In the past decade, temporary work arrangements grew steadily in the United States—20% since 2003. In 2013, there were 2,673,800 workers employed in the temp industry, which accounted for 24% of all job growth in the United States during the tepid economic recovery from 2009 to 2012. Often these workers perform the same work as permanent employees for lower wages, little training, no benefits and no promise of security. Unfortunately,according to a recent ProPublica investigation, the United States lags far behind other industrialized countries in labor protections for temporary workers. Of 43 “developed and emerging economies” tracked by the OECD, the United States ranks near the bottom, at 41st, for temporary worker protections.
While temporary work and other forms of independent contracting offer some workers desired flexibility, most temporary workers are caught in a precarious gap in labor protections and lack needed workplace stability. From low-wage maintenance work to highly paid tech jobs, the growth of temporary work has pervaded the labor market. The AFL-CIO’s Department for Professional Employees reports more than 7.7 million self-employed and temporary workers are employed in management, professional and related occupations. Temp workers at Microsoft, for example, have long protested their “permatemp” status at the company, where many have worked for years receiving less pay for the same work as regular employees, with no benefits or paid time off and little hope of moving into regular employment.
On the other end of the wage spectrum, workers often toil in unsafe conditions with little training, as companies outsource entire segments of their blue-collar workforce to staffing firms. Workers who are cheated out of wages or have safety complaints frequently do not know where to turn, as their true employer is masked through numerous subcontracting relationships throughout a supply chain. Some 542 temp workers were fatally injured on the job in 2011; Latino temp workers represented 28% of those deaths.
Immigrant workers are especially susceptible to abuse, as they may be unaware of their labor rights or fear immigration enforcement. Many have reported having to pay fees to fly-by-night staffing firms that charge workers for van transport to unknown job sites. Immigrant workers also frequently access the labor market through international labor recruiters, who have been known to charge high fees, confiscate travel documents, issue threats and commit other forms of abuse that have even resulted in human trafficking.
The growth of temp work arrangements is the product of deliberate corporate practices and policies that have been implemented within the context of privatization, deregulation and flexibilization of labor laws. There are numerous efforts to reverse these trends. The International Labor Organization is examining temporary work this summer as part of an effort to encourage the transition from the informal to formal economy. National governments, too, have made efforts well beyond the United States to combat exploitative temp work arrangements. For example:
- At least 12 countries have banned companies from hiring temps in dangerous industries or to do hazardous work.
- Unlike the United States, about three-quarters of the countries tracked by OECD require temp agencies to register or become licensed before they can begin sending out workers.
- European Union countries mandated that temp workers receive equal pay and working conditions to employees hired directly by the company;
- Nearly half of the 43 countries in the OECD study restrict the duration of temp assignments, ranging from three months to three years.
In the United States, workers have won promising gains in an uphill battle. Through collective action, taxi workers, day laborers, home care workers and adjunct faculty have improved their working conditions and formed collective representation on the job. At the state level in the United States, workers have pushed lawmakers to pass laws targeting employee misclassification, including laws that assign joint responsibility to temp agencies as employers, or forbid agreements where businesses know the agency does not have sufficient funds for all applicable regulations. At a time when inequality is at the top of the administration’s agenda, federal agencies and lawmakers must make every effort to reflect these good practices and extend worker protections to temp workers.
Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW
Tags: aflcio, Corporate Accountability, Jobs, Latino, misclassification, Rights At Work, safety, temporary workers
A class-action lawsuit has accused several high-profile Silicon Valley CEO’s of suppressing wages, to the tune of $3 billion, through a top-secret agreement to abstain from recruiting each other’s employees.
Tech CEO’s sought to retain talented engineers and keep their wages low by stifling any outside employment opportunities:
In early 2005, as demand for Silicon Valley engineers began booming, Apple’s Steve Jobs sealed a secret and illegal pact with Google’s Eric Schmidt to artificially push their workers wages lower by agreeing not to recruit each other’s employees, sharing wage scale information, and punishing violators…
This may come as a surprise to most of us, as the image of a brilliant, innovative, and ostensibly progressive tech CEO toiling away at his latest technological masterpiece in solitude has been burned into our brains.
