Archive for November, 2011
Wednesday, November 30th, 2011
There is new evidence of the cost of right-wing austerity policies in the latest report on downsizing activity from global outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc., which headlines the fact that there have been more layoffs in the first 11 months of 2011 than in all of 2010. A key reason, according to the report: Cuts in government spending.
“For the year, government agencies have now announced 180,881 job cuts, 30 percent more than the 138,979 job cuts announced by these employers through November 2010,” the firm said in a news release, and a significantly higher percentage than the percentage of cuts announced overall in the private sector.
“With one month remaining in 2011, job cuts for the year total 564,297, officially surpassing the 2010 year-end total of 529,973. The 11-month total is 13 percent higher than the 497,969 job cuts announced over the same period a year ago,” the firm said in its statement.
This chart shows how the cuts break down by sector, compared to 2010:
The report notes that a series of automatic budget cuts in domestic and military spending, triggered by the failure of a deficit-reduction supercommittee to come to an alternative agreement, is destined to make things worse, although perhaps not as bad as some proposals for a “grand bargain” that would have made even deeper cuts and promoted even more layoffs. In addition to the job losses from those automatic cuts, the report notes the looming threat that economic problems at the U.S. Postal Service could result in an additional 200,000 layoffs in the coming months.
The facts in the report underscore the impact of the austerity agenda that conservatives have successfully foisted onto the nation at both the state and federal levels. By pushing premature federal budget cuts during a period of economic stagnation and by blocking aid to state and local governments that would have prevented their adding to the ranks of the jobless, conservatives have not only set the stage for nearly the 181,000 public sector layoffs counted in the Challenger Gray report, but have helped worsen the private sector job market as well as the effects of the government layoffs ripple through the economy.
Don’t be surprised if the “layoffs getting worse under President Obama” line shows up in conservative talking points in the coming days. Also, don’t be surprised if they fail to mention that 34 percent of the layoffs this year are layoffs they advocated and encouraged—and are actively working to increase.
This blog originally appeared in Campaign for America’s Future on November 30, 2011. Reprinted with permission.
About the Author: Isaiah J. Poole has been the editor of OurFuture.org since 2007 and also directs the Campaign for America’s Future’s online communications. Previously he had worked for 25 years in mainstream media, most recently at Congressional Quarterly, where he covered congressional leadership and tracked major bills through Congress. He also served as a founding member of the Washington Association of Black Journalists and the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association.
Tuesday, November 29th, 2011
Becoming a pin-up without your permission: another downside of workplace autocracy
Passing through the halls one day in September, Martha Reyes stopped to see why a group of her Hyatt co-workers stood laughing in front of a bulletin board. Looking closer, she saw photos of her head, and those of other housekeeping employees, pasted onto bodies in swimsuits. “I got really angry,” says Reyes, seeing her face on a figure that looked “almost naked, and a very different body that wasn’t mine. I felt very humiliated and embarrassed.” Martha’s sister Lorena was also included in the beach-themed display, which Hyatt management had posted over the weekend as part of Housekeeping Appreciation Week.
Martha Reyes took down her picture and her sister’s. A month later, alleging they spent too long on their lunch break, the Hyatt Regency Santa Clara fired both of them.
The sisters charge that the non-union hotel was retaliating against them over the bulletin board. Hotel workers’ union UNITE HERE (full disclosure: my former employer) is championing their cause. On November 18, the union organized a delegation of hotel workers and community leaders that joined the Reyes sisters in delivering a copy of an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) complaint to the hotel, followed by picketing outside. UNITE HERE is in a national fight with Hyatt over organizing rights at non-union hotels.
As In These Times has reported, UNITE HERE has drawn national attention to 100 non-union Hyatt workers in Boston who were abruptly replaced by a staffing company, and partnered with LGBT groups in boycotting a Hyatt hotel whose owner’s donation helped put repeal of equal marriage rights on the ballot. In September, union Hyatt workers in four cities staged a one-week strike demanding the right to do future solidarity actions while under contract. In February, the Reyes sisters and other union committee members called for a customer boycott of the Hyatt Regency Santa Clara over management’s refusal to agree to a fair organizing process.
