Beaver County Blue

Progressive Democrats of America – PA 12th CD Chapter

Archive for May, 2014

United Electrical Workers Union: US & Russia Should Work Together

Posted by randyshannon on May 27, 2014

Statement of the UE General Officers

27 May, 2014

The Ukraine Crisis and the New Cold War

On February 22, the elected president of Ukraine was overthrown in a coup which was supported by the Obama administration. Since then, the country has been torn apart and violence has escalated. On May 2 in the southern city of Odessa, supporters of the new unelected Kiev government, including members of the violent extremist Right Sector party, surrounded peaceful, unarmed anti-government protestors who had taken refuge in the city’s main union hall. The right-wing crowd then set the union hall on fire, and 46 people died by being burned alive or jumping to their deaths trying to escape.

putinobamaWe are troubled by this horrific atrocity, and by the fact that mass murder was committed by burning a union hall. We are concerned about the conflict in Ukraine, by the massing of Russian troops near Ukraine’s eastern border and U.S. and NATO troops and planes in neighboring Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, which signal the return of the Cold War and the threat of a much hotter war.

A defining period in the history of UE was our union’s courageous opposition to the Cold War. At the end of World War II there was great hope among union members and other Americans for a continuation of FDR’s New Deal, with progressive social and economic policies including national healthcare, expanded Social Security, and progress against racial discrimination in employment. What we got instead was the anti-union Taft-Hartley Act and the Cold War. Military spending, including the nuclear arms race, continued to trump all other priorities. Local conflicts all over the world were treated as global showdowns between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. In the name of “fighting communism,” the U.S. sided with the French and British colonial empires against independence movements, and backed many brutal dictators against their own people.  The 40-year-long Cold War included some very hot wars – notably Korea and Vietnam. The CIA organized coups that overthrew democratic governments that dared to disagree with the U.S. government or corporations. On the domestic front, the Cold War was a massive attack on civil liberties and an effort to wipe out organizations, including UE, that refused to enlist in the Cold War.

UE said the U.S. government should direct its resources toward making life better for its own people. UE favored negotiations to resolve differences between the U.S. and the Soviets, and to end conflicts such as Vietnam. UE said the arms race robbed human needs on both sides of the Cold War divide. As UE President Albert Fitzgerald often said, “You can’t have guns and butter.”

 

The Cold War supposedly ended with 1991 breakup of the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact, which had been composed of the USSR and its Eastern European allies. A key event was the 1990 agreement between the U.S., West Germany and the Soviet Union allowing the reunification of Germany. In those negotiations, President George H.W. Bush promised Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev that NATO – the U.S.-led anti-Soviet military alliance – would not expand any further east than Germany.

Yet despite that promise, and despite Russia and its former allies no longer having communist governments, NATO has moved steadily eastward toward Russia. NATO now includes the former socialist states of Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia, Romania and Bulgaria, as well as three former republics of the U.S.S.R. which border Russia – Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. Two more former Soviet republics, Ukraine and Georgia, have been promised eventual NATO membership. NATO is now clearly an alliance against Russia, sitting on Russia’s doorstep.

In late 2013 the U.S. began expressing hostility toward Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, and sympathy with the often violent anti-government protestors in Kiev. Yanukovych was not an exemplary leader – we now know that he’d been feathering his own nest – but he was elected in a fair election, and the U.S. supports many governments that are more corrupt and undemocratic than his.

What made Yanukovych a target for regime change was his decision in November to reject harsh loan terms from the European Union (EU) and International Monetary Fund (IMF) – including the kind of pension cuts and austerity that have driven Greece into poverty. Yanukovych instead accepted a more favorable offer of economic aid from Russia. His proposal that Ukraine have good economic relations with both Russia and the EU was rejected by the EU and the U.S., which wanted a Ukrainian government hostile to Russia.

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland met in December 2013 with Oleh Tyahnybok, head of the far-right Svoboda Party. In a 2012 resolution the European Parliament had called Svoboda “racist, anti-Semitic and xenophobic” and appealed to democratic parties in Ukraine “not to associate with, endorse or form coalitions with this party. In May 2013 the World Jewish Congress labeled Svoboda “neo-Nazi” and called for the party to be banned. Svoboada leader Tyahnybok has called for ridding Ukraine of the influence of “the Moscow-Jewish mafia.” Svoboda is also anti-gay, anti-black, and hostile to equal rights for women.

