Outten & Golden: Empowering Employees in the Workplace

Archive for February, 2013

Unemployed? In school? Poor? Here's how the sequester will screw you.

Tuesday, February 26th, 2013

Laura ClawsonThe potential impact of the sequester is dizzying, taken state by state or nationally. From federal workers losing as much as 20 percent of their pay to travelers facing airport delays, the sequester’s effects will be felt far and wide if Republicans keep holding the economy hostage to keep tax loopholes for wealthy people and corporations wide open. But it’ll be especially damaging for people who rely on government programs—people who are poor or vulnerable for other reasons. Here are some of the ways, according to the White House, services for the neediest people will be cut.

Receiving emergency unemployment compensation benefits? You’re in for a nearly 11 percent cut to those benefits, adding up to as much as $450 during the time you’re eligible for benefits.

Are you a student, parent of a student, or teacher? You might care about what’s going to happen in the schools, where nearly 1.2 million disadvantaged students in more than 2,700 schools will be hit with cuts, including to individual instruction and afterschool programs. That could lead to around 10,000 teachers and aides losing their jobs. Special education cuts would also endanger the jobs of 7,200 teachers, aides, and other staff. Then there are the 70,000 or so kids who’d lose Head Start services, leading to up to another 14,000 teachers and other school personnel working not just for state and local governments but for community and faith based organizations. But Head Start wouldn’t be the only early childhood program affected. The sequester could boot 30,000 kids off of child care subsidies, forcing their parents to find other child care or miss work.

Are you a senior relying on Meals on Wheels? That program will be serving 4 million fewer meals to seniors. And if you’re pregnant or a new mother and getting nutrition assistance for Women, Infants, and Children, cuts are coming there, too: around 600,000 women and children could lose assistance.

If government programs help shelter you, the sequester could put you at greater risk of homelessness. More than 100,000 people could lose access to housing and emergency homeless shelter programs, putting them back on the street. At the same time, 125,000 families could lose rental assistance that helps them stay in permanent housing; they too would risk homelessness as a result.

While Medicaid is exempt from sequestration, if you rely on government health services, there still might be bad news for you. Mental health services would be cut for more than 373,000 mentally ill people, and 8,900 mentally ill homeless people would lose outreach and support. AIDS and HIV treatment and testing are on the chopping block, too: Sequestration would mean 424,000 fewer HIV tests, and 7,400 patients without medications.

And the thing is, if Republicans in Congress really get their way, these are exactly the vulnerable groups that will be even harder hit by cuts.

This article was originally posted on the Daily Kos on February 25, 2013. Reprinted with Permission.

About the Author: Laura Clawson is an editor at the Daily Kos.

Higher Wages are Just the Start

Tuesday, February 26th, 2013

Change to WinCorporations are making record profits, and are either sitting on them or using them to buyout other corporations. These “funds could be used in a way businesses are not even considering: giving their employees a raise. Wages today constitute the lowest share of both corporate revenue and the nation’s economy since World War II, while profits make up the highest share of gross domestic product in decades.” This has got to change.

A jump-start for American wages – Washington Post 

“For about four decades, increases in the minimum wage have consistently fallen behind inflation, so that in real terms the minimum wage is substantially lower than it was in the 1960s. Meanwhile, worker productivity has doubled. Isn’t it time for a raise?”

Raise That Wage – New York Times 

“At $7.25 per hour, the federal minimum wage in the U.S. is lower than it is in many other developed countries, either when calculated as a percentage of the country’s median wage or when adjusted for currencies’ different levels of purchasing power.”

9 Countries With A Higher Minimum Wage Than The U.S. – Huffington Post

This article was originally posted on Change to Win. Reprinted with Permission.

Free Said

Tuesday, February 26th, 2013

Jonathana TasiniJust a quick reminder that while it is true that union organizers in many countries are fighting anti-labor laws, not everyone ends up in jail just for being a union organizer. Like Said Elhairech who has now been tossed into jail by the pathetic Moroccan legal system.

Per the ITF:

The ITF has condemned as ‘utterly unbelievable’ a totally unexpected decision by a court in Morocco to jail trade union leaders Said Elhairech and Mohamed Chamchati.

