Will You Sponsor a Walmart Worker?

Walmart associates all over the United States are taking big risks for speaking up about their work environment and going on strike. Many have been fired, and while it is illegal to fire workers for asking for a voice on the job, sometimes these lawsuits can take years.

That’s why Making Change at Walmart is taking steps to empower the Walmart associates who were fired by training them to become organizers so they can continue to fight for change for their former co-workers. From Making Change:

Instead of the problem going away for Walmart when they fire a worker, what if that worker could become an organizer? What if instead of being unemployed, they could use all of their work hours talking to their co-workers about the importance of changing Walmart?

You can stand in solidarity with these workers by donating to sponsor one of them today, so they can keep organizing for good jobs at Walmart.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Victory in Montgomery County, Md., for Minimum Wage Workers, Prince George’s County Follows Suit

In an 8–1 vote, the Montgomery County, Md., Council passed a new ordinance that would raise the minimum wage in the county from $7.25 to $11.50 an hour by 2017. The new wage will be phased in, rising to $8.40 in October 2014, $9.55 in 2015, $10.75 in 2016 and $11.50 in 2017. After the full phase-in is complete, the annual minimum wage for a 40-hour-a-week worker in the county will be $23,600. Prince George’s County also voted 7–0, with two members absent, to raise the minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $11.50 over the next four years.

Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett confirmed he will sign the bill into law. Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III has expressed concerns about raising the minimum wage and has said he wants the issue to be decided by Maryland General Assembly and Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) for statewide action.

Montgomery County Council member Marc Elrich (D-At Large), the bill’s primary sponsor, said he was satisfied with the outcome: “I’m very happy. It’s substantively what I wanted. You can make a big difference to people.”

The District of Columbia, which holds a preliminary vote on Dec. 3—is also expected to raise their minimum wage in the near future.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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22 Things We’re Thankful for This Thanksgiving

We have a lot to be thankful for this year, including (in no particular order):

  • Union members who have volunteered their services to strengthen their communities (read more here).
  • All the activists—including those in Congress—working for a road map to citizenship for 11 million aspiring Americans.
  • Connecticut and the four localities (Portland, Ore.; New York City; Jersey City, N.J.; and SeaTac, Wash.) that now require paid sick days.
  • The five states and two localities that have raised the minimum wage this year (California, Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Montgomery County, Md., [measure passed yesterday, county executive confirms he will sign into law], Prince George’s County, Md., [pending county executive signature] and SeaTac, Wash. [where there may be a recount]).
  • The 10 states that have expanded access to the ballot (California, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Maryland, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Oregon, Virginia and West Virginia).
  • The domestic workershome care providerscarwasheros and taxi workers who have defied the odds to come together to win rights and a voice on the job.
  • Walmartfast food and retail workers who are standing together for living wages.
  • Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid for “going nuclear” on the filibuster.
  • Sen. Elizabeth Warren…for being Sen. Elizabeth Warren (and, of course, for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau she pushed to create).
  • The U.S. senators who passed ENDA and the Supreme Court justices who overturned the Defense of Marriage Act.
  • House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and House Democrats for their Economic Agenda for Women and Families (now let’s pass it!).
  • Social Security, for keeping more than 22 million people a year out of poverty.
  • The organizations and media outlets that have exposed dark money and state legislative attacks on workers flowing from ALEC and the Koch brothers.
  • Companies that have signed the Bangladesh Fire Safety Accord (missing from the list are the big U.S. retailers like Walmart).
  • Companies like Costco that buck the trends, pay a living wage and support workers’ rights.
  • Building trades unions’ apprenticeship programs for preparing workers for solid, middle-class careers (read more here).
  • Nurses and teachers, who fight every day for patient safety and great schools for all our kids.
  • Manufacturing workers, who are creating reasons to bring jobs back to America.
  • Writers and dancers, who are bringing justice on the job to their professions.
  • Young workers and students, who are demanding a break from crushing student debt and an economy that will work for their generation.
  • Collective bargaining agreements and all the benefits of being a union member.
  • All the working people, unemployed workers and their families who are the reason for and center of our movement for social and economic justice.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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If Google Isn’t Evil, Why Are They Funding These Guys: Punching In

Why is Google funding Grover Norquist, Heritage Action, and ALEC?

More outlets are taking notice of Justin Timberlake’s dancer’s contract.

Even though South Carolina turned down Medicaid expansion, enrollment has jumped.

SeaTac $15 minimum wage measure passes by 77 votes, recount to follow.

Why Bernie Sanders might run for president in 2016.

How Pennsylvania’s Tom Corbett became the nation’s least popular governor.

H&M will pay textile workers a living wage by 2018.

Finally: Why is this conservative leading the effort to raise the wage in California?

