Bush’s joblessness surge

Official unemployment rates surged 0.3 percent in March to 5.1 percent. Included in the official surge were 434,000 more jobless, 48,000 more factory jobs lost, 51,000 construction jobs lost and more than one-third of the jobless out of work for longer than 14 weeks. The data shows almost 2 million more people were jobless in March than when Bush entered the Oval Office in January 2001.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics figures indicate that factories have lost more than 3.2 million jobs since Bush came into office and half those jobs, according to the AFL-CIO, were good paying union jobs.

The labor federation says that, adding together the jobless, those forced to work part-time when they really want full-time work, and discouraged workers who have stopped job-hunting, one of every 11 workers was unemployed or underemployed. This does not count first-time job-seekers who have never found a job or full-time workers working for a lot less than they are qualified to earn.

Senators criticize NLRB

Senators are criticizing the National Labor Relations Board’s string of antilabor rulings. They are probing board members for their views on the Employee Free Choice Act, particularly the parts of the bill that provide stiffer penalties for companies that break labor laws.

At recent hearings on Capitol Hill, Sens. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) said there are no adequate mechanisms in place for the NLRB to force compliance by companies who break the law. Unions note that the Bush administration has turned the NLRB into a mouthpiece for employers. The AFL-CIO has called for it to be disbanded until a new president and a new Congress can reconstitute it as a body that truly represents workers.

Labor slams mortgage ‘rescue’ package

The “rescue package” passed by Congress for homeowners who face losing their homes has drawn strong criticism from the AFL-CIO. The federation says the package is targeted to builders and banks rather than the homeowners who really need the help.

In addition, the Laborers Union has issued a special report analyzing how the measure’s subsidies help lenders who caused the crisis, rather than workers who suffer from it.

A key component proposed by Democrats was missing from the package adopted by Congress. The Democrats wanted to let bankruptcy judges intervene to rewrite mortgage terms, lowering interest rates and monthly payments so people could keep their homes. That was dropped in the face of two GOP threats — a Senate filibuster and a Bush veto.

Unions abroad help workers here

The Communications Workers of America and Germany’s biggest union have established a jointly run trans-Atlantic group, called T Union, to organize and represent T-Mobile workers. Although T-Mobile is aggressively anti-union, its German parent firm, Deutsche Telekom, is unionized and has unionists on its board of directors who can exert influence to assist the CWA’s organizing drive.

First responders need help

The 50,000 workers who toiled for weeks on “the pile” — the toxic post-9/11 World Trade Center debris – are battling not just a wide range of illnesses and disabilities but also a pile of red tape and New York City opposition to paying for health care, the labor movement says.

The relief and rescue workers need expanded relief, payment of their health care bills and compensation, Dr. James Melius, New York State Laborers’ Health and Safety Trust Fund administrator, told two House subcommittees recently. Now, more than six years after 9/11, Melius said, some of those first responders have died, hundreds have become permanently disabled and others have run up such high medical bills, with no compensation, that they have lost jobs, health insurance and sometimes their homes.

This Week in Labor is compiled by John Wojcik.