Trucking Companies Steal Wages From Employees

In what appears to be one of the grossest examples of what can happen to workers when employers aren’t properly regulated, a new report by the National Employment Law Project (NELP), Change to Win Strategic Organizing Center and the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy asserts that large number of port trucking companies have stolen millions of dollars in trucker wages by illegally classifying employees as independent contractors.

That means truckers are forced to pay for expenses that their employers should incur. Things like gas, repairs, and even the trucks themselves were paid for by employees. Additionally, truckers were ineligible for overtime and benefits due to their independent contractor status.

Those expenses add up to quite a bit in stolen wages. The report estimates that in California alone the misclassification of employees adds up to about $850 million dollars in stolen wages.

According to the report, there are a total of 75,200 port drivers across the country. Of those drivers 65 percent–or more than 49,000 workers–are misclassified.

Port trucking companies have had a shady history when it comes to employee relations. In the latter part of 2013, the L.A. Times reported that port truckers from three different companies sought to organize unions at least in part over the misclassification issue.  The truckers ended up striking in protest of the companies’ alleged unfair unfair labor practices.

Port trucking used to be considered a middle-class job, but over the past 30 years “inadequate enforcement of labor and tax laws”, in addition to deliberate attacks to weaken collective bargaining has severely affected the power, and wages, of workers, thus deepening the income inequality.

The misclassification is a great injustice to invaluable truckers who, for the most part, keep retailers stocked with products.
“If we stop [work], in three days every store would be empty, we could shut down every Walmart. There’d be nothing. No fuel would be moved because trucks move gas, medicine, everything that runs America is carried on a truck,” says Albert Dantes, a port truck driver at the Port of Savannah, Georgia, in a statement to In These Times.

Photo by: socalscouse on Flickr

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Not Just A Metro Issue: For Greater Minnesota, Poverty Wages Often Present Greater Challenge

All too often, political issues in Minnesota are presented as pitting the interests of the Twin Cities metro area against those of the rest of the state, also known as “Greater Minnesota.”

But despite the rhetoric, raising the minimum wage cuts across all geographic boundaries. Heidi Durand, a City Councilmember from Moorhead, Minnesota, just across the border from Fargo, North Dakota, discovered as much when she joined Working America’s Minimum Wage Challenge.

“I grew up in a working class home and I always knew my mom was an expert at stretching a dollar,” Councilwoman Durand told us, “And like a tidal wave, this challenge has brought her values back into my life.”

The minimum wage budget today 2014 is harder to stretch than it was when Durand’s was growing up. The value of the federal minimum wage of $7.25, adjusted for inflation, is worth $2 less today than it was in 1968.

If the minimum wage had risen with inflation since 1968, it would stand at around $10.50.

As part of our Minimum Wage Challenge, Durand went shopping in Moorhead with the weekly food budget of $35. Her haul included Ramen noodles, beef, eggs, and soup, bypassing more expensive fruits and vegetables. “It was disappointing to have to spend the bulk of my money on products that contain at least 35 percent of your daily allowance for sodium,” she told WDAZ, studying the nutrition facts on a can of soup.

“You think about one person and 35 dollars and think ‘well, that’s not that bad,” Durand added to KVLY, “but we’ll see…I’m not sure I’ll be able to make it on $35 this week.”

Councilwoman Durand, along with Minnesota Reps. Karen Clark, Frank Hornstein, John Lesch, Jason Metsa, and Shannon Savick, are taking our Challenge to raise awareness of the minimum wage; never forgetting that more than 256,000 Minnesota workers currently make less than $9.50 live that challenge every day, and don’t have the option of returning to a more secure lifestyle.

More than 63,000 Minnesota low-wage workers have at least one child who depends on them, stretching that $35 food budget even further.

This fact struck Rep. Jason Metsa, who represents part of Greater Minnesota’s Iron Range. Rep. Metsa took our Minimum Wage Challenge last year and is doing so again in 2014. “It would be even more challenging…if I had a family,” he said during his grocery trip, “I might have to make the hard choice, like giving up my car that requires insurance so that I could have a larger food budget for my kids.”

