PayWatch: CEO Pay Hits ‘Insane Level’

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It’s good to be a CEO, at least paywise. According to the 2014 AFL-CIO Executive PayWatch, released today, it’s 331 times better to be a CEO than an average worker. PayWatch finds that the average CEO of an S&P 500 company pocketed $11.7 million in 2013, while the average worker earned $35,293. The gap between CEOs and minimum wage workers is more than twice as wide—774 times.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said that PayWatch:

“Calls attention to the insane level of compensation for CEOs, while the workers who create those corporate profits struggle for enough money to take care of the basics.”

While CEO pay has hit stratospheric levels, workers and their families have been left in an economic quagmire of stagnant wagesexpiration of unemployment insurance for long-term jobless workers, an abysmally low minimum wage and unequal pay between men and women.

Many of the CEOs highlighted in PayWatch head companies, such as Walmart, that are notorious for paying low wages. This year PayWatch highlights five low-wage companies through stories from workers at Walmart, Kellogg’s, Reynolds American , Darden Restaurants and T-Mobile.

For example, in fiscal 2013, Walmart CEO Michael T. Duke received $20,693,545 in total compensation. PayWatch points out that a minimum wage worker at Walmart would have had to work 1,372 hours just to earn what Duke made in an hour. Tiffany, a Walmart worker and mother of two in Maryland, said:

“I earned about $12,000 last year as a full-time employee. These poverty wages force my family to receive public assistance. Currently, we are enrolled in the public health care program for low-income families, and the Women, Infants and Children program for my infant daughter.”

And while many of these companies argue that they can’t afford to raise wages, the nation’s largest companies are earning higher profits per employee than they did five years ago. In 2013, S&P 500 companies earned $41,249 in profits per employee, a 38% increase. Said Trumka:

“These companies are run by shortsighted business leaders, because people who earn minimum wage, for instance, can’t afford cellphones from T-Mobile or dinner at Red Lobster or the Olive Garden, both of which are owned by Darden Restaurants. America’s CEOs—as exemplified by the individuals of these companies—are cannibalizing their own consumer base. It’s wrong. It’s unfair, and it’s bad economics.”

PayWatch is the most comprehensive searchable online database tracking the excessive pay of CEOs of the nation’s largest companies. The website offers visitors the ability to compare their own pay to the pay of top executives, highlights the 100 top-paid CEOs, and breaks out CEO pay data by state and by industry.

The site also tracks and grades votes cast by 78 of the largest mutual-fund families on executive compensation at the public companies they invest in. Mutual funds own more than one-fifth of all shares in U.S. public companies, giving them a great deal of influence in determining executive pay at these companies.

PayWatch also gives you a chance to help the nation’s lowest-paid workers by signing a petition urging Congress to pass the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2013. It would provide a much-needed increase to $10.10 an hour, raise the tipped minimum wage for the first time in more than 20 years and help lift more than half of the nation’s working poor out of poverty.

Sign the petition to raise the minimum wage. 

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Tell Lionsgate It Has the Score Wrong. Stop Sending Musicians’ Jobs Overseas

Tell Lionsgate It Has the Score Wrong. Stop Sending Musicians’ Jobs Overseas

One of the most iconic American symbols is the National Football League. This week Lionsgate Entertainment is releasing a movie about what is probably the second most popular day for football fans after the Super Bowl—“Draft Day.” But Lionsgate did something decidedly un-American for this film. It shipped American musicians’ jobs overseas—to Macedonia.

It’s not the first time Lionsgate has ignored movie industry standards by shutting out American musicians and recording scores overseas. “The Hunger Games” and “Twilight” are two more recent examples. In fact, over the last two years, only two of the dozens of films the company’s produced were scored to industry standards domestically.

Professional musicians are standing up with their union, the American Federation of Musicians of the United States and Canada (AFM), by launching a campaign to tell Lionsgate to “Listen Up!” and uphold industry standards, and guarantee proper wages and working conditions on all of its productions.

