Category: Allied Approaches

Democrats Unveil $15-an-hour Minimum Wage Bill

Mark Gruenberg

Mark Gruenberg Editor, Press Associates Union News

Backed by dozens of low-wage workers clad in white “$15 and a union” sweatshirts, a united phalanx of top congressional Democrats, plus Bernie Sanders, formally unveiled legislation to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2024.

With support from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., and more than 180 House Democrats – including active union members Mark Pocan of Wisconsin (Painters) and David Norcross of New Jersey (IBEW), who both spoke – the bill is expected to sail through the new Democratic-run House. The only question there is when.

After that is another matter.

“We are coming together to recognize fundamental concerns of American working families,” Pelosi told a Jan. 16 rally and press conference. “The minimum wage is no longer a living wage” as it was 50 years ago, added Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y.

Raising the minimum wage would benefit an estimated 40 million workers directly and millions more indirectly, the lawmakers said. It was one of the key planks touted by many of the progressive Democrats elected in the November sweep which returned the House to Democratic control.

Most minimum wage hike beneficiaries are working women, minorities or both and – contrary to one Republican and right-wing lie – fewer than 10 percent are teenagers. And 85 percent of child care workers earn less than $15 hourly, Sanders said.

“When we put money in the pockets of American workers, they spend it, benefiting Main Street, too,” said Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Va., new chair of the House Education and Labor Committee, which will work on the legislation.

Cynthia Lowe, a working single mom at a KFC fast-food eatery in Memphis, spoke for those 40 million workers who would benefit.

“Eight years ago, my first job in fast food paid $6.55 an hour. Now it’s $7.50. Many times, I sit in the store after working hours because I have no choice” but to wait for her kids’ school to end and can’t afford child care. She also struggles to pay for other basic needs.

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Neil Gorsuch pens a devastating takedown of his own most important opinion

Ian Millhiser

Ian Millhiser Senior Constitutional Policy Analyst, Think Progress

The Supreme Court sided with a worker over a corporation in a case involving the Federal Arbitration Act on Tuesday. For those unfamiliar with the Court’s arbitration decisions, that happens about as often as a unicorn wins the Powerball lottery while simultaneously being struck by lightning.

And, as further evidence that Beelzebub awoke this morning to discover thick layer of snow on his lawn, the Supreme Court’s decision in New Prime v. Oliveira was written by Neil Gorsuch — the author of a decision holding that the Arbitration Act permits employers to engage in small-scale wage theft with impunity.

As Slate’s Mark Joseph Stern writesNew Prime “marks the triumph of the Gorsuch brief—a highly technical argument designed to nab the justice’s vote by fixating on the text of a statute and its meaning at the time of passage.” But it is also a hollow triumph. New Prime is an important case because it is one of a few rare examples where this Supreme Court read the Arbitration Act consistently with its explicit text, but it also dealt with a fairly minor issue that carves out a narrow exception to the Court’s decisions enabling wage theft.

In Epic Systems v. Lewisa much more significant wage theft decision that Gorsuch penned last year, Gorsuch blithely ignored the text of the Arbitration Act — while simultaneously holding that his atextual reading of the Arbitration Act trumps the explicit language of a law enacted to protect workers’ collective action.

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Dreams Deferred: How Enriching the 1% Widens the Racial Wealth Divide

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An App That Makes Supporting Pro-Union Goods and Services Easier

Jesús Espinoza

Jesús Espinoza Press Secretary, AAM

The internet has made it easier than ever to find goods and services. But this unprecedented access to options also means that we as consumers must do more research if we want to buy or use services that are ethical.  

An important way in which we could all become more ethical consumers is buying union-made products and using pro-union services. The thing is it’s not always clear what goods or services support good-paying, union jobs.

Finding ways to support good jobs has now become much easier with Labor 411’s new app.

For over a decade, Labor 411 has been “supporting businesses that treat their employees well with fair pay, good benefits and safe working conditions” by highlighting them in their online and print directories. With these valuable resources, Labor 411 connects ethical businesses with conscious consumers. The app now makes their renowned online directories easily accessible in the palm of your hand.

In a statement announcing the app, Labor 411 founder and President Cherri Senders said:

“Labor 411 has always maintained that making smart, ethical choices every time you open your wallet is easy. The 411 App makes the process that much easier.”

