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The Economic Policy Institute Unveils Their ‘Women’s Economic Agenda’

New ‘Women’s Economic Agenda’ focuses on closing the wage gap between men and woman while lifting the wages of all workers 

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We need an economy that works for everyone not just a select few. Research shows that we are putting working women, specifically women of color, at a severe disadvantage.

We already know that women on average only earn $.70 cents on the dollar compared to men in the same job. The wage gap harms a woman’s chance of economic prosperity and slows economic growth.

The wage gap is closing, however this is not all good news. From 1980 to the present the wage gap has gone from 62% to 82% of men’s wages. On the surface this would appear to be great news, except that 40% of the gains, made by women to close the wage gap, actually came from the fact that men’s wages are falling. The average wage for men dropped from $20.13 in 1980 to $18.35 today.

Ensuring that all workers are paid equally for equal work is important, but that should not be due to the fact that men’s wages are falling. We need to lift all the wages of all workers together.

Today, the Economic Policy Institute released its Women’s Economic Agenda, a set of 12 bold yet achievable proposals that push the discussion about women’s economic security beyond closing the gender wage gap. While closing the gap between men and women’s wages is essential to bring genuine economic security to women and their families, policymakers must do more. Policies in the agenda include raising the minimum wage, ending discriminatory practices that contribute to gender inequality, providing paid family leave, and increasing access to high-quality child care. If implemented, these policies could raise women’s wages by as much as 70 percent.

“Raising wages and boosting economic security for women is an essential part of growing and strengthening America’s middle class,” said Senator Elizabeth Warren, who spoke at the agenda’s unveiling. “The proposals in EPI’s Women’s Economic Agenda would be powerful steps forward in the fight to level the playing field for women and families across the country.”

“The gender wage gap is only one way the economy shortchanges women,” said Alyssa Davis research assistant for the Economic Policy Institute. “Only when we take a holistic approach to women’s wages and seek to eliminate both the gender wage gap and the economic inequality gap will women reach their potential in the economy.”

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The full complement of policies in the Women’s Economic Agenda is:

  1. Raise the minimum wage—raising the federal minimum wage to $12 by 2020 would boost wages for one-fourth of the workforce, or 35 million working people—56 percent of whom are women.
  2. Eliminate the tipped minimum wage—two-thirds of tipped workers are women, yet they still make less than their male counterparts. At the median, women tipped workers make $10.07 per hour, while men make $10.63 (including tips).
  3. Strengthen collective bargaining rights—women in unions are more likely to be paid higher wages and have access to benefits such as paid sick days and pensions.
  4. End discriminatory practices that contribute to race and gender inequalities—black women earn 65.4 percent and Hispanic women earn 56.5 percent of white men’s hourly earnings.
  5. Provide paid family leave—only 12 percent of private-sector employees have access to paid family leave. Without paid family leave policies, workers (particularly women) have difficulty balancing the demands of work and family.
  6. Provide paid sick leave—ensuring that working women can earn paid sick time would let them meet their responsibilities at work and at home without compromising their family’s economic security.
  7. Require fair scheduling practices—over one-third of women hourly workers in their prime childrearing years receive their work schedules with advance notice of one week or less.
  8. Provide accessible, affordable, high-quality child care and early childhood education—accessible child care would ensure that parents do not need to choose between leaving the labor force and affording quality child care
  9. Protect and expand Social Security—the average female retiree receives over $300 less per Social Security check than her male counterpart.
  10. Provide undocumented workers a path to citizenship—women are concentrated in many occupations likely to be held by undocumented workers.
  11. Support strong enforcement of labor standards—women are more likely than men to be victims of wage theft, and are a majority of workers who would benefit from expanded overtime protections.
  12. Prioritize wage growth and very low unemployment when making monetary policy—better wage growth is crucial to ensuring that gender and racial wage gaps close for the right reasons, with wages rising for all groups but more rapidly for groups currently disadvantaged in labor markets.

