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Posts Tagged ‘wages’

Does Moving Jobs Out Of The Country Affect What People Here Get Paid?

Tuesday, May 24th, 2016

Dave JohnsonEconomists are still arguing over whether moving our jobs out of the country affects what the people still here get paid. Yes, really.

For example, Jared Bernstein in The Washington Post looks at different studies of the effect of moving jobs out of the country. One study, by economists David Autor, David Dorn and Gordon Hanson (referred to by Bernstein as “ADH”), was published in January by the National Bureau of Economic Research. The other, by economist Josh Bivens at the Economic Policy Institute, was published in 2013. Both found that moving jobs out of the country hurt the wages of not just the affected workers but everyone in the surrounding area. The question is, does this wage-depressing effect spread outside the local area?

Bernstein writes, “The analytic question is twofold. First, are American workers really hurt by trade competition, and second, if so, are there spillovers to those not directly in competition with imports?”

To understand the difference … in Bivens vs. ADH, consider two towns, one with two businesses, a factory and restaurant, and the other with just a restaurant. In ADH’s findings, the negative spillover, or diffusion, stays mostly in the first town. The factory takes a competitive hit from cheaper Chinese imports. This, of course, directly hurts the blue-collar factory workers, but it also hurts the restaurant workers, both through demand (fewer factory workers showing up for lunch) and supply (more competition for jobs at the restaurant) effects.

In Bivens’s model, and this is the way most economists think about this (which doesn’t, by a long shot, make it correct), the ADH story holds in town one, but town two also gets hit, even though there’s no factory there facing increased global competition. Displaced workers from town one can’t find enough work there so they head for town two, and the added supply effect puts downward pressure among town two’s restaurant staff members.

It comes down to this. Do laid-off workers stay where they are (ADH), which means the wage-depression stays local? Or do they move elsewhere and compete with people who still have jobs (Bivens), thereby depressing wages there as well?

There’s a simple way to test this. Detroit and Flint are just two examples of cities hit by factories that were closed so employers could pay less in other countries but bring the same goods back here to sell in the same stores (so executives and Wall Street shareholders can pocket the differential for themselves).

So did the laid off workers stay put (ADH) or move (Bivens)? Detroit’s population was 1.85 million in 1950. That fell to 713,777 in the 2010 census. Flint’s population was 196,940 in 1960 and fell to 99,763 in 2013.

They moved. The “effect” did not stay in Detroit and Flint. So everyone else’s wages took a hit, too. Multiply what happened in these two cities nationally and you get the picture. If you don’t get the picture, here is the picture:

OK, it isn’t all that simple. ADH do look at “commute zones,” and there are other factors depressing wages. They cite technology, along with the “decline of unions, eroding minimum wages, the rise of nonproductive finance, and especially the persistent absence of full employment labor markets” as factors reducing worker bargaining power and fostering wage stagnation. Whatever. Bernstein writes the following, which is important especially as we head into an election where Donald Trump is using the costs of trade as a main issue:

Still, the main message from ADH, Bivens, and the rest of us who’ve been trying to raise this cost side of the equation for decades is that these costs are real. They’re acute for many people and places and diffuse to some degree for others. Economic platitudes about how trade is always worthwhile as long as the winners can compensate the losers are an insult in the age of inequality, where the winners increasingly use their political power to claim ever more winnings.

Most of us feel the costs of moving so many jobs out of the country (and calling it “trade”) while a few are making a killing from it. Those few are using their political power to keep the rigged game going.

P.S.: It is important to point out that once again the idea of “trade” in elite discussion is entirely about moving American jobs to places where people are paid less and the environment is not protected, in order to reduce “costs.” They don’t actually mean “trade” as in “they sell us bananas and use the money to buy cars” – because who cares?

This post originally appeared on ourfuture.org on May 12, 2016. Reprinted with Permission.

Dave Johnson has more than 20 years of technology industry experience. His earlier career included technical positions, including video game design at Atari and Imagic. He was a pioneer in design and development of productivity and educational applications of personal computers. More recently he helped co-found a company developing desktop systems to validate carbon trading in the US.

The Verizon Strike Is Not Just About Wages. It Is About Power and Domination Over Workers.

Friday, May 20th, 2016

Gourevitch, AlexanderThis piece first appeared at Jacobin.

Bruce* has worked construction for Verizon for nearly thirty years and he is on strike. Walking a picket outside a Verizon Wireless store, he explains why: “I love this job. It’s outdoors, you get dirty, you get to do things. You see that island over there, I can tell you where each of the manholes are. I’ve been in every one of these buildings here,” he says, pointing to a café, then some office buildings, a travel agency, and a few restaurants. “I don’t like not working, just standing around here. But we gotta do this. I mean, I love this job but I don’t want it for my children.”

Only a few Verizon workers are picketing this Massachusetts location, standing calmly in the signature red shirts of the Communications Workers of America (CWA) holding placards emblazoned “On Strike!”

Their orderly protest stands in contrast to other East Coast Verizon picket lines. In Maryland a Verizon attorney struck a worker with his Porsche. In Westborough, Massachusetts a scab driving drunk hit a picketer, hospitalizing him. Verizon has suspended the health care of all strikers, so that hospital stay was not covered by his normal insurance.

