300,000 More People Just Got Paid Sick Days

Photo courtesy Allan Ferguson on Flickr

Yesterday, the United States became a little bit better place to be a sick worker, as two more cities joined the growing wave of localities that have passed paid sick days laws. The city councils in San Diego and Eugene, Ore., each voted to require employers to make sure that workers don’t have to choose between working sick and losing pay. Nine cities and the state of Connecticut now have paid sick leave laws.

The San Diego City Council passed their measure 6–3 and it heads to Mayor Kevin Faulconer, who has said he would veto it. The council has the votes to override the veto, however. The law would provide full-time workers up to five earned sick days annually, with part-time workers getting a portion of that. In Eugene, the vote was 5–3. The bill would provide one hour of paid sick leave for 30 hours worked, up to 40 hours a year.

Ellen Bravo, executive director of Family Values @ Work, said the day was historic:

Campaigns for paid sick days in Eugene and San Diego involved months of organizing by local workers, small business owners and many partner organizations. Yesterday, their work paid off: No longer will workers in Eugene and San Diego be forced to choose between the job they need and the family who needs them.

Biviana Lagunas, a San Diego State University student and part-time low-wage worker in San Diego, said the new law will be a life-changer:

The passing of this measure means my mother will no longer have to choose between a day’s wages and caring for my little brother when he’s sick. Right now, I work to pay for school and make sure my family can keep up with the rent. Now, my sister and I can use more of our time to study instead of stressing about how our family will get by.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Let’s Call ‘Corporate Inversion’ for What It Is: A Gaping, Unpatriotic Tax Loophole

This post originally appeared on Huffington Post

In 2004, Congress enacted a law to prevent “corporate inversions” in which corporations reincorporate in a foreign country to avoid paying U.S. taxes, but a gaping loophole allows corporations to get around this law by merging with a foreign company.

Simply put, it allows corporations to avoid paying taxes when they “renounce their U.S. citizenship” and change their corporate address to a foreign country.

In recent months, several large corporations have announced plans to exploit this loophole, with minimal change in their business operations, to avoid paying taxes. This wave of “corporate inversions” threatens to hollow out the U.S. corporate income tax base.

One striking example is Walgreens, the nation’s largest drugstore chain, which may use an upcoming acquisition to become a foreign company in order to dodge more than $4 billion in taxes over five years. Walgreens is talking about abandoning America despite its reliance on the U.S. government — and U.S. taxpayers — for a quarter of its revenue paid for by the Medicare and Medicaid programs.

It’s time for Congress to close the loophole and end this outrageous practice.

Last week, I was encouraged to see Congress finally begin to hold hearings and to hear President Barack Obama double down on his support. Under the president’s leadership, the administration is taking the right approach and has proposed solutions to the problem.

This week, Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew in the Washington Post was right to suggest Congress make this legislation retroactive to May 2014, so corporations have notice that any transactions taking place after that date will not allow them to dodge taxes.

“This inversion loophole must be plugged,” Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) recently said, and Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) and Rep. Sandy Levin (D-Mich.) have both proposed legislation to plug it.

This is exactly the momentum we need to close the loophole once and for all.

The real problem is that many of these so-called “U.S.” corporations want to keep dictating our economic policies and dominating our politics, yet they have less and less loyalty to the people who actually live and work in America. They want to keep benefiting from all the things our government does for them so they can make profits — our legal system to protect their investments and patents, our education and training system to train their workers, our transportation system to get their products to market, our federally sponsored research, our military — but they want the rest of us to front their share of the bill.
Sixty years ago corporations paid one-third of federal revenues, but today they pay only one-tenth. Now they say even that’s too much. Corporate profits are at their highest ever and wage growth is near its lowest in half a century, but still these corporations are not satisfied. They want more. They want Congress to cut their income tax rate, even though many of the largest corporations get away with paying little or no taxes for years. They want Congress to eliminate taxes on the factories they ship overseas, even though an existing loophole already allows them to lower their tax bill when they outsource jobs. And if we don’t give these corporations what they want, they threaten to renounce their citizenship and stop paying U.S. taxes altogether.
We need to start demanding a little more patriotism from these corporations. If they want to keep benefiting from everything our great country has to offer, they need to start showing a little more loyalty to the people who live and work in America. And they need to stop threatening to desert the United States and stop paying their taxes altogether unless America gives in to their demands.

Follow Richard Trumka on Twitter: www.twitter.com/RichardTrumka

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What’s Big, Stormy, and Could Cost Us $150 Billion Every Year? Punching In

Into the (economic) storm

Report: Delaying climate change policies could cost U.S. economy $150 billion every year.

Fighting fire with fire

Katrina vanden Heuvel on building a progressive alternative to ALEC.

