Nel's New Day

September 3, 2018

DDT Not a ‘Jobs President’

Today is Labor Day, a day to celebrate workers, and Dictator Donald Trump (DDT)—aka the “jobs president”—honored the hard-working people of the nation by attacking Richard Trumka, leader of the nation’s biggest union federation. Trumka dared to point out how DDT had “done more to hurt workers than to help” them and disagreed with DDT’s strategy on renegotiating the NAFTA trade pact because he might lose Canada.

  • How DDT has hurt U.S. workers:
  • Eliminating overtime pay for workers by dropping the salary threshold to the same one from 40 years ago.
  • Attempting to give tips for waitpeople to their employers.
  • Classifying workers as “independent contractors,” permitting employers to deny them benefits.
  • Failing to pass legislation for infrastructure improvement.
  • Signing an executive order that allows investment brokers to cheat people in their retirement funds.
  • Blocking workers from the courts with mandatory arbitration clauses in employment contracts.
  • Delaying and rolling back regulations to protect workers from job injuries.
  • Refusing to shield workers from exposure to cancer-causing chemicals and metals like beryllium.
  • Allowing employees to keep faulty records about on-the-job injuries.
  • Blocking a requirement to report pay data by race, ethnicity, and gender, allowing larger racial and gender pay gaps.
  • Creating barriers for home care workers who want to support their union.
  • Proposing a family leave plan that forces workers to have less Social Security benefits when they retire.
  • Forgiving employers who violate wage and hour laws.
  • Limiting workers’ ability to decide with whom they want to form a union.
  • Making it harder for workers to bargain with the companies that influence their working conditions.
  • Disbanding labor-management forums for federal workers.
  • Endangering workers and first responders at chemical facilities.
  • Undermining the quality and pay of apprenticeship programs.
  • Limiting workers’ right to sue.
  • Reducing transparency in anti-union attacks.
  • Making it harder for workers to save for retirement.
  • Discriminating against LGBTQ workers.
  • Enacting tax cuts that overwhelmingly favor the wealthy over the average worker.
  • Pushing immigration policies that hurt all workers.
  • Appointing anti-worker members to the National Labor Relations Board and the Department of Labor. Undercutting key worker protection agencies by nominating anti-worker leaders
  • Stacking the Supreme Court with anti-worker justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh.
  • Specifics about DDT’s anti-worker agenda.

How DDT has helped U.S. workers:

Last week DDT canceled a scheduled Congress-approved 2.1 percent pay raise for 1.8 million civilian federal employees at a time that the 2018 inflation is projected at 2.9 percent. These people include Secret Service, firefighters, and border patrol agents. One-third of them are veterans, many of them disabled. He claimed the purpose of the $3 billion savings was to “put our Nation on a fiscally sustainable course” because of “national emergency or serious economic conditions affecting the general welfare.” At the same time, however, he has figured out how to give an additional $100 billion to the wealthiest after he and Congress passed $2 trillion tax cuts for the richest and plan another tax cuts this fall for the richest in the nation. Before a second tax cut, the new tax loophole for “passthrough” businesses that benefits the Trump Organization will cost $47 billion in just one year, and the tax cut for wealthy, multimillion-dollar estates costs another $8 billion.

DDT also plans another way to use his power to give the wealthy another $100 billion in tax cuts by indexing capital gains to inflation, an action that he could take without congressional action. Winners are 63 percent to the top 0.01 percent of the population, 86 percent to the top one percent, and 95 percent to the top five percent. They pay most of the capital gains taxes, meaning that this action does nothing for economic growth. Indexing capital gains worsens inequality adds to budget deficits, and opens up new tax shelters for the wealthy.   [capital gains visual]

Legislative and judicial obstruction has caused union membership to fall to under 11 percent in 2017, dropping from 25 percent in the 1970s. Yet wages have been flat during that fall. Yet union support has increased to 62 percent approval, the highest in over a decade. Wages rose as union membership was strong, but Ronald Reagan’s control of the NLRB after he broke the air controllers’ union vastly increased the amount of resources delegated to the top 1 percent. [visual union]

Labor Day under DDT’s rule:

“Real wages have fallen over the last year, despite an economy nearing full employment. Good jobs are still being shipped abroad. Our trade deficit with China climbed to its highest level on record in 2017. The $4,000 raise promised to workers out of the tax bill is nowhere to be seen. As Americans for Tax Fairness has documented, only 4 percent of workers received any increase from the tax cuts, while, as predicted, corporate CEOs used the cut for a record-breaking $700 billion in stock buybacks, lining their pockets and those of investors. Earlier this year, a careful analysis of government data showed that 43 percent of Americans couldn’t afford a basic monthly budget for housing, food, transportation, child care, health care, and a monthly smartphone bill.”

Since the 1930s, union workers have earned about 20 percent more than non-union colleagues. More than that, however, a recent study shows that more unions meant more income equality because they increased the wages of the lowest-skilled. The chart to the left shows the correlation between the drop in union membership and the drop in middle-class income. Instead of working to raise their wage by demanding unions for all, however, those not in the union try to tear down unions. And the wealthiest and biggest businesses want an even larger share of the pie so they work to kill unions as they did in the Supreme Court Janus decision.

