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THE ECONOMIST Hammers Ayotte On Failure To Support SCOTUS Hearings

Over 60% of Granite Staters Support SCOTUS Hearings and Vote On Nominee

Current Eight-Justice Court is “Sowing Legal Confusion”

 

Concord, N.H. — A new poll from Franklin Pierce University shows that 63% of Granite Staters believe the Senate should hold hearings and a vote on President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee before the next presidential election, including 51% of Granite Staters who believe strongly that the Senate should hold hearings and vote.

This weekend, The Economist also highlighted the legal confusion that an eight-Justice court is leaving across the country. The Economist editorial board wrote that “Whether the divide manifests as 4-4 splits or a tendency to hear fewer cases in which those splits seem likely, a Supreme Court with eight judges is not a court that can live up to its name.” 

See below for excerpts of The Economist editorial or click here:

…Twice since Mr Scalia’s death the Supreme Court has performed the judicial equivalent of throwing up its hands. In a small case concerning banking rules and in an important one challenging the future of public-sector unions, the justices issued one-sentence per curiam(“by the court”) rulings: “The judgment is affirmed by an equally divided court.” A tie in the high court means that the ruling in the court below stands. But these non-rulings do not bind other lower courts, and the judgment has no value as a precedent. A tie, in short, leaves everything as it was and as it would have been had the justices never agreed to hear the case in the first place. 

That’s a lot of wasted ink, paper, time and breath. And now it seems the justices may be keen to reduce future futile efforts as they contemplate a year or more with a missing colleague. Only 12 cases are now on the docket for the October 2016 term, and grants are lagging below the average of recent years. The slow pace is especially notable because it marks a slowdown from an already highly attenuated docket. Seventy years ago, the justices decided 200 or more cases a year; that number declined to about 150 in the 1980s and then plummeted into the 80s and, in recent years, the 70s…

What’s wrong with eight justices? The main worry is that tied votes sow legal confusion. When the judges are split down the middle, they cannot resolve rival views on controversial issues—from affirmative action and public unions to gay rights, birth control and abortion. By letting lower-court decisions stand but not requiring other courts to abide by the ruling, the stage is set for odd state-by-state or district-by-district distinctions when it comes to the meaning of laws or the constitution…So if the justices divide 4-4 in Zubik v Burwell, women across most of America will have access to birth control through their employer’s health coverage, while women in seven midwestern states will not. 

…it is hard to see how a denuded court is appealing in the medium or long term. A patchwork of legal realities may have been fitting for America under the Articles of Confederation, before the country had a political system that turned it into a union, but America’s constitutional design is not consonant with confusion about what the law means on controversial questions. Whether the divide manifests as 4-4 splits or a tendency to hear fewer cases in which those splits seem likely, a Supreme Court with eight judges is not a court that can live up to its name.

Massive Strike Against Verizon Ends As Tentative Agreement Is Reached

Union to take down pickets.
Company agrees to add good union jobs on the East Coast.
First contract for retail wireless workers.
Improves workers’ overall standard of living.

2015-07-25_Mass_Rally_Stand_Up_To_VerizonFor over six weeks now, 40,000 Verizon workers have been on strike. They have been standing in opposition to proposed cuts and potential plans to offshore American jobs.

Two weeks ago, U.S. Secretary of Labor Tom Perez along with federal mediator Allison Beck, stepped in to help me help resolve this massive strike.

“I’m encouraged by the parties’ continued commitment to remain at the bargaining table and work toward a resolution,” Secretary Perez said. “We will continue to facilitate conversations to help the unions and the company reach an agreement.”

On the 44th day of the strike, Perez announced that a tentative agreement has been reached between Verizon, the Communication Workers of America (CWA) and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW).

“Today, I am pleased to announce that the parties have reached an agreement in principle on a four-year contract, resolving the open issues in the ongoing labor dispute between Verizon’s workers, unions, and management,” said Perez. “The parties are now working to reduce the agreement to writing, after which the proposal will be submitted to CWA and IBEW union members for ratification.

“This tentative resolution is a testament to the power of collective bargaining. I commend the leadership of Verizon, CWA, and IBEW for their commitment to resolving these difficult issues in the spirit of constructive engagement,” Perez continued.

Perez concluded by stating, “I expect that workers will be back on the job next week.

