Category: Allied Approaches

Twin Cities home health care workers win unpaid overtime

Mark Gruenberg

Mark Gruenberg Editor, Press Associates Union News

It took almost five years to wend its way through state agencies and courts, but home health care workers who toil for the Twin Cities-based Baywood Home Care agency will share $350,000 from the firm for unpaid overtime.

The win came from the Minnesota Supreme Court on Sept. 18, in a case brought on the workers’ behalf by the state Department of Labor, the St. Paul Union Advocate reported.

The department investigated a complaint, filed in 2014, that the agency was violating the state Fair Labor Standards Act, which  mandates time-and-a-half pay for all hours worked over 48 per week.

The federal FLSA mandates overtime pay for all hours worked over 40 per week, but it doesn’t cover home health care workers. Minnesota’s does. Responding to evidence presented by the Service Employees, the Obama-era federal Labor Department brought home health care workers nationwide under the federal FLSA, for one year, until home health care interests got federal courts to toss that rule out.

Baywood broke the state law, the state agency told the state court, by working its employees for 24 hours at a time, but not every day. They were paid set daily rates regardless of how long they worked each week.

The state court said the daily rates are no substitute for overtime pay. When the home health care workers toiled more than 48 hours a week each, the workers were entitled to time-and-half pay “regardless of how the worker was compensated” before hitting that weekly limit.

Not paying the workers overtime is a form of wage theft, which costs Minnesota workers alone $22 million statewide every year, estimates show.

“All Minnesotans deserve to be paid every dollar they are owed for the work they perform,” state Labor Commissioner Nancy Leppink said in a statement after the court’s decision. The court also ordered the firm to pay the state agency $350,000 in damages.

“Too many workers are not being paid their full wages. With this decision, these employees are now one step closer to being correctly compensated for their work and for the harm they experienced,” she added.

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Black and Hispanic men could face disproportionate job loss due to transportation automation

Carl Romer Intern, EPI

On August 12, 2019, Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang tweeted, “I’ve done the MATH, it’s not immigrants taking our jobs, it’s automation. Instead of blaming immigrants, let’s give our citizens the means to thrive through the fourth industrial revolution.” This, like much of Yang’s and others’ current discourse regarding automation, is focused on an exaggerated fear that automation can and soon will replace workers’ roles in production, resulting in widespread job loss. But for hundreds of years, technological progress has continually reshaped the way work is done—and yet this progress has never resulted in a long-term decline in the labor force. Focusing on overstated risks of job loss from automation distracts from efforts to advocate for higher wages, better benefits, and increased bargaining power—issues that have been, and will continue to be, essential to the well-being of workers and their families.

However, while there is no reason to believe that automation will lead to widespread, sustained decline in the overall number of jobs, there will be specific jobs, industries, and workers for whom the impact of automation will come with real costs, at least in the short term. One industry in which concerns about automation may be warranted in the near term is transportation. Ford and Volvo have both announced plans to put fully autonomous vehicles on the road as early as 2021; Honda has announced a partnership with GM to begin developing autonomous vehicles; and Nissan recently introduced “no-hands driving” on highways in its ProPilot 2.0. While consumer skepticism may slow down the industry’s timelines, many advances have already been made: Most new cars have computerized driver assistance options; Tesla’s Autosteer has logged at least one billion miles of supervised autonomous driving; and Caterpillar is already producing autonomous vehicles for hauling mining materials.

The automation of transportation could have particular implications for truck drivers. Although truck drivers represent a small share of all workers, that share has grown since the early 1980s: Truck drivers have gone from being 0.7% to just under 1% of the total workforce. More than one-third of these truck drivers are black and Hispanic men. According to EPI analysis of 2016–2018 Current Population Survey Outgoing Rotation Group (CPS-ORG) microdata, among full-time workers, “Driver/Sales Workers and Truck Drivers” is currently the number one occupation for black men and the number two occupation for Hispanic men. For the sake of this analysis, my definition of “Truck Drivers” includes this occupational category as well as the category “Industrial Truck and Tractor Operators” and is limited to the detailed industry categories “Trucking Services” or “Truck Transportation.” In order to have a large enough sample to examine employment by race, ethnicity, and gender, I combine data from the CPS-ORG into five-year intervals.

