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Rights and Democracy Decries Trump’s Executive Actions On Healthcare

Trump’s  Executive Order, Ending of Cost Sharing Reductions, and Roll Back of No-cost Contraception Will Rob Millions of Their Health Care

With the recent defeat of Graham Cassidy and the Affordable Care Act (ACA) repeal efforts that preceded, we thought the battle to save our health care was won.

Unfortunately, yesterday President Trump demonstrated unequivocally that this battle is far from over—he is directly attacking women, the middle class, and the poor in his effort to strip millions more from having necessary access to health care in order to provide tax breaks for the wealthy and powerful.

Rights & Democracy stands in opposition to Trump and the GOP Congressional leadership’s inhumane and immoral attack on the health care of hundreds of thousands of Granite Staters and millions of Americans. We stand in support of our members of Congress (see Sen. Maggie Hassan’s statement and Sen. Jeanne Shaheen’s statement) in their resistance to these proposals and we call on Governor Chris Sununu to do the same.

Last night the President announced that he will end Cost Sharing Reduction (CSR) payments that lower costs for more than 6 million people who buy coverage on the exchange. Uncertainty about the future of these CSRs is key reason that many insurers are substantially hiking their rates for 2018—some by more than 20 percent. Some insurers have also left the market. Even Republicans are worried about how this decision will drive up costs and leave millions uninsured.

In addition to the elimination of CSR payments, Trump issued a new executive order that allows health association plans to sell watered down health coverage that doesn’t meet current standards under the ACA. This executive order includes provisions like those in the ACA repeal bills that were roundly rejected earlier in the year by both lawmakers and the public. Trump’s order loosens up rules for insurance companies so that they can go back to refusing coverage for people with pre-existing conditions, charging them more for their coverage, and selling bogus plans that don’t even include essential health benefits like maternity care, mental health and prescription drugs that are required for plans sold in the ACA marketplaces. These plans could even have lifetime and annual benefit caps.

Waiving ACA protections means these plans can cherry pick young, healthy consumers and pull them out of the existing individual health insurance market, leading to a market dominated by older and sicker people. That means that rates will skyrocket, insurers will flee, and, ultimately, the entire private health insurance market could collapse.

Finally, the Trump Administration has launched a full on assault on women’s reproductive health with a sweeping new rule that eliminates free contraceptive coverage based on any religious or “moral” objections from the employer. This is a significant departure from the existing law, which allowed exemptions for religious employers like churches and Catholic hospitals only. Under the new rule, any employer, not just religious ones, can deny coverage for birth control based on their own personal religious beliefs or “moral” objections.

Through the ACA, employers were required to include no-cost birth control coverage in their health insurance plans. More than 55 million women have access to birth control without co-payments because of that guarantee – saving them $1.4 billion in 2013 alone. But now these 55 million women could lose access to free contraception if their bosses decide they suddenly have a “moral” objection to paying for it. As a result, millions of American women and families could be left without affordable birth control.

The eliminations of CSR payments, the executive order on health association plans, and the new rule denying contraceptive coverage to millions of women, all make it clear: Trump doesn’t care about the will of the people who have rejected the Republican agenda for health care over the past several months.

Instead of listening to Americans, Trump is charging full-steam ahead with his stated goal of ACA repeal through a political campaign to sabotage the ACA by forcing premium increases, creating instability in the market, actively interfering with the ability of consumers to sign up for coverage, and rolling back the no-cost birth control for 55 million women.

When coupled with the Republican budget proposal working its way through Congress now—which includes massive cuts to Medicaid and further privatizes Medicare—Trump’s sabotage would mean the destruction of our health system as we know it. We will return to the days when being sick could bar you from coverage. We will return to the days when being a woman meant discrimination in the health care system. And we will see Medicaid and Medicare—two programs essential to the quality of life of millions of Americans—irreversibly transformed leading to access and lower quality care.

And what does Trump and his GOP backers in Congress gain from robbing millions of their health care? Huge tax breaks for corporations and the wealthiest Americans.

Trump’s Sabotage Of The Affordable Care Act Will Hurt New Hampshire Families

Trump’s ACA Sabotage, Executive Order Will Gut Protections, Force Sickest to Pay Skyrocketing Prices, Destabilize Health Care for New Hampshire Families

Following an Executive Order that will increase junk insurance plans, news follows that President Trump will immediately end cost-sharing payments and destabilize health insurance markets

Concord, NH Yesterday, President Trump issued a new executive order that will expand the availability of junk insurance plans in a direct attempt to trigger the collapse of the entire private health insurance market and destroy the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Last night, the Trump administration signaled that it would also immediately end cost-sharing reduction payments to insurance companies, which analysts and advocates agree will destabilize health insurance markets in New Hampshire and across the nation.

The Congressional Budget Office estimated back in August that ending cost-sharing reductions would increase insurance premiums by 20% next year alone, effectively kick a million Americans off insurance, and add $194 billion to the deficit.

“These partisan, political acts are part of Trump’s relentless campaign to sabotage the ACA by forcing premium increases, creating instability in the market, actively interfering with the ability of consumers to sign up for coverage, and rolling back the contraceptive coverage mandate,” said Granite State Progress Executive Director Zandra Rice Hawkins. “These actions threaten the collapse of the entire individual health insurance market and leave our sick and most vulnerable to pay the price.”

“For years, Trump and Congressional Republicans have called for the repeal of the health care law without offering any viable replacement. Trump is now bent on destroying the one health care law that allowed millions of Americans to gain health insurance and improved coverage for essential health care benefits like maternity, mental health, and prescription drugs. Trump is stripping these important consumer protections and ending critical payments that help millions of lower-income Americans afford coverage. Any problems in our health care system from here on out rest solely at the feet of President Trump and other politicians who have created instability and skyrocketing premiums, and allowed the sale of junk plans without the essential health coverage people need when they are sick,” Rice-Hawkins added.

