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NH Senate Stops Attempt To Weaken Weekly Pay Law

Legislation would have hurt low wage workers living paycheck to paycheck

money cash CONCORD – Today, a bipartisan vote defeated an attempt to weaken New Hampshire’s weekly pay law. HB 1252 failed on a 12-12 vote, with 2 Republicans joining the Senate Democrats in opposition. After the vote on HB 1252, Deputy Democratic Leader Sen. Donna Soucy released the following statement:

“HB 1252 not only attempts to solve a non-existent problem, it would encourage more employers to pay biweekly instead of weekly, which makes budgeting more difficult for low wage workers living paycheck to paycheck,” said Senator Soucy. “There is no problem with the current weekly pay standard and I am pleased that the Senate defeated this legislation that hurts low wage workers. We should be protecting our low wage workers and giving them more opportunities to succeed, not creating unnecessary barriers for those living paycheck to paycheck.”

Under the current law, New Hampshire employers must pay their employees weekly unless they seek permission from the Department of Labor. According to testimony by the Department, unless there is a problem with the employer not paying workers comp insurance or the employer not able to make payroll, employer’s requests for biweekly pay are routinely approved. 

“The current process allows the Department of Labor to ensure that employers are living up to their legal responsibilities to their employees by maintaining adequate workers comp insurance and ensuring adequate cash flow in order to make payroll. This is not an onerous process and most employers who want to pay bi-weekly are able to.”

Leo W Gerard: Jeb! Cracks The Whip

Jeb! Bush, a boy born to wealth and privilege, whose family owns not a home but a compound of dwellings in Kennebunkport, Maine, and whose wife plunked down$25,600 for one pair of earrings, lectured last week that Americans should work longer hours.

If Americans would just work harder, every one of them could own a $600,000 getaway cottage, like the one Jeb! is building on a $1.4 million site in exclusive Kennebunkport.

And it’s not just longer hours. Jeb! believes Americans should work longer in life too. The rich boy wants to raise the retirement age to 70. But raising the federal minimum wage to help millions of struggling workers survive to age 70? No, Jeb! doesn’t see any need for that. His advice: Let working poor great-grandmas eat ramen!

2015-07-12-1436713949-4776617-Jebphoto.jpg

Art by DonkeyHotey on Flickr

As a result of Bush’s “work harder” scolding, Americans know exactly what that symbol is at the end of the name Jeb! on all of his presidential campaign literature. It’s a whip handle and blood splotch. As President, he’d crack Americans into shape!  Under a Jeb! administration, he’d demand they work more, get less and through it all gaze adoringly at another clueless, pampered Bush in the White House.

The wealthy like Jeb! made out like bandits over the past 40 years – Jeb! amassed $29 million in the eight years since he left the Florida governor’s mansion. But working Americans have not prospered. Their productivity rose, but not their wages. Part of the reason for that productivity increase is that Americans worked longer hours and corporations paid them nothing for it.

American workers put in more hours than those in any other large industrialized country, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. In a Gallup poll late last year, full-time employees reported work weeks averaging 47 hours. That is nearly a full day beyond what is supposed to be a 40-hour work week. Forty percent said they work at least 50 hours.

Most of these workers don’t see an extra dime for all that extra work because the federal overtime regulation is so outdated, and many corporations won’t pay time and a half for hours worked beyond 40 unless forced. As it is now, the regulation requires corporations to pay time and a half only to workers earning salaries less than $23,660 a year. That is so low that only 8 percent of salaried workers qualify for overtime. It means corporations can take every cent of gain from 92 percent of salaried workers when they put in more than 40 hours a week.

Late last month, President Obama proposed increasing the overtime threshold to $50,440. Then 40 percent of salaried workers would qualify.

Jeb! opposes that. After he was ridiculed on Wednesday for saying, “people need to work longer hours,” he tried to backpedal by contending that what he really meant was that the proposed new overtime rule would push workers into part-time jobs when they needed to work longer hours.

Here’s what he said on Thursday: “I think people want to work harder, to be able to have more money in their own pockets – not to be dependent upon government. You can take it out of context all you want, but high, sustained growth means people work 40 hours rather than 30 hours, and that by our success they have money – disposable income for their families to decide how they want to spend it rather than getting in [a welfare] line.”