Then there was the altercation outside the City View Inn, on the border between Queens and Brooklyn in New York City. Verizon has been using various hotels as makeshift office-garages, directly dispatching scabs to work sites from their temporary housing.

In response, picketers have been arriving at these hotels at three, four, or five o’clock in the morning, ringing bells, blowing horns and singing loud chants. The strikers have caused such disruption that some hotels refuse to house the scabs any longer.

Verizon has begun to successfully restrict this activity through court injunctions. It has also been getting help from the NYPD. At City View the NYPD once used police vans and contractor trucks to drive scabs to work.

By law police are supposed to remain neutral, which should mean not driving scabs through a picket line. Picketers got upset and a policeman driving one truck panicked, driving the vehicle into one of the striking workers before racing off.

These incidents have special meaning to Verizon workers. The CWA wears red to commemorate Gerry Horgan, who died during the 1989 strike when a Verizon manager drove into the picket line.

Meanwhile, Verizon customers suffer incompetent work by poorly trained replacement managers and scabs. Problems range from the mundane, and sometimes comic—damaged telephone poles duct-taped together, botched wiring procedures, failed phone and FiOS fixes—to the more serious: in Middletown, Pennsylvania, scabs dumped large amounts of polluted water into a roadside ravine, for which Verizon will likely be fined.

Walking the picket with Bruce, I asked him why he wouldn’t want his children working this job. He responded,

Look, if Verizon has its way, it will break the union and turn this into a twenty-dollar-per-hour job with no retirement and little or no health care . . . We’re not asking for some huge raise here we just don’t want to keep giving everything away. They want to reduce our retirement, raise our health care costs, or make this job so miserable that the well-paid people leave. We just want to keep our decent jobs but I don’t know if we’ll be able to. We are trying to stop the bleeding but I don’t know if this job has a future for my children in twenty years. I don’t know if they can live in a decent way.

That workers are simply trying to keep what they already have is a point rarely highlighted in the mainstream strike coverage. In fact, the relatively decent living standards of these unionized employees is what makes this strike so important.

The CWA is one of the few private-sector unions that has been able to win and defend reasonable wages and benefits. In an economy where real incomes for most people have remained stagnant or declined and where the top 1 percent have enjoyed around 90 percent of the Obama recovery’s gains this is significant feat. An effective union like the CWA is one of the few centers stoking resistance to increasing inequality.

The 39,000 Verizon strikers have already shown that they’re not just defending their own interests. One of their main demands has been to protect the jobs of call-center workers, who are not members of the union, and whose livelihoods are threatened by Verizon’s plan to send five thousand jobs offshore.

The CWA even sent representatives to the Philippines, to support call center workers who decided to protest in support of US strikers.

As Fortune reported, they were met with violence from private Verizon security forces and then a “SWAT team of heavily armed Philippine police officers.” This episode highlighted how the strike is challenging a major player in the global production of oppression and economic injustice.

Javier, a technician from New York who now works as a shop steward, says the problem isn’t just about work rules and contract givebacks. It’s about how the Verizon business model is designed to generate massive inequality:

It’s not fair that a CEO can make $18 million [in] salary and the average worker caps out at $86K for field techs. And take federal, state, city out of that, plus what we pay for medical and 401ks.

At Verizon, the CEO to employee pay ratio is 208:1. This isn’t far from the average CEO to employee pay ratio in the United States: 300:1, an increase of more than 1,000 percent in inflation-adjusted terms since 1978.

Yet Verizon’s top management is unsatisfied. It wants more concessions on benefits, more control over its employees, and an even more intensely exploited workforce.

That’s nothing new these days. More unusual, though, is that workers are fighting back. Their fight to keep their benefits has become inseparable from a struggle for power.

Though this is a society that prides itself on its “economic freedom,” the Verizon strike brings to the fore all the indignities, injustices, and outright oppression that saturate the American workplace.

YEARS IN THE MAKING

The strike has been brewing since last August, when the CWA’s contract with Verizon expired. Despite a $5.4 billion profit that quarter and roughly $39 billion in the past three years, Verizon refused a new contract on existing terms.

Instead it demanded concessions like higher health care costs, reduced retirement benefits, outsourcing five thousand jobs, and a right to send workers out of state.

The company’s August refusal is part of a decades-long attempt to strip down contracts and weaken the union, perhaps with the hope of breaking the union altogether and then selling off the landline portion of Verizon’s business.

“The first shot to break the union was in the post–2000 contract,” says Javier. That contract created a two-tier system in which new hires were denied protection from layoffs.

In the years since, the company has managed to win further changes in contract language, gaining more control over workers with respect to schedules, work locations, and hiring and firing.

For instance, the new contract stipulates that workers from Buffalo can be called away from their families to work in Boston. Or, in the contract that expired in August, Verizon has the right to force workers to take some other day than Saturday as an “N-day,” or non-assigned day.

And, to make matters worse, that contract says that Verizon can require up to ten hours a week of overtime in non-summer months, and fifteen hours a week in summer months. This means that Verizon can make Tuesday, rather than Saturday, the N-day, and then force a technician to work a ten-hour overtime shift that day.

“So now they have me in six days a week,” says Javier. “If I had tried to schedule a doctor appointment on Tuesday, my N-day, I have to cancel it [or] they can take disciplinary action. If you miss enough overtime assignments then they can suspend you.”

