300,000 More People Just Got Paid Sick Days

Photo courtesy Allan Ferguson on Flickr

Yesterday, the United States became a little bit better place to be a sick worker, as two more cities joined the growing wave of localities that have passed paid sick days laws. The city councils in San Diego and Eugene, Ore., each voted to require employers to make sure that workers don’t have to choose between working sick and losing pay. Nine cities and the state of Connecticut now have paid sick leave laws.

The San Diego City Council passed their measure 6–3 and it heads to Mayor Kevin Faulconer, who has said he would veto it. The council has the votes to override the veto, however. The law would provide full-time workers up to five earned sick days annually, with part-time workers getting a portion of that. In Eugene, the vote was 5–3. The bill would provide one hour of paid sick leave for 30 hours worked, up to 40 hours a year.

Ellen Bravo, executive director of Family Values @ Work, said the day was historic:

Campaigns for paid sick days in Eugene and San Diego involved months of organizing by local workers, small business owners and many partner organizations. Yesterday, their work paid off: No longer will workers in Eugene and San Diego be forced to choose between the job they need and the family who needs them.

Biviana Lagunas, a San Diego State University student and part-time low-wage worker in San Diego, said the new law will be a life-changer:

The passing of this measure means my mother will no longer have to choose between a day’s wages and caring for my little brother when he’s sick. Right now, I work to pay for school and make sure my family can keep up with the rent. Now, my sister and I can use more of our time to study instead of stressing about how our family will get by.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Let’s Call ‘Corporate Inversion’ for What It Is: A Gaping, Unpatriotic Tax Loophole

This post originally appeared on Huffington Post

In 2004, Congress enacted a law to prevent “corporate inversions” in which corporations reincorporate in a foreign country to avoid paying U.S. taxes, but a gaping loophole allows corporations to get around this law by merging with a foreign company.

Simply put, it allows corporations to avoid paying taxes when they “renounce their U.S. citizenship” and change their corporate address to a foreign country.

In recent months, several large corporations have announced plans to exploit this loophole, with minimal change in their business operations, to avoid paying taxes. This wave of “corporate inversions” threatens to hollow out the U.S. corporate income tax base.

One striking example is Walgreens, the nation’s largest drugstore chain, which may use an upcoming acquisition to become a foreign company in order to dodge more than $4 billion in taxes over five years. Walgreens is talking about abandoning America despite its reliance on the U.S. government — and U.S. taxpayers — for a quarter of its revenue paid for by the Medicare and Medicaid programs.

It’s time for Congress to close the loophole and end this outrageous practice.

Last week, I was encouraged to see Congress finally begin to hold hearings and to hear President Barack Obama double down on his support. Under the president’s leadership, the administration is taking the right approach and has proposed solutions to the problem.

This week, Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew in the Washington Post was right to suggest Congress make this legislation retroactive to May 2014, so corporations have notice that any transactions taking place after that date will not allow them to dodge taxes.

“This inversion loophole must be plugged,” Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) recently said, and Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) and Rep. Sandy Levin (D-Mich.) have both proposed legislation to plug it.

This is exactly the momentum we need to close the loophole once and for all.

The real problem is that many of these so-called “U.S.” corporations want to keep dictating our economic policies and dominating our politics, yet they have less and less loyalty to the people who actually live and work in America. They want to keep benefiting from all the things our government does for them so they can make profits — our legal system to protect their investments and patents, our education and training system to train their workers, our transportation system to get their products to market, our federally sponsored research, our military — but they want the rest of us to front their share of the bill.
Sixty years ago corporations paid one-third of federal revenues, but today they pay only one-tenth. Now they say even that’s too much. Corporate profits are at their highest ever and wage growth is near its lowest in half a century, but still these corporations are not satisfied. They want more. They want Congress to cut their income tax rate, even though many of the largest corporations get away with paying little or no taxes for years. They want Congress to eliminate taxes on the factories they ship overseas, even though an existing loophole already allows them to lower their tax bill when they outsource jobs. And if we don’t give these corporations what they want, they threaten to renounce their citizenship and stop paying U.S. taxes altogether.
We need to start demanding a little more patriotism from these corporations. If they want to keep benefiting from everything our great country has to offer, they need to start showing a little more loyalty to the people who live and work in America. And they need to stop threatening to desert the United States and stop paying their taxes altogether unless America gives in to their demands.

