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Posts Tagged ‘Travis Waldron’

Walmart Tells Workers Who Ask About Unions That Benefits And Vacation ‘Might Go Away’

Tuesday, December 18th, 2012

Walmart staves off unionization attempts in its stores by telling workers who ask about forming a union that they may lose benefits and vacation time, a potential violation of American labor law that could further inflame relations between the company and workers who picketed its stores on Black Friday and have been attempting to organize.

Walmart workers and labor advocates held protests outside the chain’s stores throughout Thanksgiving weekend, protesting the low wages it pays its workers. The company, which paid its chief executive $18.1 million and made $15 billion in profits last year, has fought off union attempts before, and now it tells its workers that unionization could lead to the loss of bonuses and vacation time, a spokesperson told Bloomberg BusinessWeek:

Walmart has been opposed to unions since Sam Walton opened his first store in Rogers, Ark., in 1962. These days, “we have human resources teams all over the country who are available to talk to associates, and we will get questions about joining a union,” says David Tovar, a spokesman for the company. “We would say: ‘Let us remind you of all that Walmart offers, and of what might go away. Quarterly bonuses might go away, vacation time might go away.’?”

Such tactics may not be illegal by themselves because they can be seen as predicting outcomes rather than threatening them, The Nation’s Josh Eidelson reported today. But the implication of such a “prediction” — that joining a union could be followed by actions resembling retaliation — is quite clear. Walmart’s anti-labor practices aren’t new: in 2008, the store’s workers spoke out about anti-union meetings they were forced to attend.

Though Walmart has long fought organization efforts in the United States, it sometimes letsworkers in other countries unionize — particularly when unionization is contingent on Walmart getting to enter a new country. In the U.S. though, it has responded to unionization efforts byshutting down departments, fighting legislative improvements to labor law, and now, telling workers that joining a union may cost them their bonus.

This post was originally posted on December 17, 2012 on ThinkProgress. Reprinted with Permission.

About the Author: Travis Waldron is a reporter/blogger for ThinkProgress.org at the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Travis grew up in Louisville, Kentucky, and holds a BA in journalism and political science from the University of Kentucky. Before coming to ThinkProgress, he worked as a press aide at the Health Information Center and as a staffer on Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway’s 2010 Senate campaign. He also interned at National Journal’s Hotline and was a sports writer and political columnist at the Kentucky Kernel, the University of Kentucky’s daily student newspaper.

What You Need To Know About The Michigan GOP’s ‘Right-To-Work’ Assault On Workers

Monday, December 10th, 2012

On Thursday, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R) backtrackedon his commitment to avoid so-called “right-to-work” legislation and by the end of the day, both the Michigan House of Representatives and the Michigan state Senate had introduced and passed separate bills aimed at the state’s union workforce.

Michigan Republicans claim the state needs the measure to stay competitive with Indiana, where lawmakers passed “right-to-work” last year. In reality, though, such laws have negative effects on workers and little effect on economic growth. Here is what you need to know about the state GOP’s campaign:

THE LEGISLATION: Both the state House and state Senate passed legislation on Thursday that prohibits private sector unions from requiring members to pay dues. The Senate followed suit and passed a different but similar measure that extends the same prohibition for public sector unions, though firefighters and police officers are exempt. The state House included a budget appropriations provision that is intended to prevent the state’s voters from being able to legally challenge the law through a ballot referendum. Due to state law, both houses are prevented from voting on legislation passed by the other for five days, so neither will be able to fully pass the legislation until Tuesday at the earliest.

THE PROCESS: Union leaders and Democrats claim that Republicans are pushing the legislation through in the lame-duck session to hide the intent of the measures from citizens, and because the legislation would face more trouble after the new House convenes in January. Michigan Republicans hold a 63-47 advantage in the state House, but Democrats narrowed the GOP majority to just eight seats in November. Six Republicans opposed the House measure; five of them won re-election in 2012 (the sixth retired). And Michigan Republicans have good reason to pursue the laws without public debate. Though the state’s voters are evenly split on whether it should become a right-to-work state, 78 percent of voters said the legislature “should focus on issues like creating jobs and improving education, and not changing state laws or rules that would impact unions or make further changes in collective bargaining.”

