Ga. Governor Agrees His State Is Great for Business Because Workers Are Cheap

Here’s your rage-inducing video clip of the day. Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal agrees in a CNBC interview his state is a real “deal” for businesses because workers are paid so little. Oh yeah, he directly ties this with being a “right to work” state.

Here’s a handy graphic from our friends at Working America that explains all you need to know about right to work states and the raw deal workers get there:

mo_rtw_facts_2013

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

Tags: , , , ,

You Know What Doesn’t Work So Well? Private Prisons

The myth put forth by private prison corporations like Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) and the GEO Group that private prisons are cheaper than public prisons is shattered by a new report from In the Public Interest, thus undercutting the primary rationale for prison privatization efforts across the country. When pushing for contracts with the many states that use private prisons, these corporations claim they are the better option because they can run prisons more cheaply than the government can. But this report not only dispels that idea, it highlights some of the less-than-savory activities the corporations engage in because of the perverse incentives created by these contracts.

The report details several methods through which private prison companies mislead governments and the public about their supposed cost savings, particularly hiding costs of private prisons, inflating public prison costs, benefiting from mandated occupancy minimums and delaying cost increases until after contracts are signed.

Numerous studies have shown that private prisons are more expensive than their publicly run counterparts. The report details a series of meta-analyses of individual studies conducted on the comparative costs between public and private prisons, and all of them found that cost savings, at best, were minimal for private prisons—in many cases, private prisons were more expensive. One of the few studies that showed private prisons to be more cost-effective was funded by the prison companies and is currently the subject of an ethics inquiry at Temple University. A close examination of many of the states that have invested heavily in prison privatization has shown the failure of the “private prisons are cheaper” idea:

  • Arizona: The state found private prisons can cost up to $1,600 per prisoner per year, despite private prisons often only housing the healthiest prisoners.
  • Florida: Three separate multiyear studies found the majority of the private prisons in the state failed to meet the legally mandated 7% cost savings, while half of the private prisons failed to save any money at all.
  • Georgia: In 2011, private prisons cost the state $45.81 per prisoner per day, compared with $44.51 per prisoner per day in publicly run prisons.
  • Hawaii: The state found the projected savings of using private prison contractors were based on bed capacity rather than the actual number of people incarcerated and that indirect administration costs were not included.
  • New Mexico: Over a five-year period, the state saw its annual spending on private prisons increase by 57% while the prisoner population only increased 21%. A significant portion of the increase was because of automatic price increases included in contracts with the private prison corporations.
  • Ohio: The state expected the private operation of the Lake Erie Correctional Institution would save the state $2.4 million a year, but it has turned out to instead cost the state $380,000 to $700,000 a year.

As the report notes:

To maximize returns for their investors, for-profit prison companies have perverse incentives to cut costs in vital areas such as security personnel, medical care and programming, threatening the health and safety of prisoners and staff.

There are several different reasons that savings fail to materialize. CCA and other companies explicitly seek to increase their profits by changing the details of previously signed contracts. They do this by raising the per diem rates the state pays for each prisoner or by requiring occupancy rates of 90% or higher or the state pays for the empty cells in order to reach the required level. Private prison companies cherry pick their inmates and refuse to house more expensive prisoners. Many contracts exclude those higher-cost prisoners, such as those in maximum security, on death row, female prisoners or prisoners that have serious medical or mental health conditions. Companies also make their costs look lower by inflating the cost of public incarceration when making their sales pitch. They can do this by leaving out overhead costs in their prisons, not including costs the state has to pay in either public or private scenarios in the private prison cost but keeping them in the public prison cost calculation, and leaving out the additional costs of overseeing and monitoring private prisons that the state must engage in if it properly oversees its contractors.

At its national convention last year, the AFL-CIO came out in opposition to the privatization of prisons and the profit motive being used to increase incarceration.