Follow Richard Trumka on Twitter: www.twitter.com/RichardTrumka

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11 Ways the ‘Schedules that Work’ Act Would Make the Lives of Working Families Better

11 Ways the 'Schedules that Work' Act Would Make the Lives of Working Families Better

On Tuesday, Reps. George Miller (D-Calif.) and Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) introduced the “Schedules that Work” Act to provide federal guidelines for making sure that employers offer fair, flexible and reliable schedules for working families who are often left in difficult situations because of erratic employer scheduling. Miller said the act is about “dignity” and ensuring workers can earn a decent living and meet family responsibilities.

Scheduling problems are particularly glaring in some of the fastest-growing and lowest-paying industries in the United States, including retail, food service and janitorial work. The United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) President Joe Hansen explained the problem in more detail:

If you ask a worker in the retail industry what improvements can be made to their job, the response is likely to include scheduling. Fair, flexible and reliable scheduling is a simple way to ensure workers are treated with dignity and respect. In a perfect world, employers would view workers as human beings with competing life demands rather than numbers on a balance sheet. But in reality, scheduling is more erratic than ever.

Here are 11 ways the act would improve the lives of working families. It would:

1. Give employees the right to ask for schedules that better meet their professional and family needs: Workers would have the right to request more flexible or more predictable schedules, request more or fewer work hours and ask for minimal fluctuations in scheduling. Employers would be required to consider and respond to schedule requests.

2. Give employees with specific needs more protections: Scheduling requests for priority reasons would have to be granted by employers, if possible.  Priority reasons include health conditions, child care, elder care, a second job, education or job training.

3. Protect workers from retaliation: Employers would be prohibited from punishing workers for their work requests.

4. Require reporting pay: Often workers are called in to work, only to be sent home or put on call without pay or guarantee of work. The law would require employers to provide at least four hours of wages for employees who report to work when scheduled for shifts of four hours or longer and are sent home before four hours of work.

5. Require call-in pay: For employees that are required to call in less than 24 hours before a shift and are not allowed to work for at least four hours, employers would be required to pay them at least one hour’s wages.

6. Require split-shift pay: Workers who are required to work nonconsecutive hours would be paid an additional hour’s wages for time spent between shifts waiting to work.

7. Require employers to provide employees with clear expectations about hours and scheduling: As part of working a job, employees would be provided with a general idea of the schedules and number of hours they will be working and employers would be required to tell workers about changes in advance. Short-notice changes would require additional pay.

8. Help women have more ability to meet work and family responsibilities: Women workers make up the majority of low-wage jobs that would be affected by the bill, and improving their scheduling would make it easier for them to meet both work and family responsibilities.

9. Provide students with increased flexibility in pursuing higher education: According to CLASP, unpredictable scheduling limits class choice, the number of classes taken, class schedules and access to campus facilities, all of which slow down student progress toward graduation.

10. Benefit the economy: Unreliable and unpredictable scheduling is a drain on workforce productivity and increases turnover. Making schedules more reliable would help reduce both of these problems, which would increase business profits and help create more jobs.

11. Benefit businesses, too: More reliable schedules also would contribute to higher job satisfaction, higher organizational loyalty, higher worker performance and productivity, lower absenteeism and lower turnover.

Hansen said UFCW supports the act:

This legislation would ensure all workers have the rights fought for and won by UFCW members for decades. Our contracts have long guaranteed predictable and adequate scheduling. The law of the land should do the same. I urge Congress to pass the Schedules that Work Act as soon as possible.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Are You Trapped in the Walmart Economy?

Workers at Walmart are mounting a new initiative not only to get their stories of how Walmart’s low wages, disrespect and intimidation are trapping them in a Walmart economy, but how millions of other workers and their families are caught in that same economy.

A Walmart economy is an economy of inequality manipulated by corporations like the $16 billion-a-year-in-profits retail behemoth and other corporations and 1 percenters like the Walton family, the richest in America.

To workers at Walmart, a Walmart economy means “having to decide between paying my bills and being able to take a day off work to stay with my sick daughter,” says LaShanda Myric, a Walmart worker in Denver.

For Richard Wilson who works at a Chicago Walmart, it means “….Working full-time, but not being able to pay back my student loans.”

What does the Walmart economy of inequality mean to you? Is it struggling to pay your bills or drowning in debt? Is it forgoing health care because you can’t afford health insurance or being unable to retire?

