In January, Republican Senator Mark Kirk of Illinois was one of six Republicans to allow a bill extending unemployment insurance (UI) to proceed in the Senate.
But when the bill was coming up for a cloture vote, Kirk said that he would only vote for it if the costs were offset by spending cuts.
After much negotiation, Democrats and Republicans figured out a solution to pay for extending unemployment insurance. That bill was expected to break the filibuster on February 6, but it fell one vote short. Going back on his promise, had Kirk remained with the filibuster. On Twitter, he said it was because the negotiated offsets were “political gimmicks.”
Let’s get back to gimmicks in a second. First, here’s what’s happening while the Republican-led filibuster of UI remains in place.
The number of Americans without emergency unemployment benefits continues to grow. 1.3 million Americans, including 20,000 recent veterans, lost UI when the benefits first expired last December. Since then, another 400,000 Americans have joined their ranks.
Illinois has an unemployment rate higher than the national average, 8.9 percent as of October. More than 119,000 Illinois residents will lose benefits by the end of next week if UI is not extended. Not surprisingly, polling shows they support a UI extension 63-31.
The same poll showed that 40 percent of respondents say they are less likely to vote for Kirk because of his obstruction of UI.
It’s not clear what Kirk is waiting for. It is clear, however, how he has been spending his time and office resources.
Other than the one tweet, Kirk didn’t issue a press release about his vote. On his official website, there is no information on why he voted for, then twice against, extending unemployment insurance.
But there is an extensive Flash-powered page dedicated to the 11 Olympic athletes who hail from Illinois.
Kirk’s office also posted extensively on all his social media channels for the two week duration of the Sochi games.
Seems like Senator Kirk is plenty familiar with “political gimmicks.”
By April 5, the total number of Americans cut off from emergency unemployment insurance will reach 2.3 million. At any time, Senator Kirk can drop his support for the Republican-led filibuster and allow the bill to proceed on an up-or-down vote. Like he said he would.
Isn’t that the least he can do for 1.7 million job-seekers? Or do unemployed Illinoisans have to be Olympic athletes to get their Senator’s attention?
Tell your Senator to end the games: renew unemployment insurance now.
Photo by juggernautco on Flickr
Tags: filibuster, Illinois, Jobs, Mark Kirk, olympics, unemployment, unemployment insurance
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
If the United States acted forcefully to end currency manipulation by China and other nations—and there is legislation to provide the government the tools to do so—it could create as many as 5.8 million jobs (40% in manufacturing) and reduce the nation’s trade deficit by as much as 72.5%, according to a new report from the Economic Policy Institute (EPI).
Currency manipulation is the largest single cause of the U.S. trade deficit, and the Chinese government is the world’s biggest currency manipulator. It deliberately keeps the value of its currency artificially low and that artificially raises the price of U.S. exports to China and suppresses the price of Chinese imports into the United States. This artificial price advantage is one of many pull factors that encourages U.S. businesses to shut down operations here and manufacture in China instead. Says AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka:
U.S. workers can compete with anyone in the world, but they cannot compete successfully on a lopsided playing field. [Currency manipulation] is a major contributing factor in our lopsided trade relationship with China. Meanwhile, U.S. manufacturing companies and workers bear the brunt of these unfair policies.
The EPI report finds that:
- Eliminating currency manipulation would reduce the U.S. trade deficit by $200 billion in three years under a “low-impact” scenario and $500 billion under a “high-impact scenario.” This would increase annual U.S. GDP by between $288 billion and $720 billion (between 2.0% and 4.9%).
- The reduction of U.S. trade deficits and expansion of U.S. GDP would create 2.3 million to 5.8 million jobs, reducing the U.S. jobs deficit by between 28.8% and 72.5%.
- About 40% of the jobs gained would be in manufacturing, which would gain between 891,500 and 2,337,300 jobs. Agriculture also would gain 246,800 to 486,100 jobs, heavily affecting some rural areas.
Read the full EPI report here.
Bipartisan legislation in Congress (H.R. 1267 and S. 1114) would crack down on currency exchange rate manipulation and hold countries that manipulate their currencies accountable. Trumka says:
We call on Congress to fight on the side of American workers and domestic manufacturers and farmers to put an end to currency manipulation now.
While China is the largest currency manipulator, other nations do so, too. Japan, which is one the 12 TPP nations, (China is not involved) has been accused of weakening the value of the yen to benefit its auto industry.
