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Progressive Senators Speak Out Against Provisions Of The Job Killing Trans-Pacific Partnership

Yesterday was a huge day in the US Senate as progressive legislators took to the Senate floor to protest the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). A group of eight Senators spoke out in opposition to the TPP and specifically the “fast tracking” of the TPP.

Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown opened the parade of speeches by saying, “American workers are the most competitive and most productive in the world…. Far too many have been left behind because of wrong-headed trade deals.” Brown continued by saying, “Productivity has gone up 85% while wage have only gone up by 6%.“

(Watch Senator Sherrod Brown’s speech here)

Wages have remained stagnant, as workers have continued to see their jobs shipped overseas with unfair trade agreements. “The last thing we need is another NAFTA,” said Brown.

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders spoke at length on the detrimental impacts of these so-called “free trade” agreements.

“We were told that permanent trade agreements with China would create hundreds of thousands of jobs. Well not quite,” stated Sanders. Senator Sanders goes on to say that permanent trade agreements with China “has led to the loss of 3 million good paying American jobs.”

When the North American Free Trade Agreement was being discussed they said it would create hundreds of thousands of new American jobs. “NAFTA has led to the loss of 1 million American jobs,” said Sanders. “Since we signed NAFTA the United States has cumulative trade deficit of 8.8 trillion dollars. That is wealth that has left the U.S. and gone overseas.”

The impacts of these trade agreements on American workers have become painfully obvious. Significant job losses and lower wages have been seen in every state across the nation.

Now as the President is asking for “fast track” authority to negotiate a new trade agreement in secret. Senator Sanders highlighted the fact that none of the major news networks are talking about the TPP and the potential impacts on American workers.

The TPP is just a new easy way for corporations to shut down in America and to send jobs abroad,” said Sanders. “It is estimated that the US will lose over 100,000 American jobs.”

“We must create a new set of trade policies that work for the ordinary American worker and not for large corporations and big campaign donors,” demanded Sanders. “It is time to stand up and say enough is enough. This country is now in a major race to the bottom.”

Watch Senator Sanders Speech

Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley also highlighted the impacts of these so-called free trade agreements. Free trade agreements have led to “loss of 50,000 factories and the loss of five million manufacturing workers.”

One of the most frustrating parts of this proposed trade agreement is that the details are a closely held secret. Negotiations are being conducted behind closed doors without input from the public.

Senator Merkley wants to ensure that any new trade agreements put American workers first.

“Let us make sure that we create a standard for the consideration of future trade deals. A standard that is whether this deal will create good paying jobs in America, will expand prosperity to the middle class in America, or will it do the opposite.” (Senator Merkley’s Video 3:45)

However the biggest opponent to the TPP is Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA). Senator Warren. “I Senator Elizabeth liz Warrencome to the floor today to ask a fundamental question, who will benefit from the Trans-Pacific Partnership?”

Senator Warren took an in-depth look at one of the leaked provisions of the TPP the Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS). Companies bring their claims to a group of foreign arbitrators instead of taking their claims through the U.S. court system. The ISDS provision basically allows foreign companies to bypass our court system therefore bypassing any or all of our laws.

“This provision fundamentally tilts the playing field further in favor of big multi-national corporations, worse yet it undermines U.S. sovereignty,” said Warren.

“If a Vietnamese company with U.S. operations wants to challenge an increase in the U.S. minimum wage it can use ISDS,” explained Warren. “If an American labor union believes the Vietnamese companies are paying slave labor wages in violation of trade commitments, the union has to try to wind itself through the Vietnamese courts. Good luck with that.”

After explaining how ISDS was created after WWII, Senator Warren stated, “I don’t know if these justifications made sense then, but they sure don’t make sense now.

“The use of ISDS is on the rise,” said Warren. “From 1959 to 2002 there were fewer than 100 claims worldwide. In 2012 alone there were 58 cases.”