“Last night, Trumpcare became a reality. By refusing to continue cost-sharing reduction payments, President Trump has committed his most shameful act of sabotage on the insurance markets, threatening the health and wellbeing of millions of Americans and making premiums skyrocket for millions more,” said Raymond Buckley, Chair of the NH Democratic Party.  “Governor Sununu’s self-proclaimed closeness with Trump and his administration hasn’t yielded any help for New Hampshire. Instead, Sununu’s constant praise and support of Trump is starting to look like blind flattery.”

Buckley continued, “Make no mistake, Governor Sununu has precipitated Trump’s sabotage by fueling the flames of ACA repeal,  opposing Medicaid expansion, supporting various forms of Trumpcare, proposing Medicaid block grants, rejecting a reinsurance program, and refusing to join a bipartisan group of governors in calling for the protection of key health care protections. Rather than actively campaigning against dangerous Republican health care ideas, Sununu has either stayed silent or belatedly voiced his opposition once and disappeared. That is not leadership. Sununu is engaging in political calculation when Granite Staters need its governor the most.”

In a letter to President Trump in August, Governor Chris Sununu called for Trump to continue the cost sharing reduction payments. One of the main requests in the letter:

“Commit to funding CSR reimbursements for 2017 and 2018: Carriers calculate their rates far in advance, so continued uncertainty about the reimbursements fuel dramatic increases and could lead them to exit the market. This hurts consumers – most of all, those who cannot get coverage through work and do not qualify for federal subsidies. While I am sympathetic to the argument that these payments are a subsidy, to withhold them at this late date as carriers are trying to calculate rates is resulting in significant instability and further rate increases and fewer options.”

“Despite the American people’s rejection of the Affordable Care Act repeal, this new order is part of a concerted effort by the Trump administration to unravel the law’s patient protections and to destabilize healthcare marketplaces,” said Senator Shaheen. “This order only introduces more unnecessary chaos into our healthcare system, which undermines the healthcare that Granite Staters, and all Americans, depend on. The President must abandon these political efforts to destabilize the ACA, and finally prioritize working with Congress to address and fix this manufactured crisis. There are Republicans and Democrats who are ready to move forward with bipartisan legislation that will provide stability in the insurance marketplace, increase access to care and lower cost sharing.”

Senator Shaheen is leading efforts in the Senate to provide marketplace stability by permanently continuing and increasing eligibility for cost-sharing reduction payments. Her bill, the Marketplace Certainty Act, would make cost-sharing reduction payments permanent and expand eligibility to more working Americans.

“By deciding to stop payments for so-called cost-sharing reductions – which help lower deductibles, co-pays, and other out-of-pocket expenses – President Trump is cruelly and intentionally raising health care costs for millions of Americans,” said Senator Maggie Hassan. “The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office found that stopping these payments would cause health insurance premiums to skyrocket for millions of Americans while also ballooning the federal deficit, yet the President moved forward with this plan out of political spite. I have pushed for months to get Congress to act to provide certainty around these payments and help block the Trump Administration’s blatant sabotage attempts, and now is the time to finally stop this madness.”

Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter said that Trump should be “ashamed” for his actions that “will torpedo the individual insurance market”

“He is right to be so ashamed of this spiteful action he would only announce it in the dead of night. Stopping these payments won’t just hurt the lower-income people whose out-of-pocket costs are defrayed by CSRs, it will also hurt every one of the millions of Americans who buy their own coverage. That’s because insurance companies say they are going to charge everyone more to make up for the lost funding. Congress must act immediately to fund CSRs and protect our constituents from Trump’s vengeful and destructive actions.”

Congresswoman Annie Kuster also spoke out against the order.

“President Trump’s announcement today sadly continues to take us in the wrong direction on health care. During the last several months, I have been encouraged by conversations with both Republicans and Democrats about how we can address the ongoing challenges with the Affordable Care Act.  I believe that there are areas where we can all agree on solutions to fix issues faced by some Americans. Today’s executive order simply reverts back to the failed repeal and replace mantra. This executive order will result in higher costs to consumers and less access to health care for Granite State families. I will continue to work with my Democratic and Republican colleagues to look for commonsense solutions to stabilize the individual marketplace and strengthen our health care system.”

This executive order is not about helping people gain insurance coverage it is outright sabotage.  Millions of hard working Americans will be harmed by this executive order.  Some will lose their coverage. Some will be force to go without coverage because the costs are too high. Some will be forced to pay outrageously high premiums as they have no other option for coverage.

The American People spoke out loud and clear against the Republican healthcare plan. The Senate rejected the measure over and over because even some Republicans know that this plan will due massive harm to the American people.  But President Trump does not care about the will of the people, he is running the country like a unhinged tyrant.


UPDATED to include statement from NH Democratic Leadership

Senate Democratic Leader Jeff Woodburn, Senate Deputy Democratic Leader Donna Soucy, House Democratic Leader Steve Shurtleff and House Deputy Democratic Leader Cindy Rosenwald issued the following joint statement:

“President Trump’s decision to end cost-sharing reduction payments will dramatically hurt New Hampshire families’ ability to afford and access the health insurance they need. The Trump administration’s varied attempts to dismantle the Affordable Care Act and its protections are shameful and it is abundantly clear that this effort is an attempt to settle a political score rather than act in the best interest of the American people.

Today, we are calling on Governor Sununu and New Hampshire’s Republican legislative leaders to pass a reinsurance program to provide as much relief as possible to Granite Staters who will see premiums go up an average of 20% next year as a result of President Trump’s decision to cancel CSR payments. We are also calling on New Hampshire’s Attorney General Gordon MacDonald to join Attorneys General across the country who are promising to sue the Trump administration to protect cost-sharing reductions. We will work with anyone, anywhere to make sure Granite Staters continue to see the protections and guarantees they have received under the Affordable Care Act and fight back against President Trump’s destructive sabotage.”