Currently Japan exports some 130 cars to the United States for every car that U.S. automakers export to Japan. One of the major reason for that imbalance is currency manipulation says the UAW.
As a consequence of Japanese government currency intervention, in a market such as the United States, Japanese imports have seen several thousand dollars in effective subsidies while, at the same time, exports from the United States to Japan have seen several thousand dollars in added costs….The impact of these policies undermines American auto exports and American jobs and the investment they support.
Yesterday, Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and Sandy Levin (D-Mich.), both sponsors of S. 1114, said that without currency manipulation rules as part of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade and investment agreement and other pending trade agreements, Congress is unlikely to approve the trade bills. Says Brown:
The trade agenda is not moving until currency is part of it.
The Obama administration’s is pushing to have the TPP agreement considered under Fast Track rules in Congress.
Under the Fast Track process, Congress can only vote yes or no on the full agreement. It cannot amend or improve the bill.
Sign the petition to Congress to stop bad Fast Track trade deals over the next four years, including the TPP.
Also, if you haven’t signed a letter for a better TPP, do it here.
Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW
Tags: china, Jobs, Michigan, Ohio, Sandy Levin, Sherrod Brown, tpp, trade, uaw
Five Minnesota politicians aren’t just talking the talk about raising the minimum wage, they are walking the walk too.
Today, a slew of State Representatives gathered for a press conference to announce their week-long participation in the Working America Minimum Wage Challenge this week.
Representative Ryan Winkler (DFL-Golden Valley), who moderated the press conference, announced that from February 18th to the 24th Reps will be required to “live” on Minnesota’s $7.25 an hour minimum wage (Minnesota’s real minimum wage is $6.15 but the federal minimum is $7.25). Rep. Winkler is also the sponsor of HR 92, which would raise the state minimum wage to $9.50 by 2015 and index it to inflation. The bill passed the House last May.
Last year, Jason Metsa (DFL-Virginia) participated and found it to be nothing short of difficult. This year Metsa is giving the challenge another go.
During the press conference participants used data from the Jobs Now Coalition to create a budget based on their new wages. The budget allocates a weekly allowance of $35 for groceries, $278 a month for transportation and $359 a month for housing, to name a few.
At first glance the budget may seem terribly unmanageable but the reality is that, in Minnesota, this is a reality for many working Americans. Specifically, this is a reality for almost 90,000 hourly workers.
The Minimum Wage Challenge is part of a larger effort by Rep. Winkler, Working America, and the broad Raise the Wage coalition to raise awareness around the minimum wage. Winkler’s goal is to pass the wage increase within the first two weeks of the Minnesota legislative session.
Calling the proposed $9.50 an hour increase a “realistic range,” Rep. Winkler also noted that as of late, support in favor of raising the wage was growing.
The five State Representatives participating are Karen Clark (DFL-Minneapolis), Frank Hornstein (DFL-Minneapolis), John Lesch (DFL-St. Paul), Jason Metsa (DFL-Virginia) and Shannon Savick (DFL-Wells). Reps. Lesch, Hornstein, and Savick attended the press conference.
During the press conference, Lesch noted that too many members of the Minnesota legislature talk about “living within our means” without fully grasping the reality of minimum wage work.
“We want to show the urgency of this issue by taking on these challenges of daily living,” Rep. Winkler said. “Although this week cannot replicate nor do justice to someone’s actual experience, we hope that they at least open a window into the critical situation faced by Minnesota workers.”
Tomorrow, representatives will be tasked with turning $35 into a week’s worth of food at local grocery stores.
Follow the challenge on Facebook and Twitter and visit WorkingMinnesota.org for more ways to get involved in the fight to #RaisetheWage!
Photo via @FairMN on Twitter
Tags: Jobs, minimum wage, minimum wage challenge, Minneapolis, Minnesota
What’s the state of the U.S. economy? Why do we need a higher minimum wage? Watch AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka tonight at 6:30 p.m. EST tackle these questions on CNN’s “Crossfire” with co-hosts Van Jones and S.E. Cupp and former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina.
You can join the conversation online on Facebook and Twitter by using the hashtag #Crossfire.
Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW
Tags: Carly Fiorina, Jobs, minimum wage, Richard Trumka, S.E. Cupp, Van Jones
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
What do you do when your world-famous brand is so smashed by the recession that your stock price falls from $75 to $8? What do you do when your manufacturing plant has a culture that leads to high rates of absenteeism on Mondays and Fridays? What do you do when your product takes 18 months to get into the hands of the customers who want it?
