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News Briefs

Nissan Restructuring to Include Cutting 21,000 Jobs

LOS ANGELES TIMES -- TOKYO

Nissan Motor Co., once a high-flying icon of Japanese economic might, on Monday announced a restructuring plan providing both a stark reminder of its fall from grace and the most dramatic evidence yet that Japan is on the road to meaningful restructuring after years of paralysis.

Any thought that new Nissan Chief Operating Officer Carlos Ghosn might go easy on his Japanese colleagues was dashed when he unveiled the plan -- more sweeping than even the most dire predictions -- to close five factories, cut 21,000 jobs, pare $9 billion in costs, overhaul its supply system, stop selling bland cars and fundamentally alter its Japanese management practices.

The precedent being set by Nissan -- albeit one forced on the company by a non-Japanese partner, Renault of France -- may encourage other Japanese companies in overbuilt smokestack industries to follow suit.

It also underscores a stunning reversal from the ’70s, when Japanese automakers had forced their American counterparts to undertake the same kind of painful downsizing now facing Nissan.

Pentagon May Ban ATM Surcharges on Bases

LOS ANGELES TIMES

The battle over ATM surcharges has opened on yet another front, and it could present the banking industry with its most formidable opponent ever: the U.S. military.

The Department of Defense has entered the fray over the $1 to $3 fees that banks charge noncustomers for using their automated teller machines, proposing new rules that would prohibit banks operating on military bases from assessing the surcharges.

The rule could affect dozens of U.S. banks, ranging in size from giant Bank of America to small community institutions, which currently operate on more than 400 major domestic bases and serve about 1.4 million military personnel.

“Lower-paid troops can ill afford to pay these fees every time they use the machine,” said Glenn Flood, a department spokesman.

Flood said the ATM fees were particularly hard on enlisted soldiers who are frequently transferred to different bases and cannot change their bank accounts every time they move. In addition, most bases are served by only one bank, leaving soldiers with fewer choices, he said.

Complaints from soldiers about the fees helped spur the proposed rule, according to Flood.

House Votes to Limit Mexican Trucks’ Access to U.S. Roads

LOS ANGELES TIMES -- WASHINGTON

In the most concrete victory yet for labor interests opposed to the North American Free Trade Agreement, the House has voted to levy severe financial penalties on Mexican shipping companies whose trucks venture more than a short distance inside the United States.

The legislation, passed on a 415-5 vote as a last-minute amendment to a highway safety bill last week, undermines a key NAFTA provision by severely limiting the access of Mexican trucking companies to U.S. roadways.

The result of an intense lobbying effort by the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, it comes amid mounting opposition in Congress and in the Clinton administration to opening the border to Mexican trucks.

While the legislation requires Senate approval and President Clinton’s signature, it is supported by the administration and seems almost certain to become law within weeks.