Blanche Lincoln, Steelworkers & the Texarkana Cooper Tire Plant

Blanche Lincoln speaks to the International Trade Commission, June 2009

In this photo from her U.S. Senate Web site, U.S. Sen. Blanche Lincoln, D-Ark., speaks to the International Trade Commission.

One of the latest TV ads vs. incumbent U.S. Sen. Blanche Lincoln is this one by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) disputing Lincoln’s claims (in her own TV ad) that she saved 1,700 jobs at the Texarkana Cooper Tire plant, which was under threat of closing in 2008.

The view expressed in the SEIU ad is that Lincoln did nothing to save those jobs, that it was the workers themselves who did so, making big concessions to Cooper.

The union has been saying this for a while now. You can see a precursor to the SEIU ad right here on YouTube. It’s been there since March.

So who’s right? Did the workers themselves keep the plant open? Or did Lincoln save the day, as she claims in her ad?

As with most political ads, there’s varying shades of truth in both spots. It appears the workers represented in the SEIU ad did do the heavy lifting and probably did the most to save their own jobs.

Lincoln, meanwhile, had varying roles in the future of the Cooper plant, one of which she won’t talk much about. In the end, she might be fairly criticized of overstating the results of her efforts.

And of course, it didn’t have to be this convoluted!

After the jump, an unwieldy, overlong assessment of both ads’ claims and who saved the Cooper jobs.

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The July Unemployment Report: The Numbers Behind the Numbers

That surprise report on U.S. job losses, showing a drop of one-tenth of a percentage point in the unemployment rate from June to July, is being greeted warmly on Wall Street today, despite that the decline doesn’t quite reflect reality.

First, the numbers. The U.S. Department of Labor today put the unemployment rate with 9.4 percent, with the economy having lost 247,000 jobs last month. That’s the fewest job losses in one year, and a big drop from the 443,000 jobs lost in June. Meanwhile, the report revised its number of job losses in May and June, adding back about 43,000 jobs for those two months.

Analysts had been calling for the July unemployment rate to increase to about 9.7 percent. Economists called today’s report a “turn for the better,” with some thinking the worst of job losses are over. They might be right.

But the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal today note the numbers behind the unemployment rate.

Over at the New York Times, economics blogger David Leonhardt says the only reason the unemployment rate dropped is because more people stopped looking for work and were thus ineligible to be counted as officially unemployed. He says the share of adults with jobs actually fell from the previous month.

The Wall Street Journal goes a step further, and says 10 percent unemployment is still very likely — even as the economy begins to recover:

When the economy recovers, more people are likely to reenter the labor force looking for jobs. People who decided to return to school during the downturn, for instance, would eventually return to the job search and help push the unemployment rate higher. (The government’s broader jobless rate declined a fifth of a percentage point to 16.3%. But its still-elevated level signals how many people want full-time jobs but stopped looking because they can’t get one.)

Still, investors are happy to take what good news they can get today. And so’s the White House (though even President Obama expects the rate to rise again). Since the recession began in December 2007, the economy has lost about 6.7 million jobs.

The Latest Inc. Tanc Survey, Heifer International’s Future & More in This Week’s Arkansas Business

Click here to see the survey

Click here to see the survey

It’s Monday and time to check out the latest edition of Arkansas Business, available now. Among the highlights:

Arkansas Business and Mangan Holcomb Partners continue their Inc. Tanc series of surveys, polling more than 800 local business leaders and finding, among other things, that

  • more than half have not or do not expect to benefit from the $787 billion federal stimulus package.
  • a third of respondents preferred no health care reform to any of four reform proposals.

See all Arkansas business survey results on health care, jobs, stimulus, the economy and more.

Steve Denne, the COO of Heifer International, sees a silver lining in the “painful and difficult” cost-cutting at the charity: A chance to impose efficiencies and controls that had long been neglected.

After the death of its founder, Ernest Joshua Sr., it’s been one thing after another for J.M. Products of Little Rock: A decline in the market for its hair-care products, an explosion at its plan, money woes and now bankruptcy.

Former Affiliated Foods Southwest CEO John R. Mills, dismissed before the company declared bankruptcy, is living in Cabot and has nothing to say about the grocery co-op’s bad fortune.

Herren Hickingbotham, chairman of the Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce, says a change in the health care system is needed. What’s not needed, is that pesky “government option.”