THE CONSEQUENCES: While Snyder and Republicans pitched “right-to-work” as a pro-worker move aimed at improving the economy, studies show such legislation can cost workers money. The Economic Policy Institute found that right-to-work laws cost all workers, union and otherwise, $1,500 a year in wages and that they make it harder for workers to obtain pensions and health coverage. “If benefits coverage in non-right-to-work states were lowered to the levels of states with these laws, 2 million fewer workers would receive health insurance and 3.8 million fewer workers would receive pensions nationwide,” David Madland and Karla Walter from the Center for American Progress wrote earlier this year. The decreases in union membership that result from right-to-work laws have a significant impact on the middle class and research “shows that there is no relationship between right-to-work laws and state unemployment rates, state per capita income, or state job growth,” EPI wrote in a recent report about Michigan. “Right-to-work” laws also decrease worker safety and can hurt small businesses.

Union leaders are, of course, aghast at Snyder and the GOP’s right-to-work push. “In a state that gave birth to the modern U.S. labor movement, it is unconscionable that Michigan legislators would seek to drive down living standards for Michigan workers and families with a law that will do nothing to improve either the state’s economic climate or the quality of life for Michigan residents,” RoseAnn DeMoro, the executive director of National Nurses United, said in a statement.

This post was originally posted on December 7, 2012 on Think Progress. Reprinted with Permission.

About the Author: Travis Waldron is is a reporter/blogger for ThinkProgress.org at the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Travis grew up in Louisville, Kentucky, and holds a BA in journalism and political science from the University of Kentucky. Before coming to ThinkProgress, he worked as a press aide at the Health Information Center and as a staffer on Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway’s 2010 Senate campaign. He also interned at National Journal’s Hotline and was a sports writer and political columnist at the Kentucky Kernel, the University of Kentucky’s daily student newspaper.

One In Four American Workers Will Be In Low-Wage Jobs For The Next Decade

Thursday, August 2nd, 2012

waldron_travis_bioThe share of the economy made up by low-wage jobs has grown since the Great Recession, and according to one new study, it won’t shrink in the future even as the economy continues to recover. The number of Americans working in low-wage jobs — those that pay wages equal to or below the poverty line — will remain steady over the next decade, according to the Economic Policy Institute, as CNNMoney reports:

Some 28% of workers are expected to hold low-wage jobs in 2020, roughly the same percentage as in 2010, according to a study by the Economic Policy Institute.

The study defines low-paying jobs as those with wages at or below what full-time workers must earn to live above the poverty level for a family of four. In 2011, this was $23,005, or $11.06 an hour.

The study is the latest to detail the growth of low-wage occupations in the United States. A recent report from the National Employment Law Project found that more than one in four private sector workers now make less than $10 an hour, an even lower threshold than was used in the EPI study. The five industries that are comprised mostly of low-wage workers, meanwhile, are growing faster than the overall American economy.

While the number of low-wage jobs has increased, so has the gap between low-wage workers and the executives who employ them. The federal minimum wage would need to be raised by more than $3 an hour to match the buying power it had in 1968, and overall wages in the U.S. have been virtually stagnant for decades, even as pay for chief executives has risen exponentially. At the 50 companies that employ the largest number of low-wage workers, chief executives made an average of $9.4 million last year.

This blog originally appeared in Think Progress on August 2, 2012. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Travis Waldron is a reporter/blogger for ThinkProgress.org at the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Travis grew up in Louisville, Kentucky, and holds a BA in journalism and political science from the University of Kentucky. Before coming to ThinkProgress, he worked as a press aide at the Health Information Center and as a staffer on Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway’s 2010 Senate campaign. He also interned at National Journal’s Hotline and was a sports writer and political columnist at the Kentucky Kernel, the University of Kentucky’s daily student newspaper.

