Outten & Golden: Empowering Employees in the Workplace

Fight For $15 Fights With Nationwide Strike Today

December 1st, 2016 | Dave Johnson

dave.johnsonWhen do we want a $15 minimum wage? We want it now.

43% of the workforce — 60 million workers — are paid less than $15/hour. People will continue to fight for decent wages, the election of Donald “Wages Are Too High” Trump notwithstanding.


“83-year old McDoanld’s worker Jose Carillo on his 12th strike gets arrested” – photo by @Fightfor15

Fight for $15 is striking today, demanding a $15 minimum wage. Fight for $15’s November 29 “Day of Disruption” brought strikes to 340 cities across the country today, with tens of thousands participating. Yesha Callahan reported for The Root, in “Minimum Wage Workers Across the Country Are #FightingFor15“:

From nonunion workers at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago to McDonald’s employees in New York City, people are having their voices heard, and have some heavy-hitter celebrities supporting them. Tuesday has been appropriately referred to as “Disruption Tuesday,” with underpaid workers walking off the job.

The Problem

Why is this so important that people would make the sacrifice to strike, losing a days pay, risking their jobs and even arrest? Today’s $7.25/hr minimum wage is extremely low. For example, minimum-wage workers do not make enough to rent an apartment — pretty much anywhere. Huffington Post’s Kate Abbey-Lambertz shows why, in “Here’s How Much Money You Need To Afford Rent In Every State“:

Nationwide, the housing wage for a two-bedroom apartment is $20.30 hourly (or $42,240 annually). That means someone earning the federal minimum wage of $7.25 would have to work 112 hours a week to afford the typical rent.

If the minimum wage had kept up with economic growth, it would be $18.85 today. David Cooper at The Economic Policy Institute (EPI) explained in July, in The federal minimum wage has been eroded by decades of inaction,

…[T]he last time the federal minimum wage was raised, from $6.55 to $7.25 on July 24, 2009. Since then, the purchasing power of the federal minimum wage has fallen by 10 percent as inflation has slowly eroded its value. However, this decline in the buying power of the minimum wage over the past seven years is not even half the overall decline in the minimum wage’s value since the late 1960s.

A Growing Fight for $15 Movement Gets Results

The Fight For $15 movement kicked off in New York City in 2012. The November 2012 OurFuture.org post, “Fed Up Fast-Food Workers Strike To Change Economy,” explained:

Fast-food workers are exploited. The low-wage, burger-flipping service sector is the symbol of the new economy that is stripping the country of its middle class while a few at the very top make billions. Employers take advantage of the high unemployment to pay as little as the law allows, and hold down hours to keep from providing benefits. It pays off really big for a few at the expense of everyone else. Last year the CEO of Wendy’s made $16.5 million dollars while paying minimum wage. Or more to the point, because they pay minimum wage.

So fed-up fast-food workers are starting to organize and do something about it. Today in New York City fast-food workers staged a one-day walkout to demand a decent wage — enough to pay for rent and food.

Fight for $15 has already achieved gains for workers; since 2012 America’s workers have won nearly $62 billion in raises.

A new report from the National Employment Law Project (NELP), “Fight for $15: Four Years, $62 Billion“, examines the gains that the Fight For $15 movement have already brought to minimum-wage workers. Key findings include,

  • Since the Fight for $15 launched in 2012, underpaid workers have won $61.5 billion in raises from a combination of state and local minimum wage increases from New York to California and action by employers ranging from McDonald’s to Walmart to raise their companies’ minimum pay scales. (Figure represents the total additional annual income that workers will receive after the approved increases fully phase in.)
  • Of the $61.5 billion in additional income, two-thirds is the result of landmark $15 minimum wage laws that the Fight for $15 won in California, New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, SeaTac and Washington, D.C.
  • At least 19 million workers nationwide will benefit from raises sparked by the Fight for $15.
  • 2.1 million of those workers won raises this month when voters approved minimum wage ballot initiatives in Arizona ($12 by 2020), Colorado ($12 by 2020), Maine ($12 by 2020), Washington State ($13.50 by 2020), and Flagstaff, AZ ($15 by 2021).

Follow the #Fightfor15 on Twitter, and visit Fight for $15 on the web.

This post originally appeared on ourfuture.org on November 29, 2016. Reprinted with Permission.

Dave Johnson has more than 20 years of technology industry experience. His earlier career included technical positions, including video game design at Atari and Imagic. He was a pioneer in design and development of productivity and educational applications of personal computers. More recently he helped co-found a company developing desktop systems to validate carbon trading in the US.

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Wage Theft Against Immigrants Threatens All Working People

November 22nd, 2016 | Jose Ucelo

wage-theft-against-immigrants-threatens-all-working-people_blog_post_fullwidthThe United States holds sacrosanct the principle that regardless of who you are, or where you come from, your hard work will be rewarded.

