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AFT-NH Legislative Bulletin: NH Retirement System and Gutting The Department Of Labor

February 20, 2018 – Bow, NH

A busy week in the State House, though a relatively quiet one when it comes to legislation of direct concern to AFT-NH. In terms of actual legislation, the Senate passed SB 441, which requires school districts to create policies upholding the finality of grades assigned by teachers. Except in limited cases (technical or clerical error), this would make teacher-assigned grades the final word, preventing administrators from altering grades of athletes or certain vociferous parents. Consider it a rare recognition of the professionalism of our public school teachers!

SB 441 now moves onto the House, which on Thursday upheld via voice vote the recommendation of the Labor Committee that HB 438 be rejected (“inexpedient to legislate” is the formal term).   HB 438 would have prohibited any public employer from withholding voluntary union dues. There was no substantive reasoning offered for such a prohibition, and the House acknowledged the sagacity of the Labor Committee in rejecting the bill. A similar bill, HB 1803, would bar any withholding by public employers for any non-governmental entities. The bill had its hearing in front of the Executive Departments and Administration Committee this past week, and featured testimony from United Way, labor unions, and other organizations who utilize payroll deduction by public employers. HB 1803, along with a number of bills concerning the NH Retirement System, has now been sent to a subcommittee hearing to be held on Tuesday, February 20, before coming back before the entire committee for a vote and final recommendation to the House. Similarly, HB 1754, to restructure the NH Retirement System into a direct contribution system, has had its hearing and work session in the Executive Departments and Administration committee, and awaits a final committee recommendation to the House. Based on the hearing as well as the report of the Decennial Commission on the NH Retirement System, we hope and expect the committee to recommend that HB 1754 be deemed “inexpedient to legislate.” We will keep you posted. Please be sure to read the latest NH Retirement Security Coalition Legislative Recap to monitor all retirement bills.

Elsewhere, the Labor Committee held a two-hour hearing on HB 1762, which would gut the Department of Labor’s ability to enforce youth employment laws, require safety plans, and protect wage earners from employers who underpay or refuse to pay employees in a timely or accurate manner. The prime sponsor had few specifics to offer as to why these changes are needed beyond vague references to having spoken with some employers, and subsequent witnesses shed little additional light. Restaurant owners want the power to mandate tip-sharing so as to steal money from high tip-earners and funnel it to others who might not earn much in the way of tips, thereby ensuring the employer need not pay up to the minimum wage of $7.25/hour. It is odd to see those who normally advocate that “what I own I can keep” can suddenly become advocates of redistribution and “share the wealth.” Of course, this is only when the sharing involves workers and benefits the employer.

HB 1762 will be finalized by the Labor Committee next week (February 21), most likely coming out of committee significantly amended. The nature of that amendment is yet to be determined, but it will still amount to little more than applying lipstick to a pig—you can disguise but you cannot change to actual intent of this proposed legislation. It is anti-worker and is almost peculiarly written to benefit restaurants, taverns and those places with tipped employees and a desire to hire youth employees.

Two final items. SB 193 remains in front of the Finance Committee-Division II and the expectation is that there will be amendments offered to more tightly limit the pool of eligible students. The goal of proponents is to at least get their foot in the door, or as is often stated in the House, “the camel’s nose under the tent,” for once a program is launched it is difficult to later abolish it. Lastly, the Labor Committee voted 12-9 and the Education Committee voted 11-9 to recommend “inexpedient to legislate” on HB 1405 and HB 1277 respectively. HB 1405 would have provided access to unpaid FMLA leave to those school personnel working 900 hours or more, meaning it would have offered unpaid leave to para-educators who are often part-time and do not work in summers. Although the leave is unpaid and thus costs the District nothing, the majority on Labor deemed it unacceptable, perhaps because those who work part-time are not deserving of family leave? As for HB 1277, the bill had little likelihood of passage anyways, and it allows districts to non-renew without explanation teachers for their first five years. There is no sound pedagogical reasoning for this amount of time, especially since after three years a teacher needs to renew certification and is classed as “highly qualified,” but the budgetary flexibility this provides won out. One need not wonder why it is becoming more and more difficult to recruit and hire new teachers.