Senator Shaheen To Introduce Legislation To Permanently Repeal The “Global Gag Rule”

Today, newly inaugurated President Trump signed an executive order to reinstate the Global Gag Rule, also known as the Mexico City Policy. This policy bans federal funds for non-governmental organizations that provide abortion services or provide information about abortion as part of family planning services. 

“The so-called Mexico City policy, established by Republican President Ronald Reagan in 1984, blocks federal funding for international family planning charities that provide abortions or “promote” the procedure by providing patients with information about it, including by offering referrals to abortion providers,” wrote Jessie Hillmann for The Hill.

“Trump’s ban could impact foreign organizations like the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPFF), which provides family planning services in more than 180 countries,” Hillmann added.

Tomorrow, Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), the only woman on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, will introduce bipartisan legislation in the Senate that would permanently repeal the Global Gag Rule. 

“The Trump Administration and Republican leadership have made no secret of their dangerous obsession with rolling back reproductive rights,” said Senator Shaheen. “President Trump’s reinstatement of the Global Gag Rule ignores decades of research, instead favoring ideological politics over women and families. We know that when family planning services and contraceptives are easily accessible, there are fewer unplanned pregnancies, maternal deaths, and abortions. And when women have control over their reproductive health, it improves the long-term health of mothers and children and creates a lasting economic benefit. I will continue to stand up to President Trump and Republican leadership in Congress who are intent on rolling back women’s access to reproductive healthcare, and will introduce bipartisan legislation to repeal the Global Gag Rule for good.”

Senator Maggie Hassan, who took office less than a month ago, was unhappy to hear that President Trump was reinstating the Global Gag Rule and says she will support Shaheen’s legislation.

“A woman’s right to make her own health care decisions and control her own destiny is critical to the health and well-being of women around the world. I strongly oppose President Trump’s decision to re-institute a backward policy that will limit women’s access to reproductive health care and family planning services. This dangerous restriction on foreign aid to some of our world’s most vulnerable people is not consistent with our values as Americans. We cannot let efforts to roll back women’s rights go unchecked, and I will support Senator Shaheen’s legislation to permanently repeal the global gag rule.”

“I’m very disappointed that as one of his first actions as President, Donald Trump will be harming poor women and families in countries that can least afford it,” said Congresswoman Annie Kuster (D-NH01). “The Global Gag Rule severely limits the ability of international aid organizations to provide comprehensive reproductive healthcare to women around the world and poses a very real threat to our global progress on maternal and child health. The reinstatement of the Global Gag Rule is a clear signal that the Trump Administration does not respect women’s reproductive rights and health.”

This move comes the day after the 44th Anniversary of the landmark Roe v. Wade decision.  Both Shaheen and Hassan released statements affirming their support of Roe v. Wade and the ability of women to make their own reproductive healthcare decisions.

Senator Shaheen:

“Today’s anniversary of Roe v. Wade is a reminder of the progress we have made and challenges that women still face to access comprehensive reproductive health care,” said Senator Shaheen. “In this last year, the Supreme Court handed down an important decision reinforcing a woman’s right to make her own medical decisions, and we saw the abortion rate drop to the lowest level since 1943. This data is another reminder that when family planning services are accessible and contraceptives are affordable, we see a reduction in unplanned pregnancies and abortion. 

“Despite this progress, women’s reproductive healthcare remains under constant assault. States have continued to pass restrictions intended to shut down clinics and Republican leadership in Congress have already taken steps to defund Planned Parenthood, one of the nation’s leading providers of high-quality, affordable health care for women.” 

“A woman’s personal medical decisions are her own to make in consultation with her family and her doctor. I will continue to stand up against any and all political efforts to rollback women’s reproductive rights in our country.”

Senator Hassan:

“The anniversary of the Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Roe v. Wade is a time to recommit ourselves to working to ensure that women can make their own health choices and chart their own destiny. On the heels of the remarkable Women’s Marches that mobilized millions of women across America yesterday, we must continue to speak up every day to protect our equal rights under the law.

“Protecting a woman’s right to make her own health care decisions and ensuring access to important health services – including critical primary and preventative health services provided at Planned Parenthood clinics across the nation – is essential to the economic vitality of our families, our communities and our nation.

“The efforts in Washington to repeal the Affordable Care Act, defund Planned Parenthood, and turn the clock back on reproductive freedoms undermine Granite Staters’ access to quality, affordable health care at providers they trust, and I will continue fighting any efforts that would force women to pay more for their health care or strip away their freedom to make their own health decisions.”

With known anti-abortion advocate, Vice President Mike Pence by his side, Trump began his assault on women’s reproductive rights.  It is obvious that this is only the first step by the Trump administration attempt to make abortion illegal and overturn Roe v. Wade.

Hazardous Child Labor Is Still Legal In The U.S. And President Obama Needs To End It

Tobacco, Image by Steve Snodgrass

Tobacco, Image by Steve Snodgrass

Nearly 50 members of Congress ask President Obama to ban child labor in U.S. tobacco before leaving Oval Office 

Washington, DC—Nearly 50 Members of Congress asked President Obama to ban child labor in U.S. tobacco fields in a letter sent to the White House today. U.S. child labor law allows children as young as 12 to work unlimited hours in tobacco fields as long as they are not missing school. “Voluntary policies among tobacco companies have attempted to get children under 16 out of the fields, but it isn’t clear those policies are effective or why they permit 16- and 17-year-old children to do work that is hazardous and makes them ill,” said Sally Greenberg, co-chair of the Child Labor Coalition (CLC) and executive director of the National Consumers League.

