Thursday, May 12, 2016

THE OBAMA ASSAULT ON THE AMERICAN WORKER CONTINUES: Obama’s labor board intervenes on behalf of Verizon strikebreakers


“I am ignorant to politics in the United States,” said Oscar, who indicated that he was originally from Mexico. “But I see this country heading in the direction of revolution; there was a Civil War in this country once before, the question becomes how do we convince young people and workers that a revolution is the way forward?”

Obama’s labor board intervenes on behalf of Verizon strikebreakers

Obama’s labor board intervenes on behalf of Verizon strikebreakers

By Samuel Davidson
12 May 2016
A federal district court judge has issued an order barring striking Verizon workers from picketing New York City hotels housing strikebreakers hired by the company. The court acted in response to a petition by the Obama administration’s National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), which claimed the picketing violated the ban on secondary boycotts under provisions of the National Labor Relations Act.

The action follows the injury of a Verizon striker outside a New York hotel housing scab replacement workers. On Monday, a van carrying scabs from a hotel and being driven by a New York City police officer stuck and injured James Smith, a member of CWA Local 1109, who was reportedly sent to the hospital. Strikers said that the driver of the van was a police lieutenant from the 108th precinct of Long Island City.

The NLRB’s general counsel has issued a complaint against the Communication Workers of America (CWA) and scheduled a hearing for June 9.

Meanwhile, no charges have been filed against the cop who injured the striking worker, and the CWA has not issued a statement on the incident.

The injunction underscores the bankruptcy of the strategy of pressuring the Democratic Party. The actions of the NLRB supplement the strikebreaking role of New York City Democratic mayor Bill de Blasio, who has penned picketers behind barricades while mobilizing scores of cops to escort strikebreakers across their picket lines.

Verizon Communications has stepped up its strikebreaking efforts against the 39,000 workers who have been off the job since April 13 against massive concession demands. It has increased the hiring of scabs to supplement the 20,000 management personnel along with contractors that have been trained to fill the jobs of the striking workers. Many managers were also transferred into the region from Verizon areas not affected by the strike. In addition, the company claims that about 1,000 striking workers have returned to work.

Other confrontations throughout the region are being reported. Verizon has apparently instructed its scabs to confront and try and provoke picketers. In Cambria County, Pennsylvania, police were called to investigate a fire affecting some Verizon equipment, which the company claims was set by strikers. During the 2011 strike, the company made hundreds of phony charges to blame strikers for the breakdown of their equipment.

The stepped-up strikebreaking by Verizon with the backing of the Obama administration follows the decision on May 1 by Verizon to terminate health insurance and life insurance coverage for the 39,000 workers and their families.

Verizon is demanding deep cuts to health care for both active and retired workers. In addition, Verizon is demanding changes to work rules that would lead to thousands of jobs being destroyed. Under Verizon’s proposal, workers could be forced to transfer up to 100 miles from their current work location. In addition, workers could be forced to work anywhere in the region for up to 60 days a year. Verizon is also seeking to close 11 of its call centers, consolidating them into mega-centers as well as having an even greater share of calls handled by non-union workers. In what the company termed its “last, best and final offer,” the company did not back away from any of its demands.

In the face of this assault, the CWA and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) are working to isolate the strikers and impose the vast concessions. The CWA and the IBEW kept the workers on the job for eight months, giving Verizon time to fix troubles and train its workforce before calling the strike. The IBEW, meanwhile, has told its members to go look for other jobs.
The CWA hinted in a conference call on Monday that it would order strikers back to work, even without a contract as they did in 2011, if only Verizon would give them something that they could sell to their members.

The CWA and the IBEW do not represent workers; rather, they represent a highly paid parasitic bureaucracy, which is seeking to secure its position as a second layer of management for the company.

The World Socialist Web Site , which is calling upon workers to form rank-and-file committees to take the organization and leadership of the struggle out of the hands of the union officialdom, has been receiving wide support among strikers, many of whom have signed up for the WSWS Verizon Strike Newsletter and are reading our site daily.

WSWS reporters have spoken with workers throughout the region.

