February 22, 2008
Why hike wages
when taxpayers can borrow their own money?
or at work: no risk, no reward
unions reverse declines in membership
for union work at new Royal Oak high-rise
deregulation law blocks billions in Michigan construction
push for energy alternatives
hike wages when taxpayers can borrow their own money?
By Jim Marcinkowski
Financial columnists and the media in general have nothing
but high praise for the "big-time benefits" working
people will receive as a result of the federal economic stimulus
package. But after seven straight years of so-called "free
market" and "free-trade" legislation, labor outsourcing
and corporate tax havens, only multi-national corporations have
The U.S. has been left with a record trade imbalance and Michigan
with the highest unemployment rate in the nation. I for one don't
share the excitement over how the average family is now supposed
to be "stimulated" to the tune of about $1,800.
In the last seven years, Michigan lost more than 336,000 jobs,
while tuition and fee hikes at state universities have exceeded
the rate of inflation. Gasoline prices have doubled and we are
paying more for food items, both basic living expenses that have
been conveniently excluded from the government's fanciful calculation
of the nation's inflation rate.
If you happen to have a job, you are paid less and expected
to work longer hours. If you can only afford a cheap vacation,
the privilege of sleeping on the ground at one of our nearby
state parks will now cost you $220 a week!
The few hundred dollar "stimulus" most will receive
is akin to the short-lived excitement of blowing that extra $20
bucks in the casino hoping to win a million, only to climb back
into the 1995 Chevy and head back to a soon-to-be-foreclosed
upon home, to scan the want ads for an $8 per hour job in our
new "service" economy.
Then again, perhaps I have it backwards and the point of the
"stimulus" package is to stimulate business, meaning
working class people need to buy more from business to keep the
economy running. Amazingly, nearly all economists, in agreeing
with the stimulus package, are buying into the central idea that
what the country needs is more spending by the average consumer.
It is also important to note what most serious economists
are NOT calling for: Emergency tax cuts for the rich so they
can kick-start the economy? No. More tax breaks for big business
so they can compete? No. Legislation to enact universal health
care to relieve American businesses of this burden? No. The elimination
of the evil inheritance tax? No. Fast-tracking of more so-called
"free trade" agreements? No.
As the saying goes, the silence on these issues is deafening!
(The only exception of course is the President, whose State of
the Union message showed that he's still living in his own imaginary
If the entire country now agrees that it is consumer spending
that is needed to fix the economy, then the door swings wide-open
to ask simple questions that reveal some pretty basic economic
There are certain fundamental truths that are beyond debate:
- The U.S. is now facing the largest economic challenge since
perhaps the Great Depression.
- The U.S. is the largest consumer economy in the world.
- Real wages for the average worker have been falling for the
past 30 years.
- During that same period of time, corporate profits have skyrocketed
and the national economy (read wealth of the country) has more
- Union workers get paid more than non-union workers.
And now, perhaps most striking:
- Putting a mere $1,800 in the pocket of a family of four or
$600 in the pocket of an individual is enough to significantly
impact the entire country's economy.
Wow! What happened? All of a sudden the Average Joe is needed
to save the American (some would say the world's) economy! The
resulting policy contradictions are stunning.
We have all heard the argument that raising the minimum or
paying union wages, two measures that actually place more money
in the pockets of working families is bad for business. But apparently
it is good thing if the government does so.
Big business and their compatriots on the right detest government
hand-outs or bail-outs for people. Apparently, they don't see
a problem when big business is the recipient of such largesse.
The logic underlying the argument that the stimulus money should
go to those most likely to spend it quickly is an admission that
the proposed $150 billion will just as quickly end up right back
in the pockets of big business.
We have suffered at least of decade of declining wages, an
unprecedented loss of jobs and discretionary spending, and a
general lowering of the living standard of middle class workers.
The American Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of
Manufacturers and other pro-multinational corporation mouthpieces
have been relentless in their pursuit to systematically dismantle
the middle-class, all in the name of unchecked profits and greed.
Now that their profits are at stake, the lobbyists for big
business, in tandem with the Wall Street profiteers, corporate
raiders, mortgage pirates, and all those who have squandered,
sold-off and otherwise stolen from the American Dream, are now
seeking government help because the economic policies they foisted
on this country are not working. If that's the case, then big
business is a little late in coming to the party with their not-too-profound
realization that they actually need a middle class with purchasing
power to buy their products!
