Outten & Golden: Empowering Employees in the Workplace

Posts Tagged ‘Kate Thomas’

New Global Report: The Power of Unions to Improve Wages

Tuesday, December 28th, 2010

Image: Kate ThomasA new global report by the International Labour Office (ILO) provides the latest evidence that failing to get more money into the hands of working people undermines economic recovery. The report shows that throughout 177 countries where data was collected, the growth in real average monthly wages declined from 2.8 percent before the crisis in 2007, to 1.5 percent and 1.6 percent, respectively, in 2008 and 2009.

From a positive frame of view, the report also suggests the economic crisis could provide an opportunity to improve wages in developing countries. One way to do this is through the power of unions.

ILO’s report found that low pay is much less prevalent in countries with higher levels of union membership.

Wages are better aligned with productivity in countries where collective bargaining covers more than 30 per cent of employees, and minimum wages reduce inequality in the bottom half of the wage distribution.

“Unions play a vital role in linking wages to productivity growth, so higher union density would help to reduce the incidence of low pay,” explained Erin Weir, a senior economist at the International Trade Union Confederation.

Download the global report here.

This article was originally posted on SEIU.

About the Author: Kate Thomas is a blogger, web producer and new media coordinator at the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), a labor union with 2.1 million members in the healthcare, public and property service sectors. Kate’s passions include the progressive movement, the many wonders of the Internet and her job working for an organization that is helping to improve the lives of workers and fight for meaningful health care and labor law reform. Prior to working at SEIU, Katie worked for the American Medical Student Association (AMSA) as a communications/public relations coordinator and editor of AMSA’s newsletter appearing in The New Physician magazine.

Puerto Rico's working families to appeal Governor's massive layoffs

Wednesday, December 8th, 2010

Image: Kate ThomasIn July 2008, Republican Governor of Puerto Rico Luis Fortuño enacted Law 7 in a two-day period. He then invoked the law in 2009, effectively firing 28,000 employees across all sectors of public services–and all without demonstrating any alternative solutions or proving financial necessity.

As a direct result of Law 7, thousands of working people who provide essential services in education, healthcare, the environment, and social services in Puerto Rico have lost their livelihoods, while the Commonwealth citizens have endured a dramatic loss of essential services.

Today at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit (located here in Boston, MA), 28,000 working families throughout Puerto Rico represented by lead plaintiffs from the Central Federation of Workers (UFCW), the Office and Professional Employees International Union (OPEIU), the Service Employees International Union SPT 1996 (SEIU) and the United Auto Workers (UAW) will hear opening arguments.

This article was originally published on SEIU.org.

For more information regarding this case, you can contact Meghan Finegan at [email protected]

About the Author: Kate Thomas is a blogger, web producer and new media coordinator at the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), a labor union with 2.1 million members in the healthcare, public and property service sectors. Kate’s passions include the progressive movement, the many wonders of the Internet and her job working for an organization that is helping to improve the lives of workers and fight for meaningful health care and labor law reform. Prior to working at SEIU, Katie worked for the American Medical Student Association (AMSA) as a communications/public relations coordinator and editor of AMSA’s newsletter appearing in The New Physician magazine.


VIDEO: 5,000 Activists Take the Fight for Reform Right to Insurance Companies' Doorstep

Thursday, March 11th, 2010

In DC yesterday, thousands of union members and health care activists from across the progressive movement took the fight for health care reform right to insurance companies’ doorstep. The massive protest started with a march from Dupont Circle to the Ritz-Carlton Hotel at 22nd and M Street, NW, led by more than 50 major labor organizations, health care reform activists, faith leaders, and 25 survivors of health insurance abuse.

Protesters flooded the streets and surrounded the site of the insurance lobbyists’ annual conference, where progressive leaders issued a peaceful citizens’ arrest of the insurance companies–while the dozens of law enforcement officials tried to rein in the huge crowd. Several progressive leaders who stood up on behalf of reform were escorted away by police (including SEIU’s Anna Burger and Dr. Toni L. Lewis).

It was truly a magnificent show of solidarity for reform. Watch this video footage for a taste of yesterday’s huge action:

More ways you can relive the March 9th citizens’ arrest of insurance companies after the jump.

