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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11 Things Everyone Should Know About Working Women and the Minimum Wage

11 Things Everyone Should Know About Working Women and the Minimum Wage

Women workers are breadwinners. Women workers support their families. Check out 11 facts that show why women would benefit from raising the minimum wage.

1. Nearly two-thirds of minimum wage workers are women. Nearly four in 10 female minimum wage workers are women of color.

2. If the minimum wage were raised to $10.10, 25 million to 28 million workers would get a raise. About 55% of the workers who would benefit, more than 15 million people, are women.

3. Some 24.3% of women workers would benefit from raising the wage.

4. More than three-quarters of women earning the minimum wage are age 20 or older. The image of teenagers making minimum wage while flipping burgers at the neighborhood restaurant is outdated.

5. More than 2.2 million single moms would benefit from raising the minimum wage. One out of four of the workers who would benefit—and 31% of the women workers who would benefit—are parents with children.

6. Some 14 million children, or 18.7% of all kids in America, would benefit from raising the wage.

7. The minimum wage for tipped workers ($2.13 an hour) has not been raised since 1991. About 72% of tipped workers, such as restaurant servers, bartenders and hairstylists, are women.

8. Workers in tipped industries are paid 40% less than other workers on average. They are twice as likely to be poor than other workers, and servers are nearly three times as likely to be poor.

9. About half of all tipped workers would get a raise if the minimum wage bill, introduced by Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), was enacted. This includes increasing the tipped minimum wage to 70% of the minimum wage.

10. For every dollar that men earn, women earn just 77 cents. Increasing the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour and indexing it to inflation could close about 5% of the gender wage gap.

11. The wage gap is even larger for women of color: African American women make only 64% and Latina women make only 54% of their white male counterparts.

Sources: National Women’s Law CenterWhite HouseEconomic Policy Institute

If you think America’s working families need a raise, sign the petition

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Connecticut Jumps Ahead of the Pack, Will Raise Minimum Wage to $10.10 by 2017

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More than 227,000 Connecticut workers will see raises in the next 3 years, thanks to a bill signed into law by Democratic Gov. Dannel Malloy on Thursday.

Connecticut legislators passed a bill by wide margins raising the minimum wage to $10.10 by 2017. In many respects, the bill mirrors federal legislation introduced by Senator Tom Harkin (I-IA) and Rep. George Miller (D-CA) raising the federal minimum wage to $10.10 over a similar period and indexing it to inflation.

President Obama, who supports the Harkin-Miller proposal, praised the Nutmeg State:

“I hope members of Congress, governors, state legislators and business leaders across our country will follow Connecticut’s lead,” Mr. Obama said in a statement on Wednesday, “to help ensure that no American who works full time has to raise a family in poverty, and that every American who works hard has the chance to get ahead.”

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates that if implemented nationally, Harkin-Miller would lift 5 million Americans out of poverty and reduce spending on public assistance programs by tens of billions of dollars.

This year, 29 states are considering either legislation or a ballot measure aimed at raising the minimum wage.

Image by Raise the Minimum Wage on Facebook

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Boosting Minimum Wage to $10.10 Means a Raise for 6.8 Million Latinos

Courtesy of UFCW.

Nearly 6.8 million Latino workers would benefit if Congress raises the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour, according to the new AFL-CIO study Closing the Gap to the American Dream. While Latinos comprise 16% of the country’s workforce, they make up nearly one-quarter of the workers who would be positively affected by raising the minimum wage. According to the report:

Too many Latino workers are vulnerable in this economy. Living in a state of financial insecurity, many workers who are employed full-time are trapped in low-wage positions. These nearly 6.8 million Latino workers would greatly benefit from a raise in the minimum wage. A $10.10-an-hour salary would provide higher take-home income, improved employment prospects and increased opportunities to save for retirement.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka says, “Raising the minimum wage is long overdue for all working families in America.” He adds:

Every day, millions of Latinos go to work but struggle to support their families. Many of them are paid poverty wages well below their white and African American counterparts in an economy with ever increasing costs of living. These working families are frequently forced to forgo basics—food, housing, clothing—and rely on public assistance to make ends meet.

Throughout the nation, Latino workers are struggling with high rates of unemployment, low wages and a dire financial outlook for retirement. Latino men are paid just 67.3% of their white counterparts and 89.0% of their black counterparts. Latinas are paid just 73.4% of their white counterparts and 87.0% of their black counterparts.

Yanira Merino, the AFL-CIO’s national immigration campaign manager, says, “Latino and Latina workers are consistently underpaid and underappreciated.”

This is wrong. Latinos work hard every day to build this nation and deserve to be rewarded with wages that can support their families and put food on the table. We stand with Latino families everywhere, advocating for policies that will allow each and every one of us to reach the American Dream.

Read the full report and read more on the minimum wage.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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