Indiana Official Resigns over Pence’s Wage-Cut Moves

While Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R) was vacationing in Europe last week, a top state official resigned in protest over Pence’s efforts to cut middle-class wages. In his letter of resignation, Port Commissioner David Fagan wrote:

Indiana is ranked 38th in per capita income, and the governor’s solution is to cut wages on good middle-class jobs. What sense does that make?

Pence supports legislation to repeal Indiana’s prevailing wage law, known as the Common Construction Wage. Said Fagan in his letter:

By repealing Common Construction Wage, you will slash wages for Indiana workers, cripple Indiana contractors, starve small businesses and reduce our state’s tax revenue. In addition, you will undermine private-sector training for Indiana’s youth, which directly contrasts your statements in support of additional worker training.

Fagan, a Republican, also points out that the repeal of Indiana’s Common Construction Wage “undermines the free-market wages negotiated in the private sector” and that:

Supporters of the repeal have publicly stated their support for utilizing foreign guest workers in our construction industry. I cannot understand why Indiana’s Republicans have sided with out-of-state and foreign workers. That this is even being considered is a tragedy for our party and our state.

Read more from NWI.com.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Two New Reports Detail How Walmart Keeps Profits High, Wages Down

A new study finds that Walmart’s promised raise for its lowest-paid employees to $9 per hour in 2015 and $10 per hour in 2016, will still require large taxpayer subsidies to compensate for the lowness of Walmart’s wages. Meanwhile a new report from the AFL-CIO finds Walmart is seeking to cut its costs for higher-paid, U.S. high-tech workers by recruiting temporary foreign tech workers at lower wages.

Meanwhile a new study from Americans for Tax Fairness finds that Walmart’s promised raise for its lowest-paid employees to $9 per hour in 2015 and $10 per hour in 2016, will still require large taxpayer subsidies to compensate for the lowness of Walmart’s wages.

The AFL-CIO report  finds that Walmart has been increasingly submitting applications for H-1B visas. These visas let U.S. companies employ foreign workers. The report criticizes the reasons the company is using the visas:  “Walmart is driving down standards in the tech industry in the U.S. by using H-1B visas and contractors excessively. This keeps costs low and allows for IT guest workers to be paid less.”  Over the past eight years, Walmart has filed 1,800 petitions for the visas, including a high of 513 in 2014.  Numerous other companies also have filed similar petitions for work in Bentonville, Ark., the home of Walmart’s corporate headquarters. Said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka:

At a time when we face unprecedented levels of inequality and decades of wage stagnation, it is irresponsible to expand access to employment-based temporary work programs that will continue to hold down wages, increase worker vulnerability and reduce social mobility for deserving workers.

The report also reveals how Walmart has quietly backed corporate lobbying groups pushing to expand the program and increase the number of H-1B visas that are available. In the meantime, the number of H-1B applications for IT workers in Bentonville continues to grow—suggesting that local Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) recent graduates lose out on IT jobs.

The study, from Americans for Tax Fairness finds that the $9 per hour standard would still mean that most of those low-wage workers, even working at Walmart’s full-time standard of 34 hours a week, would bring home less than $16,000 a year.  Such a low rate would qualify a single worker for at least three government assistance programs.  If the worker has one or more children, they would qualify for eight programs.

The 2016 standard of $10 per hour would raise employees’ annual take home pay by less than $2,000, and if the worker with that salary had one or more children, they would still qualify for all eight government assistance programs.  Raising wages to a minimum of $15 per hour with a 40-hour workweek, the report finds, would raise the annual take-home pay for the lowest-paid employees to $31,200 a year, which would lift most workers out of the eligibility bracket for government assistance.  Based on the last year of profits made by the Walton family, such a raise would still leave the company’s owners with $10 billion in profit (not to mention their massive existing fortunes).

Read the full Americans for Tax Fairness report.  Read the full AFL-CIO report.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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8 Things You Need to Know About That Gallup Poll on Trade

On Monday, Gallup released a new poll on America’s attitudes toward trade. Before getting too caught up in potential spin regarding the poll, it’s important that anyone interested in the state of public opinion on trade think about a few key points. Here are eight things you should know about the poll and what Americans think about trade-related issues.

1. The poll says little about people’s knowledge and understanding of current trade policy, and more about people’s perceptions about the improving state of the U.S. economy when compared to the Great Recession and related global financial crisis. Gallup explicitly says this: “Gallup has found that perceptions of foreign trade may partly relate to Americans’ confidence in the economy. And as the economy has improved significantly in the past year, it’s likely that public fears about foreign trade have diminished, partly because of Americans’ strengthening views of the U.S. economy.”

2. The poll, which is conducted annually, saw spikes in 2008, with the highest percent seeing trade as a threat to the economy and the lowest percent seeing trade as an opportunity in the poll’s history. The increases in the latest poll are simply a continuation of the trend away from the low point caused by the recession.