Photos:

On Twitter:

  • The hashtag we created for today’s action, #m9, has been blowing up on Twitter all day. It’s been Twittered over 600 times so far, and it’s still going strong. Read the #m9 tweets here.
  • We live tweeted today’s action–check it out here.

Via media coverage & blogs:

Recap of what went down during the march on SEIU.org here.

More coverage also at Huffington Post, NY Times, Washington Post, DCist

More than 10,000 people have taken online action against insurance lobbyists on www.citizensposse.com, and sent over 2,500 faxes to the insurance companies’ fax machines so far. We know not everyone could be in DC to confront insurance lobbyists yesterday, but it’s not too late to do your part by spreading the message.

*This post originally appeared in SEIU Blog on March 10, 2010. Reprinted with permission.
About the Author: Kate Thomas is a blogger, web producer and new media coordinator at the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), a labor union with 2.1 million members in the healthcare, public and property service sectors. Kate’s passions include the progressive movement, the many wonders of the Internet and her job working for an organization that is helping to improve the lives of workers and fight for meaningful health care and labor law reform. Prior to working at SEIU, Katie worked for the American Medical Student Association (AMSA) as a communications/public relations coordinator and editor of AMSA’s newsletter appearing in The New Physician magazine.

REPORT: The Recovery Act, Unsung Hero of the Year

Thursday, February 18th, 2010

Image: Kate ThomasMarking the first anniversary of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), the SEIU is releasing a new report today analyzing the social and economic impact of the Recovery Act. This report explains what the aggregate numbers on economic growth and job creation fail to illustrate–how the Recovery Act helped counter the recession by protecting human services and the workers employed to deliver those services at a local level.

Reporting by state recipients of Recovery Act direct government investment spending demonstrates that this spending has saved or created 1,239,437 jobs in both the public and private sector. When you include the impact of indirect spending–jobs created or saved as a result of the consumer spending of directly funded job holders–the total rises to 1,859,156 jobs that have been saved or created. Pretty amazing. Without it, the unemployment rate in December 2009 may have reached 11.2 percent, 1.2 percent higher than the actual rate of 10.0 percent that month.

How Recovery Act Investments in Human Services Created and Saved Hundreds of Thousands of Jobs -
While it would be impossible to describe all of the significant findings of this report in just one blog post, I’ll be doing just that in a series of blog posts at SEIU.orgover the next couple of days. I’ll also be highlighting the stories included in this report–collected from a combination of public sources, government Web sites, and interviews with SEIU state-level leaders–which uniquely illustrate how states and some local units of government have used ARRA resources to limit scaling back.

For workers like Akbar Chatman–a substance abuse counselor for the Department of Mental Health in Los Angeles County–the Recovery Act played a critical role in helping him do his job. Watch:

While conditions are far better than they would have been without the stimulus fund actions that were taken, it is clear that substantial challenges remain. Without additional fiscal relief, new budget gaps could force state governments to shed 900,000 jobs this year.

View the report in full at http://seiu.me/arra

Download the (PDF) report:
“How Recovery Act Investments in Human Services Created and Saved Hundreds of Thousands of Jobs”

*This post originally appeared in SEIU Blog on February 17, 2010. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Kate Thomas is a blogger, web producer and new media coordinator at the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), a labor union with 2.1 million members in the healthcare, public and property service sectors. Kate’s passions include the progressive movement, the many wonders of the Internet and her job working for an organization that is helping to improve the lives of workers and fight for meaningful health care and labor law reform. Prior to working at SEIU, Katie worked for the American Medical Student Association (AMSA) as a communications/public relations coordinator and editor of AMSA’s newsletter appearing in The New Physician magazine.

U.S. Chamber's "Card Check Compromise" Poll Compromises the Facts

Wednesday, February 3rd, 2010

Image: Kate ThomasYesterday, the U.S. Chamber released a “nationwide poll,” which claimed to reveal the public’s fears about how the “Employee Free Choice Act” would hurt job growth.