GOP Rep. Tells Constituent Who Asks About Raising The Minimum Wage To ‘Get A Job’

Thursday, July 5th, 2012

waldron_travis_bioHouse Democrats earlier this month proposed increasing the federal minimum wage to $10 an hour, which would catch the minimum wage up to the buying power it had in 1968. The proposal hasn’t gone anywhere, though, since Republicans who control the House of Representatives oppose any increase.

Asked by a constituent at a Fourth of July parade yesterday, Florida Rep. Bill Young (R) revealed that he is, predictably, opposed to the Democratic proposal. When a constituent asked him why he opposed boosting worker wages, Young replied simply, “Get a job“:

CONSTITUENT: Hi, I’m (inaudible) how are you? Happy Fourth of July. Jesse Jackson, Jr. is passing a bill around to increase the minimum wage to 10 bucks and hour. Do you support that?
YOUNG: Probably not.
CONSTITUENT: 10 bucks, that would give us a living wage.
YOUNG: How about getting a job?
CONSTITUENT: I do have one.
YOUNG: Well, then why do you want that benefit? Get a job.

Watch it, via FLDemocracy.com:

Young seems to miss the point that the millions of minimum wage workers in this country already have jobs. What they want is a job that will pay them enough to actually live on, and Congress could afford them that “benefit” by making the minimum wage as strong as it was four decades ago.

This blog originally appeared in Think Progress on July 5, 2012. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Travis Waldron is a reporter/blogger for ThinkProgress.org at the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Travis grew up in Louisville, Kentucky, and holds a BA in journalism and political science from the University of Kentucky. Before coming to ThinkProgress, he worked as a press aide at the Health Information Center and as a staffer on Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway’s 2010 Senate campaign. He also interned at National Journal’s Hotline and was a sports writer and political columnist at the Kentucky Kernel, the University of Kentucky’s daily student newspaper.

Studies: Increasing The Minimum Wage During Times Of High Unemployment Doesn’t Hurt Job Growth

Thursday, June 21st, 2012

waldron_travis_bioA group of House Democrats recently proposed legislation that would raise the federal minimum wage to $10 an hour, roughly where it would have to be to match the peak buying power the wage reached in 1968. Cities and states across the country are taking action on their own, raising their minimum wages in an effort to help low-income workers.

Opponents of minimum wage increases contest that raising the minimum wage will be costly for businesses and have a negative effect on job growth and employment. An analysis by the Center for American Progress’ Nick Bunker, David Madland, and the University of North Carolina’s T. William Lester, however, found five recent studies showing that increasing the minimum wage — even during periods of high unemployment — does not have a negative effect on job growth:

A significant body of academic research has found that raising the minimum wage does not result in job losses even during hard economic times. There are at least five different academic studies focusing on increases to the minimum wage—including increases ranging from 7 percent to 12.3 percent made during periods of high unemployment—that find an increase in the minimum wage has no significant effect on employment levels. The results are likely because the boost in demand and reduction in turnover provided by a minimum wage counteracts the higher wage costs.

Similarly, a simple analysis of increases to the minimum wage on the state level, even during periods of state unemployment rates above 8 percent, shows that the minimum wage does not kill jobs. Indeed the states in our simple analysis had job growth slightly above the national average. [...]

All the studies came to the same conclusion—that raising the minimum wage had no effect on employment.

While increasing the minimum wage likely has no effect on job creation, it does have a tangible benefit for workers. Eight states increased their minimum wage at the beginning of 2012, providing extra benefits to 1.4 million workers. More than half of the workers directly affected by a minimum wage increase, as well as more than half who would be indirectly affected, are women, meaning increasing the wage provides help to a segment of the population that already faces significant disadvantages in the workplace.

This blog originally appeared in ThinkProgress on June 20, 2012. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Travis Waldron is a reporter/blogger for ThinkProgress.org at the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Travis grew up in Louisville, Kentucky, and holds a BA in journalism and political science from the University of Kentucky. Before coming to ThinkProgress, he worked as a press aide at the Health Information Center and as a staffer on Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway’s 2010 Senate campaign. He also interned at National Journal’s Hotline and was a sports writer and political columnist at the Kentucky Kernel, the University of Kentucky’s daily student newspaper.