CWA praised the announcement and the tentative agreement. The agreement includes provisions that include improving working families’ standard of living, creating good union jobs in our communities and achieving a first contract for wireless retail store workers.

“The addition of new, middle-class jobs at Verizon is a huge win not just for striking workers, but for our communities and our country as a whole. The agreement in principle at Verizon is a victory for working families across the country and an affirmation of the power of working people,” said Chris Shelton, President of the Communications Workers of America. “This proves that when we stand together we can raise up working families, improve our communities and protect the American middle class.”

“This tentative contract is an important step forward in helping to end this six-week strike and keeping good Verizon jobs in America,” said Lonnie R. Stephenson, President of the IBEW. “We will be sharing the details of it with our members for approval in the immediate days ahead.

“My thanks to our members, along with those of the CWA, who made numerous sacrifices to finally come to this point,” added Stephenson.

“Our members look forward to returning to work serving their customers, working under a strong pro-worker and pro-jobs contract,” Stephenson concluded.

The strike against Verizon was not only about the contract for the 40,000 unionized workers at Verizon, it was about taking a stand against corporate greed for all working families.

“We thank the members of CWA and IBEW. They negotiated well with Verizon and elevated working people throughout the country. We applaud them for their solidarity and hard work,” said Richard Trumka, President of the AFL-CIO.

Some say that unions are relics of the past and are no longer needed. This agreement shows that unions are the only ones to stand up for working families against the greed of Corporate America.


Author’s Note:

United_we_bargainI am pleased to write this story and congratulate all of the members of the IBEW and CWA who stood strong for 44 days. A long term strike like this can take a serious toll on workers’ families and tests the strength of their resolve.

Your strength and perseverance prevailed. Now Verizon Wireless workers all across the country will see the benefit of a strong labor contract.

Non-union workers will also see how standing together against corporate greed is the only way we are going to rebuild a strong middle class.

United we bargain, divided we beg.

NEA-NH Makes A Powerful Recommendation In District 2 Executive Council Race

NEA - NH Logo(CONCORD, NH) New Hampshire’s largest public employee union, the National Education Association of New Hampshire, just threw their weight behind Andru Volinsky in his campaign to for Executive Council.  

Founded in 1854, NEA-NH has grown to represent over 17,000 public employees throughout the state with one mission: “to advocate for the children of New Hampshire and public school employees, and to promote lifelong learning.”

NEA-New Hampshire’s President Scott McGilvary announced NEA-NH’s recommendation of Andru Volinsky in his run for the New Hampshire Executive Council in District Two, which includes Rochester, Dover, Concord, Keene, and a number of other New Hampshire communities.  

“Andru Volinsky has been supporting teachers and the interests of public education since the days of the Claremont School Funding Suit.  We are proud to stand with him in his race for the Executive Council,” said McGilvray

Volinsky was one of the three lawyers who represented the Claremont School District in their fight against the State for adequate school funding.  The Claremont decision forced the State to reevaluate how they disperse state funds to local schools and increased the stated contributions by over 8%.

WMUR reports that “[Volinsky] is currently representing the City of Dover in its lawsuit against the state contending that the cap on state adequacy money to school districts violates the state constitution.”

Mr. Volinsky, upon learning of the recommendation, said, “There are few greater honors than to be recognized by an organization you respect as much as I respect the NEA.  I shall cherish this recommendation.”

Fat Profits, But Lean Wages: Workers To Protest At McDonalds Shareholder Meeting

  • Fight for $15 Vows Biggest-Ever Protest at McDonald’s Shareholder Meeting
Mcdonalds fight for 15 strike

Fight for 15 strike in 2015

As Fast-Food Giant’s Profits Grow, 10,000 Workers to Flood Company HQ, Demand Higher Pay So They Don’t Have to Rely on Food Stamps

Strike for $15, Union Rights by Chicago-Area Fast-Food Workers to Kick Off Two Days of Protest

Oak Brook, Ill. – McDonald’s cooks and cashiers announced Thursday that thousands of underpaid workers fighting for $15/hour and union rights nationwide will converge in the Chicago area next week to wage the largest-ever protests to hit the fast-food giant’s annual shareholder meeting.

