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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Union Plus Sponsors $20,000 Student Loan Contest

Union Plus Sponsors $20,000 Student Loan Contest

In its continuing mission to find new ways to serve union members and their families, Union Plus is sponsoring a contest to help three winners pay off a portion of their student loan debt. The Grand Prize winner will receive $10,000 toward their student loan obligations, while there also will be two $5,000 prizes for runners-up.  The contest also will give way other prizes, including courses, consultations and books provided by the Princeton Review.

Eligible entrants can sign up online and enter simply by signing up for program e-mails and mobile alerts. To be eligible to win, entrants must register by Aug. 15, 2014.

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Your Inspiration for Today: 11-Year-Old Asean Johnson

You may have seen a video of him before, but if 11-year-old Asean Johnson can stand up to Rahm Emanuel and school “reformers” like he does in this video from the AFT convention, you can stand up and fight the important battles in your community.

At the Los Angeles convention, he thanked his teachers, his family and his Chicago community for joining together not only to safeguard his schooling and opportunities in life, but also to win access for all students to art, music, libraries and vital school professionals like counselors and nurses. To the cheers of delegates, Asean said:

Now, we must take that fight to every city in America. If we come together, we will win. Let’s march together; let’s fight together; let’s work together. Let’s reclaim the promise of America’s schools together!

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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13 Things You Need to Know About Social Security Disability as Republicans Try to Dismantle It

Earlier today, Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) spoke at a Center for American Progress (CAP) event about Republican attempts to use Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) as a way to cut and undercut the whole Social Security system. Rather than sticking with the conventional wisdom that Republicans, the media and even some Democrats cling to, Brown argues that what we should be doing now is not just protecting Social Security and SSDI, we should be expanding the programs.

Here are 13 important facts about SSDI you need to know to counter the right-wing spin:

1. SSDI provides protection for 90% of America’s workers and their families if a life-changing disability or illness stops them from being able to work and bring in enough money.

2. SSDI pays modest benefits, averaging just $1,140 per month, less than most workers make before they qualify for the program.

3. For 80% of beneficiaries, SSDI is the primary or only source of income, and it provides a drastic increase in the quality of life of recipients who might otherwise live in poverty.

4. The eligibility criteria for SSDI are among the strictest in the world and fewer than 40% of applicants are approved.

5. Nearly 20% of beneficiaries die within five years of first obtaining benefits.

6. Nearly 9 million workers with disabilities receive SSDI benefits, including more than 1 million veterans. More than 150,000 spouses and nearly 2 million children also receive benefits.

7. Beneficiaries pay into SSDI as a portion of their Social Security payroll tax. The current tax rate is 6.2% on the first $117,000 of earnings a worker makes.  5.3% goes to the Old-Age and Survivors Insurance Trust Fund (OASI), the rest goes to the SSDI Trust Fund.

8. Only one-third of private-sector workers has employer-provided long-term disability insurance, and most of those plans often provide less than SSDI. Only 7% of workers who make $12 per hour or less have such insurance. Most private long-term disability insurance plans are too costly for most workers.

9. Most beneficiaries are in their 50s and 60s, with the average age being 53.

10. Fewer than 4% of beneficiaries earned more than $10,000 during the year.

11. The United States ranks 30 out of 34 OECD member countries in terms of replacement benefit payouts for workers with disabilities.

12. A temporary reallocation of how the 6.2% payroll tax is divided between SSDI and OASI would ensure that both trust funds would be able to remain fully solvent until 2033 and would alleviate the shortage in SSDI funds caused by demographic trends.

13. Beneficiaries face a wide range of significant disabilities, with many having multiple impairments, which include:

  • 31.8% have a “primary diagnosis” of a mental impairment, including 4.2% with intellectual disabilities and 27.6% with other types of mental disorders such as schizophrenia, post-traumatic stress disorder or severe depression.
  • 29.8% have a musculoskeletal or connective tissue disorder.
  • 8.7% have a cardiovascular condition such as chronic heart failure.
  • 9.3% have a disorder of the nervous system, such as cerebral palsy or multiple sclerosis, or a sensory impairment such as deafness or blindness.
  • 20.4% include workers living with cancers; infectious diseases; injuries; genitourinary impairments such as end stage renal disease; congenital disorders; metabolic and endocrine diseases such as diabetes; diseases of the respiratory system; and diseases of other body systems

Watch the entire event with Sen. Brown and a distinguished panel of experts on Social Security and SSDI. You also can read CAP’s full report on SSDI.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Pittsburgh Adjunct Faculty Votes to Join USW

Pittsburgh Adjunct Faculty Votes to Join USW

Part-time professors at Pittsburgh’s Point Park University have voted to join the Adjunct Faculty Association of the United Steelworkers (AFA-USW). The votes were counted this morning by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).

The educators filed a petition with the NLRB in April and a mail ballot election was held for the 314 eligible instructors. The Point Park faculty are the second group of adjuncts to vote to join AFA-USW, after Duquesne University faculty voted for the union in the spring of 2012. The Point Park instructors cited similar issues as the Duquesne faculty, including stagnating wages, lack of benefits, little job security and inadequate office space and other tools to provide students with quality education.

USW President Leo W. Gerard called upon the college to engage the adjuncts fairly:

The adjunct instructors have spoken very clearly with this vote. Now it’s time for the Point Park administration to work with them to craft a fair collective bargaining agreement that provides the faculty with the benefits and basic protections that all workers deserve.

