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Archive for the ‘economy’ Category

Obama: ‘Challenge of Our Time’ Is Making Economy Work for Everyone

Friday, December 6th, 2013

Image: Mike HallPresident Barack Obama today said that “a relentless, decades-long trend”—“a dangerous and growing inequality and lack of upward mobility…has jeopardized middle-class America’s basic bargain: that if you work hard, you have a chance to get ahead.”

The president declared that “making sure the economy works for every working American” is the “defining challenge of our time” and drives everything he does as president. His proposals to reduce inequality include an increase in the minimum wage and “ensuring that our collective bargaining laws function as they’re supposed to, so unions have a level playing field to organize for a better deal for workers and better wages for the middle class.”

In the speech at a community center in a low-income area of Washington, D.C., which was hosted by the Center for American Progress, Obama said, “[T]he premise that we are created equal is the opening line in the American story.” He highlighted a series of efforts throughout American history to put those words into practice—from Abraham Lincoln starting a system of land grant colleges; to Theodore Roosevelt fighting for an eight-hour day and worker protections; to Franklin D. Roosevelt fighting for Social Security, unemployment benefits and a minimum wage; to Lyndon B. Johnson fighting for Medicare and Medicaid.

“We built a ladder of opportunity to climb and stretched out a safety net so that if we fell, it wouldn’t be too far, and we could bounce back. As a result, America built the largest middle class the world has ever known. And for three decades after World War II, it was the engine of our prosperity.”

However, Obama said, “starting in the late 70s, the social compact began to unravel.”

A more competitive world lets companies ship jobs anywhere. And as good manufacturing jobs automated or headed offshore, workers lost their leverage, jobs paid less and offered fewer benefits. As values of community broke down and competitive pressures increased, businesses lobbied Washington to weaken unions and the value of the minimum wage.

As trickle-down ideology became more prominent, taxes were slashed for the wealthiest, while investments in things that make us all richer, like schools and infrastructure, were allowed to wither.

 

The result is “an economy that’s become profoundly unequal.” Income inequality has grown to record levels, with the top 1% having 288 time the net worth of the typical family, with CEO pay soaring from 20 to 30 times that of the average worker to more than 273 times and with the top 10% taking half of all income, up from a third since 1979. In addition, Obama outlined how upward mobility has been squashed at the same time.

The president said that growing inequality and lessened upward mobility “should offend all of us and it should compel us to action. We are a better country than this.” He highlighted that these trends are bad for our economy, pointing to studies that show that economic growth is more fragile in countries with greater inequality.

Obama then presented a “road map” of proposals to reduce inequality and restore economic opportunity:

  • Relentlessly push a growth agenda, making America a magnet for good, middle-class jobs in manufacturing and energy and infrastructure and technology, and ending incentives to ship jobs overseas;
  • Empower more Americans with the skills and education they need to compete in a highly competitive global economy;
  • Empower our workers. “It’s time to ensure our collective bargaining laws function as they’re supposed to so unions have a level playing field to organize for a better deal for workers and better wages for the middle class. It’s time to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act so that women will have more tools to fight pay discrimination. It’s time to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act so workers can’t be fired for who they are or who they love;
  • Target programs for the communities and workers who have been hardest hit by the economic change and the Great Recession; and
  • Revamp retirement to protect Americans in their Golden Years.

He said that “it was well past time” to raise the minimum wage for a growing service sector that includes “airport workers, and fast-food workers, and nurse assistants, and retail salespeople who work their tails off and are still living at or barely above poverty.”

Obama also called for renewing the extended unemployment insurance program for the long-term unemployed and protection of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program that Republicans have targeted for cuts.

It makes a difference for a mother who’s working but is just having a hard time putting food on the table for her kids, [and] it makes a difference for a father who lost his job and is out there looking for a new one that he can keep a roof over his kids’ heads.

He also told congressional Republicans, who have blocked and continue to block action on the economy—from creating jobs to raising the minimum wage to ending tax breaks for corporations that ship jobs overseas:

You owe it to the American people to tell us what you are for, not just what you’re against….If Republicans have concrete plans that will actually reduce inequality, build the middle class, or provide more ladders of opportunity to the poor, let’s hear them.

Read the full speech here.

This article was originally printed on AFL-CIO on December 4, 2013.  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.

You Load Sixteen Tons and What Do You Get?