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The Key to Distributing Wealth More Equitably

Sam Pizzigati

Sam Pizzigati Editor, Too Much online magazine

CEO compensation in the United States may have finally crossed the line — from outrageously unfair to intolerably obscene. In 2018, a new Institute for Policy Studies report details, 50 major U.S. corporations paid their top execs over 1,000 times the pay that went to their most typical workers.

What can we do about obscenity this raw? Plenty. We can start by placing consequences on the CEO-worker pay ratios that publicly traded U.S. corporations must now annually disclose.

In Oregon, the city of Portland already has. Since 2017, major companies that do business in Portland have had to pay the city’s business tax at a higher rate if they compensate their top execs at over 100 times what they pay their median — most typical — workers.

State lawmakers have introduced similar legislation in seven states, and, earlier this week, White House hopeful Bernie Sanders announced a plan to hike the U.S. corporate income tax rate on all large firms that pay their top execs over 50 times their worker pay. Some context: A half-century ago, few U.S. corporations paid their chief execs over 25 times what their workers earned.

The new Sanders plan has drawn predictable scorn from the usual suspects. One analyst from the right-wing Manhattan Institute, for instance, told the Washington Post that a pay-ratio tax “could dramatically affect industries such as fast food and retail that naturally pay lower wages.”

Corporations pay “what the market demands,” added Adam Michel from the equally conservative Heritage Foundation, “and levying new taxes on high pay will just make U.S. businesses less able to compete globally, expand their workforces, or raise wages of rank and file workers.”

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Factories Lose 2,000 Jobs in September

From the AAM

Manufacturing employment dropped in September, with the sector losing 2,000 jobs, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported on Friday. Motor vehicles and parts saw 4,100 lost jobs, while computer and electronic products gained 3,800 jobs.   

Meanwhile, new trade figures showed that the overall goods and services deficit hit $54.9 billion in August, up $0.9 billion from July, while the goods deficit with China reached $28.9 billion.

Alliance for American Manufacturing President Scott Paul said:

September was a lousy month for factory jobs. While many pressures may have contributed to this month's employment decline, one thing is becoming more clear: Manufacturing is weak right now.

There are a couple of policy shifts that could help strengthen the sector. First, passing a robust new investment in our nation’s infrastructure. Second, reconsidering the merits of an overvalued dollar, which is hampering our exports. Third, a final trade agreement with China that will rein in its massive industrial overcapacity and subsidies, and provide our businesses and workers with more certainty and a better playing field.

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Unions oppose discrimination against LGBTQ+ people

Mark Gruenberg

Mark Gruenberg Editor, Press Associates Union News

The nation’s largest unions and the nation’s largest labor federation both back outlawing employer discrimination against lesbian-gay-bisexual-transgender people – a ban bosses are challenging in top cases at the U.S. Supreme Court.

And the Oct. 8 argument over whether bosses can discriminate against LGBTQ people – including firing them – solely because of their sexual orientation or gender preference isn’t the only big-ticket civil rights case the justices will hear in the next six weeks.

The other will come up in early November, as Comcast challenges the wide-ranging ban on discrimination written into the Reconstruction Era’s 1866 Civil Rights Act and its famous Section 1981, which lets individuals and firms sue against business racism.

And in both instances, the GOP Donald Trump administration is arguing on the other side, for discrimination.

Both issues are important for the future of civil rights and human rights in the United States, which have been frequently under attack by Trump, right-wing Republicans and their ideological think tanks and, in the Section 1981 case, the corporate class.