AFM President Ray Hair said:

Music can make or break a movie. Imagine “Indiana Jones” without its iconic theme music or the tension created by the music in “Jaws.” It’s the soul of any film. But some film production companies, like Lionsgate Entertainment, are putting that in danger (by) making it a practice to offshore musicians’ jobs to increase its already massive profits and, in the process, undermine industry standards that have created some of the most famous movie musical scores.

Hair points out that Lionsgate is getting millions in tax credits every year from states across the country, then sending jobs overseas. For “Draft Day,” Lionsgate took $5 million from Ohio taxpayers for the film, then offshored all of the film’s musical score to a Macedonian company—and pocketed anything that was left over. Said Hair:

Lionsgate is squeezing every dollar out of the music community and undermining local musicians’ economic ability to teach and develop the next generation of domestic professional musicians.

Sign the petition to tell the company to stop sending musicians’ jobs overseas, to uphold accepted industry standards, and guarantee proper wages and working conditions for musicians on all of its productions.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Senate OKs Jobless Benefits Renewal, Tell the House to Do the Same

Senate OKs Jobless Benefits Renewal, Tell the House to Do the Same

More than three months after House Republicans leaders allowed the Emergency Unemployment Compensation benefits program to expire, nearly 2.8 million jobless workers have lost their economic lifeline. Monday, the U.S. Senate gave those workers a ray of hope when it passed (59-38) a bill reviving the program for long-term jobless workers. Now it is up to the House to keep that hope alive.

House leaders have said they won’t take up the Senate bill, which provides retroactive benefits to Dec. 28, but only extends the program to May 31. Congress is due to leave town for a two-week recess.

Call your House members today at 845-809-4509 and urge them to pass the emergency unemployment benefits extension now. 

Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.), chief sponsor of the Senate bill (S. 2077), said:

The beneficiaries of this bill have earned these UI [unemployment insurance] benefits through hard work, and they have the right to expect their representatives in Congress would not stand in the way of this emergency assistance. Reauthorizing emergency UI benefits in times of economic hardship has historically not been a partisan issue, and it’s time we revert to that longstanding tradition of extending a hand to our fellow Americans in their time of need.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said:

It has been a long cold winter for 2.8 million Americans who have been callously cut off from receiving emergency unemployment benefits.  Today’s vote in the Senate is a critical step in thawing the long economic freeze that families have suffered through.  What’s next?  Finding enough Republican leaders in the House who have the backbone to stand with working people rather than cater to extreme partisan ideology.  We believe it’s possible. We call on Members of the House to quickly renew these crucial benefits.  It is shameful that families in need have had to wait this long.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Equal Pay Day: Bridging the Pay Gap Takes 3 Extra Months of Work

Women have to work more than three extra months to earn what men earn in a year because, on average, they make 77 cents on the dollar compared to men’s earnings. Today, Equal Pay Day, marks the day women workers close the 2013 pay gap.

That 23 cents on the dollar pay gap adds up over time—$11,607 a year for women working full-time is more than $440,000 over a lifetime. Bridging the annual difference would make a huge impact on the lives and families of working women.

A new study by the National Partnership for Women and Families finds that if the gap were eliminated, women who work in California could buy 59 more weeks of food. Ohio’s working women could afford nine more months of mortgage and utilities payments. Working women in Georgia could afford 10 more months of rent. And women employed in Florida could afford 1,900-plus more gallons of gas.

National Partnership for Women and Families President Debra L. Ness says the analysis shows:

When women and their families lose thousands of dollars in critical income each year, they have significantly less money to spend on food, gas, rent and other basic necessities, and the consequences for their families and our state and national economies can be devastating.

AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Elizabeth Shuler said, “The best pay equalizer is union membership, but most workers don’t have that advantage.” That’s why, she said, legislation such as the Paycheck Fairness Act is needed to help close the pay gap.

That bill, which the Senate could vote on today or Wednesday, would close loopholes and strengthen current equal pay laws, including strengthening penalties that courts may impose for equal pay violations and prohibit retaliation against workers who inquire about or disclose information about employers’ wage practices. The bill also would require employers to show pay disparity is truly related to job performance—not gender.

