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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The Shameful U.S. Record on Temporary Worker Protections

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

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Sen. Ayotte Pits Unemployed Workers Against Poor Children

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Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) has a plan. She says that to pay for extending unemployment insurance (UI), we should cut off the Child Tax Credit for 2 million families (5 million children), most of them Latino.

Let’s repeat that because it sounds kind of important.

To help the families of the 1.3 million workers who have been out of work for six months or more and lost their UI payments just before Christmas, Ayotte’s solution is to take money away from poor Latino children whose families are taxpayers.

That may be a valid solution to the extremists who run the Republican Party these days, but it comes across as a vindictive and mean-spirited move to most people, including a coalition of organizations that condemned the proposal in a Monday press conference.

“Senator Kelly Ayotte says she understands families, but her proposal to deny a child tax credit to a taxpaying immigrant family is an attack on innocent children. Pitting children against the long-term unemployed is nothing more than an ugly attempt to derail legislation to extend emergency unemployment for struggling families,” said Sister Simone Campbell, executive director of NETWORK, a Catholic social justice group that is part of the coalition. “Her proposed amendment should be soundly defeated as antithetical to the Gospel call to care for children and those at the margins of society, and to long-held values in our nation.”

The AFL-CIO is also part of the coalition and Executive Vice President Tefere Gebre also condemned Ayotte’s plan:  “This cynical proposal doesn’t reflect the America I have come to know and love as an immigrant. My America doesn’t need to pit the jobless against the children of immigrants. We are better than that.”

The proposal targets not only aspiring citizens, but any individual not eligible for a Social Security Number, something that isn’t limited to undocumented immigrants. Ayotte’s proposal would deny Child Tax Credit eligibility to families using the alternate option for those who can’t obtain a Social Security Number, the Individual Tax Identification Number, and who are legally eligible for the Child Tax Credit.  This would deny the credit to approximately 5 million children in low-wage families, making it harder for those families to feed and provide housing for these children.

A recent poll on the topic found the obvious that voters oppose cuts to the Child Tax Credit, with 68% of those surveyed in opposition.

Photo by Gage Skidmore on Flickr

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Here’s a Jaw-Dropping Statistic on the Retirement Security of Black and Latino Workers

We’ve heard of the looming retirement security crisis, but this statistic is extremely sobering: The majority of black and Latino workers (62% and 69%, respectively) do not own assets in a retirement account. This is from a new report by the National Institute on Retirement Security (NIRS) released this week.

To make things worse, three out of four black households and four out of five Latino households ages 25 to 64 have less than $10,000 in retirement savings, compared to one out of two white households.

“Those are startling findings,” says Diane Oakley, executive director of NIRS. “The typical household of color has nothing saved in a retirement account.”

Oakley raises the point that tax incentives meant to bolster retirement savings more often than not fail to help black and Latino workers, who on average have less money available to save for retirement.

“One of the big issues here is a gap in access,” Oakley tells The Washington Post. “We have what is essentially a voluntary retirement system and what we know is when we look at minority households, their access to retirement plans on the job is much less than that for whites.”

In another study examining how the current retirement system is failing America’s workers, Economic Policy Institute’s Monique Morrissey and Natalie Sabadish argue these gaps in retirement security make the case all the more strongly to bolster Social Security benefits, not cut them:

The trends exhibited in these figures paint a picture of increasingly inadequate savings and retirement income for successive cohorts and growing disparities by income, race, ethnicity, education and marital status. Even women, who by some measures appear to be narrowing gaps with men (in large part because men are faring worse than they did before) are ill-served by an inefficient retirement system that shifts risk onto workers, including the risk of outliving one’s retirement savings. The existence of a retirement system that does not work for most workers underscores the importance of preserving and strengthening Social Security, defending defined-benefit pensions for workers who have them and seeking solutions for those who do not.

The AFL-CIO is calling on Congress to strengthen Social Security benefits and reject any proposed cuts, whether it’s the misguided “chained” CPI, means-testing or raising the retirement age. Read more on retirement security on the AFL-CIO website.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Latino Workers 50% More Likely to Be Killed on Job from Falls, Exposure and Equipment Strikes

A new study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) finds that Latino workers are 50% more likely be killed on the job from falls and dangerous and unhealthy working conditions such as exposure to chemicals or being struck and killed by equipment than the overall workforce.

The CDC study also found that young Latino workers (18–24) are 50% more likely to be killed on the job for any reason that the overall workforce. Of the four groups studied—Latino, White, African  American and Native American/Asian/Pacific Islander, Latinos were the only ethnic and age group to have a so much greater death on the job rate.

The report examined workplace deaths from 2005 to 2009 and found the overall death rate was 3.7 per 100,000 workers, but for Latino workers it jumped to 4.4 per 100,000 workers.

