Oregon Unions Work Together to Help Head Start Workers Win a Voice on the Job

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

The joint effort known as the “Oregon Organizing Project” has helped more than 3,000 Oregon workers win a voice on the job in the past several months. In the most recent campaign, several Oregon unions pitched in and worked together to help more than 300 Head Start workers at Mount Hood Community College who wanted to form a union to address serious workplace concerns.

Monday night in Portland, those workers took the first official step in winning that union when they filed a petition with the Oregon Employment Relations Board (ERB) to recognize the Oregon State Employees Association (OSEA)/AFT as their union.

The Oregon Organizing Project that worked with the Head Start employees, includes the Oregon AFL-CIO, the AFL-CIO, Working AmericaAFSCMEAFT-Oregon, Communications Workers of America (CWA), Machinists (IAM) Oregon Nurses Association (ONA), Oregon State Building and Construction Trades Council, OSEA/AFT Local 6732 and several community partners. The groups work together in planning and share resources in each other’s campaigns.

The efforts include not just union organizers, but rank-and-file union members who share their experiences and explain how union membership has benefited their co-workers and their families.

The Mount Hood campaign was formed around such issues as greater job security, having a voice in day-to-day operations and crucial budget decisions, equitable health care for part-time workers and proper job training.

The astounding diversity of the Head Start employees required literature and outreach in several languages, including English, Spanish and Russian. AFT organizer Lesly Salinas says her own bicultural experience helped her understand the perspective of a Head Start employee who experiences what Salinas calls “two different ways of being.”

“We found other ways to relate,” says Salinas. “I don’t think there was a big cultural divide. They’re just a big, big family and they treat each other with respect.”

In Oregon, no election is necessary if more than 50% of employees in a proposed bargaining unit sign a union authorization card as the Head Start workers did. The ERB could certify the petition sometime in May.

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Bangladesh Five-O: Punching In

Rep. Gary Peters expected to run for U.S. Senate in Michigan.

Twinkies won’t be union made – BCTGM responds.

GOP Representative wants to make deep cuts to food stamps, creating zeroes of jobs!

Why Rob Portman is a hypocrite (this time).

ALEC-backed paid sick days preemption bill passes Florida Senate.

An arrest in Bangladesh.

A list of the many things Missouri politicians have failed to do this year.

Related: Who do they represent?

Pennsylvania Gov. Corbett’s years of being terrible have finally caught up to him.

Finally: Cartoon of the Day.

BCTGM ‘Extremely Disappointed’ by Reports Hostess Brands Buyer Will Not Hire Union Members

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers (BCTGM) issued a statement today, responding to the sale of the iconic Twinkies brand.

In response to Metropoulos & Co. CEO C. Dean Metropoulos’ statement to The Wall Street Journal that the company will not hire union workers when reopening four former Hostess Brands bakeries, BCTGM International President David B. Durkee issued the following statement on behalf of all BCTGM members:

The BCTGM is pleased to see that Hostess Brands LLC, the newly formed snack cake company created by Apollo Global Management and Metropoulos & Co, has announced that it will be reopening four Hostess bakeries to produce the iconic Hostess cake brands. Those four successful cake plants were represented by the BCTGM for many years under former Hostess ownership.

However, we are extremely disappointed to see negative statements from company executives about the union status of its future employees. Ideally, we would like to see as many of our members hired as possible. We believe their combination of experience, dedication and know-how will give the new owners the chance to get high quality snack cakes back in the marketplace.

Federal labor law governing the hiring process and the obligations for the employer and the rights of the future employees in this situation is quite definitive. We expect that the new owners will respect the statutory rights of all workers during the hiring, startup and future of this new company.

The BCTGM remains focused on ensuring that the new Hostess Brands ownership understands that the snack cakes at the center of this new company are inextricably linked to the hands that make them—and have made them for generations. We know that our workers have a critical role to play in protecting and enhancing some of America’s most valuable consumer brands. We all want the same outcome: that the brands should prosper and endure. This is what the next stage of this saga is all about—implementing a new ownership and manufacturing structure worthy of the brands themselves and America’s manufacturing prowess.

