Friday, July 31, 2015

Workers deserve a share of corporate profits

Big business shouldn't monopolize all the gains.
There was a time many politicians told the public they would benefit from companies earning huge profits. Trickle-down economics, it was called. But even the most deceitful of leaders no longer brings it up. Why? Because it's a big, fat lie.

The people have realized they've been duped. Income inequality is at levels not seen in some 90 years. Big business is taking big bucks to the bank, but few are going back in the wallets of their workers. That's got to change. And the Center for American Progress (CAP) has some ideas how.

A new report released this month says companies need to share more with their employees. It notes the typical workers is almost 60 percent more productive than a worker 25 years ago but has seen only half of their extra work translate into higher wages. While the top 20 percent of families have seen their average worth increase by 120 percent between 1983 and 2010, the middle 20 percent only grew 13 percent, and the bottom fifth saw debts exceed their assets.

It's time for that to change, CAP says:
Broad-based sharing programs—such as granting workers an ownership stake or a share of profits based on workers’ collective performance—can help ensure that workers are rewarded for the wealth they generate. Advocates for these programs refer to this type of sharing by a number of names, including broad-based profit sharing and inclusive capitalism. Collectively, these programs hold the potential not only to benefit workers: Research shows that firms and investors also receive tangible benefits from sharing with their workers.
Calls to revamp this nation's busted economy are getting more frequent. Earlier this year, the Roosevelt Institute released a report of their own written by noted economist Joseph Stiglitz that demanded similar change to revamp the U.S. economic model.

Writing about the document earlier this month in the Huffington Post, Teamsters General President Jim Hoffa said it provides a blueprint that workers must insist lawmakers adopt:
Working Americans are being tested by the state of today's economy. But it is not one they can pass on their own. Regular people have led the charge in raising awareness about these issues and taking to the streets all across this country to let elected officials know that the minimum wage is too low, Wall Street is making too much and trade agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership offer too large of a handout for big business at the expense of workers.
This nation needs systematic change. ... It is time for more lawmakers to declare their independence from big banks and corporate cronies who bend their ears and fill their campaign coffers with cash. Their constituents deserve to have members of Congress who hear their concerns and institute policies to make change happen.
It's great that most elected officials now accept the failings of the past. But if workers want justice, they need to to raise their voices and demand it. Otherwise, too many elected officials will continue to serve their corporate cronies instead.

Today's Teamster News 07.31.15

Teamsters
Apple, Yahoo shuttle drivers set to vote on union  USA Today  ...Unions continue to make inroads into  Silicon Valley. Shuttle drivers for Apple, eBay, Yahoo, Zynga and several other Silicon Valley firms are set to vote Saturday on a package for improved wages and benefits. The 160 drivers, most of them employed by Compass Transportation of San Jose, shuttle employees to and from those tech firms, as well as Amtrak, Evernote and Genentech. The drivers sought representation from Teamsters Local 853...
Garda Canada Security Corporation and Teamsters Local 362 reach a new collective agreement  Government of Canada  ...Today, the Honourable Dr. K. Kellie Leitch, Minister of Labour and Minister of Status of Women, congratulated Garda Canada Security Corporation and Teamsters Local 362 on the renewal of their collective agreement. The agreement was reached with assistance from the Labour Program’s Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service (FMCS). The FMCS provides dispute resolution and dispute prevention assistance to trade unions and employers under the jurisdiction of the Canada Labour Code...
Port Truckers Testify Before Tidelands and Harbor Committee Over Misclassification, Wage Theft  Long Beach Post  ...Stakeholders from the Port of Long Beach (POLB), trucking companies and drivers testified before the Tidelands and Harbor Committee last night to address the misclassification. The idea that the businesses can flourish while paying their drivers as employees was illustrated by Kevin Baddeley, president of Shippers Transport Express (STE) based out of Carson. He said that since converting to an employee model in January and negotiating a union contract with the Teamsters Union shortly after, STE has been stable and its customers happy...
Time running out for Sun Tran negotiations with union  KVOA  ...Sun Tran and the employees’ union, Teamsters Local 104, are still negotiating to avoid a bus strike in Tucson. Their contract expires Friday at midnight. Union members, who are mostly bus drivers, are expected to vote on a new deal Saturday. If the union rejects the contract, a strike may follow. Signs at bus stations warn riders about the negotiations...

Global Labor & Trade
Pacific trade negotiators chase elusive final deal in tough talks  Reuters  ...Pacific Rim trade ministers neared the final spurt of negotiations on an ambitious free trade pact on Thursday, but differences over farm exports and monopoly periods for next-generation drugs kept them short of an elusive final deal. Ministers from the 12 countries negotiating the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which would cut trade barriers and set common standards for 40 percent of the world economy, are meeting in Hawaii to try to hammer out a deal...
Canada Under Pressure as Pacific Trade Talks Slow Over Dairy  Bloomberg   ...Negotiations on a landmark free-trade pact among 12 Pacific nations stumbled as pressure mounted on Canada to soften its stance on limiting dairy imports. After months of demands from nations including the U.S., Australia and New Zealand to open its dairy markets as part of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, Canada outlined a proposal during talks in Hawaii that other nations rejected as inadequate, according to two people briefed on the negotiations...
Trade deal threatens affordable healthcare for millions, experts say  Aljazeera  ...Public health groups on Thursday warned that “absurd” patent and data protection clauses pushed by U.S. lawmakers during the final negotiations of the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) in Maui, Hawaii could hike prices for life-saving drugs and stifle innovation. Doctors Without Border (MSF) and the Generic Pharmaceutical Association are most concerned with measures such as the extension of intellectual property rights on drug patents and increased damages for the infringement of patents...
Trade Negotiators Reach Environmental Accord  New York Times  ...Trade negotiators from the United States and 11 other Pacific nations reached agreement late Thursday on broad environmental protections for some of the most sensitive, diverse and threatened ecosystems on earth, closing one of the most contentious chapters of the Trans-Pacific Partnership. As negotiators struggled to complete the largest regional trade agreement, they pointed to the environmental accord as a clear achievement. It will be controversial. Some environmental groups, like the Sierra Club, insist that it lacks the binding enforcement measures...
Patent Protection for Drugs Puts Pressure on U.S. in Trade Talks  New York Times  ...With 12 nations pressing to conclude the largest regional trade accord ever, United States officials find themselves squeezed between activists pressing to secure access to low-cost pharmaceuticals and Republicans who say Congress will reject a deal without strong patent protections for the drug industry. Negotiators gathered this week in Maui hoping the long-sought accord might be finished by Friday. But dozens of issues remain unresolved on the Trans-Pacific Partnership...
Group Seeks to Expose Cozy Ties Between US Trade Rep and Wall Street  Common Dreams  ...Citing his cozy ties to Wall Street banks, a group dedicated to exposing corruption and corporate influence in Washington, D.C. has submitted an official Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for all correspondence between U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman and the 10 largest U.S. financial institutions. Rootstrikers, the grassroots organization behind the FOIA request, has said that because corporate giveaways like the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) and TransAtlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) pose a threat to robust financial regulation in general, "Americans deserve to know"...
Pacific Rim free trade deal comes with high price  Aljazeera  ...On the tropical shores of the island of Maui in Hawaii, 12 Pacific Rim countries are negotiating the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement behind closed doors. The current meeting in Hawaii between the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Brunei Darussalam, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Singapore, Peru, and Vietnam is the latest and possibly final round of negotiations that have been grinding along and evolving for seven years. the deal has drawn critics from various spheres. Among the loudest are analysts concerned by how the deal will affect the availability and price of medicine...
WikiLeaks says US spied on Japanese government, companies  Associated Press  ...WikiLeaks says US spied on Japanese government, companies. The documents include what appear to be five U.S. National Security Agency reports, four of which are marked top-secret, that provide intelligence on Japanese positions on international trade and climate change. Three of the apparent NSA reports deal with climate change, and the other two with agricultural trade issues, including U.S. cherry exports to Japan...
Youth unemployment in Italy exceeds 44 percent, 38yr high  RT  ...Youth unemployment has increased to 44.2 percent in June, according to the Italian national statistics office. It’s the highest level since 1977 and about twice the eurozone average. The overall unemployment also increased in June, according to the data published Friday. The upsetting numbers come as the Italian Prime Minister is pursuing economic reforms that the government hopes will make the eurozone's third largest economy dominant in Europe and the world within 20-30 years...
Greek bailout talks shift into higher gear  CBS  ...Greece's talks with its international creditors on a third bailout worth 85 billion euros ($93 billion) shifted into a higher gear on Friday, with lead negotiators from the European Union and International Monetary Fund meeting key ministers in Athens. The talks with Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos and Economy Minister Giorgos Stathakis follow preparatory meetings in the Greek capital this week between lower-level officials on reforming the tax system and labor market regulations...
London’s National Gallery Labor Strike Escalates  Artforum  ...The entire group of union workers currently employed at the National Gallery in London are set to renew their strike this August, according to Sarah Cascone at Artnet. This comes after several other recent periods of labor dispute at the venerable British institution, all over the management’s plans to privatize visitor services at the museum. The Public and Commercial Services Union, which represents the workers who will be participating, has told the museum of its intentions to strike...

