The Five States With the Lowest Quality of Life Have This In Common.

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Politico Magazine released a comprehensive report comparing all 50 states using 14 different indicators of quality of life. In their ranking, the five bottom states (Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas, Tennessee, and Alabama) are all so-called “right to work” states.

Four out of five of the states with the highest quality of living, according to the study, are free bargaining states: New Hampshire, Minnesota, Vermont, and Massachusetts.

The study confirmed something that more and more working Americans are learning every day: “right to work” laws are wrong for everyone.

Quick review: “Right to work” laws require unions to extend their services to all employees in a bargaining unit, whether or not they pay dues. By making dues optional, “right to work” laws force unions to spend more resources on collecting dues than on advocating for their members–both at the workplace and in the political arena. It’s a roundabout method of de-funding unions that has been instituted in 24 states.

The Politico Magazine study used rankings from the Census Bureau, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the FBI, and data on math and reading scores, average income, life expectancy, crime, home ownership, infant mortality, and more.

As 2014 kicks off with legislators and big-money donors pushing “right to work” and other collective bargaining restrictions in–at the very least–Missouri, Oregon, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, it’s important to make it very clear what effects these laws actually have, versus what their proponents claim they have.

A few effects of “right to work” are not disputed by its proponents. The key sponsors of the collective bargaining restrictions Missouri, for instance, openly admit that wages would go down if the law is passed. Indeed, wages in “right to work” states are 3.2 percent lower that in free bargaining states. Essentially, it’s like the average worker is paying an annual $1,500 fee for living in a “right to work” state. (Other reports have found “right to work” states have higher poverty rates, fewer workers with employer-based health insurance, and higher rates of workplace injuries and fatalities.)

But when you combine income with a host of other factors, as the Politico Magazine ranking does, the picture doesn’t get better for “right to work” states. Overall, 15 “right to work”  states rank in the bottom 20.

The Politico Magazine ranking is not the definitive scientific report on quality of life. But it does confirm yet again that in places where workers’ right to organize is deceptively circumvented and wages decrease, other important life-quality factors decrease as well.

As legislators push these laws across the country, we should consistently require proof to back up their claims. The actual numbers don’t look too good for them.

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Janet Sparks, a Walmart Associate, Wants to Talk to You About CEO Pay

The following is a guest post from Janet Sparks, a Walmart associate and shareholder.

I’ve worked at Walmart in Baker, La., for eight years, and I’ve been a Walmart shareholder since I started. Times are tough for Walmart customers, but I want you to know that times are tough for many Walmart associates, too. We are stretching our paychecks to pay our bills and support our families. Many of us are not getting as many hours as we used to and that makes it even harder. Now the new associates in my store are not even hired as permanent employees. They are hired as temps with no benefits—not even a discount card.

So when I think about the fact that our CEO Mike Duke made more than $20 million last year—more than 1,000 times the average Walmart associate—with all due respect, I have to say, I don’t think that’s right. Most of his pay came from bonuses. At the store where I work, associates have received only two quarterly bonuses in the past five years. And the last one was just $26.17. As hard as we work, I think we deserve better, so do our customers and so do our shareholders.

That’s why I am asking you to join me and send a letter to the the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) supporting a law that would require companies to disclose CEO-to-worker pay ratios. Investors deserve to know what workers are earning compared to CEOs at the companies they invest in.

If you’ve got a pension, retirement plan or even college savings for your kids, then you’re a stakeholder—and it’s time for corporations to be held accountable to you when it comes to their executive pay scales. The SEC’s comment process is the first step.

Send a letter to the SEC supporting this law today.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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ALEC Says No Sick Days (or Democracy) for You

In the last three years, nine states have added new laws that prohibit local governments from passing paid sick leave ordinances. Seven of these laws were passed in 2013 alone and 14 states introduced such legislation in the last year, Think Progress reports. In every state where local preemption bills have passed on paid sick leave, members of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) were among the co-sponsors of the legislation. In most cases, corporate lobby groups such as the Chamber of Commerce, National Federation of Independent Business and the National Restaurant Association also have been involved heavily in passing the laws. It’s bad enough these groups oppose paid sick days for working families, but they don’t even want democratically elected officials deciding on policies—they want to prevent these policies from even coming up for a vote.

Corporate groups routinely argue that paid sick leave ordinances will harm businesses, but the evidence so far rejects those claims. Bryce Covert of Think Progress writes:

Business growth and job growth have been strong under Seattle’s law. Job growth also has been strong in San Francisco and its law enjoys strong business support. The policies in Washington, D.C., andConnecticut have come at little cost for businesses. In fact, expanding D.C.’s current law would net employers $2 million in savings even with potential costs factored in. On the other hand, the average employerloses $225 per worker each year, thanks to lost productivity when they get sick and can’t take paid leave.