But since the overthrow of Yanukovych, Svoboda holds four cabinet ministries in Ukraine’s “provisional government” (including deputy prime minister.) In a Feb. 4 conversation caught on tape, Nuland and the U.S. ambassador to Kiev discussed who would get which positions in the new government, including cabinet seats for Svoboda.

In Europe since the end of World War II, there has been a political taboo against allowing fascist and neo-Nazi parties into any government. The Obama administration has now broken that taboo and allied our country with fascists in Ukraine. According to German media reports, about 400 elite mercenaries from the notorious U.S. private security firm Academi (formerly Blackwater) are taking part in Ukrainian military operations against anti-government protesters in southeastern Ukraine. News that Vice President Joe Biden’s son Hunter Biden has joined the board of directors of Ukraine’s largest private gas company adds the element of conflict of interest. Obama’s policies toward Ukraine and Russia have significantly increased the chances of military confrontation between the U.S. and Russia, the world’s two nuclear superpowers. This threatens world peace.

It is unclear whether the presidential election conducted on May 25, under conditions of near-civil war, will help to defuse the crisis in Ukraine.

We reaffirm UE’s historic position. We favor peace and friendly, equitable economic relations between nations. We favor negotiations rather than military confrontation to resolve disputes, including this one. We believe the countries that defeated Nazism in World War II, including the U.S. and Russia, should work together against any resurgence of racism, anti-semitism and fascism in Europe.

Bruce Klipple, General President
Andrew Dinkelaker, General Secretary-Treasurer
Bob Kingsley, Director of Organization

May 27, 2014

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Job Builder: Create a Pittsburgh Public Bank

Posted by carldavidson on May 27, 2014

 

North Dakota’s has strengthened the state economy and government finances, explains an attorney

 

By John E. Hemington Jr.

Beaver County Blue via Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

May 25, 2014 – Since the financial crisis in 2008, state, county and municipal governments across the nation, with the notable exception of North Dakota, have found it increasingly difficult to manage their budgetary responsibilities. Pittsburgh and surrounding communities are no exception.

Some are struggling worse than others, yet all are finding it difficult to balance their budgets and provide necessary services and infrastructure upgrades. Tax revenues are down and taxes have been raised to the hilt in many parts of the country.

Most of the cuts in personnel, purchasing, infrastructure maintenance and programs which can be made have been made. Stimulus grants from federal and state agencies which helped for a while are gone or shrinking.

Many governmental bodies have tried privatization as a solution, selling off valuable community assets, but this generally hasn’t worked out as well as its proponents have claimed. Some, as in Detroit and Jefferson County, Alabama, have simply given up and filed for bankruptcy.

Privatization frequently trades a temporary revenue increase for a long-term decline in public services and increased costs of use. Privatized employees are generally paid lower wages and receive few if any benefits, placing an even greater burden on already overstretched local social services while driving less money into local economies.

So where will the money come from? The answer can be found in North Dakota.

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Unions Say Climate Action to Create 48 Million Jobs

Posted by randyshannon on May 23, 2014

TRADE UNIONS WORLDWIDE SAY STRONG CLIMATE ACTION COULD DELIVER 48 MILLION JOBS

DATE
23 MAY 2014
Trade unions worldwide say strong climate action could deliver 48 million jobs

LONDON: A new international campaign, Unions4Climate action, has been launched at the World Congress of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) this week. The movement aims to draw attention to the potential of the low carbon economy, with a focus on green job creation.

More than 50 trade unions across the globe are demanding that governments deliver an ambitious climate agreement at the UNFCCC 21st Conference of the Parties (COP21) in Paris next year. The international gathering is the deadline for determining the post 2020 climate framework and widely recognized as a crucial meeting for delivering meaningful climate action.

Józef Niemiec, Deputy General Secretary of the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC), commented: “The ETUC urges governments to agree to an ambitious and legally binding agreement in Paris next year. A global framework, built on common but differentiated responsibilities, is the cornerstone of the just transition we are calling for.”

The leaders of the unions involved in the campaign are arguing that acting on climate change will lead to an industrial revolution which will create new jobs for the millions of workers they represent.

A recent report from the International Renewable Energy Agency highlighted that 6.5 million people worldwide are employed in the clean energy industry, with solar PV being the main renewable sector of employment. The ITUC believe that with the right policy framework even more jobs could be created.

Pointing to its own research, the ITUC state that by taking action to mitigate climate change, 48 million new jobs could be created in just 12 countries.  In the last two years in Germany up to 400,000 new renewable energy jobs have been created, the union highlight. Similarly, data released by the American Solar Foundation, revealed that 23,682 new US solar jobs were added in 2013 giving a growth rate of 19.9% on the comparable figure for 2012.