For day laborers in America, at least half of whom report experiencing wage theft, this ideal rings hollow. In a country so expansive and so diverse as America, there must be mechanisms in place to ensure the principle of getting paid for the work you do is a reality for everyone.

Take my story, for example. After a hard day’s work, when I asked for my earned wages, my employer refused to pay me. He went on to call the police and falsely accused me of attempting to rob him with a knife. After a police investigation, it was clear I was a victim of extortion and false charges. However, since I didn’t have the proper documentation, I was placed in deportation proceedings, which I am still fighting to this day.

Immigrant workers like me are struggling to provide for our family, yet have to work extra to organize with other workers, and to get informed about our rights to make sure we are not being exploited or robbed of our wages. Many of us who search for work on the street corners face very difficult situations on a daily basis. Not only do we receive insults by passerby, but employers themselves often try to undercut us simply because they think that we are not organized and have no support. As we continue to organize, we have developed power as working people and have had significant victories as well.

I know firsthand the confusion, humiliation and helplessness felt by those who have been robbed or shortchanged by their employers. This can happen to anyone. Only a few months ago, we learned cafeteria staff for the U.S. Senate faced issues of wage theft, too. Their fight was very important because they are helping to create a just workplace for all of us. Such a significant victory has waves of impact that reach other parts of the country and inspire many of us to continue to struggle for justice.

The U.S. Senate cafeteria workers’ encounter with wage theft is very typical of what occurs to other working people across the country, but for day laborers and immigrants like myself, our encounters with wage theft go beyond the denial of earned wages. Because of the inherent isolation of our work, and the irregularity of our schedules and employers—with the added issue of growing xenophobia and racism directed at Latino immigrants—we are seen as easy targets for bad employers, and often experience threats of deportation or get falsely accused of wrongdoing.

Many of us have to battle every day to stop employers who want to undercut us. Most of the time we have to work and struggle to get our employers to even pay us for the hours we’ve worked. The institutional protections that we have are often limited, and sometimes it feels like they are nonexistent.

Most workplaces are not the Senate cafeteria. Day laborers throughout the country are experiencing wage theft every day. The Department of Labor and national politicians must recognize our plight and devote the necessary resources to stop this epidemic of wage theft. Though we will continue to organize and fight for justice, it is necessary for the institutions created to hold up the labor protections to benefit all workers.

This blog originally appeared in aflcio.org on November 21, 2016.  Reprinted with permission.

Jose Ucelo is a day laborer and immigrant worker.

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This week in the war on workers: What happens if Obama's overtime expansion is reversed?

November 21st, 2016 | Laura Clawson

LauraClawson

President Obama’s expansion of overtime pay goes into effect on December 1. But what happens if it gets rolled back in 2017? Here are some of the Department of Labor’s takeaways from a Congressional Budget Office report:

  1. CBO finds that reversing the rule would strip nearly 4 million workers of overtime protections. According to the report, there are nearly 4 million workers whose employers will be required to pay them overtime when they work more than 40 hours a week when the rule goes into effect.
  2. CBO finds that reversing the rule would reduce workers’ earnings while increasing the hours they work. The report finds that if the rule is reversed, the total annual earnings of all affected workers would decrease by more than $500 million in 2017. Further, these workers would earn less money while working more hours.
  3. At a time when income inequality is already of great concern, CBO finds that reversing the rule would primarily benefit people with high incomes. If the rule were reversed, affected workers, most of whom have moderate incomes, would experience a loss in earnings. These losses would be accompanied by an increase in firms’ profits, of which the vast majority (CBO estimates 85 percent) would accrue to people in the top income quintile.
  4. CBO finds that reversing the rule would not create or save jobs. The report finds no significant impact on the number of jobs in the economy.

Nearly 4 million workers.

This article originally appeared at DailyKOS.com on November 19, 2016. Reprinted with permission.

Laura Clawson is a Daily Kos contributing editor since December 2006. Labor editor since 2011.

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Think It’s Tough for Labor Now? Just Wait Until Trump Takes Office in January

November 18th, 2016 | Moshe Marvit

photo_321703[1]In 63 days, organized labor is going to find itself in a new political reality, which it seems totally unprepared for. Donald Trump will be president; the Republicans will control the House and Senate and one of Trump’s first tasks will be to nominate a new Supreme Court justice. Though Trump was tight-lipped about specific policy proposals, his campaign and the current constitution of the Republican party do not bode well for labor.

Trump’s actions will largely fall into one of four categories: judicial, legislative, executive and at the level of federal agencies. Each potential move will take various levels of cooperation from other branches of government and varying amounts of time to complete.

On Day 1 of his new administration, President Trump can simply rescind many of Barack Obama’s executive orders that benefited large groups of workers. Chief among these were EO 13673, which required prospective federal contractors to disclose violations of state and federal labor laws, and helped protect employees of contractors from wage theft and mandatory arbitration of a variety of employment claims. Similarly, EO 13494 made contractor expenses associated with union busting non-allowable, thereby helping to ensure that workers can exercise their labor rights.

