Headline News on Work and Labor

by James M. Flammang

Harley-Davidson workers face severe concessions ... company no longer serves as role model for labor: Union workers at the famed motorcycle maker's two Wisconsin factories are voting on a contract that includes a group of extreme concessions. According to USA Today, they include a wage freeze and the loss of hundreds of jobs. A considerable amount of manufacturing work also will be issued to non-union employees. Unless the concessions are granted, the motorcycle producer threatens to leave the state entirely, which would leave 1,350 employees without jobs. Just as Harley-Davidson served for decades as the standard of comparison for large motorcyces, the company also served as a role model for labor relations in the vehicle-manufacturing industry. Evidently, those days of management/employee cooperation are over (9/13/10).

Real Earnings Drop in July: Real average hourly earnings for all employees fell 0.2 percent from June to July, seasonally adjusted. This decrease stems from a 0.2 percent increase in average hourly earnings combined with a 0.3 percent increase in the Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U). Real average weekly earnings rose 0.2 percent over the month.(8/23/10)

U.S. House Passes Health Care Reform Bill: After months of argument, on March 21 the U.S. House of Representative passed the health care reform bill that had been sent over by the Senate. The vote was 219 to 212, with every Republican (plus 34 Democrats) voting against the measure. If the bill reaches President Obama's desk for signing into law, some provisions will take effect immediately, including forbidding insurance companies from tossing people off the rolls if they become ill. Children with pre-existing conditions could no longer be denied coverage, but that provision will not affect adults until 2014. At that time, nearly all Americans will be required to purchase a health-insurance policy from a private company. Establishment of a "public option" that would permit the government to offer an alternative to private coverage was among the provisions that were cut from the bill, in an attempt to drum up greater support. (3/22/10)

Senate Passes Health Care Reform Bill: On Christmas Eve, the U.S. Senate passed what many are calling a "landmark" health care reform bill, paving the way for coverage of millions of additional Americans who are now uninsured. The bill would also restrict insurance companies from denying coverage due to "pre-existing conditions." Bitter opposition from the Republicans throughout the legislative process continued in the vote itself, which was 60-39 in favor. The Senate and House of Representatives must now work together on a compromise. (12/25/09)

Actual passage of a working bill faces stiff obstacles from Republicans and several conservative Democrats, focusing on issues ranging from anticipated costs and possible tax increases, to the prospect of government-funded abortions and allegations of a government takeover of health care. In addition, a number of liberal Democrats are displeased that the Senate bill has been watered down considerably since its inception, and contains no "public option" that would provide real competition for the insurance companies. As it now stands, most uncovered Americans would be required to purchase health insurance. President Obama has expressed great praise for the bill, but a long and contentious struggle lies ahead for the Congress. (12/24)

Mass Layoffs Drop in November: A total of 1,797 mass layoffs took place during November 2009, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Believe it or not, that qualifies as good news. Even though 165,345 workers lost their jobs, the mass-layoff figure was the lowest since July 2008. (12/22)

Cost of Living Going Up: On a seasonally-adjusted basis, the Consumer Price Index (CPI) increased 0.4 percent in November. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the CPI had risen 0.3 percent in October. When calculated for all items except food and energy, the CPI was unchanged in November, following a 0.2 percent rise in the previous month. (12/22)

Hourly Earnings Increase Offset by CPI: Real average hourly earnings fell 0.5 percent in November, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This decline in real earnings stemmed from a 0.5 percent increase in the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers, which more than offset a slight (0.1 percent) increase in average hourly earnings. (12/22)

© All contents copyright 2009 by Tirekicking Today
Text and photos by James M. Flammang