Elhairech the general secretary of the Moroccan Ports Union, part of the ITF-affiliated UMT, and chair of the ITF Arab World regional committee, was arrested in June 2012 on charges of ‘sabotage and endangering national security’. He utterly rejected the accusations and was supported throughout by the ITF, which was unequivocal in its stance that he had been wrongly targeted following his very effective work on behalf of crews stranded by the cessation of operations of the Comarit-Comanav ferry company – which he undertook at the ITF’s request. In October all charges except one minor one were dropped and his innocence proven.

Despite this he has been sentenced to a year’s imprisonment by the criminal Court of First Instance in Rabat, which charged him with participating in obstructing freedom of action according to article 288 of the Moroccan Criminal Code (criminalisation of trade union action). He will appeal.

Opposition to paid sick leave costs Christine Quinn some high-profile support

Saturday, February 23rd, 2013

Laura ClawsonNew York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn’s refusal to allow a paid sick leave bill to come to a vote—though it has the support of a strong majority of the city council—resurfaced in the news this week when feminist icon Gloria Steinem said she would withdraw her support from Quinn if Quinn continues to block the bill.

“Making life fairer for all women seems more important than breaking a barrier for one woman,” Ms. Steinem said, adding that the bill would ensure that working mothers could better take care of sick children without fear of losing their jobs.

While it’s unlikely that Gloria Steinem’s endorsement or lack thereof is going to move many votes, it underscores a potential weakness for Quinn: She’s getting more credit as a progressive candidate than her positions would merit, in part because, as Steinem points out, she would be the first woman elected mayor of New York City. And she’s a married lesbian to boot. Drawing attention to the disconnect between how her individual role is perceived and the policies she embraces may not be super helpful among voters, though since the policies are geared to get her business support, it may be a worthwhile tradeoff as far as she’s concerned.

Quinn continues to block the vote while claiming that paid sick leave is “a worthy and admirable goal, one I would like to make available for all.” Her reasoning, of course, is the standard line pushed by crappy employers that it would cost jobs. However, job creation did not suffer in San Francisco following the implementation of that city’s paid sick leave law in 2007. And paid sick leave continues to be a public health issue; as Katie J.M. Baker points out, “a recent CDC study identified infected food workers as a source of between 53 and 82% of norovirus outbreaks.”

The arguments against paid sick leave just don’t hold up. Quinn is blocking a bill that would benefit not just the more than 1.5 million New Yorkers who currently lack paid sick leave, but has widespread public support and would save tens of millions of dollars in health care costs each year, resulting from fewer emergency room visits. It’s costing her high-profile support in her mayoral run, and it should cost her more.

This post was originally posted on the Daily Kos on February 22, 2013. Reprinted with Permission.

About the Author: Laura Clawson has been a Daily Kos contributing editor since December 2006. Labor editor since 2011.

Krugman on ‘Sequester of Fools’

Saturday, February 23rd, 2013

Image: Mike HallPaul Krugman has a pretty straightforward plan to deal with the sequester that’s due to hit March 1. The New York Times columnist and Nobel Prize-winning economist says, “The right policy would be to forget about the whole thing.”

He bases his proposal on what Federal Reserve Vice Chair Janet Yellen said in her keynote address to the Trans-Atlantic Agenda for Shared Prosperity conference at the AFL-CIO headquarters in Washington, D.C., earlier this month. Fiscal austerity, such as the sequester and the latest doomsday alert from the Bowles-Simpson duo, is the enemy of real economic recovery. Writes Krugman:

America doesn’t face a deficit crisis, nor will it face such a crisis anytime soon. Meanwhile, we have a weak economy that is recovering far too slowly from the recession that began in 2007. And, as Janet Yellen, the vice chairwoman of the Federal Reserve, recently emphasized, one main reason for the sluggish recovery is that government spending has been far weaker in this business cycle than in the past. We should be spending more, not less, until we’re close to full employment; the sequester is exactly what the doctor didn’t order.

Read his full column, including his take on Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson, “the famous fomenters of fiscal fear.”