With over 11,000 listings, Labor 411 points you in the right direction for everything from restaurants and hotels to gifts and clothes. Although their app focuses on the nation’s largest consumer markets, you can find plenty of businesses that offer good and services nationally.

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Shutdown forces federal workers to consider career changes just to make ends meet

Casey Quinlan

Casey Quinlan Policy Reporter, ThinkProgress

Federal workers and contractors are growing increasingly weary with the partial government shutdown as they begin to feel the financial squeeze, leading many to reconsider government work.

Last Friday, many federal workers missed their first paychecks since the shutdown began on December 22 over demands from President Donald Trump that Congress fund a $5 billion wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. On Saturday, the shutdown became the longest in U.S. history, currently stretching into its fourth week, at 26 days.

ThinkProgress spoke with federal workers and contractors who are making tough choices about whether or not to look for other jobs, or stay in the federal government even if they are able to get back to work soon. The employees quoted in this story asked not to be identified by their actual names out of fear of retaliation.

“It has just been a nightmare”

Drew, a federal worker within the Department of Agriculture, said the shutdown is particularly difficult for them as they’re in their 20s and in the beginning of their career. When asked what they’re doing to stay afloat financially, Drew said they’re not going anywhere or doing anything that requires spending money. They have cancelled any unnecessary regular spending.

“I covered bills for this month but it’s a question of next month of whether I will be able to make it because I do unfortunately live paycheck-to-paycheck and my savings are rather limited,” Drew said. “It’s been terrible for my economic situation. It’s been terrible for my personal life. It has just been a nightmare.” 

2017 CareerBuilder report that polled 2,000 managers and more than 3,000 full-time employees found that 78 percent of full-time workers said they lived paycheck to paycheck. Drew added that it’s particularly tough that they can’t help cover expenses for their group house, which affects everyone else they live with.

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Yet Another Sign Tariffs Are Working

Cathalijne Adams

Cathalijne Adams Researcher, AAM

The United States produces a lot of aluminum scrap each year – the most in the world, actually. But, thanks to Chinese tariffs on American aluminum imports, most of that scrap has had nowhere to go (China is a huge aluminum scrap market.). Thus, it‘s now fulfilling considerable domestic demand for aluminum, which means most aluminum products purchased in the States in 2018 weren’t made anew but composed of recycled metal.

With that said, America's own Section 232 tariffs on aluminum are having their desired effect: more aluminum production in the United States.

The Wall Street Journal reports:

"The Trump administration’s tariffs on foreign aluminum drove imports of the metal down 20% last year, Harbor Aluminum says, while domestic production rose 20%. Pushing up U.S. aluminum production was the tariff’s intent."

A December 2018 study from the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) corroborates this growth, evidencing a projected 67 percent increase of U.S. primary aluminum production between 2017 and 2018. EPI also cites several smelters that have been restarted or expanded and will create over 1,000 new jobs.

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HGTV’s Home Town Stars Commit to Revitalizing America’s Small Towns and Manufacturing

Cathalijne Adams

Cathalijne Adams Researcher/Writer, AAM

Today’s a big day for Ben and Erin Napier to say the least! Season Three of their hit show, Home Town, premieres tonight at 9 p.m. EST and their Made in USA furniture lines, Laurel Mercantile Co. Home and Scotsman Co. American Heirloom, debut in over one hundred stores this month! 

Though their show centers on refurbishing the homes of Laurel, Miss., the Napiers’ home town, their mission extends well beyond the town limits. As the Napiers state at the start of every Home Town episode, they’re committed to inspiring the revitalization of small towns all across the country. In the couple’s efforts to inspire investment in America’s small towns, they’ve embraced the American manufacturing industries that have sustained these locations.

 “We recognize that our show is about revitalizing small-town America, Laurel, and without small-town industry, mainly American manufacturing, you don’t have small-town America,” Ben Napier said.

Though approached by an endless stream of companies seeking branding and licensing deals with the husband-and-wife duo, the Napiers have chosen to partner with the legendary Vaughan-Bassett Furniture Co. -- a name that’s already earned a lot of attention in its own right, having been profiled in Beth Macy’s Factory Man.