State & Living Wage Battles
Pennsylvania Employers Steal Tens Of Millions Of Dollars From Their Workers In Any Given Week  Think Progress  ...Pennsylvania’s low-wage workers lose between $19 million and $32 million to wage theft in any given week, potentially costing the state’s economy as much as a billion dollars in lost potential consumer spending each year, according to a new analysis by law students from Temple University. The economic analysis is premised on a 2009 study of Chicago, New York, and Los Angeles workers’ experiences of wage theft in various industries...
Michigan Supreme Court Upholds Right-to-Work Law, Takes Workers Back to the Gilded Age  Truthout  ...Republican lawmakers passed the measure in December 2012, making it illegal to require workers to pay union dues or service fees as a condition of employment. Shortly thereafter, public sector employees filed a lawsuit saying they were exempt from the law because their workplaces came under the jurisdiction of the Michigan Civil Service Commission, not private sector employment law. On Wednesday, July 29, the high court, in a 4-3 ruling, rejected the workers' plea. With that, the court completed the transformation of this longtime labor stronghold into an anti-labor regime, reminiscent of the Gilded Age US...
Kansas City Minimum Wage Hike? $15 Hourly Pay Proposed By Missouri Activists  International Business Times  ...Kansas City, Missouri, may see an initiative to increase the city's minimum wage on its November ballot. A group of civil rights organizations has demanded that their petition go to a vote to raise base hourly pay in the city to $15. In turn, business organizations have condemned the move as "job killing" and want to see wages stay at the state-mandated $7.65 per hour...
N.C. attorneys rest their case in federal voting rights trial   Journal Now  ...Attorneys representing North Carolina and Gov. Pat McCrory rested their case this morning after calling six witnesses in a federal trial over the state’s controversial election law. Several groups, including the N.C. NAACP and the U.S. Department of Justice, are suing the state and McCrory over House Bill 589, which became law in 2013. House Bill 589 eliminated same-day voter registration, reduced the days of early voting from 17 to 10, got rid of out-of-precinct provisional voting and abolished preregistration of 16- and 17-year-olds...
California's Drought and the Politics of Inequality  (opinion) Truthout  ...California Governor Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency in April, mandating urban centers to reduce water usage by 25 percent. Walking around working-class neighborhoods, one can't help but notice brown lawns and dying plants, which shows how seriously people are taking the task of water conservation. What's striking is who's willing to conserve - and who isn't. Forty-eight percent of wealthier homeowners with incomes above $100,000 a year say it would be "difficult" to conserve water...
Pittsburgh's paid sick leave bill headed to council for vote Monday  Post-Gazette  ...Pittsburgh City Councilman Corey O’Connor, with broad support from his colleagues, is looking to push through legislation Monday that would require businesses to provide paid sick leave to their employees before the council breaks for its August recess. If it clears that final vote, the bill, put forward July 6, will have gone from introduction to passage in less than a month...