Riding on their victory in Janus, the conservative Illinois organization Liberty Justice Center has threatened to sue Oregon state and local government officials if they don’t immediately stop collecting union dues and agency fees. Oregon’s AG Ellen Rosenblum differs from the organization’s claim that unions cannot college any union dues until all employees agree to their membership. She had already sent an advisory after the Supreme Court ruling that public unions could not agency fees from a nonmember’s wages without the members’ becoming union members.

Employers and business-loving conservatives don’t provide benefits out of the goodness of their hearts. Most people don’t recognize what unions have accomplished for all workers in the United States.

 

Not everyone has these benefits, but all these workers’ rights can be lost in the current DDT downward trajectory:

  • Weekends, breaks (including lunch), 8-hour workday, 40-hour week, minimum wage, overtime pay, equal pay.
  • Child labor laws.
  • Safety standards and regulations.
  • Ways to fight discrimination (including age), wrongful termination, Americans with Disabilities Act.
  • Paid vacation, sick leave, worker’s compensation, unemployment insurance, pensions.
  • Social Security, Medicare.
  • Employee Polygraph Protection Act.
  • Military leave.
  • Privacy rights.

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) said on a Sunday talk show that Republicans should concentrate on the “good things” that DDT has done such as tax cuts and eradicating regulations—both benefiting only the extremely wealthy and big business. Reductions in union membership have a direct correlation with the increase of income to the top one percent.

ObamaCare is more popular than the GOP tax law, according to a new Fox News poll, with a 51 percent approval rating compared to the 40 percent approval for the tax cuts benefiting the wealthy and big business. DDT complains that Google has a majority of negative stories about him. If he wants positive media, he should do something that’s positive instead of negative actions against everyone except the top five percent in the United States.

 

 

When people say that they don’t need unions because their job gives them all these advantages, they are either unaware of situations where that doesn’t happen or just focus on themselves. In 1946, German Lutheran pastor Martin Niemöller wrote about the Nazi purges of groups, one by one, while people ignored the responsibility:

First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—

Because I was not a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—

Because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—

Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

DDT and the Republicans have come for the trade unionists. Are you next?

September 4, 2017

DDT, GOP Oppose Labor on Labor Day

Filed under: Unions — trp2011 @ 7:37 PM
Tags: , , , , ,

Labor Day to most people is a time to shop and barbeque, but it has a dark foundation. In 1894, Pullman employees went on strike to increase wages. President Grover Cleveland sent in federal troops to break the strike, and the riots became one of the bloodiest events in U.S. labor history with 30 deaths. Congress soon declared a federal Labor Day holiday. Oregon had been the first state to celebrate Labor Day as a holiday in 1887. Thirty states followed suit before the creation of the federal holiday in 1894. Holidays were hard won from 37,000 strikes in the last part of the 1800s and 800 killings of workers, mostly by state security forces or the military, between 1870 and 1914.

Five years ago, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), then vice-presidential candidate, declared that Labor Day celebrated business management and CEOs because business owners were the only Americans working hard and taking risks to make “this country grow.” He completely ignored the federal statement that Labor Day is “a creation of the labor movement and dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers,” a “yearly national tribute” to the “contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity and wellbeing of our country.”

Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) wants to “make America great again” by cheating workers.  His Labor Secretary, Alexander Acosta, has shown great disdain for salaried workers, those who are not paid hourly, when he prepared to stop overtime for employees making over $23,660, a figure set by President Gerald Ford and never adjusted for inflation. The rule for overtime under $47,476 covers one-third of full-time salaried workers in the nation, far fewer than the 50 percent covered by Ford. Some people making just below the $47,476 got raises so that their employers wouldn’t need to pay the overtime; now employers can drop these salaries. Acosta called for public comments on the higher amount in July, the first step to eliminating it.

Impacted by this change would be up to 12.5 million which includes 6.4 million women, 4.2 million parents (and, by extension, 7.3 million children), 1.5 million African Americans, 2.0 million Latinos and 4.5 million millennials. White people voting for DDT will suffer from this change. States supporting DDT tend to be poorer, places where salaried, white-collar workers are likely to earn below the $47,476 than in richer states. In West Virginia, the state with the worst economy in the nation, 30.7 percent of salaried workers will lose overtime pay if Acosta rescinds the rule. Other DDT states punished by the change include Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, South Carolina, and Tennessee.  The $47,476 amount represents the 40th percentile of salaries in the Southeast, the lowest-paying region in the United States. With the old rule, people making $24,000 without overtime are getting $6.60 an hour if their employee makes them work 70 hours a week.

DDT is spending his first Labor Day in the White House after average working people put him there in an anti-establishment rage. On Election Day, the typical U.S. household was worth 14 percent less than in 1984. The wealthiest one percent owned more than the bottom 90 percent. Last year’s bonus for Wall Street was bigger than annual wages of all 3.3 million Americans working full time at the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour.

The reason given for people now making less than their parents, having less economic security than their parents, the two-thirds who live paycheck to paycheck, and the widening gap in life expectancy between affluent and everyone else has been attributed to digital technology and globalization. But these problems have been paralleled by the shrinking of unions with only 6.4 percent of private sector workers in a union—a decline of almost two-thirds since the late 1970s. Top executives at big companies now make 300 times that of average workers, compared to only 20 times more in the 1980s. Workers in other advanced economies don’t face the economic problems in the U.S. Instead of having universal health care, affordable college, job retraining, public transportation, and higher taxes for the wealthy, however, U.S. workers kept dropping farther and farther behind.

