Economy Roiled By Health Threat, But Some Companies Looking To Hire

From the New York Times:

The volume of food and paper products passing through a warehouse just outside Los Angeles is up 30 percent from the same time a year ago.

Pizza deliveries are surging as people around the country hunker down. Medical product manufacturers are racing to help hospitals lacking critical equipment needed to diagnose and treat Covid-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

Millions of people lost jobs or saw their wages severely curtailed last week as many companies shut down or cut back on operations. But the pandemic has also created a spike in demand for critical products and services, causing some of America’s biggest employers to scramble to try to hire workers.

On Thursday, Walmart, the nation’s largest employer, said it was looking to hire 150,000 additional employees through the end of May.

The grocery chain Kroger is hiring 10,000 people across its stores and distribution centers. Amazon is also planning to hire 100,000 additional people to keep up with the crush of online orders.

While the casinos here in Las Vegas are closed, I did see several of the large grocery stores have “Hiring” signs up. I know these may not be some people’s “chosen careers,” but if a family needs an income, at least there are a few opportunities to earn a living.

Who did a better job with job creation – Reagan or Obama?

If you did an informal poll asking which president has done a better job of creating jobs – Reagan or Obama – you’d probably get a lot of Reagan answers.  In memory, often things seem so much better than they might have been.

But the facts show that President Obama has actually done a better job creating and reducing unemployment than the Reagan administration.

From Forbes.com:

President Reagan has long been considered the best modern economic President. So we compared his performance dealing with the oil-induced recession of the 1980s with that of President Obama and his performance during this ‘Great Recession.’

As this unemployment chart shows, President Obama’s job creation kept unemployment from peaking at as high a level as President Reagan, and promoted people into the workforce faster than President Reagan.

President Obama has achieved a 6.1% unemployment rate in his 6th year, fully one year faster than President Reagan did. At this point in his presidency, President Reagan was still struggling with 7.1% unemployment, and he did not reach into the mid-low 6% range for another full year. So, despite today’s number, the Obama administration has still done considerably better at job creating and reducing unemployment than did the Reagan administration.

President Obama to sign executive orders protecting LGBT workers on Monday

According to reports, President Obama will sign amended executive orders on Monday prohibiting federal contractors from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity WITHOUT new exemptions sought by religious groups.

 From EdgeOnTheNet:

Obama’s action comes on the heels of the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent ruling in the Hobby Lobby case that allowed some religiously oriented businesses to opt out of the federal health care law’s requirement that contraception coverage be provided to workers at no extra charge. Senior administration officials said Friday that ruling has no impact on non-discrimination policies in federal hiring and contracting.

They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the plans publicly.

Since Obama announced last month that he would sign the orders, he’s faced pressure from opposing flanks over the religious exemption and given no indication of where he would come down. Many religious leaders and conservative groups wanted him to exempt religious organizations from the order, while liberal clergy and gay advocacy groups adamantly opposed such an exemption.

The changes could affect as many as 28 million workers

Pennsylvania: Gov. Corbett supports LGBT protections in the workplace

Gov. Tom Corbett, a conservative Republican who has opposed LGBT rights in the past – most notably marriage equality -says he is ready to support employment protections for gays and lesbians in the workplace, he told the Philadelphia Inquirer Wednesday. 
“I’ve had people come and talk to me about how they were discriminated against,” said Corbett. “The federal government has antidiscrimination laws. I believed they covered it.”
But federal law does not prohibit employers from firing, refusing to hire or promote someone because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
Pennsylvania state law does not currently prohibit discrimination in public accommodation, housing, education, or employment on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. A bill that would make it illegal to fire someone for being LGBT was introduced in the state House earlier this year, but has since failed to move out of committee. Pennyslvania is also the only state in the Northeastern U.S. that has yet to embrace marriage equality. 
Openly gay state Rep. Brian Sims, released this statement praising the governor’s move toward equality for all:
“I have long believed that equality is not a one-party issue,” said Sims. “We continue to see our elected officials in Pennsylvania coming out on the right side of history, and Governor Corbett is no exception to this trend. Last month, Senator Pat Toomey, also a conservative Republican, voted to advance the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) in the U.S. Senate, demonstrating to Americans across the country that support for LGBT civil rights and a conservative ideology are not mutually exclusive. To those conservative leaders in our government who have shied away from being vocal about non-discrimination legislation in Pennsylvania, I hope this is a green light to openly support non-discrimination legislation.”

Walmart to offer same-sex partners benefits

Walmart to offer employment benefits to same-sex couples - domestic partners

Well, this is a big deal.

Yesterday Walmart employees received a memo from Sally Welborn, Walmart’s Senior VP of Benefits:

This week our associates will receive a pre-enrollment postcard at their homes announcing the dates for annual enrollment and providing highlights of the 2014 benefit offerings. Among the information highlighted on the postcard: We will cover domestic partners in the medical, dental, vision, life, critical illness and accident plans. This means Walmart will offer these benefits to an associate’s same- or opposite-sex spouse or unmarried partner.