I close with a request that each reader take a moment of silence in honor of the victims of the Florida high school shooting this past week. Students, coaches and teachers all died at the hands of the gunman, and we are once again left with feelings of deep sadness, bewilderment and frustration. “Why is this happening?” and “Why can we not stop these shootings?”   There are no easy answers, but we all bear a small degree of responsibility as members of this society to try to find those answers.

 

In Solidarity,

Douglas Ley

AFT-NH, President

 

Attached is the pdf version for you to download and share. 

23 Senators Blast DOL Sec Acosta For Concealing Evidence About Stealing Tips From Workers

Shaheen, Hassan Blast Labor Department for Hiding Evidence Showing Tip Proposal Would Steal Billions from Workers

Last week, news reports revealed the Department of Labor concealed the deeply damaging impacts of its proposed change to the tip rules 

Senators: “This is a stark example of how far the Trump Administration is willing to go to appease business interests at the expense of working families”

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Maggie Hassan (D-NH) joined with a group of 23 Senate Democrats to send a letter to Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta, criticizing the Department of Labor’s decision to hide evidence showing its proposed change to the tip rules would result in employers stealing potentially billions of dollars from their workers.

“We write to express our deep concern regarding reports that the Department of Labor (DOL) concealed evidence from the public showing that DOL’s proposed tip rule would result in employees losing billions of dollars in tips,” wrote the senators. “DOL is forcing through a regulation that would take money out of the pockets of low-wage workers and, even worse, it covered up the potentially catastrophic impacts from workers and advocates. This is a stark example of how far the Trump Administration is willing to go to appease business interests at the expense of working families.”

In December 2017, the Trump Administration proposed rescinding Obama Administration rules that ban employers from taking workers’ tips, potentially allowing employers to keep these tips. The DOL reportedly withheld an official economic analysis from the public record that indicated that the Trump Administration’s plan would drastically cut American workers’ wages.

In addition to Senators Shaheen and Hassan, the letter was signed by Senators Murray (D-WA), Schumer (D-NY), Feinstein (D-CA), Wyden (D-OR), Durbin (D-IL), Reed (D-RI), Sanders (I-VT), Cardin (D-MD), Brown (D-OH), Merkley (D-OR), Gillibrand (D-NY), Blumenthal (D-CT), Baldwin (D-WI), Murphy (D-CT), Hirono (D-HI), Kaine (D-VA), Warren (D-MA), Markey (D-MA), Booker (D-NJ), Van Hollen (D-MD), Duckworth (D-IL) and Smith (D-MN).

A PDF of the letter can be found HERE and included below.

02062018 - Acosta - Tip Rule Analysis Concealed Letter

Republicans In The House Take Aim At NH Labor Laws

Republican legislators in the New Hampshire House of Representatives want to change the current labor laws to allow kids to work “any time” of the day or night, remove requirements to display wage and discrimination laws, and handicap the State Department of Labor.

State Rep. Laurie Sanborn (Bedford), introduced the self titled “Red Tape Reduction Act” (HB1762-FN) aimed at what she says is to “reduce the excessive and unnecessary documentation and regulatory (red tape) burdens.” She claims that these “burdens” are inhibiting employers from hiring and growing their businesses.

What it really does it make it easier for employers to screw over workers and reduces the penalties if they get caught.

Some of the “burdens” that Rep. Sanborn wants to eliminate:

  • Eliminate the requirement to pay a worker “two hours of pay” when they show up to work and their shift is canceled
  • Eliminated the employees right to refuse to take part in “tip sharing”
  • Allow 16-17 year olds to “work any hours” and eliminates the Department of Labor’s requirement to randomly inspect worksites with young workers
  • Make unpaid interns responsible for their own Workers Compensation Insurance
  • Create a new “volunteer” worker category where an employee can “volunteer to learn” while working, without pay for up to 6 months
  • Remove the requirement to display safety, wage, hour, and discrimination laws in highly visible or “conspicuous” space
  • Removes the requirement that all wages and payment schedule changes must be made in writing
  • Changes the rules about employers providing uniforms and apparel with the “company logo” to be used in the work environment. (First uniform is free but employee may be required to pay for additional uniforms.)
  • Eliminate the Department of Labor’s rulemaking authority regarding wages and child labor laws; all relevant rulemaking changes must go through the legislature
  • Eliminate need for employers to file a “written safety plan, joint loss management committee, and safety summary form”
  • Expands the Department of Labor’s ability to waive fines, offers a 30 grace period on violations to avoid fines, and eliminates a number of mandatory fines for things like: “failure to pay a worker on time”, “failure to pay a worker in full”, and “requiring an employee to perform any illegal activities under threat of job loss.”

Of all of these the most egregious is the changes to child labor law allowing 16-17 year olds to work “any hours” of the day and night.   These are high school kids. Should they be working overnight shifts at the local mini-mart or working till midnight at the local fast food joint? No. These hour restrictions were put in place to ensure that children do not work too much or too late because it would have a detrimental affect on their education.

Under this new bill it would be the employee’s responsibility to know all of the laws concerning wages, overtime, discrimination, and safety regulations yet the employer is no longer required to display them. Does anyone actually think a 16 year old in their first job knows anything about child labor laws?

There have also been a couple of bills to increase the minimum wage with a caveat for 16-17 year old workers. These young workers would be allowed to work a sub-minimum wage or “training wage”. Rep. Sanborn’s proposed legislation coupled with the proposed “training wage” would allow employers to hire 16-17 year olds to work any time at a rate below the state’s minimum wage. How many low-wage workers would lose their jobs only to be replaced by 16-17 year olds earning “training” wages?

The bill has a number of co-sponsors, including Laurie’s husband, and first Congressional District Candidate, Sen. Andy Sanborn. The Sanborn’s have used their small business, The Draft bar and grill, to justify their votes against raising the minimum wage and eliminating the tipped minimum wage.  In 2014, in a speech on the Senate floor, Sen. Andy Sanborn called a minimum wage increase to $9.00 an hour a “job killer” but failed to mention how much a minimum wage increase would impact his personal business.

These proposed changes would also force reductions in the Department of Labor’s annual budget. The Department of Labor estimates that the proposed changes would have cost the state over $500,000 dollars in fines paid over the last three years. They also noted that the new regulations would require a “follow up inspection” which would “decrease in worker efficiency” and decrease the number of worksites inspected each year.

New Hampshire already has one of the lowest rates of unemployment in the country. There are lots of jobs available but many of our young adult workers are leaving New Hampshire in search of better wages in other states. Repealing these regulations will do nothing to help spur growth in our economy but it will allow employers to cheat worker without any fear of penalty.

Honestly does anyone really believe that removing the requirement to display wage and discrimination laws will somehow create jobs? Are they really expanding jobs and boosting the economy by hiring unpaid interns and “volunteer” workers?

This race to the bottom must end. We need in strengthen our labor laws not destroy them. We need to empower the Department of Labor to inflict harsher penalties on employers who violate the law not lessen worksite inspections and eliminate fines. This would be a step back for the hard working people of the Granite State if this somehow makes it through.


Full copy of the proposed legislation below

HB1762

Trump Threatens The Safety Of Millions Of Workers With Cuts To Dept of Labor And OSHA

The health and safety of millions of American workers should be one of the highest priorities to Secretary of Labor Alex Acosta, but based on the department’s massive budget cuts, that does not appear to be the case.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is one of the most important areas within the federal government for ensuring that regular workers like you and me, can go to work in a safe environment. It is OSHA’s regulations, inspections, and training that protect millions of workers in every workplace, from hotel housekeepers to the ironworkers who work hundreds of feet in the air.

Despite the hard work the of OSHA and the Department of Labor approximately 4,500 US workers die each year from traumatic events in the workplace, such as falls from a height, drowning in trenches, getting crushed by machinery, and roadway collisions.

However now, OSHA is in serious peril as the Trump administration looks to slash the Department of Labor’s budget as well as many other “workplace safety” divisions within the government.