Sharon Brady, who has taught theater arts at Point Park for more than a decade, echoed Gerard:

I am looking forward to working with the administration, with the support of the USW, to enhance both the adjuncts’ experience and their effectiveness for the students they serve.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Unions Celebrate LGBTQ Progress; Look Toward Continuing Challenges

In celebration of LGBTQ Heritage Month, the AFL-CIO and Pride At Work hosted a panel discussion Monday that surveyed efforts by various unions in advancing LGBTQ rights and discussed ongoing challenges that unions face in advancing the rights of LGBTQ workers. In particular, panel participants talked about the need of unions to become more inclusive, to increase efforts to protect transgender workers and to fight for state laws that prevent employers from firing workers for their sexual orientation or gender expression.

The panel was introduced by Carmen Berkley, AFL-CIO’s director of civil, human and women’s rights; moderated by Peggy Shorey, AFL-CIO’s director of state government relations and deputy director of government affairs; and included Shane Larson, legislative director for the Communications Workers of America (CWA); Darlene Nipper, deputy executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force; Tim Schlittner, assistant communications director for politics for the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW); and Caniesha Washington, a program specialist in the women’s and fair practices department for AFGE.

Nipper said that while “the rate of progress now is extraordinary,” many activists have been working on these issues for 40 years, so while it’s good to see some of the recent changes, “we still have a lot more progress to make.” She noted that getting married is such a fundamental part of our culture that everyone should be able to marry.

She also noted that very few protections are in place for transgender Americans, even things as fundamental as obtaining simple documents such as birth certificates. Nipper, who is an ordained interfaith minister, said one of the biggest barriers we still face is the use of religious beliefs to discriminate even though there is nothing in religious teachings that call for the kinds of discrimination conservatives are attempting to impose.

Larson made the key point that it is still legal in many states to be fired for who you love, even in states where marriage equality exists. He noted that in most states, the strongest protection an LGBT worker can have against such discrimination is a union contract.

It is the responsibility of union leaders and activists to educate union members about LGBTQ issues, Washington said.

Schlittner said that it’s heartwarming to see how far we’ve come, noting the entire city block of labor unions marching in the World Pride Parade in Toronto last week, but that we must combine labor issues and LGBT issues as part of the broader movement and that while we stand on the shoulders of giants who did much work before us, we have a responsibility to finish that work. Change will start, he said, organically at the local level, but as the groundswell grows, leadership will hear the voices of the people and progress will follow.

Here are some tweets from the event:

Other labor organizations in attendance at the event included: Electrical Workers (IBEW), AFTWorking America, Labor Council for Latin American Advancement (LCLAA), Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance (APALA), Freedom to Marry and AFSCME.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Students Call on The North Face and REI to Protect the Workers It Profits From

Members of United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS) and interns from Union Summer took action at a Recreational Equipment Inc. (REI) store in Rockville, Md., last weekend to protest the retailer’s association with The North Face, a company that uses sweatshop labor in Bangladesh to produce its products. Nearly 2,000 workers in the factories in Bangladesh that North Face and other companies use have died in recent years because of unsafe workplace conditions. Watch the video to see the students in action.

Of particular note is an exchange in the middle of the video between one of the students and an REI employee who asks what the protests are about. She responds eloquently: “When you do business with people that disenfranchise people worldwide, then what does that say about your brand?”

UnionSummer2014InternsREIAction

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Low-Wage Villain of the Week: Pharrell

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In our new regular feature, we’ll be taking a look at the villains who are doing their best to prevent the United States from raising wages for all or some Americans. We’re going to try to take a look at more than just the usual suspects in these posts, and we’ll probably stay away from government officials to give you a look at other key players who are part of the problem.

This week, our Low-Wage Villain of the Week is Pharrell, the ridiculously popular singer of songs such as “Happy” and “Get Lucky” and producer of hits like last year’s Robin Thicke smash “Blurred Lines.” Why is the inspiring singer this week’s villain? For not catching the irony, as Gawker puts it, of singing the song “Happy” to a Walmart shareholders meeting and having the lack of awareness of what the lives of Walmart workers are like when he said, “Put your hands together for Walmart, guys, for making the world a happier place.”

We’re sure that Pharrell is a really nice guy and that he’s only showing up for a Walmart shareholders’ performance because he doesn’t know that the nation’s largest retailer, owned by the country’s richest family, pays many of its workers such atrocious wages and benefits that they receive public assistance. He probably doesn’t know that a Walmart contractor just settled to pay $21 million for wage theft or the federal government is prosecuting Walmart for illegally firing workers who went on strike to protest retaliation. Certainly, he can’t be aware that the company’s executives are taking home hundreds of millions in compensation while the average worker makes less than $25,000 a year.

There’s no way Pharrell would be “happy” to perform for such a company if he knew the full scope of the problem, but since he hasn’t learned that yet and is helping celebrate a company that makes so many working families unhappy, he’s the Low-Wage Villain of the Week.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW.

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On Thursday, Let’s Talk About Taxpayers Subsidizing Walmart

On Thursday, Let's Talk About Taxpayers Subsidizing Walmart

As part of the ongoing Upworthy series, Workonomics, there will be an UpChat this Thursday to discuss how Walmart’s low wages mean that taxpayers end up subsidizing those workers to the tune of $6,000 per employee each year. Wages and benefits are so low for the country’s largest employer that many of the company’s workers are forced to take part in Medicaid, housing assistance, child care subsidies, food stamps and other government lifelines. Meanwhile, the Walton family, who owns the company, has more wealth than the bottom 40% of the country combined.

All you need to participate this Thursday, June 5, at 2 p.m. EDT is a Twitter account. Learn more details on how to participate in the UpChat and find the conversation on Twitter by looking up the hashtags #UpChat and #WalmartEconomy.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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