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Jimmy John's and Non-Competes: An Unclear Path

Wednesday, November 26th, 2014

olivia_headFor many companies, non-compete agreements are used to protect trade secrets, business plans and intellectual property. But why is Jimmy John’s, a sandwich chain, requiring its low wage workers to sign non-compete agreements?

These agreements do not allow employees to work for a competing sandwich shop for a period of two years following their employment at Jimmy John’s.

This prompted lawmakers to investigate the company’s policy that bars their workers from working for its competition. House members Rep. Joseph Crowley and Rep. Linda Sánchez call the practice “a form of intimidation.” Jimmy Johns under Fire for Worker Contracts. Together they have drafted a letter asking the Labor Department and the Federal Trade Commission to investigate the reports. But questions still linger. What does this do to the low wage worker? How are their rights impacted? And what are Non-Compete Agreements anyways?

To begin, a non-compete agreement is a contract between an employee and an employer, where the employee agrees not to enter into competition with the employer after they terminate employment. Non-Compete Agreements: Overview. These were once reserved and considered to be commonplace among certain professions. For instance, think of the workers at Coca-Cola who work closely with the secret recipe. It is understandable that their employees sign non-compete agreements not to work for Pepsi immediately after terminating their employment, due to the possibility they may reveal information that gives the new employer a competitive advantage.

Courts usually disapprove of non-compete agreements as they limit the employees ability to earn a living. This can greatly impact the low wage worker with specific set of skill. The court must balance the need to protect the employer’s legitimate interest with any burden that enforcement of the agreement would place on the employee. Additionally, the Court must determine if the duration and scope of the agreement is reasonable. Remember that Jimmy John’s is asking their employees who terminate their employment to wait two years before seeking new employment.

As this issue progresses it will be important for all those investigating to consider how some states have chosen to approach the topic. California, for example, has forbidden the use of non-compete clauses, providing for a few exceptions (California Non-Compete Site) while other states require that the use of non-competes be reasonable in scope.

It is unclear where this will lead. But it is clear that Jimmy John’s use of the non-compete clause intimidates its low-wage workers and places a restraint on them to find better work.

For more information on non-compete agreements and their impact in the workplace visit: http://www.workplacefairness.org/noncompete

About the Author Olivia Nedd is a legal intern for Workplace Fairness and a student at Howard University School of Law.

Two Lawyers Explain Why There's No Legitimate Reason For Most Non-Compete Clauses

Wednesday, November 26th, 2014

 

We were mad as hell after reading the excellent article on non-compete causes by Danny Westneat of the Seattle Times.

Mr. Westneat described the absurdity and unfairness of employers forcing non-compete agreements on low-wage workers – thus limiting or even eliminating the employees’ future job options –and then going even further and suing those low-wage workers to enforce those provisions.

What made us so mad?

First, knowing how desperately low-wage workers need an income, and need it now. These are not workers with a cushion of savings to tide them over in hard times. For these workers, hard times are all times. They are always there. If a low-wage worker is lucky enough to find a job in this rotten economy, chances are good the worker will sign anything and everything thrust before him. Most employers know this and are quick to take advantage, adding arbitration clauses, privacy waivers, non-compete agreements, and more to the mass of paperwork a job applicant or new hire must sign just to get to the next step.

As a society, we don’t condone a party with great power forcing its will on a party without power. We limit interest on loans and fees, we enact usury laws, we require critical contract language to be highlighted in bold type, we declare certain agreements unenforceable because they violate public policy, and more.

Yet, most states still allow and enforce employee non-competition agreements. When we did a little research on the subject, we found confirmation of the more disturbing trend that we’ve already noticed: increasingly courts and society weigh the social benefit from employers as greater than the social benefit from workers. They use only a shallow rationale to support their pro-employer decisions. This has created an increasing solidification of the role of money in society as the most important consideration.

For example, one article in favor of restricting employee’s future job options began by explaining that the employer makes an investment in training workers, and then jumped to the horrors of losing that investment – as if that loss were worse than losing one’s income, home, and ability to feed the family. The article therefore concluded that only the employer has an interest in protecting its investment and so we should enforce the non-compete.

