California Enterprise Zones: Just a "Big-Business Tax Grab"?

By Gary Cohn

John Thomas and Hans Burkhardt have a lot in common. For more than 17 years each man had a good paying union job, with health and pension benefits, near San Francisco Bay. Thomas worked as a warehouseman for VWR International, a medical supply company with a warehouse in Brisbane, south of Candlestick Park. Burkhardt also worked as a warehouseman, for BlueLinx, a building products company with a facility across the bay in Newark.

The similarities don't end there. Both Thomas and Burkhardt are now collecting unemployment, having lost their $22-an-hour jobs after their employers moved to take advantage of California's enterprise zone plan, a controversial state program that is supposed to create jobs.

April Is the Cruelest Month As the Economy Crawls Along

By Robert Reich

Bad news on the economy. It added only 88,000 jobs in March - the slowest pace of job growth in nine months.

While the jobless rate fell to 7.6 percent, much of the drop was due to the labor force shrinking by almost a half million people. If you're not looking for work, you're not counted as unemployed.

That means the percentage of working-age Americans either with a job or looking for one dropped to 63.3 percent - its lowest level since 1979.

The direction isn't encouraging. The pace of job growth this year is slower than its pace last year.

What's going on? The simple fact is companies won't hire if consumers aren't buying enough to justify the new hires. And consumers don't have enough money, or credit, or confidence to buy enough.

Fixing the Economy's Real Problem

By Robert Reich

"Our biggest problems over the next ten years are not deficits," the President told House Republicans Wednesday, according to those who attended the meeting.

The President needs to deliver the same message to the public, loudly and clearly. The biggest problems we face are unemployment, stagnant wages, slow growth, and widening inequality - not deficits. The major goal must be to get jobs and wages back, not balance the budget.

Paul Ryan's budget plan - essentially, the House Republican plan - is designed to lure the White House and Democrats, and the American public, into a debate over how to balance the federal budget in ten years, not over whether it's worth doing.

Of Biblical Proportions: Inequality and Poverty Wages

By Rev. Jim Conn

My friend pastors a vibrant congregation in the Mid-City area of Los Angeles. Her people reflect the neighborhood and the church worships in both Spanish and English. In a conversation this week I asked her how her folks were doing. Her voice dropped, and she shook her head. "There are no jobs," she said, "and the ones who work can only get part-time hours." With dismay, she said, "I don't know how they are making it."

Reject the Fiscal Cliff and the Grand Bargain

By Duane Campbell

The Sacramento Bee editorial board started in the right direction in their editorial of November 26, 2012 by calling for small steps to avoid the "fiscal cliff". Then, strangely, they list small steps that only call for compromise as advocated by the Republican-austerity side. While unemployment remains high and economic growth slow, we do not need more austerity. If you want some small steps, President Obama suggested that we extend the Bush era tax reductions for the bottom 98% of earners. This is a proposal that almost everyone agrees with - or at least say they agree with. Then, we can disagree over the 2%, and work out a compromise.

Household Income: Slip Slidin' Away

By Sylvia Allegretto

Recently, the U.S. Census Bureau released its annual report on income, poverty, and health insurance coverage for 2011. Data from the report represents the second full year of economic recovery (which official started in June 2009). From the top line statistics, poverty held steady at 15% (46.2 million people) and the number of people without health insurance coverage declined from 50 million in 2010 to 48.6 million in 2011. The big changes were with regard to income as illustrated in the figure.

AB 2508: Calling Jobs Home

By Jessica Bartholow

The 2012 State Legislature adjourned on August 29th and now hundreds of bills sit, awaiting the Governor’s signature.  One of those bills, Assembly Bill 2508 by Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla (D – Concord), will call back hundreds of jobs into California’s economy.

Current state law allows state public benefit contracts, including call-center contracts, to be awarded to contractors that perform the work outside of California, and even the United States. AB 2508 would prohibit state agencies that manage public benefit programs from contracting for call center services outside the state.

Recent Audit Finds That More Can be Done to Help California’s Unemployed

By Anne McMonigle
California Labor Federation

Last week, the California State Auditor released a report finding that more effective state planning and oversight is necessary for implementing the federal Workforce Investment Act in California. The findings in the audit confirm what many of us working in the WIA system already knew to be true: a nonalignment of state agency practices and policies and a complacent attitude towards performance measures, has done a disservice to California employers and job seekers alike. Highlights of the recent audit include the following:

  • The California Workforce Investment Board (CWIB) has not always complied with federal and state laws.
  • Although required by state law since 2006, the CWIB failed to develop a strategic workforce plan for California.
  • Steps to identify unnecessary duplication among WIA programs and activities have not been taken.

305,000 Californians to Lose Unemployment Insurance Lifeline if Congress Fails to Act by January 1

By Steve Smith
California Labor Federation

A new report released today by the AFL-CIO shows that more than 305,000 Californians will lose their unemployment benefits on December 31 if Congress fails to act to extend unemployment insurance.

Electrician Alexander Stewart, who has been out of work since July 2010 and will lose benefits if Congress fails to act by the end of the year:

We elect Congress to look out for the interests of everyday people. It’s appalling that elected officials would let petty politics stand in the way of extending unemployment insurance, the only thing keeping my family and so many others afloat in these tough times.

Air-Conditioned Poverty: A Right-Wing Diversion

By Isaiah J. Poole

The Census Bureau reports that the percentage of people living in poverty in the U.S. is at its highest level in almost two decades. But not to worry, says the conservative Heritage Foundation: Poor people are doing just fine:

Few of the 46.2 million people identified by the Census Bureau as being “in poverty” are what most Americans would consider poor—lacking nutritious food, adequate warm housing, or clothing. The typical “poor” American lives in an air-conditioned house or apartment and has cable TV, a car, multiple color TVs, a DVD player, and a VCR among other conveniences.