Granite State Rumblings: How Healthcare, Income Inequality, and The Gender Wage Gap, Are All Connected

African American waitress serving lunch

Since President Obama gave the State of the Union Address, we have been hearing a lot of talk about income inequality and the gender wage gap.

A new report from The Working Poor Families Project states that in 2012, there were more than 10 million low-income working families with children in the United States, and 39 percent (4.1million) were headed by working mothers struggling to support 8.5 million children. The economic conditions for these families have worsened since the onset of the recession; between 2007 and 2012, there was a four percentage-point increase in the share of female-headed working families that are low-income.

The report defines “low-income working families” as earning no more than twice the federal poverty income threshold. In 2012, the low-income threshold for a family of three with two children was $36,966.

Addressing challenges specific to these families will increase their economic opportunity, boost the economy and strengthen the fabric of communities across the nation.

Public policy can play a critical role in our future prosperity by reversing this trend and improving outcomes for low-income working mothers. While the federal government can play a role, of particular interest in this report is how state governments can best invest in helping working mothers gain the education, skills, and supports necessary to become economically secure and provide a strong economic future for their children.

Here are a few of the key points from the report:

Education

  • Increasingly, education is the key to success in the labor force and is a major factor driving the growing economic gap between lower-income and higher-income families. However, relatively few low-income working mothers have the training and skills needed to earn decent wages.
  • Education can provide a pathway out of poverty, but postsecondary education and skills training are often out of reach for low-income working mothers.
  • Access to postsecondary education can be limited due to a number of factors such as tuition costs, transportation issues and class schedules that conflict with standard working hours.
  • Lack of affordable, high-quality child care also limits the ability of working mothers to both enter and succeed in college.

Low Income, Fewer Benefits

  • A key barrier for working mothers is the gender gap in earnings. In 2012, women earned just 77 cents for every dollar earned by men, a gap that has persisted over the past ten years.
  • The primary challenge for working mothers is their concentration in low-wage jobs. Women remain significantly underrepresented in many high- paying, high-demand occupations, especially in blue-collar and technical fields.
  • Women in low-wage work are often in jobs that do not provide benefits such as health insurance paid sick leave, or, in some occupations, even wage protections.
  • The U.S. Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), guarantees the availability of unpaid sick leave for just over half of U.S. workers. But for those not covered, and/or who are living from paycheck to paycheck, unpaid leave is generally not a viable option since staying at home to take care of a sick child may lead to greater economic pressures, including the loss of a job.

For maximum impact on this problem, the report says state governments should focus on policies that are sensitive to the needs of working mothers and to all parents in general by:

  • Increasing access and success for low- income working mothers in postsecondary education.
    • Create and expand tuition assistance programs that make postsecondary education accessible for low-income working mothers.
    • Allow undocumented students to pay in-state tuition at public post-secondary schools.
    • Better utilize existing program resources of TANF, Adult Education and WIA to support the success of working mothers in postsecondary education.
    • Provide increased and dedicated academic and personal supports for low-income working mothers, including affordable, high-quality child care and other strategies targeted to promote student parent success.
    • Invest in programs that help pregnant women and young mothers achieve a high school credential and transition to postsecondary education.
    • Restructure adult basic education and community college programs in accordance with bridge program and career pathway concepts to better accommodate low- income working mothers, including English Language Learners who may be seeking an occupation credential or degree.
    • Take steps to encourage and support low-income working mothers to pursue career and technical education/training programs in nontraditional fields such as STEM, manufacturing and transportation by crafting state policies to take advantage of opportunities in such programs as Perkins, WIA and apprenticeships.
  • Improving the quality of low-wage jobs.
    • Raise the state minimum wage and minimum wage for employees who receive tips and index them to inflation to help meet basic household needs.
    • Implement and enforce paid maternity leave and paid sick leave policies to ensure all working mothers can take paid time off when they or their children are sick.
  • Creating a strong network of work supports to strengthen female-headed, low-income families and assure basic family needs are met.
    • Provide a state refundable EITC for low- income families, including non-resident fathers who pay their child support, to help make low-wage work pay.
    • Support the expansion of Medicaid eligibility under the Affordable Care Act to ensure low-wage working mothers have access to affordable health care.
    • Improve access to quality child care for low-income families during work and school.
    • Maintain a strong commitment to work supports (e.g., SNAP, Medicaid as well as EITC and child care) and structure eligibility levels to avoid “cliff” effects with the goal of improving family well-being.