The arbitrary, across-the-board sequestration cuts in everything from mental health services to public safety kick in next Friday, and House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Republican lawmakers say they are willing to toss 750,000 people out of work and cut vital lifeline government services to ring massive concessions in cuts from Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

Working families are calling on their elected representatives to protect Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid from benefits cuts, repeal the sequester and make sure corporations and the wealthiest 2% pay their fair share through closing tax loopholes.

This post was originally posted on AFL-CIO on 2/22/2013. 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.

Governor of state that's 42nd on job creation brags that 'the national outlook isn't as bright'

Tuesday, February 19th, 2013

Laura ClawsonTo hear Gov. Scott Walker talk, everything is coming up roses (and a series of other cliches) in Wisconsin’s economy. In a recent op-ed, he touts his many supposed accomplishments, comparing the picture in Wisconsin with a “national outlook [that] isn’t as bright.” About that. While Walker talks about Wisconsin’s reduced unemployment and balanced budget, here’s a number he doesn’t mention: job creation. When state-by-state job creation data was released in January, we learned that:

Wisconsin ranked 42 out of the 50 states in private-sector job creation, according to the latest available government jobs data deemed credible by economists.The data, which covers the 12 months from June 2011 to June 2012, shows that Wisconsin’s position worsened from a rank of 37 in the previous period from March 2011 to March 2012.

All Walker has to say about job creation is that “We are creating jobs and putting people back to work.” This isn’t untrue, as far as it goes. Wisconsin created 35,381 private sector jobs in the 12 months ending in June 2012. It’s just that those 35,381 jobs “amount to a 1.5% increase. The Badger State trails other Midwest manufacturing states: Indiana and Michigan (both 2.9%); Ohio (2.6%); Iowa (2.0%); Minnesota (1.8%); and Illinois (1.6%).” And never mind the public sector, where Wisconsin has also been doing badly on the jobs front.

According to Walker, “Nationally, the outlook for the future isn’t as promising” as in Wisconsin. Big words from Gov. 42-out-of-50.

Originally posted to Daily Kos Labor on Mon Feb 18, 2013 at 01:41 PM PST. Reprinted with Permission.

About the Author: Laura Clawson is the Daily Kos contributing editor since December 2006. Labor editor since 2011.

Bowles-Simpson 'B-S' Zombie Plan Tells Working People to 'Drop Dead'

Tuesday, February 19th, 2013

Jackie TortoraIt’s back. No matter how many times working people reject the Bowles-Simpson “B-S” budget plan that cynically claims it would “promote economic growth “—but would actually snuff out the recovery and cut lifelines for working families—it keeps coming back to the table.

Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson released another tired plan today that would cut Social Security COLAs to pay for lower tax rates for corporations and the wealthiest Americans, among other things.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka released the following statement:

Once again, Bowles and Simpson have produced a plan that tells working people to “drop dead.” In December 2010, Bowles and Simpson put forward a budget blueprint that proposed to cut tax rates for corporations and the richest Americans and eliminate taxes on overseas corporate profits, and then pay for these lower tax rates by cutting Social Security benefits, shifting Medicare costs to individuals, taxing health benefits and cutting federal employees’ pay, benefits and jobs. The updated budget blueprint Bowles and Simpson put forward today cuts tax rates for the richest Americans and corporations and pays for these lower tax rates by cutting Social Security COLAs, taxing health benefits and cutting federal employees’ health and retirement benefits. For working people and the future of our nation, it is dead on arrival.

In recent actions and a call-in day to Congress, working families have urged their representatives and senators to:

  • Protect Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid from benefit cuts.
  • Repeal the “sequester” and close loopholes for Wall Street and the wealthiest 2% of Americans instead.

This post was originally posted on AFL-CIO on Feb. 19, 2013. Reprinted with Permission.

About the Author: Jackie Tortora is the blog editor and social media manager at the AFL-CIO.

FMLA Anniversary: Celebrating 20 Years of Strengthening Families

Saturday, February 9th, 2013

Anyone with common sense would agree that healthy families are essential to a robust economy. That’s why it’s worth celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Family Medical Leave Act on February 5; one of the most significant advances for working families in our nation’s history. In 1993, FMLA transformed the workplace and strengthened the American family by helping millions of workers secure job-protected leave to recuperate from a serious illness, give birth or adopt a new child, or take care of a seriously ill family member. Prior to FMLA, many people lost their jobs when these types of life events occurred. Workers have used FMLA more than 100 million times since its enactment during the Clinton administration.