But this lawsuit is the perfect example of just how vital all employees are to employers, no matter how excellent the CEO might be.
The suit alleges that, based on several uncovered email conversations, Silicon Valley executives mutually agreed to refrain from recruiting each other’s star employees. The executives implicated include Steve Jobs, Intuit’s Bill Campbell, and Google’s Eric Schmidt.
The agreements led to several ‘Do Not Call’ lists, and even prompted Apple’s head of HR to instruct employees to put Google on their ‘hands off’ list.
These interactions aren’t just another offering of the corporate greed; they also shed light on the extremes that executives will go to keep talent in-house.
But if these employees were so valuable, and they clearly were, why not treat them as such? Instead of driving down wages and competition, why wouldn’t these men pay their employees a wage that reflected just how indispensable they were to the organization, and treat them as human beings?
In these times it’s important to remember that no matter where you work, your job is necessary and vital to the organization’s success. And this situation in Silicon Valley is a great example of that.
Photo courtesy of privateidentity for Flickr.
Tags: California, Corporate Accountability, Google, Silicon Valley, wage theft
The following is a guest post from Pittsburgh Working America member Kayleigh Metviner
I participated in a press conference on Tuesday with the local chapter of Working America, a national economic justice organization, to call for a Pennsylvania state budget that favors education and social services over corporate tax cuts.
A few hours later, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett presented his vision for the state budget, which was not expected to be anything to cheer about. Now, I am a newcomer to Pennsylvania, and I am not going to write in-depth about Pennsylvania-specific politicians and issues. What I am more interested in here is the disconnect between legislation that is both feasible and favored by a majority of citizens, and the legislation that is proposed by Corbett.
Why politicians who face abysmal approval ratings (23 percent for Corbett last week) still try to get reelected is beyond me, but Corbett’s budget proposal is clearly aimed at garnering support this year. And even though most self-identified progressives would rather drink West Virginia’s water than see Corbett reelected, his attempts to pass legislation that appeals to the majority could still be a good thing. Unfortunately, his actual budget proposal makes that very unlikely.
In his speech, Corbett said that his budget sets the agenda in the “spirit” of expanding public education, which…nice. But the state budget doesn’t have a column for spirit, and very few of us have managed to exchange spirit for goods and services. So where is the money for education coming from?
Mainly from a highly unlikely projected increase in state revenues. Despite having predicted a budget deficit by the end of the 2014-2015 fiscal year just a couple months ago, and despite revenue having come in short even of that projection in January, Corbett’s spending plan is dependent on a 4 percent increase in revenue this year.
In contrast, the budget that Working America and community members across the state support would see education and social services funded mainly by closing corporate tax loopholes, like the well-known Delaware tax loophole that deprives many states (except Delaware) of hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue.
We presented this proposal before the release of Corbett’s plan because we wanted to make it clear that there is a viable alternative to empty, feel-good promises and more of the same political floundering that leaves the majority of us, in Pennsylvania and around the country, in a perpetual state of disadvantage. Crafting a state budget is undoubtedly a complex matter, but in the face of complexity, let’s turn to logical and equitable solutions, not “spirit.”
Text JOBS to 30644 to join Working America’s movement for economic justice in Pennsylvania.
Photo by onepittsburgh on Instagram
Tags: budget, Corporate Accountability, deficit, Delaware tax loophole, Education, Pennsylvania, Pittsburgh, public education, Tom Corbett, Working America
The following is a guest post from Working America member Kayleigh Metviner
Volunteers, supporters, and media gathered at Working America’s Pittsburgh office on Tuesday morning to call for an economically just and fiscally responsible state budget, in contrast to the budget proposal anticipated from Governor Tom Corbett (R-PA) later in the day.