Seventy-six percent of the population think that government is operated by a few big interests, compared to the 60 percent of people in 1964 who thought government was “run for the benefit of all the people.” Then, most people said they had a “great deal of confidence” in the nation’s major companies, banks, and financial institutions; now only ten percent has that confidence. DDT makes the problem much worse with undermining health care, backing off from fair pay, and proposed tax cuts for big corporations and rich people.

Across the country, the mis-named “right to work,” which prohibits union security agreements between companies and workers’ unions, is law in 29 states. Supporters of this law touts the “freedom” of workers to not join unions, but the law actually gives employers the “freedom” to pay lower wages and provide far fewer benefits. Any person who supports “right to work” should be asked how workers are better off. Workers in these states make $1,558 less than workers in a union state.

Right to work was developed to keep low-paid Jim Crow labor in the South and fight what “Christians” saw as the Jewish conspiracy. Leader in the movement Vance Muse of the Christian American Association (CAA) was “a white supremacist, an anti-Semite, and a Communist-baiter, a man who beat on labor unions not on behalf of working people, as he said, but because he was paid to do so,” according to Muse’s grandson. On Labor Day 1941, Dallas Morning News editorial writer William Ruggles called for a constitutional amendment to block the closed, or union shop and came up with the name “right to work.” Ruggles joined forces with Muse, Texas lumberman John Henry Kirby, and Northern anti-New Deal industrialists and financiers, including Alfred P. Sloan and the du Pont brothers, using racist reasons to win. In Arkansas, the right-to-work campaign argued that without it, “white women and white men will be forced into organizations with black African apes . . . whom they will have to call ‘brother’ or lose their jobs.” In 1944, Arkansas and Florida became the first right-to-work states through rampant election fraud and the refusal to allow blacks to vote.

In the 21st century, right wing activists are campaigning against progressive politicians by eliminating public sector unions. State Policy Network (SPN), with 66 state-based thinktanks in all 50 states, openly determine to remove funding from these unions under the guise of “labor reform” through an $80 million campaign against the 35-percent union membership in the public sector.

Scott Walker’s Wisconsin took collective bargaining from public sector unions in 2010, and Iowa and Indiana followed its lead. Another 15 states have introduced SPN-written legislation. Michigan, long a union state, passed a right-to-work law in 2013.

DDT has not been good for jobs, despite his campaign promises of 25 million jobs in ten years with 4 percent GDP growth. Candidate Trump also promised that he would produce 25 million jobs in 10 years with four percent GDP growth. Thus far, job growth since his inauguration is 15 percent below the same months for last year, and his GDP may be three percent although Hurricane Harvey may reduce it. Last week, he dropped his GDP estimate to three percent and halved job growth to “12 million new jobs.”  Last week, before news of job growth lagging for the month of August, he went back on that promise by claiming that if he can sustain 3 percent growth it will result in “12 million new jobs.” During his two terms Bill Clinton created 21 million new jobs, and Barack Obama managed 14.1 million jobs starting with the year after the loss from George W. Bush’s recession.

DDT celebrated his first Labor Day by firing 800,000 workers. He will end DACA, the program that grants work permits to undocumented workers brought to the U.S. involuntarily as children. Republican legislators have opposed this decision, and they now have a chance to reverse DDT’s destruction of millions of lives. To DDT, the undocumented people are garbage because they won’t be voting for him in 2020.

In 1893, Samuel Gompers, founder of the American Federation of Labor, wrote:

“What does labor want? We want more school houses and less jails; more books and less arsenals; more learning and less vice; more constant work and less crime; more leisure and less greed; more justice and less revege; in fact more of the opportunities to cultivate our better nature.”

Sixty percent of people in the U.S. view unions favorably, a 25 percent increase since 2015. What have unions done for people in the United States? They fought against child labor, discrimination in hiring, and sweatshops. They strengthened public education and founded Social Security and Medicare. They built the nation’s infrastructure of highways and bridges and airports. Unions fought for 40-hour work week, worker safety, paid vacation time, health and retirement benefits, sick leave, overtime pay, sick leave, right to breaks, minimum wage, workers’ compensation, higher wages, and more. If you have any of these benefits, thank a union. If you don’t, thank DDT and the GOP.

September 5, 2016

Successful Labor Days Need the Middle Class

Filed under: Unions — trp2011 @ 10:30 PM
Tags: , , ,

Labor Day, the first Monday in September, became a “holiday” 122 years ago in 1894, a few days after government killed 30 striking workers in Chicago. Labor unions slowly developed in the decades before Labor Day but didn’t rapidly grow until the Great Depression and the New Deal of the 1930s. By the 1950s, unions had begun to achieve its goal of the 40-hour workweek, overtime pay, minimum wage, safer workplaces, Social Security, and the prevention of child labor. Medicare was added in the 1960s. Unions were responsible for the growth of a healthy middle class that provided a strong infrastructure, public services, and educational system.

Republican presidents and leadership from 1968 through 1992 led to the decline of union and the stagnation of wages. A half century ago, almost one-third of U.S. workers belonged to a union; now it’s below ten percent and would be far less if it weren’t for the 35 percent of government workers who belong to unions. The refusal of the South, always the most impoverished region of the U.S., kept the percentage of union membership down. Even at the peak of unions during the 1960s, the South had only half the share of union workers as in the Northeast, Midwest, and West.

