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Michigan Moms and Workers vs. Restaurant Industry and ALEC

Tuesday, May 7th, 2013

dougfooteLawmakers in Michigan are still pushing a bill that would keep cities and towns from making their own decisions about paid sick days laws. We call them “preemption bills”— restaurant lobbyists and their allies call it the “kill shot” to paid sick days.

The bills in the House and Senate are ALEC model bills, inspired by none other than Wisconsin union-buster Gov. Scott Walker. Quick story: In early 2011, Walker pushed and passed a preemption law in Wisconsin, completely invalidating the will of Milwaukee voters who had just passed a sick days ordinance.

The restaurant lobby was so excited that they handed out copies of the bill to attendees of ALEC’s August 2011 meeting.

And, as if by magic, preemption bills have been introduced in Michigan, Mississippi, Washington, Arizona, Indiana and Oklahoma. Such laws are already on the books in Wisconsin and Louisiana. Just this week, a preemption bill passed both houses of the Florida legislature. Textbook ALEC.

In Michigan, along with statewide mothers’ organization Mothering Justice, Working America delivered petitions signed by more than 2,500 Michiganders to the Michigan Restaurant Association and the state legislature.

All workers deserve the opportunity to earn paid sick days, so that not another person has to make their choice between going to work sick and not making rent, or not being able to eat, or not being able to care for their child.

But even the threat of workers in a few cities and towns having this basic right has the restaurant lobby and ALEC running scared, using their politician pawns to introduce ridiculously undemocratic preemption bills that won’t create a single job. Since when did these “small-government” obsessives get into the business of telling cities and towns how to conduct their business?

Join us. Tell the Michigan legislature to stand with workers, mothers and democracy—not ALEC and the restaurant lobby.

This article was posted on the AFL-CIO on May 7, 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).

 

Philadelphia Falls One Vote Short of Sick Days for Over 180,000 Workers

Sunday, April 14th, 2013

 

dougfoote

With 12 votes needed, only 11 members of the Philadelphia City Council were willing to override Mayor Michael Nutter’s veto of the sick leave bill. For the second time in three years, corporate interests defeated a measure that would allow more than 180,000 Philadelphians to finally earn sick days.

“I’m very disappointed,” said city councilman Bill Greenlee, who tried but failed to get the 12 votes needed to override Mayor Nutter’s veto.  “I’m particularly disappointed for the 180,000 workers who could have had a benefit that other cities are providing.”

Instead of listening to the people of Philadelphia, Mayor Nutter sided with business interests: specifically the Philadelphia-based ALEC corporation Comcast, who spend more than $100,000 opposing sick leave in 2011 and is a big contributor to Mayor Nutter’s campaign.

“We’re not surprised the mayor vetoed this….he hasn’t exactly been a champion of workers,” said Philadelphia Council AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Elizabeth McElroy. “The majority of the City Council and the majority of Philadelphians wanted this—it’s the right thing to do, and we’ll keep working on it.”

Comcast also contributed $3,000 to Councilman Brian O’Neill and $1,500 to Councilman Denny O’Brien, both who voted against the sick leave bill and refused to override Mayor Nutter’s veto. All of this despite the fact that 77% of Philadelphians favor the sick leave policy.

Not all hope is lost, however. Working America worked with a broad coalition to drive thousands of messages and phone calls to Mayor Nutter and members of the Philadelphia City Council. And while sick leave proposals move forward in Portland, Oregon, New York City and elsewhere, there will be more pressure on city officials as time goes on.

The fight isn’t over for bill sponsor Councilman Greenlee either:

“I still believe in and want to have earned paid sick leave in Philadelphia.  So we’ll see what the future holds on that,” he said.

This article was posted on the AFL-CIO on April 11, 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).

Missouri Working Families Go Door to Door to Fight Anti-Worker Attacks

Tuesday, April 9th, 2013
Kenneth Quinnell

Kenneth Quinnell

This weekend, Missouri working families went door to door to tell their friends and neighbors about a series of anti-worker bills Republicans are pushing in the state legislature. Across the state, Missourians described the right-wing push that is advancing paycheck deception, anti-prevailing wage and “right to work” for less bills.

“I’ve been knocking doors to hold my state senator accountable for siding with special interests and extremists over working people. Voters at home need to hear what’s really going on in Jefferson City,” said Bradley Harmon at Saturday’s canvass in Springfield. “It is time our elected officials start working for the voters, not special interests.”