At the agency level, Trump will have the opportunity to fill vacancies on the five-person National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), effectively turning what has been one of the most pro-worker boards in recent memory into one that is more concerned with employers’ interests. The NLRB is one of the more politicized federal agencies, and it is not uncommon for a new NLRB to overturn a previous board’s rulings. A conservative board would put into jeopardy recent gains, including the requirement of joint employers to bargain with workers, the rights of graduate students to form unions, the rights of adjuncts at religious colleges to form unions and the protections from class action waivers in employment arbitration agreements, which effectively block access to justice for too many.

Similarly, Trump can immediately dismiss the entire Federal Service Impasses Panel (FSIP) and appoint his own members. The FSIP is a little-known federal agency that functions like a mini-NLRB to resolve disputes between unionized federal employees and the government.

Donald Trump may be able to not only roll back many of Barack Obama’s accomplishments, but also change the face of labor law for decades to come. (AFL-CIO/ Facebook)

Donald Trump may be able to not only roll back many of Barack Obama’s accomplishments, but also change the face of labor law for decades to come. (AFL-CIO/ Facebook)

At the legislative level, various anti-worker bills sit ready for a GOP-led push. Perhaps chief among them is the National Right to Work Act, which would place every private sector employee (including airline and railway employees currently under the Railway Labor Act) under right-to-work. Right-to-work is the misleading law that prohibits unions from requiring that workers represented by the union pay their fair share. Such a bill was introduced last year by Sen. Rand Paul, and it had 29 co-sponsors, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Trump announced on the campaign trail that his “position on right-to-work is 100 percent,” so this will likely be an area where he has common cause with the GOP-controlled Congress.

At the judicial level, there is also a strong possibility that we will see a sequel to the Friedrichs case at the Supreme Court. Friedrichs was widely anticipated to bar fair share fees and place all public sector employees under right-to-work, but ended in a deadlock after Justice Antonin Scalia’s death. It is likely that any Supreme Court justice that Trump chooses will be as critical of fair share fees as Justices Samuel Alito and John Roberts, and would provide a critical fifth vote in changing long-standing precedent regarding the allowance of such fees. Groups like the National Right to Work Committee and Center for Individual Rights often have cases in the pipeline that could be pushed to the Supreme Court when the opportunity arises.

Similarly, at the judicial level, Trump will likely have his Department of Labor drop appeals to court decisions that enjoined or overturned pro-worker rules, such as the rule requiring union-busters to disclose when they are involved in an organizing campaign. Dropping the appeals would be an easy route to kill the rules, rather than going through a more time consuming rulemaking process to rescind them.

All indications are that labor has been caught unprepared for a President Trump and a GOP-controlled Congress and Supreme Court. With such broad control over every branch of government, Trump may be able to not only roll back many of Obama’s accomplishments, but also change the face of labor law for decades to come.

This post originally appeared on inthesetimes.com on November 17, 2016.  Reprinted with permission.

Moshe Z. Marvit is an attorney and fellow with The Century Foundation and the co-author (with Richard Kahlenberg) of the book Why Labor Organizing Should be a Civil Right.

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Employment Lawsuit Earnings - How Are They Split Up in a Divorce?

November 17th, 2016 | Jason Smith and Robert Odell

jason-smith-logo-picrob-odell-wja-profile-picture_large_eDivorce. Sadly, it happens every day. Fortunately, there are laws in place to help make things as fair as possible for a couple that is splitting up. That means that even the division of property is governed by laws. But what about lawsuit earnings? In particular, employment lawsuit earnings? How are they treated in a divorce?

When earnings from an employment case are involved in a divorce, things might get a little confusing. It’s best to understand what lawsuit earnings are and how the law is when it comes to asset division. Since each state in this great nation has different marital property laws, this article should only be used as a learning device to educate yourself to ask your own professional the right questions.

Basics of Employment Lawsuit Earnings

In short, most earnings in a judgement or settlement from an employment lawsuit are considered income. This means that you must report employment lawsuit earnings when you file your taxes. This is different from earnings received from a personal injury lawsuit, which, in most states, is not considered income and, generally, not taxable. So, as long as the funds from employment lawsuits are not for personal injury-related or physical sickness reasons, it is taxable income. Types of earnings in a lawsuit may include the following:

  • Lost wages (economic damages)
  • Emotional distress damages (non-economic damages)
  • Penalties
  • Attorney’s fees
  • Costs
  • Punitive damages
  • Interest on a damages award

Neither of us are tax lawyers, so you should absolutely consult with a tax professional if you are interested in the tax ramifications of a lawsuits settlement or verdict. The IRS has an entire section on its website dedicated to lawsuit earnings. We highly recommend that you read it.

How Are Assets and Property Divided in a Divorce?