Fast-food workers across Chicago and its suburbs will kick off two days of protests by walking off their jobs Wednesday morning, followed in the afternoon by a massive march of a record 10,000 fast-food, home care, child care, and other underpaid workers on the company’s Oak Brook, Ill. headquarters. The protesters will argue it is wrong for a company whose stock just hit an all-time high to pay wages so low that its workers are compelled to rely on public assistance to scrape by.

McDonald’s profits in the first quarter rose 35%, propelled largely by the company’s move to serve breakfast all day, prompting the New York Times to argue in an editorial, “Fat Profits, but Lean Wages,” that it’s time for the company to share its good fortune with its workers.

“McDonald’s sales are going through the roof, but my children have to live with their grandparents because I can’t afford to keep a roof over our heads as long as my paycheck is stuck at minimum wage,” said George McCray, a McDonald’s worker from Chicago, Ill., who is paid $8.25/hour. “We’ve been working hard to make new changes like the All-Day Breakfast a success and have helped make the company billions, but our wages haven’t budged. How much longer will McDonald’s workers have to wait before the company’s success benefits us too?”

On Thursday morning, thousands of workers will take their demand for $15/hour and union rights directly to the company’s shareholder meeting. Underpaid workers from across the service sector – joined by McDonald’s workers from five countries spanning three continents – will demand that McDonald’s use its global economic footprint to lift up working families across the economy rather than hold them down. They’ll argue that McDonald’s is driving a race to the bottom that is hurting workers across the service economy.

Rob Mercier, a low wage worker from New Hampshire, will be one of those speaking out at the McDonalds shareholder meeting next week.

“I worked for McDonald’s for more than two years, struggling to pay bills and unable to afford to buy basic items like diapers and bottles for my newborn son at the time, said Rob Mercier, a member of the Fight for $15 in New Hampshire and a line cook at 5 Guys earning $9.00 an hour. “I worked long hours, picked up shifts, and worked overnight because my pay was too low, and when raises came around I was rewarded with a measly ten cents. That was a slap in the face. McDonald’s is the largest fast-food restaurant in the world and it’s time they do more than lead the fast-food industry by profits and start to lead by lifting up struggling families like mine.”

McDonalds low wages are not only hurting fast food workers they are driving down wages for workers all across the country in their race to the bottom.

“This isn’t just about fast-food workers or McDonald’s workers – McWages are holding us all back,” said Vicki Treadwell, a Milwaukee home care worker who is paid just $10.75/hour after 25 years on the job. “As long as McDonald’s fails to pay fair wages and rips off taxpayers, moms like me will have to turn to food pantries to feed our families. With its record profits, McDonald’s can choose to lift up all workers and the economy.”

While McDonald’s sales have soared in recent months, exceeding analysts’ expectations, and the fast-food giant’s stock hit a record high in May, the company’s low wages cost taxpayers an average of $1.2 billion every year in public assistance. This low-wage model drains revenue that could be used to support the country’s home care, child care and public education systems.

“Even though I educate and care for a classroom of three- and four-year-old children, I am paid just $8.40/hour, which means I have to choose which bills to put off so that I have enough cash for food,” said Shannon Mettie, a child care worker in Detroit, MI. “McDonald’s sets pay and standards at employers large and small. But as long as the fast-food giant keeps skimping on pay and dodging taxes, communities like mine won’t have the money we need for quality child care and strong schools.”

As McDonald’s faces louder calls from workers across the U.S. demanding higher pay and the right to a union, the company is also coming under fire from regulators and elected officials worldwide over a range of harmful business practices, including tax avoidance, labor violations, and anti-competitive practices.

In April, the French government sent a letter to McDonald’s demanding the company pay back €300 million ($340 million) in unpaid taxes and fines as a result of a scheme that funneled royalties through Luxembourg. Late last year the European Commission opened an investigation into McDonald’s over allegations the company avoided more than €1 billion in taxes via the same Luxembourg machinations.

Earlier this year, Spanish tax authorities opened a criminal investigation into McDonald’s tax avoidance, and leading consumer rights advocates and NGOs petitioned Italy’s top tax authorities late last year to investigate McDonald’s over allegations that the fast-food giant has dodged at least €74 million ($84 million) in taxes owed to Italy since 2009.

