10 Ways Working Families Are ‘Kicking Ass’ for the Middle Class

Sure, working families have been under attack for years, but people across the country are rolling up their sleeves and fighting back to protect workers’ rights and raise living standards for everyone. Here are 10 ways they’re doing it:

1. Increasing the Minimum Wage

Four states (California, Connecticut, New York and Rhode Island) have increased their state minimum wage in 2013, and on Nov. 5, New Jersey voters will vote on a ballot measure to increase their minimum wage.

2. Passing “Buy America” Laws

Three states (Colorado, Maryland and Texas) passed laws in 2013 to ensure that the goods procured with public funding are made in the United States.

3. Ensuring Paid Sick Days

Portland, Ore., Jersey City, N.J., and New York City became the latest three cities to adopt standards for paid sick days in 2013.

4. Protecting Immigrant Workers

In 2013, six states (California, Colorado, Indiana, Maryland, Oregon and Vermont) have enacted protections for immigrant workers, including access to driver’s licenses and education.

5. Cracking Down on Businesses That Cheat Workers

Texas passed legislation in 2013 to crack down on businesses that cheat employees by treating them as “independent contractors” who lack worker protections (such as minimum wage and overtime protection, and eligibility for unemployment benefits and workers’ compensation).

6. Giving Workers the Right to a Voice on the Job

In 2013, some 15,000 home care workers in Minnesota won collective bargaining rights through state legislation, as did 10,000 in Illinois and 7,000 in Vermont. Thousands of other workers around the country have enjoyed organizing wins, too: 7,000 electrical workers, more than 5,000 Texas public school teachers, taxi drivers in New York and other cities, telecom workers, college and university faculty, EMS drivers, hotel and casino workers and domestic workers, to name a few.

7. Protecting Your Privacy on Social Media

Nine states (Arizona, Colorado, Illinois, New Jersey, New Mexico, Nevada, Oregon, Utah and Washington) have passed legislation in 2013 to prohibit employers from requiring access to your social media passwords or information as a condition of employment.

8. Fighting for LGBTQ Equality

Five states (Colorado, Delaware, Minnesota, Rhode Island and Vermont) have passed legislation banning workplace discrimination or recognizing marriage equality.

9. Protecting the Rights of Domestic Workers

Two states (California and Hawaii) have passed legislation in 2013 to protect the rights of domestic workers. California’s Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights will benefit about 200,000 domestic workers, and Hawaii’s will benefit some 20,000 domestic workers.

10. Protecting Voting Rights

Twelve states (California, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Maryland, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Virginia and West Virginia) have passed legislation protecting voting rights in 2013, while voting rights legislation was vetoed by the governors of Nevada and New Jersey.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Smallest-Ever Social Security COLA Still too Big for ‘Chained’ CPI Backers

Next year, the millions of Social Security recipients will see the smallest cost-of-living adjustment ever—just 1.5% or about $19 a month. If the politicians—and their billionaire friends who don’t want to pay the same taxes workers do—who are pressing hard for the “chained” CPI benefit cut had their way, the adjustment would be even smaller than 2014’s historic low.

Edward F. Coyle, executive director of the Alliance for Retired Americans, says, “I hope this news about next year’s Social Security COLA will cause politicians in Washington to reconsider their support for the ‘chained’ CPI.”

How can anyone look at an increase of around 1.5% and think ‘That’s too big?’ Clearly, these politicians need to spend more time talking to seniors who are struggling. Next year’s increase will be 1.5%. Imagine if it were even less. Then imagine if that smaller increase were to be compounded over time. That is the ‘chained’ CPI.

The “chained” CPI proposal would reduce cost-of-living adjustments for Social Security and prevent benefits from keeping up with inflation. At age 75, a senior’s benefits would be cut by about $650 per year (on average). At age 85, those benefits would be cut by about $1,150 per year, and at age 95, by about $1,600 per year. For more on what the “chained” CPI would do, go to the Alliance “chained” CPI fact sheet.

Earlier this month, 51 Republican members of the House, led by Rep. Reid Ribble (R-Wis.) signed a letter to Speaker John Boehner supporting COLA cuts, among other unspecified proposed Social Security benefit cuts, as part of the ransom demand to lift the debt ceiling.

On the other hand, Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and Rep. Linda Sánchez (D-Calif.) have introduced the Strengthening Social Security Act (S. 567 and H.R. 3118). The legislation would measure inflation not with the “chained” CPI, but with a more accurate measure of inflation for seniors (the CPI-E). It also would improve Social Security’s solvency by lifting the cap on earnings subject to the Social Security tax, so that all of America’s workers pay the same rate.

AFL-CIO Policy Director and Special Counsel Damon Silvers recently told Salon that the AFL-CIO opposes any benefit cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

The labor movement is going to fight to the death to stop cuts to Social Security and Medicare and Medicaid. Not ‘unreasonable cuts.’ Not ‘cuts without tax increases.’ Cuts period. We’re against all of them, we will fight them ferociously, and we will give no cover to any Democrat who supports them

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Newt’s Revenge! A Very Spooky Punching In

Newt’s revenge: child labor makes a comeback. (Eek!)