If the Chamber really wanted to stir up some press on their reinvigorated anti-worker campaign, perhaps they should have picked a less-obviously right wing polling company to make their intentions appear less transparent. Although the sources of every dime of the $144.5K the Chamber spent last year on lobbying may be completely anonymous, the Republican client list of the Chamber’s partisan bent polling company

Voter/Consumer Research is not. Consider their list of clients:

Political – National Bush Cheney 2004 and Bush Cheney 200 || President George W. Bush || Republican National Committee (RNC) || National Republican Senatorial Committee || National Republican Congressional Committee || Mitt Romney for President

Political – States?Governor Don Carcieri || Governor Charlie Crist || Senator Mitch McConnell || Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison || Senator John Cornyn || Senator Richard Shelby || Congressman Mike Castle || Congressman Brett Guthrie

Corporations/Associations Wal-Mart || RJ Reynolds || Credit Union National Association || PhRMA || The Business Roundtable

Chamber Poll Neglects Truth, Sticks to Anti-Worker Rhetoric

It’s telling that the Chamber’s new poll also neglects to mention one of the most important aspects of labor reform: adding strict penalties for companies that break the law and intimidate or fire workers who want to form a union.

In the last 20 years, employer opposition to unionization has increased dramatically. Employers threaten to close plants and factories in 57 percent of union organizing drives and threaten to cut wages and benefits in 47 percent–while ultimately firing pro-union workers 34 percent of the time. Those are not good odds.

The authors of the poll say if employers and workers can’t reach an contract agreement in a reasonable amount of time, government bureaucrats will swoop in to mandate a binding agreement. This simply isn’t accurate. In arbitration, either side can bring in an independent, trained arbitrator to settle the dispute who both sides agree on. The bottom line is that arbitration encourages compromise, and no one has anything to fear from a process that is fair, neutral and promotes compromise instead of confrontation.

When confronted with legislation to improve American workers’ lives, the Chamber of Commerce invariably threatens economic ruin and rampant government control. This time, their fear hyperbole takes the form of this “Card Check Compromise” poll, which was writtenby and for people who want to keep the power to deny workers the choice of a union. The Chamber says their poll found little enthusiasm for various “compromise” proposals floated by labor supporters–but the only thing the Chamber is compromising away is workers’ interests, on behalf of the corporate special interests that pay them.

*This post originally appeared in SEIU Blog on February 2, 2009. Reprinted with permission from the author.

About the Author: Kate Thomas is a blogger, web producer and new media coordinator at the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), a labor union with 2.1 million members in the healthcare, public and property service sectors. Kate’s passions include the progressive movement, the many wonders of the Internet and her job working for an organization that is helping to improve the lives of workers and fight for meaningful health care and labor law reform. Prior to working at SEIU, Katie worked for the American Medical Student Association (AMSA) as a communications/public relations coordinator and editor of AMSA’s newsletter appearing in The New Physician magazine.

Gov. Schwarzenegger's Furlough Days for Thousands of State Workers Ruled 'Illegal'

Tuesday, January 5th, 2010

Image: Kate ThomasCA Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger acted illegally by placing tens of thousands of state employees on unpaid furloughs, a Superior Court judge ruled late Thursday on SEIU Local 1000’s lawsuit to overturn the furlough scheme. The ruling to halt thrice-monthly furloughs marks a much-improved start to 2010 for the state workers, who had seen their salaries slashed roughly 15 percent as a result of the mandated unpaid days off.

Alameda Superior Court Judge Frank Roesch ruled that by ignoring legal restrictions on furloughs, the Schwarzenegger administration overstepped its authority in approving the unpaid days off. Judge Roesch called the furloughs an “abuse of discretion” that interfered with operations of state agencies (like the DMV) and achieved questionable savings. From Roesch’s case ruling:

Moreover, when furloughs are implemented to save money, yet their implementation in some agencies saves nothing and increases costs, such a policy is arbitrary, capricious and unlawful.

“We said all along that the governor’s actions were illegal,” said SEIU Local 1000 President Yvonne Walker. “The governor violated the law and, as a result, people lost money…to remedy that violation, you have to give people back the money they lost.” SEIU Local 1000 first filed suit after the governor began the furloughs in February, in response to the state’s $42 billion budget gap.