The unions have said that they will use the new campaign to demand that governments strengthen their climate policies. In addition, Unions4Climate action will facilitate the development of coherent global strategy for delivering an industrial revolution and boosting employment.

 “The mission of the trade union movement to ensure jobs, rights and social equality requires that we embrace the cause of a just transition towards sustainable development – a transition that must start now”, Sharan Burrow, General Secretary of the ITUC explained.

The trade unions are the latest cross-border body to voice their support for climate action. Just this week, the CEOs of over 60 leading insurance firms pledged their committment to principles relating to climate change risk.Similarly, health professionals, the Global Climate and Health Alliance (GCHA), used the publication of the IPCC AR5 report to argue that the risks to human health posed by the rise in temperature are now too serious to ignore.

http://www.theclimategroup.org/what-we-do/news-and-blogs/trade-unions-worldwide-say-strong-climate-action-could-deliver-48-million-jobs/

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This Chart Is The Fate of Housing In America As Student Loans Bankrupt A Whole Generation

Posted by carldavidson on May 22, 2014

By Wolf Richter

Beaver County Blue via Naked Capitalism

May 19, 2014 – A friend of mine is suffering from excruciating anticipatory pain. He’s heading to New York to attend his daughter’s graduation, which should be a glorious moment in life. But her commencement speaker is Fed Chair Janet Yellen. “Gotta find some thorazine to take before the ceremony,” he muttered. He paid for his daughter’s education. Not many students are that lucky.

Student loan balances soared 362% to $1.1 trillion since 2003, during a period when mortgage debt – including the effects of the current Housing Bubble 2 – rose “only” 65% to $8.2 trillion and credit card debt actually declined by 4.2% to $660 billion (chart). The burden of servicing that increasing pile of student loans is eating into other forms of borrowing and spending, such as the American classic, reckless consumption on credit cards, or the purchase of a home. And so the proportion of first-time buyers – the single most important sign of a healthy housing market – has been shrinking for years.

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Posted in Austerity, Banks, Debt, Youth and students | 3 Comments »

Turkish Mine Disaster: ‘Not an Accident. It’s Murder”

Posted by carldavidson on May 16, 2014

Turkey swept by protests as anger grows over fatal mine explosion

Thousands join strike and crowds heckle president while relatives begin to bury the nearly 300 coalminers killed in Soma

Relatives mourn during the funeral of one of the miners killed in Soma, Turkey

Relatives mourn on Thursday during the funeral of one of the coalminers killed in Soma, Turkey. Photograph: Ahmet Sik/Getty Images

Anger at the deadly mine explosion in Turkey spread across the country on Thursday as thousands of workers joined a protest strike, demonstrators clashed with security forces, and families began to bury scores of men killed in the disaster.

As the death toll at the Soma coalmine pushed towards 300, with hopes extinguished for at least 100 more miners thought to be trapped deep in the pit, fury was directed at the Turkish prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan – and fuelled by pictures of one of his aides violently assaulting a protester, and claims that Erdoğan himself had struck a teenage girl.

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PA-12 Democratic Primary Debate in Johnstown

Posted by randyshannon on May 13, 2014

Democratic PA-12 Candidates McClelland and Hugya Face Off in Debate

PA-12 Democrat candidate Erin McClelland with Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto

PA-12 Democrat candidate Erin McClelland with Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto

With just over a week left until the primary election, the 12th Congressional District’s Democratic candidates Erin McClelland and John Hugya took the stage at The University of Pittsburgh-Johnstown to debate the issues and try to set themselves apart from each other.

And boy, did they.

McClelland, a healthcare professional specializing in orthomolecular addiction treatment, quickly established her bona fides as a policy wonk and portrayed herself as forward-looking problem-solver from the private sector.

Hugya, a retired Marine Colonel and former district director for the late Congressman Jack Murtha, spoke solemnly about veterans issues and proudly promised to put his Murtha-modeled pork prowess to work for voters.

These two different perspectives led to two varying lines of answering the questions put to them by the moderator and the audience.

Job Creation and Economic Development

Hugya explained his jobs platform as following the example set by Congressman John Murtha, who Hugya said was unfairly chastised for his earmarks. “All the jobs we have in Johnstown came from earmarks,” Hugya said. “Look at China, they’re building everything. Ten years ago, you look at a picture of Peking, you saw a rickshaw and a bicycle. They have pulled ahead and we have not done anything in 20 years.”

