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The Deficit Is Falling, But Where Are The Jobs?

Thursday, October 9th, 2014

Isaiah J. PooleThe deficit scolds are getting what they wanted: Today the Congressional Budget Office announced that the federal deficit for this fiscal year is the lowest it has been for any year in the Obama presidency – $486 billion, or 2.8 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product.

The rest of us, though, aren’t getting what we were promised. Conservatives have repeatedly told us that cutting federal spending, and reducing deficits, would unleash economic growth and create jobs. Instead, what we have to show for it is a languid economy at best, with only enough jobs for half the people who are unemployed and looking for work.

Economic growth is weak enough that the Federal Reserve, at its September meeting, agreed that it was not ready to signal that an interest rate increase would come soon, for fear of further hindering economic growth. “[I]t would be prudent to err on the side of patience while awaiting further evidence of sustained progress toward the Committee’s goals,” the Federal Open Market Committee said in its September meeting minutes. It added that “the costs of downside shocks to the economy would be larger than those of upside shocks” because it would be easier for the Fed to withdraw future stimulative efforts than to add them.

The evidence keeps piling up that the bipartisan consensus that we needed to focus on deficit reduction instead of full employment was disastrously wrong. Following that consensus has worked for Wall Street and the 1 percent – with the only stimulus to the economy being the Fed’s asset-buying program – “quantitative easing” – and near-zero interest rates, equity prices have risen to record levels. The Dow Jones Industrial Average, which before the 2008 crash peaked at 14,164, today closed at 16,994, an almost 20 percent increase. That’s good if you own stocks, but if you’re a working-class American, what really counts is that your wages have been flat. In fact, when you account for the disappearance of high-wage jobs and the proliferation of low-wage ones, workers have seen an average decline in wages of 23 percent. Plus, with corporations focusing on boosting their stock price instead of rewarding their workers for their productivity with improved wages and benefits, there has not been the level of consumer spending that encourages a virtuous cycle of more hiring to keep up with consumer demand.

The shame is that we could have gotten the same news of a lower deficit from the CBO through a much better route. Nick Bunker at the Washington Center for Equitable Growth cites economists Paul Krugman and Brad DeLong, and former Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers, as three of the powerful voices saying that the United States should have taken advantage of low interest rates and low inflation to spend heavily on infrastructure – and create jobs.

Summers and DeLong, Bunker writes, argue that “all expansionary fiscal policy can be self-financing—not only infrastructure spending but also other forms of government spending and transfers. … [C]urrent fiscal policy that quickly puts the economy back toward its long-run potential will be paid for by the future output it created.”

In other words, spending to put people to work on projects that support the future growth of the economy more than pay for themselves in the long run – including by tangibly lowering the federal deficit through growth. On the other hand, high unemployment is an economic cost, and slashing the budget in a mindless pursuit of low deficits does not erase those costs.

The news of a low deficit may have quieted the deficit scolds, but their flawed ideology has not gone away. Far from it. That’s why it’s important that we get the story straight, and tell it straight to people who will be voting in November.

This blog originally appeared in OurFuture.org on October 8, 2014. Reprinted with permission. http://ourfuture.org/20141008/the-deficit-is-falling-but-where-are-the-jobs

About the Author: Isaiah J. Poole has been the editor of OurFuture.org since 2007. Previously he worked for 25 years in mainstream media, most recently at Congressional Quarterly, where he covered congressional leadership and tracked major bills through Congress. Most of his journalism experience has been in Washington as both a reporter and an editor on topics ranging from presidential politics to pop culture. His work has put him at the front lines of ideological battles between progressives and conservatives. He also served as a founding member of the Washington Association of Black Journalists and the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association.

The Phony Jobs Report Hype, A Very Sick Economy & Millions of Workers Who Don’t Count

Tuesday, October 7th, 2014

jonathan-tasiniThis was almost predictable: the traditional media, and too many bloggers who regurgitate what they read in the traditional media, are buying into the “rebound” in the economy because of today’s Labor Department report; the stock market goes up; and, I’m certain, pretty soon, the White House will be taking credit for all this and, subtly or not so subtly, arguing that, see, aren’t we great, vote for us. It’s nonsense. So, here is the visual to remember:

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That chart does not reflect the 5.9 percent number being touted today–but the point is still the same: we have a very sick economy where people cannot find meaningful, solid, decent-paying work and are dropping out of the workforce. As Dean Baker of the Center for Economic and Policy Research points out, in an email just landing in my inbox:

“…there was no change in the employment-to-population ratio which remained fixed at 59.0 percent. In fact, labor force participation fell by 0.3 percentage points for white men in September and 0.2 percentage points for white women.”