U.S. Labor
Court backs labor board on election rule  The Hill  ...A federal court has upheld federal regulations designed to speed up union elections, dealing a blow to business groups who oppose the rule. The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) should be allowed to expedite the process by which employees unionize, Judge Amy Berman Jackson ruled for the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C...
NLRB to Rule on Northwestern Football Players’ Bid to Unionize  Wall Street Journal  ...The National Labor Relations Board is expected to decide in coming weeks whether to give labor unions a foothold in college sports, a decision that could have a widespread impact on college athletics. The five-member board of the federal labor agency is weighing whether Northwestern University’s scholarship football players are school employees, as an agency regional director ruled last year, and can therefore unionize...
Verizon strike on pension, health care possible  APP.com  ...Time is ticking down as negotiations between Verizon and its employees’ unions continue. The contract between Verizon and its union workforce, members of the Communications Workers of America and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, expires at midnight Saturday. Both sides are “very apart on the issues,” said Candice Johnson, a CWA spokeswoman...
UAW, Ford kick off contract talks as auto business booms  NWI.com  ...The United Auto Workers union has kicked off contract talks with Ford, which is one of the Calumet Region's largest employers, with about 5,000 local workers. The UAW, which made deep concessions during the darkest days of the Great Recession, hopes to end a two-tier pay system in which younger workers are paid less than more veteran employees doing the same job...
Hundreds of United Steelworkers members rally downtown  WPXI  ...Hundred of United Steelworkers members and their allies rallied Thursday at the headquarters of Allegheny Technologies Inc. in downtown Pittsburgh. According to a release from the USW, the union is trying to reach agreement on a new contract for more than 2,200 members who work for ATI, a specialty metals and components supplier for the aerospace and defense, medical and industrial industries. Their old contract expired June 30...
Frontier Communications and Communications Workers of America Reach Agreement in Texas and Missouri  MarketWatch  ...Frontier Communications Corporation FTR, and the Communications Workers of America District 6 (CWA) are pleased to announce the signing of an agreement that will benefit CWA-represented employees in Texas and Missouri and Frontier’s future customers in Texas. The agreement is an important step forward in the process to complete Frontier’s planned acquisition of Verizon’s wireline business and assets in Texas, California and Florida...
Companies have found something to give their workers instead of raises  Washington Post  ...Once a staple of the American workplace, the annual raise is turning into a relic of the pre-crisis economy as companies turn to creative — and cheaper — ways to compensate their employees. More businesses are upping their spending on benefits such as one-time bonuses, health care and paid time off, according to recent survey data. Many are rolling out perks such as free gym membership, commuting subsidies, even pet health insurance...
‘She’s Not A Felon, She’s A Human Being': Obama Under Pressure To Ban The Box Before Leaving Office  (opinion) Think Progress  ...If you’ve ever applied for a job, you’ve probably seen the box. Hiring forms commonly require applicants to indicate if they’ve ever been convicted of a crime. That little check-box produces some grand societal failures: An estimated 60 to 75 percent of Americans released from prison cannot find work throughout their first year back home...
Bernie Sanders Lobbies for A.F.L.-C.I.O. Endorsement  New York Times  ...Citing his long legislative record and improving performance in opinion polls, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont told leaders of the A.F.L.-C.I.O. gathered here on Wednesday that he was best equipped to advance the rights and benefits of organized labor. Although he did not mention his rivals by name, Mr. Sanders, who was one of several candidates to address the organization’s executive council, said he told the group that no one had as clear a regard for the labor movement as he did...
Courting Unions, Hillary Clinton Says She Didn't Work on Trans-Pacific Partnership   Bloomberg  ...Hillary Clinton appeared to take another step away from the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Thursday, telling reporters that she didn’t work on the controversial trade deal while serving as President Barack Obama’s secretary of state. The Democratic presidential front-runner, who advocated for a multi-lateral Asia trade agreement as a member of Obama's administration but has pointedly refused to endorse the results as a candidate to succeed her old boss, walked a careful semantic line following a private meeting with the AFL-CIO executive council...
U.S. employment costs post smallest gain on record in second-quarter  Reuters  ...U.S. labor costs in the second quarter recorded their smallest increase in 33 years amid tepid gains in the private sector, but it likely was a temporary setback against the backdrop of diminishing labor market slack. The unexpectedly smaller rise reported by the Labor Department on Friday will probably not dampen speculation that the Federal Reserve is set to raise interest rates later this year...
To get a fair share, sharing-economy workers must unionize  (opinion) Aljazeera   ...Uber’s disruption of the cab industry has been welcomed by nearly everyone except those who rely on the cab industry for their livelihoods. It’s arguably made on-demand car rides easier, cleaner, safer, more accessible and, in some cases, even cheaper. The high prices of regulated taxi medallions have kept a small number of bosses in control, while drivers pay high gate fees in order to access their cars and wages. Uber is right that the traditional system is not well suited to drivers’ or customers’ needs. But the new boss is not so different from the old boss...

Social Justice & Other News
U.S. austerity was even worse than we thought, data suggest  Washington Post  ...The economy of the years between 2011 and 2014 was even more mediocre than previously recognized, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis. State and local governments spent less than the bureau realized throughout the interval, as did the federal government last year. When government spends less, its public employees, contractors and suppliers are all stretched. They have less to live on, and less money to spend in the rest of the economy...
Court Rules Police Need a Warrant to Access Location Data From Your Cellphone  Slate  ...In an order released Thursday by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, Judge Lucy Koh found that Fourth Amendment protections extend to location data generated by cellphones. Ruling against the federal government, Koh affirmed that law enforcement agencies must seek a warrant before acquiring historical location data produced by a cellphone...
Will Prosecutors Charge Officers Who Lied to Protect Ray Tensing After He Fatally Shot Sam Dubose?  Democracy Now  ...Former University of Cincinnati police officer Ray Tensing has been released on a $1 million bail after pleading not guilty to the murder of Sam Dubose. Tensing, who is white, fatally shot the 43-year-old African-American man on July 19 after stopping him for not having a front license plate. Two additional officers, Phillip Kidd and David Lindenschmidt, have been placed on administrative leave...
Protesters Forcibly Removed by Police As Arctic Drilling Ship Escapes Blockade  Common Dreams  ...Ending a nearly two-day standoff, Greenpeace activists who had successfully blocked passage of a Shell Oil drilling vessel were dramatically removed from their positions on the St. Johns Bridge in Portland, Oregon on Thurdsay evening as a special team of law enforcement officers cut them away to allow passage of the ship...
House takes off for August vacation before looking at highway, transit bill  NY Daily News  ...Congress is hitting the road without fixing our highways. House members took off for their extended August vacation before taking a look at the Senate’s newly passed long-term transportation bill, adding one more touchy issue for lawmakers to grapple with in a busy fall session. The long-overdue bill passed the Senate on Thursday with heavy bipartisan support, getting 65 votes for the $350 billion package, which would make changes to highway, transit, railroad and auto safety programs for six years...
Trump's immigration plan would cost hundreds of billions of dollars  CNN  ...According to a 2009 Government Accountability Office report, the average cost of fencing per mile is around $2.8 million to $3.9 million for the easiest-to-install and least expensive urban fencing. "You don't necessarily get a lot of bang for your buck," said Tom Wong, an assistant professor of Political Science at University of California, San Diego. Rosenblum and Wong explained that a wall would primarily just slow the process of crossing the border, especially in more rural areas...
UN Report Card Gives US 'Failing Grade' on Human Rights  Common Dreams  ...A United Nations committee of independent monitors this week released a damning assessment of human rights in the United States, showing an overall dismal performance on issues from Guantanamo Bay detentions to mass surveillance to accountability for past atrocities—earning what the U.S. Human Rights Network called a "failing grade." The findings prompted immediate condemnation from human rights and social justice organizations based in the U.S., including the Dream Defenders, who joined a civil society delegation to Geneva last year to urge the repeal of "Stand Your Ground" laws...

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Some in Congress set sights on union movement

Anti-union lawmakers are at it again. Not satisfied with ever-growing income inequality in the U.S. and huge corporate profits, several members of Congress are looking to further squeeze hardworking Americans by making it harder to organize and easier to shut unions down.

The Hill describes the effort as a retread of previous attempts to curtail union activity, including the ability to make political donations:
The bill is the latest shot fired in the bitter battle between the Obama administration and Republicans over labor policy. Hatch introduced the legislation in 2012, but to little avail. With Republicans now in control of the Senate, he's hoping for more success this time around.
It boggles the mind what these lawmakers are trying to do with such efforts. They always start by saying they're not against unions, but such efforts would gut them by making them poor and powerless, thus rendering them obsolete. Of course, that is the real plan behind such legislation.

Need proof of what the job market looks like when union membership is driven down? Head south to America's Sunbelt, and you will find a virulent strain of anti-unionism led by state and local leaders even in the wake of falling wages. Companies may have relocated there, but there not driving up income, only their own profits.