Metro Washington DC

Numerous workers at a picket line in northern Virginia expressed their appreciation to the WSWS for its continued coverage of the strike; many also indicated that they have been following the web site.
“We haven’t heard anything about this, no one except for you guys have reported it,” said one worker, speaking of the New York City Police Department violence toward the strikers. Workers expressed dissatisfaction with the trade union and the two-party political system to reporters from the WSWS Verizon Strike Newsletter, with a common refrain being that the CWA and the Democratic and Republican parties were “in bed together.”

“I am ignorant to politics in the United States,” said Oscar, who indicated that he was originally from Mexico. “But I see this country heading in the direction of revolution; there was a Civil War in this country once before, the question becomes how do we convince young people and workers that a revolution is the way forward?”

Replying to this question, a reporter from the WSWS indicated that the act of social revolution was undertaken when the current social order was deemed to be intolerable to masses of people—forcing them to forge a new path forward as a social class. It was explained that a revolutionary outbreak was inevitable in America as well as internationally, and that it was the job of working people to educate themselves on the lessons of the 20th century to prepare for the struggles ahead.

Joseph, a worker with more than 10 years at Verizon, interjected, stating that younger people in America not only had it worse than their parent’s generation, but “they have it worse than people their age had it just five years ago.” Joseph spoke about his time living in Ohio recently: “There were only two places in town you could get a job where I was—Cooper Tire and Lexis Nexus. There were scores of young people with no jobs— underage parents, you name it. A lot of young women try to have children with older men because there’s really no jobs available to anyone younger than 30.”

Speaking about the New York City Police Department’s efforts to aid strikebreakers, Joseph said, “It goes back to the 2001 Patriot Act; you can’t even form a union today because if more than nine guys congregate out here, it can be considered a ‘subversive activity.’” When WSWS reporters pointed out the relationship to the state’s repression of peaceful protests and the attempts to break their strike, Joseph said, “I think we’ve had far too many freedoms taken from us in the name of ‘freedom.’ It’s funny because most of the things that harm us are usually (falsely) named things; for instance, the Democratic Party isn’t really democratic, and the Republican Party isn’t really republican.”

When asked by the WSWS about union reports about numerous striking workers in Virginia crossing the picket lines to go back to work, Joseph stated that the strike fund at the national level was only giving workers several hundred dollars a week to remain out. “The union is a multibillion-dollar non-profit corporation itself,” he said, noting that it was looking out for its own bottom line.

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Both Michele and Pamela work in the repair call center, taking calls from customers, fixing their troubles when they can, and dispatching technicians when needed.

“We’re Bell babies,” said Michele. “Both our parents worked for Verizon. My mother retired 16 years ago after working 42 years for the company. They have doubled her co-pays, and now they want to make her pay for her benefits.

“It is not just us, but we are fighting for all the people who built this company. Every three years, the company is trying to take more and more away from us. You work all that time, with the expectation that you will get a pension and health care, and now they are saying they could take it away at any time.

“I’m not old enough to retire, and I have a 16- and a 19-year-old. One’s in college and the other’s in high school.”

Pamela agreed. “My parents worked all these years to make this company, and all they care about is making more money.”

Describing the working conditions, Pamela said, “they make it impossible to get a satisfactory rating. We have to finish each call within four minutes, but sometimes the customers are very angry and it takes time to calm down and work on their problem. Then the customer gets a survey, and if we don’t score a 5, we get 0 points toward our review.

“The company also records every call. You have to end every call by asking the customer if they received five-star service. If you forget to ask, you get a bad rating. If management doesn’t like you, they can look through the calls to find stuff against you.”

Boston, Massachusetts

Verizon strikers in the Boston area, members of the IBEW, held a noon-time rally Wednesday, calling on workers from across Greater Boston to support the strike. Fast food workers, nurses, school bus drivers and other workers came out to support the strikers.

Speakers addressing the rally included union bureaucrats, local Democratic Party politicians and a sheriff. The various speakers denounced Filipino and Mexican workers for stealing Verizon workers’ jobs and blamed union members for not fighting hard enough.

