August 8, 2013 War on Workers News

Bezos, No Fan of Unions, Gets 1,200 Union Workers at Washington Post
Since founding Amazon, Jeff Bezos has poured his growing wealth and business savvy into a dizzying array of interests, from cloud computing and consumer electronics to private spaceflight and even fusion power.

One role he hasn’t typically filled, however, is labor negotiator. But that will change when Bezos takes over The Washington Post.

In his surprise $250 million deal to buy the Post, Bezos is getting the duty to negotiate with six union locals representing nearly 1,200 workers, according to the Post’s latest annual report. Most of them are newsroom jobs, but the tally also includes mailroom workers, machinists, and a smattering of other blue-collar employees (I’ve included a breakdown of the various unions below).

Dealing with that many unionized workers is a big change from Bezos’ self-described “day job” as CEO of Amazon, where none of his tens of thousands of U.S. employees are represented by unions.

As The New York Times recently reported, Amazon—like many large employers—is generally opposed to organized labor, which the company believes would “slow down the kind of behind-the-scenes innovation that has propelled its growth.”
Read the source story here.

Low-Wage Workers, Exploited by Your Tax Dollars

Nation of Change
The federal government supports more U.S. low‑wage jobs than McDonald’s and Walmart put together, according to a recent report from Demos.

One reason why we don’t hear much about it is that these exploited workers don’t get a paycheck directly from the U.S. Treasury. They work for contractors — companies that are paid with your tax dollars to staff government facilities and do government-funded work around the country.

Contractors get big bucks to make goods, like military uniforms, and provide services. These companies do construction jobs, employ home health care workers, and are responsible for cleaning government buildings.

Though the contracts can total billions of dollars, frontline workers are paid at poverty levels. After decades on the job, these workers may never get a raise that brings their pay above our paltry minimum wage.
Read the source story here.

10 startling facts about low-wage workers

Teamster Nation
U.S. unemployment rate has dropped in the past few years, the new jobs created are falling far short of the ones they are replacing when it comes to pay and benefits. That means many low-wage jobs, such as in the fast food and retail industries, are now being filled by adults who have families to feed.

Here are 10 little-known facts that show who is working low-wage jobs and what they have experienced in recent years:

  1. 39.3 percent of fast-food workers are 25 or older
  2. 31.4 percent of fast-food workers aged 20 and over have at least some college experience;
  3. 26.6 percent of fast-food workers are parents;
  4. 83.6 percent of fast-food workers make $10.09 an hour or less;
  5. 74 percent of those in federal contract jobs (which includes port truckers, janitors, fast food and retail workers) make less than $10 an hour;
  6. The average U.S. worker with one child needs to earn $14.17 an hour to achieve economic security;
  7. Workers making between $10.61 and $14.21 per hour saw their real wages drop on average by 4.5 percent between 2009 and 2012;
  8. The median U.S. income has fallen 8.1 percent since 2007;
  9. Involuntary part-timers have almost doubled in the past five years, to 8.2 million;
  10. 12.6 percent of adults aged 25 to 60 live in poverty

Read the source story here.

Fast-Food Fight

The New York Times, editorial
The fast-food workers who have been walking off their jobs illustrate a central fact of contemporary work life in America: As lower-wage occupations have proliferated in the past several years, Americans are increasingly unable to make a living at their jobs. They work harder and are paid less than workers in other advanced countries. And their wages have stagnated even as executive pay has soared.

As measured by the federal minimum wage, currently $7.25 an hour, low-paid work in America is lower paid today than at any time in modern memory. If the minimum wage had kept pace with inflation or average wages over the past nearly 50 years, it would be about $10 an hour; if it had kept pace with the growth in average labor productivity, it would be about $17 an hour.

In contrast, the median hourly pay of fast-food workers — most of whom are in their 20s or older and many of whom are parents — is less than $9 for front-line workers and just above $9 when shift supervisors are included. Not surprising, the strikers demanded better pay — $15 an hour — and the right to organize without retaliation.
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Wage gap between CEOs, workers shows costly disregard

The Reporter
While the average CEO pay has climbed to over 300 times the average worker’s, those making the legal minimum of $7.25 an hour are barely squeaking by on $15,000 a year. And they’ve gone without a legally required raise for four years.