Unfortunately, some in the Midwest have bought into the big business hype, as The American Prospect outlines:
In the last three years, the Republican governors and legislatures of such onetime union bastions as Michigan, Indiana, and Wisconsin have joined the South in enacting “right to work” laws intended to reduce union membership. Since these laws cover only private-sector unions, and thus have no effect on the labor costs of government employees, the Republicans’ initial motivation was almost entirely political: Diminishing unions weakened institutions that generally campaigned for Democrats. But in recent months, bills to lower wages for construction workers on public projects have been moving through the legislatures in those three states, and the Michigan legislature has passed a bill forbidding cities from setting their own minimum-wage standards—all measures designed to hit workers’ pocketbooks. Moreover, laws designed to depress minority, millennial, and Democratic voting by requiring voters to present particular kinds of photo identification have been enacted not only by eight of the eleven once-Confederate states, but by Indiana, Michigan, and Wisconsin as well. Like the pre-1861 slaveholding elites, today’s Republicans appear increasingly dedicated to Southernizing the North.
Workers and elected officials shouldn't be fooled by these efforts. RTW and this latest congressional effort are frauds. They drive down wages for everyday Americans. Union jobs pay $200 more a week on average. When unions are strong, America is stronger.

Today's Teamster News 07.30.15

Teamsters
Teamsters Remember James R. Hoffa on 40th Anniversary of Disappearance  Teamster.org  ...July 30, 2015 marks the 40th anniversary of the disappearance of one of the greatest labor leaders in American history – James R. Hoffa. As Teamsters General President, Hoffa honed his well-earned reputation as a tough and effective bargainer and gained the respect of labor and business leaders alike across the country. He worked hard to expand the number of working men and women who were protected by union contracts...
Hoffa: Senate Transportation Bill is Positive Step, but Safety Issues Remain  Teamster.org  ...Since 2008, Congress has transferred more than $62 billion from the general fund to keep the Highway Trust Fund afloat, and it has been more than a decade since Congress has passed a highway bill more than two years in duration. Meanwhile, infrastructure continues to crumble and the safety of those who work and travel along the vast network of U.S. roads and rails is being jeopardized. Despite a serious effort by the Senate to pass a long-term bill in advance of the July 31 funding deadline, here we are once again – recess and a three-month, short-term fix...
Plumbers and Pipefitters avert strike, Teamsters end strike  Belleville News-Democrat  ...Workers from two metro-east-area unions have reached tentative agreements with their respective bargaining units after one had been on strike and the other had threatened a work stoppage. About 80 members of the Teamsters Union Local 50 in Swansea are back to work after walking the picket line for just more than a week. The union confirmed a tentative agreement was reached July 24 after the union had gone on strike July 16. The union’s brief strike halted the delivery of ready-mix concrete throughout the metro-east for seven working days...
New bill would stand up for workers against misclassification  Teamster Nation  ...For years, the Teamsters have stood with port truck drivers in Southern California, Georgia and elsewhere who have been repeatedly shortchanged on wages, fair labor standards, health and safety protections and unemployment and workers' compensation benefits. This afternoon, several members of Congress rolled out legislation that would prohibit the practice as a way for companies to avoid paying their fair share of taxes. The measure, "The Payroll Fraud Prevention Act," requires all workers to be accurately classified as employees or non-employees...
Truck Drivers In Georgia Are Fight Back Against Wage Theft And Misclassification  NH Labor News  ...Throughout the country hard working men and women are being screwed out their hard earned money by companies who are “mis-classifying” their employees. These workers are getting shafted by these unscrupulous employers who are stealing from their own employers to line their pockets.  This is wrong and it has to stop! The good news is that in Georgia, workers are coming together to fight back. Watch this great video from the Port Drivers Union...

Global Labor & Trade
Environmentalists, union members protest Pacific trade pact being negotiated at Maui resort  Associated Press  ...About 400 protesters blew conch shells on a Hawaii beach on Wednesday to demonstrate against a trade agreement being negotiated by ministers from 12 Pacific Rim nations. The demonstrators blew into their shells in unison on the sand in front of the Westin Maui resort on Kaanapali Beach, where ministers were meeting this week to discuss the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact. Protest organizers say the trade agreement would benefit a few major corporations while sacrificing protections for public health, the environment, local jobs and indigenous rights...
Harper Says Canada ‘Cannot Be Left Out’ of Pacific Trade Deal  Bloomberg  ...Canada is determined to reach a final deal on the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact, though the government will safeguard the country’s highly restricted dairy and poultry markets “as best we can,” Prime Minister Stephen Harper said. While Canada has defended its protectionist system of quotas and tariffs, known as supply management, in previous trade talks, it’s become a sticking point in TPP negotiations...
Eyeing the 2016 election calendar, trade ministers meet in Hawaii  Washington Post  ...Trade ministers from a dozen nations have gathered at a beachside hotel in Maui on Tuesday for talks aimed at knocking down tariff barriers, clearing political hurdles and sealing a new Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement that would bind countries on both sides of the vast ocean. For the U.S. delegation, these late-stage negotiations may be the last chance to close the deal before it gets swamped by 2016 election politics...
Pro-trade Dems want green goals in TPP  The Hill  ...A group of pro-trade House Democrats penned letter on Wednesday, calling on the Obama administration to lock in strong environmental provisions as part of a massive Asia-Pacific trade deal. Reps. Earl Blumenauer (Ore.), Suzan DelBene (Wash.), Scott Peters (Calif.) and 16 other Democrats who supported President Obama’s trade agenda argue that the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) presents a unique chance to raise global environmental standards...
EU steps up PR campaign to overcome U.S. trade deal hostility  Reuters  ...Using some of the tools employed by anti-trade campaigners, the European Commission, which is negotiating with the United States for a deal which may still be a year off, has taken the unusual step of launching video clips on YouTube. It has also published leaflets, fact sheets and "myth-busting" brochures to counter what it says are misconceptions about TTIP...
Secret Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) Treaty: State-Owned Enterprises (SOE) Issues for Ministerial Guidance  Wikileaks  ...Today, 29 July 2015, WikiLeaks releases a secret letter from the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP or TPPA) Ministerial Meeting in December 2013, along with a comprehensive expert analysis of the document. The letter indicates a wide-ranging privatisation and globalisation strategy within the Agreement which aims to severely restrict "state-owned enterprises" (SOEs). SOEs continue to fulfil vital public functions in even the most privatised countries, such as Canada and Australia...
Pacific partners may discuss currency rules along with trade deal  Reuters  ...Pacific Rim trading partners might convene a top-level forum to discuss how to stop countries manipulating currencies for competitive advantage, Australian Trade Minister Andrew Robb said on Tuesday. Speaking on the sidelines of a meeting in Hawaii where ministers are negotiating a 12-nation trade deal, Robb said member countries of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TTP) were considering a U.S. proposal for a separate forum...
Trans-Pacific Partnership: 'Magnificent' progress sets up tough ministerial talks  CBC  ...International Trade Minister Ed Fast meets his U.S. trade counterpart Michael Froman today in Maui, with key political decisions ahead on this second day of talks towards a Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal for 12 Pacific Rim countries. Ministerial talks began Tuesday afternoon in Hawaii, following a weekend of very long days for each country's negotiators in an attempt to clear the deck of minor or technical issues...
Osun NLC Suspends Strike Again, Recalls Workers  Channels Television  ...The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) in Osun State has again suspended its ongoing eight weeks industrial action, with a call on workers to resume work immediately. The workers union ended the strike after it singed another Memorandum Of Understanding (MoU) with the State government at the Governors Office in Abere, Osun State..

