Archive for January, 2015
Thursday, January 29th, 2015
Conservatives in Congress this week launched a renewed effort to weaken the ability of workers to get justice in the workplace against anti-labor behavior by businesses.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) announced a bill Wednesday that would cripple the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), an agency that is instrumental in solving labor disputes and helping workers who have been treated unfairly by their employers. It’s the same bill that was introduced last year by McConnell and Alexander but was held up in committee when the Senate was controlled by Democrats.
Among its recent actions, the NLRB has filed multiple complaints against McDonald’s and its franchisees for illegally punishing workers who were involved in protesting fast-food labor practices.
The board currently seats five members – three Democrats and two Republicans. The proposed “National Labor Relations Board Reform Act” would increase the number of sitting members to six and require that each party have equal representation. All decisions would require a four-vote agreement, essentially guaranteeing partisan gridlock.
Republican members would have no incentive to compromise with Democrats when it comes to resolving disputes that reach the NLRB. When no agreement is reached, big business wins and workers’ treatment is left to the wills of corporations. Sen. Alexander claims that this bill would turn the NLRB “from a partisan advocate to a neutral umpire.” But what’s an umpire with no ability to make calls, much less the right ones?
The bill furthers Republican goals in advancing business interests at a high cost to workers. Party officials dislike the board because, they claim, it advances union interests and is bad for business. In reality, the NLRB allows workers to file claims of unfair management tactics and holds businesses accountable for the treatment of their employees.
Unions oppose the bill, as should every worker in the country. The President of the Communications Workers of America, Larry Cohen, in reaction to the introduction of this bill in 2014, called it “the worst revisionism on an economic issue I’ve ever heard.” He cited the preamble to the National Labor Relations Act, which – far from being neutral – states that “we must promote collective bargaining.” He called on senators to enforce that law.
Partisan gridlock would worsen a backlog of cases, undermining workers’ ability to seek justice, returning the board to the state of near-paralysis it was left in at the end of the George W. Bush administration. If the GOP can’t compromise with Democrats in the legislature, what’s to say they will on the NLRB – given their persistent antipathy against unions and worker empowerment? Unless workers unite and demand that Congress reject this bill, this will end up being a huge win for business and yet another kick in the gut of hard-working Americans.
This blog originally appeared in ourfuture.org on January 29, 2015. Reprinted with permission.
About the Author: Meghan Byrd is a student at Bucknell University studying political science and Spanish. In 2015 she spent a semester at American University. She is originally from Palo Alto, California in the San Francisco Bay Area and center of Silicon Valley. She is interested in public policy and the intersection between government and technology.
Wednesday, January 28th, 2015
On January 20, 2015, President Obama laid out what I think are three things that can make a difference in the lives of low income and middle class workers.
1. Child Care
There is a need now more than ever for affordable child care, especially since in many homes both parents are in the workforce. Child care is often viewed as an issue specific to women, and it is often the woman who has to choose between a pay check or caring for their sick child. President Obama called for us to stop treating this as a woman’s issue but to see it one that affects us all. President Obama proposed for more available and affordable child care. Additionally he proposed a tax cut of up to $3,000 to families for each child in child care.
Please visit http://www.workplacefairness.org/family-responsibilities-discrimination for more information.
2. Sick Leave
The United States, unlike Germany, France, Sweden and at least 145 other countries, does not guarantee paid sick leave or maternity leave to workers. President Obama proposed that we being to work with states to assist them in adopting paid leave laws, but also that we work toward creating a bill.
Please visit http://www.workplacefairness.org/sickleave for more information.
President Obama urged for a commitment to an economy that generates rising income and provides a chance to everyone who makes an effort. Congress has yet to pass law that provides women the equal pay to men. President Obama stated that “It is time,” especially since it is 2015. Additionally, President Obama is seeking to raise the minimum wage, and challenged congressional members who were against it to live on an income of $15,000. Please visit http://www.workplacefairness.org/minimumwage for more information.
Finally, on a side note President Obama seeks to make community college $0. The benefits this will add for those in the workplace are numerous. Not only will workers be able to upgrade their skills but it will also give them the tools they need to participate in this growing economy. If we being to educate and encourage our workforce through, free education, higher pay, and affordable child care I believe we will see more growth than ever in our economy.
About the Author Olivia Nedd is a legal intern for Workplace Fairness and a student at Howard University School of Law.