Take Action: Join the Thunderclap in Support of Walmart Workers

Walmart workers around the country are tired of low wages, insufficient hours and on-the-job intimidation when they stand up for their rights. More and more of them are risking their jobs and their livelihood to demand that Walmart pay them a minimum of $25,000 a year, an amount the company with $17 billion in profits last year can easily afford. Show your support for their Black Friday protests with just a few clicks by participating in a Thunderclap.

A Thunderclap is like an online flash mob via Twitter, Facebook and/or Tumblr. When you go to the Thunderclap page, just click on the button of the social network you want to donate a tweet or post to for the campaign. When the Thunderclap launches on Friday at noon, everyone who has signed up will post automatically on whatever social network they decided to share it on.

Click here to support the Walmart workers who are asking for a living wage of $25,000 a year.

You can also text BLACK to 235246 to find out more ways you can support the Walmart associates. Standard data and message rates may apply.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Turkey Talk: How To Talk About Obamacare At Thanksgiving Dinner

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At your Thanksgiving dinner this year, the new health care law is bound to come up in conversation. You’ll hear a lot of myths about the Affordable Care Act, and Working America wants you to be prepared with the facts.

 

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MYTH:
“Obamacare will make my premiums go up.”

FACT:
The vast majority of people are expected to pay lower health insurance premiums under the Affordable Care Act, and many will also be eligible for financial assistance. In fact, premiums in some states are higher because of politicians blocking parts of the new law.

MORE:
Remember before health reform? Even if you had insurance, you were paying a ton out of pocket for services your plan didn’t cover, sometimes even simple services like blood tests. But now that there are rules about what plans have to cover, we’ll all save money in the long run by paying less out of pocket, even if premiums for some folks are higher.

Under Obamacare, overall costs are rising slower than they have in previous years: more people are getting coverage, which means more people are accessing preventive care instead of expensive emergency care, which lowers costs for everyone.

In fact, premiums are higher in some states because of politicians who refuse to implement parts of the law. For example, the average Wisconsinite is paying $1,800 more annually for health care than the average Minnesotan, partly because Minnesota expanded Medicaid and does a better job reviewing their rates. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and other Republican governors have refused to expand Medicaid

 

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MYTH:
“Obama lied about me being able to keep my health care plan under Obamacare.”

FACT:
The rollout of the Affordable Care Act hasn’t been perfect, but President Obama didn’t lie. Health insurance companies, not any elected official, are responsible for plans being canceled.

MORE:
Before Obamacare, there were few rules about what health plans had to cover. Millions of Americans had plans that were so shoddy, they ended up paying out of pocket for a lot of their medical costs. Too often, having insurance was a lot like not having insurance.

Under the Affordable Care Act, health insurance plans must cover at least 60% of the total cost of medical services for a standard population. Plans must also cover at least ten essential services, including lab services and hospitalization. Just like how there are rules about selling lead toys, bad meat, and moldy produce, the new law established rules about the quality of health insurance plans. These rules kick in on January 1, 2014.

The problem is that even after the law was passed, insurance companies kept pushing plans that didn’t meet these minimum standards. The insurance companies knew these plans would have to be canceled when the new law kicked in, but they kept selling them anyway.

Given the lack of warning from their insurance company, many customers were shocked to discover that their plans would soon be canceled. What’s worse, many companies are taking advantage of this situation by trying to push those customers onto more expensive plans.

If your plan was canceled, there are solutions. You can purchase insurance on the Health Insurance Marketplace, where you’ll have more options. Depending on your income and the size of your family, you may be eligible for financial assistance that will make coverage even more affordable.

 

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MYTH:
“Obamacare steals from Medicare.”

FACT:
The Affordable Care Act actually helps Medicare by eliminating waste and inefficiency. Medicare benefits are not affected by the health reform law — but they would be affected if we turned it into a voucher system.

MORE:
You may have heard someone say “Obamacare takes $716 billion from Medicare.” That’s a lie. That statement has been proven false by Politifact and almost every news organization that has covered the issue.

But where does that number come from? The Affordable Care Act seeks to reduce future Medicare spending, and the savings are estimated at $716 billion over 10 years. The savings come from reducing subsidies to private Medicare Advantage plans (saving taxpayer money!) and from taxes on drug companies, device makers, and insurers. Luckily, those companies will be able to afford those new fees because of all the new customers they’ll get as a result of the law.

So, Medicare benefits will not be affected by Obamacare — but they would be affected by the budgets proposed by Rep. Paul Ryan and passed by the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, which replaces Medicare with “vouchers” to use on the private market.

 

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MYTH:
“Obamacare is forcing me to buy health care.”

FACT:
Let’s face it: everyone will need health care at some point in their lives. Under the new law, you can either purchase health insurance or pay a small fee. Regardless, prices are lower for everyone.

