Rants & Raves for the Week of April 26th, 2010
Hundreds of thousands of unemployed Californians have reached the end of their unemployment benefits as federal UI extensions run out. The last federal extension of UI was in November 2009, granting up to 99 weeks of UI benefits in high-unemployment states like California. Though CEOs are raking in millions in perks and bonuses, the economy has not bounced back for the rest of us, and the unemployment rate in California is at a Depression-era high. An estimated 100,000 unemployed Californians are set to lose their unemployment benefits soon. For many, that means they could lose their homes, their retirement and their ability to provide for their children. Hard-working families are being pushed to the brink of poverty and homelessness, yet Congress is not even discussing relief for the unemployed. The unemployed are taking matters into their own hands organizing a May Day SOS action today and are faxing letters and resumes to their representatives in Congress asking for more help for the unemployed who have become victims of Wall Street greed.
First, Arizona refused to celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr Day, causing a boycott of the state. Now the governor has signed a draconian immigration bill that basically legalizes racial profiling forcing police to determine a person's immigration status. Marches to protest the Arizona law and call for real immigration reform are planned for tomorrow, May 1st (International Workers Day) in 70 cities across the U.S., with the largest planned in LA, under the slogan “Todos Somos Arizona” or in English, “We are all Arizona”. Join unions and immigrant workers tomorrow for an action in your area.
Health insurer Anthem Blue Cross planned to raise rates on individual policyholders up to 39% on May 1st–but now they have withdrawn their plan for increases. The steep rate increases would have cost 800,000 Californians thousands of dollars a year. The plan provoked public outrage and became a glaring example of insurance company greed, and underscored the need for more regulation of the health insurance market. Well, looks like the outrage got to even the most tone-deaf executives at Anthem Blue Cross who pulled their planned rate increase after California insurance regulators called the proposed rate increases “seriously flawed.”
Goldman Sachs, the enormous firm at the center of the economic meltdown, earned a record $4.79 billion in the last quarter of 2009. At the same time millions of Americans lost their homes, jobs, health care and retirement savings in the on-going economic crisis. This week the Senate grilled Goldman CEOs on their shady dealings and 62 members of the House asked the Justice Department to begin a criminal investigation of Goldman Sachs for possibly committing fraud. The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filed a civil suit against Goldman Sachs accusing it of securities fraud and of selling mortgage investments that it was betting would fail without telling its clients. And none of this is good news for Meg “Wall Street” Whitman, who sat on the board at Goldman Sachs when the subprime mortgage meltdown began.
This week justice prevailed over the profit motive when the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled that a gender discrimination class action lawsuit could go to trial. This ruling opens Wal-Mart to billions of dollars of possible legal damages and at a time when women still are not receiving equal pay for equal work this lawsuit shines a light on Wal-Mart’s clear anti-female hiring decisions. Among other charges the lawsuit alleges that Wal-Mart awards male employees with management promotions more often than female employees. The numbers bear that out. When the lawsuit was filed women comprised 67% of hourly workers but held only 35% of the assistant manager positions, 23% of co-manager positions, and only 14% of store manager positions. It’s time for Wal-Mart to recognize it’s the year 2010 not 1810 and promote employees based on skill, not gender.