Read the full report.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

“This Budget Has No Room For Mistakes, No Room for Emergency”: What Snow Storms Mean For Minimum Wage Workers

Sometimes life throws you a curve ball that you weren’t expecting.

After spring-like weather earlier this week, Minnesota is getting hit with yet another in a series of snow storms. Already as of Friday morning, state troopers have responded to 174 car accidents, and schools from Mankato to St. Paul have closed for the day.

For minimum wage workers, snow storms are more than an inconvenience, as our Working America Minimum Wage Challenge participants are experiencing firsthand.

“I’m lucky,” wrote Minneapolis Rep. Frank Hornstein, ”I have a salaried job, so a snow day allows me to still earn an income. Minimum wage earners don’t have that luxury.”

For many low-wage workers, if work is shut down because of a snow storm, or their bus is severely delayed in the snow, that means they’re not getting paid. Snow days and unexpected circumstances mean one less meal to put on the table and one more bill that could go unpaid.

In Greater Minnesota, snow storms often hit low-wage workers even harder. Iron Range Rep. Jason Metsa, a two-year Minimum Wage Challenge participant, found this out last year when he tried to factor a car repair into his minimum wage budget.

“Most people would have a car payment, but luckily I don’t, because my car is a ’99,” he told us. With his insurance payment of $138 a month, he’s left with $32 a month for gas and maintenance.

One spin-out or collision with another car, like the 174 accidents already reported in this current storm, would mean a trip to the shop that would put him deep in the red.

It was sobering, Metsa told us, that he would literally have to take out a loan if he wanted to get home to the Iron Range. “This budget has no room for mistakes, no room for an emergency, and it’s almost an extra job to make sure I’m spending each penny wisely,” Metsa reflected.

Across the country, the stormy winter has thrown states into havoc, exemplified by the disastrous high-profile traffic jams in Atlanta. But what you won’t hear about in the news are the burdens borne by low-wage workers: the server who is fired because her delayed bus didn’t get her to work on time, the Walmart associate who sold her car to make a heating payment, or the thousands of children who skip meals on snow days because school is their only source of hot lunch.

256,000 Minnesotans currently make less than $9.50 an hour. For them, raising the minimum wage is about more than politics; it’s about the opportunity to weather whatever unexpected storm comes their way.

“Minneapolis Public Schools are closed today, people were just informed at 5:30 a.m. of that,” said Rep. Hornstein, “So they are choosing between the job they possibly can’t get to and having to scramble for child care.”

He added: “These are choices no one should have to make.”

Take action: Tell you representatives it’s time to raise Minnesota’s minimum wage.

Tags: , , , , , ,

10 Images From The New Moral Monday Movement in Georgia

The Moral Monday movement, which began last year in North Carolina, hasn’t stopped at the border.

This week, the uprising that started as a protest against the reckless, corporate-backed attacks against workers’ rights, women, health care, and education in the North Carolina legislature spread to Georgia. As rain poured down, hundreds of people gathered at the state capitol building in Atlanta to make their voices heard against the agenda of Republican Governor Nathan Deal.

Georgia is one of 24 states where governors and legislators have blocked the expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. Gov. Deal justified his decision by saying expansion “is not something our state can afford,” even though it would cost the state of Georgia nothing for the first three years.

More likely, Gov. Deal wants to prove his conservative credentials by acting tough toward President Obama and the new health care law. And thanks to his political move, more than 400,000 Georgians don’t have access to affordable health insurance.

Taking a cue from North Carolina, Georgians made Medicaid expansion the issue of their first Moral Monday protest. Protesters placed crosses, stars, and crescents on the steps to represent those who have needlessly died due to lack of affordable coverage. Check out these photos below:

Thanks to @Raiseupfor15, @EmmausHouseATL, @staceyhopkinsga, @blueatldem, @AtlantaJwJ@LouisPartain, @ProseAndThorn@jasonsbmoc for sharing their amazing photos.

