the New York area's three major airports are costing about $4 million a year in unnecessary overtime.


Bush 2006 Budget Would Reclaim $125 Million of 9/11 Aid
New York Times
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The money, included in a $20 billion aid package the federal government gave to New York in late 2001, was earmarked for the state's workers' compensation program.


Benin's child traffickers
The BBC's Mike Thomson reports on the trade in children in Benin where 50,000 children are taken from their homes every year.


Swiss economic growth stagnates as trade with weak euro-zone falters
Switzerland's economic growth stagnated during the first quarter of the year amid a decline in foreign trade, especially with weakened top trading partners in the neighbouring euro-zone, the Swiss economics ministry said.


Minister says Italy should consider leaving euro
An Italian minister said on Friday the country should consider adopting its own currency again, adding fuel to recent talk of a possible break-up of the euro zone which EU leaders dismiss as "absurd."


US economy posts disappointing jobs report (AFP)
AFP - The United States last month recorded its weakest rate of job creation since August 2003, the government said, but economists played down fears of a new slowdown.


Thursday, June 02, 2005

Wal-Mart fights benefits disclosure in Minnesota
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Wal-Mart Stores Inc. does not want Minnesotans to know how many of its workers in this state receive public health care assistance.


Is Northwest heading for a strike?
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Facing what some union leaders call "an inevitable strike," mechanics at Northwest Airlines said Wednesday that the airline already has hired almost 400 replacement workers.


Productivity Up, but So Are Jobless Claims (AP)
AP - Productivity rose at an annual rate of 2.9 percent in the first three months of this year, but that was accompanied by a jump over the past six months in unit labor costs, a key factor that determines future rates of inflation.


The Economy: On One Hand, but Then . . .
By By EDUARDO PORTER, New York Times

Different industry sectors are blowing hot and cold, showing that the economy is growing at a strong pace but not so fast that inflation could creep higher.


Outsourcing moves to India's heartland
In the past five years, more than 100,000 young Indian graduates have made the move to Bangalore, or the suburban New Delhi city of Gurgaon, to answer calls from credit card holders, make sales pitches or maintain records.


India controls 44% of world outsourcing business, trade body says
BANGALORE, India (AP) - India controls 44 per cent of the global offshore outsourcing market for software and back-office services, with revenues of $17.2 billion US in the year ended March 2005, the main infotech trade body said Thursday.


Survey: Dallas workers more optimistic about job market
Confidence in the job market among Dallas workers rose in May as workers expected more hiring activity and experienced greater optimism about their personal finances.


U.S. Minimum Wage Bills Worry CNMI Lawmakers
(Saipan Tribune, June 2) - The House leadership has called the recent introduction of two minimum wage hike bills in U.S. Congress "disconcerting" and "insensitive" to the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands


Union in Britain Wants Talks Over Tobacco Firm Job Cuts
Union bosses are demanding urgent talks with cigarette giant British American Tobacco following the announcement the company is switching production from its main UK factory to the Far East.


Matsushita Will Cut 500 Jobs, or 18 Percent of U.S. Workforce by September
June 2 (Bloomberg) -- Matsushita Electric Industrial Co., the world's biggest seller of plasma display televisions, will cut 500 jobs in the U.S., or 18 percent of its workforce there, using money saved to boost advertising on flat-screen TVs. ''


Business Leaders Focus on Human Capital, Branding; Shift Away from Cost Reduction
U.S. Business leaders are shifting their focus away from cost-cutting strategies to growth opportunities, according to the Grant Thornton Business Leaders Council.
The Council is composed of 36 CEOs and senior executives who meet twice a year to discuss and identify issues affecting the growth and profitability of U.S. businesses.


EU may slow pace of economic reforms
This week's 'no' votes are rooted in a growing grassroots belief that political and economic integration in Europe is moving too far, too fast, said Stephen Cohen, co-director of the Berkeley Roundtable on the International Economy.


Boycott continues to affect hotel business in San Francisco; Unity of the LA Hotel Employer's Council broken!
On Tuesday, May 31, UNITE HERE Local 2 and the Multi-Employer Group (MEG) representing fourteen San Francisco hotels headed back to the bargaining table for the first time in three and a half months. Local 2 members had been waiting for a response to their latest contract offer made to the hotels on February 14th.


THIRD-QUARTER U.S. AUTO OUTLOOK: GM, Ford plan production cuts
The summer will bring little respite for Detroit's struggling auto industry, with General Motors Corp. and Ford Motor Co. cutting production plans again, this time for July, August and September.