Warren continues by laying out examples of cases that were brought forward to the ISDS:

  • A French company sued Egypt, because Egypt raised its minimum wage
  • A Swedish company sued Germany because Germany decided to phase out nuclear power after the Fukushima disaster
  • A Dutch company sued the Czech Republic because the Czech Republic failed to bail out a bank that the Dutch company partially owned
  • Philip Morris is trying to use ISDS to stop Uruguay from implementing new tobacco regulations aimed a reducing domestic smoking rates

Progressives are not the only ones who are opposing the ISDS provision in the TPP. The head of CATO Institute Trade Policy said, [ISDS] “Raises serious questions about democratic accountability, sovereignty, checks and balances, and the separation of power… These concerns about ISDS are ones the Libertarians and other free market advocates should share.”  (Read more from the CATO Institute)

We must put a stop to this disastrous free-trade agreements that will ship more of our jobs overseas and further depress our wages.

“Progressives should oppose ISDS because it allows big multi-nationals to weaken labor and environmental rules,” concluded Warren. “So long as TPP includes Investor State Dispute Settlement the only winners will be international corporations.”

(Watch Senator Warren’s epic takedown of the ISDS)

There were addition speeches yesterday and you can check them out thanks to the Communication Workers of America.

(For more information go to StopTheTPP.Org)

 

 

 

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker Says Taking On Unions Prepared Him For ISIS (VIDEO)

In “I cannot believe he just said that” news, Governor Scott Walker just told the crowd at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) that attacking labor unions has prepared him to be a leader in the fight against ISIS.

I am not joking this is what he said, as reported by Politico and in the YouTube video (above).

“I want a commander in chief who will do everything in their power to ensure that the threat from radical Islamic terrorists do not wash up in American soil,” Walker told an audience at the 2015 Conservative Political Action Conference today, after he was asked how he would handle threats from ISIS as president.

“We will have someone who leads and ultimately will send a message, not only that we will protect American soil. But do, not, do not take this upon freedom-loving people anywhere else in the world. We need a leader with that kind of confidence. If I can take on 100,000 protesters, I could do the same across the world.

The 100,000 protesters he is referring to are the 100,000 people who showed up in 2011 when Governor Walker attacked the state’s labor unions and passed ACT 10 which stripped away the collective bargaining rights of hundreds of thousands of hard working Wisconsin families.

“To compare the hundreds of thousands of teachers, students, grandmothers, veterans, correctional officers, nurses and all the workers who came out to peacefully protest and stand together for their rights as Americans to ISIS terrorists is disgusting and unacceptable,”  said Phil Neuenfeldt, President of the Wisconsin AFL-CIO.  “To compare hard-working men and women who work for a living to terrorists is a disgrace.  Coming together to peacefully protest for freedom, to raise your voice for a better Wisconsin, this is not an act of terror.”

“Scott Walker’s outrageous slander against his fellow citizens illustrates his contempt for the fundamental expression of democracy – that has been the sad hallmark of his Administration,” said Stephanie Bloomingdale, Secretary-Treasurer of the Wisconsin AFL-CIO.  “Whether campaign hyperbole or not Scott Walker owes Wisconsinites an apology.”

“Governor Walker’s statement comparing workers and terrorists is revolting,” said Richard Trumka, President of the AFL-CIO. “It is clear that Governor Walker’s judgment is impaired, and that he is not qualified for the Presidency.”

“I call on Governor Walker to personally and immediately retract his statement, and apologize sincerely to the millions of workers in Wisconsin and throughout America he has so appallingly insulted,” stated Trumka.

Jim Tucciarelli, District Council 37, Local 1320, Senior Sewage Treatment Worker and AFSCME member from New York had this to say about Scott Walker’s comparison of labor protesters to ISIS:

“Put simply, it’s disgusting to hear Scott Walker compare the 100,000 hard-working men, women, senior citizens and children who came out to protest in Wisconsin to the terrorists of ISIS. In Wisconsin, my sisters and brothers from across the country stood up peacefully for freedom. The protesters were members of the military, police officers, firefighters, and first responders. They were librarians, teachers and nurses. How desperate do you have to be as a politician to compare those folks to murderous terrorists?

“Our union’s building was a block away when the Twin Towers fell on 9/11. I have friends who died on that terrible day. In the weeks that followed, union members worked tirelessly to bring the city back, and I am proud to have been one of them.

“Governor Walker, I know terrorism. I know that your own state’s citizens speaking up for what’s right isn’t terrorism. Today, after hearing your words, I also know the sound of cowardice.”

