Archive for February, 2013

Feb. 28, 2013

NEW YORK, Feb. 28 (UPI) — The price of crude oil held steady overnight with West Texas Intermediate crude oil losing 10 cents to $92.68 on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Oil prices are standing still, as traders anticipate the March 1 deadline for a spending bill in Washington. Without the new bill, $85 billion in automatic spending cuts will become law as part of the Budget Control Act of 2011.

“With Italy slowly moving into the background and [Federal Reserve Chairman Ben] Bernanke done with his quantitative easing cheerleading before Congress, the market is quickly turning to the U.S. sequester deadline tomorrow,” industry analyst Dominick Chirichella wrote.

An Italian bond auction Wednesday found strong demand, which helped quell fears of a new round of worries over Europe’s debt crisis.

Also with an immediate impact on pricing, the Energy Information Administration said Wednesday U.S. crude oil inventories rose by 1.1 million barrels in the latest week to 377.5 million barrels.

Gasoline prices on the exchange dropped 3.28 cents to $3.0952 per gallon.

Heating oil added 0.1 cents to reach $2.9925 per gallon. Natural gas lost 1.6 cents to hit $3.421 per million British thermal units.

At the pump, the national average price for a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline slipped from Wednesday’s $3.786 per gallon to $3.782, the AAA Daily Fuel Gauge Report said.


Feb. 20, 2013

Dallas-based Southwest said Tuesday that it has launched the service on planes equipped with Internet access — or about 75 percent of its fleet.

Southwest last year began streaming live television to passenger devices. The carrier says the new movies and television show episodes will augment eight channels of news and sports bundled together in a new package that costs $5 per day per device.

Southwest says customers don’t have to buy WiFi to get the movies and TV shows.

The airline contracts with Row 44 to provide Internet access on its Boeing 737-700 and 737-800 planes.

Feb. 23, 2013

BRANSON, Mo. — Southwest Airlines takes off from the Ozarks for the first time on March 9. Travelers and tourism leaders alike have been anticipating the service for several months.

The skies above the Ozarks are geting more colorful, and cost friendly. The red-bellied birds of Southwest Airlines land in Branson for the first time Saturday, March 9.

“This is, really, a watershed event for us,” said Ross Summers, president and CEO of the Branson-Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce.

Branson Airport is getting ready for the Southwest service, which replaces AirTran. Southwest owns AirTran, and will discontinue that carrier’s flights on March 8.

The new flights will give tourists an easy way to the Ozarks, while giving local residents another option for their own vacations and other trips .

“This isn’t a Branson event. This is big for Springfield, for northwest Arkansas, for anybody that has been driving outside our market (Kansas City, Tulsa, St. Louis) to catch a Southwest flight. Now we are going to be keeping those dollars at home, Summers stated.

Daily flights will operate to and from Dallas and Houston, Texas, as well as Chicago. Saturday-only flights will serve Orlando, Fla. However, you can fly anywhere Southwest goes if you don’t mind connecting flights.

Branson is now busy been getting the word out about its upcoming connections.

“We have already begun advertising in those Southwest markets. We want to make sure that folks in those markets know they can come to Branson within an hour, hour and a half at a very reduced rate.”

While the services don’t begin until March 9, you still can book your flights ahead of time.,0,6779903.story

Feb. 26, 2013

The House Judiciary Subcommittee on Regulatory Reform, Commercial and Antitrust Law held a hearing on the proposed merger of American Airlines and U.S. Airways.

Lawmakers examined how the proposed merger would affect competition and consumers in the industry. If the merger is approved, 80% of the domestic airline market would be controlled by four airlines.

“Under its antitrust jurisdiction, the Judiciary Committee has a responsibility to examine the competitive impacts of significant transactions on the marketplace. This hearing will allow many points of view to be heard and provide the public with valuable information on the proposal,” Subcommittee Chairman Spencer Bachus (R-Ala.) said.

Stephen Johnson, executive vice president for corporate and government affairs of US Airways; Gary Kennedy, senior vice president and general counsel of American Airlines; Kevin Mitchell, chairman of Business Travel Coalition Inc.; Christopher L. Sagers, professor at Cleveland-Marshall College of Law; and Clifford Winston, senior fellow in economic studies at the Brookings Institution, testified.

Mr. Kennedy noted that this merger transaction is unique because it is endorsed by the boards of both companies as well as all of the labor unions involved. Mr. Johnson said this merger would make the new American Airlines the largest airline in the United States, with access to cities not served by the airlines individually, and would make a full recovery from bankruptcy. When answering a question on whether American Airlines could stand alone coming out of bankruptcy without a merger, Mr. Johnson noted that they could, but with the merger they would have a path to pay workers the same wage they are making now, unlike their competitors.

A Senate Judiciary subcommittee will hold a hearing on this merger on March 19.

Feb. 28, 2013

Fewer Americans than forecast filed applications for unemployment benefits last week, showing companies were looking beyond looming government spending cuts and maintaining staffing.

Jobless claims decreased by 22,000 to 344,000 in the holiday-shortened week that ended Feb. 23, the Labor Department reported today in Washington. The median forecast of 44 economists surveyed by Bloomberg called for 360,000 applications. The number of people collecting unemployment insurance dropped to the lowest level since June 2008.

Stable headcounts are a sign demand is holding up in the face of rising gasoline prices, possible federal budget cuts and higher payroll taxes that are cutting into workers’ take-home pay. At the same time, further declines in firings are needed to stoke bigger gains in hiring and boost an economy that barely grew in the fourth quarter.

