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?

March 21, 2016

The U.S. Needs Another Frances Perkins

 

A century ago, the United States suffered from horrendous income inequality, rampant disease, atrocious living conditions, debtor prisons, and warehouses of mentally ill people. Although some people lived well in the 1920s, GOP president Herbert Hoover in his first elected position, drove the country into the greatest economic depression in its 250-year history through his pro-business and anti-government beliefs. Anti-civil rights, he appealed to white Southern voters with his use of religion in his campaign that warned people against voting a Catholic into the presidency. By the end of his four-year term, Hoover understood that his drastic tax cuts contributed to the disaster of the 1930s, but his change was too little, too great. Franklin D. Roosevelt was swept into office with an over 57 percent mandate.

FDR is typically given credit for the New Deal, beginning in his first 100 days, that instituted Social Security, minimum wage, work-hour limitations, CCC, etc.  Two people behind this 180-degree transition from Hoover’s catastrophic policies were two women—FDR’s wife, Eleanor, and the first woman in a presidential cabinet, Francis Perkins, who FDR appointed after his wife’s urging.

Perkins’ activism began in 1911 when she witnessed the deaths of 146 workers, primarily young Jewish and Italian women, during the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire. Horrified as she watched many of them die when they jumped from the fire, Perkins helped shape 30 pieces of legislation in fire safety and working conditions during Al Smith’s four terms as New York governor of New York, the most progressive governor in the nation. Perkins continued her work in New York in 1929 after that state’s new governor, FDR, picked her for Commissioner of Labor. During that time, she showed that Hoover’s claim of improving unemployment was false and moved FDR into national leadership.

frances perkins bookPossibly the best book about Perkins is Kirstin Downey’s The Woman behind the New Deal. The opening paragraphs of the book illustrates Perkins’ dedication to her cause in her conditions of FDR’s offer to become his Secretary of Labor:

“She ticked off the items: a forty-hour work week, a minimum wage, worker’s compensation, unemployment compensation, a federal law banning child labor, direct federal aid for unemployment relief, Social Security, a revitalized public employment service, and health insurance.”

FDR accomplished all these and more during his first of four terms: the Civilian Conservation Corps, the Federal Emergency Relief Administration putting millions of unemployed men to work, and the Civil Works Administration and the Public Works Administration that evolved into the Works Progress Administration.

Created during World War I, FDR’s “NRA” (National Recovery Act) was a way to “stabilize” prices that gave workers higher wages and the right to organize and collectively bargain in unions. Unfortunately, it didn’t go far enough because of the government’s lack of enforcement and toleration for labor inequalities—blacks and women could receive lower wages for doing the same job as men. Other weaknesses came from large companies that led writing the bill and used it to drive up prices, limit production, lay off workers, and divide markets among themselves at expense of smaller competitors. Even so, it moved the nation forward until the Supreme Court ruled the NRA unconstitutional in 1935. Other similar laws took its place but not before successful programs were interrupted.

FDR’s death was the end of Perkins’ great influence. President Harry Truman remembered that Perkins had given him his first federal job and fired her. She asked to be head of the Social Security program, but instead Truman made her one of three Federal Civil Service Commissioners. She resigned that position after her husband died and she no longer had to support him and her daughter, both bipolar. Perkins worked into her 80s, teaching at Cornell University’s Industrial and Labor Relations School. Her last lecture was two weeks before she died.

 

inequalityA century after Perkins began her reforms, the U.S. has the worst inequality in the developed world. The new Robber Barons have rolled levels back to the 18th century to where it’s more severe than it was in 1774.

Labor union membership shrank to 11.8 percent of the total workforce and only 6.6 percent of the private sector—percentages equal to 1900.

mentally illMentally ill people are now warehoused in prisons after being turned out on the streets instead of held in mental institutions. The three biggest jail systems—Cook County (IL), Los Angeles County, and New York City—have over 11,000 prisoners under treatment each day compared to the combined 4,000 beds in the three largest state-run mental hospitals.

Private companies now make money off prisons just like a century ago when private companies made profits off Convict Leasing—prisoners employed outside prison during the day and returned at night. Abuse, brutality, and neglect along with official corruption so rampant that prisoners barely survived longer than ten years, calling for more labor. Simple assault led to eight year sentences of hard labor, larceny was 20 year in prison, and stealing $5 of goods meant 12 months jail time–sentences mostly for black people.

