Category: Union Matters

An Invitation to Sunny Miami. What Could Be Bad?

Sam Pizzigati

Sam Pizzigati Editor, Too Much online magazine

If a billionaire “invites” you somewhere, you’d better go. Or be prepared to suffer the consequences. This past May, hedge fund kingpin Carl Icahn announced in a letter to his New York-based staff of about 50 that he would be moving his business operations to Florida. But the 83-year-old Icahn assured his staffers they had no reason to worry: “My employees have always been very important to the company, so I’d like to invite you all to join me in Miami.” Those who go south, his letter added, would get a $50,000 relocation benefit “once you have established your permanent residence in Florida.” Those who stay put, the letter continued, can file for state unemployment benefits, a $450 weekly maximum that “you can receive for a total of 26 weeks.” What about severance from Icahn Enterprises? The New York Post reported last week that the two dozen employees who have chosen not to uproot their families and follow Icahn to Florida “will be let go without any severance” when the billionaire shutters his New York offices this coming March. Bloomberg currently puts Carl Icahn’s net worth at $20.5 billion.

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California Protects Precariat Workers

From the AFL-CIO

In a historic win for California’s workers, the California Legislature approved a bill Sept. 13 that makes the misclassification of employees as independent contractors more difficult.

Sponsored by the California Labor Federation, Assembly Bill 5 codifies and expands on a 2018 California Supreme Court decision.

The bill also will help curb the rampant exploitation of workers by unscrupulous employers and give California’s working people the basic rights and protections we all deserve. Gov. Gavin Newsom is expected to sign the bill into law.

 “The time is up for unscrupulous employers who claim their workers are ‘independent’ in order to cut corners on costs,”  California Assembly member Lorena Gonzalez said about A.B. 5

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He Gets the Bucks, We Get All the Deadly Bangs

Sam Pizzigati

Sam Pizzigati Editor, Too Much online magazine

National Rifle Association chief Wayne LaPierre has had better weeks. First came the horrific early August slaughters in California, Texas, and Ohio that left dozens dead, murders that elevated public pressure on the NRA’s hardline against even the mildest of moves against gun violence. Then came revelations that LaPierre — whose labors on behalf of the nonprofit NRA have made him a millionaire many times over — last year planned to have his gun lobby group bankroll a 10,000-square-foot luxury manse near Dallas for his personal use. In response, LaPierre had his flacks charge that the NRA’s former ad agency had done the scheming to buy the mansion. The ad agency called that assertion “patently false” and related that LaPierre had sought the agency’s involvement in the scheme, a request the agency rejected. The mansion scandal, notes the Washington Post, comes as the NRA is already “contending with the fallout from allegations of lavish spending by top executives.”

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Reject Scalia for Labor Secretary

From the AFL-CIO

Eugene Scalia, the nominee for secretary of labor, has spent his entire career making life more difficult and dangerous for working people. The AFL-CIO opposed him in 2002 for solicitor of labor based on his anti-worker record. He has fought ergonomics standards, threatened to destroy workers’ retirement savings, challenged the expansion of health care and dismissed repetitive injuries as “junk science.” The secretary of labor needs to be a true advocate for working people. Scalia’s views are dangerously outside the mainstream and leave us no choice but to oppose his nomination.

Take Action

Reject Eugene Scalia.

New Minnesota Law Protects Workers from Wage Theft

By Kathleen Mackey
USW Intern

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz, a member of the Democratic Farmer-Labor Party, signed into a law last week a measure to protect workers against wage theft in the state by imposing strict penalties.

The law will double the number of state investigators probing wage-theft allegations and subject violators to felony records and prison terms.

The Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry estimates that $12 million is lost yearly as a result of wage theft. Wage theft can occur through wrongful withholdings, failure to pay at least minimum wage or the agreed upon wage rate, and denying payment for mandatory breaks or overtime.

“This is the same thing as if they walked in and took the money from you,” Walz said after the signing. “It’s insidious in that it undermines our faith in the system.”