Even the centrist, Clinton-Administration-in-waiting-awash-in-corporate-donations, free-market-cheerleaders, the Center for American Progress said yesterday:

“Policymakers and pundits have taken far too much comfort in the decline in the headline unemployment rate. The extent to which unemployment has dropped depends on how it’s measured, especially in this recovery. The typical measure, called U-3 by economists, is pretty restrictive: It counts the percentage of people who are actively looking for work but cannot find it. There are other, broader measures we can look at. Perhaps the most complete picture, called U-6, includes marginally attached workers—those who have looked for work recently but are not looking currently—and those working part time who would prefer full-time work. U-6 is always higher than U-3, but it has gotten a lot higher since the recession, and the gap has been essentially unchanged since January.”

And:

“Another reason that the traditional unemployment rate is less informative about the overall health of the labor market is the fact that today the number of long-term unemployed, while down sharply from its postrecession peak, is still almost 50 percent higher than its highest prerecession level on record. There are still 3 million Americans who have been unemployed for half a year or longer and are still actively searching for work. Thirty-three percent of all unemployed fall into this long-term unemployed category. The average length of time someone has spent unemployed is about seven-and-a-half months, almost double what it was before the recession.[emphasis added]”

Back to Dean Baker:

“The number of people involuntarily employed part-time by fell 174,000 to 7,103,000. This is extraordinarily high given the unemployment rate. The number of people choosing to work part time rose slightly and now stands 642,000 above its year-ago level. This presumably is the result of people taking advantage of Obamacare and getting insurance through the exchanges or expanded Medicaid rather than their employers.[emphasis added]”

So, this means: A persistent, large core of workers–real people–are in part-time jobs because they can’t find full-time work. This is a trend that goes back way before the financial crisis. It is, in fact, the result of a conscious corporate decision to REDUCE the number of full-time, good-paying jobs, and to work off of part-time workers.

It means more people have dropped out of the job market, over time, because it’s just too damn depressing to look for real, meaningful, stable work.

What really has happened here is that the frame has shifted. For example, when elites, including Democrats, talk about “full employment”, they mean 5.5 percent or so–which, back in the day, would be seen as unconscionably high; full employment, at worse, was pegged at 4 percent (and could probably go a bit lower).

But, there is an acceptance of a certain level of desperation now and exploitation that would have been seen as immoral say 30-40 years ago.

In my opinion, it is much more helpful, for the sake of long-term political chance, to challenge the chatter of these jobs reports, pointing out the realities facing millions of people.

The economy is very sick because people can’t make a decent living. This is not recovery.

This blog originally appeared in Workinglife.org on October 3, 2014. Reprinted with permission. http://www.workinglife.org/2014/10/03/the-phony-jobs-report-hype-a-very-sick-economy-millions-of-workers-who-dont-count/.

About the author Jonathan Tasini: On any given day, I think like a political-union organizer or a writer — or both. I’ve done the traditional press routine including The Wall Street Journal, CNBC, Business Week, Playboy Magazine, The Washington Post, The New York Times and The Los Angeles Times. One day, back when blogs were just starting out, I created Working Life. I used to write every day but sometimes there just isn’t something new to say so I cut back to weekdays, with an occasional weekend post when it moves me. I’ve also written four books: It’s Not Raining, We’re Being Peed On: The Scam of the Deficit Crisis (2010 and, then, the updated 2nd edition in 2013); The Audacity of Greed: Free Markets, Corporate Thieves and The Looting of America (2009); They Get Cake, We Eat Crumbs: The Real Story Behind Today’s Unfair Economy, an average reader’s guide to the economy (1997); and The Edifice Complex: Rebuilding the American Labor Movement to Face the Global Economy, a critique and prescriptive analysis of the labor movement (1995).

Amazon Wage Theft Case Comes Before The Supreme Court

Monday, October 6th, 2014

Dave JohnsonPicture this: You are supposedly “off work” but every day after the end of your shift you have to wait in a line for up to 25 minutes to get “checked” to see if you are stealing things. The Supreme Court is going to decide if you should be paid for your time. This is part of the larger issue of “wage theft.”