Walmart Drives Down American Wages by Outsourcing Jobs

Thursday, June 7th, 2012

waldron_travis_bioWalmart’s outsourcing of jobs is driving down wages at American factories, according to a report from the National Employment Law Project. Instead of employing its own factory employees, Walmart subcontracts many of the jobs to outside companies that have histories of low wages and labor violations, the report said. “These outsourced workers laboring on Walmart’s behalf toil at the bottom of a complex hierarchy of intermediaries and in alternative employment schemes that leave them vulnerable to significant worker rights abuses and unsure where to seek redress,” said the report, which also noted that workers at multiple Walmart-contracted facilities have sued their employers for violating minimum wage laws and cheating them out of pay.

This post originally appeared in ThinkProgress on June 6, 2012. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Travis Waldron is a reporter/blogger for ThinkProgress.org at the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Travis grew up in Louisville, Kentucky, and holds a BA in journalism and political science from the University of Kentucky. Before coming to ThinkProgress, he worked as a press aide at the Health Information Center and as a staffer on Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway’s 2010 Senate campaign. He also interned at National Journal’s Hotline and was a sports writer and political columnist at the Kentucky Kernel, the University of Kentucky’s daily student newspaper.

Why Does Idaho’s Governor Pay Female Employees So Much Less Than Men?

Thursday, March 22nd, 2012

waldron_travis_bioThe women who work in Idaho Gov. Butch Otter’s (R) cabinet make substantially less than their male colleagues, according to a McClatchy analysis of state salary data. Despite chairing the state Agriculture Department, for instance, Director Celia Gould makes less than male directors.

Gould has been with the administration since its first day in 2007 and oversees 259 employees; Commerce Director Jeffrey Sayer, by contrast, joined the administration in October and oversees 53. And yet, Sayer makes nearly $40,000 a year more than Gould, the highest-paid female employee. In fact, across Otter’s administration, the median wage for women is nearly $20,000 less than the median wage for men, McClatchy found:

She is the highest-paid of the women in Otter’s Cabinet but ranks just 16th among all top full-time officials. The median salary for 11 women in the Cabinet is $85,446; the median for the 33 men is $103,002.

“We really do have a glass ceiling in Idaho,” said Rep. Wendy Jaquet of Ketchum, the senior Democrat in the Legislature and a member of the budget committee.

While the pay gap between Otter’s male and female employees is substantial — the women make roughly 82 cents for every dollar earned by men — it isn’t as large as the overall pay gap between men and women in America. American women make about 77 percent of what men make, and the gap is even larger for minorities. In 2010, black women made 67.7 percent of all male earnings, while Latino women made just 58.7 percent. That wage gap costs women huge sums of money — a woman with a college degree, for instance, will earn $723,000 less over a 40-year career.

Despite legislative efforts, the gap isn’t closing. President Obama signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which made it easier for women to sue for pay discrimination, in 2009. Senate Republican, however, blocked the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would have updated the Equal Pay Act, closed many of its loopholes, and strengthened incentives to reduce pay discrimination, earlier this year.

This blog originally appeared in ThinkProgress on March 21, 2012. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Travis Waldron is a reporter/blogger for ThinkProgress.org at the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Travis grew up in Louisville, Kentucky, and holds a BA in journalism and political science from the University of Kentucky. Before coming to ThinkProgress, he worked as a press aide at the Health Information Center and as a staffer on Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway’s 2010 Senate campaign. He also interned at National Journal’s Hotline and was a sports writer and political columnist at the Kentucky Kernel, the University of Kentucky’s daily student newspaper.

In West Virginia, Safety Violations That Kill Miners Carry Smaller Penalties Than Violating A School’s Trademark

Wednesday, February 29th, 2012

waldron_travis_bioNearly two years after Upper Big Branch Mine disaster, the deadliest mine accident in nearly 40 years, the West Virginia House of Delegates has just passed a mine safety reform bill that should, in theory, strengthen some of the lax laws that made the tragedy possible. Through the legislative process, the bill, already mild to begin with, has been further weakened to appease coal industry lobbyists and legislators who fear them.