Still Waiting for Congress to fix Taft-Hartley By Passing EFCA

Sen. Edward M. Kennedy

It has been a decade since Sen. Ted Kennedy first filed the Employee Free Choice Act.

He filed the bill on Friday, November 21, 2003 – almost exactly 40 years after the death of President John F. Kennedy.

A coincidence? Not likely. Here’s the back story:

The Employee Free Choice Act would restore union organizing rights that were taken away by the 1947 Taft-Hartley Act. John F. Kennedy was a member of the Congress that passed Taft-Hartley.

“The first thing I did in Congress was to become the junior Democrat on the labor committee. At the time we were considering the Taft-Hartley Bill. I was against it, and one day in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, I debated the bill with a junior Republican on that committee who was for it . . . his name was Richard Nixon.” [from a 1960 recording of President Kennedy reflecting on his career]

Both Kennedy and Nixon believed that Nixon won that debate. And just weeks later, Congress passed the Taft-Hartley Act, overriding a veto by President Harry Truman.

President Truman was eerily accurate in his predictions of what the Taft-Hartley Act would do.

Photo from Kheel Center, Cornell University via Flikr/Creative Commons

Photo from Kheel Center, Cornell University via Flikr/Creative Commons

From his radio address to the country:

“The Taft-Hartley bill is a shocking piece of legislation. It is unfair to the working people of this country. It clearly abuses the right, which millions of our citizens now enjoy, to join together and bargain with their employers for fair wages and fair working conditions. …”

“I fear that this type of legislation would cause the people of our country to divide into opposing groups. If conflict is created, as this bill would create it—if the seeds of discord are sown, as this bill would sow them—our unity will suffer and our strength will be impaired.”

From his veto message to Congress:

“When one penetrates the complex, interwoven provisions of this omnibus bill, and understands the real meaning of its various parts, the result is startling. … the National Labor Relations Act would be converted from an instrument with the major purpose of protecting the right of workers to organize and bargain collectively into a maze of pitfalls and complex procedures. … The bill would deprive workers of vital protection which they now have under the law…. This bill is perhaps the most serious economic and social legislation of the past decade. Its effects–for good or ill–would be felt for decades to come.”

Fast-forward through those decades, and read the testimony of former National Relations Labor Board Hearing Officer Nancy Schiffer:

“At some point in my career… I could no longer tell workers that the [National Labor Relations] Act protects their right to form a union. … Over the years, the law has been perverted. It now acts as a sword which is used by employers to frustrate employee freedom of choice and deny them their right to collective bargaining. When workers want to form a union to bargain with their employer, the NLRB election process, which was originally established as their means to this end, now provides a virtually insurmountable series of practical, procedural, and legal obstacles.”

Read this report by researchers at the University of Illinois-Chicago:

“Each year in the United States, more than 23,000 workers are fired or penalized for union activity. Aided by a weak labor law system that fails to protect workers’ rights, employers manipulate the current process of establishing union representation in a manner that undemocratically gives them the power to significantly influence the outcome of union representation elections. … Union membership in the United States is not declining because workers no longer want or need unions. Instead, falling union density is directly related to employers’ near universal and systematic use of legal and illegal tactics to stymie workers’ union organizing.”

Read the report by Cornell University Professor Kate Bronfenbrenner:

“Our findings suggest that the aspirations for representation are being thwarted by a coercive and punitive climate for organizing that goes unrestrained due to a fundamentally flawed regulatory regime … many of the employer tactics that create a punitive and coercive atmosphere are, in fact, legal. Unless serious labor law reform with real penalties is enacted, only a fraction of the workers who seek representation under the National Labor Relations Act will be successful. If recent trends continue, then there will no longer be a functioning legal mechanism to effectively protect the right of private-sector workers to organize and collectively bargain.”

Now, go back and consider President Truman’s most serious prediction from 66 years ago: that the Taft-Hartley Act “would cause the people of our country to divide into opposing groups. If conflict is created, as this bill would create it—if the seeds of discord are sown, as this bill would sow them—our unity will suffer and our strength will be impaired.”