This is a complicated question to answer. First of all, it depends on the law in the state where you reside. California, for example, is a community property state which makes all property and assets gained during a marriage, equally owned by both parties (with few exceptions). Illinois, on the other hand, is an equitable distribution state, which means that marital property is not-necessarily divided equally, the judge tries to divide it fairly based on the couple’s circumstances.

When a couple divorces in most states, they have the option to decide how to divide everything on their own in a dissolution agreement. This is the preferred method of many family courts and judges, but it’s not always possible. When couples can’t amicably decide on the division of assets, judges use their respective state’s family laws to make the decisions for the couple. Each state has its own laws that apply and the laws vary so it is necessary to consult with an attorney from your state.

Let’s first look at a community property state. California recognizes community and separate property in a marriage. Community property is any property or asset that a married couple gains while they are married, with the exception of inheritances. That means that each spouse will receive half of the property if they split up in a divorce or legal separation. Separate property, on the other hand, is recognized in California as property that an individual owns before or after they enter into a marriage. Basically, what you own before you get married is yours alone and what you get after a divorce is yours alone. Separate property remains separate even when you become married, as long as you do not commingle it with community property (i.e. Putting your separate money into a shared bank savings account). When the couple separates, the Judge attempts to divide the community property 50/50, and ensure that each person’s separate property stays separate.

Now let’s look at an equitable distribution state. Illinois holds that money or property acquired during the marriage is presumed to belong to the marriage. Upon divorce, all the marital property is subject to an equitable division. What is “equitable” is decided on a case-by-case basis. The Court may award more to the wife, or more to the husband, depending on what is fair considering that couple’s circumstances.

In every state there are exceptions to these general rules because every situation is different and not everything is clear-cut. Again, it bears repeating that every state is different so you must investigate how your state treats marital property to make sure you are getting accurate advice.

Dividing Employment Lawsuit Earnings

Now, let’s put the two things together. When a couple separates and there are earnings from an employment lawsuit for one spouse, is the money split evenly between spouses? Since the earnings from an employment lawsuit is to be counted as taxable income, that means that the money is community property or marital property. So yes, the earnings will be split between the two spouses in the divorce settlement.

One major exception is in regards to whether the damages paid in the employment lawsuit was for pain and suffering. In this case, the money is not split and will remain the injured spouse’s separate property. The pain and suffering only refers to physical injury or physical sickness due to work-related things. Emotional distress is not considered a physical injury or sickness, nor is the physical ailments that come from emotional distress, such as stomach pains, headaches, indigestion, etc.

What About Ongoing Lawsuits?

What if you file an employment lawsuit in January, get separated from your spouse in March, and then your case settles in December? Do you get to keep all the money to yourself? The answer is probably no; the money will be split up like any other asset. Following your termination, if you were out of work for two months and then got divorced, and were out of work for an additional eight months, you and your spouse will probably be splitting up 20% of the settlement.

Can You Protect Lawsuit Earnings?

It’s fair game to have your lawsuit funds split when you’re still married and the lawsuit is pending or has been settled. Your soon-to-be ex-spouse will receive half of the settlement/award in the divorce. However, there are a few things that can be done to protect your employment lawsuit earnings:

  1. Have a legal separation agreement in place if you anticipate a divorce after your lawsuit has begun.
  2. Have a postnuptial or prenuptial agreement in place, with the lawsuit earnings distinguished as personal versus marital.
  3. If the employment lawsuit is because of a physical injury, be sure that your employment attorney designates it as so in the settlement agreement, because lawsuit earnings from personal injury is considered separate property in a marriage (with few exceptions).
  4. Do not commingle separate lawsuit earnings (from before getting married) with community property. Keep a separate bank account from the marital bank account.

It’s not guaranteed, but if you hire a tax lawyer or professional for your case, it’s likely that they’ll be able to help you figure out division of assets that you’re comfortable with. It’s difficult to prove that the earnings should be separate property. Though the law tries to make things as fair as possible for a divorcing couple, it doesn’t always work for every situation. It’s good to know as much as you can about lawsuit earnings and divorce, but working with knowledgeable and experienced lawyers will definitely work in your favor in court. If you’re going through a divorce right now or anticipate one coming, and are concerned about losing lawsuit earnings that should be rightfully yours, reach out to a family lawyer as soon as possible.

About the Authors

Jason Smith is a family lawyer in Irvine, CA. He attended Pepperdine University School of Law. He recently opened his own family law firm after working for several years as a litigator. His office handles all family law related matters, including divorce and the division of marital assets. Visit his website here to learn more information.

Robert Odell is an employment lawyer in Los Angeles, CA. Mr. Odell attended Chapman University School of Law. He started exclusively practicing employment law in 2012. With several trial successes under his belt, his office handles harassment and wrongful termination lawsuits against large corporations. Visit his website here to learn more information.

