Daily Archives: November 15, 2011

Where City Factories, And Now Babies Die.

Abandoned Midwest "Rust-Belt" factory.

The southern Chinese city of Guangzhou has mastered many of the trades Milwaukee championed in the last century: machinery, motors, metalworking. Guangzhou’s boom has coincided with the sunset of manufacturing in Milwaukee, which in mere decades lost one of the nation’s densest concentrations of mass production.

The two cities crisscross in another way:

Babies in China’s industrial heartland now have a far better chance of reaching their first birthday.

In Milwaukee, one baby under the age of 12 months dies for every 95 who live, making it one of America’s most fatal cities for infants. A generation ago, Milwaukee was one of the safest.

Among registered residents of Guangzhou, one baby dies for every 210 who live. The Chinese data, vetted by the World Bank and United Nations, often miss migrant workers in factories, but their infant survival rates are improving markedly as well.

Infant survival and economic competitiveness tend to move on the same sliding scale. Study after study reveals survival chances increase in communities and nations with rising wealth and stability – just as young life is threatened by economic crisis and upheaval.

The issue is especially acute in Milwaukee, a once-muscular manufacturing city where the infant mortality rate in some neighborhoods now rivals that of Third World nations. As civic leaders embark on just-announced efforts to eliminate racial disparities and cut deaths to historic lows, the central city fallout from 30 years of industrial downsizing underscores the biggest challenge in turning the tide.

“Wealth leaves the city and infant mortality rates rise,” said Thomas LaVeist, a professor of public health at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health. “Not just in the United States, but worldwide.”

From developing nations such as India, Vietnam and Brazil to mature economies such as Germany and Japan and post-communist states such as Poland and Estonia, countries around the world are making consistent and measurable advances in infant survival.

With one notable exception.

The United States has fallen behind.

The U.S. slid from 12th best in the world in 1960 to 30th in 2005, according to rankings from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In a broader set of 196 nations tracked by UNICEF, the U.S. has fallen to 45, where it ties with Montenegro and Slovakia. It lags all of western and eastern Europe, all of developed Asia, as well as Belarus and Serbia. It’s only narrowly better than Bosnia and Bulgaria.  Get the full read by John Schmid of the Journal Sentinel here.

Red Cross Settles Strike, Drops Opposition After Viewing Graphic Video Of Alternative.

OK, seriously, the union that represents about 200 blood collection and laboratory workers for the American Red Cross across Connecticut reached a settlement on the first day back at the bargaining table during the 10-day strike, dropping its years-long opposition to less generous health insurance, but winning concessions on pay.

“Frankly, management wasn’t going to budge, and we came to the conclusion rather than keep our people out on a strike and let them suffer with no salary and no work… we just felt it was time to resolve this,” said Nancy Newton, incoming president of American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees Local 3145.

Some of the strikers will be without salary for weeks to come, however, because the Red Cross determined it could not fit all the blood collection workers into training slots this week and over the weekend and first half of next week, before Thanksgiving. The training was part of a nationwide change in operations at the Red Cross, and without it, the nonprofit business said, workers can’t return to their old jobs.  During the strike, 22 union members attended training, crossing the picket lines; 60 workers began training Monday; and another 40 will be trained from Saturday to Wednesday next week. But that leaves 31 who will not be allowed to return to work until they can be trained, a situation Newton characterized as a lockout. They will collect unemployment until they come back.

Red Cross Spokeswoman Donna Morrissey said the details of how those workers will get trained is still being worked out, but it could be the end of December before there’s time to fit them in. Until they return, the Red Cross will not be able to run its normal level of blood drives.

The union was able to get 2 percent raises and 1 percent step increases in pay immediately, as well as 2.5 percent raises for each the next two years, and a 1 percent raise in late 2014. The nonprofit also increased its offer for cash payments from $400 at the close of negotiations before the strike to $1,000 early Sunday morning, when the deal was struck.

More than half that amount is to settle a labor-law enforcement case in which the National Labor Relations Board found that the Red Cross illegally changed the kind of health insurance that covers the workers. The Red Cross had appealed the August ruling.

By signing contract, which extends through March, 2015, the workers accede that they will no longer have any control over the terms of the health insurance they are offered.

“The new insurance is significantly less generous even than what we have right now,” said Newton. And that current insurance is the kind that the NLRB ruled was costly to union members, and unlawful because it was implemented without their approval.

Union Spokesman Larry Dorman said members are not celebrating the settlement of the strike, as they continue to believe the Red Cross has been union-busting. More than 20 percent of union members crossed the picket lines during the strike, either to train or to run blood drives.

“People understand we’ve got to find a way to move ahead after the struggle we’ve been through,” he said.

Morrissey had said the Red Cross was offering the union a contract similar to those signed across the country.

The union was able to convince the nonprofit to continue the practice of paying time-and-a-half for working Saturdays when that’s part of a standard 40-hour schedule. The Red Cross had at one time proposed to take that benefit away — it does not pay the higher rate in states where blood workers are not unionized.

Morrissey would not say why the Red Cross was willing to more than double its signing bonus/insurance costs reimbursement offer, but Dorman said the combination of the strike and the NLRB victory put pressure on the organization.

The issue of whether registered nurses are necessary for donor safety, a talking point for the union throughout the two-plus years without a contract, was not resolved by this settlement. Dorman said the union will continue to lobby the legislature to require that level of staffing; Morrissey said the Red Cross will continue to lobby against any such requirement.  Source:  Mara Lee. The Hartford Courant.com

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