President John F. Kennedy

Think about our national politics.  Isn’t our country divided enough? Isn’t it time to reverse the process started by the Taft-Hartley Act?

It’s been a decade since Sen. Kennedy first filed the Employee Free Choice Act.  Next week, we will mark a half-century since President John F. Kennedy died.

 

Isn’t it time to yank the roots of discord, start ending the conflict, and heal the division that was created by the Taft-Hartley Act?

————

To my long-time readers: apologies if this sounds familiar.  Once again, I have just updated last year’s post to reflect the passage of time; there was no reason to write a new post, because things haven’t changed.  So instead of trying to reword things I’ve already said, I’m just going to start using a new hashtag: #dejavu. (You can see all my repeats in one place!)

Actually, it’s not exactly true that “things haven’t changed.”  In this case they are changing — they’re getting worse.  But more on that, tomorrow.

New AFL-CIO Report Focuses On The Struggles Of Latino Americans After The Great Recession

A new report released in honor of Labor Day by the AFL-CIO shows that four years after the Great Recession officially ended, Latino working families continue to be disproportionally affected by the weak economic recovery. Across the country, Latino workers are struggling with higher rates of unemployment and underemployment, lower wages, and a dire financial outlook for retirement.

The report titled “The elusive American Dream: Lower wages, high unemployment and an uncertain retirement for Latinos,” compiles economic data  relevant to Latinos from several recent Economic Policy Institute (EPI) studies to show that unemployment and underemployment rates were higher, wages were lower and financial security for seniors was lower among Latino and African American workers. These reports offer both macro- and micro-level solutions to these inequalities.

According to data compiled in this report, the nationwide unemployment rate for Latinos continues to be higher than for whites and is projected to remain “essentially” the same at the end of this year. Furthermore, an August economic snapshot found that among employed Latinos and African-Americans, roughly one in five are underemployed.

Lower wages continue to hold back Latino working families. Between 2007 and 2012, both Latino and Latina full-time workers – defined as those working 35 or more hours per week – earned less in wages than their white and African American counterparts.

Additionally, Latinos and African Americans are more likely than whites to spend retirement mired in poverty, a June EPI report found. 70.1 percent of Latinos, age 65 and older, have incomes less than two times the supplemental poverty threshold. In comparison, only 43.8 percent of whites are economically vulnerable.

“Latino workers have been especially hard hit by the economic crisis.  It doesn’t have to be this way,” said Kelly Ross, Deputy Director for Policy at the AFL-CIO. “Low wages and economic inequality are the result of deliberate policy decisions that can and must be changed.  Increasing wages and reducing inequality is not only a matter of fairness and justice, it is also urgently necessarily if we want to fix what is wrong with our economy.”

The report concludes with several solutions for policy makers to increase jobs and address these problems such as creating large public infrastructure projects, adopting expansionary fiscal policies, passing legislation to increase the federal minimum wage and minimum wage of tipped workers, raising labor standards, reestablishing the right to collective bargaining, and providing a roadmap to citizenship for undocumented workers.

“This report confirms the unfortunate reality that many Latino workers are struggling to provide even the most basic needs to their families,” said Ana Avendaño, AFL-CIO Assistant to the President and Director of Immigration and Community Action. “This is wrong. Latinos work hard every day to build this nation. Let’s honor Labor Day by advocating for policies that will allow them to reach the American Dream.”

View the entire report here.

65 Years Later: Time to Start Healing the Divide

Sen. Edward M. Kennedy

It has been nine years since Sen. Ted Kennedy first filed the Employee Free Choice Act.

He filed the bill on Friday, November 21, 2003 – almost exactly 40 years after the death of President John F. Kennedy.

A coincidence?  Not likely.  Here’s the back story:

The Employee Free Choice Act would restore union organizing rights that had been effectively stripped by the 1947 Taft-Hartley Act.  John F. Kennedy was a member of the Congress that passed Taft-Hartley.