Hyatt maintains that the Reyes’ firings were routine, and that the union is taking an opportunistic swipe at their brand. The sisters’ attorney, Adam Zapala, says that conversations with Hyatt Regency Santa Clara employees have turned up no one else who has been terminated for long lunches. He notes that many housekeepers there, faced with excessive workloads, work through their breaks and then take a longer lunch.
Hyatt insists that the posted photos were designed to celebrate housekeepers, not to make fun of them. (The company did not respond to a request for comment.) That could well be true – managers may have put up the display without ever imagining that some employees would be humiliated, rather than tickled, to see their faces juxtaposed on shapely people in bikinis.
That possibility in itself illustrates the downsides of autocracy. The Reyes sisters say the plans for Housekeeping Appreciation Week, like most decisions at the Hyatt Regency, were made with no input – let alone consent – from hourly employees. “I’m a big woman,” says Lorena Reyes, “and the photo they used isn’t my body…I never wear bikinis…those pictures made us look like clowns.” (Both sisters were interviewed in Spanish.)
Though the posting was in an employee area, its location was visible to passing employees from all departments, outside vendors, and the occasional guest. It’s difficult to know how many other employees at the non-union hotel had similar feelings but chose to stay silent rather than take the risks at-will employees face by getting on the wrong side of management. If the pin-ups themselves seem commonplace, that’s striking as well: one of 100 daily collisions between values of autonomy and the acceptance of subordination as a cost of employment.
The indignity the Reyes sisters faced – seeing your image used in a way that horrifies you, by someone who could fire you – is a stark reminder that workplace relationships are power relationships. Lest we think that was obvious, this month noted non-feminist Katie Roiphe took to the New York Times to call for more “risqué remarks” at work, with nary a mention of whether those comments were more likely to come from subordinates towards “superiors,” or the other way around. When’s the last time you saw employees pin up a photo of their boss’ head on a swimsuit model at work?
And as the Reyes’ sisters have experienced, the downsides of management autocracy don’t disappear at the end of your shift. Both sisters carried their shame and anger home with them at night. “I still feel really humiliated,” says Martha Reyes. Lorena Reyes avoided showing the image to her family out of embarrassment. They saw it for the first time when it appeared in local news.
The Hyatt Regency Santa Clara also offers a reminder that labor rights and women’s rights aren’t naturally severable. Their connection is especially obvious in housekeeping, where a usually invisible, sometimes sexualized workforce does dangerous but undervalued work. UNITE HERE members in several cities have negotiated for and won the option for employees to wear pants rather than skirts. After a UNITE HERE housekeeper charged former IMF head Dominique Strauss-Kahn with rape, union members around the country spoke out about sexual harassment and assault by hotel guests.
“We want to make sure Hyatt does the right thing,” says Lorena Reyes, “and that they don’t humiliate women again like they did to us.”
This blog originally appeared in Working in These Times on November 29, 2011. Reprinted with permission.
About the Author: Josh Eidelson is a freelance writer and a union organizer based in Philadelphia. He’s written about politics as a contributor to Campus Progress, a columnist for the Yale Daily News, and a research fellow for Talking Points Media. His work has appeared online at publications including In These Times, Dissent, Washington Monthly, and Alternet. Check out his blog: http://www.josheidelson.com Twitter: @josheidelson E-mail: [email protected]
Sunday, November 27th, 2011
If union density is declining in the United States (and it is), it’s because unions can’t compete in the global economy, right? That’s the story we’re often told, anyway, but a new Center for Economic and Policy Research report says that actually, politics plays a major role (PDF). The CEPR study compares 21 countries with rich economies and facing similar levels of globalization and technological progress, and finds different outcomes for unions depending on the countries’ differing political environments.