Launched in 2002 and currently supported by the Annie E. Casey, Ford, Joyce and Kresge foundations, The Working Poor Families Project is a national initiative that works to improve these economic conditions.

Here are some facts about New Hampshire from the Working Poor Families Project report:

  • Number of low-income working families: 28,751
  • Number of female-headed low-income working families: 12,450 or 43%
  • National Average of female-headed low-income working families: 39%
    • NH Ranking among all states: 32
  • Number of women in female-headed low-income working families with no post-secondary education:  6,607 (53%)
  • National average of women in female-headed low-income working
  • Families with no post-secondary education: 49%

There is currently legislation being considered in New Hampshire on several of the recommended policy actions in the WPFP report.

  • Allow undocumented students to pay in-state tuition at public post-secondary schools.
    • HB 474 – An act relative to eligibility for in-state tuition rates at the university system of New Hampshire.
      • Status – Passed/Adopted with Amendment by the House
  • Raise the state minimum wage and minimum wage for employees who receive tips and index them to inflation to help meet basic household needs.
    • HB 1403 – An act establishing a state minimum hourly wage.
      • Status – In House Labor, Industrial and Rehabilitative Services Committee
      • Executive Session today (2/18/14) at 2:00 PM in LOB 307
  • Address the gender wage gap.
    • HB 1188 – An act relative to paycheck equity.
      • Status – Majority Committee Report – Ought to Pass
      • Scheduled for House Floor Vote – Wed., February 19th
    • SB 207 – An act relative to paycheck equity.
      • Status – In Senate Commerce Committee
  • Support the expansion of Medicaid eligibility under the Affordable Care Act to ensure low-wage working mothers have access to affordable health care.
    • SB 413 – An act relative to access to health insurance coverage.
      • Status – In Senate Health, Education and Human Services Committee
      • Public Hearing – Today (2/18/14) at 9:15 AM in SH 100

For more information about the SB 413, please read this week’s Common Cents blog post from NH Fiscal Policy Institute:

An Overview of SB 413: Extending Affordable Health Insurance to Low Income Residents.

On Thursday, February 13, 2014, Senators Morse, Larsen, Bradley, Gilmour, Odell and D’Allesandro introduced SB 413 to create the Health Protection Program.

SB 413 creates three stages of extending affordable health insurance to low income Granite Staters: the Health Insurance Premium Program (timeline: ASAP–December 31, 2016); the Bridge to Marketplace Premium Assistance Program (timeline: ASAP–June 30, 2015 if no waiver or December 31, 2015 if waiver approved); and the Marketplace Premium Assistance Program (timeline: January 1, 2016–December 31, 2016 if waiver approved).

Descriptions of the three stages can be found by clicking here.

SEIU President Mary Kay Henry On SOTU

Image by Chet Susslin 
From National Journal


“It should not fall only on the president and Congress to make sure workers earn a decent wage. Our business leaders have a responsibility to help close the growing income gap, especially in an era of record profits.” – Mary Kay Henry, President, Service Employees International Union (SEIU)

Image by Chet Susslin  From National Journal

Image by Chet Susslin
From National Journal

WASHINGTON, DC – After President Obama delivered his 2014 State of the Union address, Mary Kay Henry, President of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) issued the following statement:

“In his address tonight, President Obama made clear that he believes economic inequality to be the defining issue of our time. It threatens the state of our union and I applaud the president for beginning a broader discussion about how we achieve shared prosperity.

“One step forward is the president’s proposal to raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour. Bills exist in Congress that would raise the wage and we hope they are taken up and passed as soon as possible. We need to end the new ‘normal’ of workers stringing together low-wage jobs with no benefits that can’t support a family. As President Obama said tonight, ‘the best measure of opportunity is access to a good job.’

“In addition, requiring federal contractors to pay their workers $10.10 is another step forward and we are encouraged that the president will use his executive authority to make it happen. When American jobs and livelihoods depend on getting something done, the president shouldn’t have to wait for Congress.

