Monday, August 31, 2015

Company in Atlanta fined almost $120,000 for indifference to the safety of temporary workers

OSHA has issued 2 repeat, 2 serious, and 1 other-than-serious violation to American Air Filter Co. Inc., doing business as AAF International after conducting an inspection at their facility at 2624 Weaver Way, Atlanta, Georgia 30340.

American Air Filter employs temporary workers from two staffing agencies: JTJ Staffing Inc., doing business as True Staffing; and JEZ Staffing Inc., doing business as Microtech Staffing. OSHA did not issue citations to the staffing agencies.

An inspection found that the company failed to provide proper machine guarding to protect employees from amputation hazards and did not follow procedures to prevent machinery from starting up unexpectedly during maintenance and servicing.

“This is the second significant enforcement action we’ve conducted at AAF International in the last six months,” said Bill Fulcher, director of OSHA’s Atlanta-East Area Office. “We found the same type of hazards during a recent inspection in a different area at the same plant.”

“Management continues to allow workers to clean equipment without following safety procedures and without guards being properly installed. This company needs to address all workplace hazards, not just the ones for which penalties have been proposed.”

On Aug. 21, OSHA proposed fines of $119,900 against the company. American Air Filter Co. Inc. is currently in OSHA’s Severe Violator Enforcement Program for demonstrating indifference to its OSH Act obligations to provide a safe and healthful workplace for employees.



The company has 15 business days from receipt of the citations and proposed penalties to comply, request a conference with OSHA’s area director or contest the findings before the Occupational Safety & Health Review Commission.

Police in Metro Atlanta and Georgia underpaid?

Pay for police in Georgia is around the lowest in the nation.

In 2014, police officers in the Atlanta metro area received average annual pay of $41,430, well below the average pay for comparable work done by officers in the Charlotte, N.C., and Dallas, Texas, metropolitan areas according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment Statistics.

In the Charlotte area, police received an average of $48,150, while in the Dallas area officers were paid an average of $59,840. Both areas have been used by the AJC as benchmarks to compare Atlanta’s economic progress over the past year.

Low pay in the Atlanta Police Department has been highlighted in news articles running in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that have focused on Atlanta police officers’ effort to gain a pay raise under Mayor Kasim Reed.

The low pay is showing up in turnover and lower morale among APD officers according to people interviewed by the AJC.

Police Statewide Georgia

While some officers may choose to switch to other jurisdictions in the state for higher pay, the unfortunate reality is that the low pay for Atlanta officers also reflects the low pay statewide for police in Georgia, which averaged $38,250.

In 2014, only Mississippi, with salaries averaging $32,740, reported lower average pay for police officers statewide than Georgia.  Pay for police in Arkansas at $37,730 and South Carolina at $38,630 were comparable to pay in Georgia.

Average salaries for police in the other 46 states all exceeded the average pay in Georgia.
For police looking to relocate to a higher paying state, New Jersey recorded the highest average pay for police at $88,530. Other states with high average pay included California, Alaska, New York, and Washington.

Firefighters

While pay for firefighters in the Atlanta metro area and statewide Georgia is also low, their pay relative to other areas is less dramatic.

Firefighters in the Atlanta metro area averaged $35,640 in 2014, while those employed in the Charlotte area averaged $34,930 and those employed in the Dallas metro received $50,390.

Statewide, Georgia firefighters averaged $33,810, and although among the 10 lowest paid in the nation, still equal or above 8 other states, including West Virginia, which recorded the nation’s lowest pay at $29,180.

New Jersey firefighters came in highest at $77,550 followed by firefighters in New York, California, and Washington.


Friday, August 28, 2015

GSU Economist sees improved job growth for Georgia and Atlanta area

In his “Forecast of Georgia and Atlanta,” released Aug. 27, Rajeev Dhawan of the Economic Forecasting Center at Georgia State University’s J. Mack Robinson College of Business believes that the state’s decelerating job growth will reverse in the second half of 2015.