State & Living Wage Battles
Supreme Court upholds right-to-work for state workers  Detroit Free Press  ...The Michigan Supreme Court, in an opinion that has the effect of making state employees subject to Michigan’s 2012 right-to-work law, ruled Wednesday that Michigan's Civil Service Commission never had the authority to impose union fees on state workers, even before the controversial law was passed. The 4-3 ruling is a blow to the United Auto Workers and other unions representing about 36,000 state employees...
Jeb Bush's and Bill Clinton's Boasts of Economic Growth Based on Market Bubbles That Burst  Alternet  ...Paul Krugman rightly mocks Jeb Bush for taking credit for the strong growth in Florida during his tenure as governor. As Krugman points out, the reason for the strong growth was that Florida had one of the worst housing bubbles in the country. Its collapse gave Florida one of the worst downturns in the country...
Deadbeat corporations: How schools suffer when big companies don’t pay their fair share of state taxes  Salon  ...Corporations have reaped trillion-dollar benefits from 60 years of public education in the U.S., but they’re skipping out on the taxes meant to sustain the educational system. Children suffer from repeated school cutbacks. And parents subsidize the deadbeat corporations through increases in property taxes and sales taxes...
With new bump, Minnesota ushers in region's top minimum wage  Post Bulletin  ...Minnesota will vault past Illinois, Michigan and South Dakota this week to gain the highest minimum wage in the Midwestern region at $9 an hour, which also will rank among the most-generous state-wage floors in the country. The dollar-per-hour bump taking effect Saturday for about 288,000 of Minnesota's lowest-paid workers is the second of a three-stage increase adopted in 2014, when the state had one of the lowest minimum wages in the region...
University of California raises minimum wage to $15  USA Today  ...While fast food workers successfully organized and pushed legislation calling for action on a $15 minimum wage in New York on July 22, 2015, the University of California has become the first public school in the nation to commit to a wage increase. On July 22, the 238,000-student university system joined pioneering municipalities mandating that the wages of all employees of the university’s 10 campuses, five medical centers and three national labs — both direct and service contract employees — be raised to $15 per hour over the next three years...
Voter ID Laws Focus of Kansas Civil Rights Committee  CBS  ...The Kansas division of a federal civil rights commission will investigate whether voter identification laws have affected turnout around the state. The Kansas Committee of the U.S. Civil Rights Commission voted Tuesday to hold hearings to determine if turnout in some communities has been suppressed...
Hedge Funds Want Puerto Rico To Fire Teachers To Pay Them Back  Huffington Post  ...As Puerto Rico teeters on the edge of default, a new report commissioned by a group of hedge funds insists the U.S. territory can avoid bankruptcy if it lays off teachers, sells off many of its public assets and collects more taxes. If the government tries to restructure or avoid paying its debts, it will be sued and the crisis in confidence that follows will make things much worse for the island, an author of the report argues...
Another Fight for Fair Pay in New York  (opinion) New York Times  ...Gov. Andrew Cuomo recently earned well-deserved praise for his efforts to secure a $15-an-hour minimum wage for fast-food workers in New York. Now another fight for fairness in pay is brewing in New York that also needs his support. The issue is payroll cards — prepaid debit cards issued to employees and refilled each payday with the employees’ wages in lieu of paper checks or direct deposits into a worker’s bank account...

U.S. Labor
Guardian US votes to unionize  Washington Post  ...The Guardian US, the stateside operation of the British newspaper, has voted to unionize under the News Media Guild, according to an announcement first reported by the Huffington Post. The vote on the matter was a unanimous 45 to 0, according to guild President Bernie Lunzer. The news marks something of a trend for unionization at American digital media properties...
Clinton-Sanders contest fosters discord within labor  Aljazeera  ...The 2016 presidential primary contest has fostered discord within some of America’s biggest labor unions, weakening frontrunner Hillary Clinton’s lock on the support of a key Democratic constituency. Although a majority of union leadership and rank-and-file members appear to still support Clinton, a growing activist bloc within the labor movement has thrown its support behind Sen. Bernie Sanders...
Hundreds Take to the Streets Over Chicago Board of Education’s Decision to Further Slash CPS Funding  In These Times  ...the crowd of about 200 people—most of them members of the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU)—had grown to over 500. Among them were teachers, parents and members of community organizations like Communities United, Brighton Park Neighborhood Council (BPNC), the parent group Bad Ass Moms (BAMs) and Fight for $15, all of whom rejected the cuts and accused the Board of Ed of being "broke on purpose"...
Illinois, public labor union extend no-strike agreement  Reuters  ...The state of Illinois and its biggest labor union on Wednesday extended for two-months an agreement preventing strikes or lockouts while contract negotiations continue. Republican Governor Bruce Rauner also vetoed a bill sought by public employee labor unions that would send collective bargaining disputes to binding arbitration...
Victory for Farmworkers as Major Grocer Meets Demands for Fair Food   Common Dreams  ...The Immokalee, Florida farmworkers who have captured international attention for their decades of successful organizing against starvation wages, debt bondage, and slavery, racked up another human rights victory on Wednesday when Ahold USA agreed to become the first major grocer in the United States to join the organization's Fair Food Program...
USW workers to march on ATI headquarters  TribLive  ...Negotiators for ATI Flat-rolled Products have submitted another contract proposal to the United Steelworkers Union that shows some movement on health care issues. The USW, which represents ATI's 11 flat-rolled products plants and its 2,200 workers, said the proposal, which apparently was made last weekend, “falls far short” on the issues including health care, retirement security and scheduling...
Transit System and Amalgamated Transit Union to start negotiations Thursday  CBS  ...The Milwaukee County Transit System issued a press release today stating the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 998 and MCTS will go back to the bargaining table on Thursday, July 30.
It has been nearly a month since the ATU's strike. Milwaukee County Transit System claims the  ATU President James Macon is demanding $9 million more than what MCTS can afford...
After Threatening To Strike, NYC Airport Workers Win Union Agreement, Say They’ll Push for $15  In These Times  ...Twelve hundred workers at New York’s John F. Kennedy and LaGuardia airports may soon be negotiating a union contract after pressuring management with the threat of a strike. On July 22, Local 32BJ of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) announced that the workers’ employer, Aviation Safeguards, has agreed to remain neutral as they seek to join the SEIU through a “card check” recognition process...
United Farm Workers Turns Up Heat On California Growers  Growing Produce  ...his week, as high temperatures in parts of California’s Central Valley are expected to hover around 110 degrees, United Farm Workers (UFW) has been filing notices of intent to take access with the state Agricultural Labor Relations Board (ALRB). According to a report from Western Growers, more than 30 access filings have actually been submitted over the past month. In addition to the Central Valley, UFW organizers have visited a number of farms along the state’s southern and northern coasts...
Democrats Want To Extend Civil Rights Protections To Unpaid Interns  Huffington Post  ...Unpaid interns in most states aren't covered by the same workplace discrimination and harassment laws as employees, but some House Democrats are trying to change that. Three lawmakers introduced a trio of bills Tuesday aimed at closing loopholes that exclude unpaid interns from protection. The Civil Rights Act doesn't currently cover such workers because they aren't compensated and therefore aren't technically employees...
Applications for US unemployment benefits rose last week to still-low level of 267,000  Associated Press  ...More people sought U.S. unemployment benefits last week, though the increase was from a very low level and the figures still point to a healthy job market. Applications for jobless aid rose 12,000 to a seasonally adjusted 267,000, the Labor Department said Thursday. The four-week average, a less volatile figure that is a better measure of underlying trends, dropped 3,750 to 274,750...