The memo didn’t stop there, though. Welborn’s memo also made note of several other unrelated changes to the company’s benefits plan and then adds this:

It’s a business decision, not a moral or political decision. We operate in 50 states, hundreds of municipalities and Puerto Rico, and as clarified under the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), each of these states are developing different definitions of marriage, domestic partner, civil union, etc. By developing a single definition for all Walmart associates in the U.S. and Puerto Rico, we are able to ensure consistency for associates across our markets.

The Affordable Care Act (commonly referred to as “ObamaCare”) inextricably linked health insurance with employment. As such, for our associates for whom we offer health insurance, we want to be sure we are providing access to as many individuals and their families as possible.

Given the diverse world we live in today, a comprehensive benefit package that includes domestic partner benefits appeals to the contemporary workforce. Many companies, including most of our competitors, already offer spouse/partner benefits to their employees. Of 30 retail competitors, all but two (Publix and Stop and Shop union plan) provide either same- or opposite-sex domestic partner coverage.

Your behavior matters. The words you use also matter. We are counting on you to be thoughtful, supportive and understanding of multiple viewpoints. Your visibility can make a big difference to how associates feel.

Walmart has 1.3 million U.S. employees and is the largest employer outside the Department of Defense.

I don’t shop at Walmart. For many reasons. However, I applaud this move by America’s largest private employer and certainly my opinion feels a shift due to these policy shifts.

Good for Walmart.

Screen capture of memo details inclusion of domestic partners in company benefits
Click image to enlarge.

(via JMG)

ExxonMobil votes down LGBT non-discrimination protections – AGAIN

For the 14th year in a row, oil giant ExxonMobil’s shareholders have voted down a proposal that would have provided employment discrimination protections to the company’s LGBT employees.

The Dallas Voice reports:

Shareholders voted to reject a resolution, 81 percent to 19 percent, from the New York state comptroller calling for the company’s Board of Directors to add sexual orientation and gender identity/expression to the oil giant’s EEO policy. The 19 percent support for the resolution reportedly was the lowest ever.

George Wong addressed the shareholders on behalf of the New York State Common Retirement Fund. He presented the business argument that the company should recruit from and retain the widest possible talent pool. Failure to do that leads to less efficient business operations. Most Fortune 500 companies do have inclusive nondiscrimination policies including most other major oil companies, he said.

During general comments, no one else supported the nondiscrimination proposal.

ExxonMobil has the lowest score ever received by a company in the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index, scoring a -25 rating for rescinding LGBT discrimination protections and cancelling domestic partner health benefits when Exxon acquired Mobil in 1999.

Other oil companies, such as Chevron, BP, Shell and Spectra, have received scores of 85 or higher.

(source)

GOP House holding 1.9 million transportation jobs hostage

A long-term transportation package that would re-authorize current
spending on highway construction projects and lock-in infrastructure
spending for future projects appears all but dead thanks to Republican
obstruction in the House of Representatives.

With time running out
before current authorization ends at the end of the month, House
Republicans are demanding the Senate add approval of the Keystone XL
pipeline to a transportation bill that already passed with widespread
bipartisan support.

1.9 million workers
will have to walk off the job without re-authorization of highway
funds. Senate Democrats estimate that the long-term authorization
package will create an additional one million jobs on top of that.

House Republicans have pitched the pipeline as a job creator, but the State Department estimates it will lead to only 6,000 temporary jobs — a far cry from the nearly three million created or saved by the long-term highway bill the GOP is blocking.

More at ThinkProgress

Rp. Allen West: LGBT workplace discrimination “don’t happen out here”

From Think Progress: Rep. Allen West (R-FL), no stranger to controversy, declared on Thursday that gay people are never fired because of their sexual orientation in the United States.

“That don’t happen out here in the United States of America,” West told ThinkProgress during an interview on Capitol Hill.

When pressed for clarification, the Florida congressman dismissed the importance of protecting LGBT people from discrimination. “I don’t see that as being a big issue with small businesses,” West said.

KEYES: What about something like a law that say that it’s illegal to hire or fire people because they’re gay?

WEST: That don’t happen out here in the United States of America.

KEYES: You don’t think people get fired because they’re gay?

WEST: Well, I don’t see that as being a big issue with small businesses. I sit on the Small Business Committee. You know what they’re concerned about? They’re concerned about onerous tax policy, regulatory policy, and lack of access to capital because Dodd-Frank is absolutely decimating small community banks.

Workplace discrimination against LGBT people is very real. In 29 states, it is perfectly legal to fire you for being gay. (In 34 states you can be fired for being transgender.)

Between 8 and 17 percent of gay and transgender workers have been fired or not hired because of their sexual orientation or gender identity; that rate more than doubles for gay and transgender people who have experienced workplace discrimination.