“As global economic health stabilizes, consumers demonstrate a greater propensity to spend and corporate spending resumes, Peach State job growth will accelerate to 2.6 percent for the 2015 calendar year,” Dhawan said.

The corporate sector is faring well in Georgia and Atlanta. Statewide, the sector posted a 7.2 percent gain in the second quarter, “pointing to momentum moving forward,” the forecaster said. Furthermore, the move of several headquarters to Atlanta continues to result in professional and business services hiring.

“Although this sector is enduring weaker global growth, domestic consumption is taking up any shortfalls,” Dhawan said.

The forecaster is predicting that Georgia employment will gain
·       82,900 jobs in calendar year 2015
·       87,500 jobs in 2016
·       94,100 jobs in 2017

This would mean slower growth than in the past two years. As a comparison using seasonally adjusted data, in 2013, the state added 95,500 jobs and in 2014 increased by an additional 146,500 jobs. 

Over the 12 months ending in July, the state has added 89,400 jobs (seasonally adjusted) as rapid growth in the first 6 months was followed by a marked slowdown in the most recent 6-month period.

For the Atlanta metro area, Dr. Dhawan see the addition of
·       62,400 jobs in calendar year 2015
·       63,300 jobs in 2016
·       65,500 jobs in 2017

In 2013, the Atlanta metro area added 77,600 jobs and in 2014 added 97,200 jobs.

Dhawan said millennials, who constituted 23.6 percent of metro Atlanta’s population in the 2010 census, are making their influence felt in several regards.


“To no one’s surprise,” he said, “millennials are fueling demand for multi-family housing. They’re also spurring area companies to relocate to downtown and Midtown in order to draw on their high-tech skills.”

“I expect the area’s information sector to continue to expand in coming years as it benefits from a robust fiber optic infrastructure, relatively low-cost electricity generation and a reliable power grid,” Dhawan said.

Attracting young, technologically savvy talent is one of the reasons that healthcare added almost 3,500 jobs in the first half of 2015. For the full year, this sector will add 8,100 jobs.

Although growth in the metro area’s hospitality and transportation sectors slowed somewhat in the first half of the year, both will benefit from the spillover of domestic demand growth in catalyst sectors (corporate, healthcare, technology and manufacturing) for a combined total of 12,800 jobs in 2015.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Georgia loses court decision on overtime and minimum wage protection for home care workers

The Associated Press is reporting that a federal appeals court on Friday ruled in favor of Obama administration regulations that guarantee overtime and minimum wage protection to nearly 2 million home care workers.

Nine states, including Georgia, had opposed the rules. Samuel Olens, Attorney General, Office of the Attorney General for the State of Georgia, had filed a brief arguing that the changes would increase state Medicaid costs and expose states to an unfunded liability.

The ruling was a victory for worker advocacy groups, labor unions, and the White House. The Labor Department had proposed the regulations after the Obama White House had been unable to persuade Congress to change the law that exempts home care workers from full coverage under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

The Labor Department issued a statement saying “Today's decision from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia is vital to nearly two million home care workers, who will now qualify for minimum wage and overtime protections. The decision confirms this rule is legally sound. And just as important, the rule is the right thing to do — both for employees, whose demanding work merits these fundamental wage guarantees, and for recipients of services, who deserve a stable and professional workforce allowing them to remain in their homes and communities.”

A unanimous three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit reversed a lower court decision in the case and said the Labor Department has the power to interpret the law to change that exemption.

The AP story cites Judge Sri Srinivasan as saying that a "dramatic transformation" of the home care industry over the past four decades as a valid reason for the change. While most caregivers used to be directly employed by individual households, the vast majority of workers now work for staffing companies that service hundreds or thousands of customers, Srinivasan said.

He also noted a massive shift to providing care for the elderly in their own homes rather than in nursing homes, which requires workers to offer more advanced medical care and assistance to clients than the mere "companionship" services envisioned in 1974.