Looking at specific causes of death, the report found that falls accounted 0.5 deaths for every 100,000 workers, but for Latino workers the rate was 0.9. A recent study by the Center for Popular Democracy found that in New York State Latino and immigrant workers suffered 60% of fatal worksite falls. Read more here.

The CDC study found that deaths because of exposure to dangerous substances such as chemicals or dangerous conditions such as excessive heat were 0.3 overall and 0.5 for Latino workers. The rate for workers killed by being struck or caught by equipment was 0.9 for Latinos and 0.5 overall.

The study concludes:

These findings highlight the importance of preventing work-related deaths. All workers, regardless of their race, ethnicity, or immigrant status, are afforded equal protection under the Occupational Safety and Health Act. Furthering a culture in which occupational safety and health is recognized and valued as a fundamental component of economic growth and prosperity can play an important role in promoting health equity….This information can be used to improve intervention efforts by developing programs that better meet the needs of the increasing diversity of the U.S. workforce.

Click here for the full report.

For more information on Latino worker deaths and injuries, see the 2013 edition of the AFL-CIO report Death on the Job.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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The Impact of Higher Wages on Latino Living

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The following is a guest post from Working America member Israel Chavez from Albuquerque, New Mexico.

One in five Latinos is paid the minimum wage, and nationally 33 percent of Latinos live in poverty, the second highest racial/ethnic group.  This means an increase in the federal minimum wage would directly affect the quality of life for Latinos families across the country and especially in poor states like New Mexico.

Raising the minimum wage to a level that would allow families to adequately provide would alleviate strains these families experience under the current wage.

What we need is a wage that allows people to live decently and is tied to the cost of living.

In Albuquerque, 66 percent of voters supported a raised minimum wage that is indexed to inflation, meaning it will automatically increase as the cost of living goes up. This is often interpreted as an automatic “raise” but that is just false. Indexing wages simply means that as the prices of necessary goods increases, like milk, gasoline, and clothing, minimum wage will be able to keep up.

All too frequently, those who oppose raising the minimum wage have never had support a family on it.  It is a matter of dignity and fair pay for work that is performed. Wages are not a handout but hard earned money by deserving people. Policies that allow families to adequately support themselves impacts the whole community positively.

Today, those who would oppose increasing the minimum wage claim that it would devastate the economy, stating that it would increase prices of goods and hurt workers even more. However, studies show that as the value of minimum wage decreases, inflation continues to increase.

All the while, gross domestic product of the United States, with minor exception of the recession, has continued to rise. As the buying power of low wage workers decreases, year after year corporations lobby to keep the minimum wage low in order to continually grow profits on the backs of America’s lowest paid employees.

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A lot of people claim it’s only young people that make the minimum wage. Only about 12 percent of minimum wage workers are younger than 20 years old. But claiming only young people make minimum wage just reinforces the argument that Latinos need this increase. In the U.S., Hispanics are younger than the rest of the population, with a median age of 27 years, significantly younger than the rest of the population which is 37 years. In truth, raising the minimum wage will provide a boost to all Latino workers, young and old alike.

The New Mexico House and Senate passed an increase in the minimum wage, but Gov. Susanna Martinez vetoed the bill. In Albuquerque, Mayor Richard Berry and members of the City Council have tried various maneuvers to slow or weaken implementation of the new minimum wage. But Working America is fighting to raise the minimum wage: it’s good for Latino workers, it’s good for small businesses, and above all, it’s the right thing to do.

Photo via @OleNewMexico on Twitter

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Immigrant, Latino Construction Workers at Bigger Risk of Death from Falls

A disproportionate number of Latinos and immigrants are disproportionately killed in fall accidents in New York, according to a new study by the Center for Popular Democracy, because they work in construction in relatively high numbers; are concentrated in smaller, nonunion firms; and are over-represented in the contingent labor pool.

According to Fatal Inequality: Workplace Safety Eludes Construction Workers of Color in New York State:

  • In the state of New York, Latinos and immigrants suffered 60% of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)-investigated fatal falls from elevation fatalities.
  • In New York City, 74% of victims of fatal falls were Latinos and immigrants.
  • 86% of Latinos and immigrants killed in falls from an elevation in the state were working for nonunion employers.

Latino construction workers said they feared retaliation from their employers if they raised concerns about safety conditions. The report also points to an underfunded and understaffed OSHA and penalties for safety violations that are “so small that employers can see them as just an incidental cost of doing business.”

The report warns that matters could get worse because the construction and insurance industries are proposing an amendment to weaken the state’s Scaffold Law, which requires owners and contractors to provide appropriate and necessary equipment, such as safe hoists, ladders and scaffolds. The law holds owners and contractors fully liable if their failure to follow the law causes a worker to be injured or killed. It would shift responsibility for workplace safety from owners and contractors, who control site safety, to workers, who do not.

You can read an executive summary of the report here or download the entire report here.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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