What are we really talking about with respect to low-wage workers? How much has the employer invested in training? Specialized tools or equipment? How long was the training? A few hours? A few days? Certainly not a few weeks. If an employer pays an employee $10 an hour, how much of an investment has the employer made in this worker? Obviously the employer doesn’t see the worker as valuable enough to pay $13 or $15 an hour. Wouldn’t it be more likely the employee would stay on the job if the employer paid $15, $16 or (gasp!) $17 an hour? The idea that the worker also is investing in his or her own life and career did not merit consideration.

No, the employers who force non-competition agreements on employees are not protecting a meaningful investment. There must be something else.

Although we concentrated our review of non-competes on those provisions that limit future job options, we also found false arguments in the justification employers’ use to impose trade secret agreements on low-wage workers. The employer’s main argument here is that it needs to protect against potential damage from a competitor getting its hands on the employer’s trade secrets. That might be fair, but it has nothing to do with a non-compete. An employer with trade secrets can sue to protect them so they do not need a non-compete clause for that reason.

Even worse in this context we have to ask: How much access to a trade secret does a minimum wage or low-wage worker have?

It doesn’t look like the employer is protecting itself from the competition. Again, something else must be going on.

What is really going on is employers imposing non-competition agreements on low-wage workers to undercut any power the employees have. The employers want to remove perhaps the workers’ only bargaining chip: the right to stop working for an employer when they want. If the employee is not free to withhold his or her labor and not free to quit and work somewhere else, then the employee is wedded to the current employer, like it or not.

This gives the employer inordinate power over any employees. It doesn’t matter how poorly paid the worker is, how unsafe the workplace is, how oppressive management is. The employee is stuck. If the employee wants to pay the rent and feed the kids, the employee has to endure whatever the employer imposes. This utter inequality makes a mockery of the employee’s supposed freedom to contract for his labor. It also reveals the lie inherent in at-will employment. (At-will employment is the legal doctrine found in 49 of the 50 United States that says an employer can fire, or demote an employee whenever it wishes, and an employee can quit whenever she wishes.) This kind of top-heavy control severely hampers the likelihood that the employees will organize into a union, thus completely eliminating any potential to even-out the playing field.

The argument that non-competes should be valid has no balance. The worker being paid (and demonstrably underpaid, considering he can get a higher-paying job somewhere else) must suffer lower than market rate wages because his employer wants to enjoy as much control as possible over his employee’s life.

What does the low-wage worker get? Subsistence, if she is lucky. Who among us hasn’t heard of, or doesn’t know, people working two or even three jobs, just to get by? Can the low-wage worker work toward a better future? Can the low-wage worker learn a skill and outgrow her current job? Can the low-wage worker increase her contributions to society?

As our economy started its decline in 2006 and 2007, the voices against capitalism got louder and gained support. To counter this opposition, those in power argued back that once the economy got better and employers must again compete for labor, then labor would get something out of the deal, too. Yet the economy has been improving, albeit slowly, for a couple years now without the workers “getting something” out of the bargain. At best, they’ve regained just a fraction of what they’ve lost.

We urge you though not to think of this fight as “the other guy’s problem.” Maybe you make a lot more than $15 an hour. Maybe you have a better paying job. Still, what would happen to your marketability in this already-tough labor world if you had to sign one of these non-competition agreements? Do not be pacified just because you may make more than $15 per hour. Once large employers realize they can suppress wages and eliminate dissent through this tool, they will use it on everyone.

The mid-term elections are over, but you still have a voice. Don’t stop using it. People don’t change their views quickly, and we have to be aware of these issues at all times. If this issue makes you mad, watch carefully and write a lot about it. If you think you have a case then talk to a lawyer and find out what your rights are.

The people who want to impose these kinds of conditions on your right to earn a living will not stop. It is up to us to fight to prevent these provisions from taking away our right to compete.

This article originally appeared in Crooks and Liars.com on November 24, 2014. Reprinted with permission. http://crooksandliars.com/2014/11/two-lawyers-explain-why-theres-no.

About the authors Marilynn Mika Spencer of The Spencer Law Firm  is an employment and labor law attorney in San Diego, California.