Part of the bill attempts to raise the maximum fine that can be levied against mine operators who violate safety laws. While coal state legislators kowtowing to the industry isnothing new, the Charleston Gazette’s Ken Ward Jr. uncovered a statistic that highlights the state’s shocking disregard for the safety of miners. Under West Virginia law, the maximum fine for a safety violation that results in the death of a coal miner is one-tenth of the maximum fine for violating West Virginia University’s trademark:

Better yet — why should someone face more serious punishment if they use the WVU logo without permission (see here and here) than if they kill a coal miners? That’s right, WVU trademark violators? Up to 10 years in jail and a $100,000 fine. Mine safety criminals? Up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

The new mine safety bill makes an attempt to raise both civil and criminal penalties for mine safety violations, but even the higher fines would be incredibly weak. The maximum civil fine for most safety violations would rise from $3,000 to $5,000 — weakened from $10,000 in the original draft of the bill — falling woefully short of the $70,000 maximum fine under federal law. And while it seeks to impose new criminal penalties on violations resulting in deaths, Ward couldn’t find a single example of county prosecutors bringing criminal charges under the existing statutes.

Last week, the West Virginia Office of Miners’ Health, Safety and Training released its report on the Upper Big Branch mine disaster last week, and though its tone was “tepid” compared to other reports, it became the fourth such investigation to find that lax mine safety laws and regulations were responsible for the explosion that killed 29 miners. After the disaster, West Virginia politicians and coal industry big-wigs vowed to never let such a disaster happen again.

If recent efforts to enhance mine safety on both the state and federal levels is any indication, though, the promise from the coal industry, industry lobbyists, and coal state legislators that such a disaster will never happen again is just another example of empty rhetoric.

This blog originally appeared in ThinkProgress on February 28, 2012. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Travis Waldron is a reporter/blogger for ThinkProgress.org at the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Travis grew up in Louisville, Kentucky, and holds a BA in journalism and political science from the University of Kentucky. Before coming to ThinkProgress, he worked as a press aide at the Health Information Center and as a staffer on Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway’s 2010 Senate campaign. He also interned at National Journal’s Hotline and was a sports writer and political columnist at the Kentucky Kernel, the University of Kentucky’s daily student newspaper.

Three Years After Ledbetter Fair Pay Act Passed, Women Still Earn Far Less Than Men

Monday, January 30th, 2012

waldron_travis_bioSunday marked the third anniversary of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, the first legislation signed into law by President Obama. The law, which expanded the statute of limitations on fair pay lawsuits, was a response to a Supreme Court ruling against Ledbetter in her fair pay case.

Though the law expanded the legal remedies available to women who have been victims of discriminatory pay, little has been done to address the pay gap that exists between male and female employees. Since the Equal Pay Act of 1963 was signed into law, the pay gap has closed at less than half-a-cent per year. That trend is continuing, as the pay gap barely closed from 2009 to 2010.

Women made 77 percent of men’s earnings in 2009, the year the law passed. In 2010, that wasvirtually unchanged, as women’s wages rose to 77.4 percent of men’s. The gap is even larger for African Americans and Latinos: black women made 67.5 percent of all men’s earnings in 2009, while Latino women made 57.7 percent. In 2010, those figures ticked up to 67.7 percent and 58.7 percent, respectively.

Women make up half of the American workforce, and in two-thirds of American families, the mother is the primary breadwinner or a co-breadwinner. But they make less than their male counterparts in all 50 states, though the size of each state’s wage gap varies. While the gap continues to close in places like Washington, D.C., where women make 91.8 percent of men’s earnings, it is growing in others, like Wyoming, where women’s earnings dropped from 65.5 percent of men’s in 2009 to just 63.8 percent in 2010.

Because of the gender pay gap, women with the same education doing the same job as men earn far less over their working lifetimes. The wage gap costs $723,000 over a 40-year career for women with college degrees. In some industries, the gap can cost women close to a million dollars.