“We believe that this work is too dangerous for workers under 18,” said Greenberg. “Children working in tobacco fields suffer regular bouts of nicotine poisoning, otherwise known as Green Tobacco Sickness. They are also subjected to dangerous pesticide residues and use razor-sharp tools. We believe tobacco work should be conducted by adults who are better able to deal with the risks, and kids who have to work or who want to work should be re-directed into safer jobs.”

Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI) authored the letter, which asks the President to designate tobacco work for children as “hazardous child labor” and by doing so, render it illegal. Cicilline has been a persistent advocate of protecting U.S. child tobacco workers since a Human Rights Watch report, “Tobacco’s Hidden Children—Hazardous Child Labor in United States Tobacco Farming,” found that nearly three out of four child tobacco workers interviewed suffered symptoms that correlated with nicotine poisoning.

“Laws that allow children to risk nicotine exposure while working in tobacco fields are hopelessly out of date and put children’s health in jeopardy. President Obama should act immediately to prohibit this hazardous work for children,” said Jo Becker, children’s rights advocacy director for Human Rights Watch (HRW).

In August, the CLC sent a letter signed by 110 groups, representing tens of millions of Americans, to President Obama urging him to ban child labor in U.S. tobacco before he leaves office. The Administration has not responded to the request.

In 2012, under strong pressure from the farm lobby, the Obama Administration withdrew long-overdue occupational protections for child farmworkers that would have banned child labor in tobacco while providing several other life-saving protections.

“We call on President Obama to rectify this decision and protect child tobacco workers from the dangers of nicotine poisoning before another child farmworker becomes ill at work,” said Norma Flores López, chair of the CLC’s Domestic Issues Committee. “Children who work in tobacco fields often wear black plastic garbage bags on their torsos to try to avoid contact with nicotine-laden tobacco leafs. Imagine the heat they experience in broiling sun wearing those bags? How can we subject them to those conditions?”

Both the Washington Post and the New York Times have urged the Obama Administration to issue federal rules to ban child labor in U.S. tobacco.  

On May 5, the Federal Drug Administration announced new regulations prohibiting the sale of e-cigarettes to children. “We’ve agreed for many years that nicotine does not belong in the hands of children,” said Secretary of Health and Human Services Sylvia Mathews Burwell. 

“Despite this concern, the Obama Administration has not yet taken appropriate steps to protect child tobacco workers from nicotine poisoning in the fields,” said HRW’s Becker.

In September, Nobel Peace Prize winner Kailash Satyarthi, a global leader of the movement to end child labor and child slavery tweeted a plea for the President “as a fellow Nobel Prize laureate” to ban child labor in U.S. tobacco.

“The United State has adopted the global sustainable development goal of ending child labor in the next nine years, but refuses to take the important first step of ending hazardous child labor in our tobacco fields,” said Reid Maki, director of child labor advocacy for the National Consumers League and coordinator of the CLC. “How sincerely are we embracing this vital goal if we won’t ban hazardous work that most Americans would agree is too dangerous for children—work that has been already banned in India and Brazil?” 


About the Child Labor Coalition

The Child Labor Coalition, which has 38 member organizations, represents consumers, labor unions, educators, human rights and labor rights groups, child advocacy groups, and religious and women’s groups. It was established in 1989, and is co-chaired by the National Consumers League and the American Federation of Teachers. Its mission is to protect working youth and to promote legislation, programs, and initiatives to end child labor exploitation in the United States and abroad. The CLC’s website and membership list can be found at www.stopchildlabor.org.

Labor And Civil Rights Groups Urge Supreme Court To Take Immigration Case From Texas

Supreme Court of the US (Image Mark Fischer Flickr)

Supreme Court of the US (Image Mark Fischer Flickr)

Coalition of Immigration, Civil Rights, Labor, and Social Service Groups Urges
Supreme Court to Protect President’s Executive Actions on Immigration

Legal Brief Filed by 224 Groups Pushes High Court to Hear Landmark Immigration Case, Texas v. U.S.

Washington, D.C. — A coalition of 224 immigration, civil rights, labor, and social service groups has filed an amicus (“friend of the court”) brief, urging the Supreme Court to review the case, Texas v. U.S., that has blocked some of President Obama’s executive actions on immigration. The filing comes less than a month after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit upheld a preliminary injunction put in place by a Texas federal district court that blocked implementation of protections for millions of immigrants across the country.

The filing from the American Immigration Council, National Immigration Law Center, Service Employees International Union, American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations, Advancement Project, LatinoJustice PRLDEF, and the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, among others, comes only ten days after the formal request, known as a petition for writ of certiorari, from the Department of Justice to the Supreme Court to review the case. Amicus briefs in support of a cert petition are usually due 30 days after the petition is filed. The amici coalition acted swiftly given that the Department of Justice has requested a briefing schedule that would allow the Supreme Court ample time to hear the case during the current term and issue a decision by June 2016.

“The breadth and depth of support for the President’s executive actions is clear,” said Marielena Hincapié, Executive Director of the National Immigration Law Center. “It’s now up to the Supreme Court to take the case up this term and put the legal questions to rest so that the over 5 million U.S. citizen children whose parents are eligible for DAPA, can finally have stability and be free from the fear that they will one day be separated from their parents.

“With more than 200 organizations joining this amicus, including labor groups that represent millions of immigrant workers, there’s no question that the president’s immigration initiatives are necessary and backed by the majority of the American public,” said Rocio Saenz, executive vice president of SEIU International. “The Supreme Court has a responsibility to take this case, just as we have a duty to mobilize our communities to continue to defend the immigration action and push lasting immigration reform to the forefront of the agenda with our vote.”

The brief provides personal stories and testimonials about potential beneficiaries of expanded DACA and DAPA and explains how these deferred action initiatives would positively impact millions of U.S. citizen and lawful permanent resident children, family members, employers, employees and other community members. The groups explain that the sweeping injunction upheld in the lower court directly harms individuals who have either been in the U.S. since they were children or are the parents of U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents.