MORE:
Before Obamacare, many people who could not afford insurance got their medical care from the emergency room. Emergency care is more expensive than preventive care and free of charge for those who use it but cannot afford to pay for services, so when more people wait until an emergency to access care (because they couldn’t see a doctor beforehand) that increases overall health care costs and leads to higher premiums for everyone.

Essentially, Americans were already paying for “universal health care” through the emergency room, which made health care more expensive, less efficient, and more dangerous for patients.

The Affordable Care Act takes that burden off our shoulders by asking every individual to buy insurance — the “individual mandate.” Every American has to have some sort of health insurance or pay a fee; because of subsidies and other assistance having coverage is almost always the easier choice.

 

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MYTH:
“Obamacare isn’t working because the federal government can’t do anything right.”

FACT:
A bumpy start for a massive and complex law doesn’t mean Obamacare “isn’t’t working.” And Medicaid expansion, which is a program of the federal government, is already helping millions of people under the new law.

MORE:
Yes, there have been some problems with the federal health exchange, especially the website. By comparison, the expansion of the public Medicaid program — insurance for low-income and disabled Americans — has been going very well. Oregon, for instance, has cut its number of uninsured citizens nearly in half thanks to Medicaid expansion.

Plus, millions of Americans have already been helped by Obamacare’s provisions: allowing kids to stay on their parents’ insurance until 26, scrapping lifetime caps, rebates from insurance companies, and ending to the shameful practice of denying insurance because of preexisting conditions.

Unfortunately, governors and legislators in 24 states are refusing to accept Medicaid expansion, even though it would cost their states almost nothing until 2020. About 5 million Americans who would be eligible for Medicaid can’t access it because of these politicians. The more uninsured, the more people using the emergency room for care, which drives up costs for everyone.

It’s been about 8 weeks since the website was launched, and glitches are being fixed every day. Remember: Social Security and Medicare took several years to get up and running. That doesn’t mean they are failures.

 

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MYTH:
“Obamacare is a government takeover of health care. I don’t want socialized medicine!”

FACT:
Every plan offered through the Health Insurance Marketplace is offered by a private company. Far from “socialized medicine,” the Affordable Care Act is based on free market ideas.

MORE:
The government is not in the business of selling insurance. Every plan available on the health exchange is offered by a private company, co-op, or other health related organization.

Obamacare is in fact based on free market principles: that competition between private insurance companies will bring down prices. Some of the central ideas behind Obamacare come from the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, and were first proposed by Republicans in Congress during the 1990’s.

This is very different from a single-payer system like in Canada, where the government pays for all health care costs. It’s also different from the National Health Service in Great Britain, where all doctors are employees of the state.

 

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MYTH:
“We can’t afford Obamacare.”

FACT:
The Affordable Care Act pays for itself and cuts the federal deficit at the same time.

MORE:
The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates the Affordable Care Act will cut the federal budget deficit by a whopping $210 billion dollars by 2021.

How? A combination of fees on insurers and device-makers, ending subsidies to expensive Medicare Advantage plans, and reducing Medicare payments to hospitals and insurers by eliminating waste and fraud.

And you know what else? Like we’ve said, when more people have health insurance and fewer people are using the emergency room for care, that saves money for all of us.

Want to learn more? Sign up for health care tips and info at Working America Health Care.

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Thanks, Justin Timberlake

Thanks to a new union contract, dancers in Justin Timberlake’s 20/20 Experience World Tour will be covered by a SAG-AFTRA Touring Agreement where performer earnings count toward pension and health benefits eligibility. The deal also provides touring companies with improved budget flexibility through direct negotiations with performers.

SAG-AFTRA President Ken Howard applauded Timberlake and the SAG-AFTRA dancers who worked to unionize the 20/20 Experience tour.

“This is a wonderful result for SAG-AFTRA members and Justin Timberlake. Justin was very open to signing the agreement and personally making sure the deal got done,” Howard said. “As a leading recording artist and actor, Justin’s support for his fellow SAG-AFTRA members in unionizing his tour was a key element in concluding this agreement. I thank him for taking the lead.”

This is the first time that member performers have successfully organized dancers employed on a specific tour under the SAG-AFTRA Touring Agreement. The agreement was previously utilized to cover touring back-up singers for James Taylor, Reba McEntire, Martina McBride, Blues Traveler, Josh Groban and Jefferson Starship.

Dana Wilson, a dancer for Timberlake, tweeted about the history-making agreement:

Lindsay Richardson, another dancer with Timberlake, posted her thoughts on Instagram:

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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From Kentucky, Beautiful Story of Affordable Care Act Success: Punching In

Walmart “proud associate” online action actually set up by Walmart’s social media strategist.

Mitch McConnell makes ridiculous claim on pay equity.

In Kentucky, people getting health insurance for the first time in their lives under the ACA.

Minnesota versus Wisconsin: the two states are going in very different political directions.

Whenever a politician says America has the best health care in the world, we show them this.