Later this week, our Minimum Wage Challenge participants will explore how they are able to stretch their transportation budgets. Some, like Minneapolis Rep. Frank Hornstein, can take public transportation to work at the Capitol, while Rep. Metsa has a three hour drive.

Tell the Minnesota Senate to pass HR 92 and raise the minimum wage to $9.50 by 2015.

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College Proposes Tying President’s Salary to Janitor Pay: Punching In

Gap, Inc. raises the minimum wage for its associates.

Gap says this move will raise pay for 65,000 of its 90,000 employees.

This is a great first step, but here’s why the Gap has a long way to go.

St. Mary’s College in Maryland proposes tying its president’s salary to janitor pay.

Michael Hitzlik: CBO report should “end the discussion” on raising the minimum wage.

Key Quote: “The CBO report creates a big problem for opponents of the minimum-wage increase: What’s the argument against it? They can cite those projected job losses as much as they want, but on the other side are increased wages for 16.5 million people and an end of poverty for 900,000. Sound bites aside, that’s a bargain.”

Bank of America settles class action suit with 13 million customers to the tune of $410 million.

Will President Obama’s next budget contain Social Security cuts?

The real fault line in the Democratic Party is education “reform.”

Finally: How pro-austerity groups lost the deficit wars.

Reps Reflect on 24 Hours of Living On Minimum Wage: “Living On This Budget Forces Choices All The Time”

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Minnesota Representative Frank Hornstein (DFL-Minneapolis) did something at the grocery store he had never done before.

“I had never scrutinized prices while food shopping to this extent,” he said, “I even weighed two different kinds of potatoes to see where I could catch a break.”

Rep. Hornstein is one of five Minnesota lawmakers taking the Working America Minimum Wage Challenge. Reps. Hornstein, John Lesch, Karen Clark, Metsa, and Shannon Savick are living this week as if they made $7.25 an hour, an effort to raise awareness of the minimum wage as legislators consider increasing it to $9.50 by 2015.

From grocery shopping to transportation, Rep. Hornstein is already “feeling the ‘challenge’ part of the minimum wage challenge.”

“I decided to take transit to the Capitol because that would allow for three extra dollars for food,” he reported.

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Luckily, the Minneapolis lawmaker lives and works in the same area, and has access to a robust public transit system. Rep. Shannon Savick, who hails from Wells, isn’t so lucky: she has a two hour drive to work.

“The transportation budget is going to be very tight because I need to make a few drives for work that will take up nearly all of it,” she told us, “These challenges really go to show just how difficult it can be for low wage workers to get by on the minimum wage alone.”

With the $35 per week food budget, Rep. Savick is trying to go without. “I think I’m doing well with the food budget mostly by eating a little less and essentially skipping breakfast,” adding that her lunch two days in a row consisted of “a cup of soup and some milk.”

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“Dinner was a bag of Ramen noodles for under $1,” said Hornstein, “After one day I am realizing that living on this budget forces choices all the time.”

The low-wage workers we’ve talked to all mention these forced choices; whether it’s choosing between medicine and food or between paying the heating bill or buying diapers for their kids. “Today’s effective minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, or $15,080 a year for a full-time worker, is not enough to meet basic needs—not for an individual or a family,” writes John Clay of the Jobs Now Coalition. “A Minnesota family of two full-time working adults with two children, each worker must earn $14.03 per hour to cover the cost of basic needs.”

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As much as they try to plan their budgets, being constantly cognizant of every cent has its limits. To stretch his food dollars, Rep. Hornstein tried breakfast at the McDonald’s down the street from the Capitol. “I got a glass of orange juice with my dollar breakfast burrito which added another $1.79 to the tab,” he said, “I won’t make that mistake again.”

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Food Store Worker Fired for Disagreeing with North Carolina Governor While at Work

In yet another example of the powerlessness that individual workers face, a cook has been fired for expressing his disagreement with North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory’s politics.

On Sunday, February 16th, 45-year-old Drew Swope, a cook at the Charlotte-N.C.-based Reid’s Fine Foods, decided to speak his mind when Gov. McCory patronized his workplace. Swope told McCrory, “thanks for nothing” and the governor allegedly became incensed. Shortly after berating Swope the governor and his security reported the incident to the store manager and owner.

