Tuesday, February 07, 2023

Bits n’ pieces from east, west and beyond

by Compiled by Lorraine H. Marie
| December 2, 2022 7:00 AM

East, west or beyond, sooner or later events elsewhere may have a local impact.

A recent sampling:

A potential railroad strike that could begin Dec. 9 may be influenced by the response of typically anti-union Senate Republicans who vote on a bill to stop the strike.

Will they vote politically to favor shipping chaos that discredits President Joe Biden, is a key question. Pro-union Biden, who helped broker a deal between the unions and railroad business leaders, is attempting to dodge threats to the economy if rail activity ceases due to four unions (60,000 rail workers) out of 12 unions disagreeing with contract compromises made so far.

Their concerns include the fall-out from 30% staff reductions in recent years, unpredictable shifts due to chronic understaffing, lack of substitute workers and failure to address sick leave issues (workers have to report to work even when sick, even with Covid, or forfeit pay, Popular Information reports. They want at least four paid sick days).

Approval was given by unions to an almost 25% rise in wages by 2024, according to the The New York Times.

So, switch cargo to truckers to dodge a rail strike? That industry says they’d need 450,000 more vehicles, which is not doable due to a shortage of equipment and drivers. Biden pointed out that just two weeks of a strike would devastate an economy recovering from Covid, and would shut down numerous industries (including 765,000 American jobs, many of them unionized).

Congressional action may anger Biden’s supporters in the unions, but, he said, “Congress must use its powers.”

Regarding sick leave in the U.S., that would not be an issue if Congress had passed the Healthy Families Act, which would have provided sick leave to all.

Currently, of 22 highly developed nations, the U.S. is the only one not requiring employers to provide paid sick leave.

Examples: Belgians get one month, employees in the UK get 28 weeks, workers in Spain get 16 days. Can the U.S. railroad industry afford $668 million annually in paid sick leave?

Stats from Popular Information say BNSF had $6 billion in profits last year, a 16% jump over the prior year; Union Pacific had $5.4 billion in profits the first nine months of 2022; CSX had $3.1 billion in this year’s first nine months.

Current House Speaker Nancy Pelosi commented that “railroads have been selling out to Wall Street to boost their bottom lines, making obscene profits while demanding more and more from railroad workers.”

Elon Musk’s big business mistake with his Twitter purchase, according to former Labor Secretary Robert Reich, is failing to consider workers and their knowledge as assets, and regarding them only as costs.

Twitter workers, half of whom were fired after Musk bought the company (to shrink payroll) know how to innovate, know what needs improvement, and where a company’s strengths and weaknesses lie, Reich points out.

Musk also threatened to fire those who would not commit to “long hours at high intensity,” causing over 1,000 more employees to head for the door. The value of the company Musk paid $44 billion for is likely to plummet without its knowledgeable employees.

Chaos at Twitter was illustrated with a fake Twitter account posing as being from pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly. It stated “insulin is now free.”

It remained in place four hours, due to a staff stretched thin by lay-offs. Eli Lilly’s stock then “took a nose dive,” NPR said.

A Media Matters report says 100 of Twitter’s top advertisers are now absent from the website, and seven others have slowed their ads to “almost nothing.”

Norway is paving the way to earth-friendly roads by replacing the fossil-fuel bitumen binders with plant-based lignin. The lignin is cheaper and more durable when roads are rebuilt, Optimist Daily reports.

A Norwegian company has equipment that crushes used asphalt and rocks into fine material for reuse as new roads; it’s bound together by the flexible lignin, which does well with temperature extremes.

There were 15 climate disaster events in the first nine months of 2022, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Total losses were over $1 billion each.

“Quiet Quitting” is when an employee no longer goes “above and beyond” - for which they are not paid - and instead only fulfills the requirements of their job.

The Economic Policy Institute recognizes “Quiet Fleecing,” a long-term policy wherein an employer does not compensate for “above and beyond.”

Numerous media reported that days after announcing his presidential candidacy, Donald Trump dined with artist and anti-Semitic Ye, and white supremacist Nick Fuentes.

Fuentes, who’s compared himself to Hitler, is a Holocaust denier (and 2020 election denier), and a fan of authoritarian Russia’s Vladimir Putin and the Taliban. He

has claimed that “if we [he and like-minded followers] didn’t exist, the Republican Party would be falling backwards all the time.”

He also opposes voting rights for women.

Landlords have raised rent by an average of 15% nationwide, according to The American Prospect.

Blast from the past: The difference between the 2007 Great Recession and the 2020 Covid Recession: it took 75 months to recover from the private sector jobs lost in the Great Recession, according to the Economic Policy Institute. The Covid Recession recovery took 28 months, due to a more vigorous federal response.