A rally also was held in St. Charles on Monday. Attendee Laura Kelley said:

The response at the door has been overwhelmingly positive. A lot of voters don’t know what’s going on in Jefferson City, but when they hear what working people are facing and how wages will fall if these bills are passed, people are very concerned. Politicians should realize that constituents are paying attention.

This article was originally posted on the AFL-CIO on April 8, 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.

How the Poultry Industry is Grinding Up Workers’ Health and Rights

Monday, March 25th, 2013

Michelle ChenWalk through any supermarket poultry section and you can marvel at the wonders of the modern food processing industry: antiseptic aisles packed with gleaming, plump shrink-wrapped chickens, sold at bargain prices under the labels of trusted agribusiness brands like Tyson and Pilgrim’s. But all that quality meat doesn’t come cheap: it’s paid for dearly by factory workers who brave injury, abuse and coercion every day on assembly lines running at increasingly deadly speeds.

According to newly published research on Alabama poultry workers by the civil rights group Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), the business model of the sector has sacrificed health and safety on the factory floor for the Tayloristic efficiency demanded by American appetites.

The supersized industry, which churns out about 50 pounds of chicken per American stomach annually, dominates many struggling towns in Alabama, a mostly non-union state, supporting about 10 percent of the local economy and some 75,000 jobsBut according to the SPLC’s researchers, the production line is butchering workers’ health:

Nearly three-quarters of the poultry workers interviewed for this report described suffering some type of significant work-related injury or illness. In spite of many factors that lead to undercounting of injuries in poultry plants, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) reported an injury rate of 5.9 percent for poultry processing workers in 2010, a rate that is more than 50 percent higher than the 3.8 percent injury rate for all U.S. workers.

Alabama workers interviewed by the SPLC reported being routinely subjected to unsafe working conditions that led to severe health threats, from repetitive stress injuries to respiratory issues to chemical burns. Adding insult to injury, employers often ignored workers’ debilitating problems or punished them for asserting their rights. Evoking images reminiscent of Upton Sinclair’s century-old expose on the meat-packing industry The Jungle, workers reported that problems like crippling hand pain would be diverted to the company nurse, rather than more intensive care by an outside doctor. Others were fired before they could become more of a liability.

One worker, a black woman in her 30s, recounted in an interview being pressured to shield her company from responsibility for her injury:

“I shouldn’t say it’s work-related. If I say my pain comes from something I did at work, then I will be laid off without pay and three days later get fired. So, when I go to the nurse I tell her that I hurt my hands at home.”

In towns that lack decent job opportunities outside of the poultry industry, these workers face an oppressive workplace culture that undermines not only their health but their dignity. Workers reported “being discouraged from reporting work-related injuries, enduring constant pain and even choosing to urinate on themselves rather than invite the wrath of a supervisor by leaving the processing line for a restroom break.”

Conditions may soon worsen, the SPLC notes, because the Department of Agriculture is seeking to alter regulations to allow even faster line speeds. That means the already frenzied pace of production–whipping bird carcasses into hermetically sealed flesh pellets in a matter of seconds–might speed up even more under a controversial set of proposed changes to plant inspection protocols.

The planned reforms have been criticized as counterproductive because they transfer control of inspections from federal inspectors to company employees. The revamped inspection process would, according to critics, both give corporations more power to regulate their own henhouse while accelerating the already frighteningly hectic pace of production. Some USDA inspectors have criticized the proposal, warning that with the combination of sped-up lines and company-controlled oversight, these industry-backed efforts to “modernize” the production chain may create more safety risks. So safety standards for both consumers and workers might be further weakened. (Industry representatives dispute the SPLC’s research, insisting that the proposal would not harm safety standards.)

Underlying labor injustices have exacerbated the immediate workplace hazards. The mostly black and Latino workforce, which includes many documented and undocumented immigrants, generally have little recourse against abusive employers. Many saw their pay arbitrarily cut by deductions for housing expenses and other fees. Meanwhile, for female workers, sexual harassment was a commonly reported issue. Harsh immigration enforcement laws, which were recently tightened by state legislation that seeks to further criminalize undocumented Latino workers, has made them even more economically insecure and socially marginalized.