“Between 2009 and 2012, rent has gone up 4 percent, food is 8 percent more expensive, child care costs 9 percent more, and public transportation takes a 13 percent bigger bite out of workers’ wallets,” Iowa’s Sen. Tom Harkin said in commemorating the July 24 date on which the minimum wage was last raised five years ago.

Harkin, a Democrat, and Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., are among the more than 140 House and 30 Senate sponsors of the Fair Minimum Wage Act, which would raise the federal minimum, in three stages, to $10.10 by 2015. Beginning in 2016, annual increases would also be required to keep pace with the rising cost of living. Economists say it would now be $10.74 if it had kept up with inflation.

The bill would raise the minimum wage for workers who depend on tips to 70 percent of the overall minimum wage. Federal law now sets that at $2.13 an hour.
Read the source story here.

Worker wages: Wendy’s vs. Wal-Mart vs. Costco

CNN Money
Can a company pay its workers well and also make money?

Many aren’t quite hitting the right balance. Hundreds of dissatisfied workers at major American companies like Wal-Mart (WMT, Fortune 500), McDonald’s (MCD, Fortune 500) and Wendy’s (WEN) have joined protests nationwide in the past year demanding higher wages and better benefits.

One company that hasn’t had to deal with such strikes is Costco.

The no-frills warehouse chain pays its hourly workers an average of just over $20 an hour, compared to just under $13 at competitor Wal-Mart. Even President Obama praised Costco in a recent speech about helping the middle class.
Read the source story here.

Linking Factories to the Malls, Middleman Pushes Low Costs

The New York Times
Li & Fung — the most important company that most American shoppers have never heard of — has long been on the cutting edge of globalization, chasing cheap labor to garment factories first in China, then elsewhere in Asia, including Bangladesh.

Now, with sweatshop disasters there drawing international scrutiny, the business is looking for the next best place — perhaps South America or sub-Saharan Africa — where it can steer apparel buyers seeking workers to stitch clothing together for a few dollars a day.

As the world’s largest sourcing and logistics company, Li & Fung plays matchmaker between poor countries’ factories and affluent countries’ vendors, finding the lowest-cost workers, haggling over prices and handling the logistics for roughly a third of the retailers found in the typical American shopping mall, including Sears, Macy’s, JCPenney and Kohl’s.

Based in Hong Kong, the merchandiser owns no clothing factories, no sewing machines and no fabric mills. Its chief asset is the 15,000 suppliers in over 60 countries that make up a network so sprawling that an order for 500,000 bubble skirts that once took six months from drawing board to store shelf now takes six weeks at a sliver of the price.
Read the source story here.

Michigan’s auto companies, workers pay price when economic rivals rig the market

Michigan Live
U.S. automakers, only a few years out of their deathbeds, are back in the black. GM, Ford, and Chrysler have produced profits that measure in the billions, despite the prewritten obituaries that appeared in 2009.

But despite their turnaround, the Big Three still face significant hurdles in getting their goods into Japan, and face import competition subsidized by currency manipulation. In fact, imports from all countries (the U.S. included) account for only 6 percent of Japan’s auto market, while the U.S. has one of the most open auto markets in the world.

And it matters that the American auto parts sector – which, as recently as 2009, employed 6.5 percent of Michigan’s workforce – remains under siege by Chinese companies that have flooded our market with state-subsidized parts, aided again by currency manipulation. Independent analysis suggests that in recent years, the Chinese government has dumped more than $30 billion into its auto parts sector in an effort to artificially increase market share.
Read the source story here.

Free-trade deal with Korea is costing American jobs, report says

The Denver Post
Before the KORUS FTA, the US ran a substantial trade deficit with South Korea. In 2011, imports of goods to the US exceeded exports to Korea by $13 billion.

Autos accounted for much of this. Hyundai cars sold well in the US. But American icons like Ford and GM couldn’t surmount South Korea’s blistering tariffs and preferential treatment for local competitors.

The FTA leveled the playing field, eliminating almost 80 percent of tariffs on American exports, a number slated to rise to 95 percent in five years of implementation. In turn US automobile exports to South Korea have risen by 50 percent one year out. But that number only translates to a mere 1000 more American car sales in Korea, compared to the 1.3 million Korean cars sold in the US.