Use the hashtag #Walmarteconomy to tweet or post a photo or video to Instagram to say what the Walmart economy means to you. You also can go to the new Walmart Economy website and share your story.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Obama and Biden to Push for Infrastructure Spending on Wednesday

Photo courtesy Andrew Dallos on Flickr

On Wednesday, President Barack Obama will visit the Tappan Zee Bridge in New York, where he will call on more federal spending for infrastructure projects.  Obama has made numerous proposals to increase spending on bridges, roads and other infrastructure projects, but Republicans in Congress have blocked those efforts. The Tappan Zee Bridge is currently in the process of being replaced, financed by a record $1.6 billion federal loan. The old bridge, which opened in 1955, has fallen into disrepair and is serving a daily capacity above what it was designed for. While Congress has failed to provide the funds needed to move forward, Obama is using alternate methods, such as the loan, to help rebuild the country’s crumbling infrastructure.

“The President will also highlight efforts by the administration to cut through red tape and modernize the federal infrastructure permitting process, and reduce project approval time lines,” the White House official said.

Meanwhile, Vice President Joe Biden will appear in Cleveland to give a speech on similar themes of investing in infrastructure and the economy.

As part of Infrastructure Week 2014, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka will speak at a rally on Thursday in front of the AFL-CIO headquarters about the vital need for upgrading our infrastructure and the positive impact doing so will have on the economy.

Trumka said:

Putting money in roads and bridges is like planting seed corn. Investing in good jobs yields a good return. When you put seed in the ground, you get something to harvest. When you put cement in the ground, you get roads. When you put steel in the ground, you get train tracks. You get it. But if you don’t put that seed in the ground, that’s not smart. It’s not sensible. It’s not “thinking like business.” It’s cutting yourself off at the knees. And that’s what these politicians are doing to the American economy….

Trumka pointed to a recent American Society of Civil Engineers report that said the country needs to spend $3.6 trillion just to make sure that our current infrastructure doesn’t fall apart, with a similar investment needed to create the next generation infrastructure that will grow the economy.

Follow updates on infrastructure week on Twitter using the hashtag #RebuildRenew and learn more about Thursday’s Jobs and Infrastructure Rally in Washington, D.C., here.

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Minimum Wage Momentum: Vermont Passes Highest Statewide Minimum Wage in Country

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The momentum continues to grow, as Vermont becomes the seventh state to enact a minimum wage increase this year. Vermont takes the issue seriously and will raise their wage to the highest for any state by 2018, when the law is fully implemented. The state’s current wage of $8.73 will be increased to $10.50 over the next four years. Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin (D) says he will be proud to sign it.

Vermont joins Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Maryland, Minnesota and West Virginia as states that have raised their minimum wages this year. Numerous cities also have raised their wages recently, including Seattle, whose new $15 minimum wage plan would tie it with neighboring SeaTac for the highest minimum wage in the country. Congressional Democrats and President Barack Obama have pushed national legislation that would raise the wage to $10.10 across the country, but Republican obstruction has prevented passage.

Dennis LaBounty, political director for the Vermont AFL-CIO, applauds the bill’s passage:

We are pleased to pass minimum wage legislation that would put more money into low-income workers’ pockets. This will definitely help Vermont’s economy as we continue to get us out of the recession.

We are pleased to pass minimum wage legislation that would put more money into low-income workers’ pockets. This will definitely help Vermont’s economy as we continue to get us out of the recession.

Opponents of increasing the wage have routinely relied upon flawed arguments in support of keeping the wage low. Think Progress lays out the case as to why they’re wrong:

Minimum wage opponents often argue that the laws harm the economy and that businesses oppose them. But six in 10 small business owners in a recent survey support a $10.10 wage floor, and even some larger companies in low-wage sectors have recently signaled support for raising the minimum wage. Academic evidence on the jobs’ impact of wage hikes is mixed, but there’s substantial reason to believe minimum wages don’t harm job growth—and probably even enhance it.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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It’s Time to Rebuild America: Celebrate Infrastructure Week

It's Time to Rebuild America: Celebrate Infrastructure Week

Today we kick off Infrastructure Week 2014, which will explore funding solutions and best practices to modernize our aging infrastructure and create good midldle-class jobs. Events will be held from May 12–16 and will focus on: major infrastructure challenges, freight and goods movement, passenger transportation, drinking water and wastewater treatment. Events will be held around the country and details on specific events and locations, as well as the full agenda and registration information, are available online.

The week’s events are being put on by the AFL-CIO, the AFL-CIO Transportation Trades Department, North America’s Building Trades Unions, the Council on Competitiveness, the Chamber of Commerce, the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program, Building America’s Future, 1776, the Organization for International Investment, the Value of Water Coalition, the National Association of Manufacturers and dozens of otheraffiliate organizations.

A Jobs and Infrastructure rally will be held Thursday, May 15, at 1 p.m. at the AFL-CIO headquarters in Washington, D.C. RSVP on Facebook here.