“The company claims it needs to be able to do all this for workplace flexibility, but it’s just a play by the company to make it difficult for the workers so they leave,” says Javier. That strategy has worked; five thousand union workers have left Verizon since the last time the CWA called a strike in 2011.

Verizon’s new demand is to be able to send workers out of state, away from their families, for up to two months at a time. For instance, Verizon has recently announced a plan to build FiOS in Boston.

Normally, it would have to hire Boston-area technicians, but with Verizon’s new plan they could send technicians from Virginia or New Jersey to Boston, under pain of suspension or firing, to do the engineering, construction, and wiring.

As the out-of-state work issue illustrates, this strike isn’t just about wages and benefits, it is about power and domination. Verizon wants workers that move around like frictionless little atoms, ready to mold themselves to the needs of the company.

Verizon workers, however, insist they are human beings. Resisting schedule manipulation is just the start.

MANAGERS FROM OUTSIDE

Workers are also fighting something Verizon calls theQuality Assurance Program (QAR). The company says it was introduced to keep better time records. But its greater use lies in helping bosses micromanage workers’ time.

Gavin*, who has worked installation and maintenance for more than sixteen years, has experienced the worst effects of QAR.

Recently, after finishing an eight-hour shift, he was commended by a manager for his conscientious work. Yet the very next day he was called in for one of these QAR disciplinary proceedings. Subjected to a barrage of questions, without even knowing what the infraction was, he was then suspended for six weeks without pay.

The infraction turned out to be an error on management’s side. The union fought for Gavin and he was eventually reinstated, though he still lost a week’s pay and retained a mark on his record. Gavin emailed me about his experience:

My union reps fought for me and I was given back everything, but one week of pay, and a sullied record at Verizon . . . When they were asked to produce the proof there was none to be produced, yet I was standing with texts, phone records, and customer testimony as my defense to no avail. Do we operate in a democratic society, or is Verizon and its current regime of rulers somehow an exception to what this country stands for?

Based on my discussions with other Verizon workers, Gavin’s experience is typical. Arbitrary procedures, rulings, and minute control over work are standard fare at Verizon.

For instance, Gavin is allowed a half-hour lunch break, including time traveled from and back to the work site. Anything more can result in serious discipline; a thirty-five-minute lunch can cost a worker six weeks of pay.

“According to Verizon, we are not allowed to take a bathroom break without management approval,” says Javier. “That is an outright disgrace to human dignity.” His manager even demands that workers call him if they wanted to pee:

Unfortunately, when we call him, it goes to voicemail then we can’t leave a message because his box is full. We complained, so now he lets us text him. But a text is not complete, according to him, until he responds. So what am I supposed to wait? . . . If there is no management approval, then if I go then I’m “off the job.” That is a loophole they exploit to suspend us.

In Javier’s view, which I heard many Verizon workers repeat, lower-level managers appear to be under pressure to suspend a certain number of workers or run a given amount of disciplinary proceedings. “The QAR is directly targeted at the lowest 6 percent of the productive technicians,” says Javier, “and we all know there will always be a bottom 6 percent.”

On top of that, the composition of lower-level management has changed. “In the past managers were folks who actually came from the field, and therefore understood what they were managing and could more efficiently address any actual on-the-job concerns,” says Gavin. Now, most lower-level managers are not former engineers or technicians but individuals hired to implement this new disciplinary regime.

“Some of these new managers come straight out of the military, from a tour of service,” says Bruce, shaking his head. “And they’re afraid for their jobs.” Many of these lower-level managers are being forced, under threat of being fired, to scab.

The change in managerial culture, the creation of new disciplinary proceedings, the intensification of work rules, and the increasing enforcement of minor infractions is a regular feature of contemporary American labor relations.

As labor reporter Steven Greenhouse has described, American companies large and small have turned lower-level management into discipline machines, “setting ever-tougher goals for its managers, using sophisticated computer systems to monitor their every move, ousting those who fall short of expectations, allowing managers to use foul language and savage criticism to bully subordinates.”

They are often given impossible quotas or benchmarks, which can be achieved only by making inhuman demands on workers, doing unpaid work themselves, or outright wage theft/time-stealing.

Managers unwilling to do any of those things just get fired and replaced with those mean or desperate enough to do it. Verizon fits right into this pattern, except that its workers have a union with the collective power to push back, as it did in Gavin’s case.

“I think the company has one end in mind to all of this . . . to break the union,” says Javier. “And if they couldn’t break the union per se and have to offer a contract, even if they do it to get smaller and smaller contracts and try to push people out of the company. If they make the conditions so deplorable people will leave.”

Every Verizon worker I talked to agreed, including many who were worried enough that they were unwilling to be quoted even under a pseudonym.

LABOR AND THE LAW

The most successful tactic during this strike has been holding pickets outside hotels housing scabs. That’s why Verizon has sought injunctions against this, and other practices, and in a couple states has had its way.

On May 9, Verizon won a temporary injunction against these pickets in New York City and this injunction was then extended until June 9.

In Philadelphia, Verizon won an injunction permitting no more than six picketers and forcing them to stay at least fifteen yards from Verizon’s retail stores and authorized retailers.

These injunctions occur against the background of already extraordinarily punitive labor law. The 1935 National Labor Relations Act says that workers have a right to strike, but this has been interpreted in the narrowest possible terms, and limited by subsequent legislation.