Anthony Munter of Price Benowitz is a qui tam and whistleblower attorney in Washington , D.C.

 

At Chattanooga Volkswagen Plant, Workers Finally Win a Different Kind of Union

Wednesday, November 26th, 2014

in these timesAfter a harsh anti-union campaign and a failed union vote, some workers at the Volkswagen factory in Chattanooga, Tennessee will finally be allowed to be represented by a union—more than one, if they so choose.

Volkswagen recently introduced a new policy that allows a variety of unions different tiers of representational rights based on the percentage of the workforce that sign up to become members of the union, the New York Times reported last week. The unions will have different representational responsibilities based on how many employees are members of the union. And, as the Detroit Free Press reports, because the company policies now allow for workers to be represented by multiple unions, the United Auto Workers (UAW) are not the only union vying to represent Chattanooga Volkswagen workers: another organization called the American Council of Employees is also hoping to sign up workers.

The policy follows an unsuccessful vote in February to approve the UAW as the sole union representing the workers. The campaign was marred by an unprecedented level of involvement from local and state politicians.

Volkswagen’s new policy addresses some of the concerns that workers voiced about the UAW. With the new rules, as long as at least 15 percent of the workforce are members, then the union will have some level of representation. According to the Free Press, if a union has 15 percent membership, then the union can use conference space in the factory and meet with Volkswagen human resources once a month. At 30 percent, the union can meet quarterly with members of the Chattanooga Executive Committee; at 45 percent, the union can meet bi-weekly with HR and monthly with the executive committee.

Some critics of the move say it’s not enough. Detlef Wetzel, the head of the German auto-workers union, recently issued a statement demanding that the plant honor the UAW as the majority union—a move still hotly contested by right-to-work groups.

The fact that multiple unions are now vying for workers’ membership (and dues money) could prove to be chaotic on the shop floor. Still, the fact that workers will now have any level of representation may represent a step forward not only for VW employees, but for the idea of “minority” or “members-only” unionism in the U.S. Many unions have opted not to pursue such campaigns due to the amount of resources they require, with no guarantee that they will ever be able to turn a majority of workers in a given workplace into dues-paying members.

Since workers at VW—and at many workplaces around the country—who want to become union members don’t have much of an alternative at this point, the fact that unions like the UAW are slowly taking steps towards embracing minority unions may prove to be an important development for organized labor.

About the Author: Will Craft is a fall 2014 intern with In These Times, and is a political science major at The University of Chicago. He has previously worked for The Cancer Letter and The Triple Helix. He is also a devout member of Le Vorris &Vox, the University of Chicago circus. He is on twitter @craftworksxyz.

NELP Report: Falling Wages In Factory Jobs

Wednesday, November 26th, 2014

Dave Johnson“My experience is that the greatest aid to efficiency of labor is a long line of [unemployed] men waiting at the gate.”

— Magnate Samuel Insull, 1920s

Economists strive for “efficiency” in our economy. “Efficiency” means that the things we buy are produced at their lowest possible cost. The wages that working people are paid are a “cost” to be eliminated. Egypt’s Pharaohs built the pyramids with “efficient” labor. Imperial Rome and the old Confederacy also had particularly efficient labor markets.

American factory jobs used to provide reasonable pay and benefits – largely because of unions and democracy. So how do you make manufacturing jobs more “efficient?” You can move the factory to a country that doesn’t allow unions. Our country used to recognize this game and “protected” the good wages and benefits that democracy provided people with tariffs that raised to price of goods made in places that allowed exploitation of working people. Solution: “free trade” that pits our democracy against thugocracies with few or no protections for people or the environment.

“Free trade” worked – to force unemployment up and wages down. We lost more than 6 million manufacturing jobs and 60,000-plus factories between 2000 (the year before China entered the World Trade Organization) and 2010.

