NLRB rules against Amazon retaliation

Nearly a year ago, Amazon fired two employees who had criticized the company. The employees had publicly called on the company to do more to reduce its carbon footprint and had circulated a petition among Amazon employees supporting better compensation and support for warehouse workers. Now, the National Labor Relations Board, or NLRB, has found that Amazon acted illegally and in retaliation when it fired them … (according to a report from The New York Times).

Emily Cunningham and Maren Costa were both designers at Amazon’s Seattle headquarters, and their tussles with management began in 2018 when they joined a group of employees who vocally backed shareholder petitions urging the company to do more to combat climate change…

Cunningham and Costa joined with other Amazon tech employees to circulate petitions internally that sought expanded hazard pay, sick leave, and childcare for warehouse employees. The group also planned a virtual event for warehouse and tech workers, allowing the latter to hear firsthand about the former’s working conditions.

Shortly thereafter, Amazon fired both Cunningham and Costa, claiming that they had been “repeatedly violating internal policies.” The two women filed complaints with the NLRB.

Been there … done that! I honestly don’t know if political and public pressure has pushed the NLRB into faster action in all-too-common situations like this. BITD, it could take years to get a response on retaliation cases.

C-Sections remain a poor substitute for labor — additional reasons from a new study

Tim Robinson

For years, research has shown that babies born by cesarean section are more likely to develop health problems. Now, a groundbreaking study suggests that not all C-sections are equally risky.

The research looked at all full-term, firstborn births in Scotland over a 15-year period and tracked the babies’ long-term health. It is one of the largest and longest studies to explore how planned C-sections differ from other deliveries.

Surprisingly, the data showed more health problems among babies born by planned C-section than among those delivered by emergency C-section or vaginal birth, even though the planned surgery is done under more controlled conditions. The finding suggests that the arduous experience of labor — that exhausting, sweaty, utterly unpredictable yet often strangely exhilarating process — may give children a healthy start, even when it’s interrupted by a surgical birth.

The new findings…are important because the number of babies born by C-section has increased tremendously. In the United States, nearly one in three babies are born by C-section…

Dr. Mairead Black, the University of Aberdeen obstetrician who led the study, said that as cesarean births had increased in Scotland and worldwide, the researchers wondered what, if anything, children born by C-section “are missing out on.”

“Our thinking was: If a baby is born naturally, it comes into contact with bacteria from the mother, which might help with immune system development,” Dr. Black said.

Even attempted labor may provide some exposure to bacteria, she said. But babies delivered by a planned C-section, which is usually scheduled to take place well before the first pang of labor, may miss out entirely…

Studies have consistently found that children born by C-section are at higher risk for health problems like obesity and allergies. C-section birth has also been associated with a higher risk for Type 1 diabetes.

The Scottish study took advantage of the small country’s rich trove of linked birth and medical databases to track the long-term health of 321,287 babies. Nearly 4 percent were born by planned C-section and 17 percent were delivered by emergency surgery. The remaining 252,917 were vaginal births.

The researchers compared a range of health outcomes among the babies, including asthma, irritable bowel syndrome, obesity, Type 1 diabetes, early death and cancer…

No one knows exactly why labor may be protective, but the spontaneous onset of labor prompts fluid to clear from a baby’s lungs, said Dr. Aaron Caughey, who helped draw up 2014 guidelines for the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists that urged providers to let women spend more time in labor and avoid an unnecessary C-section…

The step is just one of a cascade of physiological changes that take place in mother and baby during the labor process, including surges in stress hormones and reproductive hormones like oxytocin that may help the fetus adapt during labor, preserve blood flow to the organs, and keep the baby alert and prepared for breast-feeding.

During labor, a newborn absorbs maternal microbes into its mouth and gastrointestinal tract…The theory is that maternal microbes “train” the infant’s immune system, so it doesn’t overreact or become destructive and precipitate autoimmune disorders like Type 1 diabetes…

Dr. Josef Neu said the broad-spectrum antibiotics prescribed to the mother before a surgical delivery were another concern; the antibiotics can be transmitted to the baby through breast milk if not before birth, decreasing the diversity of natural bacteria.

Childbirth and labor are “a physiological process that we’ve evolved to over millions of years,” Dr. Caughey said. “It’s been really well-designed by evolution.”

I’ll second that emotion.

China discovers modular construction — just add labor, fireworks

If the video is cranky, click “YouTube” lower rh frame and watch it there
As a crane lowered a steel-and-concrete slab onto support pillars, construction workers swarmed around to bolt it down – a choreography of mad-dash steps against a backdrop of firecrackers, and a sacrificed cow, to herald China’s latest “instant building”.

The three-story structure, a workers’ cafeteria, was just a side note to a 30-story hotel built over 15 days outside this city in Hunan province in December. Both are examples of the streamlined construction being pioneered by China’s Broad Sustainable Building.