“The individuals profiled in the brief illustrate the havoc this case has wreaked on the lives of millions of immigrants who remain in legal limbo,” added Benjamin Johnson, Executive Director of the American Immigration Council. “We urge the U.S. Supreme Court to take up this case and give hard working immigrant families the chance to live and work without fear of deportation.”

The immigration programs, which were announced by the President last November, would expand eligibility for the existing Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and expand protections for parents of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents through a program known as Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA). Together, the programs would allow millions of undocumented individuals to remain in the United States without fear of deportation and apply for work authorization permits for a period of three years, with the possibility of renewal. 

“The DAPA and expanded DACA policies will help ensure that families are not needlessly separated and that immigrant workers can speak up for basic safety and fairness on the job without facing retaliation,” said Tefere Gebre, Executive Vice President of the AFL-CIO.  “We urge the Supreme Court to take up this case right away.” 

  • Click here to see the full legal brief.
  • Click here for more background on the legal challenges to executive action on immigration: 
  • Click here to see an interactive timeline outlining the process for review of the case by the Supreme Court:

Labor Day 2015: Will New Overtime Rules Be Game Changer For Progressive Political Campaigns?

Image by Rose Lincoln, 1199SEIU

Image by Rose Lincoln, 1199 SEIU

By Judy Stadtman
Originally posted on Miscellany Blue

If the new overtime regulations proposed by President Obama go into effect, I will get a raise. Not just a measly little pay bump, either; I will receive a salary increase that is roughly triple the average annual increase guaranteed under my union contract.

In fact, many highly-skilled professionals with extensive experience in progressive campaigns and policy advocacy will likely go home with fatter paychecks if the new rules take effect in 2016. But rank-and-file campaign workers at the low end of the pay scale — who may be expected to work 60-70 hours a week for as little as $2,000 a month — stand to gain the most from the modernization of overtime rules.

A dirty little secret

The unwholesome little secret of progressive organizations and political candidates is that the exploitation of workers is excused as an inevitable factor of winning campaigns.

Just as with big corporations that put profits before people, cash-strapped candidates and campaigns stretch their budgets by minimizing overhead costs. That translates into keeping staff salaries low and work hours high, plus convincing as many people as possible to do the work for free.

Entry-level campaign organizers, who have virtually no discretion over when, where and how to complete work assignments and no control over their work hours, are responsible for recruiting, training and managing the unpaid volunteers who are also essential to executing today’s high-intensity model of campaign operations.

By the numbers

To qualify as overtime-exempt “professionals” under current regulations, full-time entry-level campaign workers can be paid salaries as low as $24,000 a year – the equivalent of $11.54 an hour.

For a staffer who is expected to work 10-12 hours a day, 6 to 7 days a week for the duration of a campaign, a $24,000 salary converts to average hourly earnings of roughly $7.10 an hour — less than the federal minimum wage.

According to wage data analyzed by glassdoor.com, average compensation for deputy field organizers is $34,000 a year, or about $16.35 an hour based on a 40 hour work-week – not a princely sum for an employee who is expected to work executive hours, with no days off and little or no power to control his or her own workflow.

A field organizer earning $3,000 a month and working a typical campaign schedule of 65-70 hours a week would ultimately take home the equivalent of roughly $10.50 an hour. As it stands, all of these practices are mostly legal.

Hard choices

If the salary threshold for overtime-exempt employees rises from the current minimum of $23,660 to the proposed minimum of $50,440, the progressive political industry will be faced with an assortment of hard choices: substantially raise the pay of bottom-rung campaign staff; fork over formidable sums of overtime pay; adapt to a 40-hour work-week; recalibrate campaign operations to rely on fewer paid staff; or, dramatically cut spending on other essential campaign activities, such as paid advertising and direct mail.

Since none of these options is particularly compatible with the fast-paced, anxiety-ridden reality of 21st century campaign culture, some operations may be looking for a work-around. That “work-around” is likely to involve the misclassification of regular, full-time organizing staff as independent contractors.

Less than ethical organizations and campaigns already use this tactic to hold down staffing costs. In this scenario, a campaign worker is paid a fixed wage (sometimes as low as $2,000 a month) to deliver organizing services under the direction of a centralized campaign manager or field director.

This could be a fair labor practice, except when the field director schedules an organizer’s daily workload, dictates when, where and how assignments are to be completed, imposes intensive and inflexible reporting requirements, or specifies the number of hours the organizer is required to spend on campaign activities each day — which once again, can be 10-12 hours a day, 6 to 7 days a week.

Under federal law, any one of these management interventions would automatically disqualify a campaign worker from being paid as an independent contractor.

Employment ad currently running on Grassroots Campaigns

The feel good factor doesn’t pay the rent

Personally, I hope the prospect of new and improved overtime rules will provoke a round of soul-searching among progressive advocacy organizations and major donors about how we do our work and the quality of the jobs we create in the process of advancing our goals.

It is noteworthy that the proposed overtime change coincides with mounting evidence that the most effective campaign tactics involve unscripted, personal interactions with voters — which is precisely the quality and intensity of contact that rank-and-file political organizers generate through direct outreach and volunteer engagement.

The intrinsic benefits of serving the common good are significant and undeniable. But the feel good factor doesn’t pay the rent. The entry-level work of organizing for change requires creativity, flexibility, self-regulation and above-average technical, communication, and social skills. It should be rewarded at least as generously as the $15.00 per hour now demanded by fast-food and retail workers across the country.

Regardless of the altruistic orientation or future political ambitions of the people hired to get the work done, campaign jobs are just like any other job that paid workers perform to meet the productivity standards of their managers and bosses.