Social Justice & Other News
Say Her Name: Protesters in Chicago Demand Justice for Sandra Bland  Truthout  ...This week, from Dallas to San Diego to the Midwest, activists and community members around the United States are answering a national call to demand justice for Sandra Bland, a Black woman and activist who died in police custody on July 13. In Chicago, protesters lifted up Sandra Bland's name on Michigan Avenue on July 28, as hundreds of protesters lined a bridge over the Chicago River, urging those who believe Black lives matter to "say her name"...
House passes three-month highway bill  The Hill  ...The House voted Wednesday to approve an $8 billion bill that would extend federal transportation funding until the end of October, sending it to the Senate with just two days to go before the nation's road and transit spending expires. The bill passed in a 385-34 vote, with Rep. Betty McCollum (D-Minn.) voting present. Senators are expected to accept the patch to prevent an interruption in the nation's infrastructure spending...
House Republicans Invite Architect Of The Financial Crisis Over For Advice  Think Progress  ...Five years after the passage of a sweeping Wall Street reform package in the wake of the worst financial crisis in generations, lawmakers opposed to strict government policing of the financial industry are inviting two prominent deregulators back to the scene of the crime. When the House Financial Services Committee (HFSC) hears from former Sen. Phil Gramm (R-TX) and longtime conservative analyst Peter Wallison on Tuesday, the pair will have their laissez-faire perspectives on the money business elevated once again...
Wishing Happy Birthday to Medicare, Communities Demand Healthcare for All  Common Dreams  ...From Hawaii to Florida to Maine, communities in 25 cities across the United States are staging rallies, picnics, and flash mobs this week to celebrate Thursday's 50th anniversary of Medicare—and call for its expansion into a system that provides publicly-funded healthcare for all...
Cincinnati Cop Charged With Murder in Fatal Shooting of Unarmed Black Man  Mother Jones  ...Officials in Hamilton County, Ohio, released body-camera footage on Wednesday that shows the shooting death of Samuel DuBose, an unarmed black man pulled over by University of Cincinnati police officer Ray Tensing on July 19 for driving without a front license plate. The video was released as Hamilton County prosecutor Joe Deters announced that Tensing would be indicted on a charge of murder...

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

New bill would stand up for workers against misclassification

The issue of misclassification, in which workers are treated as independent contractors by their employers even though they have no independence when it comes to their work, is gaining more attention.

For years, the Teamsters have stood with port truck drivers in Southern California, Georgia and elsewhere who have been repeatedly shortchanged on wages, fair labor standards, health and safety protections and unemployment and workers' compensation benefits. But now policymakers are beginning to take notice as well.

First, the Department of Labor earlier this month issued an interpretation calling misclassification one of the most serious problems confronting workers on the job. And this afternoon, several members of Congress rolled out legislation that would prohibit the practice as a way for companies to avoid paying their fair share of taxes.

Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.), a chief sponsor of the bill in the House, said it is in the best interest of workers and businesses to address this issue:
Misclassification cheats hard-working Americans out of federally guaranteed labor rights and benefits, such as overtime pay, minimum wage, and family and medical leave. Misclassification cheats law-abiding businesses out of a level playing field. Misclassification cheats the American economy out of billions of dollars in tax revenues, putting a strain on already stressed programs like Medicare and Social Security.
The measure, "The Payroll Fraud Prevention Act," requires all workers to be accurately classified as employees or non-employees, and mandates that workers be given a written notice of their classification. It also creates a presumption that when a employer fails to address the issue, the worker is considered an employee.

In addition, the bill would make it a violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act to "discharge or discriminate" against a worker for questioning their classification. Employers could face fines of up to $5,000 for each willful violation.

Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.), a sponsor of companion legislation in the Senate, said lawmakers need to stand up to these corporate lawbreakers:
We owe workers a fair shot at good jobs where they can receive basic workplace protections. Too many workers are classified as independent contractors when it's clear that they are employees. This legislation is a common-sense fix that will ensure workers in Pennsylvania and throughout the nation are treated fairly.
It's time for the majority of Congress to represent the interests of workers as vigorously as they do for big business.

Today's Teamster News 07.29.15

Teamsters
Shuttle Drivers for Apple, eBay, Yahoo, Zynga, Genentech, Amtrak and Evernote Set to Vote on Proposal for First Contract  Teamster.org  ...Teamsters Local Union 853 announced today that shuttle drivers employed by Compass Transportation/Transdev will vote on a union proposal for a first contract that includes industry-leading wages and benefits on Aug. 1. The drivers transport employees from Apple, eBay, Yahoo, Zynga, Genentech, Amtrak and Evernote from home to work and back each day...
Port truckers’ cause receives support from Long Beach Councilwoman Suja Lowenthal  Press-Telegram  ...Long Beach Councilwoman Suja Lowenthal asserted during a public meeting that port truckers are working in conditions of “modern day indentured servitude.” The majority of truckers work on an independent basis. The Teamsters union and other labor groups are advocating for drivers to be classified as employees, and thus able to join unions...
Teamsters strike concrete industry after contract talks stall  Labor Tribune  ...Close to 80 members of Teamsters Local 50 in St. Clair County went on strike on July 17 against seven concrete companies after joint contract talks dragged on for a year and a half. The dispute affects the seven concrete providers in the Metro-East that negotiate as a group. Teamsters members deliver the concrete to construction sites, which may be shut down as a result of the strike...
EVSC and Teamsters: Can the Two Strike a Deal?  (video) Tristate Homepage  ...The EVSC and Teamsters local 215 negotiators are going back to the table to try an reach a contract agreement. Close 700 EVSC employees represented by the Teamsters have been without a contract since the end of June. Teamster local 215 President Chuck Whobrey is on Eyewitness News First to talk about what's next and if both sides can come to terms. Whobrey talks grievance protocol, union dues, the bitter talks in the past and if the two sides can strike a deal before the school bell rings...