“While raising these wages is a good start, it won’t solve the problem by itself. The best way for workers to thrive is by bargaining with their employers for better wages and a shot at a better future. However, it should not fall only on the president and Congress to make sure workers earn a decent wage. Our business leaders have a responsibility to help close the growing income gap, especially in an era of record profits.

“Simone Sonnier-Jang, a fast food worker from Los Angeles who sat in the House gallery tonight, is one of thousands of workers around the country calling attention to the crisis of low wages. Workers like her are making their voices heard and demanding $15 an hour and the right to form a union.

“Also of critical importance to achieving shared prosperity is action on commonsense immigration reform. The time is now – actually, it’s past due. Both sides need to come together to pass immigration reform with a pathway to citizenship and we urge the president to keep the pressure on lawmakers to pass real reform so that 11 million people can come out of the shadows and participate fully in our democracy.

“It’s important to note how important affordable health care is for Americans’ economic security. That’s why protecting the Affordable Care Act should remain a priority for this Congress.”

The Courts could destroy even MORE of our rights while we wait for Congress to fix Taft-Hartly

1947 CIO rally at Madison Square Garden
1947 CIO rally at Madison Square Garden

1947 Rally at Madison Square Garden

As I promised in yesterday’s post, here are a few examples of how things are getting worse, the longer we wait for Congress to fix (or repeal) the Taft-Hartley Act.

More states have passed so-called “Right to Work” laws. Nevermind what they’re called, RTW laws restrict employers’ rights: they prohibit employers from voluntarily agreeing to “agency fee” clauses in their union contracts. Last year, Indiana and Michigan joined the list of states that restrict employers’ rights; and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is clearly still trying to spread their “model legislation” nationwide.

The Supreme Court will soon decide two cases that could further limit employers’ rights in their dealings with employee unions. Read the New York Times article here.

  • The first case will decide whether employers have the right to agree to remain neutral during a union organizing drive. (Shouldn’t employers be able to allow their employees to make their own decisions about union representation? In many worksites, unions and employers work cooperatively because they share the same goals. Why should federal law require the employer-union relationship to be adversarial, rather than cooperative?)
  • The second case attempts to impose “Right to Work” on the whole country through a court decision — rather than leaving it up to each state to decide for itself whether to limit employers’ rights.  (What happened to that old Tenth Amendment/states’ rights principle?)
  • The second case also challenges whether a state government has the right to allow union representation of home-care workers who are paid by Medicaid.  (Again: are we about to see the federal court system restrict a state government’s exercise of reserved powers?)

Taft-HartleyAnd then there’s Boeing. Just my personal opinion, but… it sure seems to me like Boeing is setting up another chance to litigate all those legal theories it came up with in 2011, back before the Machinists asked the NLRB to drop its complaint about Dreamliner production. The basic question at issue: whether a company has the right to relocate jobs in retaliation for (legally protected) union activity. That 2011 complaint was part of “a very long line of cases that the NLRB has been pressing since the 1940s, when employers began moving work from unionized workplaces in the industrial Northeast to non-unionized workplaces in the Southeast and later the Southwest.” Just think what the impact on unions could be, if Boeing persuades the courts to agree with its legal theories. (Read more NHLN coverage of Boeing here.)

Why am I so concerned about these Court cases (and potential court cases) ?  Well… because the Supreme Court is now headed up by Bush appointee John Roberts.  Back in 2005, he was described as one of the “three possible nominees that big business would cheer” — in part because they thought Roberts might “influence the court to decide more cases deemed critical to business.”  Quoting one observer of that nomination process: “Roberts has spent his career as a mind-for-hire on behalf of the rightwing Republican agenda.”  Quoting another: “if Roberts feels free to overturn precedent… Of particular concern is a return to the Lochner era, a time when free-market capitalists read their ideology into the Constitution by striking down statutes aimed at protecting workers’ health and safety.”

I guess we’re about to find out whether those observers were as accurate in their predictions as President Harry Truman was, in his.

(If you didn’t read yesterday’s post, to read Truman’s prognostications from 1947, click here.)