If we truly believe that workers at Walmart and McDonald’s deserve better wages and working conditions, there is no legitimate excuse to reward the hard work and passionate commitment of political campaign workers with low pay, no days off and excessive uncompensated overtime.

Walking the talk

Lifelong liberal activists may find it difficult to acknowledge that less than exemplary labor practices exist in the progressive movement. Even those who have worked as paid campaign staff may be tempted to tolerate worker mistreatment as part of the necessary sacrifice we make to win change.

Certainly, not all progressive organizations and campaigns are guilty of low-road employment schemes; in New Hampshire, most advocacy campaigns and political groups compensate political staff and paid canvassers fairly. But the problem won’t go away unless we insist on the fair and humane use of human resources in high-performance political campaigns.

Progressive activists are constantly encouraged to live our values and “walk the talk” (phrases that, unfortunately, are most often used to persuade volunteers and donors to give more time or money to a candidate or cause).

As we address the urgent need to update federal overtime rules and the potential impact it will have on the political industry, let’s not forget that “walking the talk” means honoring the fundamental progressive principle of valuing work, and demanding fair treatment for all workers no matter what kind of job they do.

Judy Stadtman is a legislative reform and political campaign specialist. She currently holds a senior staff position with a New Hampshire labor organization. The opinions expressed in this commentary are her own.

Statement by AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka On Immigration Accountability Executive Action

Today is an important step toward rational and humane enforcement of immigration law. On behalf of America’s workers, we applaud the Administration’s willingness to act.  We have been calling upon the White House to halt unnecessary deportations since Spring 2013 because our broken immigration system is an invitation for employer manipulation and abuse, and U.S.-born workers as well as immigrant workers are paying the price.

By extending relief and work authorization to an estimated 4 million people, the Obama Administration will help prevent unscrupulous employers from using unprotected workers to drive down wages and conditions for all workers in our country.  Although this fix will be temporary, it will allow millions of people to live and work without fear, and afford them the status to assert their rights on the job.

The Administration is operating within its authority to advance the moral and economic interests of our country, and while we stand ready to defend this program, we must also be clear that it is only a first step.  Unfortunately, more than half of those who currently lack legal protections will remain vulnerable to wage theft, retaliation, and other forms of exploitation.

In addition, we are concerned by the President’s concession to corporate demands for even greater access to temporary visas that will allow the continued suppression of wages in the tech sector.  We will actively engage in the rulemaking process to ensure that new workers will be hired based on real labor market need and afforded full rights and protections.

But this announcement does move us forward – progress that is attributable to the courage and determination of immigrants who rallied, petitioned, fasted and blocked streets to make it happen.  Implementation of the executive action should begin immediately, before further delays open the door for legislative obstruction. Starting tomorrow, the administration should focus enforcement attention on high level targets, stop the community raids and leave workers, grandmothers, and schoolchildren in peace.

Going forward, we renew our call for comprehensive reform that provides a path to citizenship and real protections for workers.  We will continue to stand with all workers, regardless of status, to ensure that their voices are heard and their rights are protected.  Working together, we know that we will ultimately achieve a more just immigration system that promotes shared prosperity and respects the dignity of all workers.

Unions Applaud President Obama’s “Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces” Executive Order

White House PensToday is a monumental day for federal workers and those who work for federal contractors.   Today President Obama made it very clear that he would no longer tolerate the mistreatment of workers who are being paid for with money from the US Government.

The White House Press Secretary explains:

“As part of this Year of Action, the President will sign an Executive Order that will require prospective federal contractors to disclose labor law violations and will give agencies more guidance on how to consider labor violations when awarding federal contracts. Although many contractors already play by the rules, and federal contracting offers already must assess a contractor’s record of integrity, these officers still may not necessarily know about companies’ workplace violations. The new process is also structured to encourage companies to settle existing disputes, like paying back wages. And finally, the Executive Order also ensures that workers are given the necessary information each pay period to verify the accuracy of their paycheck and workers who may have been sexually assaulted or had their civil rights violated get their day in court by putting an end to mandatory arbitration agreements at corporations with large federal contracts.”

“By cracking down on federal contractors who break the law, the President is helping ensure that all hardworking Americans get the fair pay and safe workplaces they deserve.”

While Congress is rushing around to finish their last sessions before leaving on a month long vacation, the President using his executive authority to do what Congress is incapable of doing.

“Once again, the President is leading by example. Establishing the principle that if you are breaking the law, you don’t get to do business with the biggest employer in the country — the federal government,” said Joseph Geevarghese, deputy director of Change to Win. “Just like the executive order raising the minimum wage had a ripple effect across the economy, we hope that this bold step by the President sends a clear signal to the private sector that you need to do right by your workers.”

“Taxpayers shouldn’t reward lawbreakers that bust unions, steal wages and endanger workers,” said Teamsters General President Jim Hoffa. “President Obama is right to make it harder for companies that abuse workers to receive federal contracts.”

Many who have worked for years, if not decades, pushing for an Executive Order that would protect workers, paid high praise to President Obama for his leadership.

“From raising wages to workplace protections, President Obama is showing strong leadership where it’s needed most,” said Richard Trumka, AFL-CIO President. “Today’s executive order is a common sense measure that will make our contracting system fairer. Preventing tax dollars from being funneled to chronic violators of workers’ rights is good for workers, our economy and companies who play by the rules. When Congress shows the same leadership, all workers will be better off.”

“By signing this executive order, President Obama has demonstrated his continued commitment to protecting the rights of American workers,” said SEIU President Mary Kay Henry. “This action will help protect the wages and lives of millions of Americans by giving the government tools to identify and fix workplace violations committed by companies that hold federal contracts. President Obama is right to use his authority to ensure that the federal government leads in the fight for good jobs, protects taxpayer dollars and makes sure the government gets good value for the goods and services it purchases.