The tangle over LGBTQ job discrimination will hit the High Court the day after it starts its 2019-20 term. Four separate lawsuits, consolidated into one long hearing, will force the justices to consider whether employers can discriminate against LGBTQ people.

That’s illegal under the 1964 Civil Rights Act’s ban, in its famous Title VII, on employment discrimination based on sex, according to the AFL-CIO, both big teachers’ unions, and a combined brief from the Service Employees International Union, the Teamsters and Jobs With Justice – along with other allies of LGBTQ people.

Title VII also bans discrimination based on race, color, religion or national origin.

The Section 1981 case will come up in November. It outlaws racial discrimination by businesses in making contracts.

Until now, courts inserted one big caveat into Section 1981 cases: What’s called a “but for” clause, meaning that “but for” specific circumstances – namely that but for the fact that the person hurt was African-American – the discrimination would not have occurred.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco took away even that caveat and ruled the 1866 law means what it says and that victims only need to show race was “a factor” – not the factor – to get their day in court after firms didn’t do business with them.

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Federal workers protest Trump anti-union edicts

Mark Gruenberg

Mark Gruenberg Editor, Press Associates Union News

Culminating several days of in-person lobbying, but continuing a defense that’s been going since Donald Trump’s first day in office, federal worker unions, their congressional allies and other union leaders took their campaign against the GOP president’s edicts to Congress.

The mass rally of several thousand people on Capitol Hill on Sept. 24 drew attention to Trump’s anti-worker actions, from curbs on union representation for all two million federal workers down to sudden declarations that 900 of the lowest-paid disabled workers in the Portland, Ore., Veterans Administration hospital would be laid off – with two weeks’ notice.

Led by the Government Employees (AFGE) and the Treasury Employees (NTEU), unions and workers lobbied for legislation to stop Trump‘s edicts in their tracks in the new fiscal year, which starts Oct. 1.

The Democratic-run House has agreed. The GOP-run Senate is another matter, though one speaker, Sen. Chris Von Hollen, D-Md., promised the crowd he would push the ban on Trump’s edicts through. Whether and when he, and other Senate Democrats, can succeed is up in the air.

The point of the rally was to get them to do so. “Talk is cheap. Let’s get to work,” AFL-CIO Executive Vice President Tefere Gebre said. “Something is happening in America,” federation President Richard Trumka declared before challenging Trump: “Bring it on!”

Typical support came from Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio: “You can’t say you love your country and you love workers and then attack unions.”

Trump’s edicts throw federal worker unions out of their small offices in federal buildings; yank away their computers, phones and fax machines; curb due process rights for federal workers; make it easier for bosses to fire workers for no reason at all, and even tell union stewards that when they defend federal workers, they must do so on their own time and on their own dime.

The unions took Trump to court, won in district court – and lost in the U.S. Court of Appeals for D.C. on Sept. 25. In an unsigned order, the judges declined to hear the case.

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Executive Excess 2019: Making corporations pay for big pay gaps

Sam Pizzigati

Sam Pizzigati Editor, Too Much online magazine

INTRODUCTION:

For two full years now, publicly held corporations in the United States have had to comply with a federal mandate to report the gap between their CEO and median worker compensation. The resulting disclosures, this report makes clear, have produced truly staggering statistical results.

Americans across the political spectrum have been decrying the yawning gaps between CEO and worker compensation for several decades now. Yet Americans still, the research shows, vastly underestimate how wide these gaps have become. Today, with corporations required to disclose their pay ratios, the public can finally see the actual size of pay gaps at individual firms. These excessively wide compensation gaps hurt us on three major fronts:

  • Corporate pay gaps help drive extreme inequality in the U.S.
  • Wide pay gaps undermine business efficiency and effectiveness
  • Runaway CEO pay endangers our democracy and the broader economy
 

KEY FINDINGS:

