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Archive for December, 2016

Donald Trump just attacked a local union leader for telling the truth

Monday, December 12th, 2016
Chuck Jones is the president of United Steelworkers Local 1999, which represents the workers at the much-discussed Indiana Carrier plant. That put him in the spotlight when he had to be the person to correct not just Donald Trump but much of the media by pointing out that Trump’s deal with Carrier had saved not the thousand-plus jobs claimed but just around 800. And calling out a Trump lie made Jones Trumpic Enemy Number One, at least for Wednesday night:

Chuck Jones didn’t start his work life with a seven-figure loan from his daddy. He doesn’t have tens of millions of Twitter followers. He can’t offer Carrier hundreds of thousands of dollars a year in tax breaks. He can’t threaten its parent company’s federal contracts, or promise to rewrite the laws governing corporations in ways it likes. He is not the president-elect.

So, no. Chuck Jones could not singlehandedly save jobs at Carrier that, by the way, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence had not been able to keep in the state when he was a mere governor without a notorious bully backing him. Jones could only negotiate the best deal he could backed by the power his workers and his union had been able to build, person by person—and he was doing that in the face of an economy shaped by union-busters and greedy billionaires like Donald Trump.

Now, thanks to the president-elect deciding it’s a reasonable use of his power to attack a private citizen, Jones has a little bit of a platform. Let’s hear what he has to say:

Jones then responded to the tweet on CNN, saying of Trump: “If he wants to blame me, so be it, but I look at him and how many millions of dollars he spent on his hotels and casinos, trying to keep labor unions out, you know, so, I like my side, trying to work to make people’s lives the best they can be,” Jones said.

And:

Jones, who said the union wasn’t involved in the negotiations, said he’s working to lift his members’ spirits. He said he didn’t have time to worry about Trump.

“He needs to worry about getting his Cabinet filled,” he said, “and leave me the hell alone.”

Don’t forget—Jones is working to lift his members’ spirits because more than a thousand of them will be out of work while the president-elect runs around claiming to have saved their jobs.

And by the way, CNN and Politico, Jones is not a “union boss,” unless you want to start calling Trump “U.S. boss” (not that he’d mind). Jones is the elected president of his union local, not an autocrat.

This article originally appeared at DailyKOS.com on December 7, 2016. Reprinted with permission.

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

Trump’s pick for Labor Secretary is a big ‘screw you’ to the Fight for $15

Thursday, December 8th, 2016

In an otherwise grim period for the U.S. labor movement, the fast food industry has been a hot spot for organizing activity. For the past four years, the union-backed Fight for 15 movement and allied groups have staged a series of nationwide, day-long strikes and protests in support of higher wages and unionization for fast food workers.

Fast food workers have yet to gain any significant union representation. But thanks in large part to the movement’s efforts, states and cities across the country have passed minimum wage laws raising pay for millions of people.

And now, if President-elect Donald Trump has his way, an enemy of the Fight for $15 movement will lead the U.S. Labor Department.

On Thursday, Trump revealed that he had nominated Andrew Puzder, CEO of CKE Restaurants, to be Labor Secretary. CKE Restaurants is the parent company of Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr., two fast food companies that have been targeted by Fight for 15. Puzder himself is on record as an opponent of raising the minimum wage, and has said that he would like to try automating service more service jobs in response to wage hikes.

CKE Restaurants CEO Andrew Puzder, center, departs Trump Tower in New York, Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2016. CREDIT: AP Photo/Andrew Harnik

Unsurprisingly, the fast food lobby was delighted with Trump’s decision to elevate Puzder. International Franchise Association President and CEO Robert Cresanti called Puzder “an exceptional choice to lead the Labor Department” in a statement responding to the news.

Cresanti also offered up a wishlist for Puzder’s early days in office. The Obama Labor Department issue a rule (currently held up in federal court) that would dramatically expand the number of workers eligible for overtime pay. The department has also fought to expand joint-employer liability, meaning that multinational corporations such as McDonald’s may be held legally accountable for labor law violations committed at their franchised locations.

“We are hopeful that, if confirmed by the Senate, a top priority [for Puzder] will be rolling back the damaging effects caused by the expansion of joint employer liability to America’s 733,000 franchise businesses, and the too-far, too-fast increase in the overtime threshold that was recently put on hold by a Texas judge,” said Cresanti.

The progressive National Employment Law Project, on the other hand, described Puzder’s nomination as a “sucker-punch in the gut to all the men and women of good faith who believe in the mission of the U.S. Labor Department.”