Tuesday, January 27th, 2015
While Jamie Cole’s doctor was monitoring her pregnancy because she had suffered preeclampsia with a previous one, she was still healthy. Her doctor simply told her to continue working as normal, just without heavy lifting. “The only restriction I had was lifting,” she told ThinkProgress. Given that the Sava Senior Care’s Brian Center nursing home in Weaverville, North Carolina where Cole worked is a no-lift facility that uses machines to get patients out of and back into bed, plus other workers who were put on light duty for other reasons were accommodated, she assumed she could continue with her plan to work up until she delivered her baby.
But she apparently assumed wrong. “The director told me that I couldn’t work with any restrictions,” she said. “They told me that the only way they could allow me to work would be if I had my work restrictions lifted or if I just got rid of the doctor’s note… I told her I wasn’t going to do that.” But even after her doctor changed her note to say she could do lifting so long as it wasn’t more than 35 pounds, she says the directors still refused to let her work.
Her plan was to use saved up vacation and sick time to take a eight weeks paid off after the birth of her child. Instead, she says she was forced onto unpaid leave much earlier than she wanted. And if she didn’t sign the papers to go out on unpaid Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) leave, she says she was told they couldn’t promise her job would be there for her when she came back. “It scared me,” she said. “I had two kids at home and was getting ready to bring a third one in.”
“I couldn’t understand why they were doing it to me,” she said. “I needed that job. I loved my job. I was really hurt.”
All told, she spent five and a half weeks on unpaid leave. She was allowed back to work for a week even with lifting restrictions after lawyers from the American Civil Liberties Union talked to the company on her behalf, which she managed with the use of the mechanical lift and help from coworkers, but then her doctor put her on full leave because she started to experience pain. “I had to drain my savings account and checking account,” she said of her unpaid leave. “It put me more behind on everything when I could have been working that five and a half weeks.”
So she’s taken legal action, filing a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) that seeks compensation for the missed wages, legal fees, and economic and emotional damages. The Sava Senior Care Brian Center Health & Rehabilitation in Weaverville did not respond to a request for comment.
She has since resigned from her job with Sava and found one at a different facility. “I was already stressed and didn’t want to put myself back into that,” she said. She says her family is starting to catch back up financially but that some of the effects linger. Her baby, who is now six months old, still sleeps in her room. “He has his own room,” she said. “But everything that I had saved up to do the baby’s room I had to put toward bills and stuff like that.” She also ended up having to return to work earlier than she wanted, making for a rough transition back.
Beyond seeking compensation, “I would like to see them change their policies,” she said. “I’m not going to be the last woman to ever work for Sava that was pregnant.”
She’s also not likely to be the last woman to go through such an experience. An estimated quarter million women have their requests for a simple accommodation so they can keep working — such as light duty, the ability to sit, or more frequent bathroom breaks — denied each year. Yet 80 percent of first-time mothers work into their last month of pregnancy.
Women are increasingly taking legal action. Complaints like Cole’s rose 65 percent between 1992 and 2007, while nearly 6,00 were filed in 2011. The Supreme Court has heard a case against the United Parcel Service from Peggy Young, who says she was denied light duty while pregnant even though it’s given to workers for other reasons. Multiple complaints have been brought against Walmart for refusing to give pregnant workers job duty changes. Home decorating store Pier 1 is being sued by a woman who says she was forced onto unpaid leave and a grocery store is being sued by a woman who says she lost her baby after she was denied light duty.
Pregnant women also face other forms of discrimination. Employers often rely on stereotypes to fire them, such as the idea that they won’t return to work after they have their babies even though nearly 60 percent go back to work within six months of giving birth. A different nursing home is being sued by a woman who says she was fired hours after she disclosed her pregnancy, while a doughnut shop is being sued by a woman who says she was unjustly fired while on maternity leave. The Department of Justice is even suing the Chicago Board of Education for firing pregnant teachers.
This article originally appeared in thinkprogress.org on January 27, 2015. Reprinted with permission.