With over 500,000 members in Pennsylvania, Working America is a formidable force in the state, and we are overwhelmingly in support of a state budget that focuses more resources on public education, higher education, and social services.
Our members know that money doesn’t materialize out of thin air, so their calls for well-funded education and social services are accompanied by practical and equitable solutions: closing the Delaware tax loophole that deprives Pennsylvanians of hundreds of millions of dollars a year and expanding Medicaid.
Expanding Medicaid will not only allow more Pennsylvanians to access health care, it also has the potential to lower overall health care costs. On top of this, it will be 100 percent funded by the federal government for the first three years, and that rate would modestly and gradually decrease to 90 percent during years after that. Lowered costs from expanded Medicaid, combined with increased revenues from corporations paying their fair share of taxes will enable our state to fulfill its commitment to our public schools.
Several Working America volunteers read community member comments aloud at the press conference. One member urged Governor Corbett to “budget with greater consideration for education support instead of corporate tax breaks/” Another wrote: “Please, stop the practice of subsidizing large corporations with taxpayer money when programs and research to help the vulnerable are so needed.”
We want to thank those who shared their stories and urge all Pennsylvanians to continue spreading the word about the real possibilities for economic justice right here, right now.
Text JOBS to 30644 to join Working America’s movement for economic justice in Pennsylvania.
Tags: Corporate Accountability, Delaware tax loophole, Education, good jobs, Health Care, Jobs, Medicaid, Pennsylvania, public education, Tom Corbett
Two weeks ago, we reported on an open letter in support of raising the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour that, at the time, had been signed by 70 economists. The online version of the letter asked for other economists who have a Ph.D. in the field to sign the letter. Since then, the total number of signers on the letter has risen to more than 600.
The text of the letter:
July will mark five years since the federal minimum wage was last raised. We urge you to act now and enact a three-step raise of 95 cents a year for three years—which would mean a minimum wage of $10.10 by 2016—and then index it to protect against inflation. Senator Tom Harkin and Representative George Miller have introduced legislation to accomplish this. The increase to $10.10 would mean that minimum wage workers who work full time, full year would see a raise from their current salary of roughly $15,000 to roughly $21,000. These proposals also usefully raise the tipped minimum wage to 70% of the regular minimum.
This policy would directly provide higher wages for close to 17 million workers by 2016. Furthermore, another 11 million workers whose wages are just above the new minimum would likely see a wage increase through “spillover” effects, as employers adjust their internal wage ladders. The vast majority of employees who would benefit are adults in working families, disproportionately women, who work at least 20 hours a week and depend on these earnings to make ends meet. At a time when persistent high unemployment is putting enormous downward pressure on wages, such a minimum wage increase would provide a much-needed boost to the earnings of low-wage workers.
In recent years there have been important developments in the academic literature on the effect of increases in the minimum wage on employment, with the weight of evidence now showing that increases in the minimum wage have had little or no negative effect on the employment of minimum wage workers, even during times of weakness in the labor market. Research suggests that a minimum wage increase could have a small stimulative effect on the economy as low-wage workers spend their additional earnings, raising demand and job growth and providing some help on the jobs front.
Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW
Tags: Corporate Accountability, George Miller, minimum wage, Tom Harkin
Fast Track—it’s a term that’s in the news more lately these days. And for good reason. Early in January, Sens. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Rep. Dave Camp (R-Mich.) have introduced a bill that would bring back a bad idea that’s been dead since 2007.
Sign the petition to stop Fast Track dead in its tracks.
This Fast Track bill would re-establish a process (first used in the Nixon administration) that allows a trade deal negotiated in secret to pass Congress under a process that allows no amendments, limited debate and not nearly enough public scrutiny. Ever since the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), trade agreements have been about much more than reducing tariffs. Now they are about providing extreme patent protections for pharmaceutical companies, promoting deregulation, weakening “Buy American” policies and providing extraordinary legal rights and privileges to large, foreign corporations. Should those policies really be made behind closed doors, out of the public view?