The study looks at both union membership and union coverage, which is the number of people who are covered by collective bargaining agreements regardless of whether they are union members. (In the United States, the two numbers are fairly close; in many countries, though, significantly more workers are covered by collective bargaining agreements than belong to unions.) The result is that:
Countries strongly identified during the postwar period with social democratic parties—Sweden, Denmark, Norway, and Finland—have generally seen small increases in union coverage and only small decreases in union membership since 1980.
Over the same period, countries typically described as “liberal market economies”—the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, Canada, and Japan—have generally seen sharp drops in union coverage and membership.
Countries in the broad Christian democratic tradition, sometimes referred to as “coordinated market economies” or “continental market economies”—Germany, Austria, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium, France, and Switzerland—typically have had outcomes somewhere in between the social democratic and liberal market economies, with small drops in union coverage and moderate declines in union membership.
That declining union membership and coverage in the U.S. is in part a result of political forces shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who has watched Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s assaults on public employees or read about Sen. Lindsey Graham’s threats to the National Labor Relations Board before it filed a complaint against Boeing. But since anti-union politicians and corporations always tell you that their assaults on workers’ rights are because unions can’t work in an era of globalization, this study offers a simple rejoinder.
This blog originally appeared in Daily Kos Labor on November 22, 2011. Reprinted with permission.
About the Author: Laura Clawson is labor editor at Daily Kos. She has a PhD in sociology from Princeton University and has taught at Dartmouth College. From 2008 to 2011, she was senior writer at Working America, the community affiliate of the AFL-CIO.
Wednesday, November 23rd, 2011
Every day she goes to work at O’Hare International Airport, Elda Burke faces the same dilemma.
Burke, 30, works as a passenger attendant at the airport, escorting the elderly and disabled to and from their gates by wheelchair. Even though the airlines describe this as a free service, Burke’s employer has her working partly for tips, which is why her base pay is a low $6.50 an hour, somewhat like a restaurant server’s, rather than the typical Illinois minimum wage of $8.25.
But unlike diners at a restaurant, many of the passengers Burke will be escorting on their holiday travels this week won’t realize she’s working for tips — and by federal law, she won’t be allowed to tell them.
“We cannot say anything,” Burke says. “If we do that, they can fire us.”
Burke works for Illinois-based Prospect Airport Services, Inc., a company that has contracts to supply service workers at O’Hare and other airports around the country. Prospect and similar contractors often pay their workers like Burke at a reduced rate before tips, which allows them to shift a portion of the salary burden to passengers. Such a pay scheme is perfectly legal, so long as the employer makes up the difference whenever a worker comes up short of the minimum wage after tips.
But several attendants at O’Hare claim their pay often works out to be less than the legal minimum, an issue that lies at the center of an ongoing unionization push among service workers at the airport. The Service Employees International Union has been trying to organize workers at O’Hare and Chicago’s other airport, Midway International, this year.
SEIU officials say a union could help airport workers earn a living wage. They note that many have not seen raises in years and don’t have paid vacation or sick days, even though they carry some security responsibilities, like checking the cleaning crews who enter planes. Burke says she started out at $5 per hour in 2002 and has only received a $1.50 pay bump in her nine years. She also says she has gone without health insurance the entire time because the company plan is too expensive.
“A lot of them are paid poverty wages, in some cases below the minimum wage, and they have no access to affordable health care insurance,” says Izabela Miltko with SEIU Local 1. “They’re organizing to have a dignified workforce and to win higher wages.”
Tom Murphy, general counsel for Prospect, says that the company has been following all state and federal laws, and that the complaints from workers like Burke amount to “a union ruse.” A handful of workers recently filed labor-law complaints against the company with the state labor department, though a subsequent inspection of the company by officials found that the company was in compliance with minimum-wage laws, Murphy notes.
“For years they’ve always gotten paid well more than the minimum wage,” Murphy says. “Their paychecks match the law. I don’t know what more we can do.”
A labor department spokesperson says the state is currently investigating the allegations.
Workers who don’t earn the minimum wage are supposed to fill out “tip sheets” detailing how much they earned in tips and how much they’re owed by their employer, if anything. These sheets are rarely if ever filled out, Murphy says, because workers do in fact take home sufficient pay.