The Roberts Supreme Court is notorious for siding with big corporations over regular Americans. Now they are going to hear a case involving Amazon warehouse workers who are required to check out from “paid time” but then wait up to 25 minutes to go through a screening to see if they are stealing. Who is stealing from whom?

Bloomberg News has the story, in “Amazon Workers Take Security-Line Woes to Supreme Court”:

Jesse Busk spent a 12-hour shift rushing inventory through an Amazon.com Inc. warehouse in Nevada to meet quotas. His day wasn’t over, though.

After clocking out, Busk and hundreds of other workers went through an airport-style screening process, including metal detectors, to make sure they weren’t stealing from the Web retailer. Getting through the line often took as long as 25 minutes, uncompensated, he and others employed there say.

“They did it on my time,” Busk, 37, of Henderson, Nevada, said in an interview. “If people are stuck in your building and they’re not allowed to leave, why don’t you go ahead and pay them?”

Wage Theft Is Big Money

This is not small potatoes. In the case of just one company – Amazon – up to 400,000 workers could get back wages amounting to $100 million. Nationally wage theft is about serious money. Click this chart for the full story from the Economic Policy Institute (EPI).

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Here’s the thing. If the Roberts court sides with Amazon, businesses will feel free to increase the ways they get time and work out of workers without paying them. Already, according to Bloomberg, “Apple Inc., CVS Health Corp., J.C. Penney Co., TJX Cos. and Ross Stores Inc. are all battling court claims involving searches at break times or the end of shifts at distribution centers or stores.”

Wage theft can take several forms, including but not limited to:

  • Employees denied overtime pay.
  • Employees paid less than minimum wage.
  • Employees forced to work off the clock without pay.
  • Employees misclassified as independent contractors.
  • Employees forced to put in “volunteer” time.
  • Illegal deductions taken from pay.
  • Employees denied breaks.
  • Employees denied promised vacation pay.
  • Employees denied promised sick pay.
  • Tips stolen from workers.

Wage theft does not just hit low-wage employees. Several Silicon Valley companies are being sued for conspiring to keep wages low through an agreement to refuse to hire employees from the other conspirators. This kept competition for the employees down, which kept wages lower than they otherwise would have been.

The Labor Department caught LinkedIn shorting salespeople’s compensation and made them pay $3 million in back wages and $2.5 million in damages.

A few wage theft resources:

EPI report, “An Epidemic of Wage Theft Is Costing Workers Hundreds of Millions of Dollars a Year.”

OurFuture.org, “Wage Theft Is Much More Common Than You Think.”

WageTheft.org

Wage Theft at Interfaith Worker Justice

The National Employment Law Project

This blog originally appeared in OurFuture.org on October 6, 2014. Reprinted with permission. http://ourfuture.org/20141006/amazon-wage-theft-case-before-supreme-court

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.

248,000 New Jobs Drop Jobless Rate to 5.9% in September

Monday, October 6th, 2014

Image: Mike HallThe economy added 248,000 new jobs in September, a big increase over the 180,000 jobs added in August. The unemployment rate fell to 5.9% compared to 6.1% in August, according to figures released this morning by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Over the past year, the unemployment rate has dropped by 1.3 percentage points and the number of jobless workers has decreased by 1.9 million.

The number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks or more) was 3 million, unchanged from August. Over the past 12 months, the number of long-term jobless workers has decreased by 1.2 million.

AFL-CIO Policy Director and Special Counsel Damon Silvers said while the drop in the jobless rate is encouraging, wages continue to stagnate.

For the economy to work for everyone, we need to see low unemployment rates coupled with wages that are rising, like we saw in the late 1990s, when real wages rose and the jobless rate dropped as low as 4%.

While long-term joblessness has dropped some, it remains a major problem. House Republicans have, since the end of last year, refused to allow a vote on the extension of the Emergency Unemployment Compensation benefits program that was approved by a bipartisan Senate majority. Now, Congress is out of session until after the election, and even then House Republicans are likely to turn their backs on long-term jobless workers again.

Last month’s biggest job gains were in professional and business services (81,000), retail trade (35,000) and health care (23,000).

Other sectors that showed increases include leisure and hospitality (21,000), construction (16,000), information (12,000), financial (12,000) and mining (9,000).

Employment in other major industries, including manufacturing, wholesale trade, transportation and warehousing and government, showed little change in September.