The subsequent 1947 Taft-Hartley Act banned sympathy strikes, political strikes, and secondary strikes and boycotts, which placed huge legal obstacles to the solidaristic worker action that used to be a regular feature of American labor politics.

Judges have taken what remains of the right to strike and whittled it down even further. One important Supreme Court precedent says that workers may not be fired for going on strike, but in most cases employers are free to hire permanent replacement workers.

You can’t be fired but you can be permanently replaced. Or the employer can threaten to move the entire workplace. You can’t fire any specific individual who threatens to strike, but you can in effect fire them all.

This legal situation has led one commentator to observe, “The ‘right to strike’ upon risk of permanent job loss is a ‘right’ the nature of which is appreciated only by lawyers.” Primarily corporate attorneys and those specializing in union-busting, one suspects.

Striking workers face any number of further restraints, depending on state law and the mood of a judge—all of which puts potential or existing strikers in a bind. Either they exercise their right to strike within the bounds of the law, with little hope of winning and high likelihood of being replaced, or they confront the law itself.

In this environment, only relatively skilled workers, who are hard to replace en masse, can go on strike with some hope of stopping or slowing production. This means workers in sectors like fast food, retail, and agriculture—with the worst pay, fewest benefits, and least amount of workplace control—have the least freedom to defend their interests legally.

That is a problem for all workers who want to exercise their power collectively. It is no surprise that an AFL-CIO president once claimed he would prefer “the law of the jungle” to American labor law. And it is hard to imagine any serious revival of a robust class politics without potentially massive acts of civil disobedience.

LOOKING FORWARD

The Verizon strike is in its fifth week and whatever happens it is not just a strike about Verizon. It is about organized workers facing a punitive company, repressive labor law, and a dwindling membership trying to preserve their power and resist further attacks on their benefits, dignity, and time and personal freedom.

As Javier says, if they are successful, they can be a standard for others to rally around:

If we can set a bar for everyone else . . . then other people, who aren’t in a union, can aspire to raise themselves up to our level. Right now the company wants to push everyone down to the poverty level. If we are able to go on strike and have the right to strike then we can fight not just for ourselves but for other people. We can be something for everyone.

In an unequal, capitalist society like ours, there is no substitute for militant workers, organized on the widest possible basis, who can use the best weapon they have: the refusal to work.

It’s easy to imagine radical alternatives to the status quo. It is far more difficult to generate the social power and political muscle to make any of those visions a reality. But Verizon workers are helping show the way.

*Names have been changed.

This blog originally appear at inthesetimes.com on May 20, 2016. Reprinted with Permission

Alex Gourevitch is an assistant professor of political science at Brown University and the author of From Slavery To the Cooperative Commonwealth: Labor and Republican Liberty in the Nineteenth Century.

How A Giant Restaurant Conglomerate Teamed Up With Banks To Stiff Its Workers

Friday, May 13th, 2016

AlanPyke_108x108The struggling corporate giant behind The Olive Garden, Longhorn Steakhouse, and other national restaurant chains is forcing tens of thousands of workers to effectively pay rent on their own money.

Workers at Darden Restaurants chains are routinely told they must accept prepaid debit cards instead of paychecks, according to a new report from the worker organization Restaurant Opportunities Center (ROC) United. A quarter of workers surveyed said they asked to be paid some other way and were told the cards are their only option.

The practice helps the company, which came under intense pressure to cut costs from dissatisfied investors a couple years back. But it puts an expensive barrier between workers and their money.

The restaurant conglomerate has roughly 148,000 employees in the U.S. Half of those workers get payroll cards in lieu of standard paper checks. Each card shaves about $2.75 per pay period off of the company’s overhead, saving Darden as much as $5 million per year.

Darden’s bottom-line bliss means pain and chaos for those 70,000-plus workers. The cards come with a litany of fees: 99 cents for using it to pay utility bills, 50 cents if the card is declined at a cash register, $1.75 to withdraw money from an out-of-network ATM and 75 cents just to check the card’s balance. If a worker loses her card, she’ll pay $10 to have it replaced.

As Darden cuts its administrative costs, the banks that provide the cards rack up significant income on the back end. Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia researchers put median bank earnings at $1.75 per card per month back in 2012. That suggests Darden’s financial partners are pulling down about $1.5 million a year

Three in four Darden workers get hit with the out-of-network withdrawal fees, according to ROC United’s survey of 200 workers who are paid with cards. Half of them have no access to an in-network ATM near where they live or work, effectively guaranteeing they will be paying fees to access their own money.

And the $1.75 withdrawal fee is only on the card-maker’s side of the transaction. The out-of-network ATM itself will tack on another surcharge, averaging $2.88 per withdrawal — and pushing the worker’s cost to access their pay up to nearly $5 each time they convert the payroll card to actual cash.

More than half of the workers report having a balance hold placed on their cards after using them at a gas pump, a practice gas stations adopted to combat theft when pump prices were up near $4 a gallon. For a restaurant worker whose payroll card is based on the tipped minimum wage — as little as $2.13 an hour — there is hardly any slack to the card’s balance to begin with. Gas station holds can freeze as much as $100 at a time, but even the standard $50 hold can easily mean that the next time that worker swipes her card to pay for something, the machine will see an insufficient balance — and the payroll card company will hit the worker with another 50-cent fee for having her card declined.

