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Transportation Nation

Union Chief: Want Safer Inter-City Buses? Raise Driver Pay. (Bus Owners Don't Agree.)

Monday, March 28, 2011

Chinatown Bus. (photo by Naomi A. / Flckr Creative Commons.)

(New York, NY - Jim O'Grady, WNYC) Three tour bus accidents in the Northeast this month have left dozens of people injured and seventeen dead. The inevitable calls for reform have followed, along with crackdowns on discount inter-city carriers through spot-checks of their buses.

Bruce Hamilton, president of the Amalgamated Transit Union, said all of that is appropriate but one measure to raise bus safety has been overlooked: better pay for drivers. His call for a minimum wage for drivers has drawn opposition, however, from a national bus owner trade association that says the industry is thriving because the competitive market, not government intervention, has set rates.

Hamilton says large bus companies like Peter Pan, Greyhound, Bonanza and others have the best safety records because drivers are paid higher wages--and that low pay on the discount lines cause some drivers to cut corners.

"Drivers are paid so low that they end up breaking the rules and they far exceed the maximum number of hours that drivers are allowed to operate," he said. "They become fatigued and they crash the buses."

U.S. Department of Labor stats from 2009 show the mean wage for bus drivers in New York is almost $23 dollars an hour, which comes to a little more than $47,000 dollars a year.

Hamilton says that’s true if you're a unionized driver at one of the larger carriers. He said drivers for the discount carriers, often called Chinatown buses, are paid a lot less.

His case is backed up by Michael Belzer, a professor of economics at Wayne State University who’s been studying the issue for ten years. Belzer has looked at a lot of federal safety data and found that for every 10% increase in driver pay, the probability of a crash is lowered by 40%.

But of course the discount bus industry has mainly been booming because of one thing: cheap tickets. For example, if you take an Amtrak train from New York to Philadelphia, you'll pay anywhere from 50 to $120. Hop on a discount bus and you'll get there for $10. But Belzer says those rock-bottom rates create an economic tension.

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WNYC News

From the Triangle Tragedy, Unprecedented Reform

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The tragic Triangle shirtwaist factory fire that killed 146 young women and girls 100 years ago this Friday paved the way for unions including the International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union to organize workers in record numbers. The fire also engaged women in politics in a way that was unprecedented and moved New York officials to put new workplace safety laws in place.

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It's A Free Country ®

Bloomberg's Pension End-Around

Thursday, March 17, 2011

WNYC
As anyone with a 401(k) knows, how much money you're going to have to put into your retirement and how much money you're going to have when you retire is so dependent on your rate of return and how well your investments do. If the current system as it goes right now continues, you know, the city is currently seriously underfunded in its pension fund liabilities and unless either of those rates of return improve or if the city starts putting more tax payer money into the system it's going to be very costly to fund these pension fund liabilities.

— Joe Flood, editor-at-large of aiCIO Magazine on The Brian Lehrer Show.

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It's A Free Country ®

Labor Clashes Gain Momentum in Ohio, Michigan, Tennessee

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Taking Wisconsin as an example, several states seeking to close budget gaps have put collective bargaining rights for public employees on the table. Some Governors have also proposed layoffs or the sale of prisons and other government holdings in order to make ends meet.

The unintended consequence of such measures is that public workers have been energized to protest what they call an "assault" on unions. With more budgets and pieces of union-related legislation making the rounds in state capitals this week, here's a look at three states where new standoffs could be on the horizon.

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It's A Free Country ®

Christie Gets Down to Business With NJ Unions

Thursday, March 10, 2011

WNYC

After months of riding a national tidal wave of media attention for his battle with organized labor and waste in government spending, Christie now has to get down to the task at hand when his team meets tomorrow with representatives of the state's public worker unions.

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It's A Free Blog

Moveon.org's Wisconsin Message: Pot, Kettle, Black

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Just as hypocritical as it was for Republican constituency groups to complain about the way the healthcare bill was passed last year, the ideological perspective of the most well-known liberal organization in the country has conveniently forgotten its own position from just last year.

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The Takeaway

Wisconsin Senate Strips Public Employees of Collective Bargaining Rights

Thursday, March 10, 2011

In a surprise legislative maneuver that took around 30 minutes, 18 Republican members of Wisconsin's Senate pushed through adoption of a bill last night that would sharply reduce public employees' collective bargaining rights. Introduced by the state's new governor, Scott Walker, the legislation has roiled the state's capitol for weeks. Union supporters and other protesters occupied the state house while Governor Walker battled in the press with Democrats who had fled the state to prevent a vote from taking place. The move circumvented a required quorum by removing language on appropriating funding to allow the 18-1 vote. What's next in the three week saga? 

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The Brian Lehrer Show

Unions And Budgets

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Ezra Klein, columnist at The Washington Post and Newsweek, talks about the national budget debate and public and private unions.

→ Listen, Read a Recap, and Join the Conversation at It's A Free Country

It's A Free Blog

Mideast Meets Midwest: Protest Edition

Monday, March 07, 2011

In the face of popular protest, a vindictive leader scapegoats the protesters, blaming outside agitators for the very real frustrations of his citizens. He seeks to take away the rights of the opposition and continues a crusade on behalf of the oligarchs against the masses. Middle East or Midwest?