During the past few decades the economy in the nation has grown to double what it was in the late 1970s. In contrast to the late 1940s when income went up for everyone in the United States, 90 percent of workers earn about the same now as in the early 70s with the top ten percent seeing a sharp rise in real incomes. People in the top ten percent turned their wealth into power used to break labor unions, halve the taxes that they pay, eliminate safety nets, deregulate Wall Street, and increase costs. George W. Bush’s recession made the income inequality worse as shown by this graphic.

income inequality

As the U.S. comes close to the end of President Obama’s last term, there are glimmers of hope for the 90 percent. A Gallup Poll, usually very conservative, indicates that 50 percent of the people think that they are better off than eight years ago. The percentage of people—across all ethnic groups—who say they are “thriving,” 55.4 percent, is over double that of people in 2008. Donald Trump’s pitch to get votes from black voters is “what do you have to lose.” Many blacks respond with losses of civil rights, employment, income, and education under a Trump presidency.

Since 2010, businesses have added 15.1 million jobs, and that time period is the longest streak of total job growth on record. The unemployment rate has been cut in half since Bush’s recession. President Obama has finished the Fair Pay & Safe Workplaces Executive Order to hold accountable the federal contractors who repeatedly violate worker safety and labor laws. One in five U.S. workers are employed by these contractors. The Labor Department extended overtime protections to 12.5 million additional workers by increasing the overtime salary threshold $47,476. Graduate students at private universities may now unionize.

Unions are often defeated by business because employers have almost unrestricted union-busting. The Labor Department has closed a loophole, created in 1959, that allowed businesses to hire anti-union consultants, “persuaders,” without reporting this practice.

When union membership falls, wages fall for everyone. The 32.9 million full-time nonunion private-sector women and 40.2 million full-time private-sector men suffered a $133 billion loss in annual wages because of weakened unions. If unions were as strong in 2016 as they were in 1979, nonunion men with a high school diploma would earn an average of $3,016 more a year. Workers in unions earn, on average, 27 percent more than their nonunion counterparts. Unions close the pay gap for women, and black workers see outsized gains from union representation. At the same time while unions have declined, the pay gap between CEOs and workers has gone from 20:1 in 1965 to up to 331:1 today.

President Eisenhower bragged about unions in the 1950s, but every GOP president since then has been anti-union. Donald Trump pointed out that the economy is better with Democratic presidents in 2004 and said that Hillary Clinton would make a good president. He repeated the same thing in a recent interview, omitting the part about Clinton.

Now the GOP is pushing the myth of the “sharing economy.” People are forced to rent out rooms in their homes or drive their own cars for pay in the new “Uber” philosophy. Conservatives blame poor people on their moral failure.

On this Labor Day, plan ahead. Vote for people who support unions and a strong middle class.

Trump Watch: Donald Trump is definitely not in favor of unions. He blocks them in his businesses and refuses to pay overtime and some of his contractors although he signed contracts with them.

During the weekend, Trump had several “interesting” conversations with reporters. His surrogates and staff spent the weekend trying to figure out what his position actually is after his anti-immigrant speech last Wednesday, and they’re wrong again. Asked today about his immigration policy, he refused to rule out amnesty for undocumented immigrants in the U.S. Last week, he said they all had to leave the country; today he said, “I’m not ruling out anything. We’re going to make that decision into the future. OK?”

Approached the about the fine for his illegal foundation contribution to Florida AG Pam Bondi, Donald Trump repeated several times that he had never spoken to her. Marc Reichelderfer, Bondi’s reelection consultant, had said in June that Bondi personally asked for the donation. Later he indicated that he didn’t talk to Bondi about dropping the fraud investigation against Trump University. She dropped the case after she got $25,000 from the Trump Foundation.

In discussing debate strategy with reporters today, Trump said that he didn’t plan much preparation and definitely no mock debates:

“I’ve seen people do so much prep work when they get out there, they can’t speak. I’ve seen that.”

Asked if he would definitely debate, Trump said, “As of this moment, yeah.” He added that only “hurricanes and natural disasters” would stop him from debating Hillary Clinton. Trump commended that he had done the other debates, forgetting that he had skipped one of the GOP debates and backed out of one when he challenged Bernie Sanders.

Trump also declined to say whether he believes President Obama was born in the United States. “I don’t talk about it,” he said. Despite his desperate attempt to woo black voters, he has never apologized for his birther campaign or said he believes in the legitimacy of President Obama’s birth certificate.

Trump showed his inability to be diplomatic when he said that he’ll order Air Force One to leave if countries don’t roll out the red carpet. His statement came from an incident in China when there was no stairway prepared for President Obama to exit his airplane in China last Saturday. The president instead used an exit customarily used for high-security trips. He suggested his Chinese hosts might have found the size of the US delegation “a little overwhelming.” One difference of opinion between the two countries might be China’s concern about “America’s unwavering support for upholding human rights.”

Saudi Arabia was another issue on which Trump keeps changing his mind. He slammed Hillary Clinton for taking money from Saudi Arabia for the charitable Clinton Foundation, but it was recently discovered that he has made millions of dollars from that country which bought the 45th floor of Trump World Tower for $4.5 million. Since 2001 he has been paid $85,585 a year for building amenities. Osama Bin Laden’s half brother also lived in the Tower for four months in 1986. Trump recently told Sean Hannity that he would not take money from the Saudis, but last year he bragged that Saudi Arabia spends “$40 million, $50 million” for his apartments. “I like them very much,” Trump said.