Global Labor & Trade
Canada ramps up TPP talks with U.S. on allowing more dairy imports   Globe and Mail  ...Canada has begun discussions with the United States on allowing more foreign dairy products into the Canadian market – among the thorniest issues for Ottawa at the Pacific Rim trade talks, which have entered their final stretch this week in Hawaii. Sources familiar with the Trans-Pacific Partnership talks say Canada has yet to specify exactly what volume of dairy shipments it would allow into its heavily protected market, but the talks are ongoing...
Secret TPP Talks Continue at a Luxury Hotel in Hawaii as the Deal Grows More Controversial  EFF  ...Trade ministers are meeting behind closed-doors at the Westin Resort and Spa in Maui this week to finalize the terms of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). This is the first formal round of talks since the U.S. passed the controversial Fast Track trade legislation in June, which has given U.S. negotiators a renewed sense of determination as they continue to push the TPP's corporate-driven mandate. The U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) seeks to wrap up talks by the end of the week...
European Mining Dispute Illustrates Risks of Corporate-Friendly Trade Deals  Common Dreams  ...Offering a stark warning of how corporate-friendly trade pacts like the TransAtlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) put both democracy and the environment at risk, a Canadian company is seeking damages from Romania after being blocked from creating an open-pit gold mine over citizen concerns. Gabriel Resources Ltd. announced last week that it had filed a request for arbitration with the World Bank's International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes, a body not unlike the secret tribunals that critics like Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) have warned against...
Lives at stake if Trans Pacific Partnership means meds price rise  AJP.com  ...As trade ministers meet in Hawaii on 28-31 July in an effort to finalise the Trans Pacific Partnership, the Public Health Association of Australia and other stakeholders say that lives are at stake. “Future access to medicines for almost 800 million people hangs in the balance this week,” says Michael Moore, CEO of the PHAA. Médecins sans Frontières last week said that the TPP could be the most harmful trade deal ever for access to medicines...
Australian minister says dairy key to TPP success  Politico  ...Australian Trade Minister Andrew Robb said Monday that it was up to the United States, Japan, Canada and Mexico to bolster the chances of reaching a high-quality Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement by striking a deal on sensitive dairy market access issues. “We’re on the cusp [of a TPP deal], but if the leadership is not shown by the big countries, it will lead to serious slippage where people are taking things off the table and we get a very second-best outcome,” Robb told POLITICO...
Tsipras Says Greece Won ‘Crucial’ Commitment for Debt Relief  Bloomberg  ...Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras expressed confidence that Greece’s creditors will grant debt relief and blamed their intractability for worsening the country’s economic plight. “The Greek people were prisoners, who after they escaped prison were immediately arrested and returned to an even smaller cell,” Tsipras, who turned 41 on Tuesday, told an Athens radio station. “What’s crucial is that we got a commitment for debt relief, which will take place after the first review of the program, in November”...
CAFTA’s Decade of Empty Promises Haunts the TPP  (opinion) Eyes on Trade  ...Ten years ago, after a flurry of backroom deal-making, Congress passed the Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA).  In the dead of night.  By a single vote. Exactly one decade later, today trade ministers are gathering in Hawaii to try to conclude deadline-missing negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) – a sweeping deal that would expand the CAFTA model of trade across the Pacific...
Ambassador Froman, Don’t Let the Trans-Pacific Partnership Restrict Access to Affordable Medicine  (opinion) AARP   ...AARP continues to voice its serious concerns about the current draft of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a massive trade agreement that will affect millions of people here in the U.S. and abroad and could set an unfortunate precedent for future trade agreements. The draft agreement contains provisions that add to the profits of the brand-name pharmaceutical industry at the expense of patients and older Americans...
American Unionists Join Chinese Uniqlo Workers’ Campaign for End to Alleged Abuse  In These Times  ...As protesters handed out flyers to pedestrians walking outside of a Manhattan Uniqlo store on July 15, the chant of “From China to the USA / Worker solidarity!” rang out on 34th Street. The action, organized by Workers United (WU), an affiliate of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), was taken in solidarity with the workers at China’s Shenzhen Artigas Clothing and Leatherware factory, a major contract supplier for Uniqlo, the popular clothing retailer owned by Japan’s Fast Retailing Co...
Trafficking Report Boosts Uzbekistan Ranking  Solidarity Center  ...The U.S. State Department boosted the ranking of Uzbekistan in its Trafficking in Persons report, while keeping Turkmenistan at a higher ranking than human rights activists believe is warranted. Earlier this year, the Solidarity Center was among 30 global unions, business associations and nonprofit networks urging the U.S. State Department to ensure its Trafficking in Persons report accurately reflect the serious, ongoing and government-sponsored forced labor in Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan...

State & Living Wage Battles
New York leaders call for Puerto Rico debt relief  Aljazeera   ...With a $73 billion debt burden that Gov. Alejandro García Padilla recently called incontrovertible, Puerto Rico is now being giving advice by hedge funds: improve tax collection and cut education spending to reduce mounting debt. A new report released Monday, which The Guardian says was commissioned by 34 hedge funds, says that Puerto Rico has room to increase revenues by improving tax compliance rates. Puerto Rico's current sales tax compliance is 56 percent, compared with an 83 percent average on the U.S. mainland...
Missouri Rejects Lawmakers’ Attempt To Block Immigrants From Receiving Scholarships  Think Progress  ...Some good news came to undocumented immigrants in Missouri this week, when officials ruled that language in a state appropriations bill could not prevent students from receiving state scholarship funds for college. The Missouri Department of Higher Education defended undocumented students’ access to Missouri’s A+ Scholarships even though state legislators made a small word change in a general assembly appropriations bill to stop funds from going to “unlawfully present” to “unlawful immigration status”...
Rally in Orlando celebrates New York's $15 minimum wage victory  Orlando Weekly  ...Workers and activists rallied on the front steps of Orlando's City Hall Thursday, July 23, joining organizers across Florida who showed support for the $15 minimum wage increase in New York. On Wednesday, a wage panel appointed by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo recommended the minimum wage be raised for employees of fast-food chain restaurants to $15 an hour. Raises will happen in yearly increments, and by the end of 2018, all workers in New York City should be paid $15, according to the New York Times...
Prevailing wage repeal would hurt the Michigan economy  (opinion) Detroit News  ...A comparison of prevailing wage and non-prevailing wage states shows that any savings from lower wages are immediately offset by lower worksite productivity and far more spending on fuels, materials, equipment and other services, a direct result of the fact that prevailing wage states rely more on home grown talent and higher skilled professionals to get the job done right the first time...