Silver-spoon Jeb! is just wrong. People don’t want to work harder. They’re working almost an extra day a week. What they want is to be paid fairly for the work they’re already doing. They want the minimum wage increased so that they can use their own paychecks for groceries instead of food stamps. They want the money that they’ve earned to be in their pockets – not in the pockets of 1 percenters like Jeb!

For decades after World War II, income rose in tandem with productivity. Then, in the mid 1970s, that stopped. Workers received less and less, and the top 1 percent took more and more. The result was wage stagnation for workers and income inflation for CEOs.

2015-07-12-1436714113-7772078-incometoproductivitychart.538

The comments Jeb! made last week illustrate his complete misunderstanding of that.He said: “My aspirations for the country, and I believe we can achieve it, is for 4 percent growth as far as the eye can see .  .  . Which means we have to be a lot more productive. Workforce participation has to rise from its all-time modern lows. It means that people need to work longer hours and through their productivity gain more income for their families. That’s the only way we are going to get out of this rut that we’re in.”

Jeb! suffers from the Republican blame-the-worker syndrome. He says, “Workforce participation has to rise,” as if unemployed workers chose to be laid off and languish in a life of insecurity without regular paychecks.

Jeb! and his GOP buddies should blame those actually at fault: the nation’s highly profitable corporations that cheat America’s highly productive workers. Corporations need to rise to the occasion and hire workers at decent wages. Corporations must reward workers for their increased productivity by paying them time and a half when they work longer hours.

It’s the GOP that’s in a rut. It’s a mental ditch from which they fling mud on workers endlessly while shielding corporations and the rich, like Jeb!, from responsibility. Jeb! can go ahead and crack his whip. But he should make sure wage-stealing corporations and the idle rich are at the other end.

How Immigration Reform Will Help All Workers

Our ultimate goal should be to help Americans find good paying jobs. Abusing the guest worker program is hurting the millions of Americans who are currently looking for employment.

Every year thousands of people legally enter the United States on temporary work visas.  They use the guest worker program as a way to get their foot in the door, and begin chasing their own version of the American Dream.

Many people, like Senator Orin Hatch, want to see the guest worker program expanded to fill a hole in the US labor market and “meet the demands for workers in the STEM fields.”

Senator Hatch is not alone in his belief. Many business leaders say there is a shortage of workers in these specialized STEM fields.  Why is that?  With the US unemployment rate still above 7%, millions of Americans are out there every day looking for work.  Are we really saying that none of these people have the qualifications to work in these jobs?

No, the problem is that corporations do not care about the workers or their local communities; they only care about one thing, their bottom line.  They are only interested in lowering their labor costs, and they do this by bringing in thousands of immigrant workers.

In a free market two things, supply and demand, determine the value of a product.  The same is true in the labor market. Why else would millions of people take low-wage jobs? Unemployment is high, which means there are plenty of people looking for work. This drives wages down.  If you are not willing to work for the wages offered, chances are there is someone else who will.

This is where the guest worker program comes in to ‘save the day’.  For many years companies have been saying that they do not have enough qualified applicants seeking employment in STEM fields.  Instead of raising the wages they offer, companies began to look outside the US for new workers.  Guest workers flood the market and are willing to work for much less.

Just for the privilege to work in in the United States guest workers are charged outrageous fees by ‘head hunters’.  This has led to numerous instances of worker abuse.   Guest workers become indentured servants, and are treated as such.

Image from REUTERS

Image from REUTERS

In Louisiana, workers in a shrimp processing facility were forced to work 20 hours a day, seven days a week, at minimum wage.  They were not paid overtime, or provided any of the provisions guaranteed to American workers by US labor laws.

Ronil Hira an associate professor of public policy at the Rochester Institute of Technology and the author of Outsourcing America, says the guest worker program (H-1B) is “deeply flawed.”  Hira goes on to say that many companies are hiring guest workers before offering the job to American workers.

This is why we need to pass comprehensive immigration reform.  Unfortunately the current immigration bill that passed the US Senate includes and expansion of the guest worker program.  The good thing is that it also includes stronger regulations on employers who use the guest worker program.

As part of the comprehensive reform package new laws will increase the wages for H-1B workers, and protect American workers with new regulations against the ‘displacement of US workers’.