Implementation of the regulations will be delayed, as there is a 45-day window to allow the home care associations to seek a rehearing before the full court.

You can read the full decision here.

Union wins election at PruittHealth-Virginia Park



The RWDSU has announced that it won a union organizing election held on Aug. 20 to represent health care workers at PruittHealth-Virginia Park.



The election was held by secret ballot under the supervision of the Regional Director of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to determine the representative, if any, desired by the eligible employees for purposes of collective bargaining with their employer.

A majority of the valid ballots cast determined the results of the election.

The voting unit consisted of all full time and regular part time CNA’s, restorative aides, activity assistants, medical record clerks, and service and maintenance employees employed by the employer at its facility located at 1000 Briarcliff Road N.E., Atlanta, Ga., but excluding all RNs, LPNs, charge nurses, confidential employees, professionals, office clerical employees, guards and supervisors as defined by the National Labor Relations Act.

Workers were organized by Retail, Wholesale Department Store Union/UFCW Southeast Council.
PruittHealth-Virginia Park was represented by David Garraux and Marvin Weinberg of Fox Rothschild LLP.

In June, PruittHealth announced its official expansion in Atlanta by purchasing the Briarcliff Haven Healthcare and Rehab Center.

PruittHealth-Virginia Park spans 3.6 acres in an area of Atlanta known as Virginia-Highland. The facility includes a 40,302 square foot building and offers post-acute care services to 128 beds and 18 specialty vent beds.

At the time of the purchase announcement, Neil L. Pruitt, Jr., Chairman and C.E.O. of PruittHealth, said, "We are very pleased to welcome PruittHealth-Virginia Park into our PruittHealth family of providers. It is always exciting to expand our organization in other areas of the Southeast, and I am confident that we can build upon the solid foundation of health care services and resources that we have already integrated in the state of Georgia as a whole."

According to the company’s statements, PruittHealth has more than 170 provider locations throughout Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and one center in Florida. The company claims that on any given day, 24,000 patients are cared for by PruittHealth's 16,000 employees.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has written that the Pruitt family was among Governor Deal's largest campaign donors in his successful re-election bid last year.


PruittHealth has not yet issued a statement concerning the union election.

Too good to be true? Georgia’s unemployment rate of 6.0 % in July

Rate is likely more than half a percentage point higher than reported.

Georgia’s unemployment rate fell to 6.0 % in July, the lowest since May 2008, according to seasonally adjusted data provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Unfortunately, the drop reflects people leaving the labor force in June and July rather than increase in employment.

Looking at the not seasonally adjusted data, last year Georgia’s labor force grew by 34,057 in June and July. This year, the state’s labor force actually dropped by 5,159 over the same two months. Given the state’s natural population growth rate, this seems unlikely to be due to demographic factors.

The formula used for seasonal adjustment expects a larger labor force in the summer from high school and college graduates as well young workers who are out of school for the summer. When that does not occur, it can throw off the unemployment rate.

With the non-seasonally adjusted data taking an unexpected dive, the formula resulted in a seasonally adjusted drop of nearly 30,000 people. It is as if everyone that had joined the labor force from Jan. 1 to July suddenly dropped out.

If the 30,000 people in June and July had not dropped out of the labor force but been added to the unemployed list instead, the seasonally adjusted rate would have stood at 6.6 % in July.

Why the decline in the labor force?

Explanations for the change in labor force between summers of 2014 and 205 include (1) people are leaving the state in record numbers [highly unlikely], (2) it is a statistical fluke that will be reversed in future months [somewhat likely], or (3) people not working this summer did not search for work [somewhat likely].

It is possible that over the summer, an abnormally large number of older individuals chose to retire [also highly unlikely].

More likely, younger workers who normally find summer jobs either were unable to work in the summer months or chose not to work.

