6 Reasons Why Unions Are Essential to Creating Broadly Based Prosperity

6 Reasons Why Unions Are Essential to Creating Broadly Based Prosperity

At the end of March, the Roosevelt Institute launched a new project, the Future of Work, which takes a look at the changing landscape in the area of workers’ rights and representation in the political and economic system that affects their lives. Author Richard Kirsch does a great job of explaining the economy and discussing potential policy solutions in a report titled The Future of Work in America: Policies to Empower American Workers and Secure Prosperity for All.

Kirsch said:

The Future of Work is bringing together thought and action leaders from multiple fields to re-imagine a 21st century social contract that expands workers’ rights and increases the number of living wage jobs. The Future of Work is focusing on three areas: Promoting new and innovative strategies for worker organizing and representation; raising the floor of labor market standards and strengthening enforcement of labor laws and standards; and assuring access to good jobs for women and workers of color.

In the report, Kirsch breaks down the issues and solutions into several categories. Read more about each:

1. The New Deal Launched Unions as Key to Building Middle Class

2. The Challenges to Organizing Workers in Today’s Economy

3. National Labor Law in the United States: Scanty Protections for Organizing Leave Out Many Workers

4. How the Weakening of American Labor Led to the Shrinking of America’s Middle Class

5. Labor Law That Would Support Organizing in Today’s Economy

6. Labor Law for All Workers: Empowering Workers to Challenge Corporate Decision Making

You also can read Kirsch’s full report, which goes into more detail on each of these points.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW.

Income Inequality Organization to Pay Paul Krugman $25,000 a Month – Seriously

paul krugman

If researchers at CUNY’s Luxembourg Income Study Center are looking to find a reason behind the ever widening income inequality that’s plaguing this country, they might not have to look very far.

The New York-based state school will pay Paul Krugman, a New York Times contributor and economist, $25,000 a month as part of a professorship at the University’s Graduate Center and Luxembourg Income Study Center.

The irony here is that the Luxembourg Center is essentially paying Krugman $225,000 a year to help extend its research on income inequality.

Krugman’s official letter was obtained by Gawker, and it states that Krugman will be expected to “play a modest role in our public events” while contributing to the “build up” of an “inequality initiative”.

It’s not explicit whether or not Krugman will be doing any teaching during his tenure at CUNY, but he did seem relatively shocked by the salary amount replying, “I admit that I had to read it several times to be clear … it’s remarkably generous.”

It’s worth noting that the public institution pays its adjunct professors about $3,000 per class, per semester while salaried professors make $116,364 a year.

Photo courtesy of Charles Fettinger via Flickr.

Why the “Rich States, Poor States” Report Is An Enormous Joke: Punching In

Busting economic myths

Long-term joblessness is up among all education levels.

ALEC’s “Rich States, Poor States” report is an enormous joke.

Key Quote: “Obviously ALEC is ranking states based on each state’s level of deregulation and awarding the most deregulated states, but the outcomes seem to have very little bearing in where companies actually want to launch and do business.

Lily Ledbetter says politicians who oppose paycheck fairness are “out of touch with reality.”

Prominent conservative: Women need to be paid less than men so they can find husbands.

More than one way to be a governor

Nevada’s Republican governor Brian Sandoval urges Speaker Boehner to pass unemployment insurance extension.

Mother Jones on New Mexico’s Gov. Martinez: “nasty, juvenile, vindictive…ignorant about basic policy issues.”

Organizing across the country

Postal workers fight against USPS-Staples partnership: “a big step toward privatization.”

Northwestern football union outcome could be unknown for months.

Baltimore hospital workers strike for more-than-poverty wages.

Retired municipal workers in Detroit reach deal on pensions.

Finally: How was your tax day?

Don’t let these zombie tax breaks come back to life.

Alaska House Passes Bill to Undercut Minimum Wage Ballot Initiative

alaska pic

In a thinly veiled attempt to stop a true minimum wage increase from ever happening, the Alaska House voted 21-19 to raise the minimum wage to $9.00 an hour by July 1, 2014.

Although the bill seems like a good thing,  the political maneuvering that transpired deserves a closer look.

A large majority of House Democrats – who are currently pushing to place a very similar minimum wage increase on the August ballot – voted against the bill, while a majority of Republican legislators voted for it.

Why? Under Alaska law, if the bill passes it will terminate the ballot initiative. A bill passed by the legislature can be changed or repealed in the next session, while a policy passed by voters on the ballot is much harder to change.

Supporters of a ballot initiative worry that the new bill will eventually be watered down while restricting legislators from making amendments for two years.

“It’s a strange vote, and it’s going to be difficult to justify to my voters,” Representative Scott Kawasaki (D) said, “I simply think this is a disingenuous piece of legislation.”

This isn’t the first time that an attempt has been made to block true progress on a minimum wage hike in Alaska.

“In 2002, the legislature played the same political game, passing a bill that indexed the minimum wage to inflation and booting a similar voter initiative off the fall ballot. The next year, the Republican-led legislature removed the cost-of-living adjustment,” the Washington Post reports.