Why millennials are pro-union. (Scary young people!)

Three Republicans back House Democratic immigration bill. (Run from the bipartisanship!)

Will New York’s Gov. Cuomo gut worker safety laws? (Hide…under a hard hat!)

Coalition succeeds in weakening Alabama voting restrictions. (Coalitions!)

Social Security benefits will increase 1.5 percent this week. (Phew…)

That’s the smallest cost of living adjustment since 1975. (Noooooo!)

How sanitation company Waste Management makes bank off your tax dollars. (Get off my wallet you monster!)

Finally: The high cost of low takes. (Spooky paradox!)


10 Not-So-Fun Facts About the Minimum Wage

It’s time to raise the minimum wage. The majority of America’s working families (80%) agree. Earlier this year, Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.) introduced a bill that would raise the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour.

Here are 10 facts about the minimum wage from the National Employment Law Project:

How much the federal minimum wage would be if it had kept up with inflation over the past 40 years. Instead, it’s $7.25. Learn more.

The annual income for a full-time employee working the entire year at the federal minimum wage.

The number of states where a minimum wage worker can afford a two-bedroom apartment working a 40-hour week. Learn more.

The number of times Congress passed legislation to increase the minimum wage in the past 30 years.

The number of states (including the District of Columbia) that have raised their minimum wage above the federal level of $7.25.

The number of states that annually increase their state minimum to keep up with the rising cost of living.

The percentage of Americans who support gradually raising the minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to at least $10.00 an hour, according to an October 2010 poll.

64 in 100 vs. 4 in 100
What are the chances an adult minimum wage worker is a woman vs. the chances a Fortune 500 CEO is a woman? Learn more.

The percentage of Missouri voters that voted to increase and index the Missouri minimum wage in the 2006 ballot initiative.

The federal minimum wage for tipped employees, such as waiters and waitresses, nail salon workers or parking attendants.

Photo by Raise the Wage on Facebook

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Food Stamp Cuts: Stupid, Pointless and Cruel Policy

Today, a congressional conference committee has come together to debate the farm bill. It seems almost certain that the result is going to be cuts to Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as food stamps.

Starting Nov. 1, big cuts to food stamps are already set to happen, due to the expiration of a provision in the 2009 Recovery Act. But there are likely to be more on the way, since the House and Senate have each passed bills lowering SNAP spending. The Senate bill cuts $4.5 billion over the next ten years, while the House bill is much more drastic, with $39 billion in cuts over 10 years and an estimated 3.8 million people bounced out of the program entirely.

The automatic cuts are unfortunate on their own—mostly ignored by the press, they’re going to come as a major hit to families. The fact is that they were put in place as a temporary measure to ease the pressure of the crushing recession—but, for millions of working people, there hasn’t been much of a recovery.

Indeed, as Ned Resnikoff points out, hunger is a real problem for lower-income families, even when they have employment. The Nov. 1 cuts are already expected to strain not just these families but the charitable organizations on which they often depend.

When families get less help paying for food, it hurts the whole economy. As the Washington Post’s Reid Wilson notes:

Every SNAP recipient in every state will see their rates cut…Cutting SNAP dollars can mean cutting economic activity, too. Because SNAP recipients use their benefits so quickly, studies estimate that every $1 in SNAP money creates $1.70 in economic activity.

A striking series of charts from Mother Jones shows the positive impact that food stamps have—to the families who rely on them, to the future prospects of kids in those families, and to the economy as a whole. The program lifts 4 million people out of poverty, creates jobs in farming and food service, and improves nutrition for younger children, which in turn has lifelong benefits in educational outcomes and health.

It’s disappointing and unnecessary that the Recovery Act SNAP expansion is expiring—but further cuts aren’t just unnecessary, they’re economically counterproductive and gratuitously cruel, especially at the huge scale demanded by House Republicans.

12-Year-Old Takes On North Carolina’s Heinous New Voting Restrictions

Madison Kimrey of Burlington, North Carolina won’t be able to vote for another six years. But North Carolina’s new sweeping voter suppression laws, some of the most stringent restrictions on voting rights our country has seen since the Voting Rights Act of 1965, has drawn her ire all the same.

The new voting restrictions passed in July don’t just require specific photo identification to cast a ballot (no student ID, no public employee ID) that potentially disenfranchise 318,000 registered North Carolina voters. They also end the non-controversial practice of “pre-registering” 16- and 17-year-olds to vote at DMVs and high school civics classes. The policy officially kicked in on September 1.

The 12-year-old spoke at the first Moral Monday event held in Alamance County, about 60 miles west of where massive protests rocked the Raleigh this spring. Kimrey first spoke up in July, when Gov. McCrory dismissively gave out cookies and cake to protesters. She started an online petition asking Gov. McCrory to sit down and eat the baked goods with her so they could discuss his voter suppression bill and other policies. It attracted nearly 13,000 signatures.

Gov. McCrory called the request “ridiculous” and said Kimrey was a “prop for liberal groups.” Understandably, this surprised and insulted Ms. Kimrey.