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The Bright Spots for Workers Amid Tuesday’s Disastrous Election

November 16th, 2016 | Theo Anderson

RobertSchwartz

The presidential election was bad news for progressives, but the dark cloud had a sort of silver lining—ballot measures. At the state level, workers won minimum wage increases in four states and paid sick leave in two.

Voters approved an increase to $12 an hour by 2020 in Arizona, Colorado and Maine. Washington voted to raise the minimum wage to $13.50 by 2020—and index it to inflation after that. In Flagstaff, Arizona, voters approved an increase above the new state minimum wage, raising it to $15 an hour by 2021.

These increases will affect about 2.3 million workers, according to the National Employment Law Project (NELP). And overall, the “minimum wage ballot wins bring to 19.3 million the number of workers who have received raises because of minimum wage increases in the four years since the Fight for $15 launched in New York City and began changing the politics of the country around wages,” noted NELP’s executive director, Christine Owens.

Voters approved an increase to $12 an hour by 2020 in Arizona, Colorado and Maine. Washington voted to raise the minimum wage to $13.50 by 2020—and index it to inflation after that. (AZ Healthy Working Families/ Facebook)

Voters approved an increase to $12 an hour by 2020 in Arizona, Colorado and Maine. Washington voted to raise the minimum wage to $13.50 by 2020—and index it to inflation after that. (AZ Healthy Working Families/ Facebook)

The measures in Arizona and Washington also included mandatory paid sick leave for workers. In Arizona, the initiative guaranteed at least 40 hours of paid leave for workers in businesses with 15 or more employees. Workers in businesses with fewer than 15 employees are guaranteed at least 24 hours. The law goes into effect July 2017. In Washington, workers will earn a minimum of one hour of paid sick leave for every 40 hours worked. That law takes effect in 2018.

In South Dakota, meanwhile, voters rejected a decrease in the minimum wage for non-tipped workers under the age of 18. And voters in Maine and Flagstaff abolished the sub-minimum wage for tipped workers, guaranteeing them the regular minimum wage.

The state and local minimum wage increases promise substantial benefits for a wide range of workers. Maine’s measure, for example, will raise wages for about 180,000 people, according to NELP. About a third of them are working seniors, who are “among the fastest-growing age groups in Maine’s labor force”—a trend that applies nationwide.

report by the Women’s Foundation of Colorado found that the state’s $12 minimum wage will affect about 200,000 households with children and 290,000 women. The increase for most female minimum wage workers will be between $4,000 and $7,000 a year. The study also found that the median age of minimum wage workers is 30 and that more than 35 percent of them are over 40.

“For a family with two children,” the report read, “a minimum wage boost to $12 per hour could cover the cost of six to eight months of food; seven to nine months of transportation expenses; four to seven months of rent; or a semester to a full year at a community college.”

In other states, Alabama and Virginia voted on whether to enshrine so-called right-to-work laws into their state constitutions. In “right-to-work” states, employees can opt out of paying union dues. Both states already have such laws on the books, but putting them in the constitution would make them permanent. Alabama approved the measure. Virginia rejected it.

In the realm of health care, Colorado rejected an initiative that would have created a universal health care system in the state, with 80 percent voting against.

Also in Colorado, voters rejected (51-49 percent) a measure designed to alter the state’s constitution by deleting language from 1876 that allows slavery among people who are being punished for a crime. The proposed amendment highlighted growing concerns over working conditions in prisons and would have prohibited slavery in all cases. The state chapter of the AFL-CIO had supported the change.

Even though workers didn’t win on every initiative, the success of the minimum wage and paid sick leave measures suggests one promising path forward for progressives. Of the more than 160 total ballot measures this year, 71 were initiated through signature petitions rather than state legislatures.

As Justine Sarver, executive director of the Ballot Initiative Strategy Center, said Wednesday, “The success of the minimum wage and other progressive ballot measures in the face of last night’s election results clearly shows that ballot initiatives will become an increasingly important tool in coming cycles to pass the kind of policies that create an economy that works for everyone.”

This blog originally appeared at inthesetimes.com on November 10, 2016. Reprinted with permission.

Theo Anderson, an In These Times staff writer, is writing a book about the historical and contemporary influence of pragmatism on American politics. He has a Ph.D. in American history from Yale University and teaches history and literature seminars at the Newberry Library in Chicago.

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Is TPP Really Dead?

November 15th, 2016 | Dave Johnson

dave.johnsonIs the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) dead or not? The President-elect says he is against TPP. TPP may be the thing that cost Clinton the election. The voters obviously were against it. The head of the Senate says he won’t bring it up for a vote. But House Speaker Paul Ryan hasn’t said a thing. And, of course, Wall Street and the giant multinational corporations want TPP and they want it bad.

 

Trump, Senate Leaders, Voters Opposed To TPP

Donald Trump campaigned and won on opposition to past trade agreements and the upcoming TPP. Because of this the leaders of the Senate are saying there won’t be a TPP vote in Senate during the “lame duck” session of Congress. This week Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Obstruction) said that there will be no Senate vote on TPP before next year. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-Wall Street), who is expected to be the next Senate Minority Leader, told the AFL-CIO executive council the same.