————

Sen. Edward M.KennedyAnd, in a sad epitaph for Sen. Ted Kennedy… as far as I can tell, no-one has re-filed the Employee Free Choice Act since he died.

(Read yesterday’s post to learn more about the economic and social problems caused by Taft-Hartley, and one possible reason why Sen. Kennedy filed EFCA to fix them.)

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

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

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.

Stakeholder Capitalism vs. Shareholder Capitalism; How Workers Lost Everything

Hedrick ArnieAlpert

Editors Note: This is a part of the larger post on Hedrick Smith’s lecture to the NH AFL-CIO about his new book ‘Who Stole The American Dream’.  You can read the entire post here

Stakeholder Capitalism vs. Shareholder Capitalism

HRSmith 4There are two very different perspectives about how a business should be run.  On one hand there is the view – best described by Henry Ford – that a company is there to produce something, and pay people a wage high enough that they could become your customers.  This is commonly referred to as ‘Stakeholder Capitalism’.

There is one rule for the industrialist and that is: Make the best quality of goods possible at the lowest cost possible, paying the highest wages possible.”
HENRY FORD

On the other hand, there is the current business philosophy that companies are only there to make their owners and shareholders money.  This is called ‘Shareholder Capitalism’.

This difference is a major focus in Hedrick’s new book.  He spent a majority of the time during last week’s discussion talking about the differences between these two views – and how ‘Shareholder Capitalism’ has led to the decline of the middle class.

Hedrick explained that ‘Stakeholder Capitalism’ drove the American economy after World War II.  From 1945-1970, the productivity of American workers went up by 96%.  At the same time, the average median income grew by 94%.  “Growth in productivity lead to shared prosperity,” Hedrick observed.  Everyone from the poor to the wealthy prospered during these years – in fact, those at the bottom of the wealth spectrum benefitted even more than those at the top.

Then, beginning in the 1970s, businesses moved into ‘Shareholder Capitalism’.  Productivity continued to rise by leaps and bounds, yet workers’ wages stayed flat.  The added revenue the company received from the higher productivity had to go somewhere – and it went right to the executives and shareholders. This is why the average CEO’s salary is now 380 times higher than the average worker’s salary.  [Read Citigroup’s report “Plutonomy: Buying Luxury, Explaining Global Imbalances” here.]

Through the 1970s, CEOs knew that shared prosperity was good business. “The job of the CEO was to balance the needs of all the Stakeholders,” Hedrick explained.  That means balancing the wages of the workers with the cost to consumers, and the need to turn a profit for the shareholders.  This was the job of the CEO.  Some of those needs were very simple.  The workers needed money.

The middle class had been the major consumer in our economy.  Middle class Americans are spenders, not savers: they spend 90% or more of what they bring home.  For the majority, the only savings they accrue is paying off their mortgages.   If the middle class does not have money to spend (like our current situation) then the economy is very slow to recover from any economic downturn.

In 1948, the United Auto Workers (UAW) and the CEO of General Motors Charlie Wilson signed the first collective bargaining agreement that included a lifetime pension.  This means that after you put in your many years of service to GM they would pay you a salary for the rest of your life.  This trend continued in union and non-union companies for the next few decades.  GM became the model for industry and labor relations throughout the country.

By 1980, 84% of all companies with 100+ employees had a full pension for their retired workers; 70% of them had full healthcare coverage for retirees as well.

Hedrick ArnieAlpertNow that ‘retirement security’ has all but disappeared.  Only 30% of companies with 100+ employees offer a pension; and only 18% offer retiree healthcare.  Those numbers go down every year, as workers who retired with these ‘outdated’ pensions are passing away.

GM used to be the template for a successful industry, now Wal-Mart is the template,” said Hedrick.  Wal-Mart is the modern day success story in the world of ‘Shareholder Capitalism’: they have experienced massive growth and high stock returns.  Just disregard the fact that they do not offer healthcare to the majority of their employees, or pay wages that would keep their workers out of poverty.

In ‘Shareholder Capitalism’ the stakeholders (consumers, shareholders, and workers) are in conflict with each other.  The shareholders are the only people the CEO cares about: business is all about profits and stock prices.  This is also why corporations like Wal-Mart buy back their stock to continue to drive up stock prices.