The National Employment Law Project (NELP) has a new study out today that finds that factory jobs now pay much less than they did even a few years ago. The NELP study, “Manufacturing Low Pay: Declining Wages in the Jobs That Built America’s Middle Class,” by Catherine Ruckelshaus & Sarah Leberstein, says:

“… while the manufacturing sector has been resurging in the last few years, growing by 4.3 percent between 2010 and 2012, the jobs that are returning are not the ones that were lost: wages are lower, the jobs are increasingly temporary, and the promised benefits have yet to be realized. “

Some key findings from the report:

  • Americans perceive manufacturing jobs as “good jobs.”
    Nine out of ten Americans believe that a strong manufacturing base is very important to our country’s standard of living, according to a poll conducted by the consulting firm Deloitte for the Manufacturing Institute. When asked what type of facility they would support to bring jobs to their community, a manufacturing plant was at the top of the list.
  • Manufacturing wages now rank in the bottom half of all jobs in the United States.
    While in the past, manufacturing workers earned a wage significantly higher than the U.S. average, by 2013 the average factory worker made 7.7 percent below the median wage for all occupations.
  • The perception that manufacturing jobs are highly paid disguises how many workers are stuck at the bottom.
    Today, more than 600,000 manufacturing workers make just $9.60 per hour or less. More than 1.5 million manufacturing workers — one out of every four — make $11.91 or less.
  • Manufacturing wages are not even keeping up with inflation.
    Real wages for manufacturing workers declined by 4.4 percent from 2003 to 2013—almost three times faster than for workers as a whole.
  • In the largest segment of the manufacturing base—automotive—wages have declined even faster.
    Real wages for auto parts workers, who now account for three of every four autoworker jobs, fell by nearly 14 percent from 2003 to 2013 — three times faster than for manufacturing as a whole, and nine times faster than the decline for all occupations.
    The growth in the number of auto parts jobs is cause for concern, because the typical parts worker makes one-third less than the typical auto assembly worker, and puts downward pressure on the higher assembly wages.
  • There has been a resurgence in the number of auto industry jobs since the economic crisis peaked in 2009.
    The auto industry has added nearly 350,000 jobs and invested $38 billion in U.S. facilities since 2009, which indicates a long-term commitment to building vehicles here. As long as vehicles are assembled in the United States, the economic benefits of a just-in-time manufacturing base ensures that jobs at many parts suppliers are also likely to remain in the country, even if wages rise.
  • New jobs created in the auto sector are worse than the ones we lost.
    In five of the 10 “Auto Alley” states—Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, South Carolina, and Tennessee—new hires at auto parts plants are paid roughly one-quarter less than the other auto parts workers in the state.
    In six of the 10 Auto Alley states—Alabama, Mississippi, Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, and Illinois—auto parts workers saw real monthly earnings decline between 2001 and 2013. Alabama saw the steepest decline—24 percent—over that period.
  • Heavy reliance on temporary workers hides even bigger declines in manufacturing wages.
    About 14 percent of auto parts workers are employed by staffing agencies today. Wages for these workers are lower than for direct-hire parts workers and are not included in the official industry-specific wage data cited above.
    Estimates based on U.S. Census Bureau data, however, indicate that auto parts workers placed by staffing agencies make, on average, 29 percent less than those employed directly by auto parts manufacturers.

More “Free” Trade?

The giant companies are trying to seal the deal now, with a “trade’ agreement called the Trans-Pacific Partnership. This agreement not only pits American workers against workers in places like Vietnam, it also allows corporations to sue governments for doing things that might hurt profits – like anti-smoking initiatives. They are trying to push something called “Fast Track” through Congress to grease the skids for this agreement.

About 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.

Chicago’s Black Unemployment Rate Near Quadruple That of Whites

Sunday, November 23rd, 2014

Adeshina EmmanuelWith 25 percent of its African-American residents jobless, Chicago has the highest black unemployment rate among the nation’s five most populous cities. Chicago’s rate is higher than Philadelphia’s 19 percent, Los Angeles’ 18 percent, Houston’s 15 percent and New York City’s 14 percent, based on 2013 U.S. Census figures.

Why?

Experts point to Chicago’s unique brand of residential segregation, among other factors.  Almost 75 percent of black Chicagoans live in a community that’s at least 90 percent black, according to Census data. Blacks are about one-third of Chicago’s population. The unemployment rate for white Chicagoans is 7 percent; for Latinos, it’s 12 percent.