3. The poll doesn’t even ask respondents about current trade policy broadly or specifically. It doesn’t mention topics like Fast Track, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, job offshoring, currency, Buy American provisions, etc. It simply asks whether foreign trade is “an opportunity for economic growth through increased U.S. exports or a threat to the economy from foreign imports.”

4. Other polls have shown a more complex reaction of the public to the topics of trade. A January 2015 Pew Research Center poll, for instance, shows that Americans support trade in general but oppose the current approach to trade (the rules of which are enshrined in the North American Free Trade Agreement and subsequent deals) that leads to jobs being shipped overseas, creates massive deficits, makes wages stagnant and has contributed to high levels of income inequality.

5. In the Pew Research poll, only 20% of Americans believe that trade policies, as practiced by the United States, have led to job creation. Only 17% think that such policies have increased wages in the United States. Only one-third say that trade has lowered prices for consumers.

6. An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll from 2014 found that a plurality of Americans would support “a candidate who says that free trade with other countries will mainly be negative for America because it will cause the loss of U.S. jobs to other countries, which will hurt wages and jobs here.”

7. The NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll also found that a plurality believed the recent model of globalization has been “bad because it has subjected American companies and employees to unfair competition and cheap labor.”

8. A January 2014 poll by Hart Research Associates and Chesapeake Beach Consulting found that 62% of Americans oppose Fast Tracking the TPP.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Christie Says ‘NO!’ to Buy American

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) made it very clear last week where he stands on American jobs and Buy American provisions in state laws—he’s firmly against them. He didn’t veto just one Buy American bill, he vetoed five Buy American bills that passed the New Jersey Legislature with bipartisan support.

New Jersey State AFL-CIO President Charles Wowkanech said it was “inexcusable for the governor to turn his back on American manufacturers and American workers.”

‘Buy American’ equals Jersey jobs. In an economy where New Jersey needs to add 64,000 manufacturing jobs just to return to 2001 levels, no one would argue that the loss of all those middle-class manufacturing jobs has been good for business.

One of the five bills would have applied Buy American standards to bi-state agencies like the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the agency that contracted with an Italian steelmaker for material to upgrade the Bayonne Bridge, a decision that put hundreds of U.S. steelworkers out of work. Said United Steelworkers (USW) President Leo W. Gerard:

It’s mind-boggling that a so-called moderate with national political ambitions, who campaigned on the issue of job creation, would veto a commonsense measure that directly supports American workers and American manufacturers

Read more here and here.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Economy Adds 257,000 Jobs in January

The economy added 257,000 jobs in January and the unemployment rate ticked slightly up to 5.7% from December’s 5.6%, according to figures released this morning by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks or more) was unchanged from December at 2.8 million, but the median duration of unemployment went up, because of a rise in the share of workers unemployed more than 15 weeks. So, those who have returned to the labor market still find it hard to find work.

AFL-CIO Chief Economist William E.  Spriggs said 2014 was the best year for job growth since the 1990s, and America is experiencing a record number of consecutive months of private-sector job growth. But he added:

In 2014, workers’ wages barely outpaced inflation, increasing only 2.1%. In fact, throughout the recent economic expansion, workers’ wages have stayed the same. If you adjust for inflation, median weekly wages for full-time workers are stuck where they were in 2011.That’s a big problem, because those are workers in their prime who are holding steady jobs.

Last month’s biggest job gains were in retail trades (46,000), construction (39,000), health care (38,000), food services (35,000), professional and technical (33,000), financial activities (26,000) and manufacturing (22,000).

Employment in other major industries, including mining and logging, warehousing, transportation, information and government, showed little change over the month.

Among the major worker groups, the unemployment rates in January for teenagers increased to 18.8% from 16.8%. The jobless rate for adult women (5.1%), adult men (5.3%), blacks (10.3%), Latinos (6.7%) and whites (4.9%) showed little change in January from December.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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LIUNA, UAW Members Guests of First Lady at State of the Union

Two union members, one representing the benefits of union training and apprenticeship programs and the other the resurgence of the U.S. auto industry were guests of first lady Michelle Obama during last night’s State of the Union address.

Laborers (LIUNA) Local 300 member LeDaya Epps said:

The skills training I received through my union has done more than teach me a trade. It’s renewed my life. It has been a lifeline to a career I am proud of and allowed me to provide for myself and my three children.

Epps was unemployed a year ago, but with the help of the Los Angeles Black Worker Center, an affiliate of the UCLA Labor Center, enrolled in an apprenticeship-readiness program sponsored by the Los Angeles/Orange Counties Building Trades Council. After completing that training, she entered Local 300’s apprenticeship program.