The middle class is not getting their share of the pie,” said Hedrick.  “The system (economy) will not work until the middle class get more of the pie

Simple Math – US Wealth is Being Redistributed Upward (InZane Times)

Chuck Collins

Chuck Collins, whose latest book is 99 to 1: How Wealth Inequality is Wrecking the World and What We Can Do About it, spoke to the Henniker Peace Community yesterday. 

 

Chuck Collins

Chuck Collins

Chuck Collins didn’t come to Henniker to “foment antagonism or class warfare,” he said, but instead to encourage people to do some “simple math.”  It’s pretty much the same thing.

The richest 44 households in the USA hold more wealth than the poorest 95%, for example.  The wealthiest 1 percent controls 36 percent of US wealth and more than 42 percent of all financial assets. 

It hasn’t always been that bad.  According to Collins, there’s been a “dramatic upward redistribution of wealth” in the past three decades.  That was no accident, but followed policy changes in which the rules of the economy were “rigged” to benefit asset owners over wage earners.  “These are the folks we need to defend ourselves against,” he told an audience of more than fifty people at the Henniker Congregational Church.

Historically, Collins said Americans have been comfortable with wealth and income inequality as long as they thought the rules were fair.  But that has shifted since the 2008 Wall Street meltdown.  Now, 70 percent of Americans believe extreme henniker 11-3-13 005inequality is a problem.

It’s a problem that can be addressed with three types of policy changes:

1) “Raise the floor,” through a higher minimum wage and a stronger safety net;

2) “Level the playing field,” through reforms of the political process, such as overturning the Supreme Court’s “Citizens United” decision; and

3) “Break up concentrations of wealth and power.” 

It’s that third point that would meet the most resistance from the natural persons, organizations, and corporations where power and wealth are unfairly concentrated.  But there are specific steps to advocate, such as restoring the progressivity of US income taxes, raising the estate tax, closing loopholes that enable corporations to evade taxes by assigning profits to overseas subsidiaries, breaking up the megabanks, and imposing a tax on financial transactions.    Some of the One Percenters even agree.

One place we can take this message is into the presidential campaign, now warming up in both major parties.  New Hampshire and Iowa may soon be awash in candidates.  Let’s tell them what we think.

Originally Posted on InZane Times by Arnie Alpert

The Info-Graphic That Shows What Is Really Happening To Adjunct Faculty Members

Un-Hired Ed

For many years now we have been telling our children that they need to get a college degree.  For some this is a large university.  For many others this is a small community college like the Nashua Community College.

Earlier this year we talked about the Community College System of NH (CCSNH) and their refusal to sign a contract with the adjunct professors at their schools.  We also talked about how the executive staff of the CCSNH were getting outlandish pay raises while the adjuncts got shafted.

Below is a new info-graphic highlighting some of the other problems facing adjunct professors at colleges across the country.  The biggest problem is pay.  Full tenured professors are making in excess of $120,000 while adjunct professors are lucky to be making $20,000 a year.

This is wrong and something should be done about it.  We need to invest in our schools and colleges to lower the cost for students and increase the pay for faculty.  These are the people who are teaching our children and they are making a little more than a grocery store stock boy.

Un-Hired Ed: The Growing Adjunct Crisis
Source: Online-PhD-Programs.org

Labor Day: A Day To Reflect And A Day To Look Forward

free-digital-signage-media-labor-day

“The labor movement is people. Our unions have brought millions of men and women together, made them members one of another, and given them common tools for common goals. Their goals are goals for all America – and their enemies are the enemies for progress. The two cannot be separated.” President John F. Kennedy

free-digital-signage-media-labor-day

Today is our day and we need to bask in our proud history.  Every year people across our great nation stop and look back to what labor has done.

One of America’s greatest resources is its people.  And when we work together and speak with one voice we can accomplish great things.

“It was the labor movement that helped secure so much of what we take for granted today. The 40-hour work week, the minimum wage, family leave, health insurance, Social Security, Medicare, retirement plans. The cornerstones of the middle-class security all bear the union label.”   President Barack Obama

Even those who oppose unions now have trouble denying the fact that labor built the middle class.  Together we fought for some of the basics that all workers are utilizing today like weekends, workplace safety, and overtime.  These are only a few of the hundreds of things that labor unions fought for on behalf of all workers.