Every day, thirteen US workers are killed on the job. Instead of providing resources to prevent these tragedies, the proposed Department of Labor budget for FY 2018:

  • Projects 2,300 fewer inspections of U.S. workplaces by the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA);
  • Cuts $6 million for safety inspections from the US Mine Safety and Health Administration which has already seen more coal miner deaths (9) in the first half of 2017 than in all of 2016 (8); and
  • Eliminates the successful Susan Harwood training grants, which have a proven track record of helping workers in dangerous industries avoid workplace hazards that can lead to illnesses, injuries and fatalities.

“Workers in New Hampshire can’t afford cutbacks in safety inspections or workplace training,” said Brian Mitchell, Director of New Hampshire Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health (NH COSH). “The price we pay for unsafe working conditions can’t be measured in dollars and cents. We pay with our lungs, our limbs – and sometimes our lives.”

Trump’s budget proposal took an axe to the Department of Labor’s funding cutting away $9 billion dollars, a 21% decrease. Trump praise how he would save taxpayers $11 million dollars by cutting the Susan Harwood grant program.

Just to be clear, President Trump spent more golfing in Florida this spring than this program, that serves tens of thousands of workers annually, needs to operate.

The Harwood Grant program provides “training and education for workers and employers on the recognition, avoidance, and prevention of safety and health hazards in their workplaces, and to inform workers of their rights and employers of their responsibilities under the OSH Act.” These programs are specifically targeted to “underserved, low-literacy, and workers in high-hazard industries.” Over the 40 years since the Harwood grants began over 2.1 million workers across the country have utilized this training program.

The New Hampshire COSH, Interfaith Worker Justice, and the National Safety Council are just a few of the many organizations that helped to train over 88,000 workers in 2016.

Outside the 21% cuts to the USDOL budget, other key agencies tasked with protecting workers and communities face drastic cutbacks, including elimination of the US Chemical Safety Board. The Nation magazine explained in a recent article why the Chemical Safety Board is so vitally important.

“If the small agency is indeed defunded, the results could be catastrophic—and we might be left wondering, as the bodies are counted after some large chemical disaster, why nobody was angry when the CSB went away.”

Along with OSHA and the CSB, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), part of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is facing at a 40% cutback ($139 million) in Trump’s budget. NIOSH is the leading workplace safety research that leads to many of the new OSHA safety standards.

Secretary of Labor, Alexander Acosta

Secretary Acosta Defends Budget Cuts

This week, Secretary of Labor, Alex Acosta, went before the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies committee to talk about the DOL’s proposed budget cuts.

Sec. Acosta began his testimony by saying:

“Too many Americans struggle to get by. Too many Americans have seen good jobs in their communities disappear. Too many Americans see jobs that are available, but require skills that they do not possess. We at the Department look forward to working with you in the Legislative Branch to fulfill the Department of Labor’s critical mission: to foster, promote, and develop the welfare of our Nation’s workers, job seekers, and retirees.”

This well crafted statement makes it appear that Acosta is fighting for working people who need retraining to find better jobs and continued training for those who already possess a job. This is in complete contrast to the budget cuts Acosta is supporting within the DOL.

Senator Roy Blunt (R-Mo), called Sec. Acosta out for his cuts to worker training programs.

“I have serious concerns with the worker training program reductions – particularly the proposals to cut state grants by 40 percent and close Job Corps Centers. The President has recognized that there are millions of vacant jobs in this country and I hear about the difficulty finding work in the sectors impacting building trades all the time. We need to make certain that our workforce training programs and apprenticeships equip individuals with the skills they need to meet the workforce needs of today and tomorrow.”

Sec Acosta tried (and failed) to explain away the $10 million dollar cuts to the Harwood grant program by saying that a “$4 million dollar increase to OSHA’s federal compliance assistance budget” eliminated the need for the grant program. The blog, Confined Space, explains in great detail how the compliance assistance program is completely different from what the Harwood grants provide.

New Hampshire has long been one of the safest states to work. Last year Brian Mitchell from the NH COSH, identified 16 workers who died on the job in 2016. However in May of 2017, three workers died on the job in one week.