Payroll cards like Darden’s have proven popular with low-wage employers in recent years. More than 7 million workers nationwide are now paid using the cards, the report notes — mostly at companies like Darden and McDonald’s that pay workers so poorly that they remain eligible for public assistance programs despite working full time.

The cards proliferated over the past decade, with advocates arguing they would benefit employees as well as generate savings for employers and revenue for banks. Employees without a bank account would avoid check-cashing fees, card proponents noted. But the cards’ own fees aren’t necessarily much cheaper — if at all — and many Darden workers who do have bank accounts report being denied access to standard payroll practices that would avoid fees altogether. One overall evaluation of the pros and cons of the cards from the National Consumer Law Center in 2013 hinged on this question of worker choice, and found the cards could be net beneficial so long as everyone has the chance to opt for a different mode of payment.

In at least one case, card fees ended up pushing workers’ take-home pay below the minimum wage. The workers sued the McDonald’s franchisee who they say forced them to accept the cards as payment, and Chase Bank did something out of character for a high finance powerplayer: It voluntarily gave money back to the workers, refunding all of the fees their payroll cards had incurred.

That case prompted a spate of state legislative actions to police the use of payroll cards more tightly, the ROC United report notes, but roughly half of the states still have no law governing the practice. And even the states that do regulate it in some fashion do not necessarily guarantee workers can access their pay fee-free.

UPDATE MAY 12, 2016 4:07 PM

A Darden representative told ThinkProgress the ROC United report is “completely false,” save for the out-of-network ATM fees and the 50-cent fee for point-of-sale denials, and accused the group of “wag[ing] a campaign of harassment and disparagement against our company for five years.” Starting June 1, those 50-cent fees will disappear, and employees will be able to use an additional 29,000 ATMs nationwide without paying fees, up from 50,000 currently. It is impossible that some managers tell workers the cards are required despite company policy to the contrary, spokesman Rich Jeffers said. “That’s just not the nature of our people, of our leaders in our restaurants,” he said.

This blog originally appeared at Thinkprogress.org on May 12, 2016. Reprinted with permission.

Alan Pyke is the Deputy Economic Policy Editor for ThinkProgress.org. Before coming to ThinkProgress, he was a blogger and researcher with a focus on economic policy and political advertising at Media Matters for America, American Bridge 21st Century Foundation, and PoliticalCorrection.org. He previously worked as an organizer on various political campaigns from New Hampshire to Georgia to Missouri. His writing on music and film has appeared on TinyMixTapes, IndieWire’s Press Play, and TheGrio, among other sites. Follow @PykeA on Twitter.

Maryland To Become The Second State To Guarantee Fair Minimum Wage For Workers With Disabilities

Friday, April 22nd, 2016

CoryHerroMaryland will soon become the second state, after New Hampshire, to phase out the “subminimum wage” for workers with disabilities.

Maryland lawmakers this month passed a bill that would do away with special wage certificates that allow employers to pay disabled workers according to productivity rather than hours worked. The law affects all 36 of Maryland’s “sheltered workshops” — nonprofit organizations that hire people with disabilities at subminimum wages to perform basic tasks like assembling products, hanging clothes, or picking up trash.

Some 420,000 Americans with disabilities are employed this way nationally, some at a rate of just pennies per hour. The average Marylander working under this arrangement makes less than $4 per hour — an unjust rate that no longer jives with modern attitudes toward disability, advocates say.

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Jeff Waldstreicher (D), says the bill is a victory for civil rights.

“By passing HB 420 and SB 417, we have upheld Maryland’s highest ideals,” he wrote in a public statement. “Marylanders are a compassionate, caring people. We believe in the dignity of every individual, in equal rights.”

In addition to boosting wages, the bill aims to desegregate Maryland’s workforce over the next four-and-a-half years. The Department of Disabilities will reallocate state and Medicaid funding to promote employment in “competitive, integrated workplaces” rather than in sheltered, segregated workshops. The state will pick up the tab for planning workers’ transitions to integrated employment.

“People thrive in a diverse workplace,” Waldstreicher told ThinkProgress. “Most of these workers want this transition, and we want to help it go smoothly.”

Legislators have worked closely with the sheltered workshops, and the majority are on board. They were initially concerned that higher wages would displace workers, but the state’s integrated employment plan assuaged their fears.

Disability advocates applauded the legislation, saying sheltered workshops are ineffective and reforms are long overdue.

“[Workshops] offer the employees no opportunities to be part of their community or to make enough money to support themselves,” the Autistic Self Advocacy Network said in a statement commending the Maryland legislation.

“Sheltered workshops often rely on outdated, non-mechanized production processes — which are poor vehicles for developing the skills real employers need in the open market economy,” writes University of Michigan law professor Samuel Bagenstos in a report to the National Federation of the Blind.

Indeed, only 5 percent of sheltered workshop employees leave to take a job in the community, according to a 2001 investigation by the Government Accountability Office.

The bill is now on the desk of Gov. Larry Hogan (R). Waldstreicher told ThinkProgress he’s “positive” the governor will sign it into law.

These developments in Maryland are part of a turning tide against paying disabled workers less than minimum wage. Last month, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton expressed support for eliminating the subminimum wage nationwide.