Whatever justification there may have been in the past for this undemocratic policy, surely we can do better today. We know from experience that once legislators have the Fast Track ticket in their hands, they are likely to finalize an agreement that will send jobs overseas, hold down wages, harm small businesses and give global corporations even more influence over our economy. Workers, communities and small businesses—in the United States and in the countries we trade with—need updated, 21st century trade and economic policies that promote good jobs and benefits for all, not simply massive profits for a few.
Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW
Tags: aflcio, buy american, Corporate Accountability, Dave Camp, fast track, Max Baucus, NAFTA, orrin hatch, tpp, trade
Hey, Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, can we talk for a minute? I love you guys. I think “The Heist” is one of the best albums of the past few years. I’ve sung three different songs of yours at karaoke and I’m practicing a fourth. I’m one of the people who knows that when you talk about Capitol Hill in your songs, you’re not talking about D.C.
One of my favorite things about your songs, beyond the high-quality sound and performance, is how you talk about real-world issues and problems in honest, open and thoughtful ways. You don’t talk down to your listeners and you give them things to think about that they might not otherwise think about. That’s a great thing to do. From discussions on LGBTQ equality in “Same Love,” to talking about racial profiling and Trayvon Martin at the American Music Awards, to dealing with drug addiction and abuse on songs like “Otherside,” you’re bringing up important topics in ways that few popular musicians ever do. That’s to be applauded.
I’m also a fan of how you have stayed true to your principles and refused to sign with record companies that would exploit you. So, can I ask you a favor? You’re performing a show tonight sponsored by T-Mobile. T-Mobile is a company as bad or worse than those record companies you talked about in songs like “Jimmy Iovine.”
Workers employed by the wireless provider have described the company’s tactics as “brutal psychological terror.” These practices include things like verbal abuse, threats, forcing workers to wear dunce caps and sit in a corner if they don’t meet their quotas. In one town, so many T-Mobile workers have gone to the doctor reporting migraines, stroke symptoms, high blood pressure, anxiety and depression, the doctors have started referring to the symptoms as “T-Mobile disease.” When those workers try to stand up for themselves and just work in a reasonable environment, they report being fired, disciplined, interrogated in basements and systematically told to keep quiet.
So far in your career, you’ve done a great job at raising awareness about injustice when you’ve seen it. You can do it again by shining a light on T-Mobile and its mistreatment of workers. At the end of “Jimmy Iovine,” you said something about how you’d prefer to be a starving artist than succeed at getting screwed over by a greedy corporation. And that was a bold stance for you that has paid off. Now you have the chance to help T-Mobile workers avoid both starving and getting screwed over.
Our friends at United Students Against Sweatshops and MoveOn.org asked your fans to sign a petition asking you to break up with T-Mobile.
Can you help some brothers and sisters out?
Read more about T-Mobile’s mistreatment of workers.
Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW
Tags: Corporate Accountability, music, Rights At Work, safety, T Mobile
Last week, those of us who think voting should have equal access to the ballot received a bit of good news.
The voter suppression law passed in Pennsylvania in March 2012, one of the most restricting voting rights policies in the country, was ruled unconstitutional by a Commonwealth Court judge:
The Supreme Court worked quickly when it addressed voter ID in the run-up to the 2012 election, so it remains unknown whether voters will be required to show photo identification in the May primary.
For now, however, the law is invalid after Judge Bernard McGinley of Commonwealth Court found that it “unreasonably burdens the right to vote” and threatens a fundamental right of hundreds of thousands of qualified voters.
“Voting laws are designed to assure a free and fair election; the Voter ID Law does not further this goal,” the decision states.
The decision confirmed what Working America’s 500,000 Pennsylvania members already understood: The law threatened the constitutional right of Pennsylvanians to vote, and it disproportionately targeted the elderly, students and communities of color.
If that sounds awfully similar to other voting rights restrictions passed in other states, like Wisconsin and North Carolina, that’s no accident. The Pennsylvania voting rights law is based on an ALEC model bill, and State Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, who shepherded the bill through the legislature, is an active ALEC member.