“The job of the labor secretary is NOT to strengthen the power of corporations to reap record profits by squeezing every last drop out of their low-wage workforce—and threatening to replace them with machines if they ask for wages they can support their families on,” said NELP Executive Director Christine Owens. “While Mr. Puzder’s qualifications may fit the bill for the latter, those qualifications are anathema to what a secretary of labor should stand for.”

As Labor Secretary, Puzder would head up the main government agency charged with investigating claims of wage theft. A 2016 Bloomberg analysis of Labor Department data found that Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr. restaurants were themselves frequent violators of the law.

CREDIT: Bloomberg BNA

That may be why Fight for 15 organizing director told the American Prospect two weeks ago that appointing Puzder as Labor Secretary would be “like putting Bernie Madoff in charge of the treasury.”

This blog originally appeared in ThinkProgress.org on December 8, 2016. Reprinted with permission.

Ned Resnikoff is a senior editor at @thinkprogress.He was previously a reporter for for International Business Times, Al Jazeera America, and msnbc. Follow him on twitter @resnikoff.

Enormous, Humongous $42.6 Billion October Trade Deficit Is Unbalanced

Wednesday, December 7th, 2016

The U.S. Census Bureau reported Friday that the October trade deficit rose to $42.6 billion from a enormous and humongous 36.2 billion in September. That’s a 17.8 percent increase.

October exports were down $3.4 billion and imports were up $3.0 billion. The goods deficit with China also increased, hitting $28.9 billion in October.

Scott Paul, President of the Alliance for American Manufacturing (AAM),

“The trade deficit is a drag on growth and jobs in the goods-producing sector. It is one signal of weakness that speaks to our challenges in global competition.

“It will take more than a Carrier deal to save jobs here and bring some home. For that, we need aggressive economic policies, including a rebalance on trade policy, a tax code friendly to manufacturing and patient capital, and investments in our infrastructure, research, and workers.”

Trade Deficit Damage Led To Trump

A trade deficit drains jobs, communities, tax revenues, and entire industrial ecosystems. A trade deficit is a deficit in people’s jobs and livelihoods. Forty straight years of trade deficits was also forty straight years of a system that treated working people like “economic units” to be used up and discarded instead of treating people like people. So the people finally reacted.

Forty straight years of trade deficits is a big part of what led to Trump.

Mike Konczal, in Learning From Trump in Retrospect, explains:

… [T]he divide among economists on trade is driven by the fact that labor economists study the real effects of unemployment on real people, where trade and macroeconomists treat people as just another commodity. …

I’d phrase it this way: are people just like a barrel of oil? In the abstract models of trade economists, commodities like oil will always get sold at some price, they will get to where they need to get to do so, and they’re largely indifferent on the process. Even when commodity markets are off, oil can sit in tankers floating in the ocean waiting out price moves, and it makes no difference to the oil.

Oil doesn’t experience unemployment as the most traumatic thing that can happen to it. Oil moves magically to new opportunities, unlike people who don’t often move at all. A barrel of oil doesn’t beat their kids, abuse drugs, commit suicide, or experiencing declining life expectancy from being battered around in the global marketplace. But people do, and they have, the consequences persist and last, and now they’ve made their voices heard. It’s the the dark side of Polanyi’s warning against viewing human being as commodities.

Balanced Trade Resolution In Congress

Representatives Dan Lipinski (D-IL) and Mo Brooks (R-AL) have filed a House Resolution (H.Con.Res.175) to make balanced trade a national goal with a special emphasis on manufacturing and goods.

The resolution states, in part:

Whereas the United States has run 40 consecutive years of trade deficits;

Whereas the trade deficit of the United States has substantially increased in the last 25 years;

Whereas the overall trade deficit of the United States in 2015 was $532 billion, including a deficit of $758 billion in trade in goods;

Whereas the manufacturing sector of the United States has suffered a disproportionate impact from such trade deficits, resulting in substantial losses of jobs and industries;

… Whereas trade imbalances are unhealthy for the global economy and stagnate economic growth in deficit countries such as the United States and especially in the manufacturing sectors of such countries;

… Whereas persistent trade deficits hinder the ability of the United States to reach full employment and increase underemployment and reliance on low-wage and often part-time service sector jobs;

… That it is the sense of Congress that Congress and the President should prioritize the reduction and elimination, over a reasonable period of time, of the overall trade deficit of the United States.