Our members provide immense value to the new ownership with decades of experience, expertise and training. Not only have our members produced these quality products for consumers for generations, they know these bakeries inside and out. Our members are eager and willing to return to these snack plants and help usher in a new period of prosperity for Hostess snack cakes.

It is our sincere hope that the new owners will fully recognize the tremendous value of hiring back our members. If, however, they do not want us as part of the future of this company, we will continue to fight for our membership through other avenues.

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Minnesota House Will Vote Friday on Minimum Wage Increase to $9.50

The Ways and Means Committee of the Minnesota House approved HF 92 today, a bill to raise the state minimum wage to $9.50 an hour by 2015. The bill goes to full House vote on Friday, May 3.

The bill raises the minimum wage in three steps, after which the minimum wage would be indexed to inflation. “By creating an inflationary adjustment, we’re actually giving business a much more predictable, smooth path,” said Rep. Ryan Winkler (DFL-Golden Valley), the bill’s sponsor.

The precarious situation faced by Minnesota low-wage workers got a big spotlight earlier this month when Rep. Jason Metsa (DFL-Virginia) took the Working America Minimum Wage Challenge, during which he lived on a budget of $7.50 an hour. “I want to let all my colleagues know that it’s darn near impossible to live on these wages,” Rep. Metsa said after his one-week experience, “I encourage them to vote for Representative Winkler’s bill.”

While the increase to $9.50 will go to a vote in the House, the Senate is the chamber that will need the most work. In its current form, the Senate bill only increases the minimum wage $0.25 to $7.50.

But the main task ahead of us is Friday’s vote in the House. Send a message now: Tell your Representative to vote for HF 92 and give Minnesotans a raise.

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The Safety Lie: Punching In

West, Texas explosion reveals huge fragmented system of oversight.

Opinion: What role did Fox News play in the explosion?

#MustRead column by Leo Gerard: “You are not safe. Not at work.”

Florida House officially turns down Medicaid funds.

In the Ohio Medicaid debate, people are more than just numbers.

Insurance companies resist shareholder efforts to track political spending.

So-called “right to work” will lower Missouri wages.

Finally: Cartoon of the Day.

7 Things You Should Know About “Comp Time” and the Working Families Flexibility Act

Say what you will, but anti-worker politicians are good at giving deceptive names to things. “Right to work” takes away your rights at work. “Paycheck protection” puts your wages at risk. And who could forget Paul Ryan’s plan to “strengthen Medicare” which ends Medicare as we know it.

House Republicans are pushing the “Workplace Families Flexibility Act of 2013,” which they claim would allow busy working parents to spend more time with their kids. That’s bogus. The bill replaces the 40-hour work week with a “comp time” accrual system that would allow employers greater control over their hourly employee’s schedule.

What’s worse? The bill ends ”time-and-a-half” overtime pay for hourly and non-exempt workers as we know it, giving renewed incentive for businesses to work their employees as long as they want with near impunity.

In other words, the bill does the opposite of what House Republicans say it will.

Confused? That’s exactly what they want. So here are 8 things you should know:

“Comp time” undermines the 40-hour work week. Quick history review: in 1938, the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) became law. We say it “established” the 40-hour work week, but really it just “encouraged” it, by telling employers that for any hours worked past 40, workers had to be time-and-a-half and receive it in their next pay period. The idea was you get eight hours at work, eight hours to sleep, and eight hours to do whatever you want. Another goal of time-and-a -half pay was to give employers a financial incentive to hire more workers when they have more work, instead of forcing workers already on the job to work beyond their scheduled hours.

With “comp time,” employers are encouraged to do the opposite. Making overtime less expensive to employers means more workers being scheduled for 50 or 60-hour shifts. Which means less time with your family – not more.

“Comp time” encourages mandatory overtime – and ends overtime pay as we know it. Instead of time-and-a-half pay for hours worked past 40, workers would get “comp time,” hours of time off to be taken later. Employers benefit because they don’t have to pay overtime, plus, they can have you use your comp time in a way that won’t cost them extra (during less busy periods, etc.).

