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Should Alabama use manhole covers made in India under unsafe working conditions?

Brandon Moseley

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A 2014 documentary by Natasha Raheja, Cast in India, exposed the often unsafe working conditions by impoverished workers in India making manhole covers.

Free trade allows companies and, as is usually the case with manhole covers, governments to purchase items from across the world to seek out the lowest cost bidders.

The Raheja documentary, the first of a number of documentaries and investigative reports on the Indian foundry industry, opens with a shot of New York City’s iconic sewer covers and then travels to one of the several foundries in Howrah in West Bengal where they are produced. While her documentary focused on New York sewers, Alabama sewer systems also often purchase the Indian sewer covers.

Former State Representative Perry O. Hooper Jr. (R-Montgomery) recently released a statement arguing that instead of exploiting Indian laborers, we should purchase made in Alabama manhole covers made by modern technology in Fairfield.

“Barefoot, Shirtless, whip-thin men eight thousand miles from Alabama are forging manhole covers for use on Alabama’s roads and sidewalks,” Hooper said in a statement. “West Bengal’s many foundries rely on bare hands rather than modern machinery and production methods. Working in conditions that can best be described as medieval.”

The Indian foundries compete by paying wages as low as $2 a day and cutting some safety corners.

“We can’t maintain the luxury of Europe and the United States, with all the boots and all that,” Sunil Modi, director of Shakti Industries a major Indian producer of Manhole covers told Raheja.

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The manhole covers they produce can be found all over the country from New York to Sacramento and even in Birmingham Hooper told the Alabama Political Reporter. Most display the “Made in India” statement on their surface.

“Ironically, Fairfield Alabama, a Birmingham suburb recently had to file for bankruptcy. Fairfield has long been a hub in the US iron and steel industry is a perfect example of how we have decimated our own critical manufacturing facilities in favor of cheap imports,” Hooper claimed. “These imported products not only have the direct effects of lost job and destroying entire communities like Fairfield, but cheap Manhole covers imported from India have other costs. The primitive conditions in which they are produced allow for almost no quality control for the manholes produced. A good friend of mine relayed the story how a one-year old cheap Indian made manhole cover had rusted through in less than a year.”

Hooper claims that the Indian manhole covers pose a major hazard on streets and sidewalks.

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Hooper said that the manhole covers were used at Stadium Trace in Hoover.

“The local supplier who choose Indian over American had the audacity to claim he was not going to do anything about replacing the dangerous and defective covers,” Hooper claimed. “My friend immediately threw the supplier off his property and replaced the Made in India covers with Made in the U.S.A. covers.”

“We must insist that all taxpayer dollars are spent to support American jobs,” Hooper argued. “The Iron and Steel industry is vital to our national security and we must do everything possible to support the industry.”

Critics of the Indian foundries also claim that they do not face the same environmental regulations that an American producer would and unnecessarily contribute to global warming.

Brandon Moseley is a senior reporter with eight and a half years at Alabama Political Reporter. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Facebook. Brandon is a native of Moody, Alabama, a graduate of Auburn University, and a seventh generation Alabamian.

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Economy

New unemployment claims continued dropping last week

Micah Danney

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(STOCK PHOTO)

There were 8,679 new unemployment claims filed in Alabama last week, slightly fewer than the 8,848 filed the previous week, according to the Alabama Department of Labor.

Of the claims filed between Sept. 13 and Sept. 19, 4,465, or 51 percent, were related to COVID-19. That’s the same percentage as the previous week.

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Economy

Unemployment benefits could change for some Alabamians

ADOL will begin the review when the current quarter ends on Oct. 3. 

Eddie Burkhalter

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(STOCK PHOTO)

Some Alabamians receiving unemployment benefits could see changes in those benefits after the Alabama Department of Labor conducts a required quarterly review and redetermines eligibility, the department said Friday. 

The Alabama Department of Labor said in a press release Friday that no action is required by those receiving regular unemployment, Pandemic Unemployment Assistance or Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation. 

ADOL will begin the review when the current quarter ends on Oct. 3. 

“Some may remain eligible for PUA or PEUC, OR they may be required to change to regular unemployment compensation. Weekly benefit amounts may also change. This depends on eligibility requirements,” ADOL said in the release. “Those claimants whose benefit year ends prior to October 3, 2020, will have their claims reevaluated.” 

After the review, if the claimant is determined not to be eligible for regular unemployment compensation, those who qualify may still be able to be paid under PUA or PEUC, and that determination will be made automatically and payment will be issued, the department said in the release. 

Claimants must also continue to certify their weeks.