After endorsing the GOP presidential candidate for the past 9 elections, Virginia’s Richmond Times-Dispatch has endorsed Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson Saturday. Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) said that Donald Trump’s candidacy might turn Arizona blue in this election.

Hillary Clinton is ahead in the polls on Labor Day. History shows that the losing presidential candidate at that time is the losing candidate in November. We can only hope, but we’ll make that decision nine weeks from tomorrow.

September 7, 2015

Good News, Bad News from Labor Day, 2015

Republicans love to blame the Democrats for destroying the coal industry, but conservatives are the people who decimated the economy in the South through their eradication of the unions. For a century, union organizers were shot, beaten, and stabbed in their fight to get reasonable pay and safe conditions underground, but now the last union mine in Kentucky has been closed. Younger workers took their wages for granted, and now not one working miner belongs to a union, the only protection that mine workers have had.

Conservatives curse the unions but fail to realize that they are responsible for the rise of the middle class.

union_density_middleclass 2

union_density_inequality 1

High income inequality has correlated with low union membership for over 100 years in the U.S. As union membership shrinks, money and power shift upwards. Data from 2010 show that all workers make more money in a pro-union state.

workers do better

Today is Labor Day, established as a federal holiday 121 years ago to celebrate labor. Oregon declared it a holiday 17 years earlier. If you have today off, thank unions. If you are working today, thank unions for other benefits such as shorter work weeks, weekends off, expanded health care through employer-provided health insurance, and the end of child labor except within religious groups. Unions also brought paid vacation, breaks, sick leave, Social Security, overtime pay, worker’s compensation, and more. If you don’t have these benefits, thank the Republicans.

In some states, union attacks brought “right-to-work” laws, which block collective bargaining for higher wages, better benefits, and protections. The “freedom” created by these laws gives corporations and the wealthy the “right-to-underpay” and “right-to-cheat” employees. In Wisconsin, the latest state to adopt this law, “right-to-work” will cause workers and families to annually lose between $3.89 billion and $4.82 billion. Workers in “right-to-work” states make $1,560 less per year than in states without the law. Women in union jobs earn $212 per week—30.9 percent—more than women in non-union jobs. The gender wage gap is also smaller for women in unions, 88.7 cents for every dollar a man makes compared to 78 cents for all workers. Men in union jobs make $173 more per week than non-union workers.

President Obama celebrated this year’s Labor Day by mandating all 300,000 government contractor employees be granted seven paid sick days per year starting in 2017. That leaves another 44 million workers without paid sick leave because the United States is the only developed nation without a paid sick leave policy. The president’s executive order adds to other orders that move toward higher minimum wage and equal pay for men and women.

Other good news comes from the job market. Republicans swore to bring jobs back when they were elected in masses, but they’ve done nothing to help workers. GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney said he would reduce the unemployment rate to 6 percent by 2016 if he were elected in 2012. Right now, it’s 5.1 percent after 66 consecutive months of private sector job growth—13 million jobs—during President Obama’s six and a half years in office. Many of these jobs came from the health care job growth after Republicans called the ACA the “job killing health care law.”

The bad news comes from the loss of wages for everyone except the top echelon. Oregon is an example of this: in the past 35 years, the bottom income bracket has lost 30 percent of income in the state while the top 1 percent gained 88 percent of the income. Republicans refuse to increase the federal minimum wage, one-third lower when adjusted for inflation than in the 1960s. They also consider the Keystone Pipeline bill a “jobs bill” although it employs only 4,200 people for one year while wiping out other permanent jobs by taking over and destroying land. The GOP’s “Hire More Heroes Act” to employ veterans doesn’t count veterans as employees so that companies with more than 50 employees can avoid the ACA mandate to provide health care. Up to one million workers would lose health insurance with the redefinition of “full-time employment” as 40 hours a week in the GOP’s “Save American Workers Act.”

Another piece of bad news is the growing divergence between salary and productivity. During the 25 years prior to 1973, wages and productivity grew together, but between 1973 and 2014, hourly wages went up 8.7, adjusted for inflation, and productivity increased by 72.2 percent. The change is a major reason for the rapidly growing income inequality during the past 40 years as payment for employees went to owners of capital. Workers generate the income but don’t get an increase in hourly pay. The last four years has been worse as worker productivity increased by 21 percent while wages rose only 2 percent.

wages by bracket

Republicans claim to support a “trickle-down” economy but instead push an economy that is “gush-up.” Unregulated free-market capitalism is a “winner-take-all” wealth over the common good, and billionaires buy politicians and design education and health systems to control the bottom 99 percent of people in the United States. The average CEO earns 204 times what average workers earn, and two-thirds of the poor in the United States—68 percent—have jobs.

Hedge fund billionaires are not required to pay their fair share of taxes receive awards yet are praised. For example, John Paulson, noted for “Outstanding Contributions to Society,” got $3.7 billion by conspiring with Goldman Sachs to create risky subprime mortgages. He used other people’s money to bet against his sure-to-fail financial instruments. As U.S. wealth grew from $52 trillion to over $83 trillion between 2007 and 2014, six million more children were forced onto food stamps. Forty percent of households are food-insecure while 40 percent of the food in the United States is wasted.

