Union Votes to Strike at General Motors’ US Plants

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Roughly 49,000 workers at General Motors plants in the U.S. plan to go on strike just before midnight Sunday, but talks between the United Auto Workers and the automaker will resume.

About 200 plant-level union leaders voted unanimously in favor of a walkout during a meeting Sunday morning in Detroit. Union leaders said the sides were still far apart on several major issues and they apparently weren’t swayed by a GM offer to make new products at or near two of the four plants it had been planning to close, according to someone briefed on the matter.

“We stood up for General Motors when they needed us most,” union Vice President Terry Dittes said in a statement, referring to union concessions that helped GM survive bankruptcy protection in 2009. “Now we are standing together in unity and solidarity for our members.”

UAW spokesman Brian Rothenberg said Sunday evening that contract talks would resume at 10 a.m. Monday, but the strike was still expected to go ahead.

GM on Friday offered to build a new all-electric pickup truck at a factory in Detroit that is slated to close next year, according someone who spoke to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity because that person wasn’t authorized to disclose details of the negotiations, which hadn’t been released to the public. The automaker also offered to open an electric vehicle battery plant in Lordstown, Ohio, where it has a plant that has already stopped making cars. The new factory would be in addition to a proposal to make electric vehicles for a company called Workhorse, the person said.

It’s unclear how many workers the two plants would employ. The closures, especially of the Ohio plant, have become issues in the 2020 presidential campaign. President Donald Trump has consistently criticized the company and demanded that Lordstown be reopened.

The UAW’s Rothenberg said the company made general statements about why it is planning to strike, but he would not comment further on GM’s offer. The union said it would strike for fair wages, affordable health care, profit sharing, job security and a path to permanent employment for temporary workers.

In a statement, GM also said the offer made to the union on Saturday included more than $7 billion in U.S. factory investments and the creation of 5,400 new positions, a minority of which would be filled by existing employees. GM would not give a precise number. The investments would be made at factories in four states, two of which were not identified.

The statement also said the company offered “best in class wages and benefits,” improved profit sharing and a payment of $8,000 to each worker upon ratification. The offer included wage or lump sum increases in all four years of the deal, plus “nationally leading” health benefits.

The announcement came hours after the union let its contract with GM expire Saturday night.

If there is a strike, picketers would shut down a total of 53 GM facilities, including 33 manufacturing sites and 22 parts distribution warehouses. GM has factories in Michigan, Ohio, New York, Kentucky, Tennessee, Texas, Missouri, Indiana and Kansas.

On Saturday, Dittes, the union’s chief bargainer, said in a letter to GM members that after months of bargaining, both the union and GM were far apart on issues such as wages, health care, temporary employees, job security and profit-sharing. The letter to members and another one to GM were aimed at turning up the pressure on GM negotiators.

A strike would bring to a halt GM’s U.S. production, and would likely stop the company from making vehicles in Canada and Mexico as well. That would mean fewer vehicles for consumers to choose from on dealer lots, and it would make it impossible to build specially ordered cars and trucks.

The strike would be the union’s first since a two-day work stoppage at GM in 2007.

On Friday, union leaders extended contracts with Ford and Fiat Chrysler indefinitely, but the pact with General Motors was still set to expire Saturday night.

The union picked GM, which is more profitable than Ford and Fiat Chrysler, as the target company, meaning it’s the focus of bargaining and would be the first company to face a walkout.

Talks between the union and GM were tense from the start, largely because GM plans to close four U.S. factories, including the one on the Detroit border with the enclave of Hamtramck, and Lordstown. The union has promised to fight the closures.

Here are the main areas of disagreement:

— GM is making big money, $8 billion last year alone, and workers want a bigger slice. The union wants annual pay raises to guard against an economic downturn, but the company wants to pay lump sums tied to earnings. Automakers don’t want higher fixed costs.

— The union also wants new products for the four factories GM wants to close. The factory plans have irked some workers, although most of those who were laid off will get jobs at other GM factories. GM currently has too much U.S. factory capacity.

— The companies want to close the labor cost gap with workers at plants run by foreign automakers. GM pays $63 per hour in wages and benefits compared with $50 at the foreign-owned factories. GM’s gap is the largest at $13 per hour, followed by Ford at $11 and Fiat Chrysler at $5, according to figures from the Center for Automotive Research.

— Union members have great health insurance plans and workers pay about 4% of the cost. Employees at large firms nationwide pay about 34%, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. The automakers would like to cut costs.


Волкер: кримські санкції проти Росії залишаться до деокупації півострова

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Спеціальний представник Державного департаменту США у справах України Курт Волкер заявив, що санкції проти Росії через анексії Криму залишаться чинними до повної деокупації півострова. Про це він сказав в інтерв’ю телеканалу «1+1».