Japanese told to dress down
TOKYO -- Japan's bureaucratic rank and file march in dark jackets and ties to government offices every day, sweating their way through the country's sticky, sweltering summers. Starting Wednesday, they'll be sweating a little less. In a nationwide campaign to save energy by cutting down on air conditioning, the government has asked public workers to leave their ties and jackets home for the summer.


'Child labourers' freed in Mumbai
Police in the Indian city of Mumbai (Bombay) say they have freed nearly 450 child labourers in a series of raids.


India extends IT outsourcing boom
Exports of Indian software and backroom services grew by 34.5% in 2004-5, and its trade association is predicting another strong year ahead.


Strikes cripple French railways
Rail travel is severely disrupted across France in the first strike since the 'No' vote on the EU constitution.


GM to open two new Chinese plants
GM and its Chinese partners are to open two new factories in China - a carmaking facility and an engine plant - to keep up with strong demand.


Honeywell to cut jobs in shakeup
Honeywell International, the state's fourth-largest private employer, announced a major restructuring Wednesday that will mean an unknown number of job cuts in Arizona.


Kenya: President Upbeat Over Economy
The Kenyan economy grew by 4.3 per cent and 474,000 jobs were created last year, President Kibaki said yesterday. Giving an audit of his government's achievements, Kibaki said the country's economic growth rate when he took over in 2002 was a mere 0.4 per cent.


PanAfrica: South African Pension Funds May Go to African Infrastructure
South Africa may invest a chunk of its massive state pension fund in infrastructure projects in the rest of Africa. SA President Thabo Mbeki signaled his intention to do this at a New Partnership for African Development (Nepad) meeting in Algiers last November and this month his finance minister is lobbying for wider African support.


Kenya: President Kibaki Blamed As Civil Servants Declare Strike
Civil servants yesterday declared they would start a nationwide strike today and blamed President Kibaki for failing to address their plight in his Madaraka Day speech.


Mozambique: No Agreement on Minimum Wage
The Labour Consultative Council (CCT), the tripartite negotiating forum between the Mozambican government, the trade unions and the employers' associations, met in Maputo on Thursday, but did not reach agreement on increasing the statutory minimum wage.


Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Minimum wage hike is urged in Mass.
Backers of a measure that would give Massachusetts the highest minimum wage in the country kicked off their campaign yesterday by publicizing a letter signed by 58 of the state's economists saying that the measure will not lead to a loss of jobs.


Strike shuts Finnish paper mills
Finns are hoarding toilet rolls as a strike in the paper industry - already in its third week - threatens to go on until the end of June.


Health care union in Connecticut plans strike at three facilities
More than 1,000 unionized health care workers began a two-day strike Wednesday at three private agencies that help the disabled, mentally retarded and mentally ill. The New England Health Care Employees Union District 1199 wants better wages and health care plans for their workers, who have been without a contract since April.


White firefighter in Miami files lawsuit over suspension
A white Miami-Dade firefighter has filed a reverse racial discrimination suit against the county, alleging he was unfairly suspended by black commanders in an incident that drew the attention of the office of County Commissioner Dorrin Rolle.


Drop in Pittsburgh area's jobless rate signals growth
The Pittsburgh region's unemployment rate dropped half a percentage point in April -- a sign of job growth, with strength showing in construction, transportation and leisure, and hospitality industries, the state said Tuesday.


United Airlines, Union Announce Agreement
United Airlines secured two critical labor deals Tuesday to remove the threat of a crippling strike during peak travel season, gaining a contract agreement in principle with its machinists union just hours after its mechanics voted to ratify a separate pact.


German unemployment falls for third month in a row (AFP)
AFP - German unemployment fell for the third month running in May, official data showed, but the improvement had more to do with seasonal factors than any genuine upturn in the labour market.


Eurozone economic recovery running out of steam (AFP)
AFP - The eurozone economy got off to a sluggish start to this year, EU data showed, providing further evidence that a long-awaited recovery is running out of steam.


Manufacturing Falls Short of Expectations (AP)
AP - U.S. manufacturing expanded at a slower-than-expected rate in May, hampered by energy prices and industrial companies working through excess inventory, especially in the automobile sector, figures from a private research organization showed on Wednesday. Stock prices rose on speculation that the weak performance could discourage the Federal Reserve from hiking interest rates.


Unions Struggle as Communication Industry Shifts

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Even as unions struggle nationwide, with just 12.5 percent of the total work force unionized in 2004 compared with 22 percent in 1980, they face a particularly bleak future in the telecommunications industry. The industry was once a labor stronghold after the Bell monopolies became unionized in the late 1930's. But mergers, deregulation and technological change have reduced the number of jobs at the traditional phone companies while creating hundreds of thousands of jobs in cable and wireless companies, which are largely union-free.


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