Just say “NO”


Here’s the hat Trump should wear in public

There is a factory in Pennsylvania, Braskem America, that creates the key component for PPE (Personal Protection Equipment such as masks and gowns). The employees know how crucial it is to get their product out that on March 23, 43 of them literally lived in the factory for 28 days straight, working 12-hour shifts every day. They called it a “live-in.” Braskem America CEO Mark Nikolich stated no one told them they had to do this. All of the workers who stayed volunteered, living at the plant to ensure no one caught the virus as they sought to meet the skyrocketing demand for their key product, polypropylene.

Ever the opportunist, Trump notified management he wanted to visit the factory and the workers there. They all got together and discussed it. They said, NO.

Many thanks to Michelle at motleynews.net for posting this.

All [Robot] Hands on Deck!

❝ Autonomous ships will be great. Doing away with sailors will make the high seas safer and cleaner.


No humans neededGlyn Kirk/AFP

❝ It sounds like a ghost story: A huge cargo vessel sails up and down the Norwegian coast, silently going about its business, without a captain or crew in sight. But if all goes as planned, it’s actually the future of shipping.

❝ Last week, Kongsberg Gruppen ASA, a Norwegian maritime-technology firm, and Yara ASA, a fertilizer manufacturer, announced a partnership to build the world’s first fully autonomous cargo containership. Manned voyages will start in 2018, and in 2020 the Yara Birkeland will set sail all on its own. It’s the beginning of a revolution that should transform one of the world’s oldest and most conservative industries — and make global shipping safer, faster and cleaner than it’s ever been…

By one consultant’s estimate, moreover, carrying sailors accounts for 44 percent of a ship’s costs. That’s not just salaries: crew quarters, air-conditioning units, a bridge (which typically requires heavy ballast to ensure a ship’s balance) and other amenities take up valuable weight and space that might otherwise be used for cargo. And that dead weight contributes to a bigger problem: Maritime shipping accounts for about 2.5 percent of global greenhouse-gas emissions. Barring a radical change, those emissions are set to surge in the decades ahead.

❝ All this explains why eliminating a crew and its costs has been a long-time goal for companies and governments around the world. The most advanced effort so far has come from Rolls-Royce Holdings Plc, which rolled out a virtual-reality prototype of an autonomous ship in 2014. According to the company, the ship will be 5 percent lighter, and burn up to 15 percent less fuel, than a comparable vessel with humans aboard.

All the questions required of industries capable of full automation, essential automation, apply. They must begin with what is to be done to aid the human beings made redundant by the qualitative change which – after all – makes this industry more profitable, less expensive to operate?

The capitalists of Europe will probably follow guidance from enlightened geopolitical segments within their borders. Nations with at least a social-democratic bent. I would expect the same from China and those Asian nations with the courage to follow…perhaps, even lead.

Here in the United States? Silly question, eh? We live in a nation led by a political caste almost completely under the control of the least caring profiteers in the world. Short-sighted and arrogant, they really don’t care a rat’s ass about anyone fitting the broadest definition of proletarian. If you don’t own industry, you shall be politically subservient. From church to Congress, the Free Press to teachers who think they’re a 19th Century guild, obedience is the construct that counts. And Americans are, if anything, obedient cogs in the economy.

If US coal workers were retrained to work in solar – the first thing to happen is they’d make more money

coal to solar
Click to enlargeShutterstock

The global economy is in a massive transition from a fossil-fuel-based energy system to one using sophisticated renewable energy technologies. For tens of thousands of fossil fuel workers, though, the energy industry outlook is not promising. For coal industry workers, the future looks particularly bleak. However, research I conducted with Edward Louie of Oregon State University offers hope for a better future based on retraining workers. Our study…quantified the costs and benefits of retraining coal workers for employment in the rapidly expanding solar photovoltaic industry — and it explores different ways to pay for this retraining.

…As coal investors have fled in droves to invest in more profitable companies and industries, coal workers have been left with pink slips and mortgages on houses with few buyers in blighted coal country. It is clear that coal is no longer a competitive form of electrical generation.

The one energy sector that is growing at an incredible rate is the solar industry — and it is hiring.

