The Third International after Lenin

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Their recovery and our depression

‘War of attrition’ on jobless pay

Looking out for their bottom line, some U.S. companies are taking measures to block workers from collecting even the meager unemployment benefits authorized by law.

Weekly benefits cover between 50 percent and 70 percent of workers’ wages prior to layoff.

Talx, a firm that promises that it “simplifies the unemployment process,” is convincing large corporations to let it handle the paperwork for their response to unemployment filings.

Talx boasts that it saved a bundle for Exelon Corporation, one of the largest electric utilities in the United States. “In the first year of outsourcing [to Talx] Exelon removed $408,500 in charges to its unemployment accounts due to favorable protests,” the Talx Web site says.

Talx says it handles more than 30 percent of U.S. jobless claims, including those from AT&T, FedEx, McDonald’s, Sears, Tyson Foods, and Walmart.

“Talx often files appeals regardless of merits,” Jonathan Baird, a lawyer at New Hampshire Legal Assistance, told the New York Times. “It’s sort of a war of attrition.”

The actions by Talx and similar firms are so egregious that several states passed laws to limit challenges to benefit approvals. According to the Times, Wisconsin state unemployment office staff complained that Talx reported in error that applicants were dead, filed “frivolous protests,” and held up many benefit requests.

While capitalist bosses are boosting their profits by blocking many workers from collecting unemployment, they are also going after workers who have fallen behind on their bills.

According to the Times, garnishments—pay seizures—jumped 121 percent in the Phoenix area since 2005, 55 percent in the Atlanta area since 2004, and 30 percent in Cleveland between 2008 and 2009 alone.

Sidney Jones, a maintenance worker, took out a $4,000 personal loan from Beneficial Virginia, now owned by HSBC. In March 2003, after winning a default judgment that included 26.55 percent interest, the bank garnished his wages. Six years later the bank had deducted more than $10,000 from Jones’s paychecks but says he still owes $3,965, a sum nearly equal to the original loan.

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