Further confirming the importance of trade in the election, some are saying that TPP may have cost Clinton the presidency. Friday’s Politico Morning Trade quotes Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT),

DELAURO: TPP PUSH MAY HAVE COST CLINTON THE ELECTION: The White House’s push for approval of the TPP may have cost Hillary Clinton the election, even though both she and Donald Trump opposed the pact, Rep. Rosa DeLauro said.

“In those states, where we lost by a point or two, it was all about trade,” the Connecticut Democrat said in an interview, arguing that the possibility of Congress voting on the agreement in the lame duck may have motivated a higher turnout in industrial swing states — to the benefit of Trump.

Clinton’s refusal to say she would push hard to get democrats to oppose TPP certainly didn’t help her with voters concerned about the effect of trade policies on their jobs and communities.

So Is TPP Dead Or Not?

With all of that opposition it would seem that TPP is dead. But TPP is at the very top of the “corporate agenda” because it moves those pesky governments and voters and their interference with corporate goals out of the picture. Wall Street and the giant multinational corporations want TPP and Wall Street and the giant multinational corporations get what they want.

Morning Trade explains how this can still happen,

“I’m not so sure TPP is in the dustbin,” Susan Ariel Aaronson, a research professor of international affairs at George Washington University, told Morning Trade. The argument – which she stressed was “not likely, but a possibility” – is that Republican leaders in Congress could feel pressured to move by two important constituencies: multinational businesses that have value chains in Asia, and the military.

“If Congress is willing to move quickly … there’s a lot of pressure on Republicans from those two sources,” she said. “And I do think that it’s possible that all this pressure to move quickly on trade will lead to some sort of collaboration between internationalist-minded Republicans who will have NAM, the Chamber of Commerce, Business Roundtable, the tech sector, who really want TPP to happen. Plus the military.”

Remember, Republican opposition was based on trying to keep President Obama from getting things he was asking for. Now Obama is out of that equation, while the true owners of the Republican Party — Wall Street and the giant multinational corporations — want TPP and want it bad.

House Speaker Paul Ryan is the key. Ryan has not yet said that there will not be a vote on TPP in the coming “lame duck” session of Congress.

But wait, there’s more. Trump said what he needed to say to get elected. Not he’s elected and he doesn’t need to keep saying it. It’s not like he isn’t himself a huge supporter of the agenda of Wall Street and the giant multinational corporations. His tax plan cuts their taxes dramatically and lets them off the hook for taxes already owed on profits stashed in tax havens. He wants to gut the Dodd-Frank legislation that reined in Wall Street a tiny bit. He will also help gut the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). And, of course, he says he will gut government regulation of corporations. So next year it’s quite possible that Trump could endorse a (possibly renamed) TPP agreement that has been modified a bit, saying it’s fixed. Because that is what Wall Street and the giant multinational corporations want.

So until the lame duck session is over we are still in wait-and-see mode. A TPP vote could still happen before next year.

This post originally appeared on ourfuture.org on November 11, 2016. Reprinted with Permission.

Dave Johnson has more than 20 years of technology industry experience. His earlier career included technical positions, including video game design at Atari and Imagic. He was a pioneer in design and development of productivity and educational applications of personal computers. More recently he helped co-found a company developing desktop systems to validate carbon trading in the US.

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If you have a preexisting health condition, don’t even think about leaving your job

November 15th, 2016 | Ian Millhiser

If President-elect Trump follows through on his campaign promises, millions of individuals-immigrants, religious minorities, people of color-face a very grim four years. One of the worst hit groups will be Americans with significant health costs. The Trump transition team published a brief summary of the incoming president’s health plan on its website, and the news is not good for the elderly, the poor, and millions of Americans with preexisting conditions.

Much of the plan is vague. Trump plans to “Modernize Medicare,” for example, an unclear statement that is likely code for Speaker Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) plan to repeal Medicare and replace it with a voucher system that imposes much higher out-of-pocket costs on seniors. Similarly, Trump says he will “Maximize flexibility for States in administering Medicaid,” a statement that is probably code for Ryan’s plan to either “require states to provide less extensive coverage, or to pay a larger share of the program’s total costs, than would be the case under current law.”

A central prong of Trump’s plan, however, is to repeal the Affordable Care Act and replace it with, well, not much at all. Trump says he will “repeal the ACA and replace it with a solution that includes Health Savings Accounts,” which primarily benefit the rich and offer little or no benefits to low and middle income Americans. Trump will “enable people to purchase insurance across state lines,” a coded phrase which actually means that he will eliminate state regulation of insurance which requires coverage of treatments ranging from mammograms to maternity stays to well child care.

And then there’s his proposal for people with preexisting health conditions.