Many claimants are not receiving benefits because they fail to file their weekly certifications, i.e. requests for payment. ADOL cannot pay benefits for weeks that have not been properly certified. Certifications can be done online at labor.alabama.gov or by calling the appropriate number:

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  • Montgomery – (334) 954-4094
  • Birmingham – (205) 458-2282
  • Not in Local Area – (800) 752-7389

PUA recipients must file their weekly certifications either by telephone or on the PUA app, at pua.labor.alabama.gov.

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Economy

Alabama Gulf Coast beaches remain closed for now

Brandon Moseley

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Gov. Kay Ivey took a tour of the damage from Hurricane Sally on the gulf coast Friday September 18, 2020. (Governor's Office/Hal Yeager)

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey announced that beaches will remain closed for now due to ongoing repair and cleanup efforts in the wake of Hurricane Sally.

“Working closely with Gulf Shores Mayor Robert Craft and Orange Beach Mayor Tony Kennon, as well as Commissioner Billy Joe Underwood, the governor has agreed to keep Baldwin County’s beaches closed until Friday, October 2nd,” the governor’s office said in a statement. “This will allow those communities additional time to get their beaches ready for public enjoyment in a safe, responsible manner.”

Mobile County beaches might open earlier than that.

“Likewise, the governor has been in touch with Mayor Jeff Collier, and she is prepared to amend the beach closure order for Mobile County when he signals that Dauphin Island is ready to reopen their beaches,” the governor’s office said in a statement. “At the present time, all Alabama beaches remain closed until further notice.”

Hurricane Sally came ashore near Gulf Shores on Sept. 16 as a category two hurricane with 105 mile per hour winds. Numerous homes, businesses and farms have been destroyed and many more have seen serious damage.

“As of Wednesday night, approx. 37,000 cubic yards of Hurricane Sally debris (equivalent to roughly 1,700 truck loads worth) has been picked up in Orange Beach since Sunday (4 days),” the city of Orange Beach announced. “Kudos to our debris contractor CrowderGulf.”

“I spent Sunday afternoon meeting with senior staff and I believe we will need some time to get our buildings safe for children to return,” said Baldwin County Schools Superintendent Eddie Taylor in a letter to parents. “We live in a very large county. Power may be on in your area and your school may not have any damage, but we cannot open schools unless all schools can open. Our pacing guides, state testing, meal and accountability requirements are based on the system, not individual schools.”

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“We have schools without power and for which we do not expect power until later this week,” Taylor said. “In this new age, we need internet and communications which are currently down so we cannot run any system tests. We have physical damage at our schools including some with standing water, collapsed ceilings and blown out windows. We have debris on our properties and debris blocking our transportation teams from picking up students. All of this must be resolved before we can successfully re-open.”

“If everything goes as planned, I expect we will welcome back students on Wednesday, September 30,” Taylor said. “Prior to returning students to school, we will hold two teacher work days to get our classrooms and our lessons plans back on track.”

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Economy

SNAP replacement benefits coming to three counties hit by Hurricane Sally

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Gov. Kay Ivey took a tour of the damage from Hurricane Sally on the gulf coast Friday September 18, 2020. (Governor's Office/Hal Yeager)

Thousands of SNAP recipients in Mobile, Baldwin and Escambia counties are set to receive automatic replacement benefits as a result of Hurricane Sally, the Alabama Department of Human Resources announced Thursday.

Recipients who received their benefits Sept. 1 through Sept. 16 will receive a replacement of 50 percent of their regular monthly benefit. Those who received supplemental pandemic maximum allotment payments will receive a replacement of 30 percent of those benefits.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service approved the replacement benefits today at the request of DHR. The benefits are intended to replace food purchased with SNAP that was lost to widespread power outages caused when Hurricane Sally made landfall on Sept. 16.

“Our priority is to remove the very real threat of hunger for the many Alabamians who are struggling from the devastation of Hurricane Sally,” said Alabama DHR Commissioner Nancy Buckner. “The first step toward that goal is to replace the food that so many Alabamians lost to the storm. We are actively working to obtain additional resources to provide much-needed relief for the region as it recovers.”

Hurricane Sally caused over 265,000 households to lose power for at least four hours in Mobile, Baldwin and Escambia counties, where approximately 54,000 households will receive SNAP benefits totaling an estimated $8.5 million.

Those recipients should expect to see the replacement benefits automatically loaded onto their EBT cards next week.

The Food Assistance Division of DHR administers the SNAP program in Alabama.

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More information about the program can be found at dhr.alabama.gov/food-assistance.

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