Aljazeera America reports that Senator Bernie Sanders and progressive allies in the Senate and House are proposing a new measure to help working Americans. The Workplace Democracy Act would make it easier for employees to unionize. It would also require that employers negotiate with unions within 10 days of a request to negotiate. This measure is a good thing, but it’s more of a political statement than a realistic attempt to change law. Republicans control the House and Senate, and they are very pro-employer. That said, Democrats and Independents like Sanders need to present a new vision for how working people will be treated. This bill along with the Fight for $15 is part of that vision.
P.S. John Nichols of The Nation connects this issue to changes in the TPP and other international agreements that protect the right of workers to form unions.
Anyone who cares about working people needs to read Laura Clawson of the Huffington Post. Today she examines the state of Workers Compensation, which has been cut in 33 states. There is also great disparity between states and how they pay for injuries. Clawson points out that if a worker in Alabama loses an eye, she will be awarded $27,280. The same injury in Pennsylvania will be compensated at $261,525. Companies are paying less and less in damages every year and finding new ways to restrict workers' benefits. This story is outrageous, but it’s no more outrageous than stories of workers losing pensions or wage theft or union busting. Until American workers – white and blue collar – realize their common interests, employers will continue to find new ways to make them suffer. It’s easy to blame the super rich. They are acting in a way that makes sense for their interests and security. What is our problem?
Walmart announced that it will raise its minimum hourly wage to $9 and increase that wage to $10 next year. It’s great that the company has made this move on its own. However, will this raise really change the lives of its workers? A person making $9 an hour will still be earning about $20,000 a year – if she is working full time. If the worker is a parent, she will certainly still need public aid for food and housing. In essence, working people and the middle class will continue to be underwriting Walmart’s work force. We need to establish a living wage and commit ourselves as citizens to paying a little extra so we can all live decent lives.
Laura Clawson of Daily Kos reports on New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s take on the minimum wage. According to the governor, the minimum wage and income inequality are only problems because Democrats keep talking about these subjects. Christie thinks that more “opportunity” is the real solution to what plagues the U.S. He refers to President Obama as a “class warrior.”
In my view, Christie is the one playing politics. He is a leading contender for the GOP presidential nomination in 2016, and he is now on the trail campaigning for other Republican candidates. The issue of the minimum wage is political, but it is also about people’s lives. It’s a fact that most working people and those in the middle class have fallen further and further behind since 2008. “Opportunity” works well for the investor class and corporate executives. For everyone else, income and benefits have been problems. Not talking about the problem won’t make it go away.
Writing in Huffington Post, Amy Traub, an Analyst at Demos, notes that the National Labor Relations Board has ruled that McDonald’s workers could organize as one union because of the corporation’s rules for franchisees. This ruling will be appealed. However, if it is maintained, fast food workers have won a great victory in their fight for a living wage. Traub also notes efforts in the U.S. Senate and House to introduce new legislation that would make it easier for workers to organize. Given the current structure of the Congress, it’s hard to imagine these measures becoming law. That’s the bad news. The good news is that strong progressive voices like Senator Tom Harkin and Representative Keith Ellison are speaking out and presenting alternatives to “right to work” [for less] schemes. As Traub states, this has been a good week for workers. May there be many more.
Today’s top story is all about the world’s greatest basketball player, LeBron James, who has decided to return to Cleveland because he wants to raise his children where he was born. This story warms the hearts of people, especially for those like me who root for rust-belt cities like Cleveland and Detroit. There’s a deeper story that the media is not covering. As a free agent, James was able to move to the team he choose. Once upon a time, pro athletes were tied to the same teams for their entire career. Players organized in unions and sued for the right to control their futures. The most important names in this struggle were probably Curt Flood and Marvin Miller, of the baseball players union. Flood prematurely ended his career to sue and break the “reserve clause.” Many of the people cheering for LeBron James are probably anti-union. They’ve been influenced by more than thirty years of propaganda funded by large corporate interests. When they cheer for James, they should think about the freedom and security he has because of those who came before him and fought for his right to choose where he wanted to work.
Anyone living in Illinois knows that our state politics are dysfunctional. The governor is a Democrat, and both houses of the legislature are super majority Democratic majorities. Somehow, nothing gets done. When the Democrats do agree, the Republicans through in a monkey wrench.
Laura Clawson of the Daily Kos reports some good news from my home state. A bill has passed that protects pregnant workers from doing work that would endanger their pregnancy. Clawson cites a case in which a pregnant worker at Walmart was ordered to lift a heavy box and climb ladders, which likely contributed to her miscarriage. The bill in Illinois has been sent to the governor for signing. Clawson asks why pro-life Republicans would not sponsor such a bill in the U.S. House. She then answers her own question: It would help workers. Freedom of employers trumps right to life. National politics is even stranger than what we face in Illinois. Workers need to start electing representative who will look out for their interest. What happened in Illinois is only a small step forward. It is a good step to protect pregnant workers, but we need to do much more – starting with the minimum wage.
Too many people are hung up with resentment about poor people who get benefits. What they need to think about instead is the millions of Americans that work hard, but can’t make enough money to live without some kind of state aid. Huffington Post offers a great article on these people, how hard they work, and how they live. If you are against raising the minimum wage, I recommend that you read this article and think about the people it describes
Huffington Post offers an enlightening look at CEO-worker pay ratios at top companies. For example, CVS Caremark pays its CEO 422:1 to the median worker’s salary. While no one denies that leaders of large, successful corporations should be well paid, how can we justify such a difference in the U.S. when similar ratios are not as drastic in Europe and Japan? Take a minute to look at this chart and ask yourself if it’s fair for the top to make so much while those on the bottom struggle.
David Sirota of Pando Daily has written an excellent article on Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel and his plan to “reform” pensions for public workers. According to Sirota, the city has not made its share of contributions to pension funds for the last 14 years. At the same time it has built up TIF (Sirota calls them “slush”) funds that could have covered a good part or all of the missing pension contributions. I urge you to read this article because, as Sirota says, this is not a problem unique to Chicago. Across the U.S., political leaders of both parties are claiming pension funds are in crisis. What they almost never discuss is how the crisis came to be and who should be responsible. The rule of our time seems to be: Workers must pay, so the rich and their government representatives can play.
- 1 of 6
- next ›