And how are we, the taxpayers, going to pay for these misdeeds
and bail-out big business? As it stands, the U.S. is going to
borrow $150 billion from the Chinese, adding to our national
debt of $9 trillion so "stimulated" Americans can spend
$150 billion more on goods imported by big business from China.
You gotta love this country!
(Jim Marcinkowski is an Oakland County attorney and retired
member of Teamster's Local 214. He is a former CIA officer, a
former Republican, and was the 2006 Democratic Candidate for
Congress in Michigan's 8th Congressional District).
mountaintops or at work: no risk, no reward
By Mark Breslin
Recently there has been much media attention on the risks,
rewards and consequences of mountain climbing. Thus I share a
personal story and its relationship to labor-management risk
taking and initiative in our industry.
Mount Rainier is a 14,401-foot volcano perpetually sheathed
in glacier ice. It is magnificent, awe-inspiring and unforgiving.
It is the U.S. training ground for Everest. Many climbers have
died. It is the toughest endurance climb in the lower 48 states.
In a recent rock fall, our guide broke his nose, jaw, cheek,
palate and knocked out seven teeth. Our climb started at midnight
and I'm feeling the wind chill. It is 25 below zero.
It is easy to talk a good game around necessary change and
personal risk. Our industry is full of people who give me their
"we might, we should, we thought about it, we ought to"
speeches. Labor and management's circular discussion on frustration
and obstacles. Decades and markets lost. The sound of great possibilities
I'd like to shake these people. I'd like to tell them that
it's not security, safety, money, power or what others think
that opens us to reaching our potential; those are the external
measures. Truly it is the self-respect, esteem and fulfillment
that builds over time with knowing we are working towards our
potential. Most organizations can behave in exactly the same
way. But often it is just too easy to pretend, to others and
ourselves. Thus, testing for the truth has a price; in our organizations
and in the field.
The price of truth comes when the talking stops and the action
It is a blue-black night. I have a harness, helmet, ice
axe, headlamp, and solitude. Nothing but thin air, a rope, and
a healthy amount of fear. My world is a two-foot circle of light
and one more step. Six hours pass. A 40- degree ascent. Crampons
kicking into the snow and ice each step. Winds stagger us. Ice
crystals sting. At minus-25 the body can only follow the mind.
The three-way partnership of union, contractors and rank and
file have their versions of the truth as well. "We've got
full employment, we must be good." "No one's complaining,
so why worry?" "We are full up with work, why would
we bid that?" This type of ignorance may be short-lived
bliss; supported by market conditions rather than sound strategy.
None of it serves the end user. Truth be told? Simply put,
if we are not absolutely committed to our personal and professional
potential, we are not only missing an essential competitive strategy,
we are shorting ourselves and those around us. But how will we
know, if we all together don't push our perceived limits?
We reach 11,500 feet, the Ingram Glacier headwall. A thousand
feet of 50-degree ice. Tiny headlamps of other teams dot the
giant glowing glacier far above us. The wind shrieks and we shake
with cold and fatigue. The head game of looking up at it hits
home. Right there half of the climbers quit; they simply unclip
from their team ropes. Though having traveled from Illinois,
around the states, and having spent thousands of
dollars they make a decision of perceived limits. Denying their
potential without trying. How often have we in labor and management,
done this very thing and then worked to justify the inaction?
The phrase "pinnacle of success" implies that the
top is a small place, accessed only by arduous trial. This is
In this headwall I am struggling. My glove is off for one
minute to secure gear and three fingers lose all feeling. This
scares me. I bang them against my thigh each step for an hour.
We stop. The team in front of us is stalled with an altitude-sick
member. We cannot stop behind them or we will freeze and fail.
We must abandon the established switchback trail and go past
them; 300 ft. straight up 60 degree ice and around.
I cannot do this, I think. Fear turns to doubt turns to
the resolve of "no other option." I make the top of
the headwall, but cannot talk. I do not talk for the next four
The lessons of the mountain apply to the challenges ahead
for union construction. I believe that the purity of the challenge
is there and that those willing to commit will see the reward.
I think it will be the committed few and not the masses that
will deliver our future. Change. Risk. Trial and error. Disregard
of peer actions or judgment.
I believe that there are enough great people in labor and
management willing to test themselves for the results that will
translate to benefits for the contractors, workers and end-users.
I believe that it is the arduous circumstance that bonds people
to achieve. Perhaps I am a lone voice, but those with a belief
in "good enough" or "status quo" need to
think about hanging it up for good.