I cannot begin to tell you how angry this statement from Governor Walker makes me.  He is equating union members to radical terrorists that are slaughtering innocent people halfway around the world.  Are you F’ing serious?  All those big bad union members who are standing up fighting for a higher minimum wage, better and safer working conditions for all workers, and a better more prosperous Wisconsin.

Now Governor Walking is attacking all working families in Wisconsin as he is poised to sign the so-called “Right To Work” bill that the State Legislature passed against massive protests from the people.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel wrote:

“Despite saying for years right-to-work legislation would be a distraction, Gov. Scott Walker said Thursday the timing is now right for the issue.”

In response, Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca (D-Kenosha) noted Walker said in September he was “not pushing it” and “not supporting it in this (2015) legislative session.”

“For him now to state that this is an appropriate time (for right-to-work legislation) just shows the level of deceit he has foisted on the people of the state,” Barca said. “For him to change history and reverse what he said time and time again — we’re just incredulous over that.”

Of course the time is now right, Gov. Scott Walker has delusions of being President and pushing a right to work for less bill on your state will definitely get your name in the paper.

(Here is a great video clip from the protest rally in Madison a few days ago.)

 

 

In case you did not already know this Governor Walker, attacking the hard working men and women  of this great nation is not the way to get elected President.  Just a piece of friendly advice from one hard working union member who would vote for an actual brick to be President before ever voting for you!

Why We Need More People Like Senator Sanders Running For Office, Even If They Don’t Win

Republicans and Democrats Logos (by DonkeyHotey FLICKR)

(Imageby DonkeyHotey FLICKR)

Can you believe it? We are only half-way through February of 2015, and we are already talking about the 2016 Presidential Elections.

Politics is the un-official sport of the Granite State. We take great pride in holding the First in the Nation Primary. This brings candidates from across the country to our quaint little state to hold town hall style events and press the flesh with local Granite Staters in an attempt to win us over.

As we get closer to the February 2016 primary, a growing number of politicians will come to New Hampshire preaching about what they are going to do once we elect them to the White House.

The Republican side of the primary is a complete free-for-all. There are so many people attempting to get into the race that I have lost count. Many of them have already been hitting the streets of New Hampshire and trying to gain notoriety at the same time. Traditionally if you can win New Hampshire, you can win the party nomination. It worked for Mitt Romney in 2012.

The Republicans are a mess right now. Each candidate is trying to rally their base by showing that they are the farthest to the right of any of the other possible nominees. It is a race to see who can be the most extreme and win over the Tea Party base in New Hampshire.

Senator Bernie Sanders (image by StumpSource on FLIKR)

Senator Bernie Sanders (image by StumpSource on FLIKR)

On the Democratic side, the bench is a little lacking. There is Hillary Clinton, who has not announced that she is running, even though everyone knows she is. There is Senator Bernie Sanders from the great state next door, Vermont. I love Senator Sanders — but let’s face it, nobody thinks he can win the primary or the general election. That is not why he is putting his name in the hat (more on this in a minute). There have also been few Democratic governors, like Martin O’Malley from Maryland, making trips to NH over the last few months. And of course there is Senator Elizabeth Warren from Massachusetts. She has repeatedly said she is not running yet they are trying to “draft” her into the primary. (Personally, I think that Senator Warren should stay in the Senate and continue her “kick ass and take no prisoners” agenda.)

Senator Elizabeth Warren (image by Ninian Reid FLIKR)

Senator Elizabeth Warren (image by Ninian Reid FLIKR)

Why are people trying to pull Senator Warren into the primary? Why is it so important that Senator Sanders push back against Hillary Clinton in a Presidential primary? It is all about the messaging!

People are so enamored with Senator Warren because she embodies everything that progressive Democrats hold dear. The same is true for Senator Sanders. This is why are they so popular nationwide. Progressive values are what the majority of Americans want, regardless of party affiliation, and progressive values win elections. Just listen to Congressman Mark Pocan from Wisconsin talk about how those who shied away from progressive values ended up losing their seats.