Among the major worker groups, the unemployment rates in September declined for adult men (5.3%), whites (5.1%) and Latinos (6.9%). The rates for adult women (5.7%), teenagers (20%) and blacks (11%) showed little change.

This blog originally appeared in AFL-CIO.org on October 3, 2014. Reprinted with permission. http://www.aflcio.org/Blog/Economy/248-000-New-Jobs-Drop-Jobless-Rate-to-5.9-in-September

About the Author: Mike Hall is a former West Virginia newspaper reporter, staff writer for the United Mine Workers Journal and managing editor of the Seafarers Log. He came to the AFL- CIO in 1989 and have written for several federation publications, focusing on legislation and politics, especially grassroots mobilization and workplace safety. When his collar was still blue, he carried union cards from the Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers, American Flint Glass Workers and Teamsters for jobs in a chemical plant, a mining equipment manufacturing plant and a warehouse. He also worked as roadie for a small-time country-rock band, sold my blood plasma and played an occasional game of poker to help pay the rent. You may have seen him at one of several hundred Grateful Dead shows. He was the one with longhair and the tie-dye. Still has the shirts, lost the hair.

No free pass to discriminate against immigrant workers: Salas v. Sierra Chemical Co.

Friday, October 3rd, 2014

Low-wage workers—regardless of immigration status—shoulder more than their fair share of workplace violations, including unpaid wages, unsafe working conditions, and discrimination and harassment.  Immigrant low-wage workers are particularly vulnerable—working under constant fear that if they exercise basic workplace rights, they will suffer retaliation that could result in the separation of their families; loss of homes and property; or return to violence or extreme poverty in their home countries.

This fear of retaliation is based in fact.  We as advocates have seen it happen time and time again—and it overwhelmingly leads to workers staying silent, leaving employers without even a slap on the wrist when they break the law.

Scofflaw employers do not and will not stop violating the law if they are not held accountable for their violations to all workers.  Any other type of piecemeal enforcement, or lack of enforcement, encourages employers to hire vulnerable undocumented workers, disregard labor laws as basic as the minimum wage, and then fire them when they complain – all to the economic disadvantage of employers who do follow the law.

Earlier this summer, the California Supreme Court in the Salas v. Sierra Chemical Company case agreed, deciding that companies that hire undocumented workers (knowingly or not) do not get a free pass to discriminate against them.

In that case, Mr. Salas sued his former employer, Sierra Chemical Company, for failing to bring him back to work after he injured himself and claimed workers’ compensation benefits. Mr. Salas alleged the company retaliated against him for filing his claim and discriminated against him because of his injury. But a jury never got the chance to decide whether he was right. The company claimed that because Mr. Salas was not authorized to work in the U.S. in the first place, the company shouldn’t be liable for failing to hire him back. A lower court agreed and dismissed the case (giving the company a free pass to discriminate in the bargain).

The California Supreme Court said not so fast. On the one hand, the law says that people without work authorization shouldn’t be working. But on the other hand, the law says that all workers should be protected from discrimination.

In a careful decision, the California Supreme court balanced these two concerns.  It allowed Mr. Salas to take his case to a jury, finding that a company can be liable for discrimination even against undocumented employees.  At the same time, the court held that undocumented employees cannot seek a court to be hired back by the company that has discriminated against them.

This decision demonstrates an understanding of the reality of the California workplace, which is  increasingly made up of workers of all immigration statuses, including green card holders and naturalized U.S. citizens.  It also includes 1.85 million undocumented workers, who constitute nearly 10% of the total workforce.

Against this backdrop, the Supreme Court confirmed that employers cannot violate the law—by discriminating or otherwise—and then later be immunized from liability for those violations. The court recognized that leaving undocumented workers without the protection of the law would actually give employers a strong incentive to “look the other way” when hiring and then turn around and use their immigration status to ultimately exploit them.  That would be bad news for employers who actually honor their obligations to treat workers fairly and legally when it comes to hiring, pay, and non-discrimination in the workforce.

Mr. Salas will now have the chance to take his case to a jury, who will decide whether he wins or loses.  But the Salas decision is a solid win for all law-abiding Californians – employees and employers alike.