About the Author: Bryce Covert is the Economic Policy Editor for ThinkProgress. She was previously editor of the Roosevelt Institute’s Next New Deal blog and a senior communications officer. She is also a contributor for The Nation and was previously a contributor for ForbesWoman. Her writing has appeared on The New York Times, The New York Daily News, The Nation, The Atlantic, The American Prospect, and others. She is also a board member of WAM!NYC, the New York Chapter of Women, Action & the Media
Tuesday, January 27th, 2015
What do you say if you’re opposed to raising the minimum wage, but don’t want to seem completely heartless? For many Republican lawmakers, the answer is some version of this: “The minimum wage is a starting wage. It’s how you gain the experience you need to move up to higher wages.” Problem is, pay rates that are too low to live on or raise a family on are not a just-starting-out phenomenon in the U.S., as a new report makes crystal clear. Low Wage Nation starts with a conservative definition of “living wage,” setting it at $15 an hour, even though that’s enough to live comfortably on in only a few states. Despite that:
- A large proportion of workers are not earning living wages: Nearly two of five existing jobs pay less than $15 an hour.
- Nearly half of new jobs are low-wage jobs: About 48 percent of projected national job openings do not pay $15 or higher. In analyzing individual states, that percentage ranges from 35 percent (Massachusetts) to 61 percent (South Dakota).
- There are not enough living wage jobs to go around: Nationally, there are seven times more jobseekers than there are projected jobs paying $15 or higher, leaving workers seeking better wages with few options.
The fastest-growing occupations are low-wage jobs that contribute to this trend: “Among the top 10 occupations with the most projected job openings, just one has a median wage greater than $15 an hour. The four occupations with the greatest projected number of job openings are in retail and food service, with median wages ranging between $8.81 and $10.16 an hour.” The upshot is that the vast majority of people looking for work aren’t going to find jobs that pay a living wage because those jobs do not exist.
This is just one of the reasons it’s not enough to say “I want people to have something better than the minimum wage” while opposing an increased minimum wage. The American economy is like a game of musical chairs, and there will be nowhere near enough good-job chairs to go around as long as chair availability is determined by corporate CEOs. That’s why the government needs to step in to improve the situation dramatically.
This blog originally appeared in dailykos.com on January 27, 2015. Reprinted with permission
About the Author: Laura Clawson is Daily Kos contributing editor since December 2006. Labor editor since 2011.
Thursday, January 22nd, 2015
It’s pretty simple: you can’t advance a progressive agenda, or even one you call “liberal”, that claims to want to combat inequality AND go all out to ram through the Trans Pacific Partnership using the odious “Fast track” authority. Here are the contradictions.
Hat tip to Global Trade Watch for this comparison using the president’s words from the State of the Union:
The president on income inequality: “Will we accept an economy where only a few of us do spectacularly well? Or will we commit ourselves to an economy that generates rising incomes and chances for everyone who makes the effort?”
TPP Reality: An “economy where only a few of us do spectacularly well” is actually the projected outcome of the TPP. A recent study finds that the TPP would spell a pay cut for all but the richest 10 percent of U.S. workers by exacerbating U.S. income inequality, just as past trade deals have done.
The president on reviving manufacturing: “More than half of manufacturing executives have said they’re actively looking at bringing jobs back from China. Let’s give them one more reason to get it done.”
TPP Reality: The TPP would give manufacturing firms a reason to offshore jobs to Vietnam, not bring them back from China. The TPP would expand NAFTA’s special protections for firms that offshore American manufacturing, including to Vietnam, where minimum wages are a fraction of those paid in China. Since NAFTA, we have endured a net loss of more than 57,000 U.S. manufacturing facilities and nearly 5 million manufacturing jobs.
The president on American jobs: “So no one knows for certain which industries will generate the jobs of the future. But we do know we want them here in America.”
TPP Reality: TPP rules would gut the popular Buy American preferences that require government-purchased goods to be made here in America, preventing us from recycling our tax dollars back into our economy to create U.S. jobs.
The president on Exports: “Today, our businesses export more than ever, and exporters tend to pay their workers higher wages.”
TPP Reality: Those who wish for more exports should wish for a different trade agenda. U.S. exports to countries that are part of TPP-like deals have actually grown slower than exports to the rest of the world, according to government data. Under the Korea deal that literally served as the template for the TPP, U.S. exports have actually fallen.
The president on small businesses: “21st century businesses, including small businesses, need to sell more American products overseas.”
TPP Reality: Small businesses have endured declining exports and export shares under pacts serving as the model for the TPP. Small businesses suffered a steeper downfall in exports than large firms under the Korea trade pact, and small businesses’ export share has declined under NAFTA.
The president on economic growth: “Maintaining the conditions for growth and competitiveness. This is where America needs to go.”