Before 2010, Georgia was the only state to have such a pre-emption law, since then Arizona, Florida, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Tennessee and Wisconsin have added them. This push comes as a direct response to local governments showing real momentum in passing paid sick leave ordinances. Six cities and the state of Connecticut have passed paid sick days laws and other cities are considering joining them in protecting workers, customers and employers from the negative effects of sick employees.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Action Session Explores Models for Alternative Membership to Broaden Labor Movement

A central theme of this year’s convention is building a broader, more inclusive labor movement to better support all workers, both union and nonunion. As attendees of the action session “Anyone Can Join and Everyone Should: Models for Alternative Membership” learned this afternoon, associate membership can be a powerful tool to achieve that goal.

Working America, the community affiliate of the AFL-CIO, is giving workers all over the country who don’t have a union on the job a voice and an opportunity to stand together to improve their lives. Working America Organizing Director David Wehde moderated a lively panel discussion on how unions are opening new doors for workers through new organizing models, including associate membership programs.

The AFT is giving teachers in the southern United States, where collective bargaining rights are limited or nonexistent, a pathway to joining a union through an innovative program. The union is reaching out to teachers in Texas, Louisiana and West Virginia to offer associate membership on an individual basis, which opens the door to the creation of chartered locals. These locals give teachers a powerful voice to advocate for policies that enhance public schools.

Ann Mitchell, assistant to AFT president for service coordination, says that in Texas the program now has associate members in 661 of 1,033 school districts statewide, showing that even in the toughest of political environments, workers are finding ways to join together with the support of unions like AFT.

The Ironworkers have partnered with Working America to offer associate membership to help give nonunion workers important protections on the job and provide a pathway to union membership.

Ironworkers Chief of Staff Bernie Evers details the union’s effort:

We will have meetings once a month (for associate members). The first part of the meeting focuses on rights on the job. The second part of the meeting addresses issues workers face in their communities. We want these workers to know that we’re there for them, even if they haven’t yet had the opportunity to join our union.

In New Mexico, nonunion workers in the film industry have banded together through the Reel Working America program, creating a powerful new advocacy group to take action on workers’ issues.

The group now has more than 1,000 members, and more than 20% of those members are so engaged they turn out for actions to advocate for policies that would benefit New Mexico’s growing film industry, says Jon Hendry, president of the New Mexico Federation of Labor and business agent at Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE)Local 480.

While associate membership programs don’t replace traditional organizing, Wehde of Working America says bringing workers into the labor movement on this path often opens the door for organizing down the road. For example, Working America’s website provides workers with useful resources if they’re having an issue on the job, but it also connects them to organizing tools. Associate membership also provides unions an opportunity to stay in touch with laid-off workers or workers who voted for a union in a losing election.

Associate member programs are growing by leaps and bounds as more workers see the value in joining together. And Working America and other programs are growing the labor movement while making it more inclusive.

Says Wehde:

It’s an entry point. We can start the conversation and look for people who are interested in organizing. It’s a flexible model, and we’re open to trying new things to see what works best.

By Steve Smith, California Labor Federation – Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Michigan Moms and Workers vs. Restaurant Industry and ALEC

Lawmakers in Michigan are still pushing a bill that would keep cities and towns from making their own decisions about paid sick days laws. We call them “preemption bills” – restaurant lobbyists and their allies call it the “kill shot” to paid sick days.

The bills in the House and Senate are ALEC model bills, inspired by none other than Wisconsin union-buster Gov. Scott Walker. Quick story: In early 2011, Walker pushed and passed a preemption law in Wisconsin, completely invalidating the will of Milwaukee voters who had just passed a sick days ordinance.

The restaurant lobby was so excited that they handed out copies of the bill to attendees of ALEC’s August 2011 meeting.

And, as if by magic, preemption bills have been introduced in Michigan, Mississippi, Washington, Arizona, Indiana, and Oklahoma. Such laws are already on the books in Wisconsin and Louisiana. Just this week, a preemption bill passed both houses of the Florida legislature. Textbook ALEC.

In Michigan, along with statewide mothers’ organization Mothering Justice, Working America delivered petitions signed by over 2,500 Michiganders to the Michigan Restaurant Association and the state legislature.

All workers deserve the opportunity to earn paid sick days, so that not another person has to make their choice between going to work sick and not making rent, or not being able to eat, or not being able to care for their child.

But even the threat of workers in a few cities and towns having this basic right has the restaurant lobby and ALEC running scared, using their politician pawns to introduce ridiculously undemocratic preemption bills that won’t create a single job. Since when did these “small-government” obsessives get into the business of telling cities and towns how to conduct their business?

Join us. Tell the Michigan legislature to stand with workers, mothers, and democracy – not ALEC and the restaurant lobby.

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