Wednesday, June 26th, 2013

I know what it’s like to depend upon coal to feed a family. Many years ago I worked at a steel mill in Ohio. My job was at the coke plant where West Virginia coal was turned into coking coal for the blast furnace. The top of the coke ovens was an area the size of a football field where monstrous machines funneled coal into the ovens. It was my job to put the heavy oven lids back on nice and tight.  It was literally as hot as hell up there. It felt like walking barefoot on hot coals. The air we breathed was truly foul but to us it was the sweet smell of something like success. We called it the smell of money because it paid the bills.

Yet as soon as I got a chance to escape the coke ovens, I took it. I got a job bid on a crew at the blast furnace. But I couldn’t escape the coal. Like the devil or a bad check, coal will find you. It followed me to the blast furnace.

Big railroad cars full of coking coal arrived at the blast furnace every two or three hours. In the winter it would get as cold as twenty below zero and the coal would freeze solid into one huge mass. The company said under no circumstances were we to climb into the open-top railroad cars to break up the coal. But the company also made it clear we better hurry up and get that coal offloaded. So in we went, carrying big torches to heat the coal and pry bars to break it up. We prayed that it wouldn’t loosen all at once with the possibility that we might go down the chute with it. Many times on a cold winter night I had to look in on my sleeping babies to motivate myself to leave for work on midnight shift.

There was a small group of environmentalists in town who kept raising hell about the pollution from the steel mills. I understood their point. After all, I was more directly affected by pollution than they were. But they didn’t even give lip service to our need to feed our families. So I dismissed them out of hand. In fact, I hated them and feared the changes they might be able to bring about. Jobs or the environment? An easy choice to make. Jobs are more important.

Eventually I was permanently downsized from the mill. The loss of my job caused severe dislocation for my family. It also caused dislocation in my mind, creating an opening, a new space. Facts and events that had once gone in one ear and out the other began to find a place in my thinking. Global warming. Poisoned rivers and oceans. Black lung disease. Hurricane Katrina. Oil spills. Coal-fired power plants spewing acid and deadly metals into our air.

Slowly and not always surely, I began to realize that the environmentalists I had once rejected as extremists were correct when they said that fossil fuels are destroying the earth. Coal and oil aren’t just causing some problems we can learn to live with in pursuit of economic survival. They are going to make it impossible for humans to live on this planet.

Jobs or the environment? Posing the question that way eliminates any chance of coming up with answers and it ignores the people who live at ground zero of the debate. I know first-hand what goes through the minds of coal miners as they sit at the kitchen table facing a pile of bills. “Yes, I know what some people say about what we do. They may even be right. But just give me one more month on this job so I can pay the rent and the electric and the credit card bill. Then maybe one more month after that and another after that until the youngest finishes school.”

Jobs or the environment? Soon it will be too late and we will have neither. Unless we come together under the banner of both.

 

This article was originally printed in Love and War: My First Thirty Years of Writing by Lee Ballinger.  If you would like to make a comment or to be notified when the book is published, please email [email protected] or go to http://www.facebook.com/leeballingerwrites.

Report: 73.4 Million Young Workers Jobless in 2013

Friday, May 10th, 2013

A stunning 73.4 million young workers are estimated to be jobless in 2013, an increase of 3.5 million between 2007 and 2013, according to an International Labor Organization (ILO) report released Wednesday. Even worse, the number of unemployed young workers is likely to increase through 2018, with the long-term impact felt for decades, the report forecasts.

According to “Global Employment Trends for Youth 2013: A Generation at Risk.”

The youth employment crisis will not be overcome without stronger employment growth. But job growth will not happen on its own. The report urges nations to adopt aggressive policies for improving job growth, including strategies targeting employment of disadvantaged youth. Further, nations must invest in education and training and ensure labor rights are based on international labor standards “to ensure that young people receive equal treatment and are afforded rights at work.

The report also finds:

Increasing the participation of young people in employers’ and workers’ organizations and in social dialogue and improving their awareness about young workers’ rights—including through modules in school curricula—are key instruments for enabling young people to voice their concerns and for improving the quality of jobs available to them.

Among the report’s findings:

  • Young workers are increasingly employed in non-standard jobs, including temporary employment and part-time work. Informal employment accounts for half of young workers in the Russian Federation.
  • In 2012, youth unemployment was highest in the Middle East (28.3%) and North Africa (23.7%) and lowest in East Asia (9.5%) and South Asia (9.3%).
  • Gender gaps in youth unemployment rates are exceptionally large in the Middle East and North Africa.
  • In all developing countries surveyed, more young people receive below-average wages than average or above-average wages. This trend is strongest in Cambodia, Liberia, Malawi and Peru, where two-thirds of working young are classified as poorly paid.
  • Young people continue to suffer disproportionately from decent work deficits and low-quality jobs, measured in terms of working poverty, low pay and/or employment status and exposure to occupational hazards and injury.