Відповідаючи на запитання про ставлення до «винесення Криму за дужки» в питанні домовленостей щодо врегулювання ситуації на Донбасі, Волкер сказав, що потрібно розділяти санкції, які були запроваджені проти Росії за Крим і за Донбас.

«Перш за все, ми ввели санкції через російську анексію Криму, а також через те, що росіяни не виконують Мінських угод. І також через кілька інших причин, таких як напад на сім’ю Скрипалів у Великобританії. Якщо Росія буде виконувати Мінські угоди так, як вона взяла на себе зобов’язання це робити, тоді ми будемо розглядати ослаблення цих санкцій. Але санкції щодо Криму будуть залишатися настільки довго, скільки Росія буде продовжувати окупацію Криму. Інші санкції так само», – сказав Волкер.

Він зазначив, що, на його думку, зараз Росія не виконує Мінські домовленості, тому немає підстав послаблювати будь-які із санкцій.

У червні 2019 року Рада Європейського союзу ухвалила рішення про продовження санкцій проти Росії через анексію Криму і Севастополя.

Санкції переважно стосуються російського банківського і енергетичного секторів. Їх вперше запровадили влітку 2014 року і відтоді щоразу продовжували на пів року. Санкції стали відповіддю на анексію Росією Криму та підтримку Москвою бойовиків на Донбасі.

Гончарук: бюджет-2020 – останній, що ухвалюється терміном на один рік

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Прем’єр-міністр України Олексій Гончарук повідомив, що Україна востаннє буде ухвалювати державний бюджет на один рік, оскільки надалі ухваленню кошторису передуватиме ухвалення «повноцінної трирічної декларації». Про це Гончарук зазначив після того, як очолюваний ним уряд подав, а Верховна Рада зареєструвала 15 вересня проєкт державного бюджету на 2020 рік.

«Ми робимо фокус на безпеку й оборону, інфраструктуру та якісне відновлення доріг, а також ставимо людину в центр розвитку держави — маємо завершити реформу освіти та медицини. Ми останній раз приймаємо тільки бюджет на 1 рік. Надалі ухваленню бюджету передуватиме ухвалення повноцінної 3-річної декларації», – написав прем’єр на сторінці у Facebook.

У грудні минулого року Верховна Рада ухвалила закон про середньострокове бюджетне планування, що передбачає запровадження планування бюджету на три роки.

15 вересня уряд подав до Верховної Ради проєкт держбюджету на 2020 рік. Доходи кошторису передбачені у сумі 1 079,5 мільярда гривень, видатки – 1 170,0 мільярда гривень. Видатки на безпеку  і оборону – 245,8 мільярдів гривень, на розвиток дорожньої інфраструктури –  74,4 мільярда гривень, на охорону здоров’я – 108 мільярдів гривень. Мінімальна зарплата, згідно з проєктом бюджету, складатиме 4723 гривень. Фінансування Пенсійного фонду складе 172,6 мільярда гривень.


У Раді зареєстрували проєкт держбюджету

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У Верховній Раді зареєстрували проєкт державного бюджету, поданий урядом.

Як раніше зазначив прем’єр-міністр України Олексій Гончарук, сьогодні був останній день, коли можна було подати цей документ.

За його словами, до 2 лютого уряд ще вноситиме корективи в проєкт.

Верховна Рада має схвалити проєкт бюджету у першому читанні до 20 жовтня, допрацьований документ уряд має подати в парламент для другого читання не пізніше 3 листопада. Парламент повинен ухвалити закон про державний бюджет до 1 грудня.

Кабмін передасть у Раду проєкт держбюджету

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Кабінет міністрів України сьогодні, 15 вересня, передасть до Верховної Ради проєкт Державного бюджету України. Про це заявив на брифінгу прем’єр-міністр України Олексій Гончарук.

«Сьогодні за Конституцією — останній день, коли уряд мав схвалити проєкт закону «Про державний бюджет» і подати його до парламенту, ми сьогодні це зробимо», – зазначив прем’єр.

За його словами, до 2 лютого уряд ще вноситиме корективи в проєкт.

За словами прем’єра, у бюджеті на наступний рік на безпеку планують виділити 245,8 мільярда гривень.

«Мінімальна заробітна плата, яка закладається у цей бюджет, збільшується на 550 гривень і складатиме станом на 1 січня 2020 року 4723 гривні», – зазначила міністр фінансів Оксана Маркарова.

За її словами, держбюджет на 2020 рік розраховували на прогнозі курсу 28,02 грн за долар.

Верховна Рада має схвалити проєкт бюджету у першому читанні до 20 жовтня, допрацьований документ уряд має подати в парламент для другого читання не пізніше 3 листопада. Парламент повинен ухвалити закон про державний бюджет до 1 грудня.

Tropical Storm Humberto Forecast to Strengthen into Hurricane

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Tropical Storm Humberto is expected to become a hurricane Sunday as it slowly strengthens to the north of the Bahamas, according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center.