For decades the solar industry has battled against enormous government subsidies for coal. But because of the tremendous drop in costs for solar technology, solar adoption is now rising rapidly. Bloomberg reports that the American solar industry had a record first quarter in 2016, and for the first time, it drove the majority of new power generation. The U.S. solar industry is creating a lot of jobs, bringing on new workers 12 times faster than the overall economy…

Our study found that this growth of solar-related employment could benefit coal workers, by easily absorbing the coal-industry layoffs over the next 15 years and offering full-time careers.

Using data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, we looked at all current coal industry positions – from engineers to mining and power plant operators to administrative workers – the skill sets required for each…and their respective average salaries. For each type of coal position, we determined the closest equivalent solar position and salary. For example, an operations engineer in the coal industry could retrain to be a manufacturing technician in solar and expect about a 10% salary increase. Similarly, explosive workers, ordinance handlers, and blasters in the coal industry could use their sophisticated safety experience and obtain additional training to become commercial solar technicians and earn about 11% more on average.

Our results show that there is a wide variety of employment opportunities in the solar industry, and that the annual pay is attractive at all levels of education, with even the lowest skilled jobs paying a living wage (e.g., janitors in the coal industry could increase their salaries by 7% by becoming low-skilled mechanical assemblers in the solar industry). In general, we found that after retraining, technical workers would make more in the solar industry than previously in coal…

The results of the study show that a relatively minor investment ($180 million to $1.8 billion, based on best and worst case scenarios) in retraining would allow the vast majority of U.S. coal workers to switch to solar-related positions. Of course, training times depend on type of job and prior experience…

Workers in any declining industry can learn from the coal industry. They can provide themselves valuable job security insurance by preemptively retraining, and there are numerous opportunities for online training – and even working – in a wide variety of fields. Businesses in tangential industries may also want to consider retraining their own workers — electric utilities, for example, can retrain their coal-fired power plant workers for positions involving utility-scale solar farms

Yes, I think these folks at Harvard are a little naive about voluntary retraining by our coal barons. From the Koch Bros to the Petroleum Club – they couldn’t care a rat’s ass about the workers they lay off. Profits, profits, tax breaks – and more profits is what counts. It’s why they buy and sell politicians from both of the two old parties. Results count more than ideology.

No, we’ll need to light a fire under state and federal politicians to get retraining rolling. And not only in fossil fuels. Send the bill to the bubbas taking the profits from over the years.

Autoimmune diseases rising in 9/11 workers

The list of ailments afflicting the World Trade Center first responders has grown to include systemic autoimmune diseases…

The conditional odds ratio for autoimmune diseases rose by 13% for each month individuals spent working at the site…according to Mayris P. Webber, DPH, Montefiore Medical Center in New York City, and colleagues.

And for those who spent 10 months working at the site the risk tripled the researchers reported…

“The terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center buildings and the subsequent building collapses and fires exposed rescue/recovery workers to aerosolized WTC dust, an amalgam of pulverized cement, glass fibers, silica, asbestos, lead, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, polychlorinated biphenyls, and polychlorinated furans and dioxins,” they noted.

The result has been the development of various respiratory and other diseases including asthma, gastroesophageal reflux, and cancer in up to 70% of the exposed New York City fire department members, but the entire range of potential health effects is not yet known and may take decades to fully manifest.

Autoimmune diseases have been linked with multiple environmental exposures, including silica, hydrocarbons, and particulates.

These autoimmune conditions include rheumatoid arthritis (RA), systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), dermatomyositis, vasculitis, and Sjogren’s syndrome, and most often have been reported after many years of exposure and predominantly among women.

The finding of an increase in autoimmune disease among WTC responders was “unexpected and highlights the need for increased clinician awareness of the possibility of these and perhaps other autoimmune disorders in their WTC-exposed male patients…”

The authors concluded that workers and residents should be closely monitored for these conditions. “The stakes are high because enhanced surveillance can lead to early detection and treatment, which has been shown to improve quality of life and reduce or delay organ damage including erosive joint destruction, kidney failure, pulmonary fibrosis, and hypertension.”

And so it goes. Disease and disability caused by industrial material and chemical can surface many years later. I hope, in this case, our government, the powers that have responsibility for support in unusual circumstances will respond with more pace and thought than they did to the ailments incurred by first responders.

Folks are starting to tell the boss — Take this job and shove it!

BLS, quitting

More Americans are leaving their jobs voluntarily…

The number of people quitting their jobs has risen sharply this year, even as relatively few people have been laid off or fired.