There is anecdotal information that the lower labor force was due to a combination of younger workers taking additional education over the summer months rather than searching for work, as well as a lack of summer jobs this year. If younger workers knew that summer employment programs were unable to meet demand, they may have decided to not even try to find jobs.

By dropping out of the labor force rather than looking for work, the labor force shrinks, the number of officially unemployed persons falls, and the unemployment rate looks artificially low.

Looking ahead

The seasonal adjustment formula expects fewer workers in the labor force, as students return to school in August and September. This should cause the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate to rise in August and September. (Georgia schools begin classes relatively early in August, so some of the effect should show in August numbers.)

We shall look forward to see if the state’s unemployment rate turns higher in August and September that will either validate or invalidate our theory.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

U.S. job creation catches up with Georgia in July

12-month job growth falls below 100,000 for first time in 17 months

Georgia saw the creation of 6,400 net new jobs in July 2015, according to preliminary seasonally adjusted data released today by the Georgia Department of Labor.

The new information also included a revision that wiped out all the jobs reported in the prior month. 

In June, the labor department announced that 2,300 jobs were added. With the revision, it is now reporting that the state actually lost 4,100 jobs in June.

Among industries in the state in July, retailing (+2,800), professional and business services (+3,100), and local government (+4,300) were significant contributors to the state’s job growth.


Losses occurred mainly in private educational services (-2,100) and state government (-2,400).

Annual job creation slows

For the 12 months ending in July, the state saw 89,400 jobs created, an increase of 2.1 %.

As a result of slower employment growth, 12-month job growth fell below 100,000 for the first time in 17 months. July marked the first time since the beginning of 2013 that state job growth did not exceed the national average.

In some states, like North Dakota, their jobs slowdown can be partially attributed to falling oil prices that have resulted in layoffs in oil and gas production. Since Georgia has little oil and gas, its employment is unaffected by reductions in oil and gas production, and the state’s economy should be benefiting from lower energy costs. Instead, it is recording a marked slowdown.
Metro Areas are key

The Atlanta metro area created 13,200 jobs in July, and the Savannah area saw another 2,000 jobs added. Other metro areas with positive job growth included Albany (+400), Athens (+100), Brunswick (+100), Columbus (+600), Dalton (+200), and Rome (+100).

Metro areas reporting seasonally adjusted declines in July included Augusta (-500), Gainesville (-1,000), Hinesville (-300), Macon (-1,000), and Valdosta (-700).

While the Atlanta metro area is home to approximately 61 % of jobs in Georgia, it has been responsible for almost 85 % of the state’s job growth over the past 12 months.

Unemployment rate

The state’s unemployment rate stood at 6.0 % in July compared to 7.3 % in July 2014 as the state’s labor force continues to shrink.

While many see a lower unemployment rate as a positive sign for the economy, when drops occur due to people leaving the labor market, it can be a negative indicator.


Monday, August 17, 2015

UGA & Ga Tech football off the hook - athletes cannot form union


The National Labor Relations Board today declined to consider whether football players at Northwestern University were covered under provisions of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA).
As a result, players at Northwestern University will not be allowed to form a union.
Since Northwestern University is a private institution, and not a state-run university, there was a possibility that its players might have fallen under the rules of the NLRA and be permitted to form a union.
Although any ruling would not apply to state universities, such as the University of Georgia and Georgia Tech, it was thought that a ruling in favor of the Northwestern players would put pressure on other NCAA Division I schools to provide some sort of similar "association" for their athletes.
Today's decision specifically indicated that the NLRB would be open to reconsider the issue at a later date.
From the National Labor Relations Board release issued today (Aug. 17, 2015):
In a unanimous decision, the National Labor Board declined to assert jurisdiction in the case involving Northwestern University football players who receive grant-in-aid scholarships. The Board did not determine if the players were statutory employees under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA).  Instead, the Board exercised its discretion not to assert jurisdiction and dismissed the representation petition filed by the union. 
In the decision, the Board held that asserting jurisdiction would not promote labor stability due to the nature and structure of NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS). By statute the Board does not have jurisdiction over state-run colleges and universities, which constitute 108 of the roughly 125 FBS teams. In addition, every school in the Big Ten, except Northwestern, is a state-run institution.  As the NCAA and conference maintain substantial control over individual teams, the Board held that asserting jurisdiction over a single team would not promote stability in labor relations across the league.
This decision is narrowly focused to apply only to the players in this case and does not preclude reconsideration of this issue in the future.
Additional information on this case can be found here