We need to pass immigration reform to help the 11 million aspiring Americans as well as the millions of unemployed Americans.  We need stronger labor laws to protect against the abuse of the guest worker program, for the betterment of American workers.  Reducing the number of guest workers will decrease the supply of qualified workers, in turn increasing the wages for new and existing workers.

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

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

Orlando Health, Balancing Bad Financing On The Backs Of Workers

Emergancy Room

Stop and think for a moment: who do you consider to be the hardest working people in any industry? I bet nurses are somewhere in your top five.  Nurses have a long and distinguished history of being hard working and caring individuals, who help people who cannot help themselves.

This is why I am disgusted at the actions being taken by the Orlando Health system.  Orlando Health is a non-profit hospital system in central Florida.  They are about to impose drastic pay cuts on these hard-working men and women.  I should say women and a few men.  Women make up over 90% of all registered nurses in the United States.  Another staggering fact is that the average age of a registered nurse is 46.  How many of them are mothers or grandmothers?

I know all about the work that these women do.  My mother was a registered nurse for nearly 40 years before she was forced into an early retirement due to chronic back problems.

Here is my problem with Orlando Health.  They are imposing drastic changes to the pay by cutting night and weekend differentials.  According to Sarah Collins a registered nurse at Winnie Parker Hospital for Women and Babies this means a loss of $600 per month, or $7000-$15,000 annually.

Why?  Why the drastic cuts to workers’ pay?  It’s not to increase their profit margins – this is supposedly a non-profit organization.  So where is all the money going? 

First: To the corporate executives.

The Orlando Business Journal reported:

“Becker’s Hospital Review’s list of top paid executives for non-profit health systems has two Central Florida names on the list. … John Hillenmeyer, former CEO of Orlando Regional Medical Center, made $1.25 million in 2010.”

According to Orlando Health’s latest Form 990,

  • Hillenmayer received more than $2.2 million in compensation in 2011; and
  • Orlando Health has 19 different Vice Presidents – including six who each received more than a half-million in compensation in 2011;
  • Orlando Health spent more than $10.3 million on compensation for “key” executives.

Second:  Into building projects.

Orlando Health is spending $297 million on renovation and expansion projects at the very same time they can’t seem to find the money to pay the nurses who actually take care of their patients.

To add insult to injury, these drastic cuts come after Orlando Health chopped hundreds of jobs last November.  Other workers had their hours reduced, during that round of cutbacks.

And now people are waiting over two hours in the emergency room.

If you are as outraged at these cuts as I am, then take one minute and sign Sarah’s petition.

On the petition site, Sarah says that Orlando Health refuses to negotiate with the staff.

Being a son of a union nurse, I know that at times efforts to negotiate can be very one-sided.  In my mother’s case, it wasn’t until the entire nursing staff and support staff walked out that the hospital really started to listen.  But when the hospital was nearly forced to close their doors due to a lack of staff, suddenly they wanted to talk.

Unfortunately, these workers at Orlando Health do not have any union representation – but even without a union, a collective voice will not be ignored.  Please take a minute and sign Sarah’s petition.

I think some union elections will be in their near future!

UPDATED 8-16-13

Read the response to this petition from CEO and President Sherrie Sitarik that was posted for all employees on the Orlando Health website.

UPDATED 8-17-13

National Nurses United a union that represents thousands of hospital staff workers throughout the country has sent a letter to inform everyone of their rights to organize a union.  Since the letter was not given to the NHLN you must read it on the Orlando Business Journal.

The union wants to help, and they can help.  Know your rights!

The letter begins…..

Dear Orlando Health RNs and other Health Care Providers:

Here are answers to your requests for information about your efforts to protect yourselves from pay cuts and other reductions in your working conditions. If you find this helpful, feel free to forward this message to others. You may contact NNOC-Florida at florida@nnoc.net.

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

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.

Congresswoman Kuster Tells Congress: No Budget, No Pay!

Ann kuster head shot LGDo you want to see some changes in Washington, threaten to take away their pay.

Today Congresswoman Kuster voted for the No Budget, No Pay Act of 2013, which prevents the federal government from defaulting on its debt through May 19 and prohibits pay for Members of Congress until they pass a budget.