Another thousand feet. We cross a crevice hundreds of feet
deep on a ladder. We jump over another dark bottomless crack.
Our water bottles are frozen. Chapstick breaks off. We do not
ask how far. I just know that quitting is no longer an option.
Legitimate achievement earns respect. And that sums up my
personal way of life and business. Associate with a group of
committed individuals who will not quit on each other. Live for
clear and measurable goals that most think unattainable; or who
would not even think to try. Share credit and acknowledgment
of success. And plan enthusiastically for the next objective.
It is a model that presses the capacity of both the individual
and the team.
We all know that our greatest test, that of survival as a
union construction industry lies just ahead. Yes, survival of
an industry, tradition and legacy does hang in the balance. So
as we go forward together, and in reflection of a life lived
or job taken on, I'll take exhausted exhilaration or devastating
failure over safe complacency every time.
I can see the summit. It seems miles away. One step every
20 seconds. Finally
reaching the top I collapse on all
fours. No joy, but a sense of self-mastery. For the first time
in hours I turn to look down. I see a golden sun rising above
clouds two miles below. The most beautiful thing I have ever
seen. Through doubt and beyond perceived limits, the test is
complete. We exchange grim smiles and agree that the climb was
the hardest mental and physical challenge of our lives. Together
we found that testing for the truth had a price; but by paying
it, the rewards will be with us forever.
Mark Breslin is a strategist and author specializing in
labor-management challenges. He is the author of the Survival
of the Fittest and Organize or Die. He addresses more than 50,000
labor and business leaders each year in North America. More on
his work and profile is available at www.breslin.biz.
unions reverse declines in membership
Construction unions experienced an uptick in union density
in 2007 that outpaced the rest of organized labor.
According to figures released Jan. 25 by the Bureau of Labor
Statistics (BLS), U.S. construction union membership rose from
8.4 million in 2006 to 8.6 million in 2007. That's an increase
of about 2.4 percent, but with heavy job losses in the primarily
nonunion residential section, that translates into building trades
union members having 13.9 percent market penetration in 2007,
compared to 13.0 percent in 2006.
In 1983 - the last year comparable data is available - union
market share in construction was 29.4 percent. That number has
declined virtually every year since.
As we reported in our last edition, all of organized labor
in the U.S. enjoyed a rare increase in density from 12.0 percent
in 2006 to 12.1 percent in 2007. In three out of the last four
years, U.S. union membership has been flat or has increased slightly
- giving organized labor hope that the decades-long slide in
union membership might be bottoming out.
"For the first time in the past quarter of a century,
in 2007 U.S. unions increased their share of membership among
workers," said Ben Zipperer and John Schmitt of the Center
for Economic and Policy Research. "The increase is small,
and may well reflect statistical variation rather than an actual
increase in the union membership share, but the uptick is striking
because it is the first time since the BLS began collecting annual
union membership rates in 1983 that the union share has increased.
"The small national rise in union membership rates reflected
a large increase in union membership in California, partially
offset by substantial declines in the Midwest."
Zipperer and Schmitt said Midwestern states historically have
had a higher unionization rate than states in the West. But,
for the first time since 1983, the unionization rate in the West
(14.7 percent) exceeded the unionization rate in the Midwest
(13.8 percent). In all industries, Michigan's union density dropped
by 2.6 percent from 2006 to 2007 with the loss of 869,000 union
praise for union work at new Royal Oak high-rise
By Marty Mulcahy
ROYAK OAK - A new residential tower dubbed the Fifth Royal
Oak stands tall in this city - and in the opinion of the property
developer, so do the union workers who built it.
"It helps when you work with a great group like (general
contractor) Turner Construction," said John Hanna of Chrysos
Development & Management Co. "And the same holds true
for the workforce. They did things right the first time. It was
a privilege to work with such high-caliber people."
At 18 stories, the Fifth Royal Oak is the tallest building
for miles around, in this hip suburb north of Detroit. Offering
sophisticated layouts, nice finishes and unobstructed views,
the property was opened late last year and occupants are steadily
making a home out of the 78 units in the tower on the northwest
corner of Fifth Street and Washington Avenue.