Michael Dawson, a leading scholar on politics and race, said Chicago’s “extreme segregation” deprives many residents of the predominantly black South and West Sides of adequate public transit and job networks.

“The way people get hired is through networks,” and most people’s social networks are predominately within their own race, he said.

For decades, the city’s economically marginalized black communities have been saddled with failing, underfunded public schools, high youth unemployment and low college graduation rates.

“You get neighborhoods where not only do you not have a job, you don’t know many other people who have one and can help you get one,” said Valerie Wilson, an economist who heads the Program on Race, Ethnicity and the Economy at the Economic Policy Institute, a Washington, D.C., think tank.

But segregation alone doesn’t explain the situation.

This blog originally appeared in the Chicago Reported and then reposted on In These Time on November 18, 2014. Reprinted with permission. http://inthesetimes.com/working/entry/17378/chicago_ranks_fifth_in_highest_black_unemployment_rate

About the Author: Adeshina Emmanuel is a reporter for the Chicago Reporter.

Former Massey Energy CEO Indicted

Wednesday, November 19th, 2014

Jackie TortoraFor those of you who have been following the Massey Energy story, the Mine Workers (UMWA) passed along this news yesterday:

United States Attorney Booth Goodwin announced that a federal grand jury today returned an indictment charging Donald L. Blankenship, former Chief Executive Officer of Massey Energy Company, with four criminal offenses. The indictment charges Blankenship with conspiracy to violate mandatory federal mine safety and health standards, conspiracy to impede federal mine safety officials, making false statements to the United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and securities fraud. The indictment alleges that from about Jan. 1, 2008, through about April 9, 2010, Blankenship conspired to commit and cause routine, willful violations of mandatory federal mine safety and health standards at Massey Energy’s Upper Big Branch mine, located in Raleigh County, West Virginia. The indictment alleges that during this same period of time, Blankenship was part of a conspiracy to impede and hinder federal mine safety officials from carrying out their duties at Upper Big Branch by providing advance warning of federal mine safety inspection activities, so their underground operations could conceal and cover up safety violations that they routinely committed.

The indictment further alleges that after a major, fatal explosion occurred at Upper Big Branch on April 5, 2010, Blankenship made and caused to be made false statements and representations to the SEC concerning Massey Energy’s safety practices prior to the explosion. Additionally, the indictment alleges that, after this explosion, Blankenship made and caused to be made materially false statements and representations, as well as materially misleading omissions, in connection with the purchase and sale of Massey Energy stock.

The FBI and the United States Department of Labor’s Office of Inspector General are in charge of the investigation. United States Attorney Booth Goodwin, Counsel to the United States Attorney Steven Ruby and Assistant United States Attorney Gabriele Wohl are handling the prosecution. The four counts charged carry a maximum combined penalty of 31 years’ imprisonment.

Click here to view a copy of the indictment. An indictment is only an allegation, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

The Massey Energy Upper Big Branch (W. Va.) deadly blast killed 29 in 2010. Families of the victims reacted to the indictment yesterday.

This article originally appeared in AFL-CIO.org on November 14, 2014. Reprinted with permission. http://www.aflcio.org/Blog/Corporate-Greed/Former-Massey-Energy-CEO-Indicted

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

Worthy Work, STILL Unlivable Wages

Wednesday, November 19th, 2014

seiuTo mark the 25th anniversary of the National Child Care Staffing Study, Marcy Whitebook, Deborah Phillips, and Carollee Howes, the principal investigators and authors of the study, have released a white paper examining the progress over the past quarter-century in improving early childhood teaching jobs and attracting and retaining a well-prepared workforce able to foster children’s learning and development.

Worthy Work, STILL Unlivable Wages compiles evidence from multiple sources to provide a portrait of the early childhood teaching workforce today in comparison to 25 years ago and how today’s parents are paying more for child care, but earning less.

The solution? Only by joining together can parents and child care professionals–and indeed whole communities–build a strong foundation for children’s learning and success by giving working parents and their children access to quality care and learning, and by paying wages that allow child care workers to secure a bright future for their own children and families.