(Watch the video on YouTube)

Some of the progressive values that help to win elections and move America forward:

  • Increasing the minimum wage
  • Ensuring that every American has access to quality healthcare
  • Protecting the rights of workers, including the right to join and form unions
  • Protecting women’s reproductive rights
  • Reducing income inequality and holding the Wall Street Gamblers accountable for what they did to our economy
  • Reducing the tax burden on working families and ensuring that millionaires and billionaires are paying their fair share in taxes
  • Investing in our infrastructure and creating jobs

Polling data confirms that the majority of Americans support Senator Warren and Senator Sanders on these issues. People overwhelmingly agree with these core progressive values.

Again, I do not think Senator Sanders will win the NH primary or the nomination – but he will succeed in forcing both parties to address issues like raising the minimum wage, protecting workers rights, protecting women’s rights, expanding Social Security, and addressing the vast income inequality that is plaguing America. Without him in the race, nobody will be pushing these issues.

Hopefully Hillary, or whoever the Democratic nominee is, will learn a little something from Bernie and Liz before they go head-on with the Republican nominee.

Because if the eventual Democratic nominee hews to a pro-corporate agenda – why even bother getting out to vote?

In a contest between a Republican and a Democrat-In-Name-Only, voters are going to pick the “real” Republican, every time.

Texas Ruling On Immigration Is Setback But Will Not Stop The AFL-CIO’s Work On Immigration

Late last night, a Texas judge issued a preliminary injunction that temporarily blocks the implementation of President Obama’s new deferred action initiatives. These initiatives, announced last November, came in response to more than 10 years of political stalemates and failure by Congress to address America’s broken immigration system and alleviate the pain endured by millions of families around the country. The President’s announced initiatives will provide temporary relief from deportation to approximately 5 million undocumented immigrants currently living in the United States.

The new deferred action initiatives, which include Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) and an expansion of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), are based on the well-established authority of Presidents and other executive branch officers to allocate and prioritize finite enforcement resources. This practice is used by prosecutors and other law enforcement personnel on daily basis. The judge’s order, issued just two days before the government was set to begin the DACA expansion, bars federal immigration officials from implementing “any and all aspects” of the new deferred action initiatives.

The following is a statement by Melissa Crow, Legal Director at the American Immigration Council:

“Today’s decision is only the first round in what will clearly be a much longer legal battle. Already, the White House has promised that the Justice Department will appeal the judge’s decision, and we urge them to do so in an expedited manner. We expect higher courts to overturn the judge’s decision based on well-established precedent.

“Today’s decision is more rooted in political rhetoric than legal rationales. It relies on a distorted view of overwhelming evidence of the economic benefits of immigration and ignores Supreme Court precedent. It also discounts a long history of recourse to prosecutorial discretion, which has been exercised by every President since Eisenhower. The decision relies on a technical violation of the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) to find that the Administration did not follow proper procedures, while ignoring the fact that the President’s deferred action initiatives are not subject to the APA. While the decision will unfortunately delay critical efforts to address our broken immigration system, the need and the demand for reform has never been greater. We remain confident that it is a question of when, not if, these programs will take effect.”

After the court ruling was announced Richard Trumka, President of the AFL-CIO released the following statement:

This temporary setback will not deter the AFL-CIO’s work on the ground to ensure that as many workers as possible are eventually able to gain protections and work authorization under the new deferred action programs. Around the country, we will continue educating workers, training union activists and helping eligible applicants gather the documents they will need to qualify.

This lawsuit represents a misguided effort to use a false economic basis to block the immigration relief that millions of hardworking, longtime members of our community deserve. The executive actions on immigration will in fact increase earnings, grow the tax base, strengthen the economy and further the public interest, as states like Washington, California, Illinois and New York have explained to the court. The AFL-CIO supports the Department of Justice’s decision to file an appeal, and we trust that higher courts will undo this wrong.

The path to justice often includes obstacles. We will not give up the fight until Congress passes comprehensive immigration reform with a clear pathway to citizenship so that all workers in this country will have the ability to assert their rights on the job and in their communities. In the meantime, this ruling will further strengthen the resolve of a resilient community that is a vital part of our labor movement. We know that an organized community is a stronger community, and that together we will rise.

