November 19th, 2014 | Jackie Tortora
For those of you who have been following the Massey Energy story, the Mine Workers (UMWA) passed along this news yesterday:
United States Attorney Booth Goodwin announced that a federal grand jury today returned an indictment charging Donald L. Blankenship, former Chief Executive Officer of Massey Energy Company, with four criminal offenses. The indictment charges Blankenship with conspiracy to violate mandatory federal mine safety and health standards, conspiracy to impede federal mine safety officials, making false statements to the United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and securities fraud. The indictment alleges that from about Jan. 1, 2008, through about April 9, 2010, Blankenship conspired to commit and cause routine, willful violations of mandatory federal mine safety and health standards at Massey Energy’s Upper Big Branch mine, located in Raleigh County, West Virginia. The indictment alleges that during this same period of time, Blankenship was part of a conspiracy to impede and hinder federal mine safety officials from carrying out their duties at Upper Big Branch by providing advance warning of federal mine safety inspection activities, so their underground operations could conceal and cover up safety violations that they routinely committed.
The indictment further alleges that after a major, fatal explosion occurred at Upper Big Branch on April 5, 2010, Blankenship made and caused to be made false statements and representations to the SEC concerning Massey Energy’s safety practices prior to the explosion. Additionally, the indictment alleges that, after this explosion, Blankenship made and caused to be made materially false statements and representations, as well as materially misleading omissions, in connection with the purchase and sale of Massey Energy stock.
The FBI and the United States Department of Labor’s Office of Inspector General are in charge of the investigation. United States Attorney Booth Goodwin, Counsel to the United States Attorney Steven Ruby and Assistant United States Attorney Gabriele Wohl are handling the prosecution. The four counts charged carry a maximum combined penalty of 31 years’ imprisonment.
Click here to view a copy of the indictment. An indictment is only an allegation, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
The Massey Energy Upper Big Branch (W. Va.) deadly blast killed 29 in 2010. Families of the victims reacted to the indictment yesterday.
This article originally appeared in AFL-CIO.org on November 14, 2014. Reprinted with permission. http://www.aflcio.org/Blog/Corporate-Greed/Former-Massey-Energy-CEO-Indicted
About the Author: Jackie Tortora is the blog editor and social media manager at the AFL-CIO.
November 19th, 2014 | SEIU
To mark the 25th anniversary of the National Child Care Staffing Study, Marcy Whitebook, Deborah Phillips, and Carollee Howes, the principal investigators and authors of the study, have released a white paper examining the progress over the past quarter-century in improving early childhood teaching jobs and attracting and retaining a well-prepared workforce able to foster children’s learning and development.
Worthy Work, STILL Unlivable Wages compiles evidence from multiple sources to provide a portrait of the early childhood teaching workforce today in comparison to 25 years ago and how today’s parents are paying more for child care, but earning less.
The solution? Only by joining together can parents and child care professionals–and indeed whole communities–build a strong foundation for children’s learning and success by giving working parents and their children access to quality care and learning, and by paying wages that allow child care workers to secure a bright future for their own children and families.
This blog originally appeared in SEIU.org on November 18, 2014. Reprinted with permission. http://www.seiu.org/2014/11/worthy-work-still-unlivable-wages.php.
November 19th, 2014 | Mike Hall
In Los Angeles yesterday, Walmart workers participated in their boldest action to date: the first-ever sit-down strike at a Walmart store. They were protesting an end to retaliation when they speak out for $15 an hour, full-time hours and respect at work.
The striking workers entered the Crenshaw Walmart shortly before 10 a.m. PST and refused to move, holding a sit-in near cash registers and racks at the store. The workers chanted, “Stand Up, Live Better! Sit Down, Live Better!” before placing tape over their mouths signifying the company’s attempts to silence workers who are calling for better jobs.
After several hours, they left peacefully and headed to another Los Angeles-area store, where they held a rally. Then workers and their supporters took over the intersection near the Pico Rivera Walmart, refusing to leave until they were arrested and removed from the intersection. A total of 28 people were arrested, including clergy, community members and strikers.