Prior to Obamacare, one of the most vulnerable groups was people with medical conditions who neither qualified for a government health program nor received insurance through their employer. Insurance companies would deny coverage to these individuals for conditions as severe as cancer or as routine as hay fever.

The reason why is that covering people with such conditions is expensive. A health insurance plan is a pool of money. Consumers contribute to that pool when they pay their premiums, and they take money out of that pool when they become sick or otherwise seek treatment. That means that, if someone tries to join the pool who has a preexisting condition, the insurer will try to keep them out because it will cost more to insure them than they will pay in.

The Affordable Care Act addressed this with a trio of reforms—a requirement that insurers allow everyone in, subsidies to help pay for coverage, and a financial consequence for people who fail to buy insurance. The final of these three reforms existed so that healthy people would not forego insurance, forcing insurers to cover only the most expensive individuals.

Trump plans to eliminate this framework and replace it with “high-risk pools,” essentially, a special insurance program for people with expensive preexisting conditions. In theory, high-risk pools can work to provide health coverage with such conditions, but they are an inefficient way to do so. And they have reliably failed when attempted by states.

At best, high risk pools are a way to maximize the insurance industry’s profits while shifting the costs of our health care system onto the taxpayers. If the government takes on the burden of insuring the most expensive individuals?—?and only the most expensive individuals?—?then that’s a bonanza for the insurance companies because they will be left with a pool of less expensive (and more profitable) consumers. Meanwhile, the costs of providing care for the most expensive health care consumers will fall upon whatever new government program President Trump creates to manage the high risk pools.

But that’s actually the best case scenario for Trump’s health plan. Because high risk pools take on the most expensive health care consumers, they are expensive to maintain. And when states attempted to set them up in the past, they did not fund them enough to cover more than a fraction of what was needed. As one report explained when Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) proposed high risk pools during his 2008 presidential bid, these pools “have not been a viable alternative for the medically uninsured because of high premiums…and inadequate funding to subsidize the full cost of providing insurance to a high-cost population.”

McCain’s plan is informative regarding what a Republican proposal for high-risk pools is likely to look like. The Arizona senator proposed spending between $7 to $10 billion on these pools. But that would only cover a fraction of the Americans who would lose their health insurance if Obamacare is repealed. A national program “funded at $7 billion per year would cover only 875,000 people,” and that was in 2008. Alternatively, “even if participants had to pay half of their own premiums, as is generally the case today in state high risk pools, less than 2 million Americans would be covered.”

Obamacare provides health insurance to about 20 million Americans.

Of course, Trump’s proposal is vague on details and especially short on numbers. So maybe he plans to fund the high risk pools enough to fill the gap that will be created by repealing Obamacare. The likelihood that Republicans intend to replace a policy they denounced as socialism with what would likely be a significantly more expensive government program, however, is small.

If there is any ray of light in Trump’s proposals, it is that he doesn’t appear to have set his eyes on pre-Obama laws that protect workers with employer-provided health plans that have preexisting conditions. Nevertheless, Trump is, in effect, planning to reinstate a problem known as “job lock,” where people in jobs that they would rather leave are forced to stay in them because it is the only way that they can obtain health benefits.

That means fewer people starting businesses, more people working into the years when they would rather retire, fewer jobs opening up for younger workers eager for new opportunities, and more people simply stuck in jobs that they hate.

On November 7th, it seemed like workers were finally free to take risks without having to fear that they would lose their health coverage. Only a few days later, that freedom is likely to disappear.

This blog originally appeared in ThinkProgress.org on November 11, 2016. Reprinted with permission.

Ian Millhiser is the Justice Editor at ThinkProgress. He is a skeptic of the Supreme Court, hater of Samuel Alito, and a constitutional lawyer of ill repute. Contact him at  imillhiser@thinkprogress.org.

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Voters raise the minimum wage in four states and pass paid sick leave in two

November 11th, 2016 | Laura Clawson

LauraClawsonIt’s become a regular feature of elections in recent years: Even as the federal minimum wage stays stuck at $7.25 an hour, with congressional Republicans refusing to raise it, voters resoundingly choose to raise state and local minimum wages. Four states voted for minimum wage increases on Tuesday: Arizona, Colorado, Maine, and Washington. Paid sick leave also continued to gain momentum.

In Arizona, $12 by 2020 was passed by nearly 60 percent of voters. The first raise, from $8.05 to $10, will come in January. Tipped workers in one Arizona city are also getting some good news. Flagstaff voted to raise the tipped minimum wage to $15 by 2026. The federal tipped minimum wage has been $2.13 an hour since 1991. In Colorado and Maine, the minimum wage will be going to $12 by 2020 as well, with Maine including tipped workers—they’ll get to the full $12 by 2024, up from a current level of $3.75.