CWA bargaining with AT&T continues


Bargaining between AT&T Southeast and the Communications Workers of America (CWA) continues after their contract expired on Aug. 1.

Informational picketing is occurring at various sites around the Southeast including in Louisiana and Georgia.

This past Saturday, CWA scheduled an informational picket and rally at AT&T building in Midtown Atlanta.

CWA is reporting that AT&T "continues to insist on open-ended hiring of temporary workers and cuts in healthcare and retirement security. The company has not responded to workers' concerns about excessive amounts of forced overtime hours that make meeting family and personal needs extremely difficult, if not impossible."

Read more at: http://www.cwa-union.org/


Friday, August 14, 2015

NLRB attorney to speak in Atlanta in September


An attorney from the National Labor Relations Board will be the guest speaker at a September luncheon hosted by the Atlanta chapter of the Labor and Employment Relations Association.

Lisa Henderson will speak on new NLRB rules and a recent decision concerning deferral to arbitration. 

According to an announcement, the luncheon will be held on Thursday, Sept. 24, beginning at Noon at the Georgia Tech Hotel and Conference Center located at 800 Spring St. in midtown Atlanta.

The Labor and Employment Relations Association (LERA) is the singular organization in the country where professionals interested in all aspects of labor and employment relations network to share ideas and learn about new developments, issues, and practices in the field. 

Founded in 1947 as the Industrial Relations Research Association (IRRA), LERA provides a unique forum where the views of representatives of labor, management, government and academics, advocates and neutrals are welcome.

Information on the September event can be obtained by contacting Phil LaPorte at 404-316-6798 or emailing plaporte@gsu.edu.


Thursday, August 13, 2015

Union organizing rally this afternoon at PruittHealth-Virginia Park


The Georgia AFL-CIO has announced a rally for Thursday, Aug. 13, in support of nursing home workers organizing at PruittHealth-Virginia Park.

In its announcement, the Georgia AFL-CIO writes that the rally is meant to support workers “in their organizing efforts to make a fair wage and decent benefits. And stand against excessive corporate greed.”

Organizers say that while the company received a rate increase this year approved by the State of Georgia, workers at PruittHealth are paid just a little more than minimum wage.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that the Pruitt family were among Governor Nathan Deal’s top donors to his re-election campaign last year.

PruittHealth had previously announced its official expansion in Atlanta.  PruittHealth – Virginia Park spans 3.6 acres in the historic area of Atlanta known as Virginia-Highland. When completed, the 40,302 square foot building will allow PruittHealth to offer post-acute care services to 128 beds and 18 specialty vent beds.


The rally at 1000 Briarcliff Rd NW, Atlanta, Ga., will begin after 2 p.m. 

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Where did Zippia go wrong?


Web site names Cochran, Dublin among worst places to find work in Georgia

Zippia lists themselves as career experts. They may be but they are not experts in labor statistics. In July, they published “These Are The 10 Worst Places In Georgia To Get A Job”.

Unsurprisingly, officials in some of those cities and towns were not pleased to see their localities appear on that list.

"Dublin is the regional hub for about 15 counties in Middle Georgia from a labor and employment standpoint. So if there's been a more successful community for job creation in this state, I'd like to know about it," according to Brad Lofton, development authority president in Dublin, as quoted by WMGT-TV.

On its website, Zippia says it used the following criteria to determine its list:

·       Unemployment rate
·       Recent job growth
·       Future job growth
·       Sales Tax
·       Median household income

So how did Zippia use statistics to come to its misleading conclusions?