No mention was made of the strikebreaking operation in New York or the worker who was struck by a van carrying scabs in Queens.

One worker told the WSWS Verizon Strike Newsletter that similar striking-breaking operations were underway in Nashua, New Hampshire, and possibly other New England locations.

“We went up to Nashua one morning and confronted them there,” he said. “The police blocked off every street in the neighborhood to let all of them leave.” He said the scab contractors were housed in a motel, and no one knew where they were headed, and the police didn’t let anyone follow them.

Another worker said the current union strategy was to go after Verizon’s retail stores, and they received a lot of public support when they mentioned wages and benefits and the profits of the company.

“This is happening everywhere in the country,” he said. “You’ve got the one-percenters, and they want it all. It’s just corporate greed. It’s been going on for years, the separation of the classes.”

Middle Class in Major U.S. Cities is Shrinking, Pew Study Says

"The shrinking of the American middle class is a pervasive phenomenon," said Rakesh Kochhar, associate research director for Pew and the lead author of the report. "It has increased the polarization in incomes."
In cities across America, the middle class is hollowing out.

A widening wealth gap is moving more households into either higher- or lower-income groups in major metro areas, with fewer remaining in the middle, according to a report released Wednesday by the Pew Research Center.

Read More: Middle Class Americans 'No Longer Majority,' New Report Says

In nearly one-quarter of metro areas, middle-class adults no longer make up a majority, the Pew analysis found. That's up from fewer than 10 percent of metro areas in 2000.

Pew defines the middle class as households with incomes between two-thirds of median income and twice the median, adjusted for household size and the local cost of living. The median is midway between richest and poorest. By Pew's definition, a three-person household was middle class in 2014 if its annual income fell between $42,000 and $125,000.
Middle class adults now make up less than half the population in such cities as New York, Los Angeles, Boston and Houston.

That sharp shift reflects a broader erosion that occurred from 2000 through 2014. Over that time, the middle class shrank in nine out of every 10 metro areas, Pew found.

Read More: Belief in the Middle Class Unshaken by Economic Shifts

"The shrinking of the American middle class is a pervasive phenomenon," said Rakesh Kochhar, associate research director for Pew and the lead author of the report. "It has increased the polarization in incomes."
The squeezing of the middle class has animated this year's presidential campaign, lifting the insurgent candidacies of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders. Many experts warn that widening income inequality may slow economic growth and make social mobility more difficult. Academic research has found that compared with children in more economically mixed communities, children raised in predominantly lower-income neighborhoods are less likely to move into the middle class.

Nationally, the proportion of middle class adults shrank to 51 percent in 2014 from 55 percent in 2000, Pew found. Upper-income adults now constitute 20 percent of the population, up from 17 percent. The lower-income share has risen to 29 percent from 28 percent.

Read More: Though Hispanics See Small Increase, Middle Class is Losing Ground, Report Says

Yet the changes have been much more dramatic at the local level. There are now 79 metro areas in which the proportion of adults in upper-income households equals or exceeds the national average of 20 percent. That's more than double the 37 cities in which that was true in 2000.
The report studied 229 of the largest U.S. metro areas, which constituted 76 percent of the U.S. population.