“It’s still a moderate recovery when looking at growth but I think there’s a little bit of momentum in the job market,” said Kevin Cummins, an economist at UBS Securities LLC in Stamford, Connecticut, whose forecast of 345,000 was the lowest in the Bloomberg survey. The labor market is “moving in the right direction.”

The economy expanded at a 0.1 percent annual rate in the fourth quarter, erasing a previously estimated contraction, as the smallest trade deficit in almost three years helped overcome the biggest plunge in defense spending since the Vietnam War era, revised figures from the Commerce Department showed today in Washington.

Feb. 20, 2013

New York City school bus drivers who serve tens of thousands of children were back at work Wednesday after a monthlong strike that forced students, many of them disabled, to take taxis, public transportation or car services to school.

“We’re happy to be back,” said driver Philip Pan, 57, whose dashboard was adorned with a hand-drawn “Welcome back” card, complete with a picture of a bus.

“We’re like a family. We’re really close with these kids,” said Pan, who’s been on the job eight years.

Buses were on their regular schedules Wednesday on all 7,700 routes serving the nation’s largest public school system. Five thousand routes had been affected by the strike. The city has about 1.1 million children in public schools.

But the return to work wasn’t all good news for some workers and parents.

In Brooklyn, more than 100 unionized bus assistants, known as matrons, were fired Wednesday morning when executives of one bus company told them the business was folding and their jobs were gone. Someone answering the phone at Boro Wide Buses said company president Joseph Fazzia had no comment.

Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1181 President Michael Cordiello issued a statement saying the union plans to take “appropriate actions to defend our members.”

While bus service to and from schools went smoothly for most, Sadia Awan, 34, said she ended up taking her seventh-grader to school herself because their bus didn’t show up.

Her son, Hurrera, has a prosthetic leg. They waited about 90 minutes before giving up.

“I was calling, calling, calling, waiting, waiting, waiting. Nothing,” the angry mother said outside Middle School 88 in Brooklyn’s Park Slope. “If he’s late, the school’s going to go after his academics. It’s not good for me. It’s not good for him.”

Awan also said she had struggled with the online reimbursement process to cover her son’s taxis during the strike. They cost $20 a day. “That’s rent money,” she said.

“I understand the drivers need security but they shouldn’t have done it to the kids,” she said.

Drivers and matrons from the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1181 walked off the job Jan. 16, the first school bus driver strike in the city since 1979.

Union officials called off the strike Friday after leading mayoral candidates promised to address job security issues if elected.

Matron Sandy Cardinale, 56, said her time off the job “was horrible.”

“It’s nice to be working with these kids again,” said the 14-year veteran. “We missed them. I’m so glad it’s over.”

Another matron, Giovanna Impagliazzo, 59, said she was praying for job security.

“I hope to God the next mayor knows how hard we work,” she said.

April Dail said she felt more at ease knowing the driver and matron who bus her son Nicos were back on the job Wednesday. Eleven-year-old Nicos, a sixth-grader at M.S. 33 in Brooklyn, has Down syndrome and takes a bus home. During the strike Dail, 33, left work early or relied on neighbors and family to pick him up after school.

“It was hard for us to figure out who would pick him up,” said Dail, who lives in Brooklyn but works on Staten Island.

She said Nicos’ bus matron called Tuesday evening to remind her they would be picking Nicos up after school. “I’m very comfortable with them,” she said.

The city spent roughly $20.6 million in transit cards, taxis and gas mileage to get tens of thousands of stranded students to school during the strike; some still didn’t get there at all, schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott has said. But he estimated the city saved $80 million because it wasn’t paying bus companies during the strike.

via NYC School Bus Service Resumes; Some Workers Fired – ABC News.

Feb. 27, 2013

Union bus drivers in the Beaufort County school district approved a five-year contract offer from their employer, Durham School Services, Wednesday night, ending the threat of a potential strike.

The vote followed months of negotiations between Durham and Teamsters Local 509, the union that represents the drivers as well as monitors who assist drivers in transporting special education students.

The Durham employees had been working without a contract since last summer, and voted last month to authorize strikes if contract negotiations were unsuccessful.

“This hasn’t been a short or easy road to travel, but it appears that Durham and its drivers and monitors have reached an agreement that will bring stability to their relationship,” acting school superintendent Jackie Rosswurm said in a news release. “For our parents, this agreement should ease their concerns about a sudden interruption in school bus service due to a strike.”

Three South Carolina school districts – Beaufort County, Charleston and Dorchester District 2 in Summerville – contract with Durham to supervise bus routes, drivers and monitors.

Drivers and monitors in Dorchester District 2 approved their new contract Tuesday night, and a vote is scheduled for Charleston on Saturday.

Attempts Wednesday night to reach Durham and Teamsters officials were unsuccessful, and details of the new five-year deal for Beaufort County were not immediately available.

The five-year deal in Dorchester 2 will give drivers a 50-cent raise the first year, and 45-cent raise the following four years. Drivers also will have five paid holidays. This is the first time Dorchester 2 drivers have had a contract with Durham, and this is their first raise in three years, according to The (Charleston) Post and Courier.

Durham told reporters last month it offered to increase new drivers’ starting pay by 50 cents to $12 an hour, and average pay by 45 cents to $15.01 per hour for Beaufort County union members. That would increase drivers’ pay about 3 to 4 percent. The union had requested a 10-percent raise, John Elliott, chairman emeritus of Durham School Services, said at the time.

The Beaufort County School District did not participate in contract negotiations.

About half of the Beaufort County district’s 200 drivers and monitors — who serve more than 11,000 students each day — are union members. Only three drivers in Dorchester 2 were opposed to the deal, and only four were opposed in Beaufort, the Charleston newspaper reported.