“The first thing I did in Congress was to become the junior Democrat on the labor committee. At the time we were considering the Taft-Hartley Bill. I was against it, and one day in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, I debated the bill with a junior Republican on that committee who was for it . . . his name was Richard Nixon.” [from a 1960 recording of President Kennedy reflecting on his career]

Both Kennedy and Nixon believed that Nixon won that debate.  Weeks later, Congress passed the Taft-Hartley Act, overriding a veto by President Harry Truman.

President Truman was eerily accurate in his predictions of what the Taft-Hartley Act would do.

Photo from Kheel Center, Cornell University via Flikr/Creative Commons

Photo from Kheel Center, Cornell University via Flikr/Creative Commons

From his radio address to the country:

“The Taft-Hartley bill is a shocking piece of legislation.  It is unfair to the working people of this country. It clearly abuses the right, which millions of our citizens now enjoy, to join together and bargain with their employers for fair wages and fair working conditions. …”

“I fear that this type of legislation would cause the people of our country to divide into opposing groups. If conflict is created, as this bill would create it—if the seeds of discord are sown, as this bill would sow them—our unity will suffer and our strength will be impaired.”

From his veto message to Congress:

“When one penetrates the complex, interwoven provisions of this omnibus bill, and understands the real meaning of its various parts, the result is startling. … the National Labor Relations Act would be converted from an instrument with the major purpose of protecting the right of workers to organize and bargain collectively into a maze of pitfalls and complex procedures. … The bill would deprive workers of vital protection which they now have under the law…. This bill is perhaps the most serious economic and social legislation of the past decade. Its effects–for good or ill–would be felt for decades to come.”

Fast-forward through those decades, and read the testimony of former National Relations Labor Board Hearing Officer Nancy Schiffer:

“At some point in my career… I could no longer tell workers that the [National Labor Relations] Act protects their right to form a union. … Over the years, the law has been perverted.  It now acts as a sword which is used by employers to frustrate employee freedom of choice and deny them their right to collective bargaining. When workers want to form a union to bargain with their employer, the NLRB election process, which was originally established as their means to this end, now provides a virtually insurmountable series of practical, procedural, and legal obstacles.”

Read this report by researchers at the University of Illinois-Chicago:

“Each year in the United States, more than 23,000 workers are fired or penalized for union activity. Aided by a weak labor law system that fails to protect workers’ rights, employers manipulate the current process of establishing union representation in a manner that undemocratically gives them the power to significantly influence the outcome of union representation elections. … Union membership in the United States is not declining because workers no longer want or need unions. Instead, falling union density is directly related to employers’ near universal and systematic use of legal and illegal tactics to stymie workers’ union organizing.”

Read the report by Cornell University Professor Kate Bronfenbrenner:

“Our findings suggest that the aspirations for representation are being thwarted by a coercive and punitive climate for organizing that goes unrestrained due to a fundamentally flawed regulatory regime … many of the employer tactics that create a punitive and coercive atmosphere are, in fact, legal. Unless serious labor law reform with real penalties is enacted, only a fraction of the workers who seek representation under the National Labor Relations Act will be successful. If recent trends continue, then there will no longer be a functioning legal mechanism to effectively protect the right of private-sector workers to organize and collectively bargain.”

Now, go back and consider President Truman’s most serious prediction from 65 years ago: that the Taft-Hartley Act “would cause the people of our country to divide into opposing groups. If conflict is created, as this bill would create it—if the seeds of discord are sown, as this bill would sow them—our unity will suffer and our strength will be impaired.”

President John F. Kennedy 

Think about this past election.  Isn’t our country divided enough?  Isn’t it time to reverse the process started by the Taft-Hartley Act?

It’s been nine years since Sen. Kennedy first filed the Employee Free Choice Act.

A year from now, we will mark a half-century since President John F. Kennedy died.

 

Isn’t it time to yank the roots of discord, start ending the conflict, and heal the division that was created by the Taft-Hartley Act?

 

 

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