Celeb-loving organic bread company accused of horrific abuse of workers.

Missouri Republicans split on Medicaid expansion.

63 percent of Americans back a path to citizenship. What is the House waiting for?

Minimum wage increase moves forward in Washington, D.C.

Finally: SeaTac $15 minimum wage poised for a 76-vote victory.

Walmart CEO Steps Down After Embarrassing Week for Company. What’s Next?

Something had to give.

Amid one of the most turbulent periods in Walmart’s history and ahead of thousands of Black Friday protests against the company’s treatment of workers, CEO Mike Duke has stepped down.

“Walmart has been heading in the wrong direction, and it’s a testament to the pressure the company is feeling that they’re changing leadership at this moment,” said OUR Walmart member Tiffany Beroid, an associate at Walmart #1985 in Laurel, Maryland.

This move comes after an enormously embarrassing week for Walmart.

Over 400 news outlets reported on a photo of food drive bins set out for associates to donate to other associates. The revelation sparked criticism from all quarters, including actor and businessman Ashton Kutcher, who tweeted his barbs to more than 15 million followers. Late night talk shows like Stephen Colbert lampooned the store’s actions: “Anyone can afford food at Walmart, except people who work at Walmart.”

In addition, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), fully staffed after years of Republican-lead obstruction, announced a decision to prosecute Walmart for illegal firings and threats against striking workers. More than 117 Walmart associates were unfairly fired or disciplined after multi-city strikes last June, according to OUR Walmart.

To top it off, Walmart associates and allies are building momentum toward nationwide protests of the company’s low pay and disrespect toward workers on November 29, Black Friday. In the past month, workers have walked off the job in Chicago, Dallas, Tampa Bay, Miami, Cincinnati, and Seattle, Los Angeles, and Sacramento. Port drivers at trucking companies that are part of Walmart’s supply chain also went on strike last week.

CEO Mike Duke will be fine, however. In 2012, he was paid $23.2 million, or about 1,034 times more than the company’s average worker.

Duke’s successor will be Michael McMillon who was previously CEO of Walmart International. McMillon ran the company’s international division during a period the New York Times reported that Walmart was making illegal bribes to Mexican officials.

Tiffany Beroid issued a challenge to the incoming CEO: “We sincerely hope that Mr. McMillon will answer the country’s calls for Walmart to publicly commit to paying $25,000 a year, providing full-time work and ending its illegal retaliation against its own employees.”

Let’s keep up the pressure. Join us and stand up for Walmart workers at a Black Friday event near you.

Photo by @unitehere on Twitter

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The Hunger Games Are Real

“The Hunger Games” are real. If you’re familiar with the books and movies, or have at least heard of the “Hunger Games” phenomenon, you’re probably aware that the series tackles some pretty serious issues of poverty and economic inequality that hit way too close to home. If you’re not, here’s some background.

“The Hunger Games” takes place in the fictional world of Panem, which is a dystopian North America sometime in the far off future. All the wealth in the country is concentrated in the Capitol and people in the 12 districts are constantly in fear of starvation. Everything the people in the districts produce, whether it is coal, grain, machinery or clothing, is controlled by the Capitol. People are forbidden to hunt or grow their own food, thus relying on the Capitol’s meager grain and oil rations. To punish the people of Panem for District 13′s rebellion (the Capitol wiped out the region in a nuclear war), each year two teenage tributes from each of the 12 districts must sacrifice their lives in an arena where they fight to the death, with only one victor remaining.

While the story is fictional, it reminds us of a lot of the issues surrounding economic inequality we see today. Some sobering facts:

  • Nearly all—95%—of the income gains from 2009–2012 have been captured by the wealthiest 1%.
  • In recent years, the wealthiest 1% have gotten richer and richer, while the median household income is down 8% since 2000.
  • Wages and salaries now make up the lowest share of national income since 1966, while corporate profits are now the largest share of national income since 1950.
  • The federal minimum wage, $7.25, hasn’t risen since 2009. The tipped minimum wage, $2.13, hasn’t risen in two decades.
  • One in 6 people in America are hungry and 1 in 5 children are.

Check out 8 Ways Economic Inequality in America Is Like the “Hunger Games.”

“The Hunger Games” bestseller books and blockbuster films represent a rare opportunity where these issues of social and economic justice are being widely discussed in pop culture and in homes across the United States.

Check out this video from the Harry Potter Alliance:

Disclaimer: Having a union doesn’t guarantee no workplace injuries on the job, but union mines have 68% fewer fatal injuries than nonunion mines.

Working families, union members and leaders are joining the online movement to lift up these issues of economic inequality and poverty using the “Hunger Games” as a jumping off point. Check out oddsinourfavor.org, where you can join the “resistance” and post a photo doing the “salute,” the symbol of solidarity of the working people.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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