You can follow the events on Twitter.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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The Policy That Would Make Life Better For A Million Veterans

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Raising the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour would benefit roughly 1 million American veterans, according to an analysis by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI).

“We ask a lot of our armed forces. They serve our country in some of the most dangerous environments and difficult situations faced by any American,” writes EPI’s David Cooper, “Yet having endured those experiences, too many veterans returning to civilian jobs find themselves in work that barely pays enough to live on.”

Raising the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour and indexing it to inflation, as proposed by the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2013 (also known as the “Harkin-Miller” bill) would raise wages for about 27.8 million working Americans, about one million of whom have served in the armed forces.

As the EPI analysis shows, 40 percent of veterans working at jobs making $10.10 an hour or less are 55 or older, and 60 percent have some college experience. They are also 50 percent more likely to be married and more likely to work full-time than the overall population affected by a minimum wage increase.

“No one should be paid wages so low that working full-time can still leave them below the poverty line, fighting just to get by,” concludes Cooper, “But the fact that so many of America’s veterans—despite being older and having more education than the typical affected worker—are facing this reality shows just how far we’ve let the wage floor fall.”

These numbers are yet another puncture in the myth–promoted by corporate-backed politicians, among others–that low- and minimum wage workers are primarily teenagers working for extra cash. 88 percent of workers who would see a raise under Harkin-Miller are older than 20, 56 percent are women, 55 percent work full-time, and 44 percent have at least some college experience.

Tell your Senator it’s time to raise the minimum wage.

Photo via nycmarines on Flickr

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12 Elizabeth Warren Quotes to Prepare You for Her Appearance at the AFL-CIO on May 2

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) will be appearing at the AFL-CIO’s headquarters in Washington, D.C., with AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka on May 2 to promote her new book, A Fighting Chance, which chronicles her inspiring life story. From her working-class roots in Oklahoma to her successful 2012 campaign to replace incumbent Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown (R), Warren tells the passionate story of what drives her to fight for working people. Here are 12 key quotes from her that show why she is a champion of the 99%.

1. “There is nobody in this country who got rich on their own. Nobody. You built a factory out there—good for you. But I want to be clear. You moved your goods to market on roads the rest of us paid for. You hired workers the rest of us paid to educate. You were safe in your factory because of police forces and fire forces that the rest of us paid for. You didn’t have to worry that marauding bands would come and seize everything at your factory….Now look. You built a factory and it turned into something terrific or a great idea—God bless! Keep a hunk of it. But part of the underlying social contract is you take a hunk of that and pay forward for the next kid who comes along.”—September 2011

2. “People feel like the system is rigged against them, and here is the painful part, they’re right. The system is rigged.”—September 2012

3. “Hardworking men and women who are busting their tails in full-time jobs shouldn’t be left in poverty.”—August 2013

4. “Look around. Oil companies guzzle down the billions in profits. Billionaires pay a lower tax rate than their secretaries, and Wall Street CEOs, the same ones that direct our economy and destroyed millions of jobs still strut around Congress, no shame, demanding favors, and acting like we should thank them. Does anyone here have a problem with that?”—September 2012

5. “It is critical that the American people, and not just their financial institutions, be represented at the negotiating table.”—Summer 2009

6. “Americans are fighters. We’re tough, resourceful and creative, and if we have the chance to fight on a level playing field, where everyone pays a fair share and everyone has a real shot, then no one—no one can stop us.”—September 2012

7. “And that’s how we build the economy of the future. An economy with more jobs and less debt, we root it in fairness. We grow it with opportunity. And we build it together.”—September 2012

8. “I understand the frustration, I share their frustration with what’s going on, that right now Washington is wired to work well for those on Wall Street who can hire lobbyists and lawyers and it doesn’t work very well for the rest of us.”—October 2011

9. “If you’re caught with an ounce of cocaine, the chances are good you’re going to jail….Evidently, if you launder nearly a billion dollars for drug cartels and violate our international sanctions, your company pays a fine and you go home and sleep in your own bed at night.”—March 2013

10. “Corporations are not people. People have hearts, they have kids, they get jobs, they get sick, they cry, they dance. They live, they love and they die. And that matters. That matters because we don’t run this country for corporations, we run it for people.”—September 2012

11. “If there had been a Financial Product Safety Commission in place 10 years ago, the current financial crisis would have been averted.”—Summer 2009

12. “Nobody’s safe. Health insurance? That didn’t protect 1 million Americans who were financially ruined by illness or medical bills last year.”—February 2005

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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6 Reasons Why Unions Are Essential to Creating Broadly Based Prosperity

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

Kirsch said:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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