This article originally appeared in CELA Voice on October 2, 2014. Reprinted with permission. http://celavoice.org/

Beaman[1]About the Author: Megan Beaman is a community-based attorney who roots her work in the notion that all people deserve access to justice, and who understands the larger struggles for immigrant and worker justice in California and nationwide. Beaman’s practice is founded on her years of advocacy and activism in working class and immigrant communities, and tends to reflect the predominate needs of those communities, including many cases of discrimination, harassment, unpaid wages, immigration, substandard housing, and other civil rights violations. The client communities Beaman most often represents are overwhelmingly Latino and Spanish-speaking. Beaman also works and volunteers in a number of other community capacities, including as a coordinator for the Eastern Coachella Valley Neighborhoods Action Team.

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About the Author: Kevin Kish is the Director of the Employment Rights Project at Bet Tzedek Legal Services in Los Angeles. He leads Bet Tzedek’s employment litigation, policy and outreach initiatives, focusing on combating illegal retaliation against low-wage workers and litigating cases involving human trafficking for forced labor.

63 Million

Friday, October 3rd, 2014

jonathan-tasiniNumbers sometimes tell a story. Today, it’s 63 million. 63 million is the only number you can remember to explain to the dim politicians and “analysts” who just don’t understand why the global economy is stumbling along. It’s simple math. 63 million is the projected jobs gap around the world by 2018 just for the G20 countries. And, so, yes the dire situation for workers is much, much, much worse because the 63 million jobs gap is only for G20 countries (Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Republic of Korea, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Turkey, the United Kingdom, the United States and the European Union). I’m going to come to say more here in a moment. But, remember these five key points: Tens of millions of people have essentially zero prospects for decent work in the next 5-10 years. They have zero prospects for work even though productivity is racing along just fine. They have zero prospects for decent work because governments are not doing enough. They have zero prospects for decent work because a bigger slice of the pie is not going to workers but to elites and corporate treasuries. They have zero prospects for decent work because corporations just don’t care. Where does this all come from? I happened to be re-reading a presentation made by Guy Ryder, Director-General of the International Labour Organization, to the recent G20 Labour and Employment Ministerial Meeting(yes, you can say: Tasini, you have to get out more).

Ryder had some important and revealing charts to make clear how truly bad the situation is. A bottom line:

“Despite a modest economic recovery in 2013-4, economic growth is expected to remain below trend over the foreseeable future. The G20 jobs gap in 2012 was about 55 million. The ILO estimates that the gap will continue to widen until 2018, reaching 63 million that year.”

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You basically get the point from the chart–the higher trend line shows where jobs should have been, the lower blue trend line shows what can be expected (and you can see the sharp drop from the crisis).

wcms_306061[2]

This is a bit deceptive because it doesn’t tell the whole story: the spread between the crisis level and projected jobs level, in my opinion, should say, in part, that lower wages (slave labor) was a big attraction to corporations to stick around in developing countries. Still, as Ryder says:

“In the emerging G20 countries, jobs gaps are not as wide as an industrialized countries but the prospect of closing the gaps in the next five years is not very promising under current growth trends.”

Then, there are three other graphs that tell the story of depression and robbery. First, look at this one:

wcms_306097[3]

The developing countries–the red line–had higher percentage growth because their workers were coming from slave-like, poverty wages–but still you can see the deep dive there, as well. And when it hits poorer people in that dramatic fashion, that translates into hunger. The green line had actual negative numbers in some spots but, overall, pretty much nowhere. So, duh. I mean, seriously, to the morons who claim to be economists and, then, are “analysts”: why is it so hard to understand that when wages aren’t going up, people don’t have money to spend? And where is the money going? Not to workers. The chart below illustrates the share of economic activity–Gross Domestic Product–that is going to workers…and it’s in steep decline.

wcms_306111[4]

As Ryder says, this isn’t a new story:

“This is a long-term structural problem, a “legacy vulnerability” which was revealed by the crisis but has been decades in the making. Its persistence over recent decades demonstrates that it is a problem that won’t go away on its own; it must be addressed by specific policies. And it is a problem affecting nearly all G20 economies, both current account surplus and deficit countries.”

But, it makes an even bigger problem greater because of the lack of jobs.

Now, it isn’t because workers aren’t more productive:

wcms_306117[5]

The blue line shows that we’re working our asses off and the red line shows how little we get for our work. I pointed this out recently when I criticized the pathetic $10.10-an-hour federal minimum wage campaign is far too low and argued, based on productivity, that it should be $20-an-hour. Now, what does all this mean? To repeat: Tens of millions of people have essentially zero prospects for decent work in the next 5-10 years.

They have zero prospects for work even though productivity is racing along just fine.

They have zero prospects for decent work because governments are not doing enough.