“There is value is redefining what tens of thousands of these workers are doing”

Rep. Keith Ellison will introduce a bill Wednesday making union organizing a civil right.

Debunking myths about fast food advancement

She makes $7.35 an hour at McDonald’s. She’s been there for ten years.

We Love How This ‘Frozen’ Star Sang About the Minimum Wage. But There Are 3 Problems With It.

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Kristen Bell, the voice of Princess Anna in the blockbuster Disney hit ‘Frozen’ and dozens of other films, put on a different costume this week to talk about something you wouldn’t expect.

Fans of the humor website Funny or Die were surprised to find a new video of Bell portraying Mary Poppins, the famous fictional British governess. In the video, she is telling her two young wards that she has to quit. Why? She makes minimum wage, and it’s not enough to live on.

“Just a three dollar increase can make a living wage,” she sings to the children. She goes onto use all of Mary Poppins’ tricks and tools–little birds, penguins, and so on–to explain how low wages hurt families, businesses, and consumers alike.

Don’t get us wrong: We love this video, and anything that brings this issue to a broader audience helps in our campaign for fair wages.

But unfortunately, Minimum Wage Mary Poppins is not quite accurate when she says an increase to $10.10, as proposed by Democrats and blocked by Republicans in the Senate earlier this year, would constitute a living wage for most Americans:

$10.10 doesn’t keep up with cost of goods. According to the Economic Policy Institute, increasing the federal minimum wage to $10.10 would lift millions out of poverty, but it would still not reach the level it would be if the minimum wage had kept up with inflation since 1968, and would not come close what the minimum wage would be if it had increased with worker productivity.

Real value of the federal minimum wage, 1968–2013 and 2013–2016 under proposed increase to $10.10 by 2016, compared with its value had it grown at the rate of productivity or average worker wages (2013 dollars)

For most Americans, $10.10 doesn’t keep up with the cost of living. While the cost of living varies depending on where you live, $10.10 an hour doesn’t constitute a “living wage” in most areas, particularly if you have one or more dependents.

For example, according to the MIT Living Wage Calculator, a single adult can survive in Arkansas on $7.86 an hour, which is still higher than the current minimum wage in Arkansas, $7.25. However, add a kid into the mix, and that shoots up to $16.37.

In a more expensive area like the District of Columbia, a single adult needs a living wage of $13.65, which nearly doubles with the addition of one child.

All this assumes a 40 hour work week. Think those numbers from MIT look bleak? Well, they are actually extremely optimistic, because they assume the adults in question are working 2,080 hours a year, or 40 hours a week for 52 weeks.

First off, no one should have to work 8 hours a day every single day of the year with no days off. Not only is that inhumane, it ignores events like sickness, family emergencies, and any other of the infinite problems that might keep someone from their 8-hour work day

Second of all, and perhaps less obvious, is that the majority of low-wage workers aren’t getting scheduled for close to 40 hours a week. Not in their dreams.

We talk to hundreds of people every night, many of them retail and service workers, and a consistent theme we hear is that schedules are erratic, unpredictable, and insufficient.

Sometimes it’s because managers don’t want workers to exceed the number of hours that would require them to provide health care. Sometimes it’s an issue of favoritism or retaliation, where a manager will assign a better or worse schedule based on how they feel about an employee. And if you take a second part-time job, you have no assurance that the two schedules will line up, or that you’d be able to juggle the demands of two jobs as they constantly change.

Lastly, thank you Kristen Bell. Despite these few omissions, your collaboration with Funny or Die is hilarious, clever, and shines a bright spotlight on an issue that’s too often overlooked.

For the first time in forever, we have a Disney song that helps the economic facts go down.

To join Working America’s fight for fair wages, text RAISE to 30644.

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Paul Ryan’s At It Again With A New Poverty Plan: Punching In

Missing the mark

Paul Ryan’s poverty plan is all wrong.

Call ‘em out

Obama calls out companies for overseas tax loopholes.

Key Quote: “I don’t care if it’s legal — it’s wrong,” Obama said.

Did you want another protest with that?

Following the global protests, fast food workers are meeting in Chicago today to plan their next move.

Trend: This Is How Women Are Standing Up Against Low Wages

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It’s no secret that more and more women are staking their claim in the work world. Although women make up a large portion of the workforce, a disproportionate number of them are low-wage workers and problems with fair working conditions persist.

Things like wage theft, the absence of a work/ life balance, unfair schedules and more plague women working in low-wage professions.

But increasingly, these female dominated industries are fighting back, organizing and creating change.

NFL cheerleaders

For the past 8 months, cheerleaders from three NFL teams have begun to speak out against unfair treatment both on and off the field. Grievances ranged from low wages, to wage theft to outright demeaning requests.