 

Diane, a Denver teacher for ten years, was able to keep her job while battling cancer, thanks to the FMLA. The mother of a young son at the time, Diane said “I was able to take time off because I qualified for FMLA.  Because I [also] had access to paid sick days, and a paid sick leave bank, I was able to get some wage replacement while I was out for three months.”  Diane was one of the fortunate ones, because she had access to FMLA and a paid sick leave bank that helped keep her financially afloat.

As critical as FMLA continues to be in protecting jobs and families, there are major gaps in the law. FMLA’s biggest weakness is that it’s unpaid.  Seventy-eight percent of covered employees who need FMLA, don’t take it because they can’t afford to.  And almost half of all workers lack job protection under FMLA because they haven’t worked for their employer long enough, they’re not scheduled for enough hours, or the size of their company is too small to make them eligible. The definition of “family” also needs to be expanded beyond spouses, children and parents so that the law is more relevant to real peoples’ lives and caregiving responsibilities. Moreover, the reasons someone can take leave are severely limited in the law.  In addition to improving FMLA, paid sick days need to be expanded to cover more routine illnesses and preventive care that aren’t covered by FMLA.

Women in low-wage jobs are least likely to have any paid sick, personal, or vacation time at all, leaving one of the most vulnerable segments of our workforce unprotected. Ten percent of women who did take FMLA ended up on public assistance.

Sonya worked full-time as a medical interviewer for 11 years at a large hospital in Atlanta.  During her pregnancy, she saved up money totaling two months of expenses to help her pay her bills while she was on FMLA. But when Sonya’s son was born prematurely and placed in intensive care and she needed to take additional time off to care for her medically-fragile son, she used up her leave and savings pretty quickly. Even though Sonya had access to FMLA, she ended up on public assistance and struggled to make ends meet.

Unfortunately, many people are still forced to go to work when they need to be at home caring for themselves or their families. Americans agree that there’s nothing more important than taking responsibility and caring for your family members.  After 20 years, it’s time to make FMLA more affordable and accessible. Our country needs healthy and economically secure families to help fuel a strong, thriving economy.

To read additional stories from hardworking Americans who have benefited from FMLA, as well as those unable to do so because of a lack of accessibility or affordability, click here. Their voices make a strong case for strengthening and improving FMLA so that more of us are able to balance responsibilities at home and on the job.

This article was submitted by the new website 9to5.

About the Author: Linda Meric is the National Public Relations Coordinator at 9to5.

Drug Tests for Welfare Bills Come to Three More States

Saturday, February 9th, 2013

Laura ClawsonLooking at the range of drug testing-for-benefits bills being pushed in state legislatures across the country, you almost have to suspect Republicans of some kind of urine fetish. In addition to all the states that are debating or have passed bills requiring people applying for unemployment insurance benefits to pee in cups, drug-testing bills aimed at welfare applicants are being introduced in three states. The specifics would be ripe for comedy if we weren’t talking about a concerted effort by the powerful to stigmatize vulnerable people as drug addicts, as if that’s the only reason a person might need help in an economy in which there are still more than three job-seekers for every job opening:

The Ohio State Senate held a second hearing Thursday night on a proposal to establish pilot drug-testing programs in three counties. Under the proposal, applicants would be required to submit a drug test if they disclose that they have used illegal substances. The proposal was first introduced in the spring, but pressure from opponents led Gov. John Kasich to squash the bill in May.Virginia Republicans are also reviving a bill that was shelved earlier this year. The 2012 version failed after the state estimated it would cost $1.5 million to implement while only saving $229,000. The bill’s sponsor, Delegate Dickie Bell, has not introduced the updated version yet, but says he’s found more cost effective options.

Those would have to be some pretty damn significant changes to the cost structure to erase a nearly $1.25 million deficit. Virginia wasn’t the first to run into that kind of problem; a Florida law mandating drug-testing of welfare applicants cost the state money because so few people’s tests were positive, leaving the cost of the tests higher than the savings from denying people benefits. And that’s leaving aside the cost of the lawsuits for a law that was ultimately found unconstitutional.