 

This blog originally appeared in SEIU.org on November 18, 2014. Reprinted with permission. http://www.seiu.org/2014/11/worthy-work-still-unlivable-wages.php.

 

Striking Walmart Workers Stage L.A. Sit-Downs at Stores and in the Street

Wednesday, November 19th, 2014

Image: Mike HallIn Los Angeles yesterday, Walmart workers participated in their boldest action to date: the first-ever sit-down strike at a Walmart store. They were protesting an end to retaliation when they speak out for $15 an hour, full-time hours and respect at work.

The striking workers entered the Crenshaw Walmart shortly before 10 a.m. PST and refused to move, holding a sit-in near cash registers and racks at the store. The workers chanted, “Stand Up, Live Better! Sit Down, Live Better!” before placing tape over their mouths signifying the company’s attempts to silence workers who are calling for better jobs.

After several hours, they left peacefully and headed to another Los Angeles-area store, where they held a rally. Then workers and their supporters took over the intersection near the Pico Rivera Walmart, refusing to leave until they were arrested and removed from the intersection. A total of 28 people were arrested, including clergy, community members and strikers.

Paramount Walmart worker Martha Sellers said:

“I’m striking today for workers like Evelin, Victoria, Rosa, Maria Elena and Graciela who Walmart retaliated against for standing up for change. Walmart and the Waltons need to know that they can’t silence us all.”

Sellers was referring to the owners of Walmart, the Walton family, the richest family in America who own nearly $150 billion in wealth while most Walmart workers make less than $25,000 a year. Kiana Howard, a mother and Walmart striker, said she took part in the sit-down “to protest Walmart’s illegal fear tactics and to send a message to management and the Waltons that they can’t continue to silence us and dismiss the growing calls for $15 an hour and full-time work.”  She added:

“Walmart and the Waltons are making billions of dollars from our work while paying most of us less than $25,000 a year. We know that Walmart and the Waltons can afford fair pay, and we know that we have the right to speak out about it without the company threatening the little that we do have.”

This blog originally appeared in AFL-CIO.org on November 14, 2014. Reprinted with permission. http://www.aflcio.org/Blog/Corporate-Greed/Striking-Walmart-Workers-Stage-L.A.-Sit-Downs-at-Stores-and-in-the-Street.

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.

Hey, Walmart, Want to Fix Those Sales Problems? Why Not Invest in Workers?

Tuesday, November 18th, 2014
Kenneth Quinnell

Kenneth Quinnell

An internal memo, recently leaked by a Walmart manager, urged store managers to improve lagging sales, primarily through addressing problems with understocked shelves and with keeping fresh meat, dairy and produce stocked and aging or expired items off the shelves. Such complaints are widespread at Walmart stores and are likely a significant factor in the company’s sales, which have lagged for 18 months. While the memo catalogs problems the company faces, it ignores the two most obvious solutions—giving workers adequate hours and paying those workers the $15 living wage they’ve been calling for.

Janet Sparks, a member of the OUR Walmart campaign seeking to improve wages and working conditions, said that substantial staffing cuts that began in 2010 are a big part of the problem: “Understaffing, from the sales floor to the front end, has greatly affected the store.”

Retail consultant Burt P. Flickinger III echoed Sparks’ comments:

“Labor hours have been cut so thin, that they don’t have the people to do many activities. The fact that they don’t do some of these things every day, every shift, shows what a complete breakdown Walmart has in staffing and training.”

This blog originally appeared in AFL-CIO.org on November 13, 2014. Reprinted with Permission. http://www.aflcio.org/Blog/Corporate-Greed/Hey-Walmart-Want-to-Fix-Those-Sales-Problems-Why-Not-Invest-in-Workers

Author’s name is Kenneth Quinnell.  He is a long-time blogger, campaign staffer and political activist.  Before joining the AFL-CIO in 2012, he worked as labor reporter for the blog Crooks and Liars.  Previous experience includes Communications Director for the Darcy Burner for Congress Campaign and New Media Director for the Kendrick Meek for Senate Campaign, founding and serving as the primary author for the influential state blog Florida Progressive Coalition and more than 10 years as a college instructor teaching political science and American History.  His writings have also appeared on Daily Kos, Alternet, the Guardian Online, Media Matters for America, Think Progress, Campaign for America’s Future and elsewhere.