McClelland said that the number one thing she would want to do in Congress is vote for a jobs bill, explaining that we currently have “policies that support free trade but not fair trade,” and “we need to change that so we can bring jobs back home.” And, McClelland added, when you bring jobs back home, you expand our tax base and begin to solve a lot of our economic issues in that way.”

Both candidates said that infrastructure maintenance and construction were crucial to economic development. McClelland said that currently “we are neglecting [our infrastructure] to the point of complete disrepair, and if it keeps deteriorating, rebuilding will cost more down the road and affect my son’s generation.”

Hugya, however, explained that in his view, “we need money disbursed from commercial banks to get our infrastructure going,” namely by passing a 21st century Glass-Steagall Act to keep traditional banks separate from investment banks and hedge funds.

Natural Gas

McClelland began her discussion by saying that “the biggest issue we have [at the federal level] is closing the Halliburton loophole.” The Halliburton loophole allows hydraulic fracturing companies to withhold details about the makeup of their fracking fluid.

“You know what’s in your pastry at Giant Eagle, but doctors don’t know how to treat health issues related to fracking because they don’t know the chemicals,” McClelland explained.

Hugya focused on the need to create more jobs in the district because “they don’t have coal mines anymore in the western part of the state.” Hugya said that people in Beaver County need a commitment from the drillers as much as they need health protections.

 

Coal and the EPA

McClelland began her answering by saying that “I have a 13 year old boy with asthma, and one of the most terrifying moments of my life was watching my son grasp for air.” And according to McClelland, the incumbent Congressman, Keith Rothfus, is a “climate change denier.”

McClelland proposed incentivizing companies who innovate on pollution reduction, and pointed out that America’s trade partners are “literally dumping garbage into the air.”

“We have to implement CO2 regulations based on a process of continuous improvement… not incentivize our trading partners to keep polluting,” McClelland said.

Hugya responded to the question by attacking the regulations on emissions from new power plants.

“The rules and regulations are done within the EPA,” said Hugya. “That’s not the law. They can work out any kind of deal they need to make jobs happen. They got to be able to work out a deal not to hurt the people and not to hurt the atmosphere.”

Reforming Social Security and Medicare

According to McClelland, “this is our biggest issue.”

“Medicaid and Medicare costs are exploding at twice the rate of our GDP,” McClelland said. “If you want to solve that problem, that solution is error reduction. We have 300 million medical errors every year,” which McClelland said is a massive part of the cost problem.

“Keith Rothfus says the only answer to not killing patients is tort reform,” McClelland said. “He wants to change the way you can sue after a medical error. I taught hospitals how to reduce medical errors and save lives.”

Hugya said that his “proposal to keep the fund perpetuated is to lower the percentage that we’re all paying, but pay the whole year through.” That way, Hugya said, “the system would not run out of money. And we need to eliminate fraud.”

How to Keep People in the District

For Hugya, the best solution to the district’s brain drain is simple: “earmarks.”

“We have to have the jobs here for them to come back to,” he said.

McClelland said that her solution would be the same thing that kept people in the district for decades: “a good reasonable wage, good schools, and a good home life with maybe enough left over for a ball game.”

McClelland added that Pennsylvania has “zero Congressmen and zero Senators who are female in a state that is 52% female,” and she hoped to be an inspiring example for Keystone State women.

Minimum Wage Bill

Hugya said that he finds the $10.10 minimum wage bill to be “questionable,” adding that “I remember being paid $1.37 when I got out of the military.”

“If you give them the $10 dollars, and they’re living in public housing, the public housing goes up,” Hugya said. “It’s a good thing to say it, but it’s not going to increase the economic welfare of people.”

McClelland said that raising the minimum wage “is an issue of being a human being.”

“I own a business and the lowest paid employee makes $13.25 an hour,” McClelland said. “When people go to work and put in a hard day’s work, they should have enough money to live off of.”

Affordable Care Act

When asked if she was in favor of keeping, reforming, or repealing Obamacare, McClelland said she “absolutely support[s] maintaining the Affordable Care Act.”

“There are now 8 million more people in this country that can live their life knowing they can rely on the security of health insurance,” McClelland said, adding that health security is “a fundamental human right.”

Hugya spent most of his answer comparing Obamacare to TriCare, the health care program for military personnel and dependents. As to Obamacare generally, Hugya said that at this point “we have to have it, but we have to get into certain sections of it, test it out like we did Tricare, [and] if it’s no good fix it.”

Veterans

The veterans portion of the debate got heated quickly.