TPP Reality: An official U.S. government study finds that the economic growth we could expect from the TPP is precisely zero, while economists like Paul Krugman have scoffed at the deal’s economic significance.
The president on middle class wages: “Of course, nothing helps families make ends meet like higher wages.”
TPP Reality: The TPP would put downward pressure on middle class wages, just as NAFTA has, by offshoring the jobs of decently-paid American manufacturing workers and forcing them to compete for lower-paying, non-offshoreable jobs.
The president on the legacy of past trade deals: “Look, I’m the first one to admit that past trade deals haven’t always lived up to the hype, and that’s why we’ve gone after countries that break the rules at our expense.”
TPP Reality: Past trade deals have resulted in massive trade deficits and job loss not because the pacts’ rules have been broken, but because of the rules themselves. The TPP would double down on NAFTA’s rules – the opposite of Obama’s promise to renegotiate the unpopular pact – by expanding NAFTA’s offshoring incentives, limits on food safety standards, restrictions on financial regulation and other threats to American workers and consumers.
The president on affordable medicines: “…middle-class economics means helping working families feel more secure in a world of constant change. That means helping folks afford …health care…”
TPP Reality: The TPP would directly contradict Obama’s efforts to reduce U.S. healthcare costs by expanding monopoly patent protections that jack up medicine prices and by imposing restrictions on the U.S. government’s ability to negotiate or mandate lower drug prices for taxpayer-funded programs like Medicare and Medicaid.
The president on Wall Street regulation: “We believed that sensible regulations could prevent another crisis…Today, we have new tools to stop taxpayer-funded bailouts, and a new consumer watchdog to protect us from predatory lending and abusive credit card practices…We can’t put the security of families at risk by…unraveling the new rules on Wall Street…”
TPP Reality: Senator Warren has warned that the TPP could help banks unravel the new rules on Wall Street by prohibiting bans on risky financial products and “too big to fail” safeguards while empowering foreign banks to “sue” the U.S. government over new financial regulations.
The president on Internet freedom: “I intend to protect a free and open internet…”
TPP Reality: The TPP includes rules that implicate net neutrality and that would require Internet service providers to police our Internet activity – rules similar to those in the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) that was rejected as a threat to Internet freedom.
The president on the country’s national interests: “But as we speak, China wants to write the rules for the world’s fastest-growing region. That would put our workers and businesses at a disadvantage. Why would we let that happen?”
TPP Reality: With the TPP, multinational corporations want to write the rules that would put our workers at a disadvantage and undermine our national interests. TPP rules, written behind closed doors under the advisement of hundreds of official corporate advisers, would provide benefits for firms that offshore American jobs, help pharmaceutical corporations expand monopoly patent protections that drive up medicine prices, give banks new tools to roll back Wall Street regulations, and empower foreign firms to “sue” the U.S. government over health and environmental policies.
Rhetoric versus reality.
This article originally appeared in workinglife.org on January 22, 2015. Reprinted with permission.
About the author: Jonathan Tasini on any given day, I think like a political-union organizer or a writer — or both. I’ve done the traditional press routine including The Wall Street Journal, CNBC, Business Week, Playboy Magazine, The Washington Post, The New York Times and The Los Angeles Times. One day, back when blogs were just starting out, I created Working Life. I used to write every day but sometimes there just isn’t something new to say so I cut back to weekdays, with an occasional weekend post when it moves me. I’ve also written four books: It’s Not Raining, We’re Being Peed On: The Scam of the Deficit Crisis (2010 and, then, the updated 2nd edition in 2013); The Audacity of Greed: Free Markets, Corporate Thieves and The Looting of America (2009); They Get Cake, We Eat Crumbs: The Real Story Behind Today’s Unfair Economy, an average reader’s guide to the economy (1997); and The Edifice Complex: Rebuilding the American Labor Movement to Face the Global Economy, a critique and prescriptive analysis of the labor movement (1995).
Thursday, January 22nd, 2015
Here’s California Republican Rep. Tom McClintock explaining why he wants to keep the minimum wage at a poverty level out of compassion and concern for workers:
“Only [raise the minimum wage] if you want to rip the first rung in the ladder of opportunity for teenagers, for minorities, for people who are trying to get into the job market for their first job.The minimum wage doesn’t support a family. We all know that. It’s not supposed to support a family. The minimum wage is that first job when you have no skills, no experience, no working history. That’s how you get into the job market, that’s how you develop that experience, develop that work record, get your first raise, then your next raise, then your promotion. That’s the first rung of opportunity.