Prison privatization leads to contracts with “occupancy guarantees” mandating a minimum number of occupied beds for prisoners, leading to the same abusive treatment as a century ago. At least 65 percent of all private prison contracts have such guarantees; Arizona has a 100-percent guarantee. With an imprisonment rate of almost 50 percent higher than Russia and 320 percent higher than China, the U.S. incarcerates more people per capita than any other nation. This nation imprisons more types of criminal offenders, including non-violent and drug offenders, and keeps them imprisoned longer than other developed countries. Prison overcrowding leads to putting violent offenders with non-violent prisoners. Many states face fiscal crises because of paying $20,000 to $30,000 per year for each prisoner. Five states pay more for prisons than higher education.

In 2010, just two prison corporations made $3 billion in profit. Judges have been found taking bribes for these companies to harshly sentence juvenile offenders—two judges making $2.6 million—because they provide the best labor.

The U.S. prison industry produces 100% of all military helmets, uniforms, belts and shoulder belts, vests, ID cards, shirts, pants, tents, backpacks and flasks for the country`s army. In addition, prisons produce 98 percent of installation tools; 46 percent of bulletproof vests; 36 percent of home appliances; 30 percent of headphones, microphones, megaphones; and 21 percent of office furniture, aircraft and medical equipment; etc. (Imagine the low rate of unemployment if companies had to hire non-prisoners to make these items!)

Self-financing prisons means no economic pressure to close them. Corporate interests want to keep as many people in prison as possible.

Judges create debtor prisons by jailing people with no money to pay fines. Debtor prisons were abolished by federal and some state laws in the 1830s, and three Supreme Court rulings have declared that debtor prisons are unconstitutional. Yet almost one-third of the states permit poor people in prison for failure to pay even minor fines. These 15 states have the highest incarceration rates. With “poverty penalties”—late fees, payment plan fees, interest, etc.—people cannot pay their way out of prison. Alabama charges a 30 percent collection fee, and Florida allows private debt collectors to add a 40 percent surcharge on the original debt. People have no right to a public defender in some Florida county collection courts.

Public health almost eradicated such diseases as whooping cough, mumps, rubella, polio, and TB, but that success is being reversed. The religious right’s War on Science rejecting vaccinations and the loss of funding for public health is exposing people to a return of these and other diseases.

Monopolies were broken up a century ago because they are a threat to both economy and democracy, but the country no longer protects anti-trust enforcement. The result is loss of labor unions, increase in cost of living, and stagnating economy. Monopoly wipes out competition, but Milton Freedman and Alan Greenspan said that monopolies are good for free markets. Standard Oil and AT&T are back in control, and Monsanto monopolizes seed production.

Media monopolies are supporting oligarchies. Nine-nine percent of the 1,500 daily newspapers are the only one in each city. All but a handful of the 11,800 cable systems are monopolies in their cities. Just a few formats dominate the 11,000 commercial radio stations in all the cities. Only a few meagerly financed public stations offer any alternative to the four commercial television networks and their affiliates. Wall Street is a prize monopoly.

The nation’s Gilded Age of a century ago was characterized by excessive corporate influence, blatant corruption, and wars that made money for huge companies. For over 35 years, the U.S. sent Marines to overthrow governments to Central America and the Caribbean because they couldn’t pay debts to Wall Street banks. The wars stopped in 1934, the year that the Glass-Steagall Act regulated Wall Street. Now the oil and weapons corporations are making money off the Middle East. Iraq’s domestic oil industry, fully nationalized and closed to Western oil companies before George W. Bush’s 2003 invasion, is now largely privatized and completely dominated by foreign firms.

After decades of building the country’s infrastructure, the middle class, care for the mentally ill, and the reduction of poverty for the elderly, the government, now largely controlled by Republicans who declare gridlock if they don’t get everything they want, are killing the United States through corporate greed in prisons and wars. A century ago, Theodore Roosevelt began the great expansion of national parks; now the GOP wants to sell off all these lands. Ecological activists made inroads in the destruction of this nation until “conservatives” began to take over in the last half century.

Frances Perkins changed the United States and brought it into the 20th century; Republicans have taken this nation back to the 19th century. We need another Frances Perkins.

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