Paramount Walmart worker Martha Sellers said:
“I’m striking today for workers like Evelin, Victoria, Rosa, Maria Elena and Graciela who Walmart retaliated against for standing up for change. Walmart and the Waltons need to know that they can’t silence us all.”
Sellers was referring to the owners of Walmart, the Walton family, the richest family in America who own nearly $150 billion in wealth while most Walmart workers make less than $25,000 a year. Kiana Howard, a mother and Walmart striker, said she took part in the sit-down “to protest Walmart’s illegal fear tactics and to send a message to management and the Waltons that they can’t continue to silence us and dismiss the growing calls for $15 an hour and full-time work.” She added:
“Walmart and the Waltons are making billions of dollars from our work while paying most of us less than $25,000 a year. We know that Walmart and the Waltons can afford fair pay, and we know that we have the right to speak out about it without the company threatening the little that we do have.”
This blog originally appeared in AFL-CIO.org on November 14, 2014. Reprinted with permission. http://www.aflcio.org/Blog/Corporate-Greed/Striking-Walmart-Workers-Stage-L.A.-Sit-Downs-at-Stores-and-in-the-Street.
About the Author: Mike Hall is a former West Virginia newspaper reporter, staff writer for the United Mine Workers Journaland managing editor of the Seafarers Log. He came to the AFL- CIO in 1989 and has written for several federation publications, focusing on legislation and politics, especially grassroots mobilization and workplace safety.
November 18th, 2014 | Kenneth Quinnell
An internal memo, recently leaked by a Walmart manager, urged store managers to improve lagging sales, primarily through addressing problems with understocked shelves and with keeping fresh meat, dairy and produce stocked and aging or expired items off the shelves. Such complaints are widespread at Walmart stores and are likely a significant factor in the company’s sales, which have lagged for 18 months. While the memo catalogs problems the company faces, it ignores the two most obvious solutions—giving workers adequate hours and paying those workers the $15 living wage they’ve been calling for.
Janet Sparks, a member of the OUR Walmart campaign seeking to improve wages and working conditions, said that substantial staffing cuts that began in 2010 are a big part of the problem: “Understaffing, from the sales floor to the front end, has greatly affected the store.”
Retail consultant Burt P. Flickinger III echoed Sparks’ comments:
“Labor hours have been cut so thin, that they don’t have the people to do many activities. The fact that they don’t do some of these things every day, every shift, shows what a complete breakdown Walmart has in staffing and training.”
This blog originally appeared in AFL-CIO.org on November 13, 2014. Reprinted with Permission. http://www.aflcio.org/Blog/Corporate-Greed/Hey-Walmart-Want-to-Fix-Those-Sales-Problems-Why-Not-Invest-in-Workers
Author’s name is Kenneth Quinnell. He is a long-time blogger, campaign staffer and political activist. Before joining the AFL-CIO in 2012, he worked as labor reporter for the blog Crooks and Liars. Previous experience includes Communications Director for the Darcy Burner for Congress Campaign and New Media Director for the Kendrick Meek for Senate Campaign, founding and serving as the primary author for the influential state blog Florida Progressive Coalition and more than 10 years as a college instructor teaching political science and American History. His writings have also appeared on Daily Kos, Alternet, the Guardian Online, Media Matters for America, Think Progress, Campaign for America’s Future and elsewhere.
November 18th, 2014 | Dave Johnson
Should our government be for good jobs with good wages and benefits – the things most of We the People want in our lives? Or should it be for bad jobs, low wages, no benefits – the very things that a wealthy few (who like to call themselves “job creators”) have become known for, just so they can pocket that pay difference for themselves?
In other words, who is our government for? The broad masses of regular, working people or a very few already-wealthy people?
President Obama has used executive orders to boost the minimum wage and raise workplace standards for employees of federal contractors.
Campaign for America’s Future, Progressive Congress, Good Jobs Nations, and a coalition of progressive organizations have released a “More Than The Minimum” plan calling on President Obama to use Executive Actions to make the federal government a “model employer” by further raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour with decent benefits, and giving federal contract workers the right to collectively bargain.
Please sign this Good Jobs Nation Petition:
Join Progressive Congress, Good Jobs Nations, and a coalition of progressive organizations, calling on President Obama to use more Executive Action to help federal contract workers by raising the minimum wage to $15/hr and giving workers the right to collectively bargain.