The store’s owner argues that Swope wasn’t fired for insulting the Governor, instead he was fired for insulting a customer;  but let’s be honest, would Swope have been fired for his comment had McCrory not been in a position of power? It’s doubtful.

In fact, this isn’t the first time that the governor has flexed his power to push an unfair agenda. In 2013 Gov. McCrory signed a bill severely limiting voting rights of North Carolina residents.  Additionally McCrory declined a $2.3 billion Medicaid expansion, instigating several Moral Monday protests.

“Yet another North Carolinian has lost a job because of the McCrory administration – adding to its record of joblessness-creation. We wonder: Does Gov. McCrory plan to bring the full force of his political office to engage in power plays with every worker he comes across?” says Carolyn Smith, North Carolina State Director at Working America.

With that being said, let’s stop letting inadequate balances of power define how we treat our workers, and instead advocate for accountability and fairness for everyone.

Update: Charlotte Mayor, Pat Cannon has stepped in to help Swope find a new job. According to the News & Observer, Cannon says that he’s not trying to get in the middle of the controversy, instead he’s doing what he can to help one of his constituents find work.

“The mayor of Charlotte, Pat Cannon, just called me and asked me to send him my resume and he’ll see if he can help me find a position,” Swope wrote on his Facebook page.

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New Poll Confirms: Increasing the Minimum Wage Is Incredibly Popular in Minnesota

One of the first issues the Minnesota legislature will deal with when their session starts on February 25 is the question of raising the minimum wage. A new poll from the Star Tribune shows that supporters of increasing the minimum wage are in good company.

79 percent of all Minnesotans support raising the minimum wage, ten points higher than a year ago.

That majority includes 83 percent of women, 85 percent of independents, 78 percent of those living in Greater Minnesota, and even 58 percent of Republicans.

While not everyone agreed exactly on the $9.50 target, very few Minnesotans polled believe that the current state minimum wage of $6.15 is sufficient. (The state minimum wage is $6.15 but is superseded by the federal minimum of $7.25.)

In fact, what the poll didn’t allow for is for respondents to express a desire for a minimum wage higher than $9.50. “I think it should be more. It should be a minimum of $10. Minimum,” 51 year-old temp worker Jeff Richard told the Star Tribune. “I don’t know how someone working for less would possibly live.”

Five Minnesota representatives are taking the Working America Minimum Wage Challenge this week to raise awareness about the issue. They are all spending the week on a minimum wage budget, which includes $35 for food.

Minnesota legislators receive a $66 per diem on top of their salary, which might make the experience of a minimum wage worker seem foreign to them. Reps. Clark, Hornstein, Lesch, Metsa, and Savick are looking to change that.

These representatives all in favor of Rep. Ryan Winkler’s bill to raise the minimum wage to $9.50 by 2015 and tie it to inflation, which passed the House last year. The poll shows that the public is firmly behind them.

“This clearly indicates that a broad swath of Minnesotans believe that this is the way to go,” said Brian Rusche, co-chair of the Minnesota Raise the Wage Coalition.

Follow the Working America Minimum Wage Challenge at WorkingMinnesota.org.

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Victory for Exploited McDonald’s Workers in Pennsylvania: Punching In

McDonald’s franchisee will pay $206,000 in back pay to exploited workers.

Key Quote: “Today, some of the most vulnerable workers in America—immigrant guestworkers—won a major victory not only for themselves, but for the U.S. workers alongside them.”

Starved of Medicaid funds, a fourth hospital has shut down in Georgia.

What’s wrong with the CBO report on raising the minimum wage?

Myths and facts about raising the minimum wage in Minnesota.

Related: Economist Dean Baker busts up the myths in the CBO report on minimum wage.

New Mexico Democrats seeking to pass a minimum wage increase as a constitutional amendment.

And in Missouri, organizers looking to put the issue of early voting on the 2014 ballot.

How they see the Chattanooga vote back at VW HQ in Germany.

VW labor rep: If Southern workers aren’t unionized, we may not build there anymore.

Finally: Meet the “Elizabeth Warren Democrats.”