According to the bill, individual employees have the “choice” between comp time or overtime pay. Since comp time saves the employer money, what is stopping them from inducing workers, subtly or not, into choosing comp time? They could give the “comp time” workers better shifts and better treatment, and they could even train workers not to take the overtime options – in the same way that Target and other stores train workers not to join unions.

Don’t be fooled: this is a pay cut. Again, having hours off “at some point” sounds nice. But overall, workers’ take home pay will go down, because that supplemental income you would’ve had from working overtime will disappear. Besides, depending on your schedule, you could get to December 31 without having the chance to use your accrued comp time, at which point you are left with no time off and no extra pay.

It has “flexibility” in the name, but provides less flexibility to workers… Employers already have the option to offer their workers more flexible schedules – most just choose not to. The only difference is that with “comp time,” workers don’t get the time-and-a-half pay they would with overtime. “Comp time” isn’t “paid leave” in the traditional sense, because now the employee is the one paying.

…and more flexibility to employers. Say you want to take your comp days off. You go to your boss and request an afternoon off to take care of a sick child, for instance. Under “comp time,” the boss can deny your request outright. Why? Because they can claim that your request “unduly disrupts the operations of the employer” or that the request was not made “within a reasonable period.”

So you’ve gone from a job with overtime pay to a job with unlimited shifts and no extra pay, and you can’t take days off when you want. And if you take the overtime option, your boss can treat you worse because of it. Thanks, Working Families Flexibility Act!

Kills jobs. People say this phrase all the time, “job-killing this,” “job-killing that.” But comp time sends the message to employers that it’s cheaper to work your current employees harder and longer than ever before rather than hire new people. When you take away the primary incentive to hire more people that literally, not figuratively, kills jobs.

There’s a better way. How about this: we don’t touch the 40-hour work week. Eight hours work, eight hours sleep, eight hours to do what you will – it’s a good system.

The problem remains, though, that many workers don’t even have right to earn paid leave to use when they get the flu, need to care for a sick child, experience a traumatic event, or even attend their kid’s school play.

That’s why Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Representative Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) introduced the Healthy Families Act, which would allow workers to earn up to seven job-protected paid sick days each year. Workers would earn one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours work – no one gets something for nothing. You can learn more about that bill here, and send a message to Congress to pass it here.

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Water Colored Memories of the Way Bush Was: Punching In

New report shines a bright light on ALEC infiltration in Missouri.

The ref ruled this Krugman column as a technical knock-out to austerity.

Remembering lifelong economic and social justice advocate Bob Edgar.

Related: How jobs advocates and environmentalist beat an ALEC bill in North Carolina.

Ohio Gov. Kasich’s education cuts mean cities and towns need $1.3 billion more in levies.

Hyatt ignores its workers’ request to put an actual hotel employee on its board of directors.

ICYMI: Rock on! Guitar Center workers seek to unionize.

Finally: 23 moments that won’t make it into the Bush Library (but should).

Rock Out with Your Collective Action Out: Clocking Out

Guitar Center workers seek to unionize. Their opponent? Bain Capital.

The AFL-CIO was nominated for a Webby! You should vote for them.

Maine House rejects “right to work” – again.

Progressive groups urge Harry Reid to take up filibuster reform – again.

Koch-backed Americans for Prosperity thinks you’re stupid.

Finally: Someone in Congress tries to save the Postal Service.

(Not the band, the men and women who deliver your mail.)

How Corporations Use Offshore Havens to Avoid Paying Their Taxes

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

Current laws in the United States allow corporations to use offshore havens to avoid paying their taxes and, if it’s up to many in Washington, the problem will only grow larger, particularly if the so-called “territorial” tax system is passed. The details of the use of such tax havens were discussed in a conference call with Campaign for America’s Future (CAF), Americans for Tax Fairness (ATF) and Citizens for Tax Justice (CTJ).