There is space for retail on the first floor, and enclosed,
climate-controlled parking on floors 2-6 for tenants. Floors
7-18 offer tenants unobstructed views and "an architectural
masterpiece that offers unprecedented, innovative and sophisticated
layouts, details and finishes," to take a page from promotional
But the same promotional materials offered something we rarely
see: union craftsmanship as a selling point. One media release
quoted Jack Hanna (John's dad):
" 'Working on this building has been the best project
of my career, where everyone had their heart and soul involved,'
said Chrysos founder Jack Hanna, adding that Turner Construction
said they have 'never had a job run so smoothly' and attributing
much of the project's success to the skilled, trained and dedicated
union tradesmen who worked on the building."
About 800 Hardhats worked on the project. Turner, their subcontractors
and the building trades "are a great group of people. The
breadth of their knowledge of construction is second to none,"
John Hanna said.
Turner's assistant superintendent on the project, Blane Rick,
said it was "a real pleasure" working on the Fifth.
"Dealing with the subcontractors and tradespeople - there
was just a lot of professionalism here," he said.
Each unit has sound-deadening concrete ceilings, solid-core
entry doors, and inset private balconies. Built on a relatively
small footprint, the Fifth is anchored by 32 concrete caissons
that are 150 feet deep. Individual units range from 1,070 square-feet
to 1,908 square-feet, and prices range from $265,000 to $530,000.
"I've been around on windy days and there are no whistles
from any gaps," John Hanna said. "The drywall is straight,
the joints are tight and the finish work is great. It's obvious
that everyone on a personal level did the best job they could.
People on this job cared.
"I wanted to reach out to you guys. For my dad and I
this is personal in nature. The tradespeople here shared our
passion. I just wanted to thank them for going above and beyond
the call of duty on a daily basis."
THE FIFTH ROYAL OAK residential tower stands
18 stories above downtown Royal Oak. The developer had a lot
of nice things to say about the people who built it.
A HANDFUL OF building trades workers are still
working at the Fifth. Here Bryan Sitzler of Glaziers and Glassworkers
Local 357 and Madison Heights Glass caulks a window in a bedroom.
utility deregulation law blocks billions in Michigan construction
By Marty Mulcahy
LANSING - Lower utility prices and more choice for consumers.
Those were the major enticements for passage of Public Act 141,
The Electric Restructuring Act, adopted in 2000 by the Michigan
Eight years after its passage, PA 141 not only hasn't kept
its promises, it is seen as the primary obstruction in moving
ahead on billions of dollars in new construction work sponsored
by the state's major utilities, DTE Energy and Consumers Power.
That's according to the Michigan Building and Construction
Trades Council, its affiliate unions, and a coalition of business
leaders and energy industry experts. Called Protect Michigan,
the coalition is pushing passage of state legislation that would
enact an energy stimulus plan developed by former Public Service
Commission Chair Peter Lark for Gov. Jennifer Granholm.
"Advantages just haven't been there," said Patrick
Devlin, CEO of the Michigan Building and Construction Trades
Council. "We were promised lower rates, more choices, more
jobs and less pollution. None of those promises have come to
fruition. We are heartened that Michigan House Speaker Andy Dillon
and other legislators recognize, as we do, that re-regulation
of our electricity supply is necessary for Michigan's energy
and economic health."
Granholm said in the near term, there's about $6 billion in
investment that hinges on reversing PA 141. Last fall Consumers
Energy announced that it would construct a new $1.5 billion coal-burning
plant, and possibly a second unit, at its Karn-Weadock plant
near Bay City - if the state's electrical regulatory environment
is changed. And, Detroit Edison has started work on preparing
a license application for a new nuclear plant at the existing
Fermi site near Monroe.
Michigan's public energy law is described as a unique "hybrid"
of regulated and non-regulated rules involving utilities. In
an effort to fix what's wrong with Michigan's energy law, House
Bill 5521 was introduced in December. The wide-ranging bill would
re-regulate certain private utilities, provide for alternative
energy suppliers and encourage use of resource recovery facilities.
There are House and Senate versions of the bill, but they aren't
expected to move through committees until March.
What's so onerous about Public Act 141? It opened the door
for private natural gas and electric companies to approach Michigan
businesses and homeowners and offer rates that undercut those
of the traditional utilities. One of the problem is that those
companies have been able to cherry-pick customers. Big energy
users have been targeted with offers of lower prices, but homeowners
and businesses that are in remote areas, are moderate energy
users or poor credit risks can be ignored by those private companies
- with no repercussions.
At the same time, the traditional utilities are bound by state
regulations that outline who must be provided service, even if
it is unprofitable.