In January, Italian consumer groups filed an antitrust complaint with the European Commission, alleging exorbitant rents and onerous contracts thrust upon franchisees give the company an unfair advantage. Meanwhile, in the United Kingdom – the home of turf of CEO Steve Easterbrook – McDonald’s is facing more scrutiny than ever before. In April, Labour Party Leader Jeremy Corbyn announced his party’s support for a global campaign to hold McDonald’s accountable, saying, “We will extend that campaign all across this continent.” Also last month, Labour Party leaders barred McDonald’s from sponsoring its party’s convention because of the company’s unfair treatment of workers. Worker protests in the UK forced McDonald’s to abandon its controversial zero-hours scheduling policy in which workers are required to be available to work all the time, but receive no set hours.

In March, Brazilian prosecutors launched an investigation of alleged “fiscal and economic crimes” committed by McDonald’s, including suspected tax avoidance and violations of Brazil’s franchise and competition laws. As McDonald’s looks to sell or refranchise thousands of company-owned stores worldwide, the Change to Win Investment group sent a letter to McDonald’s Board of Directors earlier this month expressing concern over flagging sales and poor corporate governance by the company’s master franchisor in Latin America, Arcos Dorados.

“In France, like elsewhere, McJobs leave us without enough to feed our families or live with dignity,” said Lynda Zarif, a McDonald’s worker from Paris, France, who will join the protest in Oak Brook next week. “At the same time, McDonald’s and its shareholders are enriching themselves and benefiting from billions in profits. McDonald’s workers are the ones in the kitchen making the Big Macs that the company sells every day, and we deserve to benefit from the company’s success.”

Vast Differences Between Republicans And Democratic Gubernatorial Candidates On Raising The Minimum Wage

Republican Candidates For Governor Of New Hampshire, Reject Overwhelming Voter Support For Raising The Minimum Wage.

Whether or not to raise the minimum wage in New Hampshire will undoubtedly be one of the biggest issues in this year’s Gubernatorial race. Large majorities of both, Republicans and Democrats, support raising the minimum wage. However as we have routinely seen in the New Hampshire Legislature, the elected representatives have made raising the minimum wage a completely partisan issue.

On Thursday, WMUR reported that all of the Republican candidates for governor—Executive Councilor Chris Sununu, Manchester Mayor Ted Gatsas, State Senator Jeanie Forrester and State Representative Frank Edelblut—oppose the establishment of a state minimum wage, despite the fact New Hampshire is tied for the lowest minimum wage in the country at $7.25-an-hour.

“State Sen. Jeanie Forrester said clearly during her economic rollout news conference on Monday that she opposes the establishment of a state minimum wage,” wrote John DiStaso.

Manchester Mayor Ted Gatsas “does not believe in increasing the minimum wage nor establishing a state wage,” spokeswoman Alicia Preston told WMUR. Gatsas voted against raising the minimum wage when he was a State Senator in 2007.

State Representative Frank Edelblut “opposes raising the minimum wage and voted against establishing a state minimum wage in the current legislative session,” added DiStaso.

Executive Councilor Chris Sununu is attempting to play both sides.

“I oppose establishing a state minimum wage. I am open to a responsible increase in the federal minimum wage, provided there is a strong economic and moral case for it,” Sununu told WMUR.

Given the current political environment in Washington against raising the minimum wage, Sununu can safely say that he is “open” to an increase at the federal level knowing it will probably not happen anytime soon.

“The Republican candidates’ steadfast opposition to establishing a minimum wage highlights how vastly out-of-touch they are with New Hampshire’s working families,” said NHDP Chair Ray Buckley. “Everyday Granite Staters are hurting, but Republicans continue to stick with the failed trickle-down economic policies of the past. It’s clear the GOP primary is deteriorating into a race to see who can run the farthest to the right, and they’re all tied.”

The Democratic candidates for governor—Executive Councilor Colin Van Ostern, former State Securities Bureau Chief Mark Connolly and former Portsmouth Mayor Steve Marchand—all support establishing a state minimum wage.

“New Hampshire has the lowest minimum wage in the country. As governor, I’ll fight to establish a state minimum wage that rewards hard work and grows our economy,” said Executive Councilor, Colin Van Ostern.

“A full-time employee making the federal minimum wage earns just over $15,000 a year—it’s simply not enough. I strongly support establishing a state minimum wage in New Hampshire, because every Granite Stater deserves to be paid a fair, living wage for their hard work,” said Mark Connolly.

minimum wageAcross the board, 76% of Granite Staters surveyed supported raising the minimum wage. Even more astounding is that 59% of New Hampshire Republicans surveyed said they would support current proposals to raise the New Hampshire minimum wage.