Labor unions came out of great economic struggles — much like the situation we are currently pushing through.  Vast income inequality and high unemployment.  In the early days of the Industrial Age, mill owners treated workers like slaves, forcing workers to stay on the jobs for 14-16 hours a day while the owners collected enormous profits.   This prompted workers to think about their own safety and prosperity.

This vast income inequality solidified workers to stand up and fight back.  Thomas Donahue (AFL-CIO Treasurer 1979-1995) summed it up perfectly when he said, “The only effective answer to organized greed is organized labor.

This is truer today than in the years after the Great Depression.  Workers are living in poverty while corporations are raking in untold billions.  Right now, CEOs are making 185 times the amount of the average worker.   This has lead to countless protests and organized efforts for a living wage.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence.”

As we celebrate this Labor Day, let us reflect on where we have come from.  Look back at all the great things we have accomplished together.  Then look at all we need to do.  America is still the greatest nation in the world — yet we can be even greater.

We need to band together and fight back against the corporate machine that demonizes workers.  They want to take us back to the days when workers had no rights and no voice.  That is just unacceptable.  If we do not stand together like our brothers and sisters of the past have taught us, we will never be able to overcome the grasp of corporate greed.

Former AFL-CIO Organizer And Director Of Job With Justice Becomes Exec Director Of USAction

labor-union-7

Labor has been on the forefront of economic inequality since workers first decided to bargain collectively.   That connection between labor and economic equality is showing as USAction announced their new executive director.

USAction, a leading national community organizing network with affiliates in 21 states and nearly 350,000 members nationwide, announced today that Fred Azcarate, a rising star in the labor and progressive movement, will take over as the organization’s new Executive Director. Azcarate, the former Executive Director of Jobs with Justice and President of the US Student Association, is currently the head of the AFL-CIO’s jobs campaign asdirector of America Wants to Work. Last year, Azcarate was named one of “50 Young Progressive Activists Who Are Changing America” cited in the Huffington Post. The hire represents a significant alignment between the community organizing and labor networks.

“Fred brings an unparalleled understanding of and commitment to community organizing and feels to his core the issues that we fight for,” said Khalid Pitts, President of USAction and Director of Strategic Campaigns at the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). “Fred will be a tremendous springboard to bring USAction into the future and to build on the important work Jeff Blum started. We’re extremely excited to have him leading our team, and building an even stronger bond between the labor and organizing movements.”

USAction was founded in 1999 with a goal to engage national partners and state affiliates in progressive campaigns that enrich people’s lives. Over the years, USAction has fought to protect Social Security and Medicare from privatization efforts, organized the second-largest nonpartisan voting registration effort in history, fought for affordable, quality healthcare, and campaigned to make the rich pay their fair share of taxes while providing jobless benefits for the unemployed.  Currently, USAction and its 21 state affiliates employ a staff of 240 in 40 offices, has approximately 342,000 members, and a combined listserv capacity of 1.2 million supporters. Azcarate replaces outgoing and founding Executive Director Jeff Blum.

“I am so excited to build on the phenomenal work that USAction affiliates and national partners are doing every day, whether it’s to increase access to health care, right-size the Pentagon so we can invest in America’s real priorities, or create smart immigration reform policies,” said Azcarate.  “We’re at a critical moment, and I’m thrilled to help lead the fight for an economy of opportunity and justice, to rebuild the middle class and ensure that all have access to it. There’s a saying I like- ‘If you want to walk fast, walk alone. If you want to walk far, walk together.’ Together we will walk with our partners across the progressive movement to build an economy that works for everyone.”

“As corporate interests step up their attacks on working people and the middle class struggles to get ahead, the fight for jobs and economic prosperity needs all the allies it can get,” said Richard Trumka, President of the AFL-CIO. “I can think of no better ally than USAction with Fred Azcarate at the helm. I’ve been working side by side with Fred for the last six years to give working people a voice on the job, and a future with economic security. His passion will be key to bringing the labor and community organizing networks together to wage campaigns that create good jobs, health care, and a secure retirement.”

Azcarate has been at the AFL-CIO since 2007, when he was hired to run the AFL-CIO’s Voice@Work campaign, including the campaign to pass the Employee Free Choice Act. From 1992 until 2007, Azcarate was the Executive Director for Jobs with Justice, growing the organization from 3 staff to an organization with 60 staff and representing more than 40 coalitions. Prior to that, Azcarate served as President of the US Student Association.

“When labor unions and community organizers come together to fight for the 99 percent, everyone benefits,” said Mary Kay Henry, SEIU’s International President. “By strengthening our partnership, we can create an economy that addresses inequities and works better for all of us.”

“I’ve had the great privilege of working with both Fred and USAction for a number of years,” said Larry Cohen, President, Communications Workers of America. “USAction has played a critical role in bringing together the progressive movement, and Fred is a great leader, who has led a growing movement for democracy and economic justice. Together, they’re going to do great things for all of us.”

Said Center for Community Change Executive Director, Deepak Bhargava, “Last month, USAction and Center for Community Change created an historic partnership between our two organizations, with the idea being that progressivism demands movements and coalitions whose efforts are greater than the sum of their parts. That’s exactly why Fred Azcarate is the perfect person to lead USAction and our movement.”

Azcarate comes from a labor family– his mother, a nurse, belonged to SEIU1199 in New York. He graduated from SUNY-Binghamton with a Bachelor’s degree in economics. Today, Azcarate lives in Takoma Park, MD with his wife and two young sons.

The AFL-CIO Introduces New Website Highlighting CEO’s Outlandish Pay Inequalities

CEO Pay 354 times the average worker (AFLCIO)

U.S. CEOs Paid 354 Times the Average Rank-and-File Worker—Largest Pay Gap in the World

New CEO pay numbers for S&P 500 released in 2013 Executive PayWatch

Searchable CEO-to-worker pay online database exposes growing wealth inequality and need for a fair tax system.
www.paywatch.org

CEO Pay 354 times the average worker (AFLCIO)
Coinciding with events by working families across the country on Tax Day, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka unveiled the 2013 Executive PayWatch, revealing that U.S. CEOs of the largest companies made 354 times the average rank-and-file worker—by far the widest pay gap in the world. Last year, CEOs received on average $12.3 million while the average rank-and-file worker took home around $34,645. This new data confirms CEO-to-worker pay disparities have increased dramatically over the past several decades. Thirty years ago, CEOs were paid 42 times that of rank-and-file workers in the U.S.

The newly designed Executive PayWatch is the most comprehensive searchable online database that tracks excessive CEO pay at S&P 500 companies and offers visitors the unique ability to compare their own pay to the pay of top executives.

In addition to the new data on CEO pay, President Trumka outlined how PayWatch now exposes some of the ways that CEO-backed groups such as the Business Roundtable and Fix the Debt are drumming up a deficit scare to conceal their efforts to get more tax cuts for corporations, while hacking at Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid benefits for working people.

“American chief executives continued to do very well for themselves last year, while workers struggle to make ends meet,” said Trumka. “We are calling out the hypocrisy of rich CEOs who have the gall to ask for corporate tax cuts to be paid for by squeezing the retirement security of working America. The American public deserves to know the truth about their self-serving agenda.”

Closing the corporate tax loophole that allows U.S. multinational companies to avoid taxation on overseas profits would raise $42 billion in new revenue in 2013 alone. But CEO groups like the Campaign to Fix the Debt want to overhaul the tax system so that corporate profits kept overseas are permanently exempt from U.S. taxes.

Trumka also pointed to new features on PayWatch, including the AFL-CIO’s Mutual Fund Votes Survey, which examines votes cast by the largest mutual fund families to constrain CEO pay. This new letter grading system will help investors and the public compare how specific mutual fund families voted on executive compensation issues.

Finally, for the first time an interactive map allows users to compare and contrast CEO pay ratios of top executive all over the world.

“Not only is U.S. CEO pay out-of whack with historical norms, it is off the chart globally. For example, in Switzerland, where voters recently imposed new limits on executive pay, the CEO-to-worker pay gap is 148 times.  In the United Kingdom, the CEO-to-worker pay gap is one-quarter as large as ours. And in Japan, the gap is even smaller.” said Trumka.