Employers now face felony charges if they fail to pay their workers the wages to which they are entitled. They will also be required to provide new employees with written notice of employment terms, and the state will allocate about $2 million annually toward enforcement of the state’s wage and hour laws.

Under this law, which will apply to violations occurring on or after Aug. 1, 2019, the penalties will vary based on the value of the theft. For example, if the amount of theft ranges from $1,000-4,999, the penalty could be a maximum imprisonment of five years, or a maximum fine of $10,000. If the theft is $35,000 or higher, the maximum imprisonment could be 20 years – and the maximum fine could be $100,000.

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Mueller Hearing Not Enough for Impeachment

Carl Davidson

Carl Davidson Author and Writer, Beaver County Blue

It will take more than the Mueller Hearing to Impeach Trump.

That’s my conclusion from watching the Mueller hearing and the ensuing commentary. I'm one who believes that when it comes to high crimes and misdemeanors, Trump is guilty as sin. But that's because I've not only read “The Report,” I've also dug into a lot more, beyond the parameters imposed on the Special Prosecutor and his team. Trump, for example, has been laundering billons for Russian oligarchs for decades, ever since his Atlantic City casinos went bust. But these kinds of facts, along with Trump’s tax returns, are supposed to be out of bounds.

Likewise. Mueller placed himself in a self-constricted box ahead of time, saying his testimony would be limited by the “four corners” of the report. This left his GOP inquisitors free to rant and rave unchallenged except defensively. Mueller had restrictions; they didn't.

There's one way it could be overcome. It just requires every adult citizen to read the 448-page Mueller Report for themselves. Unfortunately, that is not likely to happen. One reason among many is that Trump's button-pushing daily spectacles put up a smokescreen. He wants us to ignore the crisis caused by his tariffs or embrace his policy of cruelty toward people at our borders seeking safety and work.

Trump's latest bizarre assertion, that Article Two of the Constitution means he “can do whatever I want,” is reason enough for an impeachment hearing. Article Two does the exact opposite, defining any number of things a U.S. president cannot do. This is the voice of a tyrannical autocrat, and dealing with it put us in a situation that is not going to end well. We are in uncharted territory where normal gets redefined every day.

Probably a third of the country would like to see Trump impeached. The NAACP national convention a few days ago called for it unanimously. Another third want to see him re-elected no matter what he says or does, some because they give his racism a pass and cling to his promises; others because they have been enclosed in Trump's fascistic, anti-Constitutional bubble. This means the battles continue to get him out, by an election or impeachment, whichever comes first. But this is not a spectator sport. If you're not already engaged, the time to start is now.

 

Raise the Wage!

From the AFL-CIO

It’s been a decade since the federal minimum wage was increased—the longest period in American history without an increase. In that time, the cost of living has increased and working families have struggled to make ends meet. The Raise the Wage Act would finally bring the federal minimum wage up to $15 an hour.

The House of Representatives is voting tomorrow on the Raise the Wage Act, and we need to make sure lawmakers know where workers stand. Will you show your support and ask your friends to call their representatives?

One in 9 workers in the U.S. is in poverty—even when working full time and year-round. Passing the Raise the Wage Act as it stands would empower working families in need and build an economy that works for everyone.

Share our #RaisetheWage message on social media right now.

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PRO Act Would Put Power Back in Workers’ Hands

By Kathleen Mackey
USW Intern

Between 1935 and 1965, union membership rose precipitously in the United States. Wages increased in tandem with productivity, benefits improved, the middle class blossomed and income inequality dwindled.

Those good times are over, however. After 1965, the rate of unionization steadily fell from the high of about 30 percent to 10.5 percent now. Wages stagnated after 1970, even as productivity increased. Income inequality rose to Gilded Age rates.

This was no accident. It was a result of a calculated campaign launched by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and financially fed by corporations and right wing billionaires. They secured appointment of conservative, anti-union judges who ruled against unions. They bankrolled right-wing political candidates who passed anti-union legislation. And they subsidized anti-union organizations that taught corporations how to skirt the law and twist workers’ arms to defeat union organization efforts at workplaces.