  • At the 50 publicly traded U.S. corporations with the widest pay gaps in 2018, the typical employee would have to work at least 1,000 years to earn what their CEO made in just one..
  • Among S&P 500 firms, nearly 80 percent paid their CEO more than 100 times their median worker pay in 2018, and nearly 10 percent had median pay below the poverty line for a family of four.
  • S&P 500 corporations as a whole would have owed as much as $17.2 billion more in 2018 federal taxes if they were subject to tax penalties ranging from 0.5 percentage points on pay ratios over 100:1 to 5 percentage points on ratios above 500:1.
  • Walmart, with a pay gap of 1,076 to 1, would have owed as much as $794 million in extra federal taxes in 2018 with this penalty in place, enough to extend food stamp benefits to 520,997 people for an entire year..
  • Marathon Petroleum, with a 714-to-1 gap, would have owed an extra $228 million, more than enough to provide annual heating assistance for 126,000 low-income people.
  • CVS, with a 618-to-1 ratio, would have added a revenue stream that could have provided annual Medicare prescription benefits for 33,977 seniors.
  • The report also includes the most comprehensive available catalog of CEO pay reform proposals.

Download the full report here.

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From the Institute for Policy Studies

No One Should Have To Bargain For Health Care

Negin Owliaei

Nearly 50,000 members of the United Auto Workers began striking earlier this month, demanding that General Motors pay them their fair share of the billions in profits the company raked in last year.

The response from General Motors was shocking. The automaker, which accepted billions in government bailouts during the last recession, cut off its payment of insurance premiums for the striking workers.

As the news broke, former Vice President Joe Biden was at an AFL-CIO event, campaigning against a single-payer Medicare for All plan that would replace employer-provided insurance. “You’ve broken your neck to get it,” Biden told the crowd. “You’ve given up wages to keep it. And no plan should be able to take it away.”

But what if that’s actually the problem? Why should union workers — or anyone — be breaking their necks to get health care, a basic human right?

Health care has been a constant subject of debate among Democratic presidential candidates. Biden and others have argued that a single-payer system would be unfair to union workers who’ve taken pay cuts in exchange for better health care plans.

But, as GM showed, our current system turns health coverage into leverage for employers. What could unions fight for if they didn’t have to constantly play defense against employers trying to gut their health care?

If we already had Medicare for All, the United Auto Workers could be using their collective power to fight for higher wages and better benefits. Instead, GM gets to use the health of its employees as a bargaining chip.

Auto workers aren’t the only union workers fighting for health coverage.

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The FTC’s Enforcement of “Made in USA” is Notoriously Weak. It’s Time to Change That.

Elizabeth Brotherton-Bunch

Elizabeth Brotherton-Bunch Digital Media Director, Alliance for American Manufacturing

We cover a lot of ground here at the Alliance for American Manufacturing — Trade! Infrastructure! Tom Cruise! — but there’s nothing that gets us more excited than learning about an American-made product. Whether it’s a small piece of jewelry or a big piece of steel, we love highlighting the amazing workers and companies who manufacture their products in the United States.

After all, a lot of hard work — and often extra expense — goes into that “Made in USA” label. U.S. companies and workers must take care to ensure that “all or virtually all” of their products are made in the United States.

When something is labeled as “Made in USA,” many consumers recognize the effort that is behind it, along with the millions of jobs that American-made products support. The label can be a deciding factor when someone is deciding on what product to buy.

Made in USA means something.

And while nothing gets us more excited than a Made in USA product, nothing gets us more fired up than when a company knowingly mislabels its product as Made in USA. What’s worse is that these cheaters have been getting away with it.

It happens more than you think. In 2018, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) caught some pretty brazen Made in USA cheats:

  • One company sold military-themed backpacks – including on military bases! – with an “American-made” label.  The FTC found that the vast majority of that company’s products were made in China or Mexico.
  • Another company made hockey pucks, and even positioned itself as “the all-American alternative to imported pucks.” All of the company’s pucks were imported from China.
  • A direct-to-consumer mattress firm advertised its mattresses as assembled in the United States. The mattresses were made in China.