If your labor as an unskilled person just entering the workforce is worth say $7 an hour at a job and the minimum wage is $10, you have just been made permanently unemployable. That first rung of the economic ladder has been ripped out and you can’t get on it. That is a tragedy.”
It’s mostly the same old Republican blah-blah-blah pretending that the workers making minimum wage and just above (but who would still get a raise if the minimum wage went up) are teenagers ascending some glorious ladder of opportunity. In reality, most industries that pay the minimum wage have one really, really wide rung of that ladder for people making the minimum wage, and incredibly narrow rungs at the “supporting a family” levels, and a lot of people with kids and families are stuck on that wide bottom rung that McClintock admits won’t support a family.
But there’s one fascinating difference in what McClintock said: “for teenagers, for minorities, for people who are trying to get into the job market for their first job.” You know, people who make the minimum wage—minorities and teenagers. People whose “labor as an unskilled person just entering the workforce is worth say $7 an hour at a job.” Seriously, he just swept “minorities” into the hopper with teenagers and people who’ve never had a job as people who cannot possibly expect to be paid enough to raise a family and would be rendered “permanently unemployable” if for some insane reason the government were to require companies to pay them family-supporting money. He just … kinda casually tossed that one in, like it wasn’t worth a second thought, any more than the reality that most minimum wage workers are not teenagers was worth a second thought. It’s stunning.
This article originally appeared in dailykos.com on January 22, 2015. Reprinted with permission.
About the Author: Laura Clawson Daily Kos contributing editor since December 2006. Labor editor since 2011
Wednesday, January 21st, 2015
AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said,
“President Obama eloquently and forcefully advocated for working families throughout his State of the Union Address,” last night. He also said:
‘The president’s focus on raising wages through collective bargaining, better paying jobs, a fairer tax code, fair overtime rules, and expanded access to education and earned leave sent the right message at the right time.'”
So did his embrace of union apprentices and immigrants who want to achieve the American Dream. The president has again demonstrated his strong commitment to creating an economy that truly works for all working people.
Fighting income inequality is one of the biggest challenges of our time. As Oxfam recently reminded us, the world’s wealth continues to be increasingly concentrated in the hands of a very few. If we are serious about solving this monumental challenge, the size of the solutions must meet the scale of the problem. We must have a similarly vigorous response to the barriers to raising wages: our opposition to fast-tracked trade deals that are giant giveaways to big corporations must be resolute. We can’t face the competitive challenge of China with a trade deal that fails to adequately address currency manipulation, climate change or that gives corporations rights that people don’t have.
Now is the time for politicians to champion a Raising Wages agenda that ties all the pieces of economic and social justice together. America has now heard what the president thinks about this agenda. We thank the president for his passion and his advocacy. We are ready to see what he and Congress will do about it. That is the ultimate standard of accountability.
This blog originally appeared in aflcio.org on January 21, 2015. Reprinted with permission.
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.
Tuesday, January 20th, 2015
Today I will accompany U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison, representing low-wage workers’ voices at President Barack Obama’s sixth State of the Union. While I am honored, I go with a conflicted heart.
Yesterday the radio was filled with speeches from the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Today I will stand beside the first African American to be elected to the House of Representatives from Minnesota listening to a speech from the first African-American President of the United States. Clearly we live in changed times, demonstrating that through organizing we can win important change.
Yet in many respects times have not changed for the better. Nearly 50 years ago, Dr. King talked about the dangers of income inequality in the country, stating: “the problems of racial injustice and economic injustice cannot be solved without a radical redistribution of political and economic power.” Since then there has in fact been a radical redistribution of economic power, but not in the direction imagined by Dr. King.
Today, the wealthiest 0.1% of the population in the United States controls as much of the wealth in this country as 90% of the population. Let those numbers sink in for a second. In 2013, the average CEO in the United States earned 331 times as much as the average worker, and 774 times as much as minimum wage workers. In half a day’s work, the CEO of McDonald’s Corporation receives more compensation than the workers who produce his wealth are paid in an entire year.
This division of wealth is also now more than ever reflected in the halls of political power: For the first time in history, more than half the members of the House and Senate are millionaires. And while the new Congress is the most diverse in history, four out of five members of Congress are white and four out of five are men.