Hugya began by saying that “Mr. Rothfus doesn’t understand the difference between a corporal and a colonel.”

He then demanded to know how many members of McClelland’s family were in the military. McClelland said that her two grandfathers had served.

Hugya awkwardly responded with, simply, “okay,” and the moderator, Ray Wrabley, broke in after a few awkward seconds of silence, saying “moving on…”

Improving Education

Hugya began by saying that “from my past experience, I can tell you that in the 12th Congressional District we had before, it’s where the best schools were,” but he wasn’t sure if it was due to “smarter kids or teachers.”

“I know teachers don’t like to get evaluated, but I know that I had to get evaluated in a fitness report all my life,” Hugya said. “They worry about making jocks out of them and not making them technically qualified. You get a job because you’re damn qualified.”

McClelland took on the way we currently analyze schools, and what she sees as the perverse incentives of federal funding.

“We test our students to try and ascertain how they are working, and then bureaucrats in D.C. use that data to punish schools and teachers and take money away, and who suffers? It’s our children,” she said.

“We need to use the data to make improvements,” McClelland added. “When we use testing, we should ask whether student has shown continuous improvement.”

Foreign Policy

McClelland said that we are currently “in a pattern of reactionary foreign policy, which is a dangerous place to be because it allows our enemies to dictate our decisions.” McClelland also criticized the manner in which Congress handles defense spending.

According to McClelland, Congress fails to do defense spending “in a modular fashion, which is what businesses use.” Instead, McClelland said we are spending in a way that asks for “a bunch of this and a bunch of that, but not what our people need.”

Hugya began his response by talking about his former boss, saying “Mr. Murtha was right about Iraq,” and that after Murtha criticized President Bush’s decision, “you have no idea the hell that happened on him. They came after him, me, and our whole staff.”

Hugya was referencing the various ethics investigations that we brought against Murtha. He also added that “I carried a top secret clearance in the Marine Corps and on the Hill, and I can tell you that you have no idea what went on, but Mr. Murtha was not happy.”

Finally, Hugya went on a tirade against the incumbent 12th District Congressman, Keith Rothfus, saying he “isn’t smart, his staff is,” and that Rothfus “pretends he’s a military guy, but he is not.”

“Keith has never had his hands dirty,” Hugya said. “I worked in a coal furnace. I know what it’s like to work hard.”

Best Concluding Remarks

Each candidate gave a conclusion summarizing their experience, and each candidate had a memorable one-liner.

Hugya ended by saying that “I’ve fought with some of you before, and I’ve drank with some of you before. What you see is what you get.”

McCelland said that “we need to mobilize the greatest weapon in our economic arsenal, and that is the American middle class.”

Post-Debate Conspiracy Theory

After the debate, I was walking toward McClelland’s campaign manager, Adam Stokes, when Colonel Hugya approached him and accused McClelland of wearing an “ear bud” during the debate. Hugya said to him that her answers were too quick and cited too many statistics.

While I did not hear the entirety of the conversation, McClelland’s campaign manager confirmed to me that Hugya was not at all kidding around, but was making a serious accusation.

McClelland’s campaign manager said the accusation was “ridiculous.” A quick scan of McClelland’s ear revealed no ear bud.

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Blood on the Coal, Another Reason for Moving to Green Energy

Posted by carldavidson on May 13, 2014

Two Miners Killed in W VA Mine

Union member from Brody Mine…Thanks to John Case of Harpers Ferry for sending this…

WHARTON, W.Va. — Officials from the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration said Tuesday that two workers had been trapped and killed in an accident at a West Virginia coal mine.

One official with the agency, Amy Louviere, said in an email Tuesday morning that a ground failure occurred at the mine around 8:30 p.m. Monday. She said the miners’ bodies had been recovered, and personnel from the agency are on the site.

The accident occurred at Brody Mine No. 1, in Boone County, which is in the southwest part of West Virginia. It is owned by the St. Louis-based Patriot Coal.

In October, the safety agency designated the mine as a pattern violator, meaning it had repeatedly broken federal health and safety regulations in the previous year. Patriot said in a statement at the time that it believed the mine did not qualify for the status and that it intended to contest it.

Posted in Green Energy, trade unions, Worker Safety | 1 Comment »

We Win a Round on Voting Rights in PA!