One of the more predictable consequences of the terrible economy over the last several years was that people who had a job were holding onto it for dear life. But in a sign that the job market is coming to life, the number of people quitting their job voluntarily has soared this year, even as the number being fired or laid off has remained low.

In other words, Americans appear more confident that they can find a better job than they did even a few months ago, giving them more freedom to escape terrible hours, an obnoxious boss or a too-low salary for something else. That could be a harbinger of workers having stronger leverage in pay negotiations in the months ahead.

RTFA – click the link above and wander through a larger article entitled “Five Economic Trends To Be Thankful For”. This portion tripped my trigger more than the others. Though, they all make sense.

Most of this is the result of what has become traditional Keynesian economic policies – mostly as tweaked by Ben Bernanke who took a very courageous leap. Especially since he kept warning throughout the passage of time – punctuated by idjits voting NO – the ultimate responsibility of rebuilding our economy was political and legislative.

The White House types get a smaller piece of the credit – since they rarely acted up as much as they should have and could have in early days when even the dolts in the Republican Party were close to admitting their share of responsibility for the disaster that has become the Great Recession.

A penny of progress in Florida tomato fields makes a world of difference to field workers

By enlisting the might of major restaurant chains and retailers — including Walmart, which signed on this year — the Coalition of Immokalee Workers has pressured growers that produce 90 percent of Florida’s tomatoes to increase wages for their 30,000 workers and follow strict standards that mandate rest breaks and forbid sexual harassment and verbal abuse.

The incentive for growers to comply with what’s called the Fair Food Program is economically stark: The big companies have pledged to buy only from growers who follow the new standards, paying them an extra penny a pound, which goes to the pickers. The companies have also pledged to drop any suppliers that violate the standards.

So far, the agreements between retailers and growers are limited to Florida’s tomato fields, which in itself is no small feat considering that the state produces 90 percent of the country’s winter tomatoes.

But gaining the heft and reach of Walmart — which sells 20 percent of the nation’s fresh tomatoes year-round — may prove far more influential. To the applause of farmworkers’ advocates, the retailer has agreed to extend the program’s standards and monitoring to its tomato suppliers in Georgia, South Carolina and Virginia and elsewhere on the Eastern Seaboard. Walmart officials say they also hope to apply the standards to apple orchards in Michigan and Washington and strawberry fields in many states…

Since the program’s inception, its system of inspections and decisions issued by a former judge has resulted in suspensions for several growers, including one that failed to adopt a payroll system to ensure pickers were paid for all the time they worked.

Amassing all these company partnerships took time. The workers’ coalition organized a four-year boycott of Taco Bell to get its parent company, Yum Brands, to agree in 2005 to pay an extra penny a pound for tomatoes, helping increase workers’ wages. In 2007 the coalition sponsored a march to Burger King’s headquarters in Miami, pushing that company to join the effort. Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, Chipotle and Subway have also signed on.

Perhaps the coalition’s biggest success is luring Walmart, which joined the program in January without a fight. Walmart officials said they were looking for ethically sourced produce as well as a steady supply of tomatoes. The giant company’s decision coincides with its major inroads into organic foods and fresh fruits and vegetables.

RTFA. It’s about a victory, serious victory inside one of the greediest segments of American capitalism. A penny a pound may not seem like a lot to urban and urbane workers and professional; but, for a field hand it’s a world of difference. And the most reactionary elements of American agribusiness think it’s the end of the world.

Kudos to the organizers and field hands together who joined this fight and won. And special thanks to the restauranteurs and retailers who supported this struggle.

Workers at Bain plant send petition to Romney to save their jobs


These folks are getting the outsourced jobs — Do you think they trust Bain?

As Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney faces a withering attack over outsourcing and layoffs by his former firm, Bain Capital, employees at a Bain-owned company are appealing to Romney to stop their jobs being shipped overseas…

The plant’s employees are calling on Romney to use his influence with former Bain colleagues to keep the plant open.

The workers signed a petition asking him to help, and the Freeport City Council passed a motion on Monday urging the candidate to step in to save the jobs.

“If he wanted to, all he needs to do is call up the management of Bain Capital and say, ‘Look, don’t do this,'” said Tom Gaulrapp, who has worked at the factory for 33 years…

As a major investor in Sensata, Romney could gain from an outsourcing move that is likely to cut costs and increase the company’s presence in emerging markets.