Let’s move beyond statistics to understand what this means in real life. I work at the Centro de Trabajadores Unidos en la Lucha (CTUL), a low-wage worker led organization that is fighting for fair wages, fair working conditions, and a voice in the workplace for all workers in the Twin Cities metro area. Members of CTUL build and reconstruct the homes in our communities, yet cannot afford to put a roof over the heads of their own families. Members of CTUL work for fast food companies, surrounded by an overwhelming abundance of food, yet often cannot provide food for their own families. Members of CTUL work for contracted companies maintaining the sleek and clean images of large stores like Kohl’s and Home Depot, yet they cannot afford to shop in the very stores they clean.
Every day, millions of workers stress about how to cover basic needs for their families on wages that fall well below the poverty level. Every day, workers endure the arrogance and disrespect of companies that constantly increase workloads, lower wages, and threaten workers who complain. Every day, people drive home from work worrying that they will be pulled over simply for being a person of color. Every day, parents worry about a racist system that allows police to kill unarmed youth of color. And all of these combined days create a reality where the wealthiest, mostly white Minnesotans live on average eight years longer than the poorest Minnesotans, mostly people of color.
Despite all of this, I do not by any means feel defeated. Low-wage workers across the country are standing up, refusing to be relegated to the back of the bus of the U.S. economy. From retail janitors in the Twin Cities to farmworkers in Florida to fast food workers across the nation, low-wage workers are organizing and winning. Yesterday on MLK Day, and over the past month, hundreds of thousands of young people have marched in the streets, declaring #BlackLivesMatter.
Our voices are echoing through the halls of political and economic power structures. Target Corporation is now following the lead of retail janitors by implementing a Responsible Contractor Policy regarding the contracted cleaning of its stores. U.S. Congressman Keith Ellison is working tirelessly to amplify workers’ voices in Washington by calling for policies to achieve justice for low-wage workers across the country. President Barack Obama is now calling for an increase in the federal minimum wage and the right to guaranteed paid sick days for all workers.
While all of this is important, it’s not enough. As you read this, the city of Bloomington is threatening to sue organizers for declaring that Black Lives Matter in the sacred halls of American capitalism, Mall of America. Even if we win paid sick days and a $10.10 minimum wage, millions of workers will still live in poverty.
Today I will sit surrounded by the political and economic power structure of this country listening to the State of the Union. Tomorrow I will stand in the streets surrounded by those who have been pushed to the edges of the political and economic system, demanding a radical redistribution of political and economic power.
This article originally appeared on Inthesetimes.com on January 20, 2015. Reprinted with permission.
About the Author: Veronica Mendez Moore is co-director of the Centro de Trabajadores Unidos en Lucha in the Twin Cities in Minnesota.
Monday, January 19th, 2015
On Sunday, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) unveiled several new proposals, including a call to raise the minimum wage to $11.50 an hour in the city and $10.50 an hour for workers in the rest of the state.
“It’s too easy to say, ‘Get a job,’?” Cuomo said during a press conference in Manhattan. “You need to get a job, which means you need to have the training and the skills to get the job, which means the job has to exist, and when you get the job, it means the job has to pay enough so you can pay for rent and you can pay for food and it is a sustainable wage.”
The minimum wage in New York is currently $8.75 an hour, boosted from $7.25 in 2013, and is set to reach $9 an hour by 2016. Cuomo, noting that “the wage gap has continued to increase,” proposed that the $10.50 and $11.50 minimum wages go into effect at the end of 2016.
Some say that still isn’t enough to support a family in the state, however. “Eleven-fifty is almost $2 less than what he endorsed last spring,” Bill Lipton, director of the New York State Working Families Party, told the New York Times. “And the truth is it’s nearly impossible to raise a family in this state on even $12 or $13 an hour.”
Business Council CEO Heather Briccetti voiced a common argument in opposition to raising the minimum wage, saying “the end result will be fewer jobs created and potential job losses that will adversely impact both small businesses and entry-level workers.”
The big hurdle for Cuomo’s proposal will be winning the approval of the state legislature, namely the Republican-controlled state Senate. Cuomo told reporters on Sunday, however, that he believes the strength of the market makes the current conditions more favorable for reaching a deal than in the past.