Both Ohio and Kansas legislators are trying to pretend the goal is to help people rather than to associate welfare recipients with drug abuse in the public debate, claiming that they just want to be sure people get the help they need. Bear in mind that in Florida, just 2.6 percent of applicants didn’t pass their drug tests. So when you have Republican legislators who don’t show any signs of wanting to help any kind of working-class or middle-class people, even, suddenly dripping with concern for welfare applicants … well, you just have to call bullshit.

This article was originally posted by The Daily Kos on February 8, 2013. Reprinted with Permission.

About the Author: Laura Clawson is a Daily Kos contributing editor since December 2006 &  the Labor editor since 2011. She lives in Washington, D.C.

New Report: End China Currency Manipulation, Create Jobs

Saturday, February 9th, 2013

Image: Mike HallIf the United States implemented trade policies to end currency manipulation—especially by China—not only would that reduce the U.S. trade deficit by $190 billion to $400 billion over three years, it would be a major first step in reviving the nation’s manufacturing sector and creating up to 4.7 million jobs, according to a new report from the Economic Policy Institute (EPI).

The report, Reducing U.S. Trade Deficits Will Generate a Manufacturing-Based Recovery for the United States and Ohio: Ending Currency Manipulation by China and Others Is the Place to Start, finds that:

Reviving U.S. manufacturing requires eliminating a jobs-destroying U.S. trade deficit in goods by ending currency manipulation and investing in a series of coordinated manufacturing policies.

Currency manipulation is the largest single cause of the U.S. trade deficit and the Chinese government is the world’s biggest currency manipulator. It deliberately keeps the value of its currency artificially low and that artificially raises the price of U.S. exports to China and suppresses the price of Chinese imports into the United States. This artificial price advantage is one of many pull factors that encourages U.S. businesses to shut down operations here and manufacture in China instead.

Manufacturing jobs have been the hardest hit as a result of the nation’s trade deficit, and the EPI report says that the reduction in the trade deficit engineered through new trade policies would over three years:

  • Create between 2.2 million and 4.7 million U.S. jobs (equal to between 1.4% and 3% of total nonfarm employment).
  • Reduce the national unemployment rate by between 1.0 and 2.1 percentage points.
  • Create some 620,000 to 1.3 million manufacturing jobs (27.5% of all jobs created by eliminating currency manipulation).
  • Increase U.S. GDP by between $225.0 billion and $473.7 billion (an increase of between 1.4% and 3.1%).3
  • Shrink the federal budget deficit by between $78.8 billion and $165.8 billion (reductions that would continue as long as the trade balance remained stable), as growth in output expands tax receipts and reduces safety net payments.

But even then the United States would still face a sizeable trade deficit and that’s why, according to the report, “Fully eliminating the goods trade deficit requires implementing policies that will help restore demand for U.S. goods.” The report’s co-author Robert Scott says:

These reforms, coupled with massive investments in infrastructure, clean technologies and renewable energy, would reduce or eliminate the U.S. trade deficit, while supporting millions of additional good jobs, adding hundreds of billions of dollars to U.S. GDP, and reducing unemployment and federal budget deficits.

In 2011, the Senate passed legislation giving the U.S. Treasury Department more tools to enforce rules against currency manipulation, but House Republicans blocked a vote on the bill. According to the EPI report:

Although many legal and regulatory tools are available or have been proposed to reduce or eliminate currency manipulation, currency manipulation could be ended by the U.S. president with a mere stroke of a pen. The president could simply declare that the United States will no longer sell Treasury bills and other government assets to China and other countries that refuse to allow the United States to purchase their government assets (currency manipulators generally refuse to sell their government assets to the United States, effectively closing their capital markets)….Refusing to sell assets to currency manipulators would eliminate the principal tool used by foreign central banks to manipulate their currencies: purchases of Treasury bills and other government securities (U.S. government securities constitute approximately 70% of all such foreign exchange reserves).

Read the full report.

This article was originally posted by AFL-CIO on February 8, 2013. 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.

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