“After the deaths of three New Hampshire workers in one week in May, this is no time for a budget that makes job sites less safe for working men and women who have a right to come home safely to their families at the end of their workday,” Mitchell stated.

It is time to take action!

Now is the time to contact your Senators and Representatives and tell them that you oppose these cuts to worker safety programs as well as the elimination of the Susan Harwood Grants.

You can take action by signing the petition from the National COSH reminding Congressional members about how failing to properly train workers led to the death of Ricardo Oliveira in Boston, Massachusetts last year.

You can also take action by sending a letter directly to your Senator created by Interfaith Worker Justice, urging them to keep funding for the Susan Harwood Grants.

We cannot stand by while the Trump administration attempts to desimate worker safety programs and the Department of Labor.


Read more about the cuts to OSHA and workplace safety programs from ISHN.

Read more about Acosta’s testimony to the Senate from Confined Space.

Shaheen Announces Grant for the Community College System of NH to Increase Access to Apprenticeships

The ApprenticeshipUSA-NH project will receive a $1.2 million grant from the Department of Labor

The project, supported  by Sen. Shaheen, will serve 133 apprentices in the Granite State with a focus on women, low-income, veterans and other underrepresented populations

(Manchester, NH)— U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) announced today that the Community College System of New Hampshire was awarded $1.2 million by the Department of Labor (DOL) to fund the ApprenticeshipUSA-NH project. The grant is part of the Administration’s ApprenticeshipUSA initiative to expand apprenticeships in diverse industries nationwide. With this new grant, the Community College System of New Hampshire will create a Registered Apprenticeship system in the Granite State that builds upon the momentum of several initiatives aligned with state economic, workforce development and educational goals. The ApprenticeshipUSA-NH project will serve 133 apprentices, with special emphasis on underrepresented populations including low-income, individuals with disabilities, youth, women, and veterans. Senator Shaheen has been a strong supporter of the ApprenticeshipUSA initiative since its creation in 2014.

“This is an important investment in New Hampshire’s workforce,” said Senator Shaheen. “The ApprenticeshipUSA-NH project will invest in Granite State workers to advance their skills and knowledge for today’s job market, while also strengthening our economy. I am proud to have worked with the Administration in support of the ApprenticeshipUSA initiative so we can engage more young people, women, veterans and other underrepresented people in apprenticeships to provide them with the skills they need to find a career they love. This program demonstrates that when we invest in our workers, we are investing in our businesses and economy as a whole.”

“The Community College System of New Hampshire has been integral in our efforts to build an even stronger workforce in New Hampshire, helping to ensure that our young people are equipped with the skills, knowledge and innovative thinking needed for success in the good jobs of the 21st century,” said Governor Maggie Hassan. “The ApprencticeshipUSA grant will support the community college system’s efforts and build on other initiatives already underway to develop a stronger apprenticeship system in New Hampshire that is responsive to industry demand and allows for the inclusion of all Granite Staters. The future economic sustainability of New Hampshire depends greatly on our ability to provide a strong economic foundation where all citizens have access to great jobs that provide a sustainable wage and growth opportunity, and I was proud to support the community college system’s ApprenticeshipUSA grant to help us achieve that goal.”

“I thank Senator Shaheen for her strong support of the ApprenticeshipUSA initiative since its creation in 2014, and I look forward to continue working with members from both parties to build an even stronger, more innovative New Hampshire where all Granite Staters who work hard have the opportunity to get ahead and stay ahead,” Governor Hassan said.  

Job-driven apprenticeships are one of the surest paths to provide American workers with the skills and knowledge they need to acquire good-paying jobs and grow the economy. More than 90 percent of apprentices are employed after completing their programs, with an average starting wage above $60,000. International studies suggest that for every dollar spent on apprenticeship, employers may get an average of $1.47 back in increased productivity and greater front-line innovation.

The AFL-CIO Pushes Back Against Pro-Business Democrats Trying To Change The New Overtime Threshold

Pay Check Everyone agrees that the current overtime threshold needs to be updated. The issue is, how quickly should this update take effect?