U.S. Labor
Verizon workers in Del. prepare for possible strike  Delaware Online  ...About 600 Verizon workers in Delaware are bracing for a likely strike when their current labor contract with the telecommunications giant expires Saturday. "With four days to go, we still haven't developed much traction," said Jim Ryan, president of the Communications Workers of America (CWA) Local 13101 in Newark. "At this point, considerable movement will be needed if we're going to get a deal done by the end of the contract"...
Republicans fire new salvo at labor unions  The Hill  ...Republicans on Monday renewed their push for legislation that they say would help prevent workers from being forced into union membership. Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) on Monday introduced the Employee Rights Act, a bill that would create new requirements for workers to organize a union and make it easier for them to disband it. The bill would also restrict political donations made by unions...
Tracy tomato grower, UFW renew contract  Recordnet  ...Tracy-based Pacific Triple E, a tomato growing and shipping company, and the United Farm Workers signed Tuesday a new three-year contract giving the company’s 450 field workers improved wages and benefits. “They‘re being paid the best rate in the state and the U.S.,” said Armando Elenes, UFW national vice president. Elenes said tomato pickers, who are paid on a piece rate so their actual pay varies by performance, should average $19.84 an hour under the new pact, compared to the $18.15 average under the previous three-year contract...
Ford's huge quarter a boost to UAW  Detroit Free Press  ...Huge profits reported by Ford on Tuesday likely will amplify the UAW’s chorus of “it’s our time” as Detroit’s automakers start talks with the union. Ford’s $2.6 billion best-ever pretax quarterly profit in North America between April and July came on the heels of General Motors’ $2.8 billion. Fiat Chrysler will weigh in Thursday with what are expected to be significant profits from its North American business. Four years ago as talks began with the union, Chrysler, then reporting as a stand-alone company, lost $370 million in the second quarter...
Politico’s Mike Elk presses Bernie Sanders on Politico unionization  Washington Post  ...Presidential hopeful Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) took questions from reporters during an appearance today at an event of the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers at the Washington Hilton. “Workers have the constitutional right to associate in unions. That right is being abused day and night; that has got to change,” he said in response to a question...
Tryin’ to Make a Dollar Out of 64 Cents  Ebony  ...Today is Black Women’s Pay Equity Day, an important milestone for the 16.6 million Black working women in America. It marks how far into the year African-American women must work to earn what a White man earned last year. That’s right—it has taken Black women 209 days into 2015 to make what White men made by the end of 2014. An African-American woman earns just 64 cents on the dollar earned by a White man...
The Koch Brothers are About to Destroy Veterans' Health Care and No One Knows About It  Daily Kos  ...The war on workers' rights has shifted to a new and unlikely battleground this week: the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. And for the more than 350,000 employees and the veterans they serve, the stakes could not be higher. Along comes Representative Jeff Miller and Senator Marco Rubio who saw an opportunity in the waitlist scandal; not an opportunity to improve access to care for veterans, but an opportunity to chip away at the basic rights to due process that protect all VA employees from discrimination and wrongful firing...
Key Senate Dem pushes case for paid sick leave  The Hill  ...A key Senate Democrat said supporters of a paid sick leave bill are increasing the pressure on Republicans to take up the measure. Sen. Patty Murray (Wash.), the No. 4 Democrat in the Senate, said that roughly two in five private sector workers –some 43 million in all – don't have paid sick leave. That means, Murray said, that too many workers are currently forced to decide between going to work while sick or with a sick child at home, or missing a much-needed paycheck...
Pittsburgh region sees fewer new jobs than normal in adjusted rate  Post-Gazette  ...The latest job news for the Pittsburgh area looked better before it was seasonally adjusted. In raw numbers, employers in the region added 6,700 jobs between May and June. But when those numbers were adjusted to take into account the usual fluctuations of seasonal employment, fewer jobs were added than normal — 1,200 fewer...

Social Justice & Other News
Senate Will Take Up House 3-Month Highway Funding Bill  Huffington Post  ...Senate leaders said Tuesday they would take up legislation the House plans to move this week that would extend funding for the nation's highways, bridges and roads for another three months. The stop-gap bill comes days before the Highway Trust Fund runs out of money, and after weeks of Senate and House Republicans talking past each other on how to best deal with the encroaching deadline...
Clinton Calls Out SEC for Dodging Rule on CEO Pay  Mother Jones  ...With Bernie Sanders nipping at her heels in the presidential primary, Hillary Clinton is doing all she can to let liberal financial wonks know she's on their side. The Democratic front-runner laid out her vision Friday for getting Wall Street to focus on long-term growth rather than just what she termed "quarterly capitalism"—business deals aimed at quick stock gains. Slipped in among the big-picture reforms was a shout-out to an obscure, seemingly minor provision of Wall Street reform...
America's infrastructure crisis: One step forward, two steps back  Yahoo  ...The Empire State stepped up and stepped forward with Gov. Andrew Cuomo announcing plans for a $4 billion project to redesign LaGuardia Airport. Gov. Cuomo was joined at the event by Vice President Joe Biden, who once famously said: "If I took you and blindfolded you and took you to LaGuardia Airport in New York, you'd think, 'I must be in some third-world country.'" "Third World" might be a stretch, but America's infrastructure certainly isn't first class. The American Society for Civil Engineers (ASCE) gave the U.S. a D+ in its 2013 report on the state of U.S. infrastructure...
One In Eight Americans Burdened By Student Loan Debt, Including 700,000 Seniors  Alternet  ...It will not be news to 41 million Americans that this nation is in the middle of a student debt crisis. That's the number of people burdened by student loan payments. But many people, including many student debt holders, may be surprised to learn that people can be pursued for student debt even into their elder years. In fact, the government is withholding Social Security payments for some retirees, because their student loans have not been fully repaid...
Aging Pipes Are Poisoning America's Tap Water  The Atlantic  ...While Flint’s government and its financial struggles certainly have a role to play in the city’s water woes, the city may actually be a canary in the coal mine, signaling more problems to come across the country. “Flint is an extreme case, but nationally, there’s been a lack of investment in water infrastructure,” said Eric Scorsone, an economist at Michigan State University who has followed the case of Flint. “This is a common problem nationally— infrastructure maintenance has not kept up”...
At Least 5 Black Women Found Dead In Jail Since Mid-July  Think Progress  ...The mayor has since explained that Turner’s medical history included hypertension and bariatric surgery. No official cause of death has been determined. But her death follows at least four other deaths of black women in police custody since July 13, shining an even brighter spotlight on the plight of black women in the criminal justice system and fueling the Black Lives Matter movement. On that date, Sandra Bland was found hanging in her cell, three days after she was violently stopped for failing to signal a lane change...
Here's What Sandra Bland's Death Says About Our Broken Bail System  Mother Jones  ...This system, in which people either stay locked up or pay money to a private company to get out, is almost entirely unique to the United States. There is nothing to suggest that Sandra Bland was a danger to the community, so why was she kept in jail? Proponents of our current bail system would say that by requiring a cash bond, the court gave her a financial incentive to appear for court. But a handful of states have outlawed commercial bail, and they are doing just fine...

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

U.S. needs better jobs to curb childhood poverty

U.S. economic numbers have been looking better for workers. But statistics don't always tell the whole story. And that's certainly the case when it comes to childhood poverty in America.

A new report by the Annie E. Casey Foundation finds that despite the fact nearly 3 million jobs were created in the U.S. in 2014 and the unemployment rate dropped to 5.3 percent in June -- a seven-year low -- there are now more kids living in poverty than during the Great Recession.
Income inequality is putting our children at risk. As it stands, about 22 percent of American kids lived below the poverty line in 2013, compared with 18 percent in 2008, according to the 2015 Kids Count Data Book. The problem, quite frankly, is there aren't enough good-paying jobs being created, as the report details:
[T]here are some worrisome economic indicators for families in the bottom half of the income scale, particularly African Americans and Latinos. Although new job growth has occurred at all wage levels, it has been disproportionate in low-wage sectors, such as retail and food services, and in some of the lower-wage positions within health care and home care. And, a stagnating federal minimum wage has exacerbated low wages.
The federal poverty line for a family of four is $23,624. Frankly, it is preposterous to think any family can make it on a salary even closely resembling that level. But that is where America finds itself today -- 18.7 million kids living in poverty. And the problem is even worse for select minority groups. Thirty-nine percent of African American kids live in poverty, while 37 percent of Native American and 33 percent of Latino children do as well.

This country needs to attack this problem head on, and it begins with creating better-paying jobs for workers. A recent report by the Roosevelt Institute details how both government and the business community can work better together to create them. That, however, will require cooperation by those parties -- something that seems in short supply.

Lawmakers, however, could also choose to invest in this country and its workers by improving the nation's infrastructure network. This could create millions of jobs building roads, rail systems, energy plants and the like. Many of these jobs would be good union jobs that pay a middle-class wage. And when the U.S. is union strong, it makes America stronger.

This nation shouldn't accept the current level of poverty, especially for our children. They deserve better. It's time to do something about it.