“I commend President Obama for signing an executive order that will hold companies that receive significant taxpayer dollars more accountable for their actions,” said Dennis Williams, President of the United Auto Workers. “The president’s order will help tens of millions of workers have a better workplace environment and will create a level playing field for businesses that do the right thing. Today’s announcement is yet another example of the president’s tireless work to improve workplace safety and employees rights.”

“The UAW is proud to stand with President Obama — a president who has stood by hard working Americans! This is another step in the right direction to help rebuild the middle class and strengthen our economy,” Williams said.

“Today, President Obama took a stand for American workers by signing an executive order that will promote fairer and safer workplaces for employees of government contractors,” said Leo W. Gerard, International President of the United Steelworker Union. “While many federal contractors already play by the rules and try to treat their workers fairly, thousands of hard-working Americans end up being denied the pay they deserve, or being exposed to health and safety risks, because some contractors insist on cutting corners in the name of profits.”

This is a major step forward to ensure that all workers get what they rightfully earned and those who cheat will not be rewarded. Here are some of the ways the President Obama is going to be cracking down on government contractors.

  1. Hold Corporations Accountable
  2. Crack Down on Repeat Violators
  3. Promote Efficient Federal Contracting 
  4. Protect Responsible Contractors
  5. Focus on Helping Companies Improve
  6. Give Employees a Day in Court
  7. Give Employees Information About their Paychecks
  8. Streamline Implementation and Overall Contractor Reporting

    (You can read the full press release with expanded descriptions of each of these points here.)

“Holding contractors to basic labor standards not only ensures that the federal government is getting the proper value for its dollar, it will protect responsible contractors in the marketplace from unfair competition by unethical employers who profit from their violations of the labor and employment laws that all employers are required to respect,” continued SEIU President Mary Kay Henry.

The SEUI and Good Jobs Nation have been working to organize low-wage fast food workers both inside and outside the government. Yesterday, low-wage federal contract workers who are part of Good Jobs Nation went on strike for the 9th time to call for an end to wage theft, living wages and benefits, and the right to collectively bargain. They are on the front lines when it comes to the horrors of wage theft and maleficence from government contractors.

“The current system doesn’t do enough to ensure taxpayer dollars only go to responsible employers. It’s difficult to know about a company’s record of compliance with the Family and Medical Leave Act, the Fair Labor Standards Act and others laws that protect working families. That’s why President Obama’s action today is so important. With more than 20 percent of Americans working for companies that do business with the federal government, this executive order will have a real impact on the lives of workers,” concluded Kay Henry.

“Today’s announcement builds on years of work by UFCW members and our partner unions to create a system that is fairer for workers and encourages a race to the top when it comes to labor standards,” said Joe Hansen, International President of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW). “These efforts included a 2013 resolution passed unanimously by delegates to the UFCW convention calling on the creation of a ‘High Road’ procurement process.”

All in all this order is about protecting workers in every sector of the government.

“In the last several years, the meat and poultry industries have received over 1 billion dollars from taxpayers. Many workers in these industries work full-time yet are not paid enough to support themselves or their families. They also must endure dangerous workplace conditions and chronic underreporting of injuries by their employers,” continued Hansen. “This executive order sends a message that companies who engage in this type of anti-worker activity must change the way they do business or lose access to their government contracts.”

Others took this announcement as chance to once again to highlight the dysfunction of our current Congress.

“With this order, President Obama has sent the message that in the United States, we put people ahead of profits, as he has throughout his time in the Oval Office,” continued USW President Leo Gerard. “Sadly, we have a Republican Congress that takes the opposite approach. Because they are more interested in giving handouts to their wealthy donors than in helping working Americans, the President is forced to take action on his own.”

“We welcome this action by President Obama and call on everyone in Washington to follow his example and start working together to make life better for all American workers and their families,” concluded Gerard.

All in all it was a good day for workers, a bad day for corporations who cheat, and a good day for the American taxpayers who will see savings from the new contracting process.

“I want to thank President Obama, Secretary of Labor Perez, and all those involved in crafting this executive order. Today’s announcement is an important first step in ensuring our government is doing everything in its power to protect America’s workers,” concluded UFCW President Joe Hansen.

Related post: The Government Is The Largest Creator Of Low-Wage Jobs – by Matt Murray

President Obama Signs Fair Pay And Safe Workplace Executive Order

From:
The White House
Office of the Press Secretary

720px-US-WhiteHouse-Logo.svg

FACT SHEET: Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces Executive Order

While the vast majority of federal contractors play by the rules, every year tens of thousands of American workers are denied overtime wages, not hired or paid fairly because of their gender or age, or have their health and safety put at risk by corporations contracting with the federal government that cut corners.  Taxpayer dollars should not reward corporations that break the law, so today President Obama is cracking down on federal contractors who put workers’ safety and hard-earned pay at risk.

As part of this Year of Action, the President will sign an Executive Order that will require prospective federal contractors to disclose labor law violations and will give agencies more guidance on how to consider labor violations when awarding federal contracts.  Although many contractors already play by the rules, and federal contracting offers already must assess a contractor’s record of integrity, these officers still may not necessarily know about companies’ workplace violations. The new process is also structured to encourage companies to settle existing disputes, like paying back wages.  And finally, the Executive Order also ensures that workers are given the necessary information each pay period to verify the accuracy of their paycheck and workers who may have been sexually assaulted or had their civil rights violated get their day in court by putting an end to mandatory arbitration agreements at corporations with large federal contracts.

By cracking down on federal contractors who break the law, the President is helping ensure that all hardworking Americans get the fair pay and safe workplaces they deserve.

  Key Provisions of the Executive Order   

The Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces Executive Order will govern new federal procurement contracts valued at more than $500,000, providing information on companies’ compliance with federal labor laws for agencies.  We expect the Executive Order to be implemented on new contracts in stages, on a prioritized basis, during 2016.  The Department of Labor estimates that there are roughly 24,000 businesses with federal contracts, employing about 28 million workers.