The Compton, Calif., native is currently working on a project to expand the light rail train line for the LA Metro to Los Angeles International Airport.

During his address, President Barack Obama spoke forcefully about how job training and paid apprenticeships, such as the one that has opened doors for Epps, are “opportunities that give workers the chance to earn higher-paying jobs even if they don’t have a higher education.”

He also called for laws that “that strengthen rather than weaken unions, and give American workers a voice [and]…that make sure a woman is paid the same as a man for doing the same work.”

Read more about Epps and her journey from jobless to a family-supporting union job from LIUNA, the North America’s Building Trades Unions and the U.S. Department of Labor.

Also sitting with Mrs. Obama was Tiairris Woodward of UAW Local 7 in Detroit. She works at Chrysler’s Jefferson North Assembly Plant. Chrysler has emerged from its 2009 bankruptcy and now, like the entire American automobile industry, is making big contributions to the nation’s economy.

Woodward, a 43-year-old mom from Harrison, Mich., took on a second full-time job at Chrysler in 2010 after she found that she couldn’t support herself and her three children. After working 17-hour days across two jobs for some time, Tiairris was able to move solely to her Chrysler assembly line position. Within a year, she’d saved enough to buy a car and rent a new apartment and is attending college.

Earlier this month, Woodward wrote the White House thanking Obama for his actions that helped Chrysler survive bankruptcy and revived the auto industry. Read more on Woodward from the Detroit News.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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With 252,000 New Jobs, December Unemployment Drops to 5.6%

The economy added 252,000 jobs in December and the unemployment rate dropped to 5.6% from November’s 5.8%, according to figures released this morning by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Over the year, the unemployment rate has dropped by 1.1 percentage points and the number of jobless workers has decreased by 1.7 million.

Job growth in 2014—2.95 million new jobs—was the best since 1999. But as speakers at this week’s AFL-CIO National Summit on Raising Wages pointed out, even with better job growth this year, wages remain stagnant. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez outlined the defining economic fact of the past generation: productivity has gone way up and wages have stayed flat. (Read more about the summit here and here.)

The number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks or more) was unchanged from November at 2.8 million, and over the past 12 months, the number of long-term jobless workers has decreased by 1.1 million.

Last month’s biggest job gains were in professional and business services (52,000), construction (48,000), food services (44,000), health care (34,000) and manufacturing (17,000).

Other sectors that showed increases included financial activities (20,000), construction (20,000) and transportation and warehousing (17,000). Employment in wholesale trade and financial activities showed slight gains.

Employment in other major industries, including retail trade, mining and logging, information, warehousing and government, showed little change over the month.

Among the major worker groups, the unemployment rates in November for adult women (5%) decreased from November’s 5.2%. The rates for men (5.3%), teenagers (16.8%), blacks (10.4%), Latinos (6.5%) and whites (4.8%) showed little change in December.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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7 Reasons Fast Track Is Off Track

During the secret discussion of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, extreme corporate interests are pushing for a Fast Track process that would not only hurt working families in the United States, but in the other countries involved in any final deal. Here are seven reasons why Fast Track is off track.

1. People oppose it: More than 60% of voters oppose Fast Track for the TPP free trade deal.

2. It doesn’t reflect modern values: Fast Track is a copy of the approach to trade taken by President Richard Nixon, pursuing the passage of trade deals regardless of the effects a deal might have on wages, jobs, small businesses and the environment.

3. It’s a job killer: Past trade deals have cost American jobs in large numbers. For example, the North American Free Trade Agreement led to the loss of more than 682,000 jobs.

4. It makes it harder for workers to get a raise: Previous Fast Tracked deals have depressed wages and weakened the rights of workers to organize and collectively bargain.

5. It increases inequality: Previous trade deals have greatly exacerbated CEO-to-worker pay disparities, so that the current ratio is 354-to-1.

6. It’s undemocratic: Fast Track limits debate and prohibits amendments and doesn’t give the public the opportunity to influence the process.

7. It gives corporations more power: By including “investor-to-state dispute settlement” provisions, foreign investors in the United States and U.S. investors operating in foreign countries can skip traditional methods of complaining about laws they don’t like and sue nations directly in private arbitration tribunals made up of for-profit arbitrators. This would give corporations and foreign interests an influence over our economy that the rest of us don’t have.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Jobless Rate Dips to 5.8% with 214 New Jobs Added in October

The economy added 214,000 jobs in October, down from September’s 248,000 new jobs, but the unemployment rate fell to 5.8% compared to last month’s 5.9%, according to figures released this morning by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Since the beginning of 2014, the unemployment rate has dropped by .8 percentage points and the number of jobless workers has decreased by 1.2 million.

While jobs are being created—about 200,000 a month for the past year—wages remain stagnant, with the median family income in the United States falling back to 1995 levels. Alliance for American Manufacturing President Scott Paul said:

The good news is that manufacturing jobs have grown over the past few months. The bad news is that they haven’t grown fast enough. I’m very concerned that a surge of imports from China and a paucity of public investment in infrastructure will continue to hamper the great potential of the productive sector of our economy….No doubt the economic anxiety that many Americans still feel is compounded by stagnant wage growth and diminished opportunities for middle-class careers.

The number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks or more) was 2.9 million, slightly down from September’s 3 million. Over the past 12 months, the number of long-term jobless workers has decreased by 1.1 million.

Last month’s biggest job gains were in food services (42,000), professional and business services (37,000), retail trades (27,000) and health care (25,000).

Other sectors that showed increases include manufacturing (15,000), transportation and warehousing (13,000) and construction (12,000).

Employment in other major industries, including mining and logging, wholesale trade, information, financial activities and government, showed little change over the month.

Among the major worker groups, the unemployment rates in September declined for whites (4.8%) last month. The rates for adult men (5.1%), adult women (5.4%), teenagers (18.6%), blacks (10.9%) and Latinos (6.8%) showed little change in October.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Just the Facts? Not from Rick Snyder

Just the Facts? Not from Rick Snyder

In this week’s debate between Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R) and Democratic challenger Mark Schauer, Snyder ignored the advice Sgt. Joe Friday in “Dragnet” always proffered to witnesses and suspects, “Just the facts” when it came to his record on education, jobs and the economy. That’s alright. The good folks at You Got Schooled 2014 have the facts that Snyder ignored.

Here’s a sample. Click here for the full story.

On charter schools:

Rick Snyder: “They are giving parents choice because we have had a lot of failing schools, and the point was to give parents the opportunity to give their kids an education, create competition.”

Mark Schauer: “The first thing I will do is put the money back [Snyder] took from public schools. It is irrefutable.…Charter schools were allowed to expand with no oversight. That was a big mistake by this governor.”

The facts:

  • Traditional public schools perform better than charter schools, even when poverty is taken into account.
    “According to the Free Press’ review, 38% of charter schools that received state academic rankings during the 2012–2013 school year fell below the 25th percentile, meaning at least 75% of all schools in the state performed better. Only 23% of traditional public schools fell below the 25th percentile.“Advocates argue that charter schools have a much higher percentage of children in poverty compared with traditional schools. But traditional schools, on average, perform slightly better on standardized tests even when poverty levels are taken into account.” —“Michigan Spends $1B on Charter Schools but Fails to Hold Them Accountable,” Detroit Free Press
  • More than 80% of Michigan charter schools are run by for-profit companies.
    “Michigan has more for-profit charter schools than any other state in the country. ‘We’re an anomaly in the nation,’ says Western Michigan University professor Gary Miron. He says over 80% of the charter schools in Michigan today are operated by for-profit companies, while the national rate is 35%.” —“Three Little-Known Facts About Charter Schools in Michigan,” Michigan Radio

On $1.7 billion business tax cut:

Snyder: He thinks business owners shouldn’t be taxed on income beyond what regular folks pay. He said, “We made a fair system to encourage job creation.”

Schauer: “Yes, I will repeal the job-killing pension tax. It is wrong, it is bad tax policy and it is breaking a promise.…Our ‘accountant governor’ is missing some columns on his spreadsheet and it is called people.”

The facts:

  • Snyder shifted the tax burden from businesses to individuals, so low-income individuals and seniors saw their taxes increase the most. 
    “A major tax shift approved by the Michigan Legislature in 2011 made the state’s tax system significantly more regressive by cutting business taxes by 83% while increasing taxes for individual taxpayers by 23%, with a net loss of state revenue. Low- and moderate-income families were hardest hit, as many of the credits and deductions  intended to reduce their income tax burden were reduced or eliminated, most notably a 70% cut in the state Earned Income Tax Credit—a refundable tax credit that has been shown to lift children and families out of poverty, increase employment and reduce the need for public assistance.” —“Losing Ground: A Call for Meaningful Tax Reform,” Michigan League for Public Policy
  • Snyder’s tax increases included a new tax on pensions.
    “A big and controversial part of that income tax increase was the taxing of public and private pension income. That change alone was expected to raise for the state, and cost pension-receiving taxpayers, about $343 million in fiscal year 2012–2013.

    “The changes are phased in, with those reaching the age of 67 in 2020 or after facing more taxes.

    “According to a House Fiscal Agency analysis, a retired couple born after 1952 with $48,000 in pension income would pay $3,130 more in taxes.” —“Foul on Snyder for Playing Word Games with Pension Tax,” Bridge magazine

For even more on Snyder, check out 5 Reasons Why Rick Snyder Is One of the Worst Candidates for Working Families in the 2014 Elections.

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Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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