Dexter Arnold (UAW) Testimony HB 402: Right To Work Is Just Bad Public Policy

Dexter Arnold

Dexter Arnold

Testimony in Opposition to HB 402
Dexter Arnold February 17, 2015

I live in Nashua. I am a member of UAW Local 1981, and I strongly oppose HB 402. HB402 is bad public policy that flunks a truth in advertising test. This bill is not about individual rights, which are already well protected. This bill’s sole purpose is to weaken New Hampshire workers’ ability to have a say over their jobs and working conditions. It is improper state interference with the collective bargaining process.

More than ninety years ago, Supreme Court Chief Justice William Howard Taft, a former President and conservative Republican, who was no friend of unions, stated that “a single employee was helpless in dealing with an employer.” That’s the key issue at stake in this bill. By requiring a state-mandated open shop, HB 402 targets the core of what unionism is all about – that together, workers are able to do accomplish things that they can’t do as individuals

I want to talk briefly from personal and family experience. My father and grandfather were New Hampshire natives. They were lifelong Republicans. And they were local union presidents. Their union responsibilities were in addition to their fulltime jobs as a printer and a machinist. They understood that unions are a way that workers can accomplish together what they cannot do as individuals. That’s why they got together with others to organize their local unions in Nashua. They believed in personal responsibility and did not confuse individual liberty with demanding a free ride on someone else’s back. They certainly would have felt that it was inappropriate to make free rides state policy.

I also want to make a point based on my own experience as vice president and grievance chair in a union that did not have a fair-share agreement. When they had problems, non-members who were paying nothing for representation had no problem coming to the union and drawing on its resources for help. As a grievance representative, I handled and won several such cases.

One case sticks in my mind. It involved a new hire who was severely misclassified – so much so that she would have lost several thousand dollars a year and been ineligible for benefits. When she spoke to management about this, they dismissed her concerns, so she brought it to our attention. She was angry – “How can you let this happen? What’s the union going to do about this?” We told her it was the first we’d heard of it, and that we’d investigate.

We worked hard on her case and won her the proper classification. She received the pay she was supposed to get and health insurance. We were able to do so because of new contract language that we had made a bargaining priority a year before.

She benefited from our ability to negotiate and enforce a contract. That representation – bargaining and enforcing a contract – is what is covered by the fair-share union-security clauses that HB 402 would outlaw.

But again, we didn’t have a fair-share clause. And she was quite content to remain a free-rider and to contribute nothing towards her representation. But I bet we’d have heard from her if she had had another problem.

That’s the reality of an open shop situation. That open-shop reality should not be imposed on all New Hampshire workers by a legislative mandate that interferes with negotiations between New Hampshire workers and employers. I urge you to reject HB 402 as Inexpedient to Legislate.

Linda Horan Statement Against Right To Work Legislation (HB402)

Linda Horan

Linda Horan at a Rally for FairPoint workers

Today the NH House Labor Committee is hearing testimony on HB 402, Right To Work legislation.  Many people are at the State House testifying for this bill.  Linda Horan, a labor activist for many years, sent us her testimony.

Statement in Opposition to HB402
February 17, 2015

Good afternoon. My name is Linda Horan. I live in Alstead. I’m a retired telephone company worker and a proud member of International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 2320.

During my 32 years as a phone worker, I had health insurance, good wages, a pension, and job security. These weren’t given to me by the company. These were things that I worked with other union members to win. And once we won them, we protected them. We didn’t do this by begging the company as individuals. We did this by working together to accomplish as a group what we couldn’t achieve as individuals. That’s the basic principle of unionism. HB402 attacks that principle.

Today, members of IBEW Local 2320, have been on strike for 124 days. This is a strike about our future and the future of telecommunications in New Hampshire. It’s a strike to defend hard won gains that have created a decent standard of living and job security. FairPoint is demanding the right to contract out every job. If that happens, all that we have worked together to gain could be gone just like that.

Again, phone workers won a decent standard of living and job security by standing together to accomplish together what we could not achieve as individuals. HB402 mocks these accomplishments and seeks to tear them down.

HB402 says that it is okay for someone to see all that we accomplished, decide they want to enjoy those benefits, but refuse to contribute to the costs of improving and maintaining them. That’s an insult. And it’s a threat to our well-being.