Posted by carldavidson on May 10, 2014

Corbett Administration Abandons Voter ID Appeal

From PA AFL-CIO

May 9, 2014 – After more than two years, multiple trials, and a confusing roll-out that ultimately disenfranchised tens of thousands of eligible voters and cost millions of dollars, Pennsylvania’s Voter ID law has been defeated.  In a statement yesterday, the Corbett administration indicated that they would not appeal the Commonwealth Court’s January ruling, which found the law to be unconstitutional on its face.

At the time of that ruling, the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO urged the Commonwealth to accept the judge’s findings and to abandon further appeals.  “This process has already cost the Commonwealth millions of dollars, and risked the voting rights of hundreds of thousands of our citizens,” said PA AFL-CIO President Bloomingdale.  “We are pleased that the administration has finally decided to face the fact that their voter ID law was never constitutional.”

While defending the broader concept of voter ID requirements in their statement yesterday, the Corbett administration also made the surprising acknowledgement that ‘for a voter identification law to be found constitutional, changes must be made to address accessibility to photo identifications.’

“While the court ruling in January, combined with this week’s developments, are a victory for voting rights, there is still much work to do,” said PA AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Snyder. “We have avoided taking a step backwards, but Pennsylvania is still one of the more restrictive states when it comes to ballot access.”  Among the changes that voting rights advocates have called for in Pennsylvania are early voting, same-day registration, and no-excuse absentee ballots.

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Ohio: Lorain Workers Rally to Save Our Steel Jobs

Posted by carldavidson on May 6, 2014

USW News

Yesterday, in Lorain Ohio, hundreds of workers and supporters joined U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown, and Rep. Marcy Kaptur to tell America that we need to Save Our Steel jobs.

The Alliance for American Manufacturing (AAM) is bringing the issue of a surge of illegally dumped oil tubular goods (OCTG) imports, primarily from South Korea, is flooding the U.S. market. These foreign steel pipes are priced below fair value and in deceptive ways are designed to circumvent international trade laws.

U.S. workers and their communities deserve a fair shot. The United States has trade remedy laws that serve as the last line of defense for American firms and workers in the face of illegal trade. But when the rules are not effectively enforced, U.S. producers lose sales and profits, workers lose their jobs and communities lose homeowners and a sustainable tax base.

Watch for future planned rallies and join us in Granite City, IL; McKeesport, PA; Longview, TX; Fairfield, AL and in the iron range in Minnesota.

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April Jobs Report: Bitter Sweet

Posted by randyshannon on May 2, 2014

April Jobs Report: Bitter Sweet

May 2, 2014

Robert Borosage

The topline of the April BLS jobs report – a better than expected 288,000 jobs added, with the unemployment rate plummeting to 6.3% – will be celebrated, particularly in contrast to the collapse of growth in the first quarter (initially estimated at 0.1% but likely negative ).   The economy has now added private sector jobs for 50 straight months.

But under the topline, the news is less cheery. The sharp decline in the unemployment rate reflects a decline of the civilian labor force of 806,000 in April. The employment-population ratio (58.9%) shows no change over the month – and has changed little over the year, remaining at levels last since in the early 1980s.

20 million Americans remain in need of full-time work. Five years into the recovery, the US has still not recovered all of the jobs lost in the recession, even as its population has grown significantly.

The good news is that the number of long-term unemployed dropped by 287,000 in April. But the long-term unemployed remain a high 35.3% of the unemployed (up from pre-recession levels of 18%).

Job growth was widespread across the economy, suggesting the recovery is taking root. But the new jobs continue to be disproportionately in lower wage industries – retail clerks, restaurants, bars, temporary help. Construction jobs rose, in part buoyed by the end of the bad weather of the first quarter. Government employed remained essentially flat.

Democrats will cheer the continuing jobs growth. Republicans will continue to rail about jobs, while blocking any measures that would put people back to work. But if this is the new normal, the young will continue to face a miserable jobs market. African-Americans will continue to suffer double-digit unemployment. Families will continue to struggle with stagnant wages. Inequality will get worse. The middle class will continue to sink.  And America will suffer a lost decade.

This is not inevitable. It is the result of a perverse failure of Congress to act. Our decrepit infrastructure is a clear and present danger to the lives of Americans and the competitiveness of our economy. (See video of Baltimore street collapsing earlier this week in a rain storm here.)

Interest rates remain near record lows. Construction workers continue to need work. There is still not a better time to rebuild the country. Yet, Republicans in the Congress continue to block every initiative to add jobs. Indeed, the Congress now must scramble simply to keep the Highway Trust Fund from going broke at the end of August. They are not only refusing to throw lifelines to those who are drowning; they are cutting the lines that exist.

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