Unemployment rate

Confusing employment with jobs is a common mistake. The unemployment rate is determined by an estimate based on households. By definition, it measures where people live, not where they work.

It is much better to measure relative job opportunities by looking at the number of jobs growing or declining in an area, not the number of people employed in that area.  

Cochran Mayor Michael Stoy makes a good point in the same story when he says, "We are looking at a large percentage of our population that goes up to Warner Robins."

When BLS or the Georgia Department of Labor counts a new job, that job is counted in the community where it is created. When a statistical agency counts the number of employed or unemployed, they are counted based on where the people live not where they work.

For example, my neighborhood, in a suburb of Atlanta, has only houses in it, so by definition, it would be regarded as a bad place to get a job since the neighborhood is residential with no businesses. Residents have jobs outside the neighborhood, so their jobs are counted where they go to work. If they commute to Atlanta, the job is counted as located in Atlanta, but they are counted as employed in my neighborhood. If a resident loses a job in Atlanta, they would be counted as unemployed where they live, in my neighborhood in this example, not in the City of Atlanta.

There is an undeserved negative connotation in listing a place as “worse to get a job” if the people in that area commute elsewhere for employment. Unless you believe that everyone should work out of their homes, using unemployment statistics to measure job growth is a poor choice.

Recent job growth

Recent job growth (or decline) should be the number one, and perhaps, only criteria to determine “worst places to get a job.” It is hard to know the data used by the site in determining job numbers because they are very general in their description.

For example, it says about Fitzgerald, Ga., “The city ranks as having the weakest recent job growth.” 

Hard to judge based on that general statement, which is more definitive than some of the statements for other cities and towns on the list. Here is where hard numbers and some definitions would help.

Future job growth

The Bureau of Labor Statistics produces an occupational outlook for the United States, and the Georgia Department of Labor produces a similar report for Georgia. 

Beyond these two reports, job forecasting for small cities and towns is much more problematic.

It is true that smaller areas in Georgia have not seen the growth of the larger metro areas such as Atlanta, and that is worrying, but it is difficult, if not impossible to accurately forecast growth for a particular small area.

This is even truer for smaller areas, because an area with a small employment base can be radically affected by the opening or closure of one establishment. I also don’t know how much into the future they are attempting to forecast, but it is hard to make an accurate forecast of job growth in a small area beyond 6 months.

It is easier to forecast larger areas, such as states, than smaller areas like communities where small changes can have large impacts.

Sales tax

I have no idea how sales tax relates to getting a job, and I don’t know if they are speaking about the amount of sales tax or the growth rate of the tax. I am sure the site has some way of using these data, but it is not obvious.

Median household income

Poorer areas tend to have fewer services, and jobs in poor areas tend to pay less. That impacts the salaries for jobs, but not the number of jobs themselves. The “study” was to be about the worst places to find a job, not a study of the areas with the lowest paying jobs. 

The two criteria are not the same. Georgia is growing faster than many states with higher median household income. 

Hopefully, the web site does a better job of finding employment for people than giving advice.

Job losses in Georgia counties

Below are two tables that may be more useful than the information provided by Zippia. 

The first shows the largest net job losses for Georgia counties in 2014. The second shows the largest percentage job losses in Georgia counties in 2014. There is some overlap, but many of the counties on each list are different, as you might expect. Both tables are looking back on 2014, not forecasting the future.

As a comparison using the same source, Georgia, as a state, added 147,335 job in 2014 for a growth rate of 3.7%.

Table A. Net job losses in calendar year 2014

Baldwin -708
Colquitt -453
Telfair -338
Dawson -255
Upson -253
Thomas -242
Marion -200
Stephens -199
Dodge -165
Elbert -151

Table B. Percentage job losses in calendar year 2014

Marion -12.8%
Talbot -10.2%
Telfair -9.0%
Wheeler -8.9%
Heard -6.4%
Clay -4.8%
Twiggs -4.5%
Baldwin -4.5%
Glascock -4.3%
Webster -4.0%

Data obtained from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages.