Raising the minimum wage is not a partisan issue nationally or here in New Hampshire. Nationally, 63% of those surveyed support a $15 minimum wage by 2020, and 71% support the elimination of the tipped minimum wage.

Research from the New Hampshire Fiscal Policy Institute shows that just increasing the state’s Minimum Wage to $9 an hour would benefit over 76,000 people. That money would almost immediately be pushed right back into our local economies as low-wage workers spend almost everything they bring home in their paycheck.

“No matter who wins the primaries, voters will have a clear choice this November between a Republican who opposes raising the minimum wage and a Democrat who supports it,” Buckley added.

The US International Trade Commission Shows The TPP Is Bad News For Working Families

A New Report From The US International Trade Commission
Shows The TPP Is Not Worth Passing 

ITC-International-Trade-Commission-logoYesterday, the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) released their findings on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). To nobody’s surprise the results are not good.

The TPP would not deliver the economic benefits promised by the U.S. Trade Representative. Instead, the report shows that the deal would be disastrous, increasing the U.S. trade deficit by over $21 billion per year and harming employment in key industries.

Basically they found that miniscule gains would be made in most of the sectors of the economy. By miniscule I mean that after 15 years the TPP would increase our GDP by a whopping 0.15%.

Most alarmingly, the ITC report projects that the TPP would increase the U.S. trade deficit in both manufacturing and the services sector. According to the report, once fully implemented, the TPP would decrease manufacturing output by over $11 billion per year and would decrease U.S. employment in manufacturing by 0.2%.  The report also highlights concerns that the TPP would put call center jobs at particular risk of being offshored.

The weak economic projections in the ITC report are especially notable given that ITC’s track record is one of being overly optimistic about the effects of free trade deals on American workers and our economy.

These results are not surprising to many of the labor groups who have been against this multi-national trade agreement since it was announced.

“This ITC report is so damaging that any reasonable observer would have to wonder why the Administration or Congress would spend even one more day trying to turn this disastrous proposal into a reality,” said Richard Trumka, President of the AFL-CIO. “Even though it’s based on unrealistic assumptions, the report could not even produce a positive result for U.S. manufacturing and U.S. workers.”

“One of many shockers is just how meager the purported benefits of the TPP are. A mere .15% of GDP growth over 15 years is laughably small—especially in comparison to what we’re being asked to give up in exchange for locking in a bonanza of rights and privileges for global corporations,” added Trumka.

“Even though the report fails to account for currency manipulation, wage suppression and the negative impacts of uninspected food imports and higher drug costs, the study still projects the TPP will cost manufacturing jobs and exacerbate our trade deficit,” Trumka concluded.

“This report validates that the Trans-Pacific Partnership is not worth passing,” said United Steelworkers (USW) International President Leo W. Gerard. “This report, as mandated by law, indicates the TPP will produce almost no benefits, but inflict real harm on so many workers.”

Trumka and the AFL-CIO are not alone in their condemnation of this report. The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers highlights that includes many of the same provisions, currently in our international trade agreements, that fail to protect basic labor rights.

“The ITC, which historically has overestimated the benefits of trade agreements, predicts that the TPP will increase our nation’s trade deficit in manufacturing. This means that the corporate driven, secretly negotiated TPP will lead to the export of good paying manufacturing jobs to countries like Vietnam that lack basic human rights,” said International President Robert Martinez, Jr., of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM). “For ordinary Americans struggling to get by this will result in more unemployment and continued downward pressure on wages and benefits.”

“The IAM has repeatedly called for the inclusion in the TPP of the International Labor Organization Conventions, which explicitly define basic labor rights. Unfortunately, the TPP labor chapter contains the same ineffectual provisions as in other U.S. trade agreements and fails to provide effective mechanisms to deal with countries lacking fundamental labor rights, such as Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, and Mexico. That Malaysia, a country cited for human trafficking while focused on rapidly developing its aerospace industry, would be include in the TPP repudiates any notion that the agreement sets a new standard for international labor rights.”

“While the ITC has found that the TPP might increase U.S. GDP by a meager 0.15 percent by 2032, this is of little solace to the working families that will be devastated by the agreement’s numerous flaws. The IAM strongly urges Congress to reject the TPP and focus on a trade policy that benefits America’s working families.”