What’s next? North Carolina kicks off a new year of advocacy with a Moral March on Raleigh on February 8. To get involved in the movement for working families, text JOBS to 30644.

Tags: , , , , , ,

12 Ways the State Policy Network Could Assault the Rights of Working Families in 2014

new article from the Guardian reveals that the State Policy Network (SPN) is planning a significant assault on the rights of working families in 2014 state legislative sessions. Through the Searle Freedom Trust, a foundation it created in 2011, SPN plans to offer sizable grants to supposedly independent, non-partisan think tanks in the states. SPN collected 40 grant proposalsfrom these think tanks and will grant funding through Searle to 20 of them. The proposals are for numerous extreme right-wing policy options, very similar to those proposed by groups like the American Legislative Exchange Council, and the think tanks already receive funding from the typical extremist anti-working family funders like the Koch brothers.

While SPN claims tax-exempt status that limits their lobbying efforts and the group says that it and the groups it funds don’t engage in lobbying, those claims don’t quite pass a commonsense examination. As the Guardian notes:

Most of the “think tanks” involved in the proposals gathered by the State Policy Network are constituted as 501(c)(3) charities that are exempt from tax by the Internal Revenue Service. Though the groups are not involved in election campaigns, they are subject to strict restrictions on the amount of lobbying they are allowed to perform. Several of the grant bids contained in the Guardian documents propose the launch of “media campaigns” aimed at changing state laws and policies, or refer to “advancing model legislation” and “candidate briefings,” in ways that arguably cross the line into lobbying.

Depending on which 20 proposals it chooses to fund, here are 12 ways that SPN could assault the rights of working families in 2014:

1. Alabama Policy Institute: Requested $25,725 to fund the “spark plug” for eliminating the state income tax. Such a plan would lead to the cutting of services for working families. (Also requested for tax cuts or elimination: Advance Arkansas Institute, $35,000; Georgia Public Policy Foundation, $40,000; Nebraska’s Platte Institute for Economic Research, $25,000; New Mexico’s Rio Grande Foundation, $30,000; Ohio’s Buckeye Institute for Public Policy Solutions, $40,000; and Opportunity Ohio, $35,000).

2. Delaware’s Caesar Rodney Institute: Requested $36,000 to fund strategies to repeal the state’s prevailing wage law, which would lower wages for working families.

3. Florida’s James Madison Institute: Requested $40,000 to fund efforts to promote vouchers (which they call Education Savings Accounts), which would reduce funding for public schools. Lower public education funding would lead to worsening student performance and teacher layoffs. (Also requested on this topic: Oregon’s Cascade Policy Institute, $40,000.)

4. Georgia Center for Opportunity: Requested $65,000 to fund opposition to Medicaid expansion, which would mean fewer residents have health care. (Also requested on this same topic: North Carolina’s J.W. Pope Civitas Institute, $46,500; Texas Public Policy Foundation, $40,000; Utah’s Sutherland Institute, $50,000.)

5. Illinois Policy Institute: Requested $40,000 to fight to change Chicago’s public employee pension system to a defined-contribution plan, which would mean less retirement security for working families. (Also requested on cutting public employee pensions: Arizona’s Goldwater Institute for Public Policy, $40,000; Minnesota’s Center of the American Experiment, $40,000; Missouri’s Show-Me Institute, $25,000; Pennsylvania’s Commonwealth Foundation, $35,500.)

6. Maryland Public Policy Institute: Requested $40,000 to push for cuts in corporate tax rates, which would lead to the cutting of services for working families.

7. Maine Heritage Policy Center: Requested $35,000 to fund a campaign to eliminate state and local income taxes and institute “right to work” for less in one county as a model for future endeavors. If the campaign succeeds, working families will face service cuts and lower wages.

8. Mississippi Center for Public Policy: Requested $30,000 to oppose gas tax increases and privatize the state Department of Transportation, which would lead to weakened services for state residents and lower accountability on transportation issues. (Also requested on privatization: Massachusetts’ Pioneer Institute, $40,000).