A Strike Drives The Point Home
As Laura Clawson reported at Daily Kos, several hundred government contract workers in Washington held a strike Thursday to protest their low wages. Led by Good Jobs Nation, they are calling for a higher minimum wage and allow the workers to unionize.
Five members from the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) joined government contract workers who shared their struggles to make ends meet on their hourly salaries to call for a higher minimum wage and allow the workers to unionize.
??Joseph Geevarghese, director of Good Jobs Nation, said:
“In red states, and blue states alike, Americans voted to pass ballot measures to raise wages and improve working conditions. Brothers and sisters, our president kicked off the national movement to raise wages when he signed the executive order to raise wages for low wage workers. Before the ink on the order was dry, CEOs from companies like the GAP, IKEA and Disney followed the president’s example and raised pay for their workers. Not only that, but the mayors of cities such as New York, Chicago and Philadelphia followed the executive order to raise wages for their contract workers.”
“Is $10.10 enough to raise your family? Is $10.10 enough to chase the American Dream?”
Thomas Jones, a worker in the Capitol said,
I’m a contract worker for the US Capitol. I cook meals for congressmen, lobbyists, and the workers upstairs. but the workers in the basement live in poverty. i’m going on six years [at this job] and struggling to get by on $12 an hour. I have a dream of getting married and raising a family. I’ve done all the right things. Mr President, we are calling for good jobs and a union.
Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) and a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said,
We need to raise the minimum wage and we need to do it now. $10.10 is not enough. Minimum wage? Do you want a minimum marriage? Do you want a minimum coat in the winter time? Would you like minimum transportation? A minimum car means you might get there, you might not. Better than nothing, but not good enough. We need a livable wage, and we need union representation, collective bargaining. Because workers need to be able to say to the people on the other side of the table ‘we are the people that keep this place clean, we keep this place safe, without us this place does not work. If the CEO does not show up, nothing happens, if we don’t show up, this place stops.”
I heard you when you said you want something better for your children. What’s wrong with that? We are standing at the Capitol, and it’s a stain on us all, the members of congress, that you do not have enough pay to meet your basic necessities, even though you work hard.
People talk about job growth. ‘Oh we have this much job growth, we have this many months of job creation.’ That’s good. I know there’s a number of jobs out there, I know people that have three of them.
Geevarghese also said:
This strike is fundamentally about the type of democracy that we want to have. Do we want to have an economy that the handful, the few, rake in all the wealth and leave people like Dawn struggling to keep food on the table and shelter over their heads. That’s the choice that’s in front of us, what kind of country are we going to have? Today, as taxpayers we are demanding that our taxpayer dollars go to create good jobs and help these workers live the life they are called to live.
This blog originally appeared in OurFuture.org on November 14, 2014. Reprinted with permission. http://ourfuture.org/20141114/dc-strike-drives-home-the-point-more-than-the-minimum-for-federal-worke
About the Author: 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.
November 11th, 2014 | Mary Kay Henry
Despite a tough night with many close races, a key takeaway from Election Day is the progress made toward raising wages for working families for an economy that works for all of us, not just the wealthy few.
Raising the minimum wage was a winning issue yesterday in red, blue, and purple states.
In deeply conservative states like Nebraska and South Dakota, the economy isn’t working for working people and the message from voters was clear: we’ve got to increase wages.
In San Francisco, where workers will get to $15 an hour a year ahead of Seattle, we saw incredible momentum built from the Fight for $15, where workers have had the courage to come out and call for wages they can raise a family on without having to cobble together 2-3 jobs and still live on the brink.
Working families issues also prevailed in Oakland with the increase in the wage to $12.25 and earned sick time, which also passed in Massachusetts.
The minimum-wage results and wins in Governors’ races in Pennsylvania, Minnesota and Connecticut show that working families want action on higher wages.
I spent yesterday in Pennsylvania, where folks were so excited to get out and volunteer for Tom Wolf, who made it crystal clear from the very beginning the sharp contrast with Gov. Corbett on wages, healthcare, and education.
