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?

May 2, 2015

Sanders Enters Presidential Race

Some people celebrate May Day today with a pagan celebration of flowers and Maypoles; others recognize it as a day of protest and worker solidarity. That history goes back to 1886 when 200,000 U.S. workers struck for an eight-hour day. On the third day, a Chicago strike at the McCormick Reaper plant became violent as police killed and injured the strikers. The next day’s peaceful meeting at Haymarket Square protesting police action turned even more brutal. As the meeting started to break up, a bomb near the speaker’s wagon wounded 60 policemen and killed another seven. The police wounded 200 civilians and killed several more. Although no one was sure who had committed the crime, four people were executed. No one in the U.S. had an eight-hour day until the United Mine Workers in 1898; a federal law mandating the eight-hour day wasn’t passed until 1938.

The international holiday for labor, created in 1889 in honor of the Haymarket Tragedy, continued to be commemorated for over a century although conservatives tried to change the meaning in 1958 to “Loyalty Day” through a resolution signed by President Eisenhower. The declaration of May Day as “a special day for the reaffirmation of loyalty to the United States of America and for the recognition of the heritage of American freedom” remains in the 21st century. To this day, 27 years later, my town still celebrates the “Loyalty Day.”

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) declaration as a presidential candidate in the Democratic Party on April 30 was a great lead-in to this year’s May Day. For decades, Sanders has been advocating for the rights of workers, the middle class, and the poor. His platform lists the need for “new economic models to increase job creation and productivity instead of giving huge tax breaks to corporations which ship our jobs to China and other low-wage countries.” His proposal is worker-owned cooperatives, which studies show increase productivity and employee satisfaction while shrinking absenteeism.

An example is the Mondragon corporation in Spain that “has over 70,000 employees and brings in annual revenues of over $12 billion Euros.” In most of its operations, “the ratio of compensation between top executives and the lowest-paid members is between three to one and six to one.” In comparison, U.S. CEOs made 295.9 times the amount of worker salaries in 2013, up from 20 to one in 1965. No one in the U.S. even dreams of a six to one ratio: Massachusetts Nurses Association tried—and failed—for a ballot initiative fining hospitals paying CEO’s more than 100 times the earnings of the lowest-paid employee.

worker compensation chart

The salary of chief executives climbed 937 percent between 1978 and 2013 compared to the 10-percent increase for the average worker’s compensation. Bringing back workers’ rights to organize also helps ensure that workers share in the profits and productivity that they help to generate.

Another way to protect workers is Sanders’ push to stop  the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Since 2001, trade agreements have closed down almost 60,000 factories in the U.S. causing the loss of millions of jobs. In one TPP country, Vietnam, “the minimum wage is equivalent to 56 cents an hour, independent labor unions are banned and people are thrown in jail for expressing their political beliefs or trying to improve labor conditions. In Malaysia, migrant workers who manufacture electronics products are working as modern-day slave laborers who have had their passports and wages confiscated and are unable to return to their own countries,” Sanders wrote. As he pointed out, U.S. workers would compete with people in Vietnam and Malaysia in “a race to the bottom.” The increased profits for corporations and Wall Street come from “offshoring jobs, undercutting worker rights, and dismantling labor, environmental, health, food safety and financial laws.” The U.S. would also lose its sovereignty as foreign corporations can defeat domestic policies and laws in international tribunals.

Sanders has already released a 12-point Economic Agenda for America. As a leader in a growing consensus agenda for Democrats, Sanders 12-point Economic Agenda for America includes increase in the minimum wage, paid sick days, paid vacation, pay equity, and affordable child care. Equally important is his addressing the systematically rigging of rules producing extreme income inequality. He wants an end to corporate-defined trade and tax policies resulting in destructive trade deficits and calls for breaking up the banks “too big to fail.” His proposal for expanding security programs includes lifting the cap on Social Security payroll taxes, moving to a health care plan of Medicare for all, and providing two years of debt-free college or other advance training for all students who prove themselves willing to earn it.

Like Libertarians, Sanders opposes the idea that the U.S. has the responsibility to police the globe. As many people recognize, endless wars waste lives and take resources from the U.S. At this time, $0.27 of every tax dollar goes to the military.

Sanders plans a social and economic justice candidacy at a time when people want change. The publicity and protests surrounding the police killing black males has brought to the forefront debates about racism, economic inequality, political campaign funding, and criminal legal system injustices. Sanders’ devastating 8.5-hour-long filibuster against President Obama’s budget agreement with the Republicans has been published as a book: The Speech: A Historic Filibuster on Corporate Greed and the Decline of Our Middle Class. The budget agreement extended the George W. Bush tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires, lowered estate tax rates for the wealthy, and established a “payroll tax holiday” diverting revenue away from the Social Security Trust Fund and threatening the fund’s future.

In addition, Sanders pointed out the U.S. middle class collapsed through corporate greed and public policy favoring the wealthy for several decades while childhood poverty in the U.S. rose to the highest rate in the industrialized world. He finished with a call to the middle class, a call to action that would take on the powerful special interests that elect legislators and guide their votes.

Sanders may encourage Hillary Clinton to take more questions from the press. In a bit over two weeks on the campaign trail, Clinton took seven questions, according to National Journal’s Zach Cohen, with half of the answers ignoring the questions. During just one five-minute exchange with MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell the night before his brief campaign kick-off, he answered seven questions and took another six at the next day’s launch event. As Sanders said, “I believe that in a democracy, what elections are about are serious debates over serious issues … facing the American people.”

What makes Bernie stand out, more than his progressive platform and his great understanding of the problems currently facing the country, is his honesty. As Matt Tabbi wrote:

“Sanders is a politician whose power base is derived almost entirely from the people of the state of Vermont, where he is personally known to a surprisingly enormous percentage of voters. His chief opponents in the race to the White House, meanwhile, derive their power primarily from corporate and financial interests. That doesn’t make them bad people or even bad candidates necessarily, but it’s a fact that the Beltway-media cognoscenti who decide these things make access to money the primary factor in determining whether or not a presidential aspirant is ‘viable’ or ‘credible.’”

The opposition to Sanders uses the word “socialist” as a pejorative term against him. He describes himself as a democratic socialist, with the meaning that elected government sometimes needs to slow down the nation’s progress toward a complete oligarchy. That means not giving tax breaks to companies who decimate the middle class by moving factories overseas.

As Sanders starts his run for president, manufacturing jobs are returning to the United States in record numbers, and foreign companies are also bringing their factories here. In 2012, 60,000 of these jobs were added in the U.S. compared to only 12,000 in 2003 during George W. Bush’s first term. Only 50,000 jobs were sent offshore last year, declining from 150,000 in 2003. That leaves 3 million to 4 million manufacturing jobs still offshore.

The bad news is the reason for these returns. With Chinese workers demanding higher wages and better working conditions, U.S. companies are coming back to the nation that has been stripped of union rights and a federal minimum wage of $7.25. U.S. workers’ wages have remained stagnant for years while China’s wages are going up by 8.3 percent per year. Chinese private-sector wages went up 14 percent in just 2012, and a year ago, 30,000 Nike workers struck for higher wages. Among companies with annual sales above $1 billion, 37 percent plan to reshore manufacturing jobs from China to the U.S. due to higher labor costs in China. Of companies above $10 billion, 48 percent are planning to return. A return of these low-paying jobs means that U.S. taxpayers can lose more money through subsidies to manufacturing companies while the taxpayers continue to pay welfare benefits because of the same companies’ low wages.

Most of the U.S. taxpayers would live better and pay less taxes if the government incorporated the ideas in Sanders’ platform.

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