States are increasingly raising their own wages ahead of the federal government. Fourteen states approved a minimum wage hike last year alone, including four ballot initiatives that won the approval of voters in November — even those in deep red states. With those votes, 26 states and the District of Columbia have higher minimum wages than is stipulated by federal law.
Contrary to fears, the 13 states that raised the minimum wage at the beginning of 2014 saw higher employment growth through the first half of the year than those that kept theirs the same.
The federal minimum wage currently sits at $7.25. Democrats in Congress have introduced several bills that would raise that to $10.10, but the measures have been blocked by Republicans.
Not only has it been estimated that a $10.10 minimum wage could lift approximately 4.6 million people out of poverty immediately; there are several other short and long-term benefits, including a significant reduction in government spending on public programs. A report released in December by the Economic Policy Institute found that raising the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour would give those workers enough of an income boost that they could be less reliant on public programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Program (SNAP) or the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) — ultimately cutting government spending on those programs by $7.6 billion a year.
This blog appeared on thinkprogress.org on January 19, 2015. Reprinted with permission.
About the Author: Kiley Kroh is Co-Editor of Climate Progress. Prior to joining Think Progress, she worked on the Energy policy team at the Center for American Progress as the Associate Director for Ocean Communications. Previous employment includes serving as a media consultant and strategic adviser to Democratic candidates and committees at the federal, state, and municipal levels, working as a member of the executive production team for the 2008 Democratic National Convention and serving as a U.S. Peace Corps volunteer in Ukraine from 2005 to 2007. Kiley is a Colorado native and graduate of Regis University in Denver.
Monday, January 19th, 2015
The federal government is trying to do a better job tracking workplace injuries, which would make it easier for workers to show that they were injured on the job and get some compensation. But—of course—industry lobby groups are fighting hard to prevent accountability.
Currently, manufacturing companies are required to tell the government about injuries workers suffer on the job. But employers in other industries don’t have to report those injuries, which makes it easier for them to claim they’re not responsible. If workers can’t show that there’s a pattern of, say, tendinitis in a specific workplace, they’re more likely to lose injury claims against the boss. After all, any one person can get tendinitis for all sorts of reasons. But if there’s information on how many people have injuries in that workplace, workers might be able to point to patterns that would show that their own injuries aren’t random chance or due to something they did outside working hours.
Under a planned rule from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, companies with more than 250 workers and smaller companies in particularly dangerous industries:
“… would be required to submit data including the job title of the employee, the type of injury, where it occurred, what the worker was doing before the incident, and the number of workdays the employee had to miss as a result. With the information, OSHA and employers ‘will be better able to … abate workplace hazards,’ an OSHA spokeswoman said in an email.”
It’s information employers are already required to keep records of. All that would change would be that they would submit it to the government four times a year. Not a huge expense or effort, you’d think. But:
“The National Retail Federation—a group that represents Walmart, McDonald’s, and The Container Store—spent $2.4 million lobbying on this measure and other issues between January and September of last year. In a letter to OSHA last March, the group complained that the rule would require disclosure of confidential information, lay blame on employers for non-work-related injuries, be too costly, and empower unions. Last year, the Retail Industry Leaders Association, which counts Walmart, Target, and Home Depot among its more than 200 members, also urged the agency to kill the rule. The US Chamber of Commerce spent more than $28 million between July and September of last year on lobbying—including on this regulation, which the Chamber says is more burdensome on industry than OSHA will admit. And the Coalition for Workplace Safety, an association of trade groups that includes the Chamber, the NRF, and NILA, has asked OSHA to scrap the rule.”
“Require disclosure of confidential information”—that’s the same information that the manufacturing industry has long been required to disclose—”lay blame on employers for non-work-related injuries”—or, you know, keep employers from being able to lawyer their way out of being held responsible for work-related injuries—”be too costly”—sure, if the company had been escaping responsibility for a lot of work-related injuries that it’s suddenly held accountable for—”and empower unions”—by providing information about whether the employer is harming its workers. In other words, “it’s convenient and cheap for us to avoid accountability for workplace injuries, and we would like that to continue.” And to be fair, they probably do have something to fear. Even without this reporting requirement, for example, Walmart has faced serious fines for workplace safety violations. Imagine if that information was all in one place for the government, workers, and reporters to see.
This blog originally appeared in dailykos.com on January 19, 2015. Reprinted with permission.
About the Author: Laura Clawson Daily Kos contributing editor since December 2006. Labor editor since 2011.