HB402 is nothing more than a unionbusting proposal dressed up in false claims about economic benefits and personal liberty.

Claims about personal liberty are a sham. Proponents are not bothered by other job requirements. They do not complain when employers insist on educational requirements completely unrelated to a job. They do not object when non-union retailers tell new hires that clerks are expected to wear red shirts and black pants, so go out and buy them if you want the job. We don’t hear a peep from Right-to-Work advocates about the at-will status of workers without union protections – workers who can be fired without just cause. But let an employer negotiate a fair-share contract clause proposed by its workers and somehow personal liberty is under attack.

Many of you are familiar with the children’s story book about The Little Red Hen, who couldn’t get any help from the other barnyard animals when she decided to bake some bread. But those other animals wanted to share the bread once she had done all the work. The moral of the story is don’t expect to reap without sowing. That’s an important lesson that I taught my kids. HB402 turns the moral of the story upside down. It says the little red hen violated the personal liberty of the pig, the cat, and other animals who wanted to freeload off her.
In conclusion, Local 2320 has a fair share clause in our contract. There are a handful of non-members who pay a fair share fee, which is less than full dues. I wish they were members, but at least they pay their share of the costs of bargaining and enforcing the contract that provides the benefits we enjoy. That’s because the law allows us to make a democratic decision to negotiate a fair-share agreement as part of our contract. HB402 would take away that right. That’s wrong. We don’t need the State looking over our shoulder and telling us what to bargain.

I urge you to vote HB402 Inexpedient to Legislate. Also, please accept this as testimony against HB658, which I urge you to vote Inexpedient to Legislate for the same reasons.

A Grand Alliance to Save Our Public Postal Service

GrandAlliance_LogoAn exciting new voice has joined the conversation to save the Postal Service. More than 60 national organizations have formed “A Grand Alliance to Save Our Public Postal Service.”  This alliance is made up of national  religious coalitions, retiree groups, progressive groups, and a wide array of unions. These organizations are united in the demand that the public good must not be sacrificed for the sake of private investment and profit.  All Americans have much at stake as the future of America’s Postal Service is at a crossroads.

APWU President Mark Dimondstein stressed the importance of building a Grand Alliance from the moment he was elected in 2013. “Writing Congress is important,” he said, “but it’s not enough. Lobbying for legislation is important, but it’s not enough.” To succeed, he said, postal workers must build a movement. “Building the grand alliance is the only way we will ensure that a vibrant, public Postal Service exists for many years to come.”

“This new alliance is a good complement to the one the NALC and the other postal unions have been working closely with over the past 18 months,” NALC President Fredric Rolando said, “a group made up of postal union and mailing industry stakeholders with a mission to advance in Congress a multi-point postal strategy that includes a comprehensive solution to pre-funding, freedom to offer new products, fair treatment on pension valuations, strengthened service standards and a moratorium on plant closings.”

Though the Postal Service is in the midst of an economic turnaround many in Congress envision the Postal Service as a sort of pinata to be broken apart  so the corporate sector can further enrich themselves. They disregard three straight years of an operational profit and ignore the stunning economic report issued last week. Greed has no boundaries.

The Postal Service can build upon this turnaround and expand service. One example of this is the the successful recent introduction of package delivery on Sundays and Holidays. It has made the lives of working people more convenient as customers can elect to get their parcels delivered at a time that fits their busy schedules.

Another area of possible growth is expanding into Postal Banking. Senator Elizabeth Warren is a strong proponent of this popular idea.  The Postal Service can help rebuild the wounded infrastructure that many economically disadvantaged people in our country navigate on a daily basis. Postal Banking would be an instrument that can take some of the financial pressure off the more than 25% of households that do not have bank accounts.   Rather than have a predatory banking service profit off of outrageous fees for basic banking services . The Postal Service can offer these services as a public service.

This Grand Alliance offers much hope that they can further advance a bright future for the Postal Service. Please watch the attached video by acclaimed actor-activist  Danny Glover and sign the pledge to support the fight to protect and enhance vibrant public postal services now—and for many generations to come. With a new Congress about to take action on the Postal Reform, the time is now to take action.

Danny Glover: Our Postal Service from A Grand Alliance on Vimeo.