Most Republican members of Congress are opposed to the Paycheck Fairness Act. In 2012, they blocked a vote in the Senate on the legislation. However, in a 2014 nationwide survey, 62% of likely voters said they supported the Paycheck Fairness Act—83% of Democrats, 58% of independents and 44% of Republicans. And the majority of GOP women (51%) support the bill.

Today, President Barack Obama will issue an executive order that will apply some provisions of the Paycheck Fairness Act to federal contractors. Read more here.

Click here for the National Partnership for Women and Families study that breaks down the wage gap by state and examines the even bigger wage gap in 20 states African American women and Latina workers face. Nationally, African American and Latina women are paid just 64 cents and just 54 cents, respectively, for every dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic men.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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AFSCME Snowplow Driver Rescues Man from Crashed, Snow-Filled Car

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When a winter storm roared through Minnesota last month, snowplow driver Jeff Holte—a member of AFSCME Local 789—was clearing Interstate 94 and spreading sand near Evansville, Minn. But temperatures plummeted and, in a matter of minutes, Holte watched the road go from perfectly safe to a sheet of ice.

He also saw a car lose control, roll into a ditch and, with its rear window broken and upside down, slide backward through previously fallen deep snow that nearly filled the car. That’s when he sprang into action, writes David Kreisman on AFSCME’s News blog.

After calling the state police, Holte ran to the car where a woman had escaped.

She came running up out of the ditch pretty frantic. She was screaming that her boyfriend was still trapped in the car packed with snow and he was having trouble breathing because the car was so full of snow.

Read how Holte dug enough snow from the car to belly crawl to the front seat, where he removed more snow from around the trapped man to enable him to breathe, and eventually unbuckled the seat belt and pulled him from the car.

Says Holte:

It was kind of a wild few minutes there when it happened. I’m just glad I was in the right place at the right time to help them.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Boosting Minimum Wage to $10.10 Means a Raise for 6.8 Million Latinos

Courtesy of UFCW.

Nearly 6.8 million Latino workers would benefit if Congress raises the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour, according to the new AFL-CIO study Closing the Gap to the American Dream. While Latinos comprise 16% of the country’s workforce, they make up nearly one-quarter of the workers who would be positively affected by raising the minimum wage. According to the report:

Too many Latino workers are vulnerable in this economy. Living in a state of financial insecurity, many workers who are employed full-time are trapped in low-wage positions. These nearly 6.8 million Latino workers would greatly benefit from a raise in the minimum wage. A $10.10-an-hour salary would provide higher take-home income, improved employment prospects and increased opportunities to save for retirement.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka says, “Raising the minimum wage is long overdue for all working families in America.” He adds:

Every day, millions of Latinos go to work but struggle to support their families. Many of them are paid poverty wages well below their white and African American counterparts in an economy with ever increasing costs of living. These working families are frequently forced to forgo basics—food, housing, clothing—and rely on public assistance to make ends meet.

Throughout the nation, Latino workers are struggling with high rates of unemployment, low wages and a dire financial outlook for retirement. Latino men are paid just 67.3% of their white counterparts and 89.0% of their black counterparts. Latinas are paid just 73.4% of their white counterparts and 87.0% of their black counterparts.

Yanira Merino, the AFL-CIO’s national immigration campaign manager, says, “Latino and Latina workers are consistently underpaid and underappreciated.”

This is wrong. Latinos work hard every day to build this nation and deserve to be rewarded with wages that can support their families and put food on the table. We stand with Latino families everywhere, advocating for policies that will allow each and every one of us to reach the American Dream.

Read the full report and read more on the minimum wage.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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K-E Double L! O Double Greed

When the Kellogg Co. locked out some 220 workers from its Memphis, Tenn., plant in October, it was another step in Kellogg’s corporate battle plan to replace steady, middle-class, full-time jobs in the United States and elsewhere with casual part-time employees who would make significantly lower wages and substandard benefits.