Despite the decreasing unemployment rate, taxpayers fund the movement of many jobs overseas while technology eliminates others. Kodak once employed 145,000 people to do the same photo processing that Instagram does with 15 workers. Three-fourths of faculty at colleges and universities are now “adjunct” instructors, paid a pittance for part-time work. One-fourth of these teachers, almost 20 percent of college and university faculty, are forced into food stamp or other public assistance programs to survive.

Republicans claim that they want to return to the 1950s, and economically this would benefit almost everyone. In 1956, the GOP platform supported an increase in the minimum wage, an expansion of Social security, adequate coverage for the unemployed, better housing, and health care for all. “Government must have a heart as well as a head” and “America does not prosper unless all Americans prosper” were included in the GOP belief system. According to the GOP platform, “President Eisenhower’s administration brought the highest employment, highest wages, and the highest standard of living ever experience in any country.”

Today’s GOP portrays people on unemployment as leeches, but the GOP of 1956 called for “providing assistance to improve the economic conditions of areas faced with persistent and substantial unemployment.” Republicans in the 1950s also wanted to strengthen “the rights of labor unions” and protect “the right of workers to organize into unions and to bargain collectively.”

In 1954, President Dwight Eisenhower looked forward to today’s GOP when he wrote:

“Should any political party attempt to abolish social security, unemployment insurance, and eliminate labor laws and farm programs, you would not hear of that party again in our political history. There is a tiny splinter group, of course, that believes you can do these things. Among them are…a few…Texas oil millionaires, and an occasional politician or business man from other areas. Their number is negligible and they are stupid.”

He may have been right.

September 2, 2013

Labor Day, A Rollercoaster

Today signifies the end of summer, return of kids to school, and the demise of the U.S. worker. Known as a federal day called Labor Day, it used to commemorate the contributions of workers to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of their country.

A year ago, GOP leaders co-opted this day to celebrate management and CEOs when House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) tweeted, “Today, we celebrate those who have taken a risk, worked hard, built a business and earned their own success.” Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) and then-Vice Presidential candidate echoed the sentiment when he said that only small business owners are working hard to make “this country grow.”

The arrogance of the wealthy and the GOP created this myth. According to a new study, the ultra-wealthy have a greater sense of entitlement than the others, and the GOP pays attention only to this narcissistic population. Participants from a high social class are more likely to say “I honestly feel I’m just more deserving than others” whereas other are more likely to respond, “I do not necessarily deserve special treatment.” An earlier study shows that “upper-class individuals behave more unethically than lower-class individuals,” including being more likely to “display unethical decision-making,” steal, lie during a negotiation and cheat in order to win a contest. “

Upper-class individuals also “showed reduced sensitivity to others’ suffering” as compared to working- and middle-class people. Lower-class individuals are more likely to spend time taking care of others and are more embedded in social networks that depend on mutual aid. Another study shows that U.S. senators respond almost exclusively to the interests of their wealthiest constituents, those more likely to be unethical and less sensitive to the suffering of others. MIT economist Daron Acemoglu said that this pattern historically comes from widening economic disparities. As economic inequality increases, the more powerful use that power to become even more powerful, working to change rules in their favor.

In a backlash to this inequality last week, fast food workers protested their unreasonably low wages, demanding $15 per hour, equal to the request at the first March on Washington 50 years ago. With no healthcare insurance and costs rising, people cannot live on minimum wage without government assistance. Companies who pay below-subsistence wages are dragging the economy down and taking their wealth from the taxpayers. The company doesn’t pay for food stamps and the Medicaid that their workers need; the taxpayers do.

Corporations know that a faltering economy helps them hire cheap workers. High unemployment rates gives them a large pool of disposable workers. The companies’ profits soar, and they keep a bit of their profits to stop politicians from raising the minimum wage or lowering unemployment.

The thousands of fast-food workers who protested in 60 cities from coast to coast want not only the $15 per hour but also paid sick leave and the right to unionize the restaurant industry, the nation’s second-biggest employer which is predicting its 2013 profits will “reach a record high of $660.5 billion.” The federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour was last raised in July 2009. A sub-category for tipped workers, which includes waiters, waitresses, bartenders, and busboys, was last raised by Congress in 1991 and is $2.13 an hour. Raising the price of a Big Mac at McDonalds would pay for half the money needed to raise the minimum wage for workers to $10.10. Even increasing the federal minimum to $9.80 over three years would give increase workers wages by 33 percent and more than double the wages of tipped workers.

Last June the wealthy NRA (National Restaurant Association) blocked 27 out of 29 states from increasing minimum wages and prevented a dozen states from passing laws to require paid sick leave. Even in two states raising minimum wage, New York and Connecticut, the NRA blocked or delayed raising the tip wage. They also kept local governments in six states from requiring paid sick leave. The NRA spent almost $1 million) to defeat a mandatory sick leave measure in Denver in 2011.

Workers in Washington, D.C. are waiting to see if its mayor Vincent Gray will sign a bill to require big box stores, in this case Wal-Mart, to pay at least $12 an hour, including benefits. He may veto the bill after Wal-Mart threatened to close stores and not expand in poorer neighborhoods. Washington passed local sick leave legislation in 2008, but the NRA made sure that it didn’t apply to tipped workers.