“There is an urgent need for construction security, especially energy-saving in construction, and this touches on conserving materials,” Zhang Yue, Broad Group’s founder and chairman, told Reuters in an interview at his headquarters in Changsha.

Over the last decade China has seen one of the biggest construction booms in history to house a surging urban population and an expanding industrial sector. But with that construction have come worries about environmental destruction, waste and shoddy buildings. Zhang argues that his buildings represent just the opposite…

“It’s very easy to learn the construction – all the workers need to do is fasten the bolts,” said Liu Zhijian, a 23-year-old site worker from the nearby city of Loudi. “There’s no welding, no dust, no water,” he said. “It’s not at all like traditional construction, which is all about bricks and concrete…”

The approach is relatively straightforward. Workers prefabricate flat modules at two factories in Yueyang, about 90 minutes north of the provincial capital of Changsha…

BSB estimates it produces 90 percent of its buildings in the plants.

The process also leaves little trash behind…”We have only 1 percent of construction waste at building sites,” said Shang Dayong, a worker from Ningxia province who came to learn the quick-build process to teach others back home.

Modular construction truly rocks. Even though most of the housing I worked on was custom designs, there are firms I competed against that did a stellar job with production modules built off-site and transported to fit the site. If their pre-designed packages fit the needs and taste of clients, savings of 20-30% were common.

In commercial construction — even faster and easier. There is one chain of motels that builds all of their modules as opposite rooms in the motel with a section of hall way between. They’re trucked to the job site and dropped into place floor by floor, side by side. Easy as pie. A hell of a lot less job site labor, savings on insurance, raw materials, scrap all-round.

Romney will shut down US government departments – but, voters don’t need to know which ones before the election – WTF?

You went and told them the truth?
Daylife/AP Photo used by permission

Mitt Romney wants to shut down or amalgamate several US government departments if elected president, but has no plans to tell voters in advance of November’s general election, he told wealthy campaign donors.

The presumptive Republican nominee let slip his plans at a high-rollers fund-raising event in Florida estate that was supposed to be a closed-doors event but was accidentally overhead by a group of waiting reporters standing on the pavement outside.

“I’m going to take a lot of departments in Washington, and agencies, and combine them. Some eliminate, but I’m probably not going to lay out just exactly which ones are going to go,” Mr Romney said, according to NBC News, who had a reporter outside the event…

The issue of closing departments sunk the campaign of Rick Perry, the governor of Texas, earlier this year when, having promised to shut three federal agencies, was only able to name two of them in a live televised debate.

Mr Romney said that the Department of Housing which was headed for four years from 1969 by his father George Romney, who served in Nixon’s cabinet, was also in the crosshairs…

Of course. His father really was a compassionate conservative. He wouldn’t be allowed in a position of responsibility in today’s High Holy Church of Republicanism.

The Obama campaign, which hopes to paint Mr Romney as an out-of-touch multi-millionaire, is pressing Mr Romney to release more of his tax returns that could contain details of potentially embarrassing offshore investment trusts used in legal tax avoidance…

“Hearkening back to my youth, which extends far beyond yours, there was a show called, ‘I’ve Got A Secret.’ Increasingly, I think that would be the appropriate title for the Romney campaign,” David Axelrod told the Politico website, recalling the story that Mr Romney removed the hard drives from his office computers at the end of his term as governor of Massachusetts.

There are central issues, but this is a disturbing one,” he added, “and it goes to that question of, like, ‘Who is this guy? What does he stand for? What does he believe? What do we know about him?'”

All most American voters need to know is that – wimpy as Obama may be on critical issues of bigotry, peace, civil rights and jobs – Romney is guaranteed to be worse.

He’s stuck into dribble-down economics which Republicans have been trying to justify since Herbert Hoover was president. His lack of integrity is sufficient that he kowtows to every religious nutball who finds his way into the Republican Party hoping to join the aristocracy.

Boy, 11, calls police emergency line over housework, chores

A boy of 11 called a German police emergency line to complain of “forced labour” after his mother told him to help clean the home.

Police say the boy from Aachen, who has not been identified, spoke to an officer via the 110 number. They say he complained: “I have to work all day long. I haven’t any free time…”

A transcript of the conversation, printed in local newspapers, revealed the officer asking the boy to describe the kind of “forced labour” he was doing.

The boy replied that he had to clean the home and terrace, it said.

Asked if he knew what forced labour was, the boy said he did, and the police officer asked to speak to his mother, who at that stage was standing next to him.

She explained he had called after being asked to pick up paper from the floor, adding: “He plays all day long and when told to tidy up what he’s done, he calls it forced labour.”

Sounds like he’ll grow up to become a member of the Bundestag.