In May, the Department of Labor announced that they would be lifting the salary threshold for overtime 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.

“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 in a May press release. “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. 

Congressman Kurt Schrader

Congressman Kurt Schrader

This week, Congressman Kurt Schrader (OR-5), Congressman Jim Cooper (TN-5), Congressman Henry Cuellar (TX-28) and Congressman Collin Peterson (MN-7) introduced legislation that will “initiate a reasonable three-year phase-in of the Department of Labor’s new overtime rule.”

“The current overtime threshold is horribly outdated and needs to be raised as both employees and employers navigate our changing economy. This bill will do exactly that without disrupting the way businesses operate and employees are paid,” said Congressman Schrader. “Since the DOL’s immediate phase-in date was announced, we’ve heard from business owners and their employees who are worried about implementing this increase overnight. Without sufficient time to plan for the increase, cuts and demotions will become inevitable, and workers will actually end up making less than they made before. It’s long past time we strengthen overtime pay protections for American workers in a meaningful and effective way.”

“While I believe the time has come to increase the overtime threshold, the DOL rule would put businesses in a bind and potentially lead to job loss,” said Congressman Peterson. “Both businesses and constituents in my district have expressed concern about the impact of an immediate threshold increase. A three-year phase in will provide adequate time for business to adapt to the new standard while also ensuring workers are fairly compensated.”

Surprise, businesses do not want to have to pay workers more money.  How are businesses going to win the race to the bottom if President Obama and the DOL keep raising the floor?

The Schrader plan is to phase the overtime threshold  in slowly to decrease the impact on businesses. Schrader’s office explained this proposed legislation would work in their most recent press release.

“On December 1, 2016, the Overtime Reform and Enhancement Act will immediately increase the threshold more than 50% to $35,984. Each year following, the salary threshold will be raised by $74 per week until December 1, 2019, when we reach the DOL’s proposed $47,476 threshold.”

The one thing that Schrader’s office neglected to mention is that the newly proposed legislation would also eliminate the automatic increases to the overtime threshold every three years.

The AFL-CIO quickly spoke out against this newly proposed legislation in a stern letter to all Representatives in the U.S. House.

July 14, 2016

Dear Representative:

            I am writing on behalf of the AFL-CIO to urge you to oppose legislation, introduced by Rep. Kurt Schrader, that would rob millions of workers of the overtime pay protection they have earned. The misnamed “Overtime Reform and Enhancement Act” would delay by three years the full implementation of the Labor Department’s new overtime regulations, originally scheduled to take effect in December, 2016.

            The Schrader bill would also eliminate the final rule’s mechanism that would automatically update the salary threshold every three years after implementation. As you know, workers have waited decades for an update to the salary threshold—it has only been updated once since the 1970s—in 2004 (when it was set too low). Having experienced decades of wage stagnation and uncompensated overtime, workers should not have to wait three more years for the protection the new regulations will provide.

            The current salary threshold for overtime pay would be over $57,000 if it had kept pace with inflation since 1975. Instead, effective December 1, 2016, the salary threshold below which salaried employees are automatically eligible for overtime pay will rise from $23,660 ($455 per week) to $47,476 ($913 per week). The Labor Department based this new threshold level on the 40th-percentile salary for workers in the lowest-wage Census region (currently the South). Because history demonstrates that it can take years for the regulatory process to adapt to changing labor markets, the rule also indexes the threshold to inflation. Once implemented, the threshold level will increase every three years, beginning in 2020.

            For approximately 12.5 million workers, this new regulation is the most effective way to raise wages, create jobs, and restore the 40-hour work week. The AFL-CIO urges you to oppose the Overtime Reform and Enhancement Act and any legislation that would delay or weaken implementation of this important rule.

Sincerely,

William Samuel, Director
Government Affairs

Phasing in the new overtime rule by $74 dollars a week may be good for some businesses but it is definitely not good for workers. This proposed legislation would create confusion as to when workers would qualify for overtime leaving workers wide open for wage theft.