Both New York City and Portland (OR) passed a sick leave law last spring. New Jersey will vote on a $1 mimimum wage increase this fall, and organizers in Massachusetts plan a petition drive for the 2014 ballot to raise their state minimum wage and to require paid sick leave.

Most of the workers who would benefit from $15 per hour have families to support; the media age for fast food workers is 28. Women account for two-thirds of the industry; their average age is 32. At Wal-Mart, the median age is 30, and workers bring in half the family’s income.

Most low-wage workers are employed by companies with profits higher than before the recession, particularly in the fast food industry that can handsomely reward CEOs. McDonalds’ Don Thompson got $13.8 million last year. Brands (Taco Bell, KFC, and Pizza Hut) gave $11.3 million to CEO David Novak. After Wal-Mart had sluggish growth and only 5 percent increase in sales, CEO Michael Duke got a raise–$20.7 million up from $18.1 million in 2011. The average daily salary of a fast food CEO is about $25,000, about 40 percent higher than the annual salary of each worker.

Businesses have said that they should have the option of whether to pay a minimum wage, and the Boston-based burrito chain Bolaco actually pays its employees more than the minimum wage. Entry-level workers receive between $9 and $11 an hour, most of them $10, and many of them advance into higher roles paying $17 or more. Regarding low wages at companies like McDonalds and Burger King, Boloco CEO John Pepper said, “It’s a lot easier to keep wages down than it is to find better practices, bolder practices, more efficient practices, which come through training.”

The In-N-Out burger chain starts employees at $10.50 an hour, and workers at Dicks Drive-In in Seattle start at $10. Moo Cluck Moo, a burger chain in Detroit, pays its workers $12 an hour.

The people protesting the minimum wage have jobs, but the unemployment rate is still 7.4 percent as of July. Rep. Steve King (R-IA), probably on his way to being presidential candidate through Charleston (SC) a week ago, accused the unemployed of not trying to get work and compared them to children who won’t do their chores at home.

The truth is that there are three people looking for each job opening in the United States. The recession made long-term unemployment more common than any other downturn in many decades, and being unemployed for nine months has the same impact on the odds of getting hired as losing four full years of experience from a résumé.

This Labor Day does have good news.

  • A majority of people in the U.S. has favorable views of unions. A June poll showed that 51 percent are positive about unions, up ten percent from two years ago and the first time since January 2007 that a majority has felt this way.
  • Union membership in California increased by 110,000 members in 2012 although it fell 368,000 nationwide. Several other states with growing Latino populations also have growing union membership.
  • Some workers are standing up for decent wages and working conditions. Wal-Mart workers and warehouse workers went out on strike, port truckers in L.A. and Long Beach voted to unionize along with carwash workers in L.A. and New York and taxi drivers in New York, and Hawaii enacted a domestic worker “Bill of Rights” possibly followed by California. And fast food workers are striking.
  • For the first time since President Obama was elected, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has a full complement of five members. Despite court restraints, the board remains an important source for workers whose rights have been violated by their employers.
  • The AFL-CIO and its affiliates are holding an “open convention” next week, showing its inclusion of domestic workers, carwash workers, Wal-Mart workers, fast food workers and others. They have also formed alliances with the NAACP, National Council of La Raza, Sierra Club, religious organizations, and other groups that support basic justice for American workers. And they have played a key role in lobbying for federal legislation that benefits all workers–healthcare reform, equal pay legislation, immigration reform, an increase in the minimum wage and paid sick leave.

Despite the decades of stagnating wages and disappearing health and pension benefits, the return of the unions might give hope for future Labor Days—and the economy.

September 3, 2012

Labor Day, NOT a Time to Celebrate Management

On this Labor Day, my partner and I sat outside the local Fred Meyers’ grocery store and discussed the importance of labor unions. I told her that they are much like bees, that people might complain about getting stung but without unions that society would disappear. In a more optimistic fashion, she maintained that the super-rich would pay the workers just enough to keep buying what the corporations sell so that the wealthy could keep making more and more money. My response was that they weren’t that smart, that they were perfectly willing to kill the golden goose to get all the eggs immediately rather than receiving them piecemeal.

The entire battle regarding labor and labor unions is about power. Workers think that they should have certain rights, and conservatives want the control with the company or the people who pay taxes. If conservatives had their way, they would do away with the minimum wage, child labor laws, the 40-hour week and any overtime, workers’ compensation, workplace safety, pensions, health care insurance, leave for illness, vacations and holidays, equal treatment for the workers, any kind of anti-discrimination laws, etc. Conservatives are intent on accomplishing this race to the bottom.

A tweet from Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA) today shows how little regard conservatives have for labor: “Today we celebrate those who have taken a risk, worked hard, built their own business, and earned their own success.” No mention of people who build roads, nurse the sick, put out our fires, keep us safe, pick our food—those people who worked at Fred Meyers today so that I could buy groceries.

When a group of laborers celebrated the first Labor Day 130 years ago, working conditions were deplorable, but people could still to West to get land and work for themselves. In 1887, Oregon (do you detect my pride?!) was the first of 30 states to declare the day a holiday before the federal government took the same action 12 years later. Tragedies in the early 20th century led to the anger that resulted in the growth of labor unions. From that action and the benefits of President Roosevelt’s New Deal came a strong middle class that had a much more comfortable life in the mid-20th century than people have now.

