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"We see Presidents riding on horseback, chopping firewood. The notion that he doesn't have a minute to spare is not credible." -- Supreme Court Justice Anthony Scalia, after Bill Clinton's lawyers said he would be too busy to worry about the Paula Jones lawsuit while he's in officeEDITED BY LARRY LIGHTReturn to top

NAFTA: A NEW UNION-BUSTING WEAPON?

SINCE THE NORTH AMERICAN Free Trade Agreement took effect, U.S. employers have routinely threatened during union elections to close plants and move production to Mexico or elsewhere, says a new study commissioned under NAFTA. This dire picture has prompted the U.S. Labor Dept. to sit on the study, Labor insiders say, out of fear the report will fuel skepticism toward expanding

NAFTA--and its companion safeguards for collective bargaining--to other Latin American lands. The issue is still being reviewed, a Labor spokesman says, denying any political influence. That's nearly four months after Cornell researchers turned in their report.

The report, based on union elections from 1993 to 1995, indicated half of the employers threaten to close plants when facing a union vote. Labor loses nearly half the time when that happens, vs. 33% when no warnings are issued. When employers lose, 7.5% go ahead and close the plant--triple the level in the pre-NAFTA 1980s. The study didn't delve into whether any of those jobs moved outside the U.S.

"NAFTA created a climate that has emboldened employers," says Kate Bronfenbrenner, a researcher who headed up the study for the U.S., Canadian, and Mexican governments. She agreed to release the report after the Labor Dept. balked.By Aaron Bernstein EDITED BY LARRY LIGHTReturn to top

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THE CONTENTIOUS PRICE OF AIR SAFETY

AERIAL COMBAT HAS ERUPTED over how best to pay for upgrading the air traffic control system. The network's advanced age has contributed to dangerous communications blackouts between controllers and aircraft--and lengthy delays for travelers. Estimated costs to upgrade the system run about $37 billion.

Led by Northwest, the seven major carriers propose financing the project by shifting more of the bill to low-cost airlines, who are outraged at the idea. The majors want the feds to scrap the 10% ticket tax passengers pay to maintain the ATC system. (Now, the large airlines furnish the most revenue because their ticket prices are higher.) Instead, the Big Seven want to raise more money from a fee set-up they say is tied more closely to ATC usage, anchored by a flat $4.50-per-passenger charge. While not endorsing this particular plan, the Clinton Administration and such key lawmakers as Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) back the usage-based concept.

But the bargain carriers, led by Southwest, say the Big Seven's plan is unfair and would destroy their competitive edge by forcing them to boost ticket prices. The low-cost airlines say they would pay more, which the majors don't dispute. An example, as calculated by Southwest: Air South would pay a 16% tax and American just 8%, a two-point drop from the current level.By Christina Del Valle EDITED BY LARRY LIGHTReturn to top


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