But Burke and some of her colleagues at O’Hare say many workers don’t fill out tip sheets because they feel their supervisors won’t deal with it or because they don’t want to be seen as not pulling their weight. Several of them told HuffPost that they often don’t earn the $1.75 in tips each hour that they’re expected to. According to a survey of workers done by the SEIU, 86 percent said there was a time they didn’t earn the minimum wage.
“A lot of people just stopped reporting their tips,” says Aaron Crawford, a 20-year-old aspiring pilot who takes public transit to O’Hare from Chicago’s South Side for each shift with the wheelchair. “They know it won’t be taken care of.”
Some workers attribute their low pay partly to the fact that they work in the international terminal, where many of the foreign travelers don’t have the tipping customs of Americans. The federal Air Carrier Access Act that requires airlines to staff attendants for disabled and elderly travelers also prevents those attendants from soliciting tips or putting out tip jars.
Waldo Gucwa, a 22-year-old student who’s been an attendant at O’Hare for three years, says that some workers who are desperate for tips try to artfully steer the conversation with passengers toward employment, in hopes that the passenger might ask if they can accept tips. Gucwa also says that many young, apparently able-bodied travelers seem to request wheelchair service as a way to bypass the lines at security, and often choose not to tip at the end of the ride. The attendants are forbidden from asking a passenger if he or she is actually disabled.
“There are days you leave here with 7 bucks, 8 bucks” in tips, says Gucwa, who said he supports the idea of a union. “When you go home and do the math, you’re not even getting the minimum wage, and that’s the reason people are getting real riled up around here.”
The O’Hare workers aren’t the first to say they’re earning less than the minimum wage escorting passengers. Last year a group of 20 workers who drive passenger carts at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport sued Prospect. The workers claimed the company had switched them to a tipped pay schedule because it had put in a low bid on the airport contract and could no longer afford to pay the full minimum wage, according to the suit. The workers said they did not “customarily” receive tips and were required to do odd jobs on top of escorting passengers.
Worker paychecks, the complaint alleged, were “extremely confusing” and often led to a wage below the federal and state minimums. Workers said they stopped reporting their low tips because they feared losing their jobs. Prospect denied the allegations and the case was settled, according to court documents.
This summer, wheelchair escorts at Bush International Airport in Houston lodged similar allegations against their employer, Nashville-based PrimeFlight Aviation Services. The workers were earning between $5.25 and $6.35 per hour before tips, and some told the Houston Chronicle that they were pressured to pad their tips out of fear they’d be punished or lose their jobs if their employer had to pay them more.
One worker told the paper she reports $80 worth of false tips each month, nonexistent earnings that she would be paying taxes on. PrimeFlight was receiving state funding for its workforce — up to $2,000 per employee — but the company was recently suspended from the subsidy program, the Chronicle reported earlier this month.
Keisha Davis, a passenger attendant at O’Hare, says she’s been trying to raise her two-year-old twins on her salary, but she can’t do it without food stamps and Medicaid. She says she was earning more money when she was pregnant, taken off wheelchair duties and paid a flat rate of $8.25 per hour. Now that she’s escorting passengers again, she too says her tips don’t boost her pay to where it needs to be.
“We really couldn’t make it without government assistance,” Davis says. “It’s like living from paycheck to paycheck to paycheck. … At the end, there’s nothing left.”
This article appeared in The Huffington Post: Business on November 23, 2011. Reprinted with permission.
About the Author: Dave Jamieson is the Huffington Post’s workplace reporter. Before joining the D.C. bureau, Jamieson reported on transportation issues for local Washington news site TBD.com and covered criminal justice for Washington City Paper. He’s the author of a non-fiction book, Mint Condition: How Baseball Cards Became an American Obsession, and his stories have appeared in Slate, The New Republic, The Washington Post, and Outside. A Capitol Hill resident, he’s won the Livingston Award for Young Journalists and the Hillman Foundation’s Sidney Award.