Today the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers (BCTGM) union stepped up its campaign to shed light on Kellogg’s Greed and put pressure on the globally recognized cereal maker to end its Memphis lockout and step back from its plans to cuts jobs and shutter plants in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and Australia.

In videos on the just-launched website, Kellogg Greed, Memphis workers talk about the toll Kellogg’s lockout has taken on them and their families and workers in the London, Ontario plant in Canada that Kellogg is shutting down at the end of the year and reveal how they were deceived by the cereal maker.

Another video explores the $14 billion a year cereal giant’s plan to increase production in low-wage countries, including Mexico, Malaysia and Thailand.

While CEO John Bryant received $8 million in salary in 2013 and investors continue to profit from increasing dividend payouts and share buybacks, thousands of Kellogg employees and the communities they live in are left devastated and angry.

Take action and send a message to Bryant, urging him to end the Memphis lockout and cease the attacks on Kellogg’s dedicated and hardworking employees in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and Australia.

The Memphis workers have received support from national politicians, religious leaders, civil rights organizations and international labor groups, including the Congressional Black Caucus, the NFL Players Association (NFLPA), the International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers’ Associations, the National Action Network and others.

See all the videos below and stay tuned for more updates on this story:

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Senate Reaches Bipartisan Deal on UI

Senate negotiators announced this evening that they have reached a bipartisan agreement on a bill to revive the Emergency Unemployment Compensation benefits that expired at the end of 2013. Since then more than 2 million long-term jobless workers have lost their benefits.

Action on the bill will not occur until at least March 24, following the upcoming Senate recess/state work period. Details on the bill were not released. In a statement, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka urged lawmakers to move quickly.

Every day that goes by where families have to decide between heating bills and putting gas in the car to drive to a job interview is a day that we are failing America’s workers.  The Senate should act immediately to extend unemployment benefits and the House should quickly follow.

Since the first of the year Republicans have blocked action on several attempts to revive the jobless aid for long-term unemployed workers. But Trumka said that today’s announcement “is a good sign that there is bi-partisan agreement and that the Senate is working together to get this done.”

If the Senate acts swiftly and responsibly it looks like 2 million jobless Americans may be closer to getting relief in the form of emergency unemployment insurance.  We will have to look closely at what a final deal looks like and whether it adds additional burdens to workers who are already struggling.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Obama Seeks to Restore Overtime Pay for Millions of Workers Denied Under Bush-Era Rules

Pete Souza. The Official White House Photostream/Wikimedia

In 2004, President George W. Bush, at the urging of business groups, used his executive powers to change overtime eligibility rules and allow businesses to deny overtime for millions of workers. Tomorrow, President Barack Obama is expected to announce that he will direct the U.S. Department of Labor to update overtime eligibility rules to restore overtime protection that workers have lost to inflation since 1975.

Under federal overtime regulations, workers who earn less than a certain salary level are generally entitled to overtime protection. For decades after enactment of the federal overtime law in 1938, this salary threshold was updated every few years as a routine matter. However, the last regular adjustment to the salary level was made by President Gerald R. Ford in 1975. No further adjustments were made for the next 29 years, and as a result, workers’ overtime protections have been steadily eroded by inflation.

Obama is expected to announce tomorrow that the Labor Department will update the salary threshold for overtime eligibility. Above this salary level, workers may be denied overtime protection if they are considered executive management, administrative management or professionals. Below this salary level, workers cannot be denied overtime protection for these reasons.

However, it is not clear how much the president will propose to increase the salary level. The Economic Policy Institute (EPI) has recommended an increase to $970 per week ($50,440 per year), which would restore all of the overtime protection lost to inflation since 1975.

New York and California already require companies to pay overtime to anyone earning less than $600 and $640 per week, respectively. Those salary levels are set to increase to $675 and $800 per week by 2016.

The current federal threshold of $455 per week—or $23,660 per year—is ridiculously low. It is barely above the federal poverty level for a family of four. A White House official explained that overtime protections have eroded to such an extent that millions of workers who should not be denied overtime protection are being left unprotected.