Underlying the inability of young workers to find jobs, the report finds, is the persistent unavailability of quality, full-time jobs; the proliferation of temporary jobs; a skills mismatch; and the growth of informal, subsistence jobs in developing countries.

Packed with charts and graphs, the 150-page report also includes case studies highlighting best practices for addressing youth unemployment, including Peru’s job action plan and the dual apprenticeship program offered in some European countries.

Report: 73.4 Million Young Workers Jobless in 2013 originally appeared on the AFL-CIO Solidarity Center’s website.

This article was posted on the AFL-CIO on May 9, 2013. Reprinted with Permission.

About the Author: Tula Connell has a background in journalism—covering bull roping in Texas and school boards in Virginia—She started working in the labor movement in 1991. Beginning as a writer for SEIU (and OPEIU member), She now blogs under the title of AFL-CIO managing editor.

CEPR Report: How to Create More 'Good' Jobs

Tuesday, April 30th, 2013
Kenneth Quinnell

Kenneth Quinnell

new report from the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) shows the country needs to increase union membership significantly, create universal health care, a universal retirement system (beyond Social Security), expand college attainment and achieve gender pay equity to create more “good” jobs in the United States.

CEPR defines a good job as one that pays at least $19 per hour, has employer-provided health insurance and has some kind of retirement plan. In previous reports, they showed there has been a significant decline in the past 30 years in the share of good jobs in the United States. The decline comes despite increases in productivity and educational attainment of the workforce.

The report notes that one of the key reasons for the decline in good jobs in recent decades is the decline in union participation. Increasing the percentage of the workforce that belongs to unions translates to an increase of good jobs of just less than 7%.

In the report, CEPR has five primary conclusions:

  1. It will take big steps to increase the number of good jobs in the economy, and none of the policies they propose would be sufficient alone.
  2. Eliminating bad jobs is easier than creating good jobs.
  3. Pursuing more than one of these policies would raise the number of good jobs more than the sum of the two policies individually.
  4. Increasing the membership of unions creates more good jobs than a comparable expansion of college attainment would, and it would do it more quickly than expanding college attainment.
  5. Gender pay equity would erase most of the good jobs gap between men and women.

Read the full report.

This article was originally posted on the AFL-CIO on April 29, 2013. Reprinted with Permission.

About the Author: Kenneth Quinnell is a long-time blogger, campaign staffer and political activist whose writings have appeared on AFL-CIO, Daily Kos, Alternet, the Guardian Online, Media Matters for America, Think Progress, Campaign for America’s Future and elsewhere.

 

The GOP’s Big Yellow Taxi Syndrome

Monday, April 8th, 2013

Leo GerardRepublicans are suffering grievously from the syndrome that singer Joni Mitchell memorialized in the hit “Big Yellow Taxi” in 1970. The chorus says it all:

Don’t it always seem to go

That you don’t know what you’ve got

Till it’s gone

They paved paradise

And put up a parking lot

Republicans bellyached for years that government must shrink. It had to be smaller. Cut the budget come hell or high water, they yammered. Well, darn if the sequester hasn’t brought hell and high water to Republican districts across America. Now Republican lawmakers can’t stop carping about how small government shouldn’t occur in their districts.  Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you’ve got till you vote to kill it?

Paradise was among the first to go. Specifically, the paradise of American parks. The National Park Service, complying with the mandate that it slash about 9 percent of its budget through September, reduced hours, cut staff and stopped providing some services such as campgrounds,based on recommendations from each park superintendent.

Among the campgrounds shut down are those at Wind Cave National Park in South Dakota. The state’s Republican Senator John Thune is feeling particularly grumpy about that. He accused the Park Service of closing his campgrounds instead of cutting wasteful and duplicative spending, examples of which he neglected to offer.

He’s singing the whiny sequester tune popularized by Republicans who refused to raise taxes on the rich to reduce the impact of $1 trillion in indiscriminate, across-the-board budget cuts they demanded. They all said they wanted smaller government. They huffed and they puffed and they threatened to take down the nation’s economy until they got it.

Now that it’s here, now that it’s affecting their constituents, Republicans contend the $1 trillion in indiscriminate, across-the-board budget cuts they demanded should have been specifically targeted to eliminate only “waste, fraud and abuse.”