You Will Not Believe What Wal-Mart is Doing

Image via WikiCommons

Image via WikiCommons

You have got to be kidding me.  

Wal-Mart is rewarding associates who donate money to the Wal-Mart PAC, which works to elect candidates like Speaker John Boehner and Senator Ted Cruz who vehemently oppose raising the minimum wage.

In this excellent article (Wal-Mart’s Unusual Rewards for Employees Who Give to Its PAC) by Josh Eidelson, he reports:

“Liberal groups and a union-backed Walmart worker group are asking the Federal Election Commission to investigate Wal-Mart Stores’ (WMT) policy of rewarding contributions to its political action committee with donations to charity. Under the policy, every $1 an employee donates to Wal-Mart’s PAC, which supports such probusiness candidates as Ohio Republican House Speaker John Boehner, Texas Republican Senator Ted Cruz, and Arkansas Democratic Senator Mark Pryor, triggers a $2 donation to a charity for Wal-Mart employees in need.”

Using charitable contributions to reward PAC donations has become a widespread practice among U.S. corporations, which are restricted by law from donating directly to their PACs. At least seven times over the past two decades, FEC commissioners have been divided over whether to restrict companies from matching the political donations with philanthropic cash.

While such companies as Coca-Cola (KO) and Boeing (BA) also match PAC dollars with charity dollars, Wal-Mart’s policy is unusual. Rather than just a 1-to-1 match, it offers 2 to 1. And instead of giving employees a choice of charities to support, it sends all the matching money to its Associates in Critical Need Trust, which benefit employees facing “extreme economic hardship due to situations outside of their control, including natural disasters.”

That’s right, for every one dollar that workers give to the Wal-Mart PAC, the corporation will donate two dollars to their own charity organization for workers who are suffering financial difficulties.

The Associates in Critical Need Trust is a 501 (c)(3) charity that provides “up to $1,500 to employees facing challenges such as homelessness or illness.

Here are three suggestions for Walmart. 1) Start by paying your workers a living wage so they aren’t forced into homelessness. 2) Provide workers with paid sick time so they can heal without the fear of losing their job for being sick. 3)  Provide workers with healthcare so they will not be forced into financial ruin when they become sick or injured. (Note: Wal-Mart just cut another 30,000 part time workers out of their employee healthcare, but thanks to the Affordable Care Act they can get coverage through their state exchange.)

I hope the FEC tears Wal-Mart apart for violating the Federal Election Campaign Act.

State Employees Association (SEIU 1984) Bargaining Senate Approves Tentative Agreement On New Contract

SEIU 1984 LogoConcord, NH – Last evening the SEA/SEIU Local 1984 Master Bargaining Team presented the details of a potential tentative agreement to the organization’s Collective Bargaining Senate (CBS).  Following Collective Bargaining Advisory Committee Chair, Jim Nall’s presentation of new changes to the contract, the standing room only crowd rewarded the team with a standing ovation.

Following a lengthy Q&A session, the CBS overwhelmingly voted to adopt the proposal as a Tentative Agreement and to send it out to the general membership for a vote with the recommendation to ratify.

“This team worked long and hard to get to this point,” said Jim Nall.  “I can tell you this is the best team I have ever had the pleasure of working with.  They dug in, they gave each point due diligence, and they kept their cool throughout this long process.  And, I assure you the fruit of their labor is not a concessionary Tentative Agreement .”

“I congratulate the members of the bargaining team for a job well done,” said Rich Gulla, SEA/SEIU Local 1984 president.  “I think few people realize the level of commitment that serving fellow union members in this capacity takes.  It takes countless hours of their time; it involves hundreds of hours of research and discussion; and it involves potentially difficult conversations with the state’s team. I salute each member for their dedication and the Tentative Agreement they have brought forward.”

“I would also like to commend the state’s Bargaining Team for their efforts,” said Gulla. “Working together, the respective bargaining teams arrived at a fair contract that supports state workers for their many daily contributions to the citizens and visitors of the state.  The Tentative Agreement will now go to our members at large and if it is expediently ratified, the changes will be incorporated in the Governor’s budget proposal.”