Judge Roesch’s ruling could affect up to 50,000 employees represented by SEIU who work at agencies that do not rely on the state’s general fund, as well as tens of thousands of workers represented by two other unions, CASE and UAPD.

More details from SEIU Local 1000 on Judge Roesch’s ruling to halt furloughs after the break.

Judge Frank Roesch’s December 31st ruling is the second consecutive legal victory for Local 1000 on the furlough issue. In November, another Superior Court judge ruled that the governor violated the state insurance code when he included State Fund employees in his unilateral furlough orders.

An administration spokesperson said the governor would appeal and that an automatic suspension of Roesch’s order will result–leaving furloughs in effect and halting consideration of back pay–while an appellate panel considers the case. At a minimum, Judge Roesch’s ruling orders Governor Schwarzenegger to “cease and desist” the furlough of employees whose salaries are paid from special funds. Additional litigation may be necessary to clarify whether Judge Roesch’s order extends to state employees whose salaries are paid from the General Fund. “It remains to be seen whether the governor will continue to waste scarce state resources litigating this issue rather than simply complying with the Court’s order,” said Local 1000 president Yvonne Walker.

SEIU Local 1000 attorneys said they will ask Roesch to put the ruling into immediate effect and stop the furloughs during the appeal. In the State Fund case, Roesch ordered an immediate end to furloughs and reinstatement of back pay. The judge ruled that the governor’s reliance on the state Emergency Services Act, to furlough state workers, was misplaced because an emergency must have some time limit. “The emergency necessitating them was the failure of the Legislature to pass the budgets, though the reach of the orders extended long after those budgets were subsequently passed and signed into law,” the judge wrote.

Roesch ruled that furloughing state employees who are paid from special funds illegally interferes with the operation of specially funded agencies. “When furloughs are implemented to save money, yet their implementation in some agencies saves nothing and increases costs, such a policy is arbitrary, capricious and unlawful,” he said.

Roesch also rejected what he described as Schwarzenegger’s final justification: the need to treat all employees equally, regardless of the source of their agency’s funds. The governor is arguing, in effect, that furloughs should be spread throughout state government “so that all state employees suffer equally, without regard to savings to the General Fund and without lessening the pay cuts suffered by the General Fund employees,” Roesch said. “This is not rationally related to any government purpose.”

» View the Order Granting Petition For Writ of Mandate [PDF]

Read the original news update from SEIU Local 1000 here.

*This post originally appeared in SEIU Blog on January 4, 2009. Reprinted with permission from the author.

About the Author: Kate Thomas is a blogger, web producer and new media coordinator at the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), a labor union with 2.1 million members in the healthcare, public and property service sectors. Kate’s passions include the progressive movement, the many wonders of the Internet and her job working for an organization that is helping to improve the lives of workers and fight for meaningful health care and labor law reform. Prior to working at SEIU, Katie worked for the American Medical Student Association (AMSA) as a communications/public relations coordinator and editor of AMSA’s newsletter appearing in The New Physician magazine.

New Report: Working Caregivers as a Protected Class?

Tuesday, December 22nd, 2009

Finding a manageable work/life balance is something many of us struggle with a great deal–and the stakes only get higher for Americans who work full-time and have caregiving responsibilities at home. Whether that means taking care of children, a sick partner, or an elderly loved one, holding down an ambitious career while still taking good care of those that depend on you at home can be a daunting challenge.

While I’d like to be able to tell you that employers are universally understanding of their employees that struggle with juggling a full-time job while being a caregiver, we all know this simply isn’t true. As if layoffs due to our ailing economy weren’t bad enough, employers discriminating against employees based on their caregiving responsibilities is on the rise–and it has a name: Family Responsibilities Discrimination (FRD).

Before you stop reading this post because you’re thinking “such a wonky-sounding term can’t possibly affect me,” I beg you to take another few moments and keep on reading. Family Responsibilities Discrimination can occur in any number of unfortunate–but very real–workplace circumstances. Such as….

  • when a new mother is denied a promotion NOT based on her job performance, but because it is assumed she will no longer be as committed to work once baby enters the picture.
  • when a man’s employer refuses him paternity leave because “his wife should do it”
  • when a worker is fired for not meeting work goals while he is on legally protected family and medical leave to take care of a sick parent.