That’s a confusing assertion, though, from the party insisting on smaller government, the party whose members swore loyalty oaths to Grover Norquist, the anti-government lobbyist who infamously said government must be shrunk small enough to drown in a bathtub. Even if every speck of waste, fraud and abuse that anyone could ever uncover were eliminated, it wouldn’t add up to $1 trillion. And it wouldn’t shrink government.

Government might be more efficient, but it wouldn’t be smaller.  Smaller government requires cutting actual services and programs—like Thune’s campground.

So far, Republicans haven’t wailed about cuts to programs for struggling families such as unemployment benefits, public housing, daycare aid for poor working women, the home heating help called LIHEAP, or the food assistance called WIC that impoverished mothers use to feed their babies.

There has been no Republican backlash about the Energy Department laying off 250 workers and furloughing another 2,600 at the nation’s largest Superfund cleanup site, Hanford Nuclear Reservation in Washington State, where radioactive contamination began with the Manhattan Project and continued for 40 years.

Instead, Republicans protested cuts to programs more likely to affect wealthier constituents. That is, constituents more likely to make campaign donations.

They’ve griped like crazy about the decision to stop White House tours, about the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) closing 149 control towers at small airports and about the reduction in service at National Parks.

The FAA announcement that it would be forced to close the towers in order to slash $637 million from its budget as sequestration requires sent Republicans from rural areas into a tizzy.

One after another stepped up to say stuff should be cut, somewhere, you know, but not their control tower. Several suddenly experienced the realization—something Democrats have been saying for years—that slashing federal spending harms the economy.

Here, for example, is Republican Congressman Blake Farenthold of Texas contending the FAA should preserve a tower in his district to prevent damage to business:

A closure of the air traffic control tower at Victoria Regional Airport will have a negative economic impact on the city of Victoria, Texas and the surrounding region.

Similarly, here’s Republican Congressman Dennis A. Ross railing against closure of the tower in his Florida district because it’s needed for the annual SUN ’n FUN Fly-In convention:

SUN ’n FUN not only provides incredible economic value to Lakeland, but it serves our children by investing $1.4 million dollars annually in education. It is unacceptable to cut this important funding.”

Rep. Ross suggested, instead, eliminating “waste, fraud and abuse to make our government more responsible, effective and efficient.”

Like every other Republican who opted for abolishing “waste, fraud and abuse” instead of cutting services to his own district, Ross failed to specify any examples.

Republicans may have some difficulty spotting waste, fraud and abuse because they’re a little too close to it. Incensed that visiting constituents will be denied visits to the White House, the GOP-controlled House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform devoted its “government oversight and reform” efforts to producing a video criticizing the sequester-caused White House tour cancellations.

That video definitely qualifies as waste.

Republicans never knew what their districts had gotten from the federal government. Until it was gone. Until after they’d paved it over with the sequester. Now they’re stalled in an economically barren parking lot of their own creation.

This article was originally posted on the Working In These Times on April 2, 2013. Reprinted with Permission.

About the Author: Leo Gerard is the president of the United Steelworkers International union, part of the AFL-CIO. Gerard, the second Canadian to lead the union, started working at Inco’s nickel smelter in Sudbury, Ontario at age 18.

 

7 Ways the Sequester Is Inflicting Real Pain

Tuesday, March 26th, 2013

Jackie TortoraWe already covered how sequestration cuts will affect your state, but here’s an update on the pain these cuts are causing in communities across the country since they went into effect March 1.

Think these cuts aren’t painful? Think again. Here are some highlights on the sequester’s reign of terror from newspapers and media outlets across the country:

FAA To Close 149 Airport Control Towers Due to Sequestration

Head Start Programs Gutted by Sequestration Cuts

Sequestration Will Take Big Bite from Medical Research Funding 

Military Tuition Assistance Taken Away After Sequester

Sequestration to Force Weeklong Closure of Government Agency

Meals on Wheels Suffers Amid Sequestration

23 Tooele County Employees Laid Off Due to Sequestration

The Huffington Post’s Sam Stein and Amanda Terkel break down local stories even further. See a longer list of the devastating cuts here.

Remember, the sequester is a completely made up, dumb idea and can be easily repealed by Congress. This year alone, 750,000 will lose their jobs because of the sequester.

Working families are calling on Congress to protect Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid from benefit cuts (i.e., raising the retirement age and the “chained” CPI), repeal the sequester and close tax loopholes for corporations and the wealthiest 2%.