They have zero prospects for decent work because a bigger slice of the pie is not going to workers but to elites and corporate treasuries.

They have zero prospects for decent work because corporations just don’t care.

 

This blog originally appeared in WorkingLife.org on September 30, 2014. Reprinted with permission. http://www.workinglife.org/2014/09/30/63-million/.

About the author Jonathan Tasini: On any given day, I think like a political-union organizer or a writer — or both. I’ve done the traditional press routine including The Wall Street Journal, CNBC, Business Week, Playboy Magazine, The Washington Post, The New York Times and The Los Angeles Times. One day, back when blogs were just starting out, I created Working Life. I used to write every day but sometimes there just isn’t something new to say so I cut back to weekdays, with an occasional weekend post when it moves me. I’ve also written four books: It’s Not Raining, We’re Being Peed On: The Scam of the Deficit Crisis (2010 and, then, the updated 2nd edition in 2013); The Audacity of Greed: Free Markets, Corporate Thieves and The Looting of America (2009); They Get Cake, We Eat Crumbs: The Real Story Behind Today’s Unfair Economy, an average reader’s guide to the economy (1997); and The Edifice Complex: Rebuilding the American Labor Movement to Face the Global Economy, a critique and prescriptive analysis of the labor movement (1995).

The Labor Movement Celebrates National Hispanic Heritage Month

Tuesday, September 30th, 2014

Image: Mike Hall

According to the 2010 Census, 50.5 million people or 16% of the population are of Hispanic or Latino origin. This represents a significant increase from 2000, which registered the Hispanic population at 35.3 million or 13% of the total U.S. population.

Since its inception in 1972, LCLAA has remained a grassroots organization driven and directed by Latino labor leaders who understand the importance of unionization in helping workers secure rights and protections on the job, empowering them to become voices for justice and change in their communities. Here are some historic photos from LCLAA, including ones of César Chávez at the LCLAA Convention.

 National Hispanic Heritage Month (Sept. 15 to Oct. 15) honors the contributions made and the important presence of Hispanic and Latino Americans to the United States and celebrates their heritage and culture. The Labor Council for Latin American Advancement (LCLAA) is tweeting daily on milestones for Hispanic workers and Latino labor leaders. You also can find out more on its Facebook page.
The-Labor-Movement-Celebrates-National-Hispanic-Heritage-Month_blog_post_fullWidth[1]

The AFL-CIO and LCLAA are co-hosting a reception Monday, Oct. 6, from 5–7:30 p.m. at 815 16th St., N.W., Washington, D.C. for National Hispanic Heritage Month. If you’re interested in attending, RSVP to Sara Walling.

This blog originally appeared in AFL-CIO Blog on September 29, 2014. Reprinted with permission. http://www.aflcio.org/Blog/Other-News/The-Labor-Movement-Celebrates-National-Hispanic-Heritage-Month

About the Author: Mike Hall is a former West Virginia newspaper reporter, staff writer for the United Mine Workers Journal and managing editor of the Seafarers Log. He came to the AFL- CIO in 1989 and have written for several federation publications, focusing on legislation and politics, especially grassroots mobilization and workplace safety. When his collar was still blue, he carried union cards from the Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers, American Flint Glass Workers and Teamsters for jobs in a chemical plant, a mining equipment manufacturing plant and a warehouse. He also worked as roadie for a small-time country-rock band, sold my blood plasma and played an occasional game of poker to help pay the rent. You may have seen him at one of several hundred Grateful Dead shows. He was the one with longhair and the tie-dye. Still has the shirts, lost the hair.

Department of Defense Expands Ban on Forced Arbitration for Servicemembers

Tuesday, September 30th, 2014

ellen tavernaToday the Department of Defense (DoD) issued a new proposed rule expanding important protections to servicemembers and their families from predatory lending. The new rule closes the loopholes in the Military Lending Act (MLA) that allowed many financial services to fall outside the scope and protections of the law and put servicemembers at financial risk.

In 2006, the DoD reported to Congress that “…predatory lending undermines military readiness, harms the morale of troops and their families, and adds to the cost of fielding an all-volunteer fighting force.” In response in large part to the DoD report, the MLA, bipartisan legislation passed by Congress and signed by George W. Bush in 2007, capped interest rates at 36 percent and applied other key consumer protections to certain forms of credit.