And then there’s Washington state, which before the minimum wage-raising movement of the past few years had the highest minimum wage of any state in the country but has gotten left behind even as two of its cities—Seattle and SeaTac—passed $15 minimum wages. On Tuesday, Washington voters said yes to $13.50 by 2020. Their minimum wage was slated to go from $9.47 to $9.53 on January 1, but instead it’ll go to $11.

That’s not all. The same measures that raised the minimum wage in Washington and Arizona also included paid sick leave. They will become the fifth and sixth states—after Connecticut, California, Massachusetts, and Oregon—to require paid sick leave.

This is all good news for millions of workers. And workers will need any good news they can get under President Trump.

This article originally appeared at DailyKOS.com on November 10, 2016. Reprinted with permission.

Laura Clawson is a Daily Kos contributing editor since December 2006. Labor editor since 2011.

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Southern California SEIU Caucuses Call On AFL-CIO to Kick Out Police Union

November 10th, 2016 | Mario Vasquez

In July 2015, the University of California’s student-workers union, United Auto Workers (UAW) 2865, passed a resolution calling on the AFL-CIO to terminate the membership of the International Union of Police Associations (IUPA).

Now, after a series of meetings in Los Angeles throughout October, the same resolution is making its way through Service Employees International Union (SEIU) 721, a local representing public service and nonprofit employees in Southern California. Although SEIU is not part of the AFL-CIO, organizers for the resolution hope it will spark a wider discussion about the role police and their unions play.

The resolution was first approved by the African-American caucus of SEIU 721 on October 6, and later by the local’s Latino caucus on October 19. The endorsements came after collaboration and presentations by Olufemi Taiwo, a UAW 2865 member, and Julia Wallace, a member of SEIU 721.

“When I heard about the UAW’s resolution,” Wallace tells In These Times, “I thought this is great. This is a way for us, as union members to show our support for working-class people, but also to be clear that the police have played a role historically … not just [as] oppressors of Black people, Latino people, LGBT people, disabled people, but also against workers, against working-class people as strike-breakers.”

Wallace says her goal is to get the resolution approved by the executive board of SEIU 721.

“I think the best thing is a politicized, organized and educated workforce,” says Wallace. “That’s the best thing that we could have, because even if it doesn’t get passed through the executive board, then there’s a discussion within our union meetings. ‘Okay, so, what is the role of the police? What are we going to do to organize against them? How are we going to protest?’”

The deaths of Michael Brown, Eric Garner and Freddie Gray at the hands of police, and the subsequent rise of the movement for Black lives, helped push the Black Interests Coordinating Committee (BICC), a UAW 2865 caucus, to write the original resolution.

The AFL-CIO did not officially comment on the resolution, but Carmen Berkley, the federation’s director of civil, human and women’s rights, told Buzzfeed’s Cora Lewis in January:

“We are not in the business of kicking people out of unions … What we are in the business of is having conversations with our law enforcement brothers and sisters about how they can have different practices … I do think there’s a lot of reconciliation that needs to happen between communities of color and law enforcement, and we want to be the bridge that helps them get there.”

When asked about Berkley’s remarks, Taiwo tells In These Times, “She’s posing the issue as if what it is—is there’s individual victims of police violence and individual perpetrators of police that need to sit down and have a mediation.”

“If what they’re for is protecting the ruling class, then it’s not an issue of mediation. It’s not an issue of reconciling individual differences or healing individual acts of violence,” Taiwo says. “It’s an issue of reconciling our union structures with what we’re trying to fight for as unions.”

Wallace says that as long as police side with “bosses” on the picket line and police unions “unequivocally [defend] the police murdering people” then they should not be members of labor organizations.

“They can defend themselves just fine. Their pensions aren’t challenged, their healthcare benefits aren’t cut, their raises continue to happen and ours are always on the chopping block,” Wallace says. “Ours are always in question and there’s a reason for that. It’s because they defend the wealthy.”

The IUPA responded to UAW 2865 shortly after the resolution passed, with IUPA legislative director Dennis Slocumb telling Workers Independent News: “It’s impossible to stand for the rights of working-class people while opposing the people in law enforcement. We are working class. And we think this is nothing but a publicity stunt for a group that’s struggling for some sort of attention.”

Slocumb noted that the resolution did not explicitly call out any other labor groups that represent and bargain for police.

“They don’t call on their own union to disgorge police officers. They haven’t called on AFSCME, or CWA or any of the other organizations that represent police officers within the AFL-CIO. The Teamsters and SEIU, who are outside of the AFL-CIO but certainly labor organizations, also represent police officers,” he said.

Moving forward, Wallace says she hopes to get other unions to endorse the resolution, while also organizing a project to build a general strike against police violence.

“People are talking about this and it’s just the beginning,” she says.

This blog originally appeared at inthesetimes.com on November 3, 2016. Reprinted with permission.

Mario Vasquez is a writer from southern California. He is a regular contributor to Working In These Times. Follow him on Twitter @mario_vsqz or email him atmario.vasquez.espinoza@gmail.com.

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