For example, a convenience store manager or a fast-food shift supervisor or an office worker may be expected to work 50 or 60 hours a week or more, making barely enough to keep a family out of poverty, and not receive a dime of overtime pay.

EPI Vice President Ross Eisenbrey says many of the workers who would benefit from restored overtime protection are insurance clerks, secretaries, low-level managers, social workers, bookkeepers, dispatchers, sales and marketing assistants and employees in scores of other occupations.

As the rules stand now, an assistant manager at a fast-food restaurant who spends 95 percent of his (or her) time cooking fries, running a cash register, sweeping floors and moving supplies into and out of the freezer can be denied any overtime pay and work 60 or 70 hours a week if his salary is at least $23,660 a year. Because he is exempt [from overtime protection], the hourly rate of his salary can fall below the minimum wage; “executives” are excluded from minimum wage protection, too.

Last December, President Obama called attention to growing economic inequality in America and declared that making sure the economy works for working people is the defining challenge of our time and drives everything he does as president. With Republicans blocking the legislative agenda he campaigned on in 2012, the president has vowed to act within his executive powers to make sure the economy workers for everyone. Today’s announcement follows on the heels of his January executive order requiring federal contractors on all new or renewed contracts to pay their workers at least $10.10 an hour.

Also Democrats in Congress and the president are attempting to raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 per hour. If you think workers deserve a raise, sign this petition.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Republican UI Bill Not What It Seems

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You’ve got to feel bad for folks who go through life so distrustful and suspicious of their fellow citizens that they believe people are always trying to get away with something, trying to game the system. Like those millions of jobless workers who would rather lay back and collect $300 or so a week in unemployment insurance (UI) benefits than go out and try to find a job that pays a decent wage and gives them a chance to support a family, keep a roof over their heads and climb a step or two up the ladder.

Yep, you’ve got to feel bad for Republican senators. You see, that must be the way they feel about the nation’s 3.8 million long-term jobless workers. Why else would they introduce a bill that renews the Emergency Unemployment Compensation benefits they let expire at the end of 2013 (and have voted against three times) but would also allow states to deny help to jobless workers who are not in a job training program or completing 20 hours a week of so-called ”community service” or jumping through new hoops to prove they are looking for work.

Here are a few things to keep in mind about this Republican proposal from Sen. Dean Heller (Nev.) who’s obviously more concerned about pushing conservative policy based on myths about people without jobs.

There are nearly three unemployed men and women for every job opening in the United States. So it’s not as if all the jobless have to do is shine their shoes and head out the door to the job market.

Republicans have long led the drive to cut funding for job training—even for those who have had their jobs exported (see Trade Adjustment Assistance). Most states now lack funding for job training and job retraining for all who need it.

“Community service” may sound like a good idea, but 20 hours a week cleaning up parks or painting benches is 20 hours a week taken away from a job search. BTW, current federal law prohibits states from requiring unemployed workers to engage in community service to public workers projects as a condition of receiving benefits.

The Republican bill sets up new administrative hurdles for both jobless workers and the states to prove that unemployed workers are indeed job hunting instead of golfing with those 20 hours less a week to look for work.

What happens if an unemployed worker fails to meet the new standards? The worker is disqualified for benefits “indefinitely” or until he or she is re-employed for at least four weeks and earns at least four times the weekly benefit amount. Take a minute and read that again carefully. A worker who can’t find a job can only receive jobless benefits after he or she finds a job that pays more than the unemployment benefit.

The next time you hear some Republican senator claiming to support restoring UI for the long-term jobless, remember, thanks to their inaction, 2 million jobless workers have lost benefits and that number will continue to rise. (Mouse over the photos from the National Employment Law Project in this post to learn more about three workers who were cut off from long-term unemployment benefits.)

Call your senators at 845-809-4509 and urge them to pass a clean emergency unemployment benefits extension, not the Republican bill offered by Heller that punishes workers more than it helps.

Read anonymous confessions from jobless workers here.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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