What has resulted is that state utilities say they can't be
sure of their future customer base and earnings are uncertain
- especially from those profitable, cherry-picked customers -
therefore they can't be sure when they would see a return on
investment in building new power generating facilities. The last
coal-burning power plant to be built in Michigan was 19 years
And if Michigan must go to generators in other states to import
electricity, our state loses the economic benefit of home-bought
power, as well as the ability to regulate the power.
"The seesaw nature of this hybrid," said DTE Energy
CEO Anthony Earley in testimony last year, "leaves would-be
investors with no assurance that customers will stay long enough
in either of the two choices to invest a billion or more dollars
in a baseload power plant. Between 2003 and 2006, DTE Energy
and Consumers Energy experienced a swing of over 3,000 megawatts
of load from the regulated utilities to alternative suppliers
and back again. That's equal to at least three baseload power
Earley said 34 states have "repealed, delayed, suspended,
or limited their deregulation experiments or are simply maintaining
their fully regulated systems."
State Republicans, who oversaw the partial deregulation of
Michigan's utilities, are more cautious about re-regulating them.
Acknowledging studies exist that promote economic benefits of
re-regulation and use of alternative energies in Michigan, Sen.
Bruce Patterson (R-Canton) of the Energy Policy and Public Utilities
Committee told Gongwer News Service that he questioned the validity
of the information - and who is paying for the research. He also
wondered if energy costs would increase.
According to the governor's "Michigan's 21st Century
Electric Energy Plan," Michigan's peak electric demand is
forecast to grow at approximately 1.2 percent per year over the
next 20 years.
The plan recommends the requirement Michigan utilities must
create 10 percent of energy use from renewable sources by 2015,
and then 20 percent by 2025. The benefits of such a policy are
expected to save money by diversifying Michigan's energy sources
and reducing costs of production, result in cleaner air, and
promoting job growth.
"This is a great opportunity for us," Granholm said
last month at the Training Center sponsored by theIBEW Local
58/ SE Michigan Chapter of the National Electrical Contractors
Association. "Once we require a percentage of energy to
be from renewable energy sources like solar and wind, the jobs
makes push for energy alternatives
By Marty Mulcahy
WARREN - Two days after using her State of the State address
to declare that Michigan "can be the alternative energy
capital of North America," Gov. Jennifer Granholm chose
the Detroit Electrical JATC Training Center in Warren to illustrate
During an hour-long tour of the training center, Granholm
said her visit was intended to highlight "the good, consistent,
high-paying jobs that currently exist in energy-related fields"
- and the potential jobs that could be available if Michigan
builds on our "blockbuster potential" in the alternative
"Why alternative energy?" Granholm asked in her
Jan. 29 State of the State address. "Because to borrow a
line from Wayne Gretzky - if you want to win, 'don't skate to
where the puck is - skate to where the puck is going.' "
The puck, she added, "is going to alternative energy."
The training center, sponsored jointly by IBEW Local 58 and
the Southeastern Michigan Chapter of the National Electrical
Contractors Association, skated in the direction of alternative
energy in 2006. That's when the facility unveiled a solar array
and wind turbine to provide real-world model for educating journeymen
and apprentices. The photo-voltaic array on the roof of the training
center can produce 18 kw DC and is interactive with the utility.
A stand-alone wind turbine can produce 6.0 kw at peak and provides
power in conjunction with a battery bank.
Such training is important, Granholm said, for a state that
needs to move away from reliance on manufacturing into areas
of job growth. The federal government is helping to move growth
into alternative energy by providing tax breaks for the use of
those new technologies.
Now, Granholm said she will ask the State Legislature to pass
legislation setting an ambitious alternative energy goal for
Michigan - to produce a minimum of 10 percent of our state's
electricity from renewable energy sources by 2015.
This "renewable portfolio standard," is seen by
Granholm as a "market-based tool" to attract diversified,
clean, low-carbon energy generation. She said if state lawmakers
adopt the legislation, the state's two largest utilities - Consumers
Energy and Detroit Edison - have pledged to begin to invest nearly
$6 billion on Michigan's energy infrastructure.
"Gov. Granholm's visit highlights some of the points
she made in the State of the State address," said IBEW Local
58 Business Manager Joe Abdoo. "We let her know that we
have the capacity at our training center and at other IBEW training
centers through the state to meet the needs of the industry,
in alternative energy and in the entire electrical spectrum."