The percentage of workers in unions peaked in 1954 at almost 35 percent of the workers. Since that time, union membership has grown in the public sector while drastically shrinking in the private sector, now down to 7 percent, the same as in 1932. Private sector workers resent public sector employees having more benefits, including pensions and health insurance; private sector workers prefer to tear down the benefits of public sector workers rather than attempting to build up their own situation. More race to the bottom!

One complaint from conservatives is that unions can require its members to campaign for a political candidate. The truth is that corporations have the same right. That’s why the miners were required to watch a speech by Mitt Romney recently and be photographed while having their wages docked because they weren’t working while attending the event. Rob Moore of Murray Energy Company, which owns the mine, admitted that the workers weren’t paid for the day. He said, “Our managers communicated to our workforce that the attendance at the Romney event was mandatory, but no one was forced to attend.” Even unions don’t do that.

In states without right-to-work laws, the union must represent all workers if the majority of workers in a private company vote for a union because all workers must then pay dues. In right-to-work states, however, the majority does not rule. Statistics about “right-to-work” states show that the workers are worse off than in other states. Workers have lower compensation in RTW states than in other states. Average wages for nonfarm workers in RTW states are $57, 732, compared to $65,567 in other states. Even when compensation is adjusted for cost of living, those in RTW states lose out by 3.5 percent. This figure doesn’t take into consideration the salaries of federal employees whose wages would be the same in all the states, meaning that salaries are probably even lower in these states.

RTW states lose companies that provide better wages. In one right-to-work state, Oklahoma, the number of new companies coming into the state has shrunk by one-third since it passed its RTW law, and the state has lost one-third of its manufacturing jobs during the same time period.  Idaho has the same problem as Oklahoma. Before it became a right-to-work state in 1985, Idaho was ranked 35th for per capita income. Now it is 49th because the only industries coming into the state are those seeking cheap, unskilled labor.

lRTW states also suffer from more problems than lost wages. The occupational-fatality rate in the construction industry—one of the most hazardous in terms of workplace deaths—is 34 percent higher in right-to-work states than in states without such laws. Workers in RTW states also have less health care and pensions.

Fifty years ago, John F. Kennedy signed the Executive Order that brought bargaining rights to most federal workers for the first time. Public sector union rights had no controversy for 20 years; even Ronald Reagan presided over the extension of collective bargaining rights to California state and local workers in 1968 when he was governor. He also caused the shift against public sector unions when he broke the air traffic controllers strike in 1981 although he kept their right to bargain. Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI) was the one who stripped government workers of their bargaining rights.

Despite claims that public sector unions are at fault in today’s budget deficits, conservatives, as usual, lie about this. North Carolina with a 10-percent budget shortfall for next year has no collective bargaining. Budget problems in New York, a highly unionized state, are only one-third those of North Carolina. Conservatives’ worship of Ronald Reagan ignore the fact that his position on workers’ rights is much closer to that of Kennedy than to today’s rabid hatred of public “servants.”

Tomorrow the Democratic convention starts in Charlotte (NC). Today the North Carolina State AFL-CIO helped kick off the event with its “hug-a-thug” booth, referring to the Republican use of the term “union thugs.” MaryBe McMillan, secretary-treasurer for the organization, said, “Union members take care of you in the hospital, deliver your packages and sit next you in church. We are just average folks.” Union members run the Guide Dogs of America program and rebuilt the World Trade Center.

As Nathaniel Downes said:

 “No man is an island. We all live and work in a community. We do better when the community is thriving. Our nation did its best when we had a strong concept of community, of society. Those who made the most paid to support that system, paying ahead for the next generation. Those who fell behind were caught in the safety net and given a ladder with which to climb back out of the pit of poverty. The concept of greed and selfishness has sapped society of its strength. The pursuit of wealth at all costs has created a catastrophe in the making, for once enough people fall into poverty the consumer market will seize up. Once that happens, no money in the world will help those at the top as they find their empires crumbling beneath them.”

Although the road to prosperity is now paved with poverty of the vast majority, the wealthy don’t understand what will happen without a strong middle class. It’s a cycle: the worse off that people get, the more that their anger and resentment builds, and they use unions for scapegoats. As these angry and resentful people attack and weaken unions, the economy worsens. Then the angry and resentful are far worse off and trying harder to destroy their scapegoats, which only worsens the economy. In essence they destroy themselves.

Respected Republican presidents of the past understood the importance of labor, not management:

“Labor is prior to, and independent of, capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration.”–Abraham Lincoln

“Where free unions and collective bargaining are forbidden, freedom is lost.”–Ronald Reagan

“It is essential that there should be organization of labor. This is an era of organization. Capital organizes and therefore labor must organize.”–Theodore Roosevelt

“Only a fool would try to deprive working men and working women of their right to join the union of their choice.”–Dwight D. Eisenhower

“If any man tells you he loves America, yet hates labor, he is a liar. If any man tells you he trusts America, yet fears labor, he is a fool.”–Abraham Lincoln

The Republican goal of destroying the public sector unions comes from the GOP desire to destroy the middle class, because this is the group that organizes opposition to conservative ideology that only wants to provide more wealth for the rich. After the public sector unions are gone, the GOP will go after the few private sector unions that remain. Organization means resistance to the GOP objective of taking freedom from everyone in the country except the super-rich.

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