We need more champions like Tom Wolf, Mark Dayton and Dan Malloy. They won because of their leadership on the issues that families care about: higher wages, good jobs, better schools, and affordable healthcare. Full-throated champions of those issues can and will win.
The Fight for $15’s momentum continued even on a tough night like last night because of the boldness of the fast food workers, home care workers, Walmart workers and others. Their courage to stand up for a living wage is helping the nation understand that if you work hard for a living, you ought to be able to work one job and live a decent life
The wins in Pennsylvania, Minnesota and Connecticut and in the minimum wage initiatives show that there is a clear path forward for working people. Working people will keep fighting for higher wages and good jobs, at the ballot box, in the workplace, in our communities and on the street.
This blog originally appeared in SEIU.org on November 5, 2014. Reprinted with permission. http://www.seiu.org/2014/11/takeaways-from-the-2014-elections-for-working-fami.php
November 11th, 2014 | Michael Arria
On Tuesday night, Massachusetts became the first state to give workers 40 hours of sick leave a year. California and Connecticut have both recently adopted statewide sick leave policies, but Massachusetts now possesses the most ambitious and comprehensive system in the nation.
As a result of the initiative, employees of businesses with more than 10 people will earn an hour of paid sick time for every 30 hours they work. Employees who work for companies with 10 or less people will accrue sick time at the same rate, although their employers aren’t required to pay them for the time away.
Sixty percent of voters supported the measure, Question 4 on the state’s ballot. About 900,000 workers in Massachusetts lacked paid sick days.
Although frequently defined by its many higher education, tech, and science jobs, Massachusetts is also fueled by a service sector of almost 300,000. Fifty-two percent of those employees lacked paid sick time. For maintenance and construction workers, it was 43 percent. Fifty-five percent of the state’s workers who make less than $15,000 were without sick time; 46 percent of Hispanic workers in the state were unable to take a paid sick day. Without paid sick days, workers not only were unable to take time off for their own ailments, but were also unable to take time off to care for a sick child or parent.
While some in the business community predictably suggest that such legislation would hurt the economy— Bob Luz, President and CEO of the Massachusetts Restaurant Association, claimed that the law would be a “job-killing mandate”—a study by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research concluded the opposite is, in fact, true. Question 4 should reduce worker turnover and drastically cut back on diseases spreading throughout the state’s workplaces, according to the study’s authors, in addition to improving the overall health and economic well-being of the community: “Comparing costs to employers and anticipated benefits for employers, an annual net benefit for Massachusetts employers of $26 million is expected”
The Drum Major Institute studied the impact of San Francisco’s paid sick leave policy and reached similar conclusions. Not only did they discover the legislation hadn’t negatively impacted San Francisco businesses, but “since San Francisco’s paid sick leave law was enacted, both job growth and business growth in San Francisco have consistently been greater than in the five neighboring counties of the Bay Area, none of which have enacted paid sick leave.”
While Question 4 will certainly alleviate a massive burden for the state’s most vulnerable workers, Andrew Farnitano, a spokesperson for Raise Up Massachusetts, a local coalition of organizers who worked on the initiative, says he was impressed with how the movement had found support throughout the state regardless of the area’s economic position or racial demographic.
“It’s an issue that cuts through a lot of lines,” Farnitano said. A long list of community organizations, economists, local politicians and faith groups publicly endorsed the measure. “We believe that requiring earned sick time contributes to the dignity of every worker,” read a statement signed by the four Catholic Bishops of Massachusetts.
While the movement for paid sick time moves throughout the US, an alternative movement of “preemption bills aiming to block the possibility of expanded sick time have also worked their way throughout the country. Last year, Florida Governor Rick Scott signed an ALEC-affiliated bill that would obstruct local governments from enacting sick time legislation; the bill was backed by Disney World, Olive Garden and Red Lobster.
But if Massachusetts’ successful Question 4 campaign is any indication, many voters around the country are willing to back measures that bolster basic human rights in their community like paid sick leave.
This blog originally appeared in IntheseTime.com on November 6, 2016 Reprinted with permission. http://inthesetimes.com/working/entry/17327/massachusetts_paid_sick_leave.