Reports document growing income inequality, declining manufacturing pay

By Kate Randall 
14 May 2016
A new study from the Pew Research Center shows that more than four-fifths of US metropolitan areas have seen household incomes decline in the new century. The research is based on data from urban centers that are home to three-quarters of the US population.
Pew’s America’s shrinking middle class shows that middle-
class household income has declined throughout the 
population, while at the same time the gap between low- and 
upper-income households has grown, demonstrating a 
significant increase in income inequality across the US. A 
major contributor to economic decline and inequality has 
been the plunge in manufacturing jobs and wages.
The study analyzed data from 229 of the 381 metropolitan areas in the US, as defined by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). These areas accounted for 76 percent of the US population in 2014, those that could be identified in US Census Bureau data with statistics available for both 2000 and 2014.
Middle-income households are defined as those with incomes of about $42,000 to $125,000, adjusted for a household of three. Pew found that the share of middle-income households fell in 203 of 299 metropolitan areas from 2000 to 2014. With household income falling in the middle-income tier in these areas, the share of upper- and lower-income tiers have correspondingly grown.
Based on US Census figures, the share of middle-income adults also fell nationwide, while the shares in the lower- and upper-income tiers have increased. The national share of American adults decreased, from 55 percent in 2000 to 51 percent in 2014. At the other poles of society, the share of adults in the upper-income tier increased from 17 percent to 20 percent, and the share of adults in the lower-income tier increased from 28 percent to 29 percent.
US metropolitan areas with the lowest household incomes are mainly located in the South. Areas with the highest household incomes are concentrated along the Northeast corridor and mid-Atlantic, from Boston to the District of Columbia, and in Northern California, representing the proliferation and profits of the tech, insurance and finance industries, as well as high-paid government employees and politicians.
Midland, Texas, which benefited from the rise in oil prices from 2000 to 2014, saw both a shrinking middle class, which fell from 53 percent to 43 percent, as well as a decline in lower income households, falling from 28 percent to 21 percent. The recent drop in oil prices is not reflected in these figures.
In nearly half of the metropolitan areas studied, the lower-income share of households increased. The 10 metropolitan areas with the greatest losses in overall economic status—the change in the share of upper-income adults minus the change in the share who were lower-income—have one thing in common: a greater than average reliance on manufacturing.
These include the Rust Belt areas of Springfield, Ohio, and Detroit-Warren-Dearborn, Michigan, as well as two North Carolina areas: Rocky Mount and Hickory-Lenoir-Morgantown.
In Springfield, which saw the biggest decline in economic status, a 16 percent drop, the truck assembly plant owned by Navistar employs thousands fewer workers than it did in its heyday.
The Detroit metropolitan area has seen a dramatic decline in auto jobs, as well as a drastic drop in wages through two-tier systems introduced in large part as a result of the Obama administration’s auto bailout with the collaboration of the United Autoworkers Union.
The Hickory-Lenoir-Morgantown area, once a thriving center of furniture manufacturing, has seen the demise of this industry, with an accompanying decline in household incomes and an increase in poverty.
A brief from the UC Berkeley Labor Center documents the impact on incomes of declining manufacturing wages and the proliferation of temporary staffing agencies. Producing Poverty: The Public Cost of Low-Wage Production Jobs in Manufacturing charts the increasing numbers of manufacturing workers who are forced to rely on government programs, such as Medicaid and food stamps, to survive.
The study shows that wages in manufacturing are falling to the levels of those in the fast-food industry and at big-box retailers. In 2013, the typical manufacturing production worker made 7.7 percent below the median wage for all occupations. The median wage of these production workers was $15.66, with a quarter making $11.91 or less.
The National Employment Law Project (NELP) also found that since 1989 there has been a significant increase in the hiring of frontline production workers through temporary staffing agencies. Frontline workers are defined as non-supervisorial production workers who work at least 27 hours per week in the manufacturing industry or those highly associated with it.
The Berkeley study found that high utilization of government programs by manufacturing workers was primarily due to low wages as opposed to inadequate work hours. Economic Policy Institute researchers found that as manufacturing wages have declined, manufacturing labor productivity grew by an average of 3.3 percent a year from 1997 to 2012, nearly one-third greater than in the private, nonfarm economy as a whole.
This means that the manufacturing industry is sucking more and more productivity out of workers, while catapulting them out of the “middle class” and into poverty through low wages.
There has been a dramatic growth in low-paying temporary positions, which now account for 9 percent of frontline manufacturing jobs—a nine-fold increase from 25 years ago. Temporary workers earn a median wage of $10.88 an hour, compared to $15.03 for those hired directly by manufacturers.
Nearly half of all manufacturing workers hired through staffing agencies are enrolled in at least one public assistance program, just below the 52 percent of fast-food workers who rely on these programs.
Ken Jacobs, chair of the Labor Center and co-author of the report, told Berkeley News, “Manufacturing has long been thought of as providing high-paying, middle-class work, but the reality is the production jobs are increasingly coming to resemble fast-food or Walmart jobs, especially for those workers employed through temporary staffing agencies.”

