June 2010

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Book Recommendation
13 Bankers: The Wall Street Takeover and
the Next Meltdown
By Simon Johnson and James Kwak

Even after the financial meltdown that nearly brought our economy to the brink, the top Wall Street firms that helped orchestrate the disaster are more powerful and richer than ever before. And without substantial congressional reform to reign in the power of Wall Street, they are poised to lead our country down the road to another crash.

This is the conclusion of economists Simon Johnson and James Kwak in the book "13 Bankers," a study of how Wall Street—including firms such as Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan, and Wells Fargo, among others—landed our economy in the worst recession since the Great Depression. It is an eye-opening history of unfettered financial greed run amok.

Economics is not an easy subject and many of the financial devices created by Wall Street—derivatives, hedge funds, credit default swaps—are too complex for even experts to comprehend, but Johnson and Kwak make high finance accessible to the lay reader.

"13 Bankers" is also a political history, a chronicle of how the financial sector grew in both power and money starting in the '80s. The big banks used that power to influence elected officials, who then instituted much of the financial deregulation that allowed the banks to grow even bigger by engaging in risky behaviors—such as subprime mortgage lending—that eventually crashed the economy in 2008.

While praising aspects of President Obama's financial reform package, Johnson and Kwak argue that the proposed regulations don't go far enough. Avoiding bailing out another financial firm that is "too big to fail" will require capping the size of banking giants so their failure won't imperil the whole economy.

A recent amendment sponsored by Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and Ted Kaufman (D-Del.) would have done just that, but it was defeated by a bipartisan majority in the Senate, again proving that Wall Street still exercises a powerful hold on Capitol Hill.

13 Bankers: The Wall Street Takeover and the Next Meltdown
By Simon Johnson and James Kwak

Hydro Ottawa Workers Help Co-Worker, Community

For members of Toronto, Ontario, Local 636, helping a fellow employee at Hydro Ottawa was the right way to spend their weekends.

The workers volunteered to do the electrical work during construction of the Rotary Home, a facility that provides respite care for the families of physically and mentally challenged children.

Volunteers got the idea for the project after seeing a picture of a co-worker's son on a billboard for the home. Eighteen-year-old Brett Jeffries had a severe form of cerebral palsy. His family used the home's services until Brett passed away late last year.

"I was extremely proud to see my colleagues donate their time and expertise," said Brett's father Lance, a director at Hydro Ottawa. "Actions like these highlight the character and quality of our employees."

For the Kitchener Local 804 members who also volunteered on the project, their work is both a lasting tribute to Brett's memory and an ongoing service to other families.

"This endeavour was a great example of how members contribute to making their community a better place and was made possible via the leadership and support shown by IBEW Local 636," Lance Jeffries said.

Brett Jeffries, center, with the IBEW members who helped build a house for families of physically and mentally challenged children.

Win a Triton Boat With the USA

The Union Sportsmen's Alliance and Triton Boats want to cast away your shore-bound blues with a new U.S. made TR-18 SE bass boat powered by a Mercury engine and a day of fishing with Triton Founder and CEO Earl Bentz.

All active and retired IBEW members can enter to win this special package on the USA Web site: www.UnionSportsmen.org/Triton. Current USA members are automatically entered in the promotion.

Widely acknowledged as one of the most creative individuals in the fiercely competitive sports-fishing boat industry, Bentz is equally as patriotic. That's one of the reasons he partnered with the USA to award a member with a Triton boat in 2008 and why he is supporting a second USA promotion.

"USA members are our customer base, and we're proud of this association," Bentz said. "Our boats are made in America, the Mercury engine is made in America and these union members are here in North America."

In addition to this new promotion, Triton developed a union appreciation program for any member who purchases a Triton boat package. The package includes a free one-year USA membership or one-year extension of an existing membership, a custom engine cover featuring the USA logo and a gift certificate of up to $300 to spend on Triton merchandise.

"Union members have made concessions to keep American companies competitive within the international market. They have made sacrifices and fought hard to keep jobs in this country," Bentz said. "Last year was one of the most difficult economic environments, so we asked ourselves what we could do to help those who give so much."

Enter to win this made-in-the-U.S. Triton boat in the USA giveaway.