About the author: Michael Arria is a journalist living in NYC. He is the author of Medium Blue: The Politics of MSNBC.
November 11th, 2014 | Kevin Solari
Four female workers at two Ford Motor plants, the Chicago Ford Assembly Plant and the Chicago Stamping Plant—have filed sexual harassment lawsuits in federal court, claiming they were groped, touched inappropriately and harassed.
The plaintiffs described an overwhelmingly hostile work environment for women, particularly women of color.
“It’s not like work, it’s more like a meat market,” Charmella LeViege, one of the four plaintiffs, said in a press conference.
As reported by Crain’s Chicago‘s Meribah Knight, another plaintiff, Christie Van, claimed that after complaining about harassment to the company’s harassment hotline,
while walking to her car she was pushed to the ground and stomped on and told she was a “black snitch bitch” and that she’d better not return to her job at Ford. The lawsuit stated Ms. Van’s assailant threatened that he knew where she lived and would kill her if she came back. …
[Maria] Price, a single mother, said she was “groped, felt on and violated in every way,” by managers, co-workers and supervisors while on the job. “It’s come from every angle,” she said.
The four plaintiffs in the suit, Leviege, Van, Price and Helen Allen, are not the only women claiming harassment at work. The case is a class action suit and Hunt claims that there are over a hundred complaints filed with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
The women’s attorney, Keith Hunt, has brought suits against Ford before, in 1995 and 1997. When the second suit was settled in 2000, it contained provisions requiring Ford to introduce new sexual harassment training and to have independent monitors at the plant to oversee the enforcement of the agreement. Ford was expecting to pay over $10 million for that new training.
In response to this latest lawsuit, Ford said in a statement, “Where allegations of misconduct are raised, it is our policy to investigate them thoroughly and take all appropriate steps in response.”
The Ford Code of Conduct says that employees should “report, and encourage others to report, incidents of harassment or retaliation. Report any incidents to appropriate Human Resources personnel, or use the Company’s reporting system.” It also bars retaliation for those who report.
How Ford investigated those complaints are part of the lawsuit. According to the Chicago Tribune’s Alejandra Cancino:
[Helen] Allen, a maintenance worker, said the location of the plant’s labor relations office, in sight of co-workers, makes it difficult to file complaints without being identified. Once she said she was called into the office after calling the harassment line. Then, a few minutes after she walked out, her supervisor was called in. As a result, workers immediately knew she had complained about her supervisor, she said.
“When you complain, you become the problem,” Allen said.
Allen went on to describe being pushed down, stomped on, and called a “snitch” as a result. She reported the incident, but the lawsuit claims Ford did not investigate. The reported incidents came from coworkers, supervisors, and managers.
The lawsuit is seeking damages, lost earnings, back pay, and independent monitors for five years. Workers at the plants are represented by the UAW.
This blog originally appear on IntheseTimes.com on Wednesday November 5, 2014. Reprinted with permission. http://inthesetimes.com/working/entry/17321/over_a_hundred_female_auto_workers_claim_assault_sexual_harassment_at_ford.
About the Author: Kevin Solari is an intern at In These Times.
November 11th, 2014 | Kenneth Quinnell
After serving their country, many veterans have trouble transitioning into civilian jobs, particularly younger and female service members. The unemployment rate among all veterans ages 18–24 is 21.3% (compared to 13.1% of civilians. And while male veterans have an unemployment rate (4.2%) lower than the national rate, female veterans are much worse off with a 7.9% unemployment rate. Helmets to Hardhats, the International Training Institute (ITI) and the construction trades are trying to do something about that problem.
The two organizations are working to bring in veterans, particularly female veterans, into apprenticeship programs at 153 unionized and sheet metal and air conditioning industry schools across the country. Veterans get direct entry into the school and other benefits (if they qualify). The International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers (SMART) and the Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors’ National Association are also partners in the efforts.
Katherine Kuczynski, a participant in the program, explained how her military experience meshed well with working in the sheet metal industry:
“Serving in the United States Navy prepared me for the physical and mental aspects of the sheet metal industry. The work is different every day and the discipline I learned in the Navy helps me to get the job done.”