A year after ratification, the trade gap actually grew by $5.8 billion, or more than one-third, according to Scott.
Read the source story here.

The Majority Of Fast Food Workers Are Not Teenagers, Report Finds

Think Progress
In April of this year, Andrew Moesel, a representative of the New York Restaurant Association, went onto MSNBC’s Up With Chris Hayes to argue that low-wage fast food jobs are just an entry level starting point for American workers. “The restaurant industry is a launching pad,” Moesel said. “And, yes, there are some low wage jobs, entry level jobs for young people and others, but it actually creates an opportunity for people to go on and live the American dream.”

Moesel’s argument — that young people largely account for those earning abysmally low wages — is common among those who reject raising the minimum wage. But, according to new report out Thursday, that claim doesn’t hold water.

In fact, the Center for Economic and Policy Research report finds that people aged 25-54 hold the largest share of fast-food worker jobs in the U.S. Eleven percent of workers earning $7.25 an hour or less are older than 20, as are 68 percent of workers earning between $7.26 and $10.09. This means that minimum wage workers are not simply teenagers looking for some pocket money while living at home with their parents; most fast food workers are trying to make a life for themselves and their families on the pittance that they earn.
Read the source story here.

Railroaders Go Wobbly, Strike against Firings

Labor Notes
Rail workers on the Union Pacific are on strike in Chicago, but they are not traditional railroaders. They are contract workers who service locomotives, work traditionally done by railroad employees paid much more than the $14 an hour at Mobile Rail Solutions.

The 30 workers who oil and fuel the locomotives and empty their toilets went public with a union recognition drive July 8. Mobile promptly hired the union-busting law firm Ogletree and Deakins. Workers filed several OSHA complaints that prompted inspections—and the company fired three of them.

Now the workers are staging an unfair labor practices strike that has seriously affected Mobile’s ability to fulfill its contract with Union Pacific. The manager has refused to meet with organizers and workers about the firings.
Read the source story here.

Launch of Green Tea Coalition Drives a Wedge Through Georgia’s Tea Party

Nation of Change
“The Tea Party has formed an unholy alliance with the left,” Debbie Dooley recalls a panicked member of Georgia’s big energy lobby lamenting.

Dooley, a co-founder of the Atlanta Tea Party Patriots, doesn’t deny the charges. In fact, she is set this Tuesday to celebrate the official launch of the Green Tea Coalition – the same “unholy alliance” of right and left grassroots that has big oil interests reeling.

“It’s an unholy alliance because they see it as a threat to them,” Dooley said, speaking ahead of the launch. “In the past, the elites on both the right and the left got away with it. On the right, they’d say, ‘This person’s on the left. Stay away from them,’ On the left, they’d say, ‘They’re radical, they’re the Tea Party. Stay away from them.’

“But we got through all that bull, got to know each other, and started working together,” she said.

And it’s not the first time. In 2012, the Atlanta Tea Patriot Patriots joined the NAACP and the Sierra Club to successfully defeat a $7.2 billion transit tax referendum. That same year, Tea joined forces with Occupy Atlanta and the AFL-CIO to stop an anti-union bill that would have banned protests at private residences (the bill sought to protect the “right of quiet enjoyment” of CEOs).
Read the source story here.

The Three Biggest Lies About Why Corporate Taxes Should Be Lowered

Robert Reich, Huffington Post
Instead of spending August on the beach, corporate lobbyists are readying arguments for when Congress returns in September about why corporate taxes should be lowered.

But they’re lies. You need to know why so you can spread the truth.

Lie #1: U.S. corporate tax rates are higher than the tax rates of other big economies. Wrong. After deductions and tax credits, the average corporate tax rate in the U.S. is lower. According to the Congressional Research Service, the United States has an effective corporate tax rate of 27.1 percent, compared to an average of 27.7 percent in the other large economies of the world.
Read the source story here.

AFL-CIO boss blasts Obama tax plans

The Hill
AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka blasted President Obama’s corporate tax plan on Wednesday.

Trumka said it was wrong to offer a tax plan that wouldn’t amount to a hike on corporations and argued that any tax reform should generate revenue for the government.

“At a time when the 1 percent have demanded so much sacrifice from working people in the name of deficit reduction, we must ask something of big corporations. That means ‘revenue positive’ corporate tax reform that raises significant amounts of new tax revenue,” Trumka said in a statement.