But in all three of these blatant cases of Made in USA cheating, the FTC politely asked these bad actors to stop this deceitful behavior.

The cheaters paid zero fines — they kept every penny they made deliberately deceiving consumers. No notices to consumers were issued. The companies didn’t even have to admit any wrongdoing!

What’s the point in even having a strong “Made in USA” standard if it isn’t enforced?

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Household income growth was slower and less widespread in 2018 than in 2017

By David Cooper and Julia Wolfe

The state income data from the American Community Survey (ACS), released this morning by the Census Bureau, showed that in 2018, household incomes across the country rose—albeit more slowly, and in fewer states, than in the previous year. From 2017 to 2018, inflation-adjusted median household incomes grew in 33 states and the District of Columbia (14 of these changes were statistically significant.) This marks a decline from the broader growth seen between 2016 and 2017 when median household incomes grew in 40 states and the District of Columbia, with 24 of those changes being statistically significant.

The ACS data showed an increase of 0.2% in the inflation-adjusted median household income for the country as a whole—an increase of just $130 for a typical U.S. household and a slowdown in growth compared to the past three years: household incomes increased by 3.8% in 2015, 2.0% in 2016, and 2.5% in 2017. [i] Despite these increases, households in 23 states still had inflation-adjusted median incomes in 2018 below their 2007 pre-recession values, which makes this year’s slowdown particularly disappointing.

From 2017 to 2018, the largest percentage gains in household income occurred in Idaho, where the typical household experienced an increase of $2,085 in their annual income—an increase of 3.9%. Maryland remains the state with the highest median household income at $83,242, having experienced a slight increase (0.6%) from 2017 to 2018. The District of Columbia has the highest median household income in the country at $85,203—though comparing D.C. to states is problematic, since D.C. is a city, not a state. 

From 2017 to 2018, there were 17 states in which the median household income declined or was unchanged: Alaska (-0.8%), Iowa (-0.1%), Maine (-3.6%), Missouri (-0.7%), Nebraska (-3.0%), Nevada (-1.3%), New Hampshire (-0.2%), New Jersey (-0.4%), New Mexico (-1.5%), North Carolina (-0.3%), South Dakota (-2.8%), Rhode Island (-1.7%), Tennessee (-0.4%), Virginia (-1.0%), West Virginia (-1.0%), and Wyoming (-0.5%). Only one of these—Maine, where incomes declined by 3.6% after increasing by 3.8% in 2017—had a statistically significant drop. 31 states and the District of Columbia saw either a slowdown in their growth compared to last year, or experienced even steeper declines, reflecting the disappointing growth seen at the national level.

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Union Matters

America’s Wealthy: Ever Eager to Pay Their Taxes!

Sam Pizzigati

Sam Pizzigati Editor, Too Much online magazine

Why do many of the wealthiest people in America oppose a “wealth tax,” an annual levy on grand fortune? Could their distaste reflect a simple reluctance to pay their fair tax share? Oh no, JPMorganChase CEO Jamie Dimon recently told the Business Roundtable: “I know a lot of wealthy people who would be happy to pay more in taxes; they just think it’ll be wasted and be given to interest groups and stuff like that.” Could Dimon have in mind the interest group he knows best, Wall Street? In the 2008 financial crisis, federal bailouts kept the banking industry from imploding. JPMorgan alone, notes the ProPublica Bailout Tracker, collected $25 billion worth of federal largesse, an act of generosity that’s helped Dimon lock down a $1.5-billion personal fortune. Under the Elizabeth Warren wealth tax plan, Dimon would pay an annual 3 percent tax on that much net worth. Fortunes between $1 billion and $2.5 billion would face a 5 percent annual tax under the Bernie Sanders plan.

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No Such Thing as Good Greed

No Such Thing as Good Greed