There’s nothing wrong with that.

The Coalition for a Prosperous America (CPA) is “a nonprofit organization representing the interests of 2.7 million households through our agricultural, manufacturing and labor members.” CPA focuses on trade issues and promotes balancing trade.

CPA is sending out the word to Click here to tell your Representative to sign on to the Lipinski/Brooks balanced trade resolution.

This post originally appeared on ourfuture.org on December 6, 2016. Reprinted with Permission.

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

The Hope From Audacity: Fight for $15 Pulls Off “Most Disruptive” Day of Action Yet

Tuesday, December 6th, 2016

David MobergChicago—The movement known as Fight for $15 started in New York City as a surprise one-day strike. The workers’ demands then were simple and bold. They wanted a minimum wage of $15 an hour and the right to organize a union.

The workers who initiated the campaign could no longer tolerate lengthy debates over penny increases to the state, local and federal minimum wages. They called for more than double the federal minimum wage, which stood then—and now—at $7.25 an hour.

This was a dream that seemed not only aspirational but downright crazy when Fight for $15 first launched. And it was put forward by some of the workers with the greatest need—occupants of the virtually interchangeable jobs of the vast modern low-wage economy. These are the jobs that people take not just as a first job, but as the first of dozens of similar jobs in a career with little progress.

To mark its fourth anniversary this week, the Fight for $15 organization staged its largest and “most disruptive” national action to date, which included strikes, non-violent civil disobedience and actions at major airports like the Chicago O’Hare International Airport.

Even though it still has a long way to go, Fight for $15 had reason to celebrate.

A new report from the National Employment Law Project (NELP) credits Fight for $15 with winning an increase of $61.5 billion in annual wages over its first four years, mostly through state and local minimum wage increases. In other instances, employers boosted workers’ pay under public pressure.

On balance, these victories for roughly 19 million workers yielded a total raise more than 10 times larger than the raise U.S. workers received from the last federal minimum wage hike in 2007, according to NELP. By Fight for $15’s accounting, its actions have raised wages for 22 million workers.

Still, employers in the United States pay less than $15 an hour to some 64 million workers.

Over the past four years, Fight for $15 has reached beyond its base in fast food restaurants and launched organizing efforts with a broad range of poorly-paid workers: home care and child care workers, early childhood teachers, university teaching assistants, Uber and other ride-share company drivers, airport workers and many others. It has also inspired more tightly organized, conventional unions to reach out to other low-paid, low-skilled workers, such as car washers and retail sales clerks.

As the organization has grown, Fight for $15 has taken up new tactics and demands, in part reflecting the preoccupations of its members. While its two core demands remain a $15 minimum wage and union rights, the organization now also calls for an end to structural racism, to police killings of black people and to deportations of immigrants.

A new report from the National Employment Law Project (NELP) credits Fight for $15 with winning an increase of $61.5 billion in annual wages over its first four years. (ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)

“We can’t keep living like this”

Before 6 a.m. Tuesday, a cool fall day, a crowd of several hundred protestors gathered outside a McDonald’s restaurant in the gentrifying but still largely working-class and immigrant neighborhood of Ukrainian Village on Chicago’s northwest side. Supporters unfurled a banner from a nearby grocery store. It read: “We Demand $15 and Union Rights, Stop Deportations, Stop Killing Black People.” The crowd chanted slogans, ranging from the humorously blunt (“We work, we sweat. Put $15 on our check!”) to the bluntly militant (“If we don’t get it. Shut it down!”) and the over-optimistically heroic (“El pueblo unido, jamas sera vencido!” Spanish for “United, the people will never be defeated”).

The crowd included local politicians like Cook County Commissioner and recent insurgent mayoral candidate, Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, and workers whose jobs worsened recently as well as many others whose jobs have never been good. Uber driver Darrell Imani represented one of the newest companies whose workers have turned to Fight for $15 to protect what they fear losing. When he started driving for Uber a couple of years and about 12,000 rides ago, he typically earned roughly $25 an hour, or $40,000 a year.

“Now we can barely pay for gas and services,” he lamented. “We can’t keep living like this. We can’t. Uber drivers are on strike for living wages. I love doing it, but I want to be able to pay the bills. I’m trying to organize the group to be a union. Uber is making billions of dollars, but we are the ones who are making it for them.”