While he did not mention Obama’s tax plan or the president by name, he said the union confederation was “concerned that several recent proposals for corporate tax reform do not raise nearly enough revenue because they squander huge sums of money on lowering tax rates for profitable Wall Street corporations.”
Read the source story here.

Anti-ALEC protests converging in Chicago

Teamster Nation
ALEC is hosting one of its periodic confabs this week at the luxurious Palmer House in Chicago’s Loop. Already an offshoot of North Carolina’s Moral Monday group staged a disruption in the hotel lobby — on Monday of course — demanding that ALEC go home.Six were arrested. Tomorrow another large demonstration will take place outside the hotel.

The Center for Media and Democracy brings us the frightening ALEC agenda at the Chicago meeting:

  • New ways to thwart local democratic control by prohibiting city or county governments from regulating genetically modified plant seeds…
  • Presentations on how fracking America can lead to increased profits through exporting America’s natural gas….
  • Updates to some of ALEC’s long-standing anti-union policies. The “Employee Secret Ballot Protection Act” will be amended “to call for [union certification by] a majority of members in the bargaining unit, rather than a majority of those voting.” This was the same certification policy pushed by Scott Walker in Wisconsin, and creates an almost insurmountable burden….
  • Renewing objections to linking the minimum wage to the consumer price index…
  • Privatization and outsourcing of toll roads…
  • New efforts to eliminate occupational licensing for any profession, which help ensure that people who want to call themselves doctors, long-haul truckers, accountants, or barbers meet basic standards of training and expertise to guarantee that consumers are safe and get what they pay for.
  • Expanding virtual “schools,” which enriches ALEC’s online school corporate funders, such as K12 Inc.

Read the source story here.

Ryan, Cantor ‘secretly spoke’ at Koch brothers’ event

The Maddow Blog
Charles and David Koch made considerable investments in the 2012 elections, and as the dust settled, they didn’t have much to show for their investments.

Several months later, however, the Koch brothers aren’t exactly scaling back their political efforts.

Rep. Paul Ryan, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez secretly spoke to wealthy donors at the Koch brothers’ recently concluded summer gathering on the outskirts of Albuquerque.

The 2012 vice presidential candidate and No. 2 House Republican are return participants to the twice-annual seminar…. A spokesman for Cantor’s office declined to comment, while Ryan’s office did not immediately respond to questions.

As the Politico report explained, Koch Industries periodically hosts these “invitation-only seminars” under “extremely tight security.” The brothers’ powerful allies attend so they can hear from “Republican elected officials, conservative dignitaries and leaders of right-leaning groups backed by the Kochs’ network,” which Republican players attend to connect with donors and make the Kochs happy.

Ryan, Cantor, and Martinez are hardly unique — previous attendees include governors (Christie, Perry, McDonnell), senators (Cornyn, DeMint), notable Republican media personalities (Limbaugh, Beck), and even sitting Supreme Court justices (Scalia, Thomas).
Read the source story here.

CRC supporters send governors their plan to revive the project

The Columbian
A group of Columbia River Crossing supporters formally made their plea to revive the controversial Interstate 5 Bridge replacement project on Wednesday, sending a letter to the Washington and Oregon governors.

The letter, signed by a group of nearly 80 business leaders and other CRC supporters, asked the two governors to salvage at least part of the $3.4 billion plan, declared dead a month ago after Washington lawmakers failed to commit funding.

To bring it back to life, supporters want Oregon to take the lead on the project. They hope to use money already lined up to build a new Interstate 5 Bridge between Vancouver and Portland — with light rail — but without approval from the Washington Legislature.
Read the source story here.

U.S. union sues Port of Portland for $200,000 records search

The International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) filed a lawsuit against the Port of Portland, claiming the port violated the Oregon Public Records Act by charging the union $200,000 for public records searches.

ILWU submitted public records requests in June, September and December 2012. It said it was charged “arbitrary and excessive” fees to find the records and told further fees would be assessed for lawyers to review and segregate the records before release, the union said in a statement on Wednesday.

The lawsuit, filed on July 25 in Multnomah County circuit court, was the latest action in a heated labor battle pitting the ILWU against ports and grain exporters in the U.S. Pacific Northwest.
Read the source story here.