- Rich Trumka: Labor Won’t Support Healthcare Reform