Entries in Labor (7)


Five Areas in the US with Labor Shortages

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Friday's jobs report will likely continue to show the troubling picture for low-skill workers, but some regions of the country are in dire need of workers.

In the booming oil country around Minot, N.D., for example, Menards, a home improvement chain, is having trouble filling jobs.  Its solution is to fly 50 workers in weekly from its headquarters in Wisconsin, then house the staffers in hotels.

Stephen Bronars, chief economist with Welch Consulting, said the biggest labor shortages, by far, are in North Dakota.

"It is very difficult for employers to attract and retain enough workers to meet their demand in virtually all sectors and industries in North Dakota," Bronars said

Bismarck's unemployment rate is 2.2 percent -- the lowest in the country among metropolitan areas -- and Minot's unemployment rate is also low at 2.4 percent.  But what may be the lowest rate in the state is the 0.7 percent unemployment rate in Williston, N.D., which is in the midst of an energy boom.

"Employment is also growing at retailers, hotels, restaurants and in other industries as well," Bronars said.

Here are four other areas in the country with labor shortages:


Partly because of the housing recovery, home builders in Tampa, Fla., are reporting a shortage of construction workers.  Many workers left the region after the economic crisis of 2008.


Washington state apple and asparagus farmers both reported a shortage of workers this year, reflecting a nationwide lack of farmhands.


In New Orleans, a city official said a lack of workers delayed removal of debris, such as tree limbs and leaves, after Hurricane Isaac.  The city and its contractor said they have had to recruit laborers from out of state.

Manufacturing sector

In the next 10 years, the shortage of highly skilled workers could increase to 875,000 from 80,000 to 100,000 workers now, according to the Boston Consulting Group. While the U.S. may create as many as five million manufacturing and supporting jobs by 2020, factory workers are beginning to age and retire, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


‘Big Labor’ Skeletons In Rick Santorum’s Closet: Are They Real?

ABC News(BOSTON) -- With Rick Santorum hot on his heels, Mitt Romney is launching a new line of attack against his resurging GOP rival.

“Big Labor’s Favorite Senator” read the bold headline on the Romney camp’s latest opposition research e-mail to reporters, which was rife with examples of Santorum breaking Republican ranks to -- according to the e-mails -- cozy up with unions.

But the unions Romney accuses Santorum of supporting don’t feel the same way.

“There is no support for Rick Santorum in the labor movement,” said Rick Bloomingdale, president of the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO., part of a nationwide union which is a multi-million contributor to President Obama's campaigns. “That just shows how far right that this race has moved. The fact that Rick Santorum is being considered a moderate is the most absurd thing I’ve ever heard.”

According to the AFL-CIO’s yearly report card on Senate voting records, Santorum voted “right,” or in support of labor unions, about 13 percent of the time in 2006 and 11 percent of the time in 2005, placing him on par with the majority of Senate Republicans.

“How can you even begin to believe that’s supportive of labor?” Bloomingdale said of Santorum’s voting record. “Did he give us a couple of votes throughout his career? Sure. But he voted against working families much more than he voted for them.”

Jack Shea, president of the Allegheny County Labor Council, which represents union workers in and around Pittsburgh, said his group fought against Santorum during his House and Senate campaigns.

“We never considered Rick to be a friend of the worker, not at all,” Shea said. “The only time Rick Santorum was close to blue collar was when he was putting his shirt on.”

In the 16 years Santorum served in Congress, he supported pro-union measures a handful of times.

As a freshman senator in 1996, Santorum voted against a national “right to work” bill that would have enabled workers to opt-out of paying union dues.

He also voted in favor of barring companies from firing striking workers and supported a bill to re-affirm the Davis-Bacon Act, which ensures that construction workers on federal projects are paid at least as much as their private sector counterparts.

Santorum said he supported these pro-union measures out of respect to the standing laws of the state he was representing.

“I would change those laws within Pennsylvania, but I’m not going to have the federal government change the law for the state of Pennsylvania,” Santorum said on Fox News Sunday in January. “You don’t have the federal government impose those [laws] on the state when the state decided differently.”

