In today's On the News segment: There is a new effort in Washington to loosen Wall Street regulations and water down the 2010 Dodd Frank Act is getting bipartisan support in Congress; Walmart is illegally targeting employees that took part in the Black Friday protests last year; Culinary workers in Las Vegas are standing up to Casino owners with acts of civil disobedience; and more.
Thom Hartmann here – on the news…
You need to know this. Despite gridlock in Washington, a new effort to loosen Wall Street regulations and water down the 2010 Dodd Frank Act is getting bipartisan support in Congress. Republican Representatives Patrick Henry and Scott Garrett are backing the measure, as is Democratic Rep. Gwen Moore. Moore justified her support by saying the plan is only meant to relieve regulatory burdens on companies that do business with big banks. Another democrat, Representative Jim Himes, even wants to roll-back Dodd Frank, and stick taxpayers with the bill, should the derivative market implode again. But some Democrats still understand the dangers of banks-gone-wild, and are fighting for tougher regulations to protect us all. Less than a week ago, Senator Carl Levin issued a scathing report on the devastation JP Morgan caused with risky multibillion-dollar derivative trades. Levin said, “It is incredible that less than a week after new JPMorgan Whale hearings detailed how the bank's London office piled up risk, hid losses, and dodged regulatory oversight, that some House members are again supporting the weakening of derivative safegaurds.” It's only been five years since the banksters crashed our economy by gambling with derivatives, and the modest legislation we've enacted is meant to prevent another economic meltdown. Representative Alan Grayson, a leading voice for financial reform, criticized his colleagues for considering putting our nation at risk again. He said, “the road to hell is paved with these bills.” We should be strengthening regulations on Wall Street, not giving banksters another free pass to gamble with our economic future. Call Congress today and tell them they must stop the next derivatives debacle before it's too late.
In screwed news... On Black Friday last year, Walmart employees made national headlines by staging a walkout to protest low-wages, unsafe working conditions, and anti-union management practices. And now it appears the mega-retailer is illegally targeting employees that took part in the protest. According to a new report by The Nation, The National Labor Relations Board has issued a complaint alleging that four companies, which are involved in staffing and managing Walmart's largest distribution center, have repeatedly threatened and punished warehouse workers for taking part in union activities. The allegations include canceling employee breaks, increasing work hours, telling workers they are under surveillance, and even terminating six individuals for participating in pro-union activites. As the NLRB was weakened by a recent Supreme Court ruling, that agency has been slow to process complaints and dole out punishments for Walmart's illegal practices. One employee told The Nation, “they're not terribly afraid to break labor law, because there's not really a penalty for doing so.” Because Republicans continue to block agency nominations – effectively neutering the NLRB, Walmart workers shouldn't expect the agency to provide more help any time soon. But employees have a legal right to demand higher wages and better working conditions, and they must not give up on this important fight.
In the best of the rest of the news...
Culinary workers in Las Vegas are standing up to Casino owners with acts of civil disobedience. Ninety-eight protestors were arrested yesterday for blocking traffic during a protest outside of the Cosmopolitan Hotel and Casino. The workers have been in contract negotiations with casino management for about two years, demanding an agreement that outlines wages, benefits, and job security. According to the Associated Press, the two-year-old casino is one of only a few in Las Vegas that is not unionized, despite the majority of workers saying they want representation. As protestors blocked the streets for about an hour, they chanted, “If we don't get no contract, you don't get no peace.” Representatives of Deutsche Bank, that owns the casino, said they are stalling because they intend to sell the resort, and don't want to be burdened with a union contract. Any sale worth making, and any casino worth buying, can afford to pay it's workers a living wage. Perhaps they should consider that it will be even more difficult to sell the casino if they can't get employees to work there. Unions are under attack throughout our nation, and this is one more battle in the fight to preserve collective bargaining. We'll have to wait and see how this turns out. Stay tuned.
In June of last year, Barclays Bank in the UK was fined 290 million Euros for it's role in the international Libor rate-rigging scandal. So, it stands to reason that the bank executives don't deserve a reward for their actions... but yesterday, that's exactly what they got. According to The Guardian, Barclays attempted to “bury” the news of bankster bonuses by announcing it the same day much of the city was distracted with news on a city budget. But, reports of the 38.5 million euro payouts did not go unnoticed. The bank did not respond to claims it tried to bury the news of massive bonuses, but a person close to the company said the announcement date was selected back in December. John Hunter, of the UK Shareholder Association, said “society's first reaction is that bankers are a bunch of sleazeballs, and this makes them look even sleazier.” It's bad enough that banksters are getting rewarded for lying and manipulating the financial markets, but it's even worse that they think no one will notice.
And finally… Talk about a return on investment. Reuters reports that an unnamed New York family bought a $3 dollar bowl at a yard sale, and they just sold the 1,000 year-old Chinese artifact at auction for $2.25 million dollars. Apparently the family had the bowl displayed on a mantlepiece, and only learned of it's value after speaking with experts. A Sotheby's representative said the piece is almost identical to one that's been featured in the British Museum for over 60 years. So, next time you consider getting rid of a few things around the house, you may want to look a little more carefully at what you sell. One man's trash in another man's treasure. And in this case, that treasure happened to be worth over $2 million dollars.
And that’s the way it is today – Thursday, March 21, 2013. I’m Thom Hartmann – on the news.