This article was originally posted on the AFL-CIO on March 22, 2013. Reprinted with Permission.

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

Labor and Allies, Surprised By Obama’s $9 Minimum Wage Proposal, Scramble to Coordinate

Wednesday, March 20th, 2013

photo_86504WASHINGTON, DC—When President Obama proposed raising the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $9 an hour in his State of the Union speech on February 12, the call came as a surprise to many wage-increase advocates.

Jen Kern, the minimum wage campaign coordinator at the National Employment Law Project, one of the largest advocacy groups on wage issues, says that her organization was consulted only “two hours ahead” of the State of the Union speech.

“We had been pushing him on this for years, since he mentioned it in his campaign in 2008, and never really heard anything from him,” says Kern. “So, yeah, we were surprised.”

“We were given little advance notice,” says Bill Samuel, government affairs director for the AFL-CIO, labor’s main coalition. “I think this is a strategy that the White House has often employed before a State of the Union. I believe that was intentional. It wasn’t a bad motive. I think they decided this should be good news.”

In another indication that the president didn’t consult with allies before selecting the $9-an-hour figure, Congressional Democrats Sen. Tom Harkin (Iowa) and Rep. George Miller (Calif.), who proposed an increase to $9.80-an-hour in last year’s legislative session, were already at work on a new bill to raise the minimum to $10.10. They issued a joint response to the State of the Union applauding the president’s move but questioning the $9-an-hour figure, saying: “While we believe the president’s proposal is lower than what is needed, there is no question that last night he threw the doors open for a robust discussion on the importance of raising the minimum wage.”

Harkin and Miller, who serve as the ranking Democrats on the Senate and House committees with jurisdiction over wage increases, officially introduced their $10.10 proposal on March 5. According to a press release issued by Harkin’s office, “If the minimum wage had kept up with inflation since 1968, it would be worth approximately $10.56 per hour today… Increasing the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour will increase GDP by nearly $33 billion over the course of three years as workers spend their raises in their local businesses and communities.”

The $1.10-an-hour difference between the president’s proposal and Congressional Democrats’ plan would have a cumulative effect. Under both plans, once the minimum wage rate is set, it will thereafter be adjusted as a percentage of inflation, and is unlikely to make a jump as big as $1.10 an hour in one year.

The lack of coordination between labor, the White House and Congressional Democrats appears to continue in the wake of the Miller-Harkin bill. The AFL-CIO isn’t sure whether the White House supports the increase to $10.10 an hour. “I have not heard anything positive or negative. It’s my assumption they are fine with a higher number if it’s possible in the House or Senate,” says the AFL-CIO’s Bill Samuel.

The White House would not respond to inquiries about whether it supports the Miller-Harkin proposal. However, in a blog post for The Huffington Post on Thursday, Acting Secretary of Labor Seth D. Harris reiterated the president’s call to raise the minimum wage to $9 an hour. White House spokesperson Matthew Lehrich told In These Times by email, “The President applauds Senator Harkin, Representative Miller for getting this debate started in Congress. He stands ready to work with Congress to pass legislation to increase the minimum wage as soon as possible—both parties should agree that hard-working families should not be living below the poverty line.”

Meanwhile, four weeks after the State of the Union, the President’s grassroots political advocacy arm, Organizing for America, has yet to meet with the AFL-CIO to discuss how to coordinate mobilizations on the state level to win the minimum wage fight.

“We haven’t talked specifically about their strategy, but we will soon,” says Samuel. “We have a meeting coming up with OFA where I am sure this will be discussed, but we have not had any formal meetings. There has been some talk about using their grassroots structure of OFA and we are certainly preparing to use our grassroots structure.”

Organizing for America did not respond to request for comment.

Despite the apparent lack of coordination so far, labor is optimistic that the president will genuinely push for a minimum wage increase.

“The president is taking on the conservatives and most of the Republican Party to do this,” says Samuel. “It’s always exciting to be in a fight that certainly if we win can help so many people. I think they are serious about it.”

This article was originally posted on the Working In These Times on March 11, 2013. Reprinted with Permission.

About the Author: Mike Elk is a Pittsburgh native and labor journalist for In These Times. His investigative work has been cited on the front page of the New York Times and debated by Whoopi Goldberg and Barbara Walters on ABC’s The View. Elk won a Sidney Award for his coverage of how corporations crafted legislation to exempt prison labor from U.S. minimum wage laws.