D.C. Strikers Demand “More Than The Minimum” For Federal Workers

Tuesday, November 18th, 2014

Dave JohnsonShould our government be for good jobs with good wages and benefits – the things most of We the People want in our lives? Or should it be for bad jobs, low wages, no benefits – the very things that a wealthy few (who like to call themselves “job creators”) have become known for, just so they can pocket that pay difference for themselves?

In other words, who is our government for? The broad masses of regular, working people or a very few already-wealthy people?

President Obama has used executive orders to boost the minimum wage and raise workplace standards for employees of federal contractors.

Campaign for America’s Future, Progressive Congress, Good Jobs Nations, and a coalition of progressive organizations have released a “More Than The Minimum” plan calling on President Obama to use Executive Actions to make the federal government a “model employer” by further raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour with decent benefits, and giving federal contract workers the right to collectively bargain.

Please sign this Good Jobs Nation Petition:

Join Progressive Congress, Good Jobs Nations, and a coalition of progressive organizations, calling on President Obama to use more Executive Action to help federal contract workers by raising the minimum wage to $15/hr and giving workers the right to collectively bargain.

A Strike Drives The Point Home

As Laura Clawson reported at Daily Kos, several hundred government contract workers in Washington held a strike Thursday to protest their low wages. Led by Good Jobs Nation, they are calling for a higher minimum wage and allow the workers to unionize.

Five members from the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) joined government contract workers who shared their struggles to make ends meet on their hourly salaries to call for a higher minimum wage and allow the workers to unionize.

??Joseph Geevarghese, director of Good Jobs Nation, said:

“In red states, and blue states alike, Americans voted to pass ballot measures to raise wages and improve working conditions. Brothers and sisters, our president kicked off the national movement to raise wages when he signed the executive order to raise wages for low wage workers. Before the ink on the order was dry, CEOs from companies like the GAP, IKEA and Disney followed the president’s example and raised pay for their workers. Not only that, but the mayors of cities such as New York, Chicago and Philadelphia followed the executive order to raise wages for their contract workers.”

“Is $10.10 enough to raise your family? Is $10.10 enough to chase the American Dream?”

Thomas Jones, a worker in the Capitol said,

I’m a contract worker for the US Capitol. I cook meals for congressmen, lobbyists, and the workers upstairs. but the workers in the basement live in poverty. i’m going on six years [at this job] and struggling to get by on $12 an hour. I have a dream of getting married and raising a family. I’ve done all the right things. Mr President, we are calling for good jobs and a union.

Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) and a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said,

We need to raise the minimum wage and we need to do it now. $10.10 is not enough. Minimum wage? Do you want a minimum marriage? Do you want a minimum coat in the winter time? Would you like minimum transportation? A minimum car means you might get there, you might not. Better than nothing, but not good enough. We need a livable wage, and we need union representation, collective bargaining. Because workers need to be able to say to the people on the other side of the table ‘we are the people that keep this place clean, we keep this place safe, without us this place does not work. If the CEO does not show up, nothing happens, if we don’t show up, this place stops.”

I heard you when you said you want something better for your children. What’s wrong with that? We are standing at the Capitol, and it’s a stain on us all, the members of congress, that you do not have enough pay to meet your basic necessities, even though you work hard.

People talk about job growth. ‘Oh we have this much job growth, we have this many months of job creation.’ That’s good. I know there’s a number of jobs out there, I know people that have three of them.

Geevarghese also said:

This strike is fundamentally about the type of democracy that we want to have. Do we want to have an economy that the handful, the few, rake in all the wealth and leave people like Dawn struggling to keep food on the table and shelter over their heads. That’s the choice that’s in front of us, what kind of country are we going to have? Today, as taxpayers we are demanding that our taxpayer dollars go to create good jobs and help these workers live the life they are called to live.

This blog originally appeared in OurFuture.org on November 14, 2014. Reprinted with permission. http://ourfuture.org/20141114/dc-strike-drives-home-the-point-more-than-the-minimum-for-federal-worke

About the Author: 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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