Now, however, Democrats in the U.S. House and U.S. Senate have introduced legislation intended to reverse the union slide by restoring workers’ rights. 

The Protecting the Right to Work (PRO) Act, introduced on May 2, would make it easier for workers to form unions and would more effectively punish employers that violate the rights of workers trying to organize.

The proposed law would facilitate unionization, which Democrats believe would raise workers’ wages and reduce income inequality. Union workers earn about 13 percent more than nonunion workers and receive better benefits and pensions.

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A Cheerleader for Capitalism Growing a Bit Testy

Sam Pizzigati

Sam Pizzigati Editor, Too Much online magazine

Hedge fund investor Leon Cooperman is getting angry again. He seems to do that early on in every presidential election cycle. Back in 2015 Cooperman objected to the attacks on hedge fund tax breaks he was hearing in the Democratic primary race. Blasted back Cooperman in a CNN interview: “I don’t need anybody crapping all over what I do for a living.” Late last month, in a CNBC interview, the 76-year-old attacked the calls for taxing America’s rich he’s hearing from candidates like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. Pronounced Cooperman: “All in all, I’m not in favor of raising taxes. Taxes are high enough. I think it’s counterproductive to look to the wealthy people across the board.” Adds the former Goldman Sachs exec: “We have the best economy in the world. Capitalism works.” Our economic order certainly works for Cooperman. His current net worth: $3 billion.

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BGA Plan Announces Plan to Reduce Economic Inequality and Climate Change

By Kathleen Mackey
USW Intern

United Steelworkers (USW) International President Leo W. Gerard and allies from the BlueGreen Alliance (BGA) this week introduced Solidarity for Climate Action, a comprehensive plan to simultaneously tackle economic inequality and climate change.

“To build a better future for all Americans, we have to have a plan to fight climate change that works for everyone, and this is it. This isn’t going to be easy, but it is necessary to secure the future of our nation and planet,” Mike Williams, BGA Interim Co-Executive Director, said at a press conference Monday at the USW International Headquarters in Pittsburgh. “We urge leaders from across the country to embrace this platform, and we look forward to working with them to build a stronger, fairer, cleaner economy that works for all Americans.”

BGA unites America’s largest labor unions and its most influential environmental organizations to address climate change while creating high-quality jobs and a strong and balanced economy.

“It is critical that working people are front and center as we create a new economy: one that values our work, our families, our communities, and our environment,” the Solidarity for Climate Action plan states.

“This is the strongest piece of solidarity that people said couldn’t happen, and it is going to give us a much stronger voice at the municipal, the state and federal level.” Gerard said.

In the document, which was two years in the making, BGA outlines five major goals to address climate change and economic inequality.

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Union Matters

An Invitation to Sunny Miami. What Could Be Bad?

Sam Pizzigati

Sam Pizzigati Editor, Too Much online magazine

If a billionaire “invites” you somewhere, you’d better go. Or be prepared to suffer the consequences. This past May, hedge fund kingpin Carl Icahn announced in a letter to his New York-based staff of about 50 that he would be moving his business operations to Florida. But the 83-year-old Icahn assured his staffers they had no reason to worry: “My employees have always been very important to the company, so I’d like to invite you all to join me in Miami.” Those who go south, his letter added, would get a $50,000 relocation benefit “once you have established your permanent residence in Florida.” Those who stay put, the letter continued, can file for state unemployment benefits, a $450 weekly maximum that “you can receive for a total of 26 weeks.” What about severance from Icahn Enterprises? The New York Post reported last week that the two dozen employees who have chosen not to uproot their families and follow Icahn to Florida “will be let go without any severance” when the billionaire shutters his New York offices this coming March. Bloomberg currently puts Carl Icahn’s net worth at $20.5 billion.

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Health Care Should Not Be A Bargaining Weapon

Health Care Should Not Be A Bargaining Weapon