Aside from ensuring that workers are paid fairly for the hard work they are doing, this new overtime rule is intended to stimulate job growth. Rep. Schrader is worried about potential job losses from the new rule taking effect, yet the only businesses who would be effected by this rule have workers making less than $47,000 a year salary, who work more than 40 hours a week.  This means that businesses will have to choose:

  • Do they want to continue to pay their employee a low salary and pay them overtime for every hour above 40?
  • Do they want to raise the employee’s salary to $47,476, allowing the employee to work unlimited hours without having to pay them overtime?
  • Do they want to continue to pay their employee a low salary and then hire an additional employee to complete the extra work that needs to be done?

Either way workers are going to get a benefit. Either workers will get more money in their paycheck or more workers will receive paychecks.

This proposed legislation is bad for workers and will only continue the stagnation of our economy while leaving workers vulnerable to wage theft by their employers.  This legislation will do more harm than good and should be rejected.


For more information on who will benefit from the new overtime rule read our previous post from May 2016 or check out this handy info-graphic on the DOL overtime changes

Info-Graphic: How New Overtime Rule Will Impact Millions Of Americans

Are you still confused about the new overtime rule pushed out by President Obama and the Department of Labor? You are not alone and we are here to help.

Here are a couple of the basics:

  • An employer is now required to pay overtime for any salaried worker who makes an annual salary of less than $47,476, up from $23,660.
  • The new overtime rule will impact more than 4 million workers, most of which are women.
  • The new threshold number will be automatically increased every three years.

Still want to know more?

The people at PrimePay have created this handy info-graphic to give everyone a more in-depth look at how these new changes will impact American workers.

overtime-infographic-final3For more information go to PrimePay

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.

Bricklayers Union Praise New US Department of Labor Silica Dust Rule

USDOL Promulgates the Long-overdue Final Silica Rule 

U.S. Labor Secretary Tom Perez today announced the promulgation of the long-overdue final silica rule. The new rule will prevent about 600 deaths and thousands of illnesses related to silica exposure each year. Secretary Perez made the announcement in Bowie, Maryland at the John J. Flynn BAC/IMI International Training Center.

Bricklayers unionThe International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers (BAC) has taken a leading role in working with community and industry partners, scientists and lawmakers to ensure adoption of the final rule. “This is a huge step forward for millions of workers in the U.S., including BAC members who have suffered from silica dust exposure for generations,” BAC President James Boland said. “Many thanks to all our members who helped put a human face on the loss and illness associated with this occupational peril. Together, our Union and the labor movement have and will continue to improve safety and health protections for our workers. Together, we can make workers’ lives better. And together, we will continue the fight to protect this final standard.”

To raise public awareness of the deadly consequences of silica exposure and support the final adoption of OSHA’s proposed silica rule, BAC launched a “Stop Silica from Killing Again” campaign, and its members also testified at OSHA hearings sharing their personal stories on dangers of silica exposure, among many other efforts. “We will keep fighting to ensure that working people are protected from this avoidable danger,” said BAC Executive Vice President Gerard Scarano.

“More than 80 years ago, Labor Secretary Frances Perkins identified silica dust as a deadly hazard and called on employers to fully protect workers,” said U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez. “This rule will save lives. It will enable workers to earn a living without sacrificing their health. It builds upon decades of research and a lengthy stakeholder engagement process – including the consideration of thousands of public comments – to finally give workers the kind of protection they deserve and that Frances Perkins had hoped for them.”

President Boland added, “This is why it is so important to have a ‘Collaborator-in Chief’ in the white house—someone who knows how to get things done. We thank President Obama and his Labor Secretary for making the safety of workers a priority.”

 

The International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers, headquartered in Washington, D.C., is the oldest continuous union in North America and represents roughly 80,000 skilled masonry-trowel trades craftworkers in the United States and Canada, including bricklayers, tile setters, cement masons, plasterers, stone masons, marble masons, restoration workers, and terrazzo and mosaic workers.