9. Common Sense Institute of New Jersey: Requested $50,000 for a campaign to eliminate the compensation of public employees for unused sick leave, which would lower the overall compensation package for employees and encourage public employee absenteeism.

10. Nevada Policy Research Institute: Requested $35,000 to fund a campaign to get union members to leave their unions, which would weaken the collective bargaining rights of working families.

11. Empire Center for New York State Policy: Requested $36,500 to fund efforts to eliminate the estate tax, which would lead to service cuts for working families and shift the tax burden in the state from the wealthy toward working families.

12. Washington Policy Center: Requested $35,000 to launch a campaign to require local governments to have a super-majority to raise taxes, which would cripple local governments and lead to cuts in services for working families.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

ALEC Says No Sick Days (or Democracy) for You

In the last three years, nine states have added new laws that prohibit local governments from passing paid sick leave ordinances. Seven of these laws were passed in 2013 alone and 14 states introduced such legislation in the last year, Think Progress reports. In every state where local preemption bills have passed on paid sick leave, members of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) were among the co-sponsors of the legislation. In most cases, corporate lobby groups such as the Chamber of Commerce, National Federation of Independent Business and the National Restaurant Association also have been involved heavily in passing the laws. It’s bad enough these groups oppose paid sick days for working families, but they don’t even want democratically elected officials deciding on policies—they want to prevent these policies from even coming up for a vote.

Corporate groups routinely argue that paid sick leave ordinances will harm businesses, but the evidence so far rejects those claims. Bryce Covert of Think Progress writes:

Business growth and job growth have been strong under Seattle’s law. Job growth also has been strong in San Francisco and its law enjoys strong business support. The policies in Washington, D.C., andConnecticut have come at little cost for businesses. In fact, expanding D.C.’s current law would net employers $2 million in savings even with potential costs factored in. On the other hand, the average employerloses $225 per worker each year, thanks to lost productivity when they get sick and can’t take paid leave.

Before 2010, Georgia was the only state to have such a pre-emption law, since then Arizona, Florida, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Tennessee and Wisconsin have added them. This push comes as a direct response to local governments showing real momentum in passing paid sick leave ordinances. Six cities and the state of Connecticut have passed paid sick days laws and other cities are considering joining them in protecting workers, customers and employers from the negative effects of sick employees.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

5 Shutdown Stories You Need to Read. Tell Us Yours

The nearly two-week-old government shutdown, engineered by House tea party Republicans, is hurting everyday working people and their families. The 800,000 federal workers and tens of thousands of government-contracted employees shut out of their jobs and others forced to work without pay perform vital duties for the public and now are struggling to keep roofs over their heads and food on their tables.

Here are five stories you need to read from shut-out workers and about shut-down services. Click here to share your story with us. We need to make sure the GOP understands who is hurt every day this shutdown continues.

Ona is a furloughed worker from a nuclear waste cleanup site in Georgia.

We were sent home on Oct. 3 and told not to come back until called back. This could be weeks….These people are the hands-on workers that are well trained to perform the difficult tasks of shutting down these waste tanks and setting things right so their kids and their kids’ kids don’t have to deal with it years down the road….I will not be surprised if some of them do not make it back and we will have lost some very well-trained and dedicated workers to this furlough situation.

Read more from Ona.

Jessica’s husband is the sole source of income for the California couple.

He works for a military base about half an hour from our home. After dealing with six weeks of furloughs from sequestration and losing $1,100/month, we fell behind in bills. Because of the shutdowns, we are now looking at our phones being shut off, cable and Internet being shut off and being left with no choice but to voluntarily repo our car.

Cesar is a furloughed federal worker in Florida.

I am the sole income earner in my family. I have two boys, and contrary to what is being said by right-wing talk show hosts, I and many of my fellow federal colleagues do not earn six-figure salaries. We are in the process of buying a home, and I will now have to dip into money that we have saved up to buy our home to get by until Republicans decide to re-open our government.