“The ITC has a long history of being overly optimistic about our trade deals. Yet, even the ITC’s rosy projection paints a picture of the TPP that would be bad for American workers,” said Shane Larson, Legislative Director of the Communications Workers of America (CWA).  “Across the electorate and throughout the country, the public is coming out strongly against the TPP and for good reason. The TPP was based on a trade model that has led to lost manufacturing jobs, lower wages, and increased trade deficits. It’s no surprise that those outcomes are what the TPP will deliver.”

The TPP will be hot button issues during this coming election. We have already seen this in the Presidential primary process. People all across the country are challenging candidates to stand up in opposition to this disastrous trade deal now.

“The American public has made clear its overwhelming opposition to the TPP and the approach to trade it embodies, and now this report makes it even more clear why lawmakers of both parties should stand with the American people and loudly oppose the TPP,” Larson stated.

“This year voters across the country are clearly making trade an issue. Most Washington policymakers and politicians are out of touch with the lives of average Americans. The American public is sick and tired of economists projecting fantasies of prosperity for them when it’s primarily multinational corporations that benefit. On Main Street and in workplaces all across America, working Americans know firsthand the consequences of what economists experience in theory,” added Gerard of the USW.

“But in the end, this may be the most damning government report ever submitted for a trade agreement. It is clear that the TPP will be DOA if Congress ever decides to bring it up,” Gerard stated.

This report clearly shows that the drawbacks to the TPP far out weight the meager benefits promised the US Trade Representative and the White House.

America Deserves A-Plus Infrastructure, Not Near Failing Grades

‘Long-Term Infrastructure Investment Can Create the Family-Supporting Jobs Our Nation Needs’

(Terry O'Sullivan is the General President of the Laborers International Union of North America - LiUNA)

(Terry O’Sullivan is the General President of the Laborers International Union of North America – LiUNA)

Washington, D.C. (May 18, 2016) – America deserves an A-plus infrastructure, not one with near failing grades, LIUNA General President Terry O’Sullivan told a news media briefing today as part of Infrastructure Week.

O’Sullivan was speaking on behalf of the half-million working men and women of LIUNA – the Laborers’ International Union of North America – who predominantly work in the construction industry, building and maintaining the nation’s transportation, energy and water resources infrastructure.

“Investing what is needed in our infrastructure is crucial to our safety and economic competitiveness,” O’Sullivan said. “And, it goes beyond abstract policies: It’s about good-paying, family-supporting jobs that provide a ladder to the middle class and can’t be exported abroad.”

LIUNA is a long-time advocate for greater infrastructure investment. The union is a participant in Infrastructure Week, which brings together a diverse coalition of unions, employers, business associations, and non-profit research and advocacy groups.

While once No. 1 in the world in its infrastructure, the United States has fallen to No. 11, according to the American Society of Civil Engineers.

“For those of us in the Building Trades, investment in a strong, robust and expanded 21st century infrastructure is about leaving a legacy for future generations,” said O’Sullivan. “The alternative is allowing our infrastructure to crumble around us – strangling our economy, worsening our lives, and endangering us all.”

LIUNA has launched high-impact public outreach efforts in the past – including billboards warning motorists of deficient bridges, a 10-foot roll of duct-tape on a flatbed truck to highlight inaction on infrastructure and a school bus which traveled the country crushed by a fallen bridge prop.

“As the men and women who work every day to build America, we will continue to fight for Congress and all elected officials to invest until we have the first-class, A-plus infrastructure we so desperately need,” O’Sullivan said.

The DOL To Double Overtime Rule Lifting The Wages Of An Estimated 12 Million Workers

Thomas Perez delivers remarks after President Barack Obama announced Perez as his nominee for Labor Secretary, in the East Room of the White House, March 18, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Thomas Perez delivers remarks after President Barack Obama announced Perez as his nominee for Labor Secretary, in the East Room of the White House, March 18, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

12.5 Million Americans: the number of people that the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) estimates will be affected by President Obama’s changes to the overtime rule.

Today, the Department of Labor, under President Obama’s direction, will update the threshold for salaried workers who automatically qualify for overtime when they work more than 40 hours a week.