One structural problem making poultry workers especially vulnerable, the researchers argue, is that despite some general occupational safety guidelines for poultry plants, OSHA “has no set of mandatory guidelines tailored to protect poultry processing workers,” which constrains workers’ ability to take legal action against unsafe working conditions or unfair treatment.

The report’s author, SPLC advocate Tom Fritzsche, says that while OSHA can enforce general workplace protections, regulatory gaps nonetheless enable the industry to structure its labor system around loophole-ridden standards for food production, which are not focused on worker safety. “This specific [line speed] rule from USDA is not really intended originally as a worker protection standard… The speed that they currently run at is based more on whether the inspectors can see the chickens, rather than how the workers can do the work safely,” he says. As a result of these regulatory lapses, “We’ve kind of ended up in a world where this is the only limit on speeds.”

Until state and federal regulators start prioritizing workers’ labor rights and health needs, the unsafe work environment, Fritzsche adds, “ultimately comes from the fact that the whole industry is just operating in this kind of race to produce as many chickens as they can in as little amount of time as they can. And so it affects every aspect of the worker’s job.”

But all those bitter hardships are stowed far away from the millions of super-clean, ultra-cheap drumsticks that will end up on American dinner tables tonight. Countless consumers will enjoy their meals without any conception of how perfectly the poultry industry masks the true price of its brutal efficiency.

This article was originally posted on the Working In These Times on March 21, 2013. Reprinted with Permission.

About the Author: Michelle Chen is a contributing editor at In These Times, a contributor to Working In These Times, and an editor at CultureStrike. She is also a co-producer of Asia Pacific Forum on Pacifica’s WBAI. Her work has appeared on Alternet, Colorlines.com, Ms., and The Nation, Newsday, and her old zine, cain.

Las Vegas Strip Action Results in 98 Arrests

Thursday, March 21st, 2013
Kenneth Quinnell

Kenneth Quinnell

Nearly 100 workers were arrested Wednesday night in Las Vegas as they engaged in civil disobedience to protest the Cosmopolitan casino’s refusal to agree to a fair contract with its workers. As reported Wednesday, members of Culinary Workers Union Local 226 and Bartenders Local 165 blocked the street on the Las Vegas Strip, leading to 98 arrests.

Workers shut down rush hour traffic for more than an hour as about 1,500 people gathered in solidarity with the Cosmopolitan casino workers. The casino is owned by Deutsche Bank. According to U.S. News and World Report, some of the gathered workers said they were concerned that the bank was delaying so they could sell the casino without the employees having a union contract.

The workers engaged in the protest were not employed by the Cosmopolitan:

Moments before her hands were bound with a zip tie, Janet Hill said she decided to get arrested to send management a message.

“They need to give workers here a contract; it affects us all,” said Hill, a porter at the Flamingo casino down the Strip.

Paulina Corona came to the protest in the brown uniform she wears as a housekeeper at the Mirage hotel-casino. She said the demonstration was important because mutual support creates strength.

“This is a union, and everybody is in it together. When there are problems at the Mirage, everyone goes there,” she said.

Corona, 58, said that as a cancer survivor she worries that management could make workers shoulder more of their health care costs.

“Every day, they try to ask for more things,” she said.

Check out the Local 226’s Facebook page for more pictures and updates.

This article was originally posted on the AFL-CIO on March 21, 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.

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).

More and More Workers Demanding Paid Sick Days

Wednesday, March 13th, 2013
Kenneth Quinnell

Kenneth Quinnell

According to the Center for Economic and Policy Research, more than 40 million Americans work in jobs where they have no access to paid sick days. In addition to the potential loss of wages and jobs for working families, the lack of paid sick days forces many people to go to work when they are contagious and get co-workers and customers sick and decreases productivity for workers who show up unable to perform to their normal level of ability. More and more cities and states are recognizing the realities of the damage having a workforce without paid sick leave does to workers and to the economy.

While corporations and their political allies spread falsehoods about paid sick days, more and more localities are ignoring those misrepresentations and doing the right thing for workers and the economy:

In 2006, San Francisco became the first locality in the nation to guarantee access to earned paid sick days for all workers in the city. In 2008, the District of Columbia and Milwaukee passed paid sick days standards that included paid “safe” days for victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking. And, in 2011, the Connecticut legislature became the first in the nation to pass a statewide paid sick days law, and Seattle became the fourth city. Legislators and advocates continue to advance proposals in Congress and in more than 20 other states and cities.

Numerous labor and social justice organizations also are mobilizing to support paid sick days, including the National Domestic Workers Alliance, Restaurant Opportunities Centers UnitedInterfaith Worker Justiceworker centers around the country and others.

Paid sick days campaigns or legislation exist in Arizona, California, Colorado, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Miami, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York City, New York, North Carolina, Orange County (Fla.), Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Portland (Ore.), Vermont, Washington and Wisconsin.

This article was originally posted on the AFL-CIO on March 5, 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.

Student guest workers walk off the job at McDonald's to protest abuses

Wednesday, March 13th, 2013

avatar_2563Student guest workers on the J-1 cultural exchange visa program walked out of their jobs at Pennsylvania McDonald’s restaurants Wednesday morning, citing abuses of the same kinds that caused a walkout from a Hershey’s supplier in summer 2011. As a result of that strike, the State Department investigated the program and strengthened protections somewhat, but not enough, according to analysts at the time and as demonstrated by the fact that once again student guest workers are coming forward with allegations of wage and hour abuses and having unreasonable rents deducted from their paychecks for basement rooms shared by several people.

Sean Kitchen reports that, at a recent meeting in Harrisburg, some of the student workers described their living and working conditions:

While at work, these “students” were often forced to work from 6 or 7 in the morning to as late as 11 at night with only one 30 minute to hour break. And to top it off, these students are paid minimum wage for all the hours they worked, despite working well over 40 hours per week, qualifying them for overtime pay. […] Fernando told us about a story of retaliation from his employer.  When he spoke out against the company’s tactics, the manager gave Fernando a 4 hour work week.  When Fernando was explaining that this story to the room, he asked, “how am I suppose to pay a $300 rent when only working 4 hours in 1 week?”

One of the striking workers contacted the State Department, only to face intimidation in response:

Rios said that the US government responded by contacting GeoVisions, the organization that sponsored the trip; that triggered an unannounced visit to Rios’ shared basement room by a GeoVisions representative and Rios’ boss, McDonalds franchisee Andy Cheung. (GeoVisions did not immediately respond to a request for comment.)Rios said that Cheung yelled at him, while the GeoVisions staffer stood by, hands shaking, acting like Cheung was his boss as well. “You could see he was scared,” said Rios. “He would say things like, ‘This doesn’t look so bad to me.’”

Participants pay $3,000 or more for the chance to join the program, which is billed as cultural exchange, an opportunity to experience the United States. Arguably, being mistreated at a low-wage job is an important part of the American experience these days, but should the State Department really be running that?

This article was originally posted on the Daily Kos on March 6, 2013. Reprinted with Permission.

About the Author: Laura Clawson is an editor at the Daily Kos.

New NELP Study Shows that ALEC Is Engaged in Widespread Campaign to Suppress Wages

Tuesday, March 12th, 2013
Kenneth Quinnell

Kenneth Quinnell

new report from the National Employment Law Project (NELP) shows that the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is engaged in a widespread campaign to suppress the wages of already low-wage workers. ALEC has created model legislation that is designed to weaken or repeal state minimum wage laws, reduce minimum wages for young workers and tipped workers, weaken overtime compensation rules and stop local governments from passing living wage ordinances.

The report found that since January 2011, 31 state legislatures have introduced 105 bills that attack wage standards at the state or local level. More than half of those bills were directly sponsored or co-sponsored by legislators with ties to ALEC. The report also warns that increased conservative strength in state legislatures means that working families face a stronger threat than they have in recent years.

NELP describes ALEC’s agenda:

The American Legislative Exchange Council—a “forum for state legislators and private sector leaders to discuss and exchange practical, state-level public policy issues”—has been the subject of substantial criticism over the past year for its promotion of controversial voter ID legislation, “Stand Your Ground” laws and measures to roll back environmental protections. In recent years, however, ALEC-affiliated state legislators from across the country have also conducted a parallel effort to weaken wage and workplace standards designed to protect the earnings and economic security of the country’s lowest-paid workers.

Although ALEC is trying to influence state legislatures to suppress wages, working families in 24 states are building momentum across the United States to raise the minimum wage. Read more about efforts to raise the federal minimum wage here.

This article was originally posted on the AFL-CIO on March 6, 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.

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