Governor Maggie Hassan issued the following statement:

“Our hard-working state employees and the critical services that they provide make a positive impact on the lives of New Hampshire’s citizens each and every day. Despite a smaller workforce with fewer positions and a higher vacancy rate since 2008, they continue to serve our citizens well and do more with less in the face of ever-tightening budgets.

“This is a fair agreement for both employees and taxpayers that will provide modest cost-of-living raises for employees that will be included as part of our upcoming biennial budget. In addition, we have maintained the coordination of health care that strengthens the well-being of state employees and helps generate significant savings for the state, while protecting both parties should a potential ‘Cadillac tax’ on health insurance benefits cause undue financial impact.

“This agreement is another important step toward maintaining fiscal responsibility while supporting our hard-working state employees, and I thank the SEA leadership team and state negotiators for their good-faith efforts to find common ground and reach a deal that is fair to all parties.”

Key points include:

  • A 2% wage increase in January 2016; and a 2% wage increase in January 2017
  • No increases in healthcare deductibles, co-payments or prescriptions
  • The immortalization of lay-off procedures
  • A small increase in dental contributions, which will result in significantly increased coverage
  • An increase in term life benefits at no cost to employees
  • Moving longevity pay from December to November
  • A footwear reimbursement for applicable positions of up to $200 per two year contract cycle

The agreement is subject to ratification by a vote of SEA membership, and the changes will be incorporated in the Governor’s upcoming budget proposal.

The Tentative Agreement will now be mailed to all members of the SEA/SEIU Local 1984 Executive Branch bargaining unit with a ballot for their vote.  SEA/SEIU Local 1984 represents the majority of state employees

An Argument For Eliminating The Tipped Minimum Wage

(Screenshot College Humor YouTube)

(Screenshot College Humor YouTube)

Every morning millions of Americans wake up and get ready to go to work as servers in restaurants, hoping that today will be a busy day, and that they will have extra generous patrons who tip very heavy. These workers must rely on the generosity of strangers because their employer only pays them $2.13 an hour.   That is right servers are paid far below minimum wage, and 43 states approve of this.

The restaurant industry is one of the fast growing markets in the entire country bringing in over $600 billion dollars annually, and that trend does not appear to be stopping any time soon. Even during the Great Recession the restaurant industry continued to grow by an average of 9%.

This thriving industry relies on the fact that they can legally pay workers below minimum wage, which in most cases barely covers their taxes. The time has come to end this antiquated idea that servers should not be covered by the same wage requirements as every other employer.

Would you pay an extra dollar for that Chicken Parm if you knew that the server was being paid properly even before your tip? Would you even notice if they increased all their prices a dollar? Did you notice that they most like already raised their prices from this time last year? Servers in California are paid at least $8.00 an hour and people still go out to eat regularly.

Before you freak out over the idea of eliminating the tipped minimum wage, consider these facts from the Restaurant Opportunities Center United (ROC United):

  • Above-average employment growth occurs in the seven states that have already abolished the subminimum wage (Alaska, Montana, Nevada, Minnesota, California, Oregon, and Washington)
  • Per capita restaurant sales increase as the tipped minimum wage increases. Growth in tipped restaurant worker as a percentage of total state employment tends to be higher in the states that pay tipped workers above $5 per hour, and is higher still in states that have abolished the subminimum wage.
  • Eliminating subminimum wage does not decrease employment. In fact, the restaurant industry projects employment growth over the next decade of 10.5% in the seven states without a tipped subminimum wage, compared to 9.1% in states with a subminimum wage
  • Since 2009, tipped restaurant workers have grown in importance as a percentage of total employed workers in $2.13 states, states where tipped worker wages are higher than $5.00, and states without subminimum wage—but growth of tipped restaurant workers as a percentage of total employment is highest in states without subminimum wage.

Eliminating the tipped minimum wage would boost our local economy and help lift millions of people out of poverty. Here in New Hampshire, Representative Jackie Cilley has proposed a bold new minimum wage increase that would eliminate the tipped minimum wage and raise the floor to $14.25 over the next three years.

Enough of my facts and statistics about the tipped minimum wage, watch this hilarious video from College Humor that shows exactly why we need to eliminate the tipped minimum wage.

View the video on YouTube

Warning: Language!