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Even now, when cash-strapped state and local governments are slashing jobs, wages and benefits, they continue to give out billions in tax breaks and subsidies to corporations in return for a promise that the company will create new jobs. While most states disclose the names of companies receiving state and local tax breaks, cash grants and other subsidies for job creation, the quality of the reporting varies widely. Washington, a state that prides itself on open government and the public accessibility of data and information, scored a "D" in terms of on the economic development disclosure ratings in a new report, with 19 states doing a better job. Read more.
Fill out a virtual card to IKEA CEO Mikael Ohlsson urging him to stand by his commitment to honor ILO core labor standards. Workers at the Swedwood wood manufacturing plant in Virginia, a major supplier for IKEA, are being badly mistreated. The abuses occurring at the plant include forced overtime without notice, denied bathroom breaks, 30-day workweeks in an unsafe working environment, and the blatant denial of union representation. Read more.
► At AFL-CIO Now -- Lend a hand to workers at IKEA-owned Virginia plant -- Nearly all of us have spent time in a sprawling IKEA store, marveling at all the furniture options. But a struggle by some 350 workers to form a union at Swedwood, an IKEA furniture plant subsidiary with the Int'l Association of Machinists, highlights what really goes on behind the showroom floors
State government news:
► In today's Seattle Times -- Gregoire aims to cut some pension benefits -- She proposes to save more than $11 billion over the next 25 years by eliminating COLAs for government workers and teachers in Plan 1 pensions, which were closed to new members in 1977. She also proposes eliminating provisions in open pensions that allow workers to retire and collect benefits before age 65. That option would only be eliminated for new enrollees.
► In today's Kitsap Sun -- Governor targets health care costs, pensions -- Gov. Gregoire sets a goal of limiting increases in the state's health care costs to an annual 5% by 2014. The plan is a high-level set of broad strokes and targets -- with the actual details still to be worked out.
► In today's Seattle Times -- Governor, probe target rehiring of retirees -- An investigation triggered by a whistle-blower found problems with the personnel files of 47 people who'd retired from -- and then been rehired by -- the state Employment Security Department.
► From AP -- Gregoire seeking pension, health care savings -- She proposes to cap the state's contribution to higher education pensions at 6%, although institutions could contribute more.
Health care news:
► In today's LA Times -- Key health reform provision voided by federal judge -- A requirement that Americans buy health insurance -- the central provision of President Obama's signature domestic achievement -- is unconstitutional, the ruling says.
► In today's Washington Post -- Health reform advocates have little to fear from judge's ruling -- A George W. Bush appointee has, as expected, ruled the individual mandate unconstitutional. So why are reform advocates so unexpectedly pleased?
► In today's NY Times -- Years of legal wrangling lie ahead for health law -- By contradicting two prior opinions, Monday’s court ruling in Virginia against the Obama health care law highlighted both the novelty of the constitutional issues and the difficulty of forging consensus among judges who bring differences in experience, philosophy and partisan background to the bench.
► At TPM -- Judge who ruled health care unconstitutional owns piece of GOP consulting firm -- Henry E. Hudson, the judge in Virginia who just ruled the reform unconstitutional, owns an interest in a GOP political consulting firm that worked against health care reform. This election cycle, the firm worked for John Boehner, Michele Bachmann, John McCain and a host of other GOP candidates whose opposition to health reform was central to their political platforms.
► AtHeraldNet.com -- Boeing reviews engineers' OT, vacation pay policies -- At the request of SPEEA/ IFPTE 2001, Boeing has agreed to ease some vacation and overtime policies on per-case basis for its engineers who are working on the company's delayed jet programs, the 787 and 747-8.
► From Bloomberg -- Boeing stops offering 787-3, raises aircraft prices 5.2% -- Higher costs for wages, goods and services are driving the boost, said a spokesman. Boeing's last price increase, an average 2.6% boost, was for 2008.
► At SeattlePI.com -- Larsen: Force Congress to consider subsidies in tanker deal -- "Congress needs to act to force the Department of Defense to stop ignoring the illegal subsidies that Airbus has received from European governments," Larsen said in a news release.
► In today's NY Times -- Industry group sees airline profits improving -- Profitability among airlines is improving, especially in the Asia-Pacific region, but the sector is still "fragile" and European carriers in particular remain hamstrung by relatively weak demand, an industry body says.
► In today's (Everett) Herald -- Lynnwood City Council approves budget -- The 2011-12 budget includes layoffs of 30 of 450 city employees across all departments and tax increases.