Tuesday, November 22nd, 2011
The reason members of the Super Committee didn’t reach an agreement is that Republican members insisted on damaging cuts to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicare – AND they wouldn’t budge from their refusal to roll back tax cuts for the richest 1% of Americans.
If the so-called “Super Committee” had made a bi-partisan deal based on the announced negotiating positions of the Republicans and Democrats on that panel, the result would have been higher unemployment, serious damage to the social safety net — and worsening deficits.
Super Committee Democrats, concerned about being seen as blocking a deal, clearly offered Social Security and Medicare benefit cuts in return for a pitifully small increase in taxes and large and damaging spending cuts in the middle of a struggling economy.
The deal on the table – whose failure is much lamented by beltway pundits – would have seriously harmed the economy, without significantly reducing deficits. In fact, it might have made it worse.
Luckily, the progressive base – and the Democratic Caucus in the House and Senate – convinced those negotiators that a bad deal is worse than no deal.
Democrats should have been guided by the message of the September 6th press conference at which Super Committee appointee Rep. Chris Van Hollen, standing with former Speaker Nancy Pelosi, declared “Job growth will contribute to deficit reduction,” according to the Washington Post coverage:
Clearly, this is what all progressives believe: the weak economy should not be allowed to fall backward into another recession – which could happen if we cut spending too fast or too deeply. And action to get the economy growing robustly would be the most effective thing we could do to bring down the Federal deficit.
Progressives will therefore push for public investment to create jobs and create consumer demand, which is the missing factor preventing American business from investing in expanded production and growing employment. All of the elements of President Obama’s American Jobs Act should now be taken up by everyone in Congress who professes to be concerned about the deficit. As progressives, we will work with our allies and partners in the American Dream movement to push for extended unemployment benefits and other stimulus spending programs that both Democrats and Republicans have supported in the past.
In this post-Super Committee period, you can be sure that the Campaign for America’s Future will be fighting for policies that will spur growth and create enough jobs to bring down our chronically high unemployment. We will fight to get Congress to let the Bush tax cuts for the 1% expire. We will fight for reductions in the military budget. And we will remind all Americans that job creation (and long term health reform to control health costs) are the most effective things we can do to reduce the deficit.
This post originally appeared in Campaign for America’s Future on November 21, 2011. Reprinted with permission.
About the Author: Roger Hickey is Co-Director of the Campaign for America’s Future. He was also one of the founders of Health Care for America Now!, a coalition of over 1,000 national and local organizations united to achieve quality affordable health care for all. He was also one of the leaders of the successful campaign to stop the privatization of Social Security, called Americans United to Protect Social Security. Hickey was a founder and Communications Director of the Economic Policy Institute, a Washington think tank that looks at economics from the point of view of working Americans. He was also a founder of the Public Media Center in San Francisco. A graduate of the University of Virginia, Hickey began his career in the 1960s as an organizer for the Virginia Civil Rights Committee.
Monday, November 21st, 2011
On November 17, 2011, the National Women’s Law Center held a celebratory panel to honor the forty-year old landmark Supreme Court decision that held the Equal Protection Clause applied to women. The “Reed v. Reed at 40: Equal Protection and Women’s Rights” panel was moderated by Nina Totenberg, NPR’s legal affairs correspondent, who posed questions to four academics and the guest of honor, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
Reed v. Reed was decided in 1971 on the heels of the Civil Rights Movement and changing perspectives on gender, race, and sexuality in American society. The case arrived at the United States Supreme Court after an Idaho Probate Court ruled that the mother of a deceased man could not be named the administrator of his estate because “males [are] preferred to females” in this respect. The appeal addressed the issue of how far the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment could be stretched and whether women were entitled to the safeguards provided by the clause.
Justice Ginsburg was the director of the ACLU’s Women’s Rights Project when she was appointed as lead counsel for Mrs. Reed in the case. She authored the brief that would convince a bench of all-male Supreme Court Justices to strike down conceptions of over-generalization and arbitrariness of the sexes and extend the Equal Protection Clause to women. In his opinion, Chief Justice Burger stated:
“To give a mandatory preference to members of either sex over members of the other, merely to accomplish the elimination of hearings on the merits, is to make the very kind of arbitrary legislative choice forbidden by the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment; and whatever may be said as to the positive values of avoiding intra-family controversy, the choice in this context may not lawfully be mandated solely on the basis of sex.”