Despite the poor working conditions, there have been some glimmers of hope in the form of worker-led organization. Back in May a former dancer called for the unionization of the cheerleaders as a possible remedy to the low wages and unfair conditions that plague the work, and since then the Oakland Raiders have made the decision to finally pay dancers the minimum wage in addition to paying them for work-related events.

Hotel workers

The most dangerous job in the service industry is that of a hotel housekeeper, a role primarily held by women workers.  Many of these workers endure unrealistic work expectations and low pay.

Back in 2013, a group of Albuquerque hotel workers approached the New Mexico arm of Working America because they felt that they weren’t being fairly compensated for cleaning rooms. At the time the workers claimed that they were being paid $3.25 per room, instead of the city-wide minimum wage of $8.50.

The DOL then launched a formal investigation and found that the hotel was indeed paying workers below both the city and Federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour.

That investigation has prompted fairer wages and policies for workers.

Domestic workers

Women represent 95% of domestic workers, which comprises child and homecare jobs, but across the nation 23% of these workers are paid less than the state minimum wage.

What’s more, it seems that many in-home child care workers aren’t given breaks and are forced to work long, strenuous hours.

But recent victories in California, Massachusetts and New York point to greater rights for this group of workers.

Most recently, a Domestic Workers Bill of Rights was passed in Massachusetts. The bill gives workers proper breaks, unpaid sick days, and clarifies working hours. Similar bills have been passed in California and New York.

Photo courtesy of Herald Post via Flickr.

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11 Ways the ‘Schedules that Work’ Act Would Make the Lives of Working Families Better

11 Ways the 'Schedules that Work' Act Would Make the Lives of Working Families Better

On Tuesday, Reps. George Miller (D-Calif.) and Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) introduced the “Schedules that Work” Act to provide federal guidelines for making sure that employers offer fair, flexible and reliable schedules for working families who are often left in difficult situations because of erratic employer scheduling. Miller said the act is about “dignity” and ensuring workers can earn a decent living and meet family responsibilities.

Scheduling problems are particularly glaring in some of the fastest-growing and lowest-paying industries in the United States, including retail, food service and janitorial work. The United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) President Joe Hansen explained the problem in more detail:

If you ask a worker in the retail industry what improvements can be made to their job, the response is likely to include scheduling. Fair, flexible and reliable scheduling is a simple way to ensure workers are treated with dignity and respect. In a perfect world, employers would view workers as human beings with competing life demands rather than numbers on a balance sheet. But in reality, scheduling is more erratic than ever.

Here are 11 ways the act would improve the lives of working families. It would:

1. Give employees the right to ask for schedules that better meet their professional and family needs: Workers would have the right to request more flexible or more predictable schedules, request more or fewer work hours and ask for minimal fluctuations in scheduling. Employers would be required to consider and respond to schedule requests.

2. Give employees with specific needs more protections: Scheduling requests for priority reasons would have to be granted by employers, if possible.  Priority reasons include health conditions, child care, elder care, a second job, education or job training.

3. Protect workers from retaliation: Employers would be prohibited from punishing workers for their work requests.

4. Require reporting pay: Often workers are called in to work, only to be sent home or put on call without pay or guarantee of work. The law would require employers to provide at least four hours of wages for employees who report to work when scheduled for shifts of four hours or longer and are sent home before four hours of work.

5. Require call-in pay: For employees that are required to call in less than 24 hours before a shift and are not allowed to work for at least four hours, employers would be required to pay them at least one hour’s wages.

6. Require split-shift pay: Workers who are required to work nonconsecutive hours would be paid an additional hour’s wages for time spent between shifts waiting to work.

7. Require employers to provide employees with clear expectations about hours and scheduling: As part of working a job, employees would be provided with a general idea of the schedules and number of hours they will be working and employers would be required to tell workers about changes in advance. Short-notice changes would require additional pay.

8. Help women have more ability to meet work and family responsibilities: Women workers make up the majority of low-wage jobs that would be affected by the bill, and improving their scheduling would make it easier for them to meet both work and family responsibilities.

9. Provide students with increased flexibility in pursuing higher education: According to CLASP, unpredictable scheduling limits class choice, the number of classes taken, class schedules and access to campus facilities, all of which slow down student progress toward graduation.

10. Benefit the economy: Unreliable and unpredictable scheduling is a drain on workforce productivity and increases turnover. Making schedules more reliable would help reduce both of these problems, which would increase business profits and help create more jobs.

11. Benefit businesses, too: More reliable schedules also would contribute to higher job satisfaction, higher organizational loyalty, higher worker performance and productivity, lower absenteeism and lower turnover.