The Senate is scheduled to vote in the coming weeks.

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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Punching In: Tax Day Edition

Taxes, taxes, taxes

Your tax rate might be lower, but you’re still paying more than most corporations.

Key Quote: “After taking advantage of credits, exemptions, and offshore tax havens, U.S. corporations get away with paying an average of less than 13 percent, according to the Government Accountability Office.”

Also, this is how your tax dollars are subsidizing the wealthy Walmart clan.

Raise the wage!

Here’s an awesome graphic that disproves a common myth about  minimum wage workers.

Rent is rising despite stagnant wages, making it more difficult for Americans to live in cities.

Oklahoma Gov. bans paid sick days and minimum wage hike, yikes.

The Ryan budget

Here’s are the top nine reasons why it should go away, forever.

Retail sales on the up

Retail sales saw the biggest increase since 2012.

More good news for the ACA

The cost of Obamacare could be reduced by 7% over the next decade.

Working America Demands an Economically Fair Budget in Pennsylvania

corby

Working America’s mission is rooted in economic justice.  We fight for family-sustaining jobs, quality public education, affordable and accessible healthcare, retirement security, and corporate accountability.

But despite our efforts, in most areas, public and higher education funding levels in the proposed budget are below where they were in the 2008-2009 fiscal year.  Meanwhile, local corporations continue to enjoy a gaping tax loophole and the continued evaporation of the capital stock and franchise tax.

In Western Pennsylvania, Working America members are organizing to get Gov. Tom Corbett to prioritize economic justice when he influences the state budget. We’re raising community awareness about the state budget and its impacts, building public support for an economically just state budget, and providing community members with the opportunity to speak to decision-makers.

Countless community members have been negatively affected by Gov. Corbett’s economically unjust budgets.  A college student’s mother lost her teaching job, and adjunct professors make poverty-level wages, with no healthcare.

Should our elected officials continue to short-change students and vulnerable Pennsylvanians to support corporate tax breaks?  No. Overwhelmingly, the community members I speak with demand an economically just state budget that strengthens funding for public education, higher education, and social services through revenue gained and saved by expanding Medicaid and requiring corporations to pay their fair share of taxes.

As part of our mission to positively influence the budget, Working America members will meet face-to-face with decisions makers like state representatives and senators.  Members will also gather petitions, etc., from community members to demonstrate to decision-makers the extensive community support for a state budget that strengthens funding for schools and social services through demanding corporate accountability and expanding Medicaid.  Finally,  members will engage the media to educate and inspire community members throughout the region.

To find out how to connect with Working America Pittsburgh, or to participate in a campaign for economic justice happening near you, click here.

Photo courtesy of the Pennsylvania Film Industry Association via Flickr.

America’s Top Role Model

As a 14-year-old, Sara Ziff faced situations most adults find difficult to manage. But as a model barely out of middle school, sexual harassment and fighting for wages owed to her were all too common. She found out she wasn’t alone. Other models faced the same challenges, and many were pressured to drop out of high school to make the most of a short-lived career.

They banded together to address these concerns collectively, to establish fair and ethical standards in the workplace. In 2012, Ziff formed the Model Alliance to bring dramatic and lasting change in the fashion industry. We spoke with Ziff this month about the fashion industry and the initiatives at The Model Alliance. 

AL: You started modeling as a 14-year-old. Do most models start at a young age?

SZ: Most models start their careers before the age of 16. I think what most people probably don’t appreciate is that it is often children—models under 18—[who] are modeling clothing that is marketed to adults, specifically women. A lot of the models who appear on the runway are actually 14-, 15-, 16-year-old kids. Some are as young as 12 and dressed up as women and [they] have to deal with all of the adult pressures of the industry. For example, nudity is common.

AL: What are some of the Model Alliance’s achievements?

SZ: When we looked at the laws on the books, we found that models were not actually covered under labor law in New York, the hub of the modeling and fashion industry. So we championed a bill that basically includes child models—models under 18—and child performance regulations so that children working as fashion models would have a set number of working hours, provisions for rest and meal breaks, provisions for chaperones. In November of last year, Governor Cuomo signed our bill into law. So that was a real coup for us. And we have already seen significant changes as a result of the law. For example, this past fashion week in February, we found that the vast majority of models on the runway were 18 and older. I think designers didn’t want to go through all the paperwork in hiring a 14-year-old instead of an 18-year-old.

A common criticism of the fashion industry is that it promotes an unhealthy ideal and the models are too skinny. Another thing that people do not realize is that it is really a symptom of designers and editors casting girls whose bodies are not fully developed rather than women. So when you cast a 14-year-old to represent the ideal of female beauty, of course she is going to have a very different body type than a woman who is in her twenties and thirties. So in short, the lack of labor protections in the modeling industry has a far-reaching effect on the images that are presented to women.

AL: Are there different labor laws globally for models or are there any laws at all?