Clyde Jones, owner of Centerline Electric and chairman of
the Local 58-NECA Joint Apprenticeship Training Center, said
Michigan is just starting to put up windmills -there are 32 up
in the Thumb region alone. His company has put in a bid on the
construction of more windmills in the area.
"There's a growing interest in wind energy, especially,"
Jones said. "It has to be cost-effective, and with the federal
government getting involved with tax breaks, that's
Training Director Gary Polulak said the facility intends to
have a sufficient number of workers trained and ready, if and
when the industry needs them. "A lot of people refer to
this as the IBEW Local 58 Training Center, but we're in this
together with our NECA contractors," he said. "Alternative
energy is going to be a growing area, and hopefully will provide
our members with employment down the road. But when it comes
to marketing our training for alternative energy when it comes
time to bid the work, our members and our contractors have to
realize that the focus has to be on promoting our contractors
in this area."
THE USE OF A SOLAR PANEL at the Detroit Electrical
JATC Training Center in Warren is explained by instructor Tom
Bowes to Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm, during her visit on
Jan. 31. Apprentices and staff are looking on.
AFL-CIO sues Bush DOL over reporting rules
WASHINGTON (PAI) - The AFL-CIO has sued President Bush's Labor
Department in an effort to overturn its new rules that force
union officers - even unpaid ones - and stewards to virtually
disclose all of their personal finances.
No date has been set for trial on the suit, filed last month
in federal court in D.C., to overturn the rules for LM-30 disclosure
reports for unionists. "We're challenging the secretary's
authority to issue some of the key provisions of the rule,"
federation spokeswoman Lane Windham said. The suit calls the
rules illegal - because there wasn't enough time to comment on
them - and "arbitrary and capricious."
The reasons for the lawsuit include: "Treating stewards
and grievance reps as labor union employees who are covered by
the rule, requiring reporting of financial transactions from
credit unions, and requiring reporting of financial transactions
from financial institutions whose employees are represented by
the filer's union, that do business with the filer's union, or
that do a substantial amount of business with employers whose
employees are represented by the filer's union," Windham
And the unionist would have to disclose financial "transactions"
with any financial institution "that does a substantial
part of its business" with firms the union "has organized
or is trying to organize," the rules add. The AFL-CIO challenges
The Bush Labor Department imposed the rules last year. Labor
Secretary Elaine Chao said on Feb. 4 they would prevent "potential
conflicts of interest" involving union officers, stewards
and even unionists who serve on safety and health inspection
teams. The rules would force millions of unionists to disclose
all their banking relationships, loans, mortgages and other transactions.
Such disclosures open unionists' personal finances to firms,
corporations, and the Radical Right, because LM-30 filings, like
other union filings, are public documents.
The lawsuit says Chao's rule orders that a worker's normal
pay must be reported if the worker spends any time at all performing
such union duties as handling grievances.
It also says Chao broke the law by requiring unionists to
report a normal loan, made by a bank or a credit union member
to the union member under the financial institution's normal
neutral lending standards. The unionist is required to report
the loan if he or she knows - or even suspects - that the financial
institution, in its normal business, deals with the union and
other members. Chao claims such loans to officers and stewards
could be a potential conflict of interest.
GOP kills extension of jobless bennies
WASHINGTON (PAI) - Once again turning their backs on workers,
Senate Republicans mustered enough votes on Feb. 6 to delete
extended jobless benefits from the $160 billion stimulus package
Congress passed the next day.
The 58-41 vote to shut off the Republican talkathon against
jobless benefits - and other aid for workers besides tax rebate
checks - was shy of the 60 the Democratic-run Senate needed to
halt the filibuster. It later passed the package, 81-16.
Forty of 41 "no" votes against more jobless benefits
came from Republicans.
The unemployment rate in January was 4.9%, above the 4% rate
Bush inherited in February 2001. But prior GOP-run Congresses
refused to add 13 more weeks to the 26 weeks of jobless benefits
workers were eligible at that time, and since. Democrats, backed
by allies including labor, wanted to add those weeks in the stimulus
package. Bush and the GOP said "no."
"Working families have seen their purchasing power stripped
and their economic well-being eroded by rising unemployment,
declining real wages, and rising costs for necessities such as
gas, housing, and health care," Change to Win Executive
Director Greg Tarpinian wrote senators before the vote. "To
be effective, a stimulus package must help those hardest hit
by the economic downturn and put money into the hands of those
most likely to spend it quickly. The expanded rebate provisions,
extensions of unemployment insurance, and increased home heating
fit both of these criteria and should be quickly