Also in the crowd was Keith Kelleher, president of SEIU Healthcare Illinois, Indiana, Missouri and Kansas, a large local union. He has a long history of trying, and often succeeding in organizing implausible groups of workers. In Detroit, Kelleher briefly organized hamburger chain outlets. He managed to organize widely dispersed home care workers in Chicago and other parts of Illinois. And just a few years ago, he led a march of retail clerks and fast food workers down North Michigan Avenue, the swank shopping strip of downtown Chicago.

“It has solidified in my mind that organizing can’t just be about wages, hours and working conditions,” Kelleher says. “It also is not just traditional organizing. This [Fight for $15] is the wave of the future. Workers want a union, and you can build organizations off of this. That’s the challenge.”

Organizing in the future may look much more like earlier periods of American labor history when “open shops” were common, meaning that individual workers could join or not join a union, Kelleher said. Open shops could become the rule again, as a result of the spread of right-to-work laws and the possibility of conservative judges overruling unions’ right to collect a “fair share” of normal dues to cover expenses of representing workers who do not join the union.

Kelleher’s home care workers’ union started along the model of an open shop, then won an agreement to have the state government “check off,” or collect, dues. But the Supreme Court later ruled that the home and child care workers in Kelleher’s union were not full-fledged state employees and, therefore, the union could not have dues deducted from their paychecks. The union now collects dues itself from about 65,000 of its more than 90,000 members, a remarkable achievement given how dispersed those workers are.

If employers think an open shop will weaken unions by making them less stable, Kelleher cites an unattributed maxim: “Where you don’t have permanent organization, you have permanent war.”

“With a union, you’re stronger”

The airport strike at O’Hare, the world’s fourth busiest airport, was one of the more dramatic actions. A year ago, Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 1 launched a campaign to organize about 2,000 O’Hare workers, employed by a modest number of contractors for tasks that include cleaning airplane cabins, providing transport for passengers with mobility problems, handling baggage and other services.

Forty years ago, these workers were employed directly by each airline and wages and benefits were attractive. But those arrangements collapsed under pressure from strong outside forces. Airlines increasingly subcontracted work to independent, specialized firms, which competed for work from the airlines and thus felt pressure to cut labor costs.  And with deregulation of the airline industry, the carriers were subject to pressures to cut cost, which was easier to do when they employed contractors rather than direct hires.

Also, there was an economy-wide shift towards what David Weil, now the administrator of the Labor Department’s Wage and Hour Division, called the “fissured workplace,” where more powerful elements of the enterprise or workplace try to minimize their responsibility for anything except maximizing profits. President Ronald Reagan’s breaking the strike and union of the air traffic controllers further legitimized an anti-worker strategy that airline managers can deploy. One of the consequences is that from 2002 to 2012 outsourcing of baggage porter jobs more than tripled from 25 percent to 84 percent.

Despite having multiple employers, with a varied workforce, “workers’ resolve is very strong,” says Tom Balanoff, president of SEIU Local 1. An estimated 400 workers at O’Hare took part in the strike Tuesday.

“I think workers know the airlines can pay,” Balanoff says. “The airlines haven’t talked to us yet, but I think we got their attention,” and he believes the union has the political as well as industrial strength to prevail.

Andrew Pawelko hopes that’s true. A former auto paint detail worker, he now works as the lead in a cabin cleaning crew for Prospect, a major contractor to big airlines.

“I like cleaning and detail work,” he says, but “the job needs more pay.”

Pawelko, who took part in the strike, makes $12.50 an hour; members of his crew make $10.75. At a previous job, the employer persuaded workers to get rid of their union. A short time later, Pawelko’s benefits were cut.

“Union rights,” he says, “100 percent we need it, all of us.”

Rasheed Atolagbe-Aro, 50, a recent immigrant from Nigeria, is another strong union supporter who joined the strike, partly because of issues concerning safety and the high pressures at work.

“It’s high risk,” he says. “The spray used to clean is at a very serious level. But you’re fired if you refuse to come to work. With a union, you’re stronger.”

Although Fight for $15 is not a union, it can provide a way to fight on behalf of broad policies that help all low-wage workers, even if it has not yet created or even defined more localized vehicles to deal with individual member grievances, contracts and other traditional union tasks like signing up members, collecting dues and providing services. Such are some of the concerns about the group’s unconventional, loose structure, its lack of emphasis on formal membership and dues and its heavy financial dependence on the 1.8 million-member SEIU.

Can even a financially-strong union continue to underwrite such an ambitious undertaking?  What is the optimal amount of SEIU control over Fight for $15?