-Reed v. Reed, 404 U.S. 71 (1971).
This monumental decision marked the first instance that the government recognized women were entitled to the same treatment under the law as men. As Jackie Berrien, Chair of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, stated, “Reed opened important doors to the constitutional analysis on sex-based classifications of the law.” Therefore, one of the main themes covered by the panel at the NWLC’s presentation was how Reed has affected American jurisprudence today. Justice Ginsburg remarked that the decision highlights the evolution on the view of equality from the time of our Founders till the modern day. Responding to Professor Earl Maltz, a fellow panelist, who provided the perspective that originalism would have precluded the decision of Reed v. Reed, Justice Ginsburg stated, “equality was the motivating idea of our founding documents.” However, “it could not come into the constitution because the odious practice of slavery had to be retained.” She went further to say, “the genius of the United States has been the Constitution where ‘We the people” consisted of white, property owning men to now encompassing a wide variety of people.”
Case law has thus followed. The panelists gave examples of how the precedent set forward in Reed opened the door for men and women to bring forward discrimination cases under the Equal Protections Clause. This included cases about men facing adversity applying to nursing school, men applying for benefits as widowers, and homosexual individuals facing discrimination in the work place. As Nina Pillard stated during the panel discussion, Reed empowered the government to work against not only sex-based discrimination, but also other forms of discrimination as well. Jackie Berrien added that federal statute and federal enforcement have helped to address the kinds of discrimination Reed initiated a fight against- including the Fair Labor Standards Act, Title VII, and the Pregnancy Discrimination Act.
Today, it’s hard to imagine a case with the same circumstances as Reed that would foster so much controversy; it would probably be a no-brainer. For many young ladies like myself, a world where women can’t attain the same opportunities or capture the protections of certain laws because they are solely restricted to men is unthinkable. Nonetheless, the message of Reed v. Reed, even till this day, teaches both the older generations and the younger ones that everyone is entitled to the fight for the equal protection of their rights. At least in this country; we should all be thankful for that.
This event was sponsored by American University Washington College of Law, George Washington University Law School, Georgetown University Law Center, Howard University School of Law, National Women’s Law Center, the University of the District of Columbia’s David A. Clarke School of Law, and the Women’s Bar Association of the District of Columbia.
About this Author: Maria Saab is a law student intern at Workplace Fairness. Her Bachelor of Arts in International Studies combined with her career experiences working on Capitol Hill and with Barack Obama’s presidential campaign in 2008 encouraged her to pursue law school. As a hopeful lawyer, she plans on specializing in regulatory law and hopes to one day concentrate her work efforts towards policy development.
Friday, November 18th, 2011
With income inequality in the U.S. at its highest level since the Great Depression, Americans from every end of the income spectrum are clamoring for corporations and the wealthy to pay their fair share in taxes. But because of the numerous tax loopholes and credits worked into the tax code, corporate taxes are at historical lows.
Bank of America paid nothing in federal taxes in 2009. While earning billions in profit, companies like Boeing, Exxon-Mobil, and Wells Fargo also paid nothing in recent years. Other corporations, like Google and Pfizer,dramatically lower their tax rates by deferring profits they make overseas. After making more than $14 billion in profits last year, General Electric not only got a pass on paying any corporate income taxes, but actually received a tax benefit of $3.2 billion.
Thanks to this propitious tax code, corporations kept $222.7 billion in federal revenue from 2008 to 2010. But the loss of that revenue comes at a cost, a cost being paid by middle class and low-income Americans who are already reeling from a sluggish economy — most notably, students. According to a new report from the National Education Association, $9.8 billion of the lost revenue from corporation would have gone to public schools and colleges over the same period. Those funds would have added over 100,000 jobs in public education and ensured that an extra 400,000 kids living in poverty could enroll in preschool. NEA breaks down that $9.8 billion by the numbers:
– $1,092: The average amount in extra academic support to help 9 million students in poverty catch up to their peers.