In November 2010, Senate Republicans killed efforts to close the pay gap when they unanimously voted to block the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would have updated the Equal Pay Act, closed many of its loopholes, and strengthened incentives to prevent pay discrimination.

This blog originally appeared in ThinkProgress on January 30, 2012. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Travis Waldron is a reporter/blogger for ThinkProgress.org at the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Travis grew up in Louisville, Kentucky, and holds a BA in journalism and political science from the University of Kentucky. Before coming to ThinkProgress, he worked as a press aide at the Health Information Center and as a staffer on Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway’s 2010 Senate campaign. He also interned at National Journal’s Hotline and was a sports writer and political columnist at the Kentucky Kernel, the University of Kentucky’s daily student newspaper.

Super Bowl Players Should Stand Up For Indiana Workers

Wednesday, January 25th, 2012

waldron_travis_bioLast July, Major League Baseball blew an opportunity to make a difference. With 28 players who were either Hispanic or of Hispanic descent participating in the league’s annual All-Star Game in Phoenix, Arizona, and the eyes of the sports world watching, nary a one spoke out against the radical anti-immigration law Arizona had passed a year before, even though it could have directly affected the players and will directly affect many of their fans. “I ain’t Jackie Robinson,” David Ortiz, one of baseball’s biggest characters, said.

Over the next 10 days, the National Football League will have a similar chance to make a difference.

Just two weeks before Super Bowl XLVI kicks off at Lucas Oil Field in Indianapolis, more than10,000 people marched through the city to protest right-to-work legislation that is being pushed through the state’s legislature. The legislation passed the state Senate this week and the state House today, and is backed by Gov. Mitch Daniels (R). Considering the NFL nearly lost its 2011 season, and Super Bowl XLVI with it, to a labor dispute, Indiana Republicans’ assault on workers is a cause the players should be familiar with.

Fortunately, there are signs that the NFL players aren’t going to repeat Major League Baseball’s mistake. Several players have spoken out against the legislation, and NFL Players Association President DeMaurice Smith said his organization is already taking action. “We’ve been on picket lines in Indianapolis already with hotel workers who were basically pushed to the point of breaking on the hotel rooms that they had to clean because they were not union workers,” Smith told the Nation. “We’ve been on picket lines in Boston and San Antonio. So, the idea of participating in a legal protest is something that we’ve done before.”

That’s a good first step. But it’s not enough. Indiana union officials are contemplating disrupting Super Bowl-related events to draw attention to their cause, clogging city streets and slowing down events around Lucas Oil Stadium (which was built and is maintained by union workers). Labor leaders are hesitant, though, fearing that such actions could give the city and their cause “a black eye” with people who think sports and politics don’t mix. If some of the league’s top players, particularly those participating in the Super Bowl, spoke in support of those efforts, however, that perception could change.

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, one of the NFL’s most recognizable players, felt strongly enough about his own rights that he signed on as a plaintiff in the players’ antitrust lawsuit against the league last year. So did Logan Mankins, Brady’s teammate, and Osi Umenyiora, a prominent defensive end for the New York Giants. Those players were willing to risk backlash from the league, public scrutiny, and their own images to fight league owners for better benefits and wages. In the week leading up to the Super Bowl, they should do the same for workers who don’t have the luxury of multimillion-dollar contracts, rich endorsement deals, and the good fortune of playing a game for a living.

Sure, with Super Bowl week ahead of them, political causes may be the furthest thing from the minds of most players. But with thousands of reporters conducting hundreds of interviews before, during, and after the big game, the players will have the chance to stand up for the rights of people they should be fighting for. Unlike their counterparts in baseball, they shouldn’t blow it.

This blog originally appeared in ThinkProgress on January 25, 2012. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Travis Waldron is a reporter/blogger for ThinkProgress.org at the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Travis grew up in Louisville, Kentucky, and holds a BA in journalism and political science from the University of Kentucky. Before coming to ThinkProgress, he worked as a press aide at the Health Information Center and as a staffer on Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway’s 2010 Senate campaign. He also interned at National Journal’s Hotline and was a sports writer and political columnist at the Kentucky Kernel, the University of Kentucky’s daily student newspaper.

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