Republican legislators dismissed concerns that the law had been designed to depress Democratic turnout ahead of the 2012 election. However, Rep. Mike Turzai let it slip at a recorded meeting that “voter ID” would “allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania.”
“[The] decision is a victory for working families in Pennsylvania,” said Catherine Balsamo, Senior Member Coordinator with Working America. “Folks deserve the right to advocate for themselves and their communities, and the right to vote provides that essential voice.”
In 2012, after the law’s passage, Working America members raised community awareness about the law to help everyday Americans know what they’d need to do to keep their right to vote. Between our media presence, conversations with community members, online actions and more, Catherine, Benita and the Working America team reached an estimated 642,000 people with information about what they’d need to vote.
Our member Benita Campbell was active in that campaign. “It’s another feather in Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s hat, because it’s a continuation of our collective struggle,” she said of the decision. “It’s a wonderful way to honor him…If this ruling is upheld, we all win.”
So what’s next? Some Republican legislators are considering an appeal to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, or even passing an entirely new bill that could pass constitutional muster. Hopefully, though, Gov. Corbett and his legislative allies will move on from political attacks on voters to the issues that our members actually consider: creating jobs, expanding Medicaid, and adequately funding Pennsylvania public schools.
Tags: ALEC, Corporate Accountability, Daryl Metcalfe, Mike Turzai, Pennsylvania, voter id, voting rights
A group of Pentagon workers employed by federal contractors at low wages to operate concessions and clean federal buildings are the latest federal contract workers to walk off the job and urge President Barack Obama to use his executive authority to establish a living wage requirement for contractors that do business with the government.
Salon’s Josh Eidelson reports that low-wage contracted workers at several other federal buildings joined today’s demonstrations. Read Eidelson’s full report.
About 2 million workers are employed at low wages by federal contractors across the nation.
Like low-wage fast-food and retail workers across the country, the federal workers have staged one-day strikes to spotlight their demands for a living wage and the right to join a union without retaliation by employers.
In September, a group of federal contract workers marched to the White House and delivered petitions with more than 250,000 signatures, urging Obama to issue an executive order requiring federal contractors to pay a living wage. While Obama has called on Congress to increase the federal minimum wage, the White House has not indicated if Obama will issue the living wage executive order for federal contractors.
More than 200 workers at six Smithsonian museums in Washington, D.C., won union representation with UNITE HERE late last year and are bargaining for better wages and working conditions.
Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW
Tags: aflcio, Corporate Accountability, DC, minimum wage, organizing, Pentagon, poverty, unite here, washington dc
Famously, Google’s informal company motto is “don’t be evil.” The slogan isn’t “don’t be evil yourself, but giving others money to do evil is OK.” If the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) had a motto, it would be “do as much evil as you can.” One of these things is not like the other.
ALEC is pushing bills in state legislatures across the country to take awayworkers’ rights, suppress the vote, privatize schools and prisons and make it easier for corporations to pollute our air and water. AFL-CIO has launched a new petition to ask Google CEO Larry Page to stop funding ALEC and live up to Google’s motto.
Today is also a national day of action led by Progress Now to call attention to ALEC’s activities in the states. More than two dozen states are hosting actions to raise awareness about the conservative group. Activities range from legislative hearings to investigate taxpayer money being sent to ALEC to attempts to convince state legislators to sign a pledge to put their constituents interests ahead of those of the corporations that ALEC represents. Progress Now and other organizations also will begin participating in a weekly program, ‘Mondays with ALEC,’ highlighting the damage ALEC is doing across the country. “Mondays with ALEC” begins Jan. 27.
“Across the country we have seen efforts by ALEC to take over our statehouses and put profits over people, and now it’s time that the people stood up and fought back,” said Arshad Hasan, executive director of Progress Now.
You can follow the anti-ALEC actions today on Facebook and Twitter.
Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW
Tags: ALEC, Corporate Accountability, Google