Amnesty..... it's all about keeping wages DEPRSSED!


Poverty has become more concentrated under Obama

Poverty has become more concentrated under Obama

By Nancy Hanover
2 May 2016
Under the Obama administration, more Americans have found themselves consigned to economic ghettos, living in neighborhoods where more than 40 percent subsist below the poverty level. Millions more now live in “high poverty” districts of 20-40 percent poverty, according to recently released report by the Brookings Institution.

All in all, more than half of the nation’s poor are now concentrated in these high-poverty neighborhoods. This means that on top of the difficult daily struggle to make ends meet, they face a raft of additional crushing barriers because of where they live.

The Brookings’ Metropolitan Policy Program report, “Concentrated poverty continues to grow post recession,” is authored by Elizabeth Kneebone and Natalie Holmes and scrutinizes this unprecedented shift in the aftermath of the 2008 financial meltdown.

The report, based on an analysis of US census tracts, shows that concentrations of poverty have grown under the Obama administration in all geography types: large metropolitan areas, small cities and rural areas. In fact, the number of poor people living in concentrated poverty in suburbs grew nearly twice as fast as in cities, putting paid to the myth of affluence or even stability in America’s suburbs.

The growth of social and economic distress within large parts of the US is demonstrated by the statistics. Pockets of high poverty exist in virtually every part of the country, including adjacent to the nation’s wealthiest neighborhoods. Since 2000, according to the report, the total number of poor people living in high-poverty neighborhoods has doubled to 14 million Americans. This is five million more than prior to the Great Recession.

Referring to the “double burden” facing the poor when they live in high-poverty neighborhoods, Kneebone and Holmes say, “Residents of poor neighborhoods face higher crime rates and exhibit poorer physical and mental health outcomes. They tend to go to poor-performing neighborhood schools with higher dropout rates. Their job-seeking networks tend to be weaker and they face higher levels of financial insecurity.”

These effects are clearly discernible once a neighborhood’s poverty rate exceeds 20 percent, the report explains. During the study period, between 2005-09 and 2010-14, the number of such high poverty neighborhoods grew by more than 4,300.

Across many demographics: City and suburb, black and white

Suburbs accounted for one-third of the newly high-poverty neighborhoods, a higher share than cities, rural or small metro areas. The share of poor black and Hispanic suburban residents climbed by 10 percent while poor white residents climbed by eight percent, almost as much.


The palpable effects of the auto industry restructuring, with the Obama administration’s stipulation of a 50 percent cut in wages for new autoworkers, is demonstrated in the growth of poverty in the sprawling auto-dominated Detroit region. Out of metro Detroiters living in poverty, 58 percent now reside in suburban districts, according to a survey by Oakland County Lighthouse.

A recent and similar demographic study by the Century Foundation states that the six-county region has the highest concentration of poverty among the top 25 metro areas in the US by population. This represents 32 percent of the poor living in concentrated tracts.

There has been a staggering growth of poor neighborhoods in and around Detroit, Kneebone told the Detroit Free Press, adding that the number “grew almost fivefold between 2000 and 2010-14.” Detroit now has an official poverty rate of 39 percent, the highest in the US among cities with more than 300,000 residents.

“Sadly this report reinforces what we have been seeing year after year in Detroit and across Michigan.” Gilda Jacobs, of the Michigan League for Public Policy told the World Socialist Web Site. “Poverty is too high, and where people—especially kids—live has a direct and significant impact on their economic standing, health and other outcomes.”