One very important consumer protection of the MLA includes a ban on forced arbitration clauses. Forced arbitration clauses are buried in the fine print of financial contracts and require servicemembers to resolve disputes with companies in a private system, outside of court. Arbitrators are not required to follow the law, and there is no public review to make sure the arbitrator got it right. In its 2006 reposrt, the DoD states that “Servicemembers should retain full legal recourse again unscrupulous lenders. Loan contracts to Service members should not include mandatory arbitration clauses or onerous notice provisions, and should not require the Service member to waive his or her right of recourse, such as the right to participate in a plaintiff class.”

Unfortunately, the MLA only covers a narrow subset of payday loans, auto title loans and refund anticipation loans and unscrupulous business often founds ways around the law. We applaud the DoD’s new proposed rule to expand the current military financial protections and the ban on forced arbitration to a wide range of high-cost loans made to active-duty servicemembers and their dependents.

We hope the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) follows the lead of the DoD to protect all consumers – both military and civilian.  The CFPB is required by the Dodd-Frank Act to study the use of forced arbitration and is authorized to issue a rule to limit or ban forced arbitration in all consumer contracts for financial services and products under its jurisdiction.  We encourage the CFPB to write a strong rule to eliminate forced arbitration clauses for the benefit of all consumers.

This blog originally appeared in Fair Arbitration Now on September 26, 2014. Reprinted with permission. http://www.fairarbitrationnow.org/department-of-defense-expands-ban-on-forced-arbitration-for-servicemembers/

About the author: Ellen Taverna is the Legislative Director at the National Association of Consumer Advocates. As NACA’s Legislative Director, Ellen identifies and monitors key legislative issues related to consumer justice and consumer financial services issues, organizes and coordinates NACA’s membership to promote these issues, attends various coalitions with other communities who share our agenda, communicates with members of Congress, and builds Hill and Administration contacts on specific legislative and regulatory issues. The issues that she focuses on include, but are not limited to, homeownership/foreclosure prevention, debt collection, payday lending and ensuring the regulatory implementation of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act

 

Everything That's Wrong With The NFL Is Wrong With America, Too

Saturday, September 27th, 2014

Richard EskowSexism. A culture of violence. Untrustworthy leadership. Runaway wealth inequality. An indifference to workers’ health. Employees who are above the law. Hush-hush financing. Multimillion-dollar tax breaks.

We’re not talking about corporate CEOs or the Christmas parties on Wall Street. We’re talking about the National Football League.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s handling of Ray Rice’s videotaped brutality has brought the NFL back into the public eye. It’s a sorry spectacle which others have addressed at length, so we’ll just repeat the cliché: It’s the cover-up, stupid.

For my personal assessment of Goodell, we can turn the mic over to Bill Simmons and UltraViolet.

As for the NFL itself, let’s just say it’s America in microcosm.

Capital in the 21st Century NFL

While the league’s finances are largely kept secret from the public, we know the following from public filings (form 990) and news reports (including a leaked copy of the NFL’s audited financials for 2010):

The NFL organization has 1,856 employees and paid $107.7 million per year in salaries last year. Goodell was paid more than $44 million. That means more than 40 percent of the organization’s entire payroll went to one individual.

Most of Goodell’s income was in the form of a “bonus” based on performance standards which, like that of many corporate CEOs, have never been publicly defined.

Roger Goodell is not a “job creator,” even by the right’s loose definition. He – like most corporate CEOs nowadays – invented nothing, made nothing, and built nothing. And the gravy train doesn’t stop at his house. Jeff Pash, the General Counsel, was paid $6,199,000. The EVP of Business Ventures got $4,180,000. The CFO made nearly $2 million. The EVPs of Operations and Human Resources made more than $1.6 million each. (Another executive, the EVP of media, was paid $26 million by an “affiliated” organization.)

All told, more than 54 percent of the organization’s entire payroll went to five individuals – the organization’s top 0.0027 percent. The remaining 43 percent or so was divided among 1,851 employees- the 99.9973 percent.

Now that’s inequality.

Government of the rich, by the rich, and for the rich

The NFL doesn’t even make a profit – at least on paper. To the IRS, it’s a “nonprofit organization.” But “nonprofit” work pays well for some. The top guy’s salary has certainly soared in recent years:2014-09-25-Goodellpay[1]

A bipartisan bill called the “PRO Sports Act,” which would have ended the nonprofit status of the NFL and similar organizations, appears to have died in committee. It’s reasonable to assume that Goodell, the son of a Senator, had something to do with that.