1. Hold Corporations Accountable: Under the terms of the Executive Order, agencies will require prospective contractors to disclose labor law violations from the past three years before they can get a contract.  The 14 covered Federal statutes and equivalent state laws include those addressing wage and hour, safety and health, collective bargaining, family and medical leave, and civil rights protections.  Agencies will also require contractors to collect similar information from many of their subcontractors.

2. Crack Down on Repeat Violators: Contracting officers will take into account only the most egregious violations, and each agency will designate a senior official as a Labor Compliance Advisor to provide consistent guidance on whether contractors’ actions rise to the level of a lack of integrity or business ethics.  This advisor will support individual contracting officers in reviewing disclosures and consult with the Department of Labor.  The Executive Order will ensure that the worst actors, who repeatedly violate the rights of their workers and put them in danger, don’t get contracts and thus can’t delay important projects and waste taxpayer money.

3. Promote Efficient Federal Contracting: Federal agencies risk poor performance by awarding contracts to companies with a history of labor law violations.  In 2010, the Government Accountability Office issued a report finding that almost two-thirds of the 50 largest wage-and-hour violations and almost 40 percent of the 50 largest workplace health-and-safety penalties issued between FY 2005 and FY 2009 were at companies that went on to receive new government contracts.  Last year, Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee Chairman Tom Harkin issued a report revealing that dozens of contractors with significant health, safety, and wage and hour violations were continuing to be awarded federal contacts.  Another study detailed that 28 of the companies with the top workplace violations from FY 2005 to FY 2009 subsequently received federal contracts, and a quarter of those companies eventually had significant performance problems as well—suggesting a strong relationship between contractors with a history of labor law violations and those that cannot deliver adequate performance for the taxpayer dollars they receive.  Because the companies with workplace violations are more likely to encounter performance problems, today’s action will also improve the efficiency of federal contracting and result in greater returns on federal tax dollars.

4. Protect Responsible Contractors: The vast majority of federal contractors have clean records.  The Department of Labor estimates that the overwhelming majority of companies with federal contracts have no federal workplace violations in the past three years.  Contractors who invest in their workers’ safety and maintain a fair and equitable workplace shouldn’t have to compete with contractors who offer low-ball bids—based on savings from skirting the law—and then ultimately deliver poorer performance to taxpayers.  The Executive Order builds on the existing procurement system, so it will be familiar to contractors and will fit into established contracting practices. Responsible businesses will check a single box on a bid form indicating that they don’t have a history of labor law violations.  The Federal contracting community and other interested parties will be invited to participate in listening sessions with OMB, DOL, and senior White House officials to share views on how to ensure implementing policies and practices are both fair and effective.  DOL and other enforcement agencies along with the Federal Acquisition Regulatory Council will consider this input as they draft regulations and guidance, which will be published for public comment before being finalized.

5. Focus on Helping Companies Improve: The goal of the process created by the Executive Order is to help more contractors come into compliance with workplace protections, not to deny contracts to contractors.  Companies with labor law violations will be offered the opportunity to receive early guidance on whether those violations are potentially problematic and remedy any problems.  Contracting officers will take these steps into account before awarding a contract and ensure the contractor is living up to the terms of its agreement.

6. Give Employees a Day in Court: The Executive Order directs companies with federal contracts of $1  million or more not to require their employees to enter into predispute arbitration agreements for disputes arising out of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act or from torts related to sexual assault or harassment (except when valid contracts already exist).  This builds on a policy already passed by Congress and successfully implemented at the Department of Defense, the largest federal contracting agency, and will help improve contractors’ compliance with labor laws.

7. Give Employees Information About their Paychecks: As a normal part of doing business, most employers give their workers a pay stub with basic information about their hours and wages.  To be sure that all workers get this basic information, the Executive Order requires contractors to give their employees information concerning their hours worked, overtime hours, pay, and any additions to or deductions made from their pay, so workers can be sure they’re getting paid what they’re owed.

8. Streamline Implementation and Overall Contractor Reporting: The Executive Order directs the General Services Administration to develop a single website for contractors to meet their reporting requirements—for this order and for other contractor reporting.  Contractors will only have to provide information to one location, even if they hold multiple contracts across different agencies.  The desire to “report once in one place” is a key theme in the feedback received from current and potential contractors.  This step is one in a series of actions to make the federal marketplace more attractive to the best contractors, more accessible to small businesses and other new entrants, and more affordable to taxpayers.

Part of the basic American bargain is that if you take responsibility, work hard and play by the rules, workers can count on fair wages, freedom from discrimination on the job, and safe and equitable workplaces. Taxpayer dollars shouldn’t be used by unscrupulous employers to drive down living standards for our families, neighbors, and communities.  By creating incentives for better compliance and a process for helping contractors come into compliance with basic workplace protection laws, the Executive Order is basic good government that will increase efficiency in federal contracting and will help strengthen our workforce and our economy.

AFL-CIO Statement On Obama’s Executive Order To Protect Employees From Gender Discrimination

Statement by AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka on President Obama’s Executive Order Protecting Federal Employees from Gender Identity Discrimination

Working people believe in equality and fairness. That’s why we are happy to stand with President Obama in supporting protections for workers who are discriminated against on the basis of gender identity.

It is wrong for any employer to discriminate against or fire a worker based on actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. Discrimination in the workplace has no place in the United States. That’s why it’s difficult to believe that in many parts of the country, it’s legal to fire workers for their sexual orientation or gender identity.

America’s unions and working families are dedicated to bringing fairness and dignity to the workplace—and will continue this work until every worker is treated with dignity and respect on the job.

We are proud to come together for a more just America.

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