“We’re hoping to build this movement,” Mary Kay Henry, president of SEIU, said as she stood on a balcony at O’Hare along with more than a thousand members and supporters of Fight for $15, noting that Fight for $15 mustered actions in 340 cities and 20 airports in a single day, combining rallies and marches with more logistically-complicated tactics, such as civil disobedience. “Our plan is not to shape the organization into unions as we have known them, but something different.”

Henry takes inspiration from the way that the labor movement in Denmark, for instance, has raised fast food worker wages and workplace standards dramatically by sitting down and talking with corporate leaders in the field to negotiate an agreement. She says she hopes to do the same, perhaps within the coming year, by sitting down with McDonald’s, Burger King and Wendy’s—the big three in burgers—to negotiate an industry-wide agreement.

“Workers say a union is the way jobs become good jobs, the way to have a voice,” she said. “Organizing is the way to improve our lives.”

This blog was originally posted on In These Times on December 1, 2016. Reprinted with permission.

David Moberg, a senior editor of In These Times, has been on the staff of the magazine since it began publishing in 1976. Before joining In These Times, he completed his work for a Ph.D. in anthropology at the University of Chicago and worked for Newsweek. He has received fellowships from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and the Nation Institute for research on the new global economy. He can be reached at davidmoberg@inthesetimes.com.

The letter from Carrier to its employees that Donald Trump doesn’t want you to read

Monday, December 5th, 2016

aaron ruparOn Thursday, President-elect Donald Trump traveled to the Carrier factory in Indianapolis, Indiana to tout the deal he helped orchestrate to keep about 800 manufacturing jobs in the United States in exchange for state and federal incentives, including $7 million from Indiana.

“Companies are not going to leave the United States anymore without consequences. Not going to happen. It’s not going to happen, I’ll tell you right now,” Trump said during a speech at the factory.

What Trump didn’t mention, either then or during a subsequent “thank you” rally later Thursday in Cincinnati, is that the deal he and Vice President-elect Mike Pence helped broker won’t prevent Carrier from outsourcing more jobs than are being saved in Indiana. The company will keep about 800 jobs at the Indianapolis plant, but will still move 600 jobs from Indianapolis to Mexico. Another 700 jobs are being moved to Mexico from a separate factory in Huntington, Indiana, which will be closed.

In sum, about 800 American jobs are being saved, but another 1,300 are disappearing. Those painful details were acknowledged in a letter Carrier sent to affected workers on Thursday that was posted to Twitter by Indianapolis-based journalist Rafael Sánchez.

screen-shot-2016-12-06-at-11-57-12-pm

Trump’s deal with United Technology, the company that owns Carrier, is good news for the workers who will keep their jobs, of course. But doling out huge tax breaks and other incentives to entice companies to keep jobs in the United States is bad economics, as Trump himself acknowledged on the campaign trail when he denounced government officials for believing that providing economic incentives to corporations keeps jobs in the United States.

During a Thursday appearance on CNBC, conservative economic policy analyst Jimmy Pethokoukis went so far as to call Trump’s speech at the Carrier plant “absolutely the worst speech” about economics in more than 30 years.

“The idea that American corporations are going to have to make business decisions, not based on the fact that we’ve created an ideal environment for economic growth in the United States, but out of fear of punitive actions based on who knows what criteria exactly from a presidential administration,” Pethokoukis, a scholar with the conservative-leaning American Enterprise Institute, said. “I think that’s absolutely chilling.”

On Friday, the latest jobs numbers reinforced that Trump’s Carrier deal comes amid a long-term downturn in manufacturing jobs in the country. While a net 178,000 private and public positions were added in November and the unemployment rate fell to 4.6 percent, the lowest since August 2007, manufacturing jobs fell by 4,000. For the year, manufacturing jobs across the country have fallen by 78,000.

If the trend continues into 2017—manufacturing jobs in the country have been declining since before George W. Bush took office—Trump would need to strike roughly 100 Carrier-equivalent deals to stem the tide, at an untold cost to taxpayers.

This blog originally appeared in ThinkProgress.org on December 1, 2016. Reprinted with permission.

Aaron Rupar is a Journalist at ThinkProgress. Twitter: @atrupar. Email: arupar@americanprogress.org

DC Considers Cutting-Edge Paid Family Leave Law

Friday, December 2nd, 2016

“I sometimes imagine how my life would be different if my mom had the option of paid family leave,” Travis said. The District of Columbia resident was born prematurely. Because his mother could not get the time off from work to make necessary hospital visits to care for her fragile son, “She had to give me up to be raised in Florida by other family members.”