A new report by the Center for WorkLife Law’s Stephanie Bornstein & Robert J. Rathmell provides us with information about additional worker protections under local laws about which most people are not aware–like the ones described above. Take this true situation cited in the report, for example:

In Chicago, a single mother of two who filed a complaint for parental status discrimination under the city’s local ordinance was recently awarded over $300,000 in damages. The woman had been fired from her job as a medical services salesperson after rescheduling a meeting because her daughter was ill.

The report finds that while no federal law and only a few state laws expressly prohibit discrimination against working caregivers, at least 63 local governments in 22 states do. The findings also demonstrate that while the scope of local laws may seem limited, their impact can be pretty significant.

Working caregivers shouldn’t end up unemployed because of their responsibilities at home–but the fact is that they sometimes do. While we may not be able to legislate employer attitudes, we can take responsibility for knowing our rights. Read the report here: “Entitled Caregivers as a Protected Class?: The Growth of State and Local Laws Prohibiting Family Responsibilities Discrimination.”

For more information about each local law collected in the survey, visit www.worklifelaw.org/pubs/LocalFRDLawsDetail.html.

Additional findings of the report can be found after the break.

  • The sizes and types of employers (whether public or private) covered by local FRD laws vary, but most apply to private employers, with some covering businesses as small as those with only one employee.
  • While the vast majority of states have no explicit protections against FRD, laws or regulations in Alaska, Connecticut, New Jersey, and the District of Columbia are the exceptions to the rule.
  • States including Florida, Maryland, Michigan, Oregon, and Pennsylvania have the most protections under local FRD laws, increasing the likelihood that a business or an employee in that state may be covered.

Local governments that have explicitly banned Family Responsibilities Discrimination also include:

• Tucson, Arizona • Atlanta, Georgia • Cook County, Chicago & Champaign, Illinois • Boston, Cambridge & Medford, Massachusetts • St. Paul, Minnesota • Kansas City, Missouri • Tacoma, Washington • Milwaukee, Wisconsin

*This post originally appeared in the SEIU Blog on December 17, 2009. Reprinted with permission from the author.

About the Author: Kate Thomas is a blogger, web producer and new media coordinator at the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), a labor union with 2.1 million members in the healthcare, public and property service sectors. Kate’s passions include the progressive movement, the many wonders of the Internet and her job working for an organization that is helping to improve the lives of workers and fight for meaningful health care and labor law reform. Prior to working at SEIU, Katie worked for the American Medical Student Association (AMSA) as a communications/public relations coordinator and editor of AMSA’s newsletter appearing in The New Physician magazine.

Big Business's Skewed View on Paid Sick Leave

Tuesday, December 1st, 2009

In the last couple of weeks, there’s been a rise in the debate over H1N1 and paid sick leave policy. Emergency H1N1 legislation has been introduced by Sen. Chris Dodd that would require employers with more than 15 workers to provide seven days of paid sick leave if they or their children come down with either H1N1 or seasonal flu.

Big business, however, appears to be completely in denial over the importance of the issue.

As the self-described “voice of business,” the U.S. Chamber of Commerce claims to represent the viewpoint of both large and small businesses on sick leave policy, and according to Mother Jones, insists that a global epidemic is not a good reason to start treating employees like human beings:

“The problem is not nearly as great as some people say,” said Chamber Vice President Randel K. Johnson. “Lots of employers work these things out on an ad hoc basis with their employees.”

President and CEO of the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Council Karen Kerrigan echoes this sentiment:

“Employers and their work force appear to be handling this challenge just fine without the federal government’s involvement. Unlike the problems that the government is having getting the flu vaccine out to Americans, employers and organizations are working through this national health emergency quite smoothly.”

Uh, we beg to differ, Randel and Karen. As a direct result of relying on voluntary employer policies to provide paid sick leave to employees, over fifty million U.S. workers have no paid sick days at all!