“I voted for the No Budget, No Pay Act to remove the immediate threat of default and ensure that America will continue to meet its obligations. However, this bill is only a temporary fix and a far cry from responsible governing,” said Kuster. “The American people did not send us here to pass last-minute, stopgap measures that create uncertainty in our economy. They sent us here to come together to reduce the deficit in a balanced, responsible way that will help create jobs and grow the economy, put our nation on a sustainable fiscal path, and protect seniors and middle class families. While it’s far from perfect, this bill gives Congress time to focus on coming together to pass a budget that cuts the deficit.”

In addition to preventing a default on the nation’s debt, the No Budget, No Pay Act also withholds pay from Members of Congress if they fail to pass a budget by April 15.

“When Congress fails to pass a responsible budget, I believe that members of both parties should be held accountable,” Kuster added. “New Hampshire families and businesses have to live within a budget and make hard choices to balance their checkbooks. Members of Congress need to do the same. If they don’t, they shouldn’t get paid – period.”

The Fight Over A New NH Minimum Wage Is About To Begin

The NH House session has officially begun. This is where the fun begins.  One of the bills that I caught wind of at the end of last year is a proposed Minimum Wage change for New Hampshire.

HB 127

I. Adds a state minimum hourly wage.
II. Requires the commissioner of the department of labor to calculate the minimum wage in a manner that reflects the cost of living.
III. Requires a majority vote of the general court to approve such adjustment.

After deeper investigation the proposal by Rep Sullivan moves the NH Minimum Wage law up from the Federal Minimum to $8.00 per hour. Tipped employees would receive no less than 45% of the state minimum per hour.  

The proposal sets a bi-annual review of the minimum wage with increases set by the Consumer Price Index.

First I would like to say that I am happy to see that Rep Sullivan is already pushing for a higher minimum wage.  However, does this law go far enough?  Is $8.00 per hour really what we want to set the NH minimum wage at?

Right now, New Hampshire is the bottom of the barrel in minimum wage laws.  Massachusetts is already at $8.00 p/h. Vermont is at $8.60.  This is good, but I think we should push for more.

There is already a national push to move minimum wage to $10.00 an hour over the next two years.  The proposal was put in last session and failed to gain traction.

Minimum wage was supposed to be a living wage, not a wage you can barely exist on.  Most people who earn minimum wage have to work two jobs just to pay the bills.  This was not what the minimum wage laws were set for.

I think this bill is a good start and I expect to hear a lot of criticism from the ‘job creators’ on the right.  The fact is that other than restaurants and bars many small businesses are already paying higher than minimum wage so this increase will not effect them.  The biggest abuser of minimum wage laws are corporations like Wal-Mart and McDonalds for example. They are the ones who are holding wages down to maximize their profits.

The Pay For Middle Class Workers Far Below Their Expected Productivity

Middle class workers have been struggling to get ahead for many years now.  That feeling you have that you never seem to get ahead.  Well now there is proof that you are not wrong and that you are not alone.

In the beginning of the industrial revolution, workers were paid poorly and worked in unhealthy conditions.  As the workers began to unionize the workers began to see a significate rise in pay.  While industry continued to evolve, workers became more productive and efficient, while wages continued to grew.  The union movement seem to reach its peak in the early part of the 1970’s.   This is where we begin to see the split between workers wages and their productivity.

Growth of real hourly compensation for production/nonsupervisory workers and productivity, 1948–2011

http://www.epi.org/files/2012/ib330-figureA.png

As you can clearly see the wages of the workers have been essentially flat since 1975.  This is the same time that unions reached their peak. Since then the percentage of the workforce that is unionized has continued to decline.  Now union workers compromise only 13% of the overall American workforce. Is it a coincidence that workers pay has been flat since the number of union workers has gone down?

I will end with a quote from the Economic Policy Institute:

Reestablishing the link between productivity and pay of the typical worker is an essential component of any effort to provide shared prosperity and, in fact, may be necessary for obtaining robust growth without relying on asset bubbles and increased household debt. It is hard to see how reestablishing a link between productivity and pay can occur without restoring decent and improved labor standards, restoring the minimum wage to a level corresponding to half the average wage (as it was in the late 1960s), and making real the ability of workers to obtain and practice collective bargaining.

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