As Romney works to paint Santorum as a union supporter, he is portraying himself as the candidate that will take on “union bosses.”

“I happen to believe that you can protect the interests of American taxpayers, and you can protect a great industry like automobiles without having to give in to the [United Auto Workers union], and I sure won’t,” Romney said Wednesday at a campaign stop in Michigan.

But Romney’s plea to non-union voters is a precarious one. The similarly pro-“right to work” argument he made during his 2008 White House bid paid off, especially in Michigan where Romney and Santorum are both going all-in this time around.

While the 28 percent of unionized Michigan voters split evenly between Romney and his GOP rival John McCain in 2008, non-union households favored Romney by 11 points, helping him win the state.

But the opposite story unfolded in 2000 when McCain and then-rival George W. Bush split the non-union vote evenly and McCain was boosted to victory by the support of union voters, 61 percent of whom chose McCain compared to the 34 percent who chose Bush.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Women Get Skills to Break Into Traditional Men’s Trades

Design Pics/Thinkstock(LOS ANGELES) -- In the shadow of a Long Beach, Calif. power plant, a dozen women step into tool belts, don hard hats and learn how to carry a bucket of cement up a flight of stairs to get a leg up on trades usually dominated by men.

According to a 2009 Department of Labor report, while gender equality has made headway in the executive ranks -- a quarter of CEOs are women -- less than 1 percent of 77,000 U.S. ironworkers and steelworkers are female.

Sherron Ballard, 55, used to be a real estate agent -- now she wants to work in construction.

Ballard told ABC News that she was making the job switch for the higher income, which would help her raise her daughter.  

She is participating in a grueling 10-week program by Women in Non Traditional Employment Roles (WINTER). The Los Angeles-based group, in it's fifteenth year, trains women to become plumbers, electricians and ironworkers -- well-paid, blue-collar occupations previously dominated by men.

At one California construction site, 250 men worked alongside two females.

WINTER’s goal is to tip that balance. The women earn safety certificates, learn about timekeeping, what to wear on construction sites and how to handle discrimination.

“When they go out there for their first job, a lot of people are gonna look at them and say: ‘Why aren’t you home? What are you doing here? Are you sure you’re in the right place?’ And they need to learn how to brush it off and continue on with their work,” said Berta Campos, a program instructor. “I think we need more women in order for men to change their mind and we have to prove them wrong.”

“Women have to go out to work,” said Donna Williamson, who recently graduated from the program. “I have a child. I have to support him.”

Williamson, a 41-year-old single mother, used to make minimum wage selling skateboards in a bike shop. Now she’s an apprentice ironworker making $28 an hour, and her wages are sure to increase as she progresses in her career.

“I used to drive around and I’d look at the guys on the beams, on the high-rises, and it’s one of those intriguing things,” she said. “There are not a whole lot of women in the construction field. At the end of the day, you are dirty, you are sweating, you don’t smell the greatest and that’s fine with me.”

“I love my job,” Williamson continued. “If I can do it, they [women] can do it. And I’m only 5’2.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Dueling Job Creation Plans From Labor, Business

William Thomas Cain/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- In anticipation of the president's speech on job creation, big business and big labor are weighing in with their own prescriptions for putting millions of unemployed Americans back to work.

Obama's speech comes on the heels of a bleak jobs report, released Friday, which found no net gain in new jobs for August. Some 14 million Americans remain out of work. Of those, almost half have been out of work six months or longer. The jobless rate is forecast to remain at around 9 percent through the end of 2012.

Tom Donohue, president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO, are offering their own plans for creating jobs. Both men last week described the steps they believe would produce job growth.

Donohue, in a preview of a more detailed plan the U.S. Chamber will submit this week to the White House, advocates investing in U.S. infrastructure--building or repairing schools, ports, roads, bridges, railroads, airports. Such projects, he says, would "put idle construction workers back to work." The Chamber also advocates investing in domestic energy production; cutting red tape and removing regulatory barriers; and approving pending free-trade agreements with South Korea, Panama and Columbia -- which, the Chamber says, would save 380,000 existing jobs and create thousands of new ones.

Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO, endorses infrastructure projects. He also wants the federal government to create jobs directly, though a program like the New Deal's WPA. To boost consumer demand, he would increase consumer confidence by extending unemployment benefits and by providing mortgage relief to homeowners worried they will lose their homes. In addition, the AFL-CIO advocates a "speculation tax" that would force Wall Street "to pay to rebuild the economy it helped destroy."

What will President Obama recommend? No one knows for sure, but he has already said he favors infrastructure projects and advocates creation of an infrastructure bank to help fund them. He has also said he wants to extend payroll-tax cuts: In December, Congress and the White House agreed to a one-year cut in the amount of money employees have to pay in Social Security taxes. That cut put an estimated $1,000 in the pocket of the average family.

He will likely commit, say White House watchers, to a further extension of jobless benefits. He may recommend one or more programs that would give employers new incentives to hire -- especially to hire the long-term unemployed. These programs might offer subsidies, tax credits, or both to participating employers.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Boeing Labor Dispute Attracts Arrows From Republicans

Scott Olson/Getty Images(NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C.) -- A U.S. House committee takes to the road Friday for a politically charged field hearing in North Charleston, S.C., to determine whether the Boeing Co. violated labor laws by moving an assembly operation from Washington State to South Carolina.

"Chairman Issa and the other committee members want to hear from folks on the ground to learn what the economic impacts are and really get their arms around the local impact of the potential decision," said Jeffrey Solsby, a spokesman for Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., who is chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

At issue is a National Labor Relations Board lawsuit against the airplane manufacturer alleging that the company illegally moved the assembly of its fuel-efficient 787 Dreamliner from union-friendly Washington to the South, where union influence is less prominent.

Almost every GOP presidential candidate has chastised the lawsuit. Mitt Romney called it a "power grab." Herman Cain called the suit "completely unacceptable...political games." Tim Pawlenty called it "another outrageous overreach by the federal government." And Newt Gingrich accused the labor board of "basically breaking the law."

The labor board, which is appointed by the president, wants to force Boeing to keep assembly of the jetliner in Washington, but would not make the company forgo the new non-unionized plant which would deliberately kill jobs that were created in an already down economy.

Boeing said a NLRB victory would "significantly impact, and perhaps permanently halt, Boeing's efforts to complete the facility," bringing "substantial economic harm to South Carolina."

The labor board says Boeing moved the assembly to retaliate against union workers at the Washington plant, where there have been five strikes since 1977 -- the most recent in 2008 cost Boeing $1.8 billion, according to the company.

The board has cited comments that a Boeing senior official made to a Seattle Times reporter as evidence that the company was trying to avoid unionized labor.

"The overriding factor [in transferring the line] was not the business climate," the official said. " And it was not the wages we're paying today. It was that we cannot afford to have a work stoppage, you know, every three years."

Boeing said it did not "move" the plant but instead created 1,000 new jobs in South Carolina. The company has added 2,000 new union jobs at the Puget Sound plant in Washington since making the decision to build in South Carolina.

While Boeing spokesman Sean McCormack would not comment on the case's political ramifications, he said the lawsuit raises questions about the ability of companies to make decisions about where they do business.

"Here you have a major American manufacturing company, Boeing, making a billion-dollar investment on manufacturing capacity in the U.S.," McCormack said. "We think that should be celebrated. Instead, we have a threat from the government, more specifically from the NLRB, to call for a remedy that would effectively close the plant."

The NLRB case began Tuesday with a hearing in Seattle and is expected to last a couple of weeks, the board spokesman said.

McCormack said Boeing does not expect to win the case in front of the labor board and will appeal to the U.S. Circuit Court.