Travis and his fellow Washington, D.C., residents may no longer face those wrenching choices, thanks to the Universal Paid Leave Act, a proposed paid-leave law introduced this past Tuesday in the D.C. City Council. Among the most progressive of such paid-leave laws in the nation, the employer-paid leave program includes 11 weeks of gender equal parental leave, eight weeks of paid family caregiving leave and up to 90% pay replacement for low-income workers on leave. Family leave includes parental leave for new parents after the birth, adoption or fostering of a child, as well as caregiving leave to care for a sick, injured or dying loved one.

“58% of D.C. families can’t afford to take unpaid leave,” said Jackie Jeter, president of the Metropolitan Washington Council AFL-CIO, which worked with a coalition of paid-leave advocates to shepherd the bill through the legislative process over the past year. The D.C. Paid Family Leave Coalition, a network of nearly 200 businesses, nonprofits and advocacy organizations, said it was “extremely pleased to see the council affirm the need for paid family leave and move toward creating a program that works for everyone,” but called for strengthening the bill. Initial drafts included medical leave, available for people who suffer serious injuries or illnesses and need time away from work to recover.

“While council members finalize the details around paid leave legislation, they have a moral obligation to include medical leave coverage for a large portion of our city’s most vulnerable working people and families,” said Jaime Contreras, vice president of SEIU 32BJ, a steering committee member of the D.C. Paid Family Leave campaign. “Paid medical leave is especially urgent for our members and others in D.C. who earn low wages, as only 17% of low-wage workers nationally have access to short-term disability plans (aka paid medical leave). At a time when the Affordable Care Act is under threat and when medical expenses are the leading cause of personal bankruptcy, working families are relying on their council members to create a program that helps their families stay financially stable during health crises.”

“I’m currently six months pregnant with my first child and am worried and nervous about the time when I can no longer work,” said Ward 8 resident Nicole earlier this year. “I won’t be able to pay bills or rent. I have never had to be on public assistance and do not want to rely on that. I’m a hard worker and always have been. Even though, I’ve been with my restaurant job for a year and a half, any time I need off of work will be unpaid.”

Under the proposed legislation, about 65% of Washington, D.C., residents who work would be covered—supporting hundreds of thousands of family members. The remaining 35% work for the District or federal government, or commute outside the city. Of those covered, 100% will be able to afford leave, advocates say. Paid family leave is more critical than ever because 59% of mothers with infants are now in the workforce, while just 12% of private-sector workers get paid leave through their employers. Studies show that when a parent can take time away from work to care for a child after birth or adoption, it results in improved health for both.

The law’s cost will be covered by a 0.62% increase in employer-paid payroll taxes, which bill sponsor At-Large Council Member David Grosso called “a pretty good deal,” noting that it will enable District residents “to do what matters most to them in life and that is be close to the people they care about during great moments of transition in their lives.” At the same time, the D.C. Paid Family Leave Coalition is calling for a return to the 1% tax initially proposed, which would enable the city to offer medical as well as family leave.

This blog originally appeared in aflcio.org on December 1, 2016.  Reprinted with permission.

Chris Garlock is the Union Cities/Street Heat Coordinator for the Metro Washington (DC) Council, AFL-CIO, and the Director of the DC Labor FilmFest. He’s built one of the largest mobilization databases of any Labor Council or State Fed in the country, and more than 10,000 activists and supporters receive daily weekday updates on the metro-area labor movement via the award-winning UNION CITY ezine. He organizes the annual DC Labor FilmFest, one of the only labor-themed film festivals in the world, founded in 2001 to screen films by, for and about work and workers. Garlock has also worked as a radio producer for populist Jim Hightower, Coordinator of the Rochester (NY) Labor Council, and as a reporter, editor, columnist, radio commentator, as well as dishwasher, prep cook and chef (he’s a volunteer cook twice a month at Miriam’s Kitchen). A strong amateur go player, Chris edits the American Go E-Journal, the largest English-language publication about the game of go, with nearly 13,000 readers worldwide.

Fight For $15 Fights With Nationwide Strike Today

Thursday, December 1st, 2016

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

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


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

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

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

The Problem

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

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

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

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

A Growing Fight for $15 Movement Gets Results

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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