Romney owns at least $7.8 million in eight Bain funds that collectively hold 51 percent of Sensata’s shares, according to a disclosure report he released in June.

Sensata bought the Freeport plant as part of an acquisition of Honeywell International’s auto-sensor business in late 2010. The 170 jobs there were at risk from the start of the purchase…In their first meeting with their new employers when the deal was completed in January 2011, workers at the plant were told their jobs would be eliminated by the end of 2012.

Chinese workers have since been brought in to learn how to operate the equipment. The first batch of layoff notices went out last week…

No doubt Romney will consider all the political factors involved in this decision – and do nothing. He’s a do-nothing kind of guy.

Unemployed held hostage by conservatives and copouts, again

It is hard to believe, as the holidays approach yet again amid economic hard times, but Congress looks as if it may let federal unemployment benefits lapse for the fourth time this year.

Lame duck lawmakers will have only one day when they return to work on Monday to renew the expiring benefits. If they don’t, two million people will be cut off in December alone. This lack of regard for working Americans is shocking. Last summer, benefits were blocked for 51 days, as senators in both parties focused on preserving tax breaks for wealthy money managers and other affluent constituents.

This time, tax cuts for the rich are bound to drive and distort the debate again. Republicans and Democrats will almost certainly link the renewal of jobless benefits to an extension of the high-end Bush-era tax cuts. That would be a travesty. There is no good argument for letting jobless benefits expire, or for extending those cuts…

Nor do jobless benefits bust the budget. Just the opposite. They do not add to dangerous long-term deficits because the spending is temporary. And because they support spending and jobs, they contribute powerfully to the economic growth that is vital for a healthy budget. Extending the Bush high-end tax cuts would be budget busting, because they are likely to endure, adding $700 billion to the deficit over 10 years. Tax cuts for the rich provide virtually no economic stimulus, because affluent people tend to save their bounty…

President Obama should pound the table for a clean, yearlong extension of unemployment benefits, and should excoriate phony deficit hawks — in both parties — who say that jobless benefits are too costly, even as they pass vastly more expensive tax cuts for the rich.

As we move into the next 2-year cycle of corruption, lies and deception that defines our Congress, the lack of bi-partisanship between cowards and crooks, political hacks governed by the golden rule of “what must I now do to get re-elected” – we all get to witness how little these thugs care for working people. Especially the unemployed.

Take the time to Google your way through congress.org and other sites that track the day-by-day record of America’s only native criminal class. Remember who the crucial offenders are in your own neck of the prairie. Call ’em out on their failures and faux accomplishments.

Two Algerian Christians freed – not subject to Ramadan rules

Two Christians who were on trial in Algeria for breaking Ramadan fasting rules have been cleared of wrongdoing.

Human rights groups said the trial was a violation of the right to religious freedom under the constitution.

Hocine Hocini and Salem Fellak were arrested in August during the month of Ramadan, after they were seen eating lunch on the building site where they worked in Kabylie, northern Algeria…

The two men admitted they had been eating, but said they had done it discreetly, and felt they had done nothing wrong.

The judge at the court in Ain El Hamman threw the case out because “no article [of law] provided for a legal pursuit” against the men, thereby rejecting the prosecutors’ request for three-year prison sentences…

Algeria is a mostly Muslim country; the ministry of religious affairs estimates there are only about 11,000 Christians among a population of 36 million.

Phew! An illustration of the trials and tribulations of a minority in a theocracy – where minority status is determined by religion alone.

Motorola blocking RIM job offers for workers they laid-off. WTF?

BlackBerry maker Research In Motion Ltd sued Motorola Inc over claims the mobile-phone maker is improperly blocking it from offering jobs to laid-off Motorola workers, Bloomberg said.

RIM, in a complaint filed in state court in Chicago, asked for an order invalidating an agreement the companies reached this year not to solicit each other’s employees, the agency said.

The agreement expired in August and is no longer enforceable, the agency said, citing the complaint.

Motorola is improperly trying to expand the agreement “to prevent the RIM entities from hiring any Motorola employees, including the thousands of employees Motorola has already fired or will fire,” RIM was quoted as saying in the complaint.

Ah, the holiday spirit in Silicon Valley.