Working America: 10 Things You Should Know About Paycheck Deception

Tuesday, March 19th, 2013

dougfooteSince 2010, right-wing governors and legislators have attacked workers’ rights across the Midwest. These attacks have come in different forms: from stripping public workers’ collective bargaining rights in Wisconsin to an all-out ban on fair share contracts in Michigan and Indiana.

In Missouri, extremist legislators and their corporate backers are taking a different tactic. They are pushing paycheck deception bills, which limit how union workers can make their voices heard in the political process.

Proponents of paycheck deception are counting on the public to be uninformed (or misinformed) about what these bills actually do. So here are 10 things you should know about paycheck deception:

Paycheck deception laws create unfair regulations. These laws require labor organizations to go through burdensome bureaucratic hoops in order to deduct dues from members’ paychecks and to use that money for political advocacy. No other corporation, CEO or other organization has similar restrictions. The sole intent is to force the union to spend more resources collecting dues so that they have less ability to advocate for workers at workplaces and in politics.

Paycheck deception laws limit free speech. These laws apply rules to union members that don’t apply to any other organization. A business that belongs to a Chamber of Commerce, for instance, can’t opt-out of paying annual dues and still belong to the Chamber. Similarly, a shareholder in a corporation has absolutely no say in how that corporation spends money in politics. Essentially, paycheck deception laws say that the government has more say in how union workers spend their money than the workers themselves.

Paycheck deception laws have, and have always had, one purpose: attack unions. California school voucher activists who wanted to weaken the local teachers’ union first used paycheck deception as a tactic in 1998. These laws have always been about weakening unions and those who speak up for workers. They have never been about protecting workers or giving workers a “choice.”

Proponents call them “paycheck protection” laws. The people who push these laws want you to think these laws protect workers, when in fact they just protect the CEOs and special interests that don’t want any opposition from organized labor. The “protection” they are implying already exists, as union members already collectively decide how their money is spent. “Their transparent motive is not to protect workers, but to silence them by diminishing their collective voice,” wrote Joshua Rosencranz of the Brennan Center for Justice.

Paycheck protection laws are not “campaign finance reform.” Supporters of these laws often try to sell them as campaign finance reform. If anything, by forcing unions to follow one set of rules while ignoring corporations, these laws tilt the political playing field further toward corporate interests.

Union members already have a choice. No worker in the United States can be forced to join a union. Period. Furthermore, unions already have a process by which members can opt-out of having their dues used for political activity. As democratic organizations, union members already collectively decide how their dues money is spent—and like our elections, majority rules.

Union members are not calling for these laws. While arguing for paycheck deception in Missouri, legislators claimed they had talked to union workers who felt coerced by the current deduction process but failed to produce them. No union workers testified in favor of the Missouri bill. In fact, a recent Hart Research poll found that 75 percent of union members want their deductions to be used to advocate for the middle class in the political arena.

Paycheck deception laws hurt donations to nonprofits. By firing a broadside attack at unions, paycheck deception laws restrict all kinds of paycheck deductions: direct deposit, 401(k) and charitable deductions. Many union members voluntarily donate to organizations like the United Way through paycheck deductions—these laws would make that process more difficult.

Paycheck deception laws are often found unconstitutional. In Alabama, Arizona and Washington, paycheck deception laws were ruled unconstitutional by state Supreme Courts.The laws frequently violate the First Amendment—since union workers already have the choice to opt-out of their unions’ political activity. If Missouri passes this law, they will have to waste more taxpayer money defending it at court—they’ll probably lose.

Politicians admit that paycheck deception laws are a stepping stone to further union restrictions. Missouri Speaker Tim Jones admitted that while “there are other ways to skin a cat” to limit union workers’ political power, paycheck deception “a way to get to the ultimate goal of right to work.” Patrick Werner of the Koch-backed Americans for Prosperity also called paycheck deception a “first step” to making Missouri a “right to work” state.

So-called “right to work” laws ban fair share clauses in contracts, forcing unions to represent workers whether or not they pay dues—another tactic used to weaken unions.

Learn more at Progress MissouriBuilding the Middle ClassThe Brennan Center for JusticeNonprofit Quarterly and Mother Jones.

This article was posted on the AFL-CIO on March 15, 2013. Reprinted with Permission.

About the AuthorDoug Foote is the Social Media and Campaign Specialist at Working America. He joined Working America in 2011 after serving as New Media Director for the successful 2010 reelection campaign of Senator Patty Murray (D-WA).

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.

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.

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