► In today's NY Times -- Tax-cut package passes crucial Senate test -- The 83-15 vote to cut off debate and end any filibuster assured that the Senate would approve the $858 billion package on Tuesday and send it to the House, where Democrats are still demanding changes to a provision granting a generous tax exemption to wealthy estates.
► In today's News Tribune -- Murray, Cantwell support Obama tax deal -- Both vote "yes," citing the unemployment benefit extension and state sales tax deductions. Said Sen. Murray: "Unfortunately, protecting the vast majority of Washington families came with an unnecessary and irresponsible provision for a few Americans who aren’t facing the same hardships.”
► From AP -- House Dems stew over Obama's handling of tax deal -- Expressing hurt and bewilderment, Democratic lawmakers say Obama ignored them at crucial negotiating moments, misled them about his intentions and made needless concessions to Republicans.
► At Politico -- Republican tactic threatens South Korea trade pact -- Republican congressional leaders say they will use a new trade deal with South Korea as leverage to move a long-delayed agreement with Colombia, a strategy that could galvanize Democratic opposition and force the White House to choose between its liberal base and the business community.
► In today's NY Times -- WTO upholds U.S. tariffs on tires from China -- The WTO upheld the Obama administration's decision to impose tariffs of up to 35% on tires from China, rejecting a complaint by Beijing that the punitive duties violated international agreements.
► In today's LA Times -- Obama to push corporate America to start hiring -- He will meet with top executives in hopes of encouraging major firms to start spending some of their cash reserves.
Even now, when cash-strapped state and local governments are slashing jobs, wages and benefits, they continue to give out billions in tax breaks and subsidies to corporations in return for a promise that the company will create new jobs. While most states disclose the names of companies receiving state and local tax breaks, cash grants and other subsidies for job creation, the quality of the reporting varies widely. Washington, a state that prides itself on open government and the public accessibility of data and information, scored a "D" in terms of on the economic development disclosure ratings in a new report, with 19 states doing a better job.
"Show Us the Subsidies," by Good Jobs First, a nonprofit, non-partisan research center, shows that Illinois, Wisconsin, North Carolina and Ohio were found to have the best economic development disclosure.
"With state legislators making painful political budget decisions, corporate tax breaks should be completely visible so spending for economic development should be transparent," says Greg LeRoy, executive director of Good Jobs First.
Good Jobs First also released two new online tools to help taxpayers keep up with state government economic development practices: Subsidy Tracker, a searchable database that combines subsidy information from numerous state governments; and Accountable USA, a set of webpages on each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia that summarize their track records on subsidies.
The report found that in Washington some tax incentives -- such as the aerospace pre-production B&O tax credit and the high-tech R&D tax credit -- have online recipient disclosure but fail to disclose the value of those subsidies, the location of the subsidized facilities, or the number of jobs maintained or created. Other state tax breaks -- such as the motion picture B&O tax credit and the new jobs in rural counties CEZ tax credit -- have no online disclosure at all and received zero points out of a possible 100 for the accessibility of information about them.
Click here to see the Washington-specific findings in the report.
Send holiday card to help workers at IKEA supplier
As you get ready for the upcoming holiday, fellow workers in Danville, Virginia, would like you to send a holiday card to one recipient in particular: IKEA CEO Mikael Ohlsson. And although this is also a proudly American-made greeting card, this isn't a holiday card like those you're getting ready to send to family and friends. This card is intended to show corporate leadership at IKEA that Americans will not condone the labor rights abuses happening at the Swedwood wood manufacturing plant in Danville.
Swedwood is the primary wood manufacturer for the furniture company and although IKEA established its clear commitment to follow the International Labor Organization's core labor standards more than 10 years ago, those same commitments have not been followed by its wood manufacturing vendor. In fact, the unfair treatment of employees at the Swedwood plant has escalated so much that it has drawn international attention.
The abuses occurring at the plant include forced overtime without notice, denied bathroom breaks, 30-day workweeks in an unsafe working environment, manipulated schedules that cut overtime pay, and the blatant denial of union representation.
In October, the Virginia Occupational Safety and Health Administration found the wood manufacturer guilty of multiple unsafe work practices. OSHA also found that Swedwood kept improper records, proving that managers at the plant have not only illegally prevented employees from coming together to form a collective bargaining unit, but they have also tried to hide serious safety issues at their plant.
The situation at the plant is so bad that the Geneva-based Global Union Federation (GUF) has insisted that management be forced to open its doors to the union, which prompted union leaders from all over the globe to gather on Dec. 7 to protest outside of the IKEA outlet in Vernier, Geneva.
Send a holiday card today -- one that will benefit fellow workers far beyond the New Year.
Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO