Outten & Golden: Empowering Employees in the Workplace

Posts Tagged ‘Christmas’

Joy to the Workers

Wednesday, December 23rd, 2015

Leo GerardThe spirit of the season is generosity. Eight toys for Hanukkah. A partridge in a pear tree and 11 other quirky presents. Black Friday. Cyber Monday. Giving Tuesday.

It’s the thought that counts. And the thought is good-hearted. That’s why the season works so well.

To keep it all rolling happily along, however, workers need to earn enough money so that they can afford gifts and charitable donations. With wages stagnant for decades, that’s increasingly difficult.

In keeping with the figgy-pudding and potato latke traditions of the holidays, here’s a recipe for delivering joy to workers so that they can spread holiday merriment:

Ingredients

1 measure outlawing scabs
1 measure banning lockouts
1 measure raising minimum wage to $15 an hour
Knead in trade law enforcement
Filter out currency manipulation
Top it all with campaign finance reform

Directions

Start by combining legislation forbidding both scabs and lockouts. These are two weapons corporations use to ratchet down wages, ruining workers’ holidays.

Right now, for example, Sherwin Alumina and ATI have locked out their loyal workers and replaced them with scabs. That’s thousands of workers forced to walk picket lines and depend on USW lockout assistance and food pantries for holiday meals rather than donating to them.

Prohibiting lockouts and scabs would slightly shift the balance of power toward workers. That’s completely justified considering corporate profits are at record levels while wages are walking backward, lower now than in 2007.

Next, add to the mix a raise to the minimum wage. No one who works full-time should live in poverty. The current $7.25 minimum, moribund for six years, is a Dickensian disgrace, a Bob Cratchit-level degradation.

Increasing the wages of workers at the bottom to $15 an hour will force up the pay of everyone else as well. All workers benefit. Happier holidays for all.

Trade law enforcement must be blended in next. Failure to immediately punish trade law violators has pummeled commodity producers – like aluminum and steel.  Mills are closed. Thousands of workers are laid off. No merry holiday for them. Or their communities.

Several foreign countries, but particularly China, illegally prop up their exporting manufacturers. Not only that, they’re also overproducing, flooding the world market and crashing prices.

Workers need laws enabling the government to impose punitive tariffs before American mills close and families suffer. In addition, the government must file and prosecute trade cases to defend American industry, not force labor unions and manufacturers to do it.

The next step in this recipe is pulling currency manipulation out of the international market. Ending this underhanded trade cheat is crucial

Countries including Japan and China deliberately devalue their currency in order to automatically discount the price of their exports, so every day is Black Friday for their international customers. Making matters worse, this scheme simultaneously marks up the cost of products that U.S. manufacturers try to sell in currency-manipulating countries.

This makes for very bad holidays in places like Ashland, Ky., where AK Steel shut down its blast furnace earlier this month and laid off hundreds of workers. They join about 4,000 Steelworkers at plants in Illinois and Alabama threatened with holiday layoffs.

The last ingredient, campaign finance reform, makes the whole recipe possible. Nothing will happen without it.

In a democracy, each citizen should have equal influence over lawmakers. The wealthy and fat-cat corporations shouldn’t get special access and treatment because they’ve given millions to candidates. The only way to stop that is to outlaw massive political bribes.

Gifts should be to loved ones and charities, not to politicians. If gargantuan campaign “presents” aren’t stopped, workers won’t be able to afford Christmas gifts because politicians will continue to ignore their needs and, as a result, their wages will continue to atrophy. Then the holiday season will not work well for anyone.

Workers need to make this holiday recipe happen. It would bring joy to their world.

About the Author: The author’s name is Leo Gerard. Leo W. Gerard, International President of the United Steelworkers (USW), took office in 2001 after the retirement of former president George Becker.

This blog was originally posted on Our Future on December 22, 2015. Reprinted with permission.

Jobs: Gifts We Really Need

Wednesday, December 29th, 2010

Edith RasellThis is the season of gift giving and, for millions of us, the present we really need is a job.

We know that American families need jobs. But American businesses also need jobs—rather, they need customers with jobs. When millions of unemployed workers and their families have little money to spend, businesses, big and small, have few customers. Production stalls, hiring is frozen and investments are put on hold. Firms cannot thrive and the economy will not return to health until people can afford to buy the things they need.

The nation also needs jobs—it needs people with jobs who are paying their income taxes, sales taxes and property taxes. Tax revenues have fallen and government budget deficits have exploded because people are not working. To get deficits under control, we must put people back to work, back to earning money and back to paying taxes. Job creation must be our nation’s highest priority.

The nation’s official jobless rate is 9.8 percent, or nearly one in 10 workers. But the official count only includes people who are actively looking for work. Someone who has given up and stopped looking is not counted. Older workers who have declared themselves “retired” when they had planned to continue working are not counted. Another 9 million people are working part-time when they want full-time work. All together, more than 28 million people, or more than one in six potential workers, are either unemployed or under-employed. This more comprehensive, “real” count is nearly twice the official one.

A federal program to create millions of needed jobs will be costly. But in this very wealthy nation, the money could be found if jobs were our highest priority. Congress could have ended the Bush tax cuts for the 2 percent of taxpayers with the highest incomes, or raised the estate tax to the level it was in previous years. But a Congress that chooses instead to extend these tax breaks for the wealthy cannot honestly claim there is no money for jobs. There is money. But it is funding tax breaks for the rich, not jobs for the unemployed.

There are other potential sources of money for jobs, ways to raise money that also strengthen the economy and close tax loopholes. We could put a tax on financial transactions that would bring in money while also reducing speculation and strengthening the financial system. We could tax capital gains (money made from selling stock and other investments) at the same rate as we tax wages and salaries. We could tax hedge fund managers at least at the same rate as we tax their secretaries.

Working people have a clear choice. We can either beg Santa for jobs (and many of us have already tried that one) or we can come together and demand that our elected officials do what’s right for working families, businesses and our nation: Create jobs.

This article was originally posted on AFL-CIO Now Blog.

About The Author: Edith Rasell is on the national staff of the United Church of Christ serving as Minister for Economic Justice in Justice and Witness Ministries. She works with UCC congregations around the country as well as national and international organizations to bring greater economic justice to people in the U.S. and around the world, especially the poor and marginalized. Read more about Edith’s work on the UCC Economic Justice home page.

NBC Labor Dispute Threatens Rockefeller Center Christmas Special

Wednesday, December 2nd, 2009

A labor dispute is threatening NBC’s “Christmas in Rockefeller Center” telecast.

The National Association of Broadcast Employees and Technicians (NABET-CWA) Local 11, which represents nearly 3,000 of NBC’s producers, writers, and technicians, vowed Tuesday to “pull the plug” on Wednesday’s Christmas special -— which includes the lighting of the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree — over failed negotiations with NBC management. The union’s contract expired in March and the union says there’s been very little progress since talks began last year, describing NBC management as “increasingly hostile” in “ignoring the concerns of the union’s membership.”

“We can’t let the Grinch at NBC steal another Christmas from thousands of honest working people,” said NABET-CWA Local 11 president Ed McEwan. “This charade must stop. Christmas is supposed to be a time of goodwill, but the network’s management is trying to hide behind their fancy lights while leaving their employees in the dark.”

The union has set up a website, NBCStoleChristmas.com, to air their concerns and attempt to avert a strike during Wednesday’s Christmas tree ceremony:

NBC did not respond to a request for comment on the union dispute.

*This article originally appeared in The Huffington Post on December 1, 2009. Reprinted with permission from the author.

About the Author: Danny Shea is the Media Editor of the Huffington Post. He is a graduate of Princeton University, where he majored in the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs.

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