McDonald’s Workers File OSHA Complaint After 79% Report Being Burn On The Job

Mcdonalds ‘Put mayonnaise on it, you’ll be good’ 

McDonald’s Workers Nationwide File OSHA Complaints Alleging Hazardous Work Conditions

Understaffing and pressure to work too fast lead to serious injuries;
Workers call on DOL to investigate

Faced with widespread hazards on the job, including bubbling hot oil, white hot grills, and greasy, slippery floors, McDonald’s workers who have suffered severe burns announced Monday that they have filed 28 health and safety complaints against the fast-food giant in 19 cities.

They allege that understaffing and pressure to work too fast – hazardous conditions often created by the company’s computer system that dictates staffing levels and the pace of work – are the main drivers responsible for the injuries. The complaints further reveal that many McDonald’s stores lack basic first aid or protective gear necessary to ensure workers’ safety, and that managers often tell workers to treat burns with condiments like mustard rather than burn cream.

“My managers kept pushing me to work faster, and while trying to meet their demands I slipped on a wet floor, catching my arm on a hot grill,” said Brittney Berry, who has worked at McDonald’s in Chicago, Ill., since 2011, and who suffered a severe burn on her forearm and nerve damage from the accident. “The managers told me to put mustard on it, but I ended up having to get rushed to the hospital in an ambulance. This is exactly why workers at McDonald’s need union rights, so we have a voice to make the company take responsibility for the dangers it creates in its stores.”

The complaints, filed with the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration as well as state safety and health authorities, point to a wide range of serious dangers at the workplace, including: pressure to clean and filter the fryer while the oil is hot; lack of proper protective equipment; floors that are greasy or wet; and missing or empty first aid kits. Complaints were filed at both corporate and franchised locations.

“One of my coworkers and I have to empty the grease trap without protective gear, and since we were never given the proper equipment or training, we just dump the hot grease into a plastic bag in a box of ice,” said Martisse Campbell, who works at McDonald’s in Philadelphia, Penn., whose hand was severely burned by boiling grease from a fryer. “Once, my coworker got badly burned, and our manager told him ‘put mayonnaise on it, you’ll be good.’ McDonald’s needs to be held accountable, and that’s why workers around the country are joining together.”

Burns have been reported as a widespread problem since fast-food workers started organizing in New York City more than two years ago: “In our first meeting, there were 50 workers in a room in New York City who held up their arms covered in burns and said ‘this is what it means to be a fast-food worker,’” said Kendall Fells,Organizing Director of the Fight for $15. “As this campaign has spread to cities across the country, it’s become painfully clear that unsafe conditions go hand in hand with the industry’s low wages.”

McDonald’s sets minimal health and safety standards for all franchisees, but even these modest measures are not properly enforced. The company watches like a hawk nearly every aspect of its franchisees’ business operations via regular inspections, but it too often ignores health and safety problems. Moreover, workers in corporate-owned stores report the same health and safety hazards as workers in franchised restaurants.

“It’s a problem that only McDonald’s can fix, and the time to fix it is now,” Mr. Fells added.

The announcement comes as a new national survey finds that a staggering share of fast-food workers have been burned on the job: 79% of fast-food workers in the U.S. have been burned in the past year, most repeatedly, according to a survey conducted by Hart Research Associates and released Monday by the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health. Workers cited understaffing and pressure to work too fast as the top reasons they are getting burned on the job.

The survey found that 36% of workers report that first aid kits are missing, inaccessible, or empty, and one-third of fast-food workers in the U.S. had been told to treat burns with condiments like mustard or mayonnaise rather than burn cream.

The Fight for $15 announced Monday the launch of a petition calling on the U.S. Department of Labor to investigate widespread health and safety hazards in the fast-food industry. And it launched a video and website, burnedbyfastfood.org, to call attention to the prevalence of severe burns in the industry.

Workers announced that they would be holding protests at McDonald’s stores across the country Tuesday to demand that the company be held accountable for the widespread dangers at its stores.

The 19 cities where complaints were filed include Kansas City, Mo., Miramar, Fla., Nanuet, N.Y., New York, N.Y., New Orleans, La., and Philadelphia, Penn. The announcement comes as McDonald’s faces mounting challenges domestically and abroad over working conditions, tax avoidance, and racial discrimination.

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