Hansen said UFCW supports the act:

This legislation would ensure all workers have the rights fought for and won by UFCW members for decades. Our contracts have long guaranteed predictable and adequate scheduling. The law of the land should do the same. I urge Congress to pass the Schedules that Work Act as soon as possible.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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5 Things that Have Changed Since the Federal Minimum Wage Was Last Increased

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The federal minimum wage was last increased on July 24, 2009, and since then, a lot has changed (don’t forget tipped workers haven’t seen a raise since 1991). There have been so many attacks on working families since that time that it would be difficult to catalog them all. But workers and their allies haven’t taken the attacks sitting down, and many are finding new ways to organize and stand up for their rights. Here are five things that have changed since the last time the federal minimum wage was increased:

1. Republicans Took Control of the House and Promptly Did…Nothing: In the 2010 midterm elections, Republicans took control of the House of Representatives in Washington, D.C., and then proceeded to engage in historical levels of obstructionism, and this 113th Congress is on pace to go down as one of the least productive Congresses in history. Congressional Democrats have tried to raise the minimum wage, butRepublicans blocked the legislation. Not to mention Republicans also shut down the government in 2013.

2. Working Families Turned to State and Local Governments: Not content to wait for Republicans in Congress to act, working family advocates turned their attention to state and local governments. On June 1, 2014, Delaware became the 22nd state (as well as the District of Columbia) to raise its minimum wage above the 2009 level. Four more states are set to increase on Jan. 1, 2015, while at least four more will consider ballot measures to increase their minimum wage in November 2014. At least a dozen cities or counties also have passed minimum wage increases in the past five years as well. Much of the state and local action has been in the last year or so, showing a growing momentum across the country for raising the wage despite Republican opposition.

3. Worker Productivity Has Risen, While Wages Have Stagnated: One place you can’t lay the blame for the economic crisis, stagnant wages and other economic problems is on workers. Between 1973 and 2013, worker productivity had risen nearly 65%. Meanwhile, wages for those same workers had only increased 8.2%.

4. CEOs, on the Other Hand, Have Gotten Much Richer: While workers are much more productive and not being fairly compensated for it, CEOs are making out like bandits. The average S&P 500 company CEO received $11.7 million in 2013, or 774 times a full-time worker earning the federal minimum wage. The ratio of CEO pay to production and non-supervisory worker pay has gone from 46–1 in 1983 to 331–1 in 2013.

5. The Value of the Minimum Wage Keeps Getting Eaten Away by Inflation: Stagnant wages are a real problem for working families and they are barely keeping up with inflation. A few examples make this problem clear. In January 2009, the average price of gas was $1.84 a gallon, now it’s $3.59 a gallon. The price of beef has risen 74% since 2009 to a record level. In 2009, a gallon of milk could easily be purchased for under $3, now the price is more than $4 in many places. Overall, food prices have risen 9% since 2009, with many individual staples rising much faster.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Yes, You’re Allowed to Blame Obamacare for This: Punching In

So really, it’s just the big businesses who don’t like it

Poll finds that 61 percent of small business owners favor raising the minimum wage to $10.10. (Full poll results here).

Undoing Walker’s damage

Milwaukee City Council passes $10.10 living wage ordinance for all city employees and employees paid under city contracts.

Go on those late-night grocery runs guilt-free

16,000 Kroger workers in Ohio reach tentative new contract with better health benefits and wages.

You can blame Obamacare for that check in your mailbox

ACA’s “medical loss ratio” provision, which requires insurers to spend at least 80 percent of premium costs on care, has resulted in nearly $2 billion in rebates (so far).

You Should Know: The End of Same Day Registration in North Carolina

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Same-day voting registration laws help improve and equalize the democracy process, but did you know that it’s now illegal to register and vote on the same day in NC?  The republican controlled legislature eliminated same day registration last year, a backwards step for our voting process.  Under the new law, voter registration must occur at least 25 days prior to an election.

In 2007 the state general assembly passed a law that made same-day registration legal and voter participation increased immediately.   More than 100,000 North Carolina residents registered and voted simultaneously in the 2008 and 2012 general elections.  Demos, an organization dedicated to public policy, conducted research comparing same day vs. non same day registration states.  The findings illustrated that same day registration states had higher voter participation than those without same a day policy.

The law,even  showed increased voter participation, especially for certain social groups.  Although youths (18-25) comprised 12% of voters in 2012, they were 33% of same day registration voters; Blacks made up 34% of same day registrants/voters.  Illustrating even greater racial ramifications to the current law, Blacks utilized same day registration/voting more than Whites in 2012, according to Dr. Michael Herron and Dr. Daniel Smith, two political science professors.

This law is important to me. I don’t believe that my parents participated in the civil rights movement to have their offspring jump through voter suppression hoops similar to the ones that existed in the 1950’s and 60’s.  Things should progress, not be repeated under less obtrusive schemes.

Remember, same day registration is now illegal.  Get registered to vote today…the right you save may be your own!

Photo courtesy of Theresa Thompson via Flickr.

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