Larry Lawrence, regional field representative/instructional development specialist for ITI, said:
“Although veterans have proven work experience, dedication and discipline, they have a higher unemployment rate than the everyday person off the street in the same age group. That doesn’t make sense to me. People with this military training and an honorable discharge should be able to work.”
November 11th, 2014 | Isaiah J. Poole
The latest jobs report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics confirms what voters felt when they went to the polls Tuesday: Job growth continues slowly but inadequately, built on a weak foundation of weak wage growth and low labor force participation.
There were 214,000 new jobs created in October, the report said, with the unemployment rate at 5.8 percent. It’s enough to prompt optimistic headlines, but as we’ve said repeatedly, this is well under the rate of growth we really need to make workers whole after the damage done by the 2008 recession. We’ve been living with unemployment above 5.8 percent since August 2008 – more than six years.
We still have an economy in which 32 percent of the unemployed have been out of work for more than 26 weeks – that’s almost 3 million people who the job market still does not have room to accommodate. The labor-force participation rate remains at a historic low, under 63 percent. Job growth continues to be concentrated in low-wage service jobs, with only modest increases in manufacturing, construction and other blue-collar occupations. Public-sector job growth barely budged upward.
Wage growth year-over-year remains stuck at about 2 percent, which in effect is virtually no growth at all when inflation is taken into account. Wages should be growing at a rate of 3.5 percent annually to remain consistent with the Federal Reserve’s 2 percent inflation target, so there is plenty of room to raise wages without raising fears of inflation.
This is the economic climate that drove voter anger and frustration Tuesday. It motivated voters to approve minimum-wage-increase referendums whenever they were on the ballot, even as they voted out Democrats who support a minimum wage increase but did not present a bold vision for how to rebuild middle-class prosperity.
Here’s where the tragedy of Tuesday’s election results come into sharp relief. Republicans were more successful than Democrats in tapping into voters’ economic anxiety, even with their record of blocking the policy changes needed to address the causes of that anxiety.
A major infrastructure investment program, done while borrowing costs are near zero, would have bolstered construction, manufacturing and other higher-age sectors. But that effort has now been held hostage to a deal to let corporations off the hook that have stashed profits overseas to avoid corporate taxes. Now that Republicans control the Senate as well as the House, we will see that deal go forward as a bipartisan “compromise” to show that Washington can “get things done.” Never mind that by any reasonable standard letting the nation’s biggest corporations keep billions of their ill-gotten gains from shifting profits overseas is too high a price to pay for the trickle of extra dollars that would be yielded for infrastructure.
There is even less of a chance that a Republican-controlled Congress, believing that every economic challenge is a nail that requires the hammer of top-end tax cuts and government spending cuts, will send increased state and local funds to the nation’s pockets of high unemployment. The Economic Policy Institute released a chart this week that showed that every state but two has shown a decline in the percentage of the working-age population with a job. The drop has been 3 percent nationally, and 28 states have percentages below the national average. Four states – Georgia, Kentucky, New Mexico and Arkansas – have declines that more than double the national average.
That shows how in so many ways, what gains there are in the economy are not broadly shared. This will not be fixed, as Republicans are saying, by repealing the Affordable Care Act, building the Keystone XL pipeline, and by cutting corporate taxes. We need to invest in infrastructure, clean energy, education from preschool to affordable college, and in the communities that are always left behind in a you’re-on-your-own economic climate. Voters who in frustration voted out Democrats who failed to present a vision for how this can be done will now have to join a movement to ensure that Washington and the nation cannot duck these issues in the months and years ahead.
This blog originally appeared in Ourfuture.org on November 7, 2014. Reprinted with permission. http://ourfuture.org/20141107/jobs-report-under-the-sunny-headline-deep-roots-of-discontent.
About the author: Isaiah J. Poole has been the editor of OurFuture.org since 2007. Previously he worked for 25 years in mainstream media, most recently at Congressional Quarterly, where he covered congressional leadership and tracked major bills through Congress. Most of his journalism experience has been in Washington as both a reporter and an editor on topics ranging from presidential politics to pop culture. His work has put him at the front lines of ideological battles between progressives and conservatives. He also served as a founding member of the Washington Association of Black Journalists and the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association.