"We believe that the complaint is a frivolous campaign not grounded in law and runs contrary not only to NLRB precedent," McCormack said, "but also established Supreme Court precedent."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Labor Union Chief Fires Warning Shot on 2012 Campaign

Michael Reynolds-Pool/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- AFL-CIO chief Richard Trumka, who heads of one of the nation's most powerful labor unions, and who recently boasted of his frequent face-to-face meetings with President Obama, called current state and federal budget proposals a "despicable canvas of cruelty" and warned of consequences for politicians who even indirectly support them.

"It doesn't matter if candidates and parties are controlling the wrecking ball or simply standing aside," said Trumka in an address at the National Press Club. "The outcome is the same either way."

"If leaders aren't blocking the wrecking ball and advancing working families' interests, working people will not support them. This is where our focus will be -- now, in 2012, and beyond," he threatened in a message aimed at Democrats and President Obama.

Trumka said the union would become more politically "independent" and selective in giving its support.

"Our role is not to build the power of a political party or a candidate," he said.

In the next few months, the AFL-CIO says it plans to focus efforts on recall elections in Wisconsin and other states that have tried to limit union rights. Then, the group will work to "hold elected leaders in Congress as well as the states accountable on one measure: are they improving or degrading life for working families?" Trumka said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


State of Labor: Wisconsin Showdown Puts Unions Back in National Spotlight

MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- It's been nearly three weeks since the showdown began between Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, a Republican, and state Democratic lawmakers over a budget bill that would strip public workers of their collective bargaining rights.

Public employees have protested inside and around the state Capitol building in Madison, putting their cause squarely in the national spotlight and raising the profile of the labor movement to a level not been seen in decades.

The Wisconsin teachers' union and state workers unions have agreed to reductions in their benefits but only on the condition that they be allowed to keep their collective bargaining rights.

Walker has dug in his heels, saying the state fiscal situation is so dire that he has no room to negotiate.

But the standoff between Republican lawmakers and unions is not unique to Wisconsin. Similar fights are taking place -- or brewing -- in Indiana, Ohio and New Jersey, where governors have made it clear that they are looking to cut the benefits and wages of public sector employees as a solution to their massive budget deficits.

In New Jersey, Republican Gov. Chris Christie -- in his campaign to reform education and bring the state's massive budget deficit under control -- has made his battle against the state teachers' union one of the signature elements in his stump speech.

In an extensive profile in the New York Times Magazine, reporter Matt Bai said Christie had found "the ideal adversary" in public sector unions.

"Ronald Reagan had his 'welfare queens,' Rudy Giuliani had his criminals and 'squeegee men,' and now Chris Christie has his sprawling and powerful public-sector unions — teachers, cops and firefighters who Christie says are driving up local taxes beyond what the citizenry can afford, while also demanding the kind of lifetime security that most private-sector workers have already lost," Bai wrote.

Given the divide between the two sides, and the battle for public opinion, union activists and labor historians say that the stakes are enormously high.

Joe McCartin, a history professor at Georgetown University and the director of the Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor and the Working Poor, said what is happening in Wisconsin has "caught almost everyone by surprise.

"Certainly [it] has elicited a reaction unlike any in a generation around the defense of workers' rights, to collectively bargain," said McCartin.

But McCartin said that the labor movement had lost strength compared to a generation ago, a story told in the raw numbers.

According to a January report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, union membership in 2010 was 11.9 percent of the American work force, down from 12.3 percent in 2009. The number of employees belonging to a union declined by 612,000, to 14.7 million.

Nearly 30 years ago, that percentage was 20.1 percent, and there were 17.7 million union workers. In the mid-20th century, 35 percent of the work force was in a union.

But Daniel DiSalvo, a political science professor at City College of New York who studies the U.S. labor movement, said the distinction between public- and private-sector unions is important when looking at the numbers.

While private-sector union membership has declined steadily, public union membership has remained strong. More than one-third of government workers (about 7.6 million of them) belong to a union, compared with 7 percent of private-sector workers (or 7.1 million), according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

"Even with declining membership, the rise and increase in political power of public sector unions has helped stabilize ... the labor movement," DiSalvo said. "The heart and soul right now of the labor movement is public employees."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio 

ABC News Radio