Weather forecasters have not issued any coastal watches or warnings for the storm that is moving north-northwest with maximum sustained winds of 95 kilometer per hour.

NHC said late Saturday “the center of Humberto should continue to move well offshore of the east coast of Florida during the next day or so and then move away from the U.S.”

The NHC added that “swells generated by Humberto are expected to affect the northwestern Bahamas, and the coast of the U.S. from east-central Florida to North Carolina during the next few days.” The center warned that the “swells could cause life-threatening surf and rip current conditions.”

Humberto’s presence forced officials to suspend aid efforts and close airports Saturday in the Bahamas as it grapples to recover from the devastation caused by Hurricane Dorian. Dorian was a Category 5 storm, one of the strongest Atlantic hurricanes ever to hit land, that wrecked the archipelago’s northwest region two weeks ago.

Guterres visits Bahamas

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Saturday after returning from the Abaco island in the Bahamas that he was “horrified” by what he saw. 

“I’ve never seen such a level of systematic devastation,” he said. “Hurricane Dorian has been classified as Category 5. I think it’s category hell.”

“But it was not powered by the devil,” Guterres warned, it was “powered by climate change.” He said the international community should learn two things from Dorian’s destruction in the Bahamas.

“First,” Guterres said, “is that we need to stop climate change. We need to make sure that we reverse the present trend where climate change is running faster than what we are.

“And second, that countries like the Bahamas that do not contribute to climate change, but are in the first line of the devastating impacts of climate change, deserve international support, to be able to fully respond to the humanitarian emergency but also to the reconstruction and the building of resilience of their communities and their islands.”

‘Ghost Fleet’ Designated US Marine Sanctuary

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A watery grave of old sunken ships has been designated the newest national marine sanctuary in the United States. Located in Maryland about 60 kilometers south of Washington, the “ghost fleet” rises like an apparition out of the water when the tide is low. VOA’s Deborah Block takes us to this underwater park with ships going back more than one hundred years.

Students Dazzled by Rankings May Overlook Best Schools for Them

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Selecting a college or university from the thousands in the U.S. can be mind-boggling.

Many applicants turn to a web search to find rankings of the “best” colleges and will find U.S. News & World Report, Forbes, Princeton Review, and Wall Street Journal/Times Higher Education ranking sites, to name a few. Are those rankings and lists accurate, though, and, more importantly, are those “top” schools the best for you?

U.S. News & World Report published its first “America’s Best Colleges” report in 1983, and many schools use those rankings to promote themselves. However, some educators have questioned the published rankings and how useful they are.

Experts rank college rankings

Ray Anderson is a former high school principal who works with AGM-College Advisors in Virginia. Anderson says that while he uses the rankings and talks with students about the results, what’s more important is knowing what the student wants, likes and is capable of doing.

“The focus is on who you are, and then what schools match you,” Anderson said, “not matching you to the school.”

Jeffrey Stahl, a Virginia high school counselor, agrees that rankings have limited value.

He said the rankings “can be helpful,” but that some students pay too much attention to the name of a school and its position in rankings.

“So much about the campus environment, students, professors, cannot be shown just by ranking,” Stahl said. He suggests that families use the ranking information as a starting point. Then, they should widen their search, make their own list, and go see the colleges for themselves.

David Hawkins, executive director for educational content and policy at the National Association for College Admission Counseling, is more critical of the way college rankings are used, saying rankings “are not mathematically proven to measure the quality of any single college, much less to provide comparisons between colleges.”

He said lower-ranked schools may have difficulty getting students interested in their programs.

“As such,” he said, “the rankings have been known to create ethical problems, as institutions misreport data or otherwise seek to manipulate their ranking.”

In July, U.S. News & World Report “de-ranked” five institutions from its list for misreporting information. Consequently, the magazine said, their ranking numbers were “higher than they otherwise would have been.”

Students must look past those ratings to a gain a broader opinion about the schools for themselves.

Hawkins noted that international applicants might think rankings come from the U.S. government, but that’s not true, he said.

“We try to emphasize that these are commercial publications, rather than official rankings of any sort,” he said.

Richard DeMillo, the executive director of the Georgia Institute of Technology’s Center for 21st Century Universities, which describes itself as a “living laboratory for fundamental change in higher education,” says, while the higher rank is “nice, it does not matter.”

DeMillo, whose school moved up 13 positions in Forbes’ latest list, said he believes that Forbes, U.S. News & World Report and other publications are providing a service, “if you ignore the ranking part of it.”

For example, he finds the information about all the study programs to be useful. The ratings sometimes list lesser-known schools that might be strong in a field of study that a student is interested in.

“There are so many hidden gems out there,” Stahl said. “Just because a college doesn’t make the list doesn’t mean it doesn’t have great programs and resources.”