Rather than join the herd of retailers manufacturing furniture offshore, the Napiers manufactured their furniture, Laurel Mercantile Co. Home and Scotsman Co. American Heirloom, in Vaughan-Bassett’s legendary Galax, Va., factories.

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Time to Make a Deal on the Federal Minimum Wage

By Wade Rathke
Center for Working-Class Studies

The federal minimum wage has been stuck at $7.25 per hour since 2009.  Until last year, when the unemployment rate dropped almost to the level of full employment, wages were stagnant, exacerbating inequality.  In 2018, average hourly earnings went up 3.15% and closed the year with a 3.9% jump.  Even with those recent adjustments, workers still need a federal minimum increase.

The Raise the Wage Act offers the prospect for change.  The bill was introduced in May 2017 by Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA), the ranking Democrat on the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, but it died in committee in 2018 with 170 co-sponsors, Democrats all.  It proposed a dollar-a-year increase over seven years, eventually reaching $15.00 – more than twice the current minimum.  It would also phase out lower pay for tip-credit workers who are currently frozen at $2.13 per hour as well as disabled worker exceptions.

The Fight for $15 campaign, largely engineered and financed by the Service Employees International Union, has been a key force in defining $15.00 an hour as the goal.  Their work has helped set eight states on the path to establishing minimum wages of between $12 and $15 per hour in coming years, including Arizona, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York, and Washington.  Thirteen cities, including New York City, Seattle, and San Jose, are already at $15 or higher.  While Fight for $15 has created momentum for the new Democratic House majority, today’s leaders should not forget the lessons learned from decades of living wage fights.

On January 18, 1997, ACORN and Local 100, United Labor Unions (then affiliated with the SEIU), presented voters in Houston, Texas with what seemed a radical proposal at the time: a city ordinance to raise the minimum wage to the level of $6.50 per hour for all workers.  Only months before, the federal minimum had finally risen from $4.25 per hour to $4.75.  In a patronizing campaign against us, service industry and general business employers insisted that they understood our demand, but we were going about it the wrong way, and our proposal would cost jobs.  While we won in lower-income and working-class districts, we lost the election 2 votes to 1. In River Oaks, the district where former President George H. Bush lived and voted, we garnered just one vote.

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‘Quality for All.’ Ethics When Forced?

Jesús Espinoza

Jesús Espinoza Press Secretary, AAM

North Carolina-based Badger Sportswear, whose athletic apparel can be found on college athletes and sports fans nationwide, no longer sources its goods from a clothing manufacturer that uses forced labor in Chinese internment camps that hold members of religious and ethnic minority groups.

We’re relieved to hear that Badger is finally ending its contract with the manufacturer, Hetian Taida Apparel, and hope that it will commit to ethical manufacturing by moving its production to the U.S. There are plenty of Made in USA companies ready to meet their needs. By moving its sourcing to the U.S., Badger would create jobs in communities that have long suffered from the outsourcing of America’s textile industry.

Despite Badger doing the right thing by no longer benefitting from Hetian Taida’s appalling labor practices, the company's decision seems a tad bit forced: It insists that Hetian Taida did not participate in forced labor.

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U.S. Tax Policy Can Turn on a Dime. Has Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Just Turned It?

Sam Pizzigati

Sam Pizzigati Editor, Too Much online magazine

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Embracing a Legacy

Embracing a Legacy

Union Matters

No Money for Pensions, But Plenty for Parties

Sam Pizzigati

Sam Pizzigati Editor, Too Much online magazine

Private equity work has been sweet for Marc Leder, the numero uno at Sun Capital Partners. He’s parlayed his takeovers of troubled firms into a fortune big enough to make him a co-owner of the Philadelphia 76ers in basketball and the New Jersey Devils in hockey. New York’s tabloids, meanwhile, have come to dub the hard-partying Leder “the Hugh Hefner of the Hamptons.” The secret to his success? Private-equity firms, notes Center for Economic and Policy Research economist Eileen Appelbaum, plunder assets from the companies they buy, then send them into bankruptcy to sidestep their obligations to workers. Over the past decade alone, Sun Capital has bankrupted five firms and left their pension funds $280 million short. Leder, for his part, claims that the “vast majority” of Sun Capital deals have been successful. And he only parties hearty, the private-equity kingpin adds, 25 nights a year.

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