From the Rust Belt to the Sun Belt

Detroit, however, is just the most concentrated expression of the national trend. “Among the nation’s largest metro areas, two-thirds (67 percent) saw concentrated poverty grow between 2005-09 and 2010-14,” the Brookings study found. The authors note that some of the “largest upticks included a number of Sun Belt metro areas hit hard by the collapse of the housing market—like Fresno, Bakersfield and Stockton in California and Phoenix and Tucson in Arizona—and older industrial areas in the Midwest and northeast—like Indianapolis, Buffalo, and Syracuse.”
Eight metro areas now show concentrated poverty over 30 percent: Milwaukee-Waukesha-West Allis, Wisconsin (30.1 percent); Memphis, Tennessee (31.1 percent); Bakersfield, California (31.7 percent); Detroit-Warren-Dearborn, Michigan (32 percent); Syracuse, New York (32.4 percent); Toledo, Ohio (34.9 percent); Fresno, California (43.8 percent); and McAllen-Edinburg-Mission, Texas (52.3 percent).

As the WSWS has previously reported, all job growth over the last decade has been “temp” or contingency employment, traditionally the lowest wage levels of any job and paying no benefits. This loss of hundreds of thousands of good-paying jobs has impacted communities throughout the US. Concentrated poverty in suburbs has jumped 2.4 points in the wake of the recession, to a record high of 7.1 percent.

What is the “double burden” of concentrated poverty?

In her remarks to the WSWS, Gilda Jacobs elaborated on the double burden of concentrated poverty: “So many detrimental factors come with living in high-poverty neighborhoods. There are no viable jobs, public transportation, childcare, or grocery stores. Crime rates are high, there’s blight and abandoned buildings, and the health risks of lead exposure and asthma. Even Detroit’s public schools are unhealthy and even dangerous.

“This is what Detroit kids and other low-income children are dealing with every day, and what they have to try to overcome in improving their futures. These living and learning conditions are all connected, and harm kids’ development and learning, their academic outcomes and their future job prospects. It is called toxic stress when kids are under constant strain. This study reiterates that so many factors affecting poverty are external and environmental, making them nearly impossible to defeat alone,” she stressed.

A series of studies [including George Galster’s “The Mechanism(s) of Neighborhood Effects Theory, Evidence, and Policy Implications” and others] have documented how poor neighborhoods undermine even the most determined individual efforts to escape poverty.

Taken together, these studies demonstrate how the escalating growth of poverty concentration exacts an ever-higher toll on American society, affecting many aspects of life and particularly destroying the potential of the next generation.


*Education. High-poverty neighborhoods exert “downward pressure” on school quality. Data from the Stanford Data Archive has recently shown a staggering effect upon child learning capacities of attending impoverished school districts. Utilizing 215 million state accountability test scores, the study showed that “Children in districts with the highest concentrations of poverty score an average of more than four grade levels below children in the richest districts [emphasis added].”

*Violence. Exposure to violence has reached epidemic proportions for low-income youth, particularly among minorities. Parental stress over neighborhood violence is a substantial factor motivating families to move—when they can—from high-poverty neighborhoods, compounded by fears of negative peer influences upon their children. Youth and adults who have been exposed to violence as witnesses or victims suffer increased stress and documented declines in mental health.

*Toxic exposures. Poor areas are chronically associated with higher concentrations of air-, water- and soil-borne pollutants. Lead poisoning is most often associated with older housing stock.
Researchers have demonstrated that depression, asthma, diabetes and heart ailments are correlated with living in high-poverty neighborhoods. Additionally, individuals in poor neighborhoods often receive inferior health care and reduced government services.

* Other effects of physical decay . The inability to exercise outdoors is a known factor in the rise of obesity, especially among children. High levels of noise pollution produce stress, and prolonged exposure to run-down surroundings can lead to hopelessness.

*The poor pay more. Prices in poor neighborhoods are notoriously higher and the goods of poorer quality than those in better-off areas. Food and health-care “deserts” are common. The costs of home and car insurance are usually substantially higher.

*Lack of social cohesion. Disorder and lack of social cohesion are associated with both crime and mental distress. Children who live without a cohesive neighborhood network are more likely to have behavioral problems and have lower verbal skills. Those in areas of concentrated poverty are typically more isolated within their households and have fewer educated or employed friends and neighbors. Low levels of employment in distressed neighborhoods also destroy the informal networks crucial for workers to find good jobs.

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