Monday, August 10, 2015

Atlanta Journal-Constitution a danger to workers? OSHA says Yes!

The U.S Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration says that The Atlanta Journal-Constitution needs to change conditions that threaten the safety of its workers. 

OSHA says the serious violations involve failing to develop and utilize procedures to prevent machinery from starting up during maintenance and servicing and exposing workers to live electrical wiring. The newspaper company was previously cited for a similar violation in 2011.

“A lack of safety mechanisms continues to be one of the most frequently cited violations and that is unacceptable,” said William Fulcher, OSHA’s director of the Atlanta-East Area Office. “Management needs to take immediate action to remove these hazards from the workplace.”

Cox Enterprises Inc. (doing business as The Atlanta Journal-Constitution) was cited for 1 repeat and 5 serious safety violations. OSHA is proposing penalties of $65,550 in addition to requiring the company to correct the violations.

The proposed penalties follow an inspection of their plant located at 6455 Best Friend Road, Norcross, Georgia 30071. The citations did not indicate that any deaths or injuries were caused by the violations found during the inspection.

Cox Enterprises prints, processes and distributes The Atlanta Journal Constitution.

The company has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and proposed penalties to comply, request a conference with OSHA’s area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

AT&T and CWA workers in Georgia continue negotiations after contract expires

August 9, 2015, statement by the Communications Workers of America District 3, as 28,000 AT&T Southeast workers continue without a contract while negotiations continue.
Atlanta -- Today we are continuing negotiations with AT&T.  The issues that AT&T workers are facing have a direct impact on our communities and our families. We are your friends and neighbors, and our communities are important to us.  Often times in contract negotiations, we hear only about money.
But these negotiations are about respect, a better quality of family life and keeping good jobs in our communities.
AT&T is a very profitable company and our members do deserve to be compensated fairly.
But something that’s very important to workers at AT&T is a chance to spend more time with their families. Right now, AT&T forces employees to work an unlimited amount of overtime hours. That’s excessive and keeps parents from spending time with their children and balancing their work and family lives.
AT&T workers serve our customers on a daily basis and are the backbone and the face of this company. We all want to be treated with dignity and respect in the work place. That’s what these negotiations are all about.
AT&T is an extremely profitable company, with second quarter revenues topping $33 billion.  AT&T also recently completed a $48.5 billion acquisition of DirecTV.  Workers are being very reasonable, but AT&T is following a greedy agenda. Workers are committed to getting a fair contract and are holding actions and building support in communities throughout the nine southeastern states. It’s time for AT&T to do the right thing, and that’s to treat employees fairly.     

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Georgia AFL-CIO throws its weight behind Bennett in special election



Georgia’s AFL-CIO is making a determined effort to see that Democratic candidate Taylor Bennett wins the state’s House District 80 race.

Charlie Flemming, president of the Georgia AFL-CIO, wrote in an email, "We need your help in encouraging the working families and union members in the district to turnout for this election!"

Union leaders plan to canvass for Bennett on Saturday, Aug. 8, from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

Union membership in Georgia is relatively small, less than 5 % of workers in the state, but that still represents approximately 170,000 people.

Special elections tend to attract few voters, so attempts to bring out voters for one candidate can have a disproportionate effect on outcomes.

Democrat Taylor Bennett and Republican J. Max Davis will meet in an Aug. 11 runoff election after neither won more than 50 % of the votes cast in a July 14 special election.

House District 80 covers Brookhaven and portions of Sandy Springs, Chamblee and Dunwoody.

The seat became vacant when Gov. Nathan Deal appointed Rep. Mike Jacobs to the DeKalb County State Court bench in May.