“We’re making more workers eligible for the overtime that you’ve earned. And it’s one of the single most important steps we can take to help grow middle-class wages,” said President Obama.

“New overtime protections mark a major victory for working people that will improve the lives of millions of families across America,” said Richard Trumka, President of the AFL-CIO. “We applaud the Obama Administration heeding the call for action to ensure working people get paid for all the hours we work. Taking this step to restore overtime is one of the many ways we are beginning to change the rules of our economy that are rigged in favor of Wall Street.”

“The fight for even stronger overtime protections and to raise wages for all working people continues. But today, millions of workers will receive a long overdue raise, healthier and more productive jobs, and more time to spend with our community and loved ones,” added Trumka. 

This simple rule change will have a significant impact on our local and national economy. The White House estimates this rule change will put $12 billion dollars into the hands of hard working Americans over the next ten years.

The DOL is lifting the threshold for salaried workers from just over $23,660 a year to $47,476. This means that if you are a salaried employee who makes less than $47,476 dollars you will now be entitle to overtime (time and 1/2) for every hour worked in a week above 40.

This doubles the current salary threshold while being responsive to public comments regarding regional variations in income by setting the salary threshold at the 40th percentile of full-time salaried workers in the lowest income Census region (currently the South). Tying the salary threshold to the lowest-wage region of the country has strong historical precedent in previous rulemakings.

This salary threshold will be reevaluated and updated every three years ensuring that if continues to meet the 40th percentile mark.

Employers have used this low salary threshold to cheat workers out of higher wages for decades. Many of these workers routinely work 50-60 hours a week and are paid a flat rate. In some cases salaried workers were putting in so many extra hours, without any additional pay, that their per-hour rate would drop below the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour.

Now employers will have to choose between raising the wages of salaried employees or keeping employees at their current salary but reducing the number of hours they work in a week. Reducing the number of hours worked would lead to job growth as employers will need to hire additional workers to fulfill their needs.

Check out this short video from the White House that explain the rule change and how it will effect individual salaried workers. 

EPI estimates that raising the overtime salary threshold will directly benefit a broad range of working people, including:

  • 6.4 million women, or 50.9 percent of all directly benefiting workers
  • 4.2 million parents and 7.3 million children (under age 18)
  • 1.5 million blacks, and 2.0 million Hispanics
  • 4.5 million millennials, defined as workers age 16 to 34 (who make up 28.2 percent of the salaried workforce but 36.3 percent of directly benefiting workers)
  • 3.6 million workers age 25 to 34 (who make up 22.9 percent of the salaried workforce but 28.7 percent of directly benefiting workers)
  • 3.2 million workers with a high school degree but not more education (who make up 15.5 percent of the salaried workforce but 25.3 percent of directly benefiting workers)

This is a monstrous step in the right direction to lift the wages of millions of Americans. The White House estimates that the new rule is expected to extend overtime protections to 4.2 million more Americans who are not currently eligible under federal law.

The new rule is slated to take effect on December 1st of this year.


Below are a couple of charts from the EPI that break down what industries will see the biggest boost from this new rule change and the number of workers impacted by the new rule, state by state.

In New Hampshire, over 54,000 workers will be directly effected by this new rule change.  Texas, Florida and California will see the biggest increases with over 1 million workers benefiting from this change.

Jeanie Forrester’s Economic Plan? Lower Wages for Granite Staters

Image from @OFA_NH pic.twitter.com/ZG7B0GfERQ

Image from @OFA_NH pic.twitter.com/ZG7B0GfERQ

Concord, N.H. – Today, State Senator and gubernatorial candidate Jeanie Forrester pitted herself squarely against hard-working Granite Staters looking for better wages and a higher quality of life.

Asked whether she would sign a bill raising New Hampshire’s minimum wage—currently tied for having the lowest minimum wage in the nation — Forrester said, “I would not. I believe that government should stay out of what a business does.”

Forrester voted to repeal New Hampshire’s minimum wage in 2011 and voted against an increase as recently as February. While Forrester’s so-called economic plan acknowledges that “wages have been relatively flat over the past decade,” her record and her new push today to abolish the minimum wage would only make things worse for hardworking Granite Staters. 

“Jeanie Forrester’s outrageous opposition to raising the minimum wage reveals she’s sticking to the same failed, discredited trickle-down economic policies of the past that devastated our economy and the middle class,” said NHDP Chair Ray Buckley. “The GOP primary is fast becoming a contest over who can recklessly become closest to far-right ideology and show how out-of-touch they are with mainstream Granite Staters.”