– $1,474: The average savings for school districts for each disabled student as a result of greater federal cost sharing.
– $1,276: The average amount in additional financial aid to ensure 7.7 million students in need continue or complete their post-secondary studies.
– 446,655: The number of additional children in poverty enrolled in preschool.
– 126,568: The number of jobs created in the field of education.
With that $9.8 billion, Ohio would have gained 4,363 jobs, Virginia would get 2,794 jobs, Kentucky would have 2,175 jobs, and Arizona would see more 4,094 jobs. Incidentally, these states are also home to Republican leaders in Congress who are singularly dedicated to maintaining this corporate welfare.
As TP Economy editor Pat Garofalo reported, Republican lawmakers continue to aid and abet corporate tax avoidance by protecting offshore profit deferral, which allows corporations to claim domestic tax credits for profits they earn overseas; by proposing to gut the Internal Revenue Service, whose every dollar used to audit tax cheats brings in more than $10 in revenue; by pushing for tax havens in free trade agreements; by enacting repatriation holidays that allow corporations to bring money earned overseas back into the country at a drastically lower rate, even with its negligible effect on job creation; by endorsing taxpayer giveaways like big oil subsidies; and by publicly defending corporate tax dodgers.
Working on behalf of corporations at the expense of American students and families is quickly becoming part of the Republican orthodoxy. This, however, should not be surprising because after all, for Republicans, “corporations are people too.”
This blog originally appeared in ThinkProgress on November 17, 2011. Reprinted with permission.
About the Author: Tanya Somanader is a reporter/blogger for ThinkProgress.org at the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Tanya grew up in Pepper Pike, Ohio and holds a B.A. in international relations and history from Brown University. Prior to joining ThinkProgress, Tanya was a staff member in the Office of Senator Sherrod Brown, working on issues ranging from foreign policy and defense to civil rights and social policy.
Thursday, November 17th, 2011
More from Alabama, where a delegation of African American labor and civil rights leaders is investigating the state’s recently passed anti-immigrant law. Follow the delegation here.
A grade school child is there one day and gone the next. Dependable laborers don’t show up to pick crops on a farm.
“It’s incredible,” said local AFT president Vi Parramore.
I have teachers tell me that kids are disappearing overnight. Not unenrolling and leaving. Just all of a sudden gone, just gone! Crops are rotting in the fields!
Parramore shared what she knew at a roundtable at the Beloved Community United Church of Christ in Birmingham, Ala. The roundtable was part of a tour by national African American labor and civil rights leaders to help shed a light on one of the harshest immigration laws in the country and how it invokes inhumanity reminiscent of the Jim Crow South. The delegation has investigated first hand the impact of Alabama’s H.B. 56 on the lives of Latino working families.
Early in the day, the group toured a trailer park. Later, they met with small business owners. Alabama’s punitive anti-immigration law has cast a chill over the state’s Latino population. According to news reports, the new law says that police must report to federal authorities anyone they detain if they have a “reasonable suspicion” the person may be in the country illegally.
The wording of the law has prompted some local governments to threaten to cut off water service to people who can’t prove legal residency and some school officials to scrutinize the legal status of children, news reports said.
At the roundtable, teachers and other spoke about how the law impacted their lives and places of work. The point was to allow national leaders to gain a better understanding of the civil rights implications of the legislation and assess the law’s impact.
Said Parramore of Jefferson County AFT:
It’s a mess, I have to tell you. It really is a mess. It’s the civil rights issue of 2011. How can you treat people like this?
This blog originally appeared in AFL-CIO Now Blog on November 16, 2011. Reprinted with permission.
Wednesday, November 16th, 2011
It’s no secret that to boost profits during a down economy, many retailers have put the squeeze on their employees to work longer and harder for less and less. That pressure only increases during the holiday season, when stores try to woo consumers with marathon sales and midnight openings. Workers are often forced to choose between being with their families or working long hours on holidays to keep their jobs.