As the swine flu spreads across the nation — and the CDC continues to advocate for flu sufferers to stay at home until the fever goes away — the significant portion of the American workforce that faces a tough choice about whether to call in sick or go to work sick (and still get paid) has ramifications for us all. Lack of paid sick time for millions of American workers could increase the spread of this year’s flu pandemic and other infectious diseases. But the fact remains that many workers don’t even have the option of taking a paid flu vacation, as the Chamber advocates. They can’t risk losing their jobs, or their already too-small paychecks won’t allow a day (or more) of missed wages.

Paid sick leave not related to unemployment

When sick workers are on the job, it costs our national economy $180 billion annually in lost productivity.
When sick workers are on the job, it costs our national economy $180 billion annually in lost productivity.

Business groups like the National Federation of Independent Business and the National Small Business Association say the sick leave bills introduced in Congress come at a time when small businesses owners are struggling to keep afloat–and that covering the costs of mandated sick days could cause employers to have to lay off employees. Despite these frequent claims from some in the business community, a recent study from the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR), a nonpartisan think tank, found no correlation between paid sick days and unemployment.

Another major new study by researchers at Harvard and McGill Universities — the largest ever to look at working conditions worldwide — finds that a week of paid sick leave would cost a business just 2 percent more in wage costs. The study’s authors also say the documented increase in productivity due to better working conditions would easily earn back the investment.

Paid sick days are critical to the ability of working Americans when they or their children are sick and to prevent the spread of the swine flu pandemic. Think about it this way: wouldn’t you prefer food service workers and restaurant workers did not work sick? How about care providers that look after your child while you’re at work, or the home care workers that help your parent with daily tasks so they can continue to live at home?

Sane public health policies increase quality of life in a cornucopia of settings–and maybe if we remind the U.S. Chamber of Commerce about this enough times, they’ll realize how absurd lobbying against legislation that would help with these issues is.

Not likely…but still worth a try. Tell the Chamber to cease lobbying against an emergency bill to give workers seven days of paid sick time per year: http://action.seiu.org/chamber.

*This post originally appeared in SEIU Blog on November 25, 2009. Reprinted with permission by the author.

About the Author: Kate Thomas is a blogger, web producer and new media coordinator at the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), a labor union with 2.1 million members in the healthcare, public and property service sectors. Kate’s passions include the progressive movement, the many wonders of the Internet and her job working for an organization that is helping to improve the lives of workers and fight for meaningful health care and labor law reform. Prior to working at SEIU, Katie worked for the American Medical Student Association (AMSA) as a communications/public relations coordinator and editor of AMSA’s newsletter appearing in The New Physician magazine.

Honoring the Worker: What are you doing this Labor Day?

Monday, September 7th, 2009

(The following post is part of our Taking Back Labor Day blog series. Many people view Labor Day as just another day off from work, the end of summer, or a fine day for a barbecue. We think that it’s a holiday with a rich history, and an excellent occasion to examine what workers, and workers rights activism, means to this country. Our Taking Back Labor Day posts in September will do that, from a variety of perspectives, and we hope you’ll tune in and join the discussion!)

*****

On Tuesday September 5, 1882, 10,000 workers marched from city hall to Union Square in New York City, holding the first-ever Labor Day parade. Despite the threat of losing their jobs, participants took an unpaid day off to honor American workers and draw attention to grievances they had with employers.

And the list of grievances was long. During this time, the average American worked twelve hour days, seven days a week, just to make a basic living, with children as young as six toiling alongside adults.

As years passed, more states began to hold these parades, but Congress would not legalize the holiday until 12 years later. A bloody strike by railway workers brought the issue of workers’ rights to the public eye and provoked Congress to officially make the first Monday of September Labor Day.

Today, it’s not uncommon to hear the phrase “Unions: The Folks Who Brought You the Weekend.” And the saying is true: unions won the eight-hour day standard we all enjoy today. What many people don’t realize is that workers and their unions had to fight for the eight-hour day for nearly 3/4 of a century (beginning in August 1866) before any national reform was enacted. The dream of an eight-hour work day finally became a reality in 1938, when the New Deal’s Fair Labor Standards Act made it legally a full day of work throughout the United States.