The Lack Of OSHA Inspectors, Combined With Corporate Greed, Is A Recipe For Worker Abuse

Photo: Earl Dotter/Oxfam America

Photo: Earl Dotter/Oxfam America

OSHA’s lack of resources to enforce safety and health regulations create window of opportunity for greedy corporations to blatantly violate workers rights.

 

This week a new report from Oxfam showed the ugliness of corporate greed in America’s food processing plants. The new report showed that workers from Tyson Foods, Pilgrim’s Pride, Perdue and Sanderson Farms, were routinely not given bathroom breaks and had to wear diapers on the processing line.

Click Here to Tweet Tyson Foods

.@TysonFoods: let your workers take bathroom breaks when they need to! #GiveThemABreak
Click Here to this tweet Tyson Foods

“Workers urinate and defecate while standing on the line; they wear diapers to work; they restrict intake of liquids and fluids to dangerous degrees; they endure pain and discomfort while they worry about their health and job security. And they are in danger of serious health problems,” the report stated.

“The denial of bathroom breaks strikes women particularly hard. They face biological realities such as menstruation, pregnancy, and higher vulnerability to infections; and they struggle to maintain their dignity and privacy when requesting adequate time to use the restroom,” the report added.

This is absolutely disgusting. These are the people who are processing the food that we eat every day.

“A recent survey in Minnesota revealed that 86 percent of workers interviewed said they get fewer than two bathroom breaks in a week.”

Two bathroom trips a week. Are you kidding me? This is inhumane! People should not be treated in this way.

“We’re human beings who feel, and hurt, and we work the best we can. But it’s not enough for them. They demand more and more… They demand more than you can do,” said Marta a worker at Pilgrim’s Texas processing plant.

Right now you are probably asking yourself, “How could this happen? Don’t we have laws against this type of worker abuse?”

Yes as a matter of fact we do.

“Denial of regular access to the bathroom is a clear violation of US workplace safety law, and may also violate US anti-discrimination laws, including the Americans with Disabilities Act and civil rights laws outlawing gender and sex discrimination,” the report stated.

We have strict labor laws to protect workers safety and health. We even created a national agency, OSHA, to enforce these laws.

And there in lies the problem. OSHA is so underfunded that enforcing these labor laws in next to impossible.

Republican’s preach we need to reduce regulations to allow businesses to thrive. Since we have blocked them from taking away our rights as workers, they have taken away the funding to enforcement agencies.

As Cenk Uygur and Ana Kasparian of The Young Turk explain in this video segment (embedded below), OSHA only has the resources to “check less than 1% of worksites in 2013.”

Think about it. When was the last time OSHA came to your worksite?

Labor laws like mandatory breaks are violated all the time. Some workers do not even know these laws exist or that they have any rights in the workplace at all. They do not speak up to their bosses for fear of retaliation. In states like New Hampshire workers at “at will” employees and that means employers can fire you for any reason they want with no justification needed.

Want to test my theory? Next time you go out to a bar or restaurant ask the server when the last time they got their mandated 15 or 30 minute breaks?

The laws are not the problem; it is enforcing these laws where we fall apart. Without enforcement companies are left to regulate themselves. What a joke that is. Greedy corporations like Tyson Foods, Pilgrim’s Pride, Perdue and Sanderson Farms don’t care about the workers, they only care about how much money they will make today. They don’t care if OSHA slaps them with a $10,000 fine for violating regulations, because they made $100,000 while they were breaking the law.

We need stronger enforcement of existing labor laws and bigger fines for those who violate these laws. This means the government needs to hire more inspectors to ensure that workers are safe on the job and greedy corporations are not violating worker’s rights.

This is also another example of why workers need to come together and form unions. Many unions have trained and dedicated members who ensure that workplace regulations are being adhered to and are not afraid to speak out when workers are put at risk.

If these workers were union members, there is no way this type of outrageous behavior from these corporations would have been allowed at all.

 


Below is a the clip from The Young Turks where Cenk Uygur and Ana Kasparian talk about the failure of our government to enforce our labor laws and OSHA’s lack of funding.  This is a really great segment by TYT that everyone should see.

 

 

 

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