Now, thousands of employees are standing up to the retail giant Target to protest the long hoursthey’re being required to work on Thanksigiving:
Anthony Hardwick says he resents working at Target Corp. (TGT) on Thanksgiving and has garnered more than 37,000 signatures on an online protest petition.
Target, Macy’s Inc. (M), Gap Inc. (GPS), Kohl’s Corp. (KSS), Toys “R” Us Inc. and Best Buy Co. all plan to open at midnight or earlier on Thanksgiving in an attempt to goose sales that the National Retail Federation says may rise just 2.8 percent this holiday season, or about half as much as last year.
Hardwick, 29…began the petition two weeks ago on the website Change.org after learning that he and his coworkers would be required to start at 11 p.m. Nov. 24 for a 10-hour shift. […] “Everyone at work was resigned because the economy is bad and so our employer has us over a barrel.”
Black Friday, or the day after Thanksgiving, is typically retailers’ most lucrative day of the year, and some stores have begun to extend their hours to Thanksgiving day itself to give themselves an edge. Hardwick says he fears losing his job for starting the protest and speaking to the media. Target has yet to respond to the petition. But as Hardwick pointed out, because of the tough job market companies know that their workers have little choice but to comply with their demands or be fired.
Target in particular has a bad track record when it comes to respecting workers’ rights. It has repeatedly tried to discourage employees from unionizing, and the National Labor Relations Board has opened a case alleging that Target illegally intimidated workers before a union vote.
This blog originally appeared on ThinkProgress on November 15, 2011. Reprinted with permission.
About the Author: Marie Diamond is a reporter/blogger for ThinkProgress.org. She hails from the great metropolis of Temple, TX. She holds a B.A. in political science from Yale and was a Yale Journalism Scholar. Before joining ThinkProgress, she worked at West Wing Writers, a speechwriting and communications firm. She has also interned for The American Prospect and Sen. Dianne Feinstein, and has done development work in South Africa and Kazakhstan.
Tuesday, November 15th, 2011
The labor movement, the union-owned financial services company Ullico and the state of Oregon are partnering in a $15 million “Cool Schools” initiative that includes repairs, rebuilding and energy retrofits. Says AFT President Randi Weingarten:
We’re gratified that in working together, we can ensure that our children have access to facilities which help them reach their potential.
The partnership of government, unions and businesses will work with to identify appropriate investments in Oregon public schools and infrastructure of up to $15 million.
Already the Cool Schools initiative—launched by Gov. John Kitzhaber (D)—has:
- Performed state-of-the-art audits of nearly 400 schools
- Negotiated with 12 school districts on up to $11 million in low-cost energy retrofit financing
- Made commitments to lend $4.7 million to eight school districts, improving 28 individual schools.
The investment will create an estimated 225 building trades jobs in Oregon, and will support projects in schools located in communities statewide. Says AFL-CIO Building and Construction Trades Department (BCTD) President Mark Ayers:
These types of investments are invaluable to the members of the building trades who are truly grateful for the opportunity to return to work and help strengthen the communities in which they work and live.
Unions’ participation in Cool Schools is part of a broad commitment to action made by unions and investors through the Clinton Global Initiative earlier this year. The first step will involve providing financing for energy retrofits through labor-affiliated financial institutions. Construction of these retrofits will create thousands of good jobs, develop new industries in the United States, enhance the nation’s global competitiveness and reduce the threat of climate change.
This blog originally appeared in AFL-CIO Now Blog on November 14, 2011. Reprinted with permission.
About the Author: Mike Hall is a former West Virginia newspaper reporter, staff writer for the United Mine Workers Journal and 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. He carried union cards from the Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers, American Flint Glass Workers and Teamsters for jobs in a chemical plant, a mining equipment manufacturing plant and a warehouse. He’s also worked as roadie for a small-time country-rock band, sold blood plasma, and played an occasional game of poker to help pay the rent. You may have seen him at one of several hundred Grateful Dead shows. He was the one with longhair and the tie-dye. Still has the shirts, lost the hair.