For more information on Georgia AFL-CIO’s Saturday event, click here.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Lower gas prices are good for Atlanta economy


Most will benefit but the impact is mixed
Low gas prices may lead to no raise in Social Security

Anyone filling up at the pump has noticed the drop in gas prices. The government reports that gasoline prices in the Atlanta area in June dropped 21 % from a year ago, and that report comes before more recent price decreases at local gas stations.

The lower prices are appearing due to an oversupply of oil nationally and despite a higher state gas tax here in Georgia.

That is good news for motorists who can spend less on fuel but determining how lower gas prices impact the larger economy is harder to calculate.

There is certainly a psychological boost to seeing a drop in prices, but there are also some very real measurable advantages.

For instance, motor fuel represents about 6 % of expenditures for the average Atlanta household, so a 21 % drop in costs translates to roughly a little more than a 1 % increase in disposable income.

The current personal savings rate in the U.S. is 4.8 %, so if the typical household saves 20 % of their gasoline savings, they will have about $10 per week more to spend on everything else.

A nice addition to the economy, but not high enough to be inflation-creating.

Seniors may not see lower gas prices as a benefit

Of course, that assumes that you live in a typical household. 

Older citizens are likely to wish for higher gas prices as they impact raises in their Social Security monthly benefits.

Seniors, for example, tend to spend less on gasoline as they retire and stop the daily commute. 

Lower gas prices are taking a toll on inflation, and thus on any chance of an increase in the Social Security monthly benefit in January 2016.

If the adjustment to Social Security were to occur today with a current inflation rate of -0.4 % for the CPI-W index, there would be no change to Social Security benefits next year.

This comes at a time when other costs, such as medical, continue to rise. 

Senior citizens, who are more likely to be impacted by medical costs, have seen a 3.9 % in their health care costs in the Atlanta area since last June.

Without an increase in Social Security benefits, they may have to meet those additional costs out of their own pockets, although without a raise in Social Security benefits, Medicare will not increase its monthly fee for Part B for those having their payments deducted through Social Security.

Younger people may see less benefit to decline in cost of gasoline

Some millennials are choosing to live closer to their jobs, so gas prices, both up and down, have less impact on their daily lives. 

With many of them renting rather than buying homes, they are more affected by rents, which have increased 4.9 % since last year.

Beneficiaries of lower fuel prices

The real beneficiaries are those with long commutes, such as families living in their own homes located in the more distant suburbs where the car is a necessity, and there are few commuting options other than driving.

Other beneficiaries are automobile dealers selling large SUVs and trucks, which are seen as more affordable now that gas prices have declined.

After the recession, it appeared that people were choosing to live closer to Atlanta but expect that trend to reverse as lower gas prices encourage the building of homes in more distant suburbs where land and construction costs are lower.

Georgia a non petroleum industry state

The lack of a petroleum industry has held back the state’s growth in the past, but now is a boost that should see dividends paid in its overall job growth compared to states’ economies more dependent on oil and gas production.

North Dakota, which had been recording annual job increases of 4 % or more, is now losing jobs as oil and gas production slows.

Since Georgia lacks the oil and gas reserves found in other states, the decline in those industries will not affect it, while the state's industries that use petroleum benefit.

Lower fuel prices also have an impact on companies, such as Delta and UPS, where fuel costs make up a sizable portion of their total costs of doing business, not to mention trucking companies and railroads. 

Lower costs should lead to higher profits and stock prices to the benefit of investors.

Even farmers will benefit from the lower fuel prices, although that might be partially offset by lower prices in commodities they produce, such as cotton.

Tax increase offset by lower prices

Even Georgia’s gas tax increase, coming at a time of lower prices overall, is masked by the lower prices at the pump. 

Motorists who fuel up will most likely not notice a small rise in prices after these large declines.

For a tax-adverse state like Georgia, that is good news for incumbent politicians.

Overall, Georgia’s economy benefits from these lower prices, but, as always, it depends on how long prices stay lower, and how important fuel costs are to the budgets of individual households and businesses.