In the midst of recession, publisher Jeff Hankins says local business leaders must recalibrate their measures of economic success.

Celebrate Arkansas files a copyright infringement lawsuit against an Alabama media company.

What are Arkansas Democrat-Gazette writers doing these days? Some are getting new jobs not at the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette! Mark Hengel has more.

An annual look at Arkansas executive compensation.

Sitting Down with Maria Haley in This Week’s Arkansas Business

This week’s Arkansas Business newspaper is online and available now. Some highlights from this week’s edition:

Mark Hengel talks to Arkansas Economic Development Commission Director Maria Haley about the AEDC’s “client focused” strategy in developing business in Arkansas.

Mark Friedman looks at Arkansas’ growing wind energy industry and its prospects for the future.

Our annual list of the state’s largest manufacturers. Fact: In the past 12 months, losses in manufacturing account for 42 percent of the state’s job losses.

Remember that $3.6 million write-off IberiaBank recent attributed to fraud.? Arkansas Business has finally named names. Click here to learn more.

How Arkansas Democrat-Gazette sportswriter Chris Givens, working on a new career in law, decided to resign ahead of more DG layoffs in an effort to save some else’s job.

Patrick Schueck, board chairman of the American Red Cross of Greater Arkansas, says businesses should prepare now for an emergency, such as an H1N1 outbreak.

Coming Full Circle: On Journalism Careers at the Arkansas High School Press Association

pf_dbWow. I’m so old.

Today, I’m on a panel on careers in journalism for the annual convention of the Arkansas High School Press Association at the Peabody Hotel in Little Rock. And it’s so weird — it was only a few years ago that I attended the AHSPA convention as an actual high school student!

How long ago was that? Consider that I won an AHSPA on-site competition award for my review of Pink Floyd’s new album, “The Division Bell.” My verdict: A cool “tape.” I hadn’t even heard “Dark Side of the Moon” yet. Naive!

Yep, times were simpler back in the early ’90s, when journalism involved awkward word processing PCs and wax for paste-up. Anyone remember those rolls of hairline tape you used to separate the news briefs column from the nameplate? And the Internet? That was something weird my friend’s mom used a “modem” to access with something called “CompuServe.”

Anyway. Back to the topic at hand. I’ll be joined on the panel by Frank Fellone of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and freelance journo Suzi Parker (who SBB, BTW). And feel free to walk out if any of us start talking about the way it was “back in the day.” Man I hate that.

Gen Y Workers and the Labor Market: Tables Turned?

Remember how Generation Y workers thought they didn’t have to work their father’s 9-to-5 shift? That they wanted flexibility in their jobs? That they valued friendships and feedback over a steady check? That employers needed to learn new strategies in order to cope with (coddle) these sensitive world-changers?

In this job market we wonder, “Yeah. How’s that working out for them?”

It was this article that got us thinking. It’s another of those “How to deal with and attract Gen Y workers” stories that now seems as if it were written in an alternate universe.

With unemployment on the rise and cutbacks everywhere, shouldn’t Gen Y be lucky to have the job they have, so much so that employers need not sweat catering to their every need?

Just wondering.

(An version of this post also appear on The Ladder at

Using Facebook, LinkedIn and (Yes) Twitter in the Job Hunt

We’ve talked about using the Web, particularly so-called “social media,” in your job hunt before. But when it gets down to it, how useful are sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, even Twitter?

Farhad Manjoo, a tech writer for Slate, writes on that topic today . His conclusion? They can be  successful if you use them the right way: to help you build contacts that will give you job leads before companies have a chance to post to

That rule, of course, holds no matter how you network, whether you do it online or person-to-person, the old fashioned way. Via social networks, you’re more likely to hear about job opportunities before they go public on Monster, or even in the printed classifieds.

Engaging that network online allows these opportunities to spread faster, and that’s the real secret to job hunting with social media.

Of course, the results for everyone will always be mixed. In talking to his admittedly geeky circle of friends, Manjoo found that job-hunting on sites like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter paid off, while for others, efforts on those showed more promise than sending in résumés. Of course for some, social networking was a bust.

More case studies on using social media for the job hunt here , as well as thoughts on etiquette.


How To: Find a Job on Twitter

Data-driven Guidance for Career Indecision

(A version of this post appears on The Ladder @ More career advice here.)