Read more from Cesar.

Emily is a young furloughed federal worker in Washington, D.C.

The sequester and now the shutdown have been disheartening and have strained my finances to the point that I will need to borrow from my parents—out of their retirement fund—to make rent. I’ve also had to put off seeing specialists for a chronic health issue that won’t quite be covered by my high-option insurance plan. Financial strain aside, public service is my passion, not just how I earn a paycheck—I love my job and just want to get back to work, doing my utmost to serve my fellow Americans and protect the environment for us all.

David is an organizer in New York.

I have been working with a group of residential workers who have been fighting for a year to form a union. The company has committed numerous illegal acts, attempting to intimidate and threaten workers. One employee illegally had his hours cut. The National Labor Relations Board just filed a complaint and was close to a settlement that would have gotten this worker over $1,500 in back pay that the company had kept from him. But with the shutdown, this worker won’t get his money any time soon. Additionally, the board cannot process the new charges filed. Justice delayed is justice denied.

Click here to share your story with us.

Photo from AFGE on Facebook

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Dear David: Train in Vain?

Question:

At the company I work for, employees are expected to attend training, usually four hours per day, Monday to Friday, for 30 days (without pay). Once training is completed, they may or may not get a chance to work, because the company has brought on so many people that most of the time only 10 percent can be on the schedule at one time. There are over 3,000 of us with the same job title working for this company all over the country. So many people are getting taken advantage of every day by this company. I know at least 90 percent of us feel the same way. A lawsuit has already been started, but I feel we need to organize and create a union to stop the abuses and manipulation of this company in its tracks. Where do I go from here?

— One in 3,000, Georgia

 

Answer:

Five days a week, four hours a day, for a month? That’s a huge investment of your time, especially when the odds are that it won’t pay off. What an incredibly disrespectful way to treat people who want to work for you.

While there are certainly times when seeking a legal solution is the right way to go, many workplace problems can’t be resolved that way. So it’s good that you are already thinking about another way to address your situation. Organizing with your coworkers, as you seem to understand already, is a smart way to hedge your bets.

Determining whether an individual must be paid for “training” turns on whether the training is for the benefit of the individual or the employee, whether the individual is doing work that otherwise would be done by an employee, and other factors. While the way these workers are being treated sounds terribly unfair, unless there is a contract in place and/or the employer made guarantees based on completion of training, an employer has no obligation to schedule employees for any minimum number of hours, or at all. However, even if this is bona fide training under the standards put out by the Department of Labor, the workers should look to consumer protection laws – such as laws against false or deceptive advertising – to see if this employer’s practices run afoul of the law.

There is a silver lining to the situation you’ve described. If 90 percent of you are feeling the same way about what needs to be changed, you’ve got fertile ground for organizing. Not sure where to start? That’s why we put together FixMyJob.com and OrganizeWith.Us. Check it out, and follow the steps together.

Tags: , , , , , ,

Investigation Launched into Death of Georgia Worker at Kia Supplier

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has launched an investigation into working conditions at Sewon America’s LaGrange, Ga., facility after an employee, Teresa Weaver Pickard, died after allegedly being forced to work in extreme heat. Sewon, a company that provides auto parts to Kia, denies Pickard’s death was work-related, but an anonymous source at the plant has disputed Sewon’s account of the tragedy.

Michael D’Aquino, an OSHA public affairs officer for the agency’s Atlanta-West office, confirmed the investigation, the LaGrange Citizen reports:

“We’ll be visiting the [Sewon plant] trying to learn what happened and in what order,” D’Aquino said. “We’ll be looking at physical evidence as well as talking to eyewitnesses and learning as much as possible about the incident.” OSHA also will look at previous reports of misconduct by Sewon, potentially including the 2010 death of a worker who fell 50 feet in a construction accident.