Chinese factories now compete for workers

Filling out applications at a sidewalk recruiting station

If Wang Jinyan, an unemployed factory worker with a middle school education, had a résumé, it might start out like this: “Objective: seeking well-paid, slow-paced assembly-line work in air-conditioned plant with Sundays off, free wireless Internet and washing machines in dormitory. Friendly boss a plus.”

As she eased her way along a gantlet of recruiters in this manufacturing megalopolis one recent afternoon, Ms. Wang, 25, was in no particular rush to find a job. An underwear company was offering subsidized meals and factory worker fashion shows. The maker of electric heaters promised seven-and-a-half-hour days. “If you’re good, you can work in quality control and won’t have to stand all day,” bragged a woman hawking jobs for a shoe manufacturer.

Ms. Wang flashed an unmistakable look of ennui and popped open an umbrella to shield her fair complexion from the South China sun. “They always make these jobs sound better than they really are,” she said, turning away. “Besides, I don’t do shoes. Can’t stand the smell of glue.”

Assertive, self-possessed workers like Ms. Wang have become a challenge for the industrial titans of the Pearl River Delta that once filled their mammoth workshops with an endless stream of pliant labor from China’s rural belly.

In recent months, as the country’s export-driven juggernaut has been revived and many migrants have found jobs closer to home, the balance of power in places like Zhongshan has shifted, forcing employers to compete for new workers — and to prevent seasoned ones from defecting to sweeter prospects.

The shortage has emboldened workers and inspired a spate of strikes in and around Zhongshan that paralyzed Honda’s Chinese operations last month. The unrest then spread to the northern city of Tianjin, where strikers briefly paralyzed production at a Toyota car plant and a Japanese-owned electronics factory.

Although the walkouts were quelled with higher salaries, factory owners and labor experts said that the strikes have driven home a looming reality that had been predicted by demographers: the supply of workers 16 to 24 years old has peaked and will drop by a third in the next 12 years, thanks to stringent family-planning policies that have sharply reduced China’s population growth…

The other new reality, perhaps harder to quantify, is this: young Chinese factory workers, raised in a country with rapidly rising expectations, are less willing to toil for long hours for appallingly low wages like dutiful automatons.

RTFA. Nothing surprising to someone who’s read any labor history. The distinct difference in China is that – no one is skipping any stages; but, time is compressed, the rate of change in every part of the socio-economic structure seems to happen overnight.

In the daily world of TV America, the funniest commentaries come from market analysts who worry over declining real estate prices and trends reversing the balance between production for export vs. production for domestic consumption in China. Which are primary goals of the government over the next five years.

It’s like the dweebs – usually on CNBC – who whine about Americans finally starting to save some of their family income instead of being dedicated consumers.

13 million Mexican nationals in United States – over half illegally

Daylife/Getty Images

A U.S. think tank said Wednesday the latest figures conclude there are nearly 13 million Mexican immigrants living in the United States.

The Pew Hispanic Center said 55 percent of those 12.7 million immigrants were “unauthorized” and Mexicans now account for 32 percent of all immigrants in the United States.

The report…was based on a March 2008 Current Population Survey.

Pew said in a written statement that the number of Mexicans living in the United States increased 17 fold over 1970, and it is estimated one of every 10 living persons born in Mexico now lives in the United States.

Sounds about right. The information that is.

15% of the population in my county is here illegally.

US uses the lyrics of corridas to deter illegal immigrants

“Three people die every day on the border”

They are the new secret weapon of the US Border Patrol: toe-tapping ballads with Spanish lyrics that tell of the risks of trying to cross illegally into the US from Mexico.

The songs are on a CD that has been distributed free to dozens of radio stations in northern Mexico as part of a campaign called “No more crosses on the border” – a reference both to the illegal crossings and to those who have lost their lives in the attempt.

The songs are all tragic, giving accounts of abuse, rape and death as immigrants embark on the often dangerous journey.

The CD is called “Migracorridos” – which suggests the US Border Patrol is happy to use “la migra”, the Spanish term used to describe, almost always in a derogatory way, US immigration agents.

“The important thing is that we reach (people) with this message and are able to save as many lives as possible,” Eugenio Rodriguez Jr, spokesman for the US Border Patrol in Laredo, Texas, told BBC Mundo.

What’s desperate about life in Mexico is corruption and gangsterism. Poverty is nothing new and it’s not especially on the increase – though our present to the world, Global Recession, may change that. With fewer jobs available in the U.S., the number of undocumentados is decreasing anyway.

Point is – poverty alone isn’t sufficient reason in most cases for illegal migrant laborers to make the trek north. The motivation is to make more money, a surplus, to acquire more stuff. Just like the rest of us. Though most of the rest of us aren’t as likely to jeopardize our lives to do so.