The Struggle Continues

Union_Labor_vsm.jpgAlthough many Americans have now come to associate Labor Day as just a day off from work or the end of summer relaxation, it’s important not to forget the sacrifices of our brothers and sisters, whose brave acts earned us the working rights we now possess. Unions have historically laid the groundwork for impressive grassroots campaigns to strengthen America’s middle class and rebuild the economy in hard times. As we face the greatest recession since the Great Depression, unions continue to be at the heart of efforts to pass healthcare reform, restore economic balance and bring prosperity to all Americans.

This Labor Day, let’s remind members of Congress just how many working families are still struggling to make ends meet under the strain of skyrocketing health care costs. Help send Congress back to DC with a mission to reform healthcare by joining us at send-off rallies across the country.

Events being held by SEIU and HCAN across the country on Labor Day, September 7th in Arkansas, Colorado, California, Florida, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, New Hampshire, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Dakota and Washington state are listed after the break.

Read Entire Post for a listing of Labor Day events here.

About the Author: Kate Thomas is a blogger, web producer and new media coordinator at the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), a labor union with 2.1 million members in the healthcare, public and property service sectors. Kate’s passions include the progressive movement, the many wonders of the Internet and her job working for an organization that is helping to improve the lives of workers and fight for meaningful health care and labor law reform. Prior to working at SEIU, Katie worked for the American Medical Student Association (AMSA) as a communications/public relations coordinator and editor of AMSA’s newsletter appearing in The New Physician magazine.

This post originally appeared in the SEIU blog on September 7, 2009. Reprinted with permission by the author.

Slowing the Decline in Living Standards for Low Wage Workers is Not Enough

Monday, July 27th, 2009

Today’s increase means a full-time minimum wage earner will receive $28 more a week. This raise is badly needed. It is also categorically insufficient.

While our nation’s plunge into recession has forced many working families to tighten their belts, low-wage workers have fared even worse. The decade between 1997 and 2007 was the longest period in history without a minimum wage increase–but even with this wage hike, minimum wage workers will still make less than they did in 1956, after adjusting for inflation.

In 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King said, “We are tired of working our hands off and laboring every day and not even making a wage adequate with daily basic necessities of life.” How is it possible that his statement would still ring true 40 years later? Recent raises are so little, so late that even with the increase, America’s minimum wage is still 17 percent lower than its peak in 1968. In fact, it would take $9.83 today to match the buying power of the minimum wage of 1968.

The Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) estimates that some 10 million workers–those at the minimum wage or just above it–will benefit from the increase. But the facts remain that an individual earning $7.25 an hour in a standard 2,000-hour work year would earn $14,500 per year…a salary which is still slightly below the 2009 federal poverty level for a family of two. While corporate profits have grown steadily in the past several decades, workers are not getting . As the minimum wage fell 22% in real dollars from 1973 to 2007, corporate profits have grown steadily in the past several decades, jumping more than 50% during the same time period. Statistics like these just reinforce that sad reality that although Americans are working harder than ever, they are not reaping the fair share of the profits their labor work is creating.

Although the federal minimum wage increase from $6.55 to $7.25 an hour reflects a growing understanding that workers face enormous financial burdens, it’s not nearly enough. A NY Times editorial points out: “The latest increase will slow the decline in living standards, but it doesn’t reverse the overall downward pull.” But it doesn’t have to be this way, says SEIU’s Anna Burger:

“For millions of hardworking Americans, their only opportunity for a raise is controlled by which way the political wind blows in Washington…Congress must pass the Employee Free Choice Act, a bill that would allow workers to bargain with their employers for better job security, wages and benefits to ensure that millions more Americans have good jobs with real benefits and a pathway to the middle class.”

It’s time to break the cycle of too little, too late raises. We can’t build a strong, sustainable economy if a growing share of business revenue continues to go to executive pay and profits–we need to level the playing field. The thousands of people who have already taken action know that majority sign-up is still, bar none, the fairest way for workers to negotiate for better job security and wages.

It’s important that both the House and the Senate see how much support there is for majority sign-up and the Employee Free Choice Act–

SEIU Blog

Kate Thomas: Kate Thomas works in New Media for the Service Employees International Union.

This article was originally posted on the SEIU Blog on July 24, 2009 and is reprinted here with permission from the author.

 

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