“We’ve got to figure out how we get the minimum wage up and include people with disabilities in the minimum wage,” Clinton said when a young lawyer with autism asked her about the minimum wage exemption. “There should not be a tiered wage.”

And in 2014 President Obama included workers with disabilities in his federal minimum wage hike — guaranteeing minimum wage for some 50,000 federal contract employees with disabilities.

This blog originally appeared at ThinkProgress.org on April 20, 2016. Reprinted with permission.

Cory Herro comes to ThinkProgress from California, where he writes columns for The Stanford Daily and tutors rowdy middle schoolers. He likes to play pickup hoops and surf, even though his skills are rudimentary. Cory is pursuing a bachelor’s in public policy with a focus on poverty policy.

On Equal Pay Day, We Could Use Some Sunshine

Thursday, April 14th, 2016

Isaiah J. PooleImagine a workplace where everyone clocked in at 9 a.m. and was paid the same day’s wage for the work they did – but the men could get their pay for the day at 3:20 p.m. and leave, while the women had to stay on the job until 5 p.m. to get the same check the men got an hour and 40 minutes earlier.

That’s another way to think of the gender wage gap – with women earning on average only 79 cents for each dollar a man earns – that Equal Pay Day, April 12, is intended to highlight. The“79 percent clock” is being promoted by the National Partnership for Women and Families and MTV as a way to dramatize that wage inequity. If you are a woman, you can enter the start and end of your workday and the calculator will “show you when 79 percent of your day has passed and you (or your female colleagues) are no longer being paid.”

For an eight-hour workday that starts at 9 a.m., that moment is generally 3:20 p.m. But that’s an average; for women of color, the moment at which a woman is no longer compensated for her day could be as early as 1:24 p.m. for Hispanics or as late as 3:44 p.m. for Asian Americans. For unmarried women, that moment comes at 1:48 p.m. – 60 percent of the day – the same moment as African-American women, according to a report released this week by the Voter Participation Data Center that also includes state-by-state data for unmarried women.

Of course, if we could see men and women leaving workplaces at different hours because they weren’t equally compensated for the work they did, there would be less opportunity for denying that the wage gap is real. But salary information is usually confidential, especially in mid-level jobs and above. Often, women who are being unfairly paid for their work don’t even realize they are being discriminated against.

When discrimination is documented, we get, particularly from conservative and Republican politicians, the usual round of denials and excuses. Comments from the 2016 Republican presidential candidates are typical: “You’re gonna make the same if you do as good a job,” said Donald Trump in 2015, who has also said that determining whether a man and a woman is doing “the same job” is “a very, very tricky question.” Ted Cruz as a senator voted to block a vote on the Paycheck Fairness Act and has dismissed equal pay legislation as “just empowering trial lawyers to file lawsuits.” (Yes, that’s what lawyers do when laws are violated and people are harmed as a result, but I digress.) John Kasich suggested in 2015 that gender pay disparities are “all tied up in skills” and experience.

The Center for American Progress has published “The Top 10 Facts About the Gender Wage Gap,” and several of those facts address the myths perpetuated by the Republican presidential candidates. The wage gap is real, it does appear among men and women with the same education and experience doing similar jobs, and, according to the CAP fact sheet, “38 percent of the gap is unexplainable by measurable factors,” such as women being concentrated in certain lower-wage occupations or being more likely to have to take unpaid leave to care for family members.

Having Congress pass the Paycheck Fairness Act would go a long way toward reinforcing the already existing Equal Pay Act and getting at the root of gender pay discrimination. A key requirement in the law would be that employers would have to disclose pay information to the federal government based on race, sex and national origin. That would make it easier for the government and individual employees to hold employers accountable for violations of the equal pay laws that already exist but are regularly evaded.

Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton highlighted her support of the Paycheck Fairness Act atan event sponsored by Glassdoor.com, where she praised Silicon Valley firms like Salesforce and retailers like Gap for succeeding in closing the gender pay gap in their companies.

Bernie Sanders has likewise been a longtime supporter of the Paycheck Fairness Act, including it as the first item of his 10-point women’s rights agenda.

Like the “79 percent clock” that rings an alarm when a person has reached 79 percent of their work day, the Paycheck Fairness Act allows for an alarm bell to ring when workers are not receiving equal pay for equal work. It would bring pay inequities into the light of day, instead of the darkness in which Republican presidential candidates would rather have this issue continue to fester.

This blog originally appeared at OurFuture.org on April 12, 2016. Reprinted with permission.

Isaiah J. Poole worked at Campaign for America’s Future. He attended Pennsylvania State University and lives inWashington, DC.

Victory in New York City: Cuomo Signs Legislation Raising Minimum Wage to $15

Wednesday, April 6th, 2016
Victory in New York City: Cuomo Signs Legislation Raising Minimum Wage to $15

On Monday, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) signed a law raising the state’s minimum wage. In New York City and some more prosperous suburbs, the new minimum wage will be $15, while in the rest of the state, the new minimum wage will be $12.50. The increases will be phased in, and millions will see wage increases. Future wage Kenneth Quinnellincreases will be tied to economic indicators. The law also establishes 12 weeks of paid family leave for working people.