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The Takeaway

Governor Walker's Game of Chicken

Monday, March 07, 2011

Wisconsin's Governor Scott Walker has officially threatened to lay off some 1500 state employees if he can't get Democratic state senators to return and allow a vote on the Governor's much-disputed state budget proposal. Beyond the implications for those who might be put on notice as early as April 4th, the move is just the latest in a game of political chicken, in which Republicans and Democrats are trying to assign the blame for the state's troubles on the other party. Will the threat work for getting Democrats — who fled the state in order to prevent a three-fifths budget quorum — back into Wisconsin? Democratic State Senator Bob Jauch says: not very likely. 

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It's A Free Country ®

Wisconsin Democrats Launch Recall Effort Against Republican Senators

Friday, March 04, 2011

WNYC

It just keeps escalating. 

Today is the deadline by which Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has threatened to lay off 1500 state workers if the Democratic state senators don’t come back to work.

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It's A Free Country ®

Krugman on Labor, Debt, and the GOP's 'Magic Asterisk'

Friday, March 04, 2011

Remember how many schools and bridges and other things we have now were in fact built during the 1930s, done by the WPA. We could have been doing useful stuff. We had a lot of workers sitting idle when they could have been producing stuff that would actually make us richer in the long run. The weakness of the economy is the single biggest reason why we have deficits; it's not government spending. Spending has actually grown less since the recession hit than it did in the years prior to the recession.

New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, talking about the fate of the economic recovery on the Brian Lehrer Show.

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The Takeaway

Are Union Issues Civil Rights Issues?

Friday, March 04, 2011

While the image of union workers is one of white men in hard hats, the reality is that African-Americans and other minorities may be hit hardest if the unions fall. Studies show that 14.5 percent of all public sector workers in the nation are black and one in five black workers are employed in public administration. Teachers, police and firefighters are not the only professionals affected in the battle raging in Wisconsin between union workers and the Republican-led state government, either. If the law passes, service employees like janitors, garbage collectors, and home health care workers will not only lose their ability to collectively bargain for wages and benefits, but their right to a union altogether.

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The Brian Lehrer Show

Paul Krugman On Unions and Other Budget Battles

Friday, March 04, 2011

New York Times columnist Paul Krugman talks about the nation's finacial climate, the battle over collective bargaining rights for unions, and the news of the economy.

Read a Recap and Join the Conversation at It's A Free Country

The Takeaway

Ohio Senate Passes Union Bill

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Ohio’s Senate voted 17 to 16 in favor of a controversial bill that would effectively end collective bargaining rights for public sector workers. This is the first step towards passage of the bill — a political move that could impact similar battles playing out in Wisconsin and Indiana. Unions called the vote the biggest blow to public sector workers in more than 25 years. We talk with Bill Cohen, State House reporter for Ohio Public Radio who was in the Senate chamber when the vote came down yesterday.

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The Takeaway

NFL Union Battles and the Future of Football

Thursday, March 03, 2011

The NFL management has accused its players of deliberately trying to decertify their own union. If no action is taken, the National Football League Players Association will be decertified at midnight tonight. Why would NFL players want to do this? To be able to sue. Unions are barred from filing anti-trust lawsuits against the league, but individual players would have this right without the unions and can make more money. However, players stand to lose benefits and a say in how the league is run.

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The Takeaway

Social Studies Lessons from the Wisconsin Budget Battle

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

The battle between Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and public unions continues. Tuessday, Governor Walker introduced his two-year budget proposal, which includes nearly $900 million in public school cuts. Walker unveiled his budget just weeks after he announced his controversial proposal to strip the state's public unions of collective bargaining rights. Wisconsin teachers are at the forefront of this fight. But how do teachers discuss the budget battle once they return to their classrooms?

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WNYC News

Mayor Backs Unions' Role

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Mayor Michael Bloomberg, unlike Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and other electeds, has stood up for public worker unions and has supports collective bargining as critical to getting labor's buy-in to the changes management may need to make.

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It's A Free Country ®

Is a Government Shutdown Looming, Really?

Monday, February 28, 2011

WNYC
In reality, the entire showdown that we're seeing in Wisconsin and that we're seeing to a lesser degree in other states, or at least a less visible degree in other states,this is all about politics. This is all about who has the upper hand in these elections, and certainly in the elections coming up in 2012. If Republicans looked back at the 2010 elections, as well as they did across the country, they believe that there are six to eight governerships they should have won and the reason they didn't win those was that the unions are very effective at spending for Democrats and getting out the vote for Democrats and so this is an opportunity, at least politically, for Republicans to try to hurt the Democrats and...it awakens Democrats, recognizing that this is a constituency they need to support and mantain.

Taegan Goddard, creator of CQ Roll Call's Political Wire, on the Brian Lehrer Show.

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It's A Free Country ®

The Mix: This Is What Democracy Looks Like

Friday, February 25, 2011

It's A Free Country's The Mix, where we take some of the notable clips and other voices found on WNYC this week and mix 'em up. Voices are in bold, connections are in italics.

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