Executives like Goodell – or, for that matter, bank CEOs like JPMorgan Chase’s Jamie Dimon – seem to be compensated more for their ability to influence elected officials than for their business acumen. On that score, at least, he’s been a good investment. In addition to protecting its tax status, Goodell’s NFL has brokered loans, bonds and tax concessions for its franchises.

Payback

The NFL had annual gross receipts of $184.3 million in 2010 – and that doesn’t include earnings for the individual franchises which own it. It reported $788,113,036 in total assets on the tax-exemption form which is its only public disclosure. It gave exorbitant salaries to its top executives – and it paid no taxes.

Goodell’s hypocrisy and apparent dishonesty is a shameful but very CEO-like display, one for which he’s not likely to be held accountable …

…that is, unless he becomes a financial liability.

But that day may be coming. More than half of those polled by Reuters/Ipsos said that sponsors should sever their ties with the NFL over its handling of violence scandals involving Rice, Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson, and other players. A number of sponsors have said they don’t want their ads running during games involving the Vikings or Rice’s former team, the Baltimore Ravens, according to  The Hollywood Reporter.

They say payback is a bitch. But in today’s America, the only payback that matters is counted in cold cash. If the day comes that owners are forced to choose between Roger Goodell and their own profits, the response will be swift and sure. The commissioner’s instant gratification will turn into instant karma.

Goodell will be fine, of course, no matter what happens. That can’t be said about most Americans. As for his accomplishments, well … Under his leadership the NFL fought reports of player head injuries for years. Its security apparatus and legal teams have intervened when its players are arrested, often for violent crimes, securing special treatment which ordinary citizens don’t receive. It has fostered a culture of misogyny, brutality, and amorality in the field of sport, whose stars were once considered examples for young people to follow,

Goodell’s football league isn’t an example for today’s corporatized America. It’s a reflection of it.

This blog originally appeared in Crook and Liars on September 25, 2014. Reprinted with permission. http://crooksandliars.com/2014/09/what-s-wrong-nfl-wrong-america.

About the Author: Richard Eskow is a Senior Fellow with the Campaign for America’s Future and the host of The Zero Hour, a weekly program of news, interviews, and commentary on We Act Radio The Zero Hour is syndicated nationally and is available as a podcast on iTunes. Richard has been a consultant, public policy advisor, and health executive in health financing and social insurance. He was cited as one of “fifty of the world’s leading futurologists” in “The Rough Guide to the Future,” which highlighted his long-range forecasts on health care, evolution, technology, and economic equality. Richard’s writing has been published in print and online. He has also been anthologized three times in book form for “Best Buddhist Writing of the Year.”

 

APWU Victory: 9,000 New Jobs

Friday, September 26th, 2014

Image: Mike HallSome 9,000 new postal clerk jobs are on the way, thanks to action by the American Postal Workers Union (APWU).  The U.S. Postal Service (USPS) in 2012 cut the hours of operation at small post offices around the country and filled new jobs at the offices with part-time, nonunion workers. APWU filed a grievance.

The collective bargaining agreement between the union and USPS committed management to assign any newly created or revised retail positions that had no managerial or supervisory duties to union employees.

An arbitrator agreed with the APWU and a memorandum of understanding between the union and the USPS reached earlier this week outlines how those new jobs will be filled. Said APWU President Mark Dimondstein:

“The arbitration award…and the accompanying implementation memo mean thousands of jobs within 90 days—not years from now.”

This blog originally appeared on AFLCIO.org in their Blog Section on September 25, 2014. Reprinted with permission. http://www.aflcio.org/Blog/Organizing-Bargaining/APWU-Victory-9-000-New-Jobs

About the Author: Mike Hall is a former West Virginia newspaper reporter, staff writer for the United Mine Workers Journal and managing editor of the Seafarers Log. He came to the AFL- CIO in 1989 and have written for several federation publications, focusing on legislation and politics, especially grassroots mobilization and workplace safety. When his collar was still blue, he carried union cards from the Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers, American Flint Glass Workers and Teamsters for jobs in a chemical plant, a mining equipment manufacturing plant and a warehouse. He also worked as roadie for a small-time country-rock band, sold my blood plasma and played an occasional game of poker to help pay the rent. You may have seen him at one of several hundred Grateful Dead shows. He was the one with longhair and the tie-dye. Still has the shirts, lost the hair.

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