New York State AFL-CIO President Mario Cilento applauded the legislation:

Three million working people in New York state will see their wages go up due to the $15 per hour minimum wage, making New York the first state in the country to reach that landmark.  Raising the minimum wage is long overdue and is a step in the right direction toward addressing poverty and income inequality. This meaningful wage will allow hard-working men and women the opportunity to better support themselves and their families, and enjoy a standard of living and quality of life they can be proud of.

As reported last week, California also passed legislation to raise its minimum wage to $15, reminding us that while Congress sits idle, working people throughout the country continue to fight to raise wages.

This blog originally appeared in aflcio.org on April 5, 2016. Reprinted with permission.

Kenneth Quinnell is a long time blogger, campaign staffer, and political activist.  Prior to joining AFL-CIO in 2012, he worked as a labor reporter for the blog Crooks and Liars.  He was the past Communications Director for Darcy Burner and New Media Director for Kendrick Meek.  He has over ten years as a college instructor teaching political science and American history.

Interfaith Coalition Calls for Moral Action on the Economy

Monday, April 4th, 2016

The largest employer of low-wage workers in America is the federal government. U.S. government contractors employ over two million workers in jobs that pay too little – $12.00 an hour or less – to support a family. Contract workers – organizing under the banner of Good Jobs Nation – have walked off of their jobs repeatedly in protest, demanding a living wage and the right to a union.

This Monday, on the anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King’s death, this movement will gain a powerful ally. Led by Jim Winkler, general secretary of the National Council of Churches and Sister Simone Campbell, executive director of the Catholic social justice lobby NETWORK, an interfaith coalition of religious leaders is issuing a call for “moral action on the economy.” They will seek to meet with presidential candidates, asking each to pledge that, if elected, he or she would issue an executive order to reward model employers “that pay a living wage of at least $15.00 an hour, provide decent benefits and allow workers to organize without retaliation.”

The movement for living wages is taking off. The federal minimum wage has been stuck at $7.25 for nearly seven years. Unable to provide for their families, fast food and other low-wage workers began to demonstrate, even at risk of losing their jobs. “Fight for 15” – the demand for a $15.00 an hour minimum wage and the right to a union – swept across the country. And is beginning to win.

In Seattle, a coalition of union, community and business leaders helped pass legislation putting the city minimum wage on a path to $15. From Los Angeles to Chicago to New York, other cities joined. In the last few days, California legislators reached a deal to move the state minimum wage to $15 by 2022. In New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo pushed through reforms that will move that state’s minimum wage to $15, starting in December 2018 in New York City.

The pressure of the government low-wage workers moved President Obama to act. He issued three executive orders, raising the minimum wage to $10.10, cracking down on wage theft and other workplace violations, and providing paid leave. The workers continued to demonstrate, calling for “more than the minimum,” seeking $15 and a union.

Senate cafeteria workers – the people who prepare the senators’ food and clean up after them – joined the protests. Their plight – one was homeless, others on food stamps, one moonlighting as a stripper to feed her children – was embarrassing. Democratic Senate staffers organized to support them. Democratic senators like Bernie Sanders (Vt.), Elizabeth Warren (Mass.), and Brian Schatz (Hawaii) demanded action. When the cafeteria contract was up for renewal in December, workers were granted pay increases of $5 an hour or more. It took more pressure and Labor Department investigation to make the raises stick, but today workers are finally receiving their pay.

Washington Post columnist Catherine Rampell, who has documented the struggle highlighted one beneficiary, Bertrand Olotara, a cook in the Senate cafeteria. His wage went from $12.30 to $17.45 an hour. He was able to quit his second job at Whole Foods and stop working seven days a week. That gave him more time with his five children. He’s even thinking of using the extra time to write a book. A living wage makes real differences in people’s lives.

Now the interfaith coalition joining with these workers and calling on those contending for the presidency to promise to do more. Republican contenders are still opposed to raising the minimum wage. Bernie Sanders has made a $15 an hour minimum wage a central plank in his platform. Hillary Clinton has supported lifting the national minimum wage to $12.50, accepting that some states and cities might go higher.

The interfaith alliance is calling on the presidential candidates to pledge moral action on the economy. When Ronald Reagan came to office, one of his first acts was to fire and replace the striking PATCO air controllers. He sent a message to employers across the country that it was open season on workers and their unions. Imagine the next president taking office and issuing an executive order lifting the wages of millions of contract workers and guaranteeing a right to organize without retaliation. Again a signal would be sent across the country.

“This election is fundamentally about whether the next president is willing to take transformative executive action to close the gap between the wealthy and workers – many of whom are women and people of color,” argues Jim Winkler, secretary general of the National Council of Churches. It’s time to take the pledge.

This blog originally appeared in ourfuture.org on April 4, 2016. Reprinted with permission.

Robert Borosage is a board member of both the Blue Green Alliance and Working America.  He earned a BA in political science from Michigan State University in 1966, a master’s degree in international affairs from George Washington University in 1968, and a JD from Yale Law School in 1971. Borosage then practiced law until 1974, at which time he founded the Center for National Security Studies.