SZ: Most states have labor protections for models, but it varies from state to state. For example, Alabama has stronger labor laws for models than New York. This is an international business and it’s pretty common for a model to be working in New York one day and a few days later working in Paris. In Paris, models are actually considered employees. So it is a whole different world depending on where you go in regard to labor laws. Generally, people in our industry say that models are independent contractors and so obviously that limits our ability to unionize and that’s why we chose this nontraditional organizing structure.

AL: Does the Model Alliance plan on bringing any other people in similar industries into the fold who may not have similar protections because they are considered independent contractors?

SZ: Pretty much everyone in our business is treated as an independent contractor—makeup artists, hairdressers, photographers—and since we formed the Model Alliance, a lot of other industry stakeholders have said, “Hey, we have trouble getting paid, too.” We have all of these concerns as individuals that are difficult to address and these are systemic problems. We have people on our advisory board that are makeup artists and photographers. We have tried to be inclusive and not adversarial. I would love one day to see the Model Alliance expand its efforts to help other workers in fields in this industry.

AL: We often have this stereotypical image of models and the fashion industry. Are there any stereotypes you want to challenge or something you want to demystify from a model’s perspective?

SZ: The modeling industry seems like a glamorous industry, because it is a superficial business where your job is to project beauty and glamour. The reality can often fall short of the image. I can say for the most part it is a fun, creative and wonderful business, but at the same time the vast majority of working models do not command large sums. Many of them are working in debt to their agencies. Models, like anyone else who is in a union, are trying to assert and establish their rights in a hostile labor environment. What makes this issue more compelling is that models begin their career when they are minors, so it is that much harder to stand up for yourself as a kid.

AL: Where do you see the Model Alliance five years from now?

SZ: Well, I’m certainly committed to these issues and developing the Model Alliance and expanding our efforts. It might seem idealistic or perhaps impossible, but I’m very interested in helping workers across the fashion supply chain. I just got back from Bangladesh, where I met with Kalpona Akter, executive director of the Bangladesh Center for Worker Solidarity, and survivors of the Rana Plaza building collapse. I really feel that as faces of these companies and the fashion industry, models are in a unique and powerful position to not only improve working conditions for themselves, but for other workers, particularly women. I don’t want to be the face of a brand that exploits their workers. While I think that we have a ways to go to develop that work, which at this point is a personal project of mine, I think that would be a really worthwhile direction for us to go. So that is my wild dream.

Reposted from AFLCIO.org

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6 Reasons Why Unions Are Essential to Creating Broadly Based Prosperity

At the end of March, the Roosevelt Institute launched a new project, the Future of Work, which takes a look at the changing landscape in the area of workers’ rights and representation in the political and economic system that affects their lives. Author Richard Kirsch does a great job of explaining the economy and discussing potential policy solutions in a report titled The Future of Work in America: Policies to Empower American Workers and Secure Prosperity for All.

Kirsch said:

The Future of Work is bringing together thought and action leaders from multiple fields to re-imagine a 21st century social contract that expands workers’ rights and increases the number of living wage jobs. The Future of Work is focusing on three areas: Promoting new and innovative strategies for worker organizing and representation; raising the floor of labor market standards and strengthening enforcement of labor laws and standards; and assuring access to good jobs for women and workers of color.

In the report, Kirsch breaks down the issues and solutions into several categories. Read more about each:

1. The New Deal Launched Unions as Key to Building Middle Class

2. The Challenges to Organizing Workers in Today’s Economy

3. National Labor Law in the United States: Scanty Protections for Organizing Leave Out Many Workers

4. How the Weakening of American Labor Led to the Shrinking of America’s Middle Class

5. Labor Law That Would Support Organizing in Today’s Economy

6. Labor Law for All Workers: Empowering Workers to Challenge Corporate Decision Making

You also can read Kirsch’s full report, which goes into more detail on each of these points.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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How You Can Pretend the Gender Pay Gap Doesn’t Exist: Punching In

Raising the wage coast to coast

After successful minimum wage increases in New Mexico’s Bernalillo and Santa Fe counties, Las Cruces is up next.

Republicans in Alaska maneuvering to subvert the minimum wage ballot initiative.

Meanwhile, Republican gubernatorial candidates in Minnesota say they have the power to cancel the minimum wage increase.

The right wing at work

Super-lobbyist Grover Norquist is still trying to ram through “right to work” in Missouri.

Speaker Boehner punts on unemployment insurance extension, says it’s White House’s fault.

How the right-wing uses statistics to pretend the gender pay gap doesn’t exist.

Automotive drama

GM auto workers vote to allow strike in Kentucky.

Gov. Haslam and Sen. Corker subpoenaed by UAW lawyers.

Key Quote: “The subpoenas call for them to testify before an NLRB hearing later this month, where the UAW is challenging a vote that it narrowly lost at the VW plant. It asks those officials to bring all documents relating to economic incentives offered to Volkswagen.”

Finally: Let’s make this switch

Why we need fewer unpaid internships and more paid apprenticeships.