Current tax laws encourage the offshoring of America’s jobs, manufacturing and profit centers, which has led to the hollowing out of the middle class, manufacturing and much of the country, according to Dave Johnson of CAF. Changes in the tax code in recent decades have led to a series of dangerous statistics for America’s working families:

  • Corporate tax revenues as a share of GDP are at near historically low levels.
  • In 2009, the U.S. share of GDP made up of corporate tax revenues was only 1.7%.
  • The top corporate tax rate in 1970 was 52.8%, now it is 35% (although the effective rate is much lower).
  • The United States has the third-lowest effective corporate tax burden in the world.
  • Corporate taxation as a share of total tax revenue was 26.4% in 1950 and was down to 7.4% in 2010.
  • Personal income, Social Security and Medicare taxes were 51.4% of total tax revenue in 1950, now they are up to 83.4%.

Congress is now proposing lowering corporate taxes even more and even, possibly, eliminating taxes on earnings reported as having been earned outside the country.

ATF has been working to highlight the massive corporate tax loopholes big corporations exploit, says the organization’s campaign manager, Frank Clemente. Those loopholes allow some corporations, such as General Electric—who had an effective corporate tax rate of 12% in 2011—to pay less in taxes than individuals. There are currently $1.6 trillion in corporate revenues waiting offshore. The corporations who own those revenues want Congress to pass a new tax holiday (previous holidays taxed those profits at only 5%, instead of the standard corporate tax rate) or a territorial tax system, wherein U.S. corporations would pay no taxes on foreign profits. Clemente says that would create an incentive for corporations to ship more and more revenues overseas, as well as shipping manufacturing, patents and jobs to countries with no corporate taxes.

CTJ works to give ordinary people a greater voice in the development of tax laws. It focuses on exposing corporations that pay little or no taxes. CTJ argued that the tax code needs to be reformed, but in a way that ends incentives to shift profits and jobs offshore. Currently, corporations have heavy incentives to disguise U.S. profits as offshore profits to avoid paying taxes.

An example of this problem is a report from the Congressional Research Service that found in 2008 that American multinational corporations reported earning 43% of their $940 billion in foreign profits in five tiny tax-haven countries that house only 4% of their foreign workforce and 7% of their foreign investments.

The three organizations say they have three basic policies they favor to deal with tax havens and the offshoring of America’s profits and jobs.

  1. Rejecting revenue-neutral tax plans that close loopholes and lower statutory tax rates. Instead they favor revenue-positive tax proposals that would increase government revenue.
  2. Closing tax loopholes that encourage the offshoring of profits, and making sure foreign profits for U.S. corporations are taxed at the same rate as domestic profits. One example of legislation that would accomplish this is a bill by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt,), the Corporate Tax Fairness Act, that would require corporations to pay the same tax rate on domestic or foreign profits and would raise $590 billion over 10 years.
  3. Rejecting the territorial tax system, which they call “tax havens on steroids.”

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Dear David: Hitting the Ceiling

Question:

I work for a large national retailer. How do you get them to remove caps on wages? I’ve been told that it’s “not a cap,” and that I just “chose not to advance”! There are not enough management positions for everyone. I have worked for the company for 26 years and now I will never make any more money. Is that even legal?

- Not living better, Kansas

Answer:

It’s understandable that it feels like your wages are actually capped. After all, you’ve been with the same company for quite a while. That’s the problem you face when the power to decide whether or not you get a raise rests only with the boss.

In a way, there really is a cap on wages. And it’s not just happening to you. Worker productivity has increased steadily for the past forty years but wages have not. We’re working harder and creating more value, but we’re not getting any of that back. Corporations and rich CEOs are so out of touch that they no longer feel like they should have any responsibility to share the increased profits they earn. I know I keep citing the same statistics, but I think they’re key to understanding what change is needed.

Your prospects for a raise shouldn’t just be a limited number of management positions—especially when your advancement is completely in your boss’s control. Part of the reason why we’ve seen this rise in inequality is that workers and communities accepted that it just has to be that way. I say, no way! This is a big-picture problem, but one we can take on if we band together—like workers for one national big-box retailer or fast food workers in New York City have been doing. There is plenty of room even in this economy to treat workers with respect and dignity, and to do so through a fairer share of the profits they create. Ready to do something about it? You definitely aren’t alone.

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