March 2008 News from Policy Matters Ohio: Lightbulbs and Lending

- March 20, 2008

Good Bulbs, Bad Jobs – A supplier of compact fluorescent light bulbs to General Electric requires many to work a 64-hour week that exhausts workers and violates Chinese labor law. Many workers at the southern Chinese plant partly owned by GE don’t know the bulbs have mercury or how to deal with the toxic substance. Good Bulbs, Bad Jobs: Workers and Conditions behind your new compact fluorescent, finds that Xiamen Topstar Lighting Co. Ltd., a joint venture in which GE has a stake, violates numerous provisions of Chinese labor law as well as GE’s own corporate policies. The report, which generated nationwide news coverage, recommends that GE ensure that bulbs are made in a way that does not compromise the health and rights of workers and that the firm, which has been closing down Ohio light-bulb manufacturing facilities, maintain a U.S. workforce to make some of these energy-efficient products.

Payday problems – You can now get a payday loan in over 1,600 locations in Ohio, more than 14 times as many places to be exploited as there were 11 years ago. Borrowers can usually expect to pay $15 in fees for every $100 they borrow for a mere two weeks ~ an annual rate of 391 percent. The study, done in conjunction with our friends at the Housing Research and Advocacy Center recommends capping loans at a still-high 36%, as the federal government now does for military families. After the release, the City Club of Cleveland hosted State Representative Williams Batchelder (R) and Senator Ray Miller (D) to talk about bipartisan efforts to reign in this exploitative product. Six big city mayors have also endorsed our recommendations. Ohio Attorney General Marc Dann will hold a third hearing on payday lending in Columbus and has asked Policy Matters to testify.

Analyzing Autism Vouchers –  The vast majority of educational programs that participate in Ohio’s autism voucher program limit or discourage enrollment by charging more than the voucher covers, having religious programming, or accepting only those students with milder forms of autism. At the same time, parents interviewed tended to prefer the voucher to their public school setting. This report considers how the public schools could better serve children with autism spectrum disorders.

Budget Blues – With a large budget shortfall and consequent budget cuts of over $700 million, tax cuts are costing the state. Our testimony to the House Finance and Appropriations committee looks at how Ohio could preserve vital services, restore progressivity to the tax system, and ensure that strong public structures are retained and rebuilt.

Don’t miss –  Ellen Bravo, a nationally-known working women’s advocate, comes to Joseph-Beth Booksellers (Legacy Village, 24519 Cedar Road, Lyndhurst, Ohio) on Monday, April 7th at 7 p.m. to speak about her book: Taking on the Big Boys. With facts, anecdotes, humor and outrage, Bravo debunks the myths that perpetuate discrimination. Click here for the event flyer.

A Better Deal – America’s young adults are facing an economic crisis. On May 8th and 9th in Washington D.C., the national think-tank Demos invites young activists to take action and find solutions to the personal, economic and political struggles that make getting ahead so difficult for this generation. Click here for scheduling and registration information.

That’s all!
The Policy Matters Ohio Team 

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