Federal government is the biggest low-wage employer in South Carolina

Monday, February 29th, 2016

Many workers whose jobs are funded by the federal government don’t work for the federal government—they work for companies with federal contracts. And many of those jobs don’t pay a living wage, effectively making the government a low-wage employer. In South Carolina, it’s actually the largest low-wage employer in the state, a new analysis by Good Jobs Nation finds:

These low-wage jobs are in occupations such as home healthcare aides (4,336), construction (1,185) security guards (876) and food service workers (444). And, just as Demos found for the nation as a whole, the 30,000 low-wage jobs subsidized by federal funding streams in South Carolina make the U.S. government the single largest creator of low-wage private sector jobs in the State, outranking Wal-Mart and McDonald’s combined, which employ an estimated 20,600 and 8,900 low-wage workers respectively within the State.

President Obama signed an executive order raising the minimum wage for federal contract workers to $10.10 an hour in 2014, but that is going into effect gradually. And $10.10, while a big improvement over the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, is not enough.

This blog originally appeared in dailykos.com on February 27, 2016. Reprinted with permission.

Laura Clawson has been a Daily Kos contributing editor since December 2006 and Labor editor since 2011.

 

This week in the war on workers: Chicago teachers protest planned cuts and layoffs

Tuesday, February 9th, 2016

Chicago schools and teachers are once again under serious attack from Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner, and once again, the Chicago Teachers Union is showing that it is a powerful force. Thousands of teachers and supporters rallied Thursday, with 16 people arrested, protesting massive proposed cuts and layoffs:

Officials with Chicago Public Schools said Tuesday they’re ready to cut $100 million from school budgets and force teachers to pay more pension costs after their union rejected the latest contract offer, ratcheting up the tone of contentious negotiations that have lasted over a year. […]

The latest flare-up followed an offer a CTU bargaining team rejected Monday, after both sides had deemed it “serious.” The proposal included pay raises and job security, but union officials said it didn’t address school conditions or a lack of services.

The teachers have authorized a strike, though that wouldn’t happen until spring if it happens at all.

? Weeks after the West Virginia Senate passed an anti-union bill, the state House followed suit. A PPP poll conducted for the state AFL-CIO found high support for unions and opposition to laws weakening them.

? A union has filed a National Labor Relations Board petition to represent New York Uber drivers.

? Speaking of which, New York Uber drivers are pissed, with good reason.

A crowd of 600 drivers gathered outside the Uber office in Long Island City, Queens, to protest a 15 percent reduction in fares last month, which also means 15 percent lower wages. That pay cut is on top of Uber’s 20 percent slashing of fares in 2014. All things being equal, drivers who began less than two years ago have seen their pay tumble a whopping 35 percent.

Actually, it’s not just New York.

Last September, Dallas-area drivers for UberBlack, the company’s high-end car service, received an email informing them that they would be expected to start picking up passengers on UberX, its low-cost option.

The next day, when the policy was scheduled to go into effect, dozens of drivers caravaned to Uber’s office in downtown Dallas and planted themselves outside until company officials met with them.

? Indiana repealed prevailing wage protections to let them lower wages on public construction projects … and costs have gone up since then.

Not your typical Alabama labor story:

The state’s largest employer – the University of Alabama at Birmingham and UAB Medicine – plans to raise employees’ minimum wage to $11 an hour beginning in March.

UAB employs more than 23,000 faculty and staff. The institution currently pays $8.24 an hour, about a dollar higher than the federally mandated minimum wage.

? For union members: seven steps to opening up bargaining.

?

This blog originally appeared in dailykos.com on February 6, 2016. Reprinted with permission.

Laura Clawson has been a Daily Kos contributing editor since December 2006 and Labor editor since 2011.

Trumka: TPP Is a New Low

Thursday, February 4th, 2016
Kenneth Quinnell

In a new op-ed for the Hill, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka explains the key reasons why the Trans-Pacific Partnership is bad for working people, both in the United States and overseas. Trumka describes the deal by saying that “the TPP is a giveaway to big corporations, special interests and all those who want economic rules that benefit the wealthy few.”

An excerpt:

We’ve been down this road before. The Wall Street and Washington elite always tell us that this time will be different. The truth is these trade deals have ripped apart the fabric of our nation. We see the shuttered factories. We visit towns that look like they are stuck in the past. We talk to the workers who lost everything, only to be told they should retrain in another field—but Congress has been slow to fund and authorize those programs. From NAFTA to CAFTA to Korea and now the TPP, these agreements have continually put profits over people. By driving down our wages, they make our economy weaker, not stronger.

In many ways, the TPP is a new low. A quick search of the agreement shows no mention of the terms “raising wages” or “climate change.” And by ramming through fast track legislation earlier this year, Congress effectively barred itself from making a single improvement to the TPP.

Working people deserve a better process and a better product. We understand better than anyone that the TPP is just another tool to enrich corporations at the expense of everyday families. We cannot and should not accept it.

Because it can’t fix the TPP, Congress has to take the step of saying to 11 other countries, “No, not this TPP.” Taking that brave step is necessary to create trade rules that lift people up, not crush them under crony capitalism.

Read the full op-ed.

This blog originally appeared in aflcio.org on February 3, 2016. Reprinted with permission.

Kenneth Quinnell is a long time blogger, campaign staffer, and political activist.  Prior to joining AFL-CIO in 2012, he worked as a labor reporter for the blog Crooks and Liars.  He was the past Communications Director for Darcy Burner and New Media Director for Kendrick Meek.  He has over ten years as a college instructor teaching political science and American history.

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