While the Troup County coroner’s office has not released details of its investigation, which has been sent to the state crime lab in Atlanta, the LaGrange Citizen says an anonymous employee reported several details of the incident and work conditions at the factory that are troubling. The employee, who has worked at the location for two years, told the newspaper the assembly line was unbearably hot because the air conditioner on the line wasn’t working properly and several employees in the last week passed out while working.

“I heard that [Pickard] complained of chest pain several times before she was sent to the break room,” the newspaper quotes the employee as saying. Pickard was sent to a break room at that point, but that room also had no air conditioning, something the employee said management does to discourage loitering in the break room. The room was so hot, he said, candy in the vending machines melted. Pickard eventually was sent to the front office, where the employee said Pickard sat for three hours before an ambulance was called. Pickard reportedly died in the ambulance on the way to the hospital.

Sewon says it conducted a “thorough” preliminary investigation and concluded Pickard’s death was not work-related:

On May 29, Mrs. Pickard arrived to the line at 6:30 a.m. Then, on or about 8:26 a.m., the management was made aware of Mrs. Pickard’s condition. The EMS was immediately contacted around 8:27 a.m. and EMS arrived about 8:37 a.m. Mrs. Pickard entered the ambulance under her own strength around 8:42 a.m. and left the facility to go to the hospital.

The lawyer for the Pickard family, Robert Bruner, told the newspaper the company’s press release was, at best, misleading, and that the company was not forthcoming with the family about the reasons for the death.

The anonymous employee reported work conditions at the plant are similar to a sweatshop. “It’s a really hostile environment,” the newspaper quoted. “I think [the managers] seek to create an adversarial relationship with employees,” he said. “If they had hot pokers, they’d stab you with them…. I really believe they have contempt for their workers.”

Sewon was fined $135,900 by OSHA for safety violations three years ago. “There is no reason to leave employees unprotected,” said Andre Richards, then-director of OSHA’s Atlanta-West Office. “Management is aware of the deficiencies in their safety and health program and needs to take action.”

More on this story.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

Tags: , , , ,

Dear David: Overtime, Over State Lines?

Question:

My son works part-time at a shipping/receiving business. He was hired by an outside trucking company to work there. His co-workers who are actual employees of the shipping/receiving business are full-time. They are told that they cannot receive time-and-a-half for overtime because the company is from Tennessee and the contract (not a union contract) was signed under Tennessee rules. The company is in Georgia. (My son is not affected because he is hired from the outside and only gets about 32 hours at most per week.) I’ve never heard of this before. Is that true, or is the employer ripping them off?

— Concerned Parent, Georgia

 

Answer:

That’s a novel excuse, but not a very good one.

Whether or not Georgia law applies, the vast majority of workers in the United States are covered by the federal wage and hour law, the Fair Labor Standards Act. States can provide stronger protections for workers – such as a higher minimum wage – but they cannot prevent federal law from applying to workers in their state covered by the Fair Labor Standards Act. Also, workers cannot give uptheir right to overtime pay under the Fair Labor Standards Act through the terms of their employment contract. As for the state laws, as a general rule states apply their wage and hour laws to any employee working in that state, regardless of where the employer is based.

Here’s something else about overtime that will probably interest you. There’s been a move recently in the U.S. House of Representatives to change overtime laws—purportedly to give workers more “flexibility” by offering comp time in lieu of overtime. Guess what—all the “flexibility” goes to the employer, and ultimately what it would amount to is an interest-free loan from you to your boss. The really insulting thing is how these congressional Republicans argue that trading real overtime pay for hours your managers might let you use at their convenience is somehow pro-worker. (Here’s a great video that explains everything you need to understand about the inaptly named Working Families Flexibility Act.)

It’s not going anywhere right now—President Obama has said that he would veto the bill if it makes it to his desk—but watch out for it. This is another example of a power grab by employers who have too much power over workers already. Think it’s time to start leveling the playing field? You might want to point your son here.

Tags: , , , ,