“I am not a prop,” she told the crowd at the Alamance Country Moral Monday event, “I am part of the new generation of suffragettes and I will not stand silent while laws are passed to reduce the amount of voter turnout by young people in my home state.”

Kimrey also started NC Youth Rock to encourage young North Carolinians to vote and lobby representatives on behalf of young people.

“I’m going to do everything I can to get the opportunity for North Carolina teenagers to pre-register back by the time I turn 16 in four years,” Kimrey said, “but I can’t do this alone.”

Madison Kimrey is just one of the thousands of North Carolinians who are sick and tired of the attacks on voting rights, women’s rights, and workers’ rights in their state. If you’re in North Carolina and want to get involved with Working America, contact Catherine Medlock-Walton at [email protected] or (336) 292-4179.

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Investigation Into Texas Plant Explosion Delayed by Shutdown: Punching In

The case for strengthening, not cutting, Social Security benefits.

22,000 University of California workers kick off strike.

Defying the organizing odds in Maine: loberstermen, cab drivers, people under 30.

What’s next for North Carolina’s Moral Monday movement?

Gov. Snyder takes the stand in the Detroit bankruptcy trial.

What’s behind the move to block paid sick days in Pennsylvania? (ALEC.)

1,100 Cincinnati casino workers vote to join union.

Investigation into West, TX plant explosion delayed by shutdown.

Finally: Scott Walker and Mary Burke nearly tied in Wisconsin governor’s race.

Austin Passes Some Pretty Cool Laws for Construction Workers

Several hundred construction workers in Austin, Texas—mostly immigrants—and their supporters from faith, union and community groups saw their months-long fight for respect and fair wages come to a successful conclusion when the Austin City Council last week passed an ordinance requiring employers on construction projects that receive city economic incentives pay prevailing wages, provide safety training and other worker protections.

In a statement following the 6–1 City Council vote, the Workers Defense Project (WDP) thanked the lawmakers and their allies—including Austin Interfaith and the Texas State Building and Construction Trades Council—for their support and said:

In the end, the construction workers of this city got this ambitious bill started, and they got it across the finish line. We still have lots more work to do, but last night was proof that we can achieve great things for our city together.

For more than a decade, the WDP has been battling against wage theft, spotlighting the dangers and winning reforms of the Texas construction industry and standing up for workplace justice and immigrants’ rights.

Texas AFL-CIO President Becky Moeller said:

The Austin City Council’s decision to ask companies that receive tax breaks to give something back in the form of higher construction wages came about in large part because a broad coalition, including labor unions, stood united. Many companies that come to Austin will offer workplace benefits that help the entire community. Others can decline to meet the ‘living wage’ standard, but the council’s action makes it less likely they will be rewarded with subsidies just for showing up. The ordinance is a carrot, not a stick, and it will benefit workers.

WDP Political Director Greg Casar told the Texas Observer that the Austin ordinance “should be a model for the rest of our state to follow.”

Texas by far gives more tax incentives [than other states] in the country, while the working people who build Texas aren’t allowed to make enough money to make ends meet and aren’t allowed a safe worksite….The city took a critical and historic step last night to make sure that our tax dollars are really benefiting all of Austin and all the people who are paying taxes rather than just the corporations receiving the tax breaks.

Read more about Austin’s new law here and more about the WDP from The New York Times here.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Union-Made in America Halloween Candy Shopping List

If you want your Halloween to be all treats and no tricks, make sure all your candy is union-made in America. The Los Angeles County Federation of Labor’s resource site, Labor 411, has an extensive list of union-made candies. Here are some highlights, featuring sweets made by the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers (BCTGM) and the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW):

1. Baby Ruth

2. Butterfinger

3. Candy House Buttons

4. Caramello

5. Clark Bar

6. 5th Avenue chocolate bar

7. Ghirardelli Chocolates

8. Halloween Candy Corn (Herman Goelitz Company)

9. Hershey’s Candy Corn Kisses

10. Hershey’s Extra Dark Chocolate bar

11. Hershey’s Hugs

12. Hershey’s Kisses and Kissables

13. Hershey’s Nuggets

14. Hot Tamales

15. Jelly Belly

16. Kit Kat bars

17. Laffy Taffy

18. Malted Milk Balls

19. Mary Jane

20. Mike and Ike

21. Peanut Chews

22. Rolo

23. Smarties

24. Super Ropes

25. Tootsie Roll

26. Trolli

27. York Peppermint Patties

What are your favorite union-made candies?

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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The U.S. Has A Deficit of 389,000 Teachers: Punching In

Washington, D.C. City Council debates raising the minimum wage.

Is Eric Holder finally getting tough on banks?

“I really strongly disagree with this concept that there’s a blue state and red state America.” An interview with Bernie Sanders.

Related: How Bernie Sanders predicted Obamacare website glitches.

Yes, we need to be concerned about the deficit…of teachers.

The U.S. needs 389,000 more teachers to keep up with the K-12 population.

7 reasons to have hope about fixing our broken immigration system.

Bill de Blasio in position to win NYC mayor’s race by a historic margin.

Finally: Some of the country’s major cities will choose their mayors next week. Here’s a preview.