Five Minnesota Legislators Will Live On Minimum Wage This Week

Five Minnesota politicians aren’t just talking the talk about raising the minimum wage, they are walking the walk too.

Today, a slew of State Representatives gathered for a press conference to announce their week-long participation in the Working America Minimum Wage Challenge this week.

Representative Ryan Winkler (DFL-Golden Valley), who moderated the press conference, announced that from February 18th to the 24th Reps will be required to “live” on Minnesota’s $7.25 an hour minimum wage (Minnesota’s real minimum wage is $6.15 but the federal minimum is $7.25). Rep. Winkler is also the sponsor of HR 92, which would raise the state minimum wage to $9.50 by 2015 and index it to inflation. The bill passed the House last May.

Last year, Jason Metsa (DFL-Virginia) participated and found it to be nothing short of difficult. This year Metsa is giving the challenge another go.

During the press conference participants used data from the Jobs Now Coalition to create a budget based on their new wages. The budget allocates a weekly allowance of $35 for groceries, $278 a month for transportation and $359 a month for housing, to name a few.

At first glance the budget may seem terribly unmanageable but the reality is that, in Minnesota, this is a reality for many working Americans. Specifically, this is a reality for almost 90,000 hourly workers.

The Minimum Wage Challenge is part of a larger effort by Rep. Winkler, Working America, and the broad Raise the Wage coalition to raise awareness around the minimum wage. Winkler’s goal is to pass the wage increase within the first two weeks of the Minnesota legislative session.

Calling the proposed $9.50 an hour increase a “realistic range,” Rep. Winkler also noted that as of late, support in favor of raising the wage was growing.

The five State Representatives participating are Karen Clark (DFL-Minneapolis), Frank Hornstein (DFL-Minneapolis), John Lesch (DFL-St. Paul), Jason Metsa (DFL-Virginia) and Shannon Savick (DFL-Wells). Reps. Lesch, Hornstein, and Savick attended the press conference.

During the press conference, Lesch noted that too many members of the Minnesota legislature talk about “living within our means” without fully grasping the reality of minimum wage work.

“We want to show the urgency of this issue by taking on these challenges of daily living,” Rep. Winkler said. “Although this week cannot replicate nor do justice to someone’s actual experience, we hope that they at least open a window into the critical situation faced by Minnesota workers.”

Tomorrow, representatives will be tasked with turning $35 into a week’s worth of food at local grocery stores.

Follow the challenge on Facebook and Twitter and visit WorkingMinnesota.org for more ways to get involved in the fight to #RaisetheWage!

Photo via @FairMN on Twitter

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The Faces of Minimum Wage (They Might Surprise You)

Upworthy’s Workonomics takes a look at the people who work at minimum or low-wage jobs. They are from all walks of life and are some of our most at-risk citizens because they make just enough money to avoid being assisted by the social safety net but not enough to survive or thrive in a challenging economy.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Labor Leaders See Promise in Organizing in Texas

The AFL-CIO Executive Council is meeting in Texas this week as a sign of confidence that the southern state has great potential for workers who are organizing on the job. A Houston Chronicle profile takes a look at efforts in Texas and goals for broader organizing efforts in the South:

The AFL-CIO executive [council] has come to Texas, setting its sights on what has been inhospitable terrain and betting workers in the state can be drawn to organized labor’s efforts to raise wages.

Buoyed by the growth of the energy industry along the Gulf Coast and fortified with organizing wins at poultry plants and manufacturing parts makers, the heads of some of the nation’s largest labor unions are meeting in Texas for the first time Tuesday and Wednesday at the Hilton Americas-Houston.

Members of the executive [council] hope the labor federation can continue to notch victories across the South, either through traditional organizing or public campaigns to boost the minimum wage.

They are meeting in a city where, less than a decade ago, labor celebrated its first large-scale victory in a quarter-century when a union once affiliated with the AFL-CIO organized the janitors who clean the largest office buildings.

Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO in Washington, D.C., said the federation wants to send the message that the labor federation is expanding its horizons to new places and to new people.

“Our focus is on raising wages,” Trumka said, claiming during a news conference Monday that “everyone from the pope to the president” is embracing the global efforts.

Read the full article.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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