Generally, you go out of business.
Unless, that is, your workforce is unionized and they become aware of the problems you face and they decide to be part of the solution. That’s the story of Harley-Davidson, as told by Adam Davidson of the New York Times. Members of the Machinists (IAM) and United Steelworkers (USW) who work for the motorcycle manufacturer are paid living wages compared to manufacturing workers in many parts of the world, but officials at the company never considered moving their factories out of the United States. Their image and customer base are blue-collar Americans who want their hogs made in America by highly skilled labor.
Harley tore down the existing plant and built a new one. Unlike most factories I’ve seen lately, the new plant in York [Pa.,] has people everywhere. There are no robots on the main assembly line (they have various peripheral jobs); instead, hundreds of workers, operating in teams of five or six, manually build each motorcycle. This seemed like an expensive way of doing business, but Magee said that experienced, skilled workers, unlike robots, can constantly adjust to new information. The York plant makes four basic styles of motorcycle, but each has an array of customizable options. There are around 1,200 different configurations, and a new bike starts its way through the production line every 80 seconds. Virtually each one is unique, and workers have no idea what’s coming 80 seconds later. Surprisingly, robots can’t adjust on the fly like that.
Skilled union workers were able to do a job that was too complicated for machines to do and produce a product that revived the iconic brand. While Davidson was at the York plant, he saw a worker fix an assembly problem that literally saved the company more than a million dollars. That kind of worker innovation and cooperation, teamed with a company that is committed to doing things the right way has paid off. Harley-Davidson has gained back almost all of the stock value it lost and bikes get to customers in just a few weeks now. Costs have been cut by $100 million at the York factory, which recently won an IndustryWeek Best Plants award, the industry equivalent of a Grammy. The average worker at the York location has been there 18 years and they are extremely devoted to Harley.
No question that this is a model that other companies should be paying attention to, particularly if they want to be able to weather tough economic times.
Photo by Harley-Davidson on Facebook
Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW
Tags: aflcio, IAM, Jobs, machinists, Pennsylvania, steelworkers, USW
Congress is considering new legislation that would “fast track” new trade deals, such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), moving them through Congress more quickly by limiting the transparency, accountability and oversight necessary for such trade deals to serve America’s working families rather than extreme corporate interests. Republicans Dave Camp (Mich.), Max Baucus (D-MT) and Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) introduced the fast track legislation and AFL-CIO has launched a petition calling on Congress to oppose this undemocratic and anti-worker legislation. While proponents of these trade deals often make bold promises about the benefits of such agreements, in reality they do little more than increase trade deficits and hurt America’s working families.
AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka recently made it clear how strongly the labor federation opposed fast track:
The Trade Promotion Authority bill submitted today by Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp, Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus and Senate Finance Ranking Member Orrin Hatch is out of date, poorly conceived and bad for American workers. For that reason, the AFL-CIO opposes this legislation in the strongest of terms and will actively work to block its passage.
As we’ve seen previously, such deals increase our trade deficits and they often do so at the detriment of not only the American economy, but the rights of workers in the countries we trade with. NAFTA alone has led to the displacement of 700,000 jobs. Workers in countries like Colombia, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Jordan and Bahrain, have been the targets of detention, persecution, threats, and murder. These deals frequently lead to increased corporate profits and control of the world economy and less and less life, liberty, and happiness pursuit for workers.
Working families and their advocates are standing up against these trade deals and things like fast track that make these deals less democratic and accountable to the people. In New York, a group of lawmakers, union, and environmental activists is took to the steps of City Hall to protest fast track.
New York AFL-CIO President Mario Cilento said that the TPP proposal “will not provide adequate transparency, accountability, or oversight. It fails to protect American workers and American jobs.” Rep. José E. Serrano (D-NY) echoed those sentiments: “Fast-tracking is simply a way in my opinion, of doing things without Congress really knowing about it. We’re always told that these trade agreements will create jobs, and a better environment, and then five years later we find out it’s not true.”
Sign the petition and tell Congress that repeating failed policies is not the way to create jobs and grow the economy.
Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW
Tags: aflcio, Dave Camp, fast track, Jobs, Max Baucus, orrin hatch, Richard Trumka, tpp, trade
On Feb. 8, the Moral Monday movement, which showed massive momentum in 2013, will return with its biggest event yet, the Moral March on Raleigh. While the state of North Carolina has been moving in a more Democratic direction in recent years in presidential elections, with Barack Obama winning the state in 2008 and coming just two percentage points of winning it again in 2012, extremist Republicans have taken control of the governor’s mansion and the state Assembly.
The Moral March on Raleigh will call out North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory, state House Speaker Thom Tillis (R) and state Senate Leader Phil Berger (R) and their extreme policies, which have included attacks on voting rights, education, the environment, health care and women’s rights. Organizers expect tens of thousands of North Carolinians to stand up for their rights and fight back against these extreme policies on Feb. 8.
The Moral Monday movement was organized by the Rev. William Barber II, head of the North Carolina NAACP, which staged protests in Raleigh and throughout the state last year. The events were launched in conjunction with another organization headed by Barber, the Historic Thousands on Jones Street (HKonJ) People’s Assembly Coalition, and have been supported by more than 150 other organizations. The 13 Moral Monday events in Raleigh in 2013 led to nearly 1,000 arrests for civil disobedience, while events in dozens of other cities around the state helped raise awareness about the strange games afoot in the state capital.
For more details about the March, visit the HKonJ website.
The Moral Monday movement has put forth the People’s Moral Agenda, which includes the following principles and policy goals:
- Economic sustainability, alleviating poverty and expanding labor rights.
- Fully funded constitutional education.
- Health care for all—protecting Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security, women’s health and the Affordable Health Care Act.
- Addressing disparities in the criminal justice system.
- Protecting/expanding voting rights and civil rights.
- Environmental justice.
- Fair and just immigration reform.
- Equal protection under the law regardless of race, income, gender or sexual orientation.
The Moral Monday movement also has a goal of raising awareness about Art Pope, the extreme financier behind much of the pro-corporate, anti-working family policies that have passed recently in North Carolina. Pope is often referred to as the state’s version of the Koch brothers.
Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW
Tags: Affordable Care Act, Art Pope, Health Care, Jobs, Medicaid, moral monday, North Carolina, Pat McCrory, Phil Berger, social security, Tom Tillis, voting rights, women
Bruce Rauner, a super rich Republican businessman who is running to be the next Governor of Illinois, unintentionally illustrated how the American people have changed their attitudes on raising the minimum wage.
Earlier this week, Rauner actually advocated decreasing Illinois’ minimum wage:
In a radio interview Tuesday, Bruce Rauner (R) went farther than the other three men competing for the Illinois GOP’s nomination, who all oppose Gov. Pat Quinn’s (D) push to raise the Illinois minimum wage from its current $8.25 hourly level to $10 by the end of 2014. “I will advocate moving the Illinois minimum wage back to the national minimum wage” of $7.25, Rauner told WBGZ listeners. That radio interview brought Rauner’s wage cut proposal to a broader audience, but it wasn’t the first time he had offered it. According to the Chicago Tribune, Rauner called for the same one-dollar cut in December at a candidates’ forum.
Hearing this news, folks went nuts. Rauner was slammed in the press. Chicago Teachers Union president Karen Lewis pointed out that Rauner earned $7.36 per second during his private equity career.
Even Republican Bill Brady, a competitor for the nomination, called Rauner’s position “out of touch.”
So the next day, Rauner completely reversed:
“I made a mistake,” Rauner told the Tribune. “I was flippant and I was quick.” Rauner now proposes tying the Illinois minimum wage to the national wage…“I should have said, ‘Tie the Illinois minimum wage to the national wage and, in that context, with other changes in being pro-business, I support raising the national minimum wage.’ I’m OK with that.”
That would mean that if Congress is successful in passing an increase in the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, an effort endorsed by President Obama, Rauner would be “OK” with bringing Illinois’ minimum wage up to match it.
Remember, Bruce Rauner is a pro-corporate businessman from the private equity world, the same kind of work as Mitt Romney. He is running as a Republican. And opening his mouth and saying he wants a $1 reduction in his state minimum wage makes him a target of Democrats and Republicans, to the point that he immediately reverses course.
It’s 2014, folks. People are fed up with stagnant wages and political inaction. Anything can happen.
Image via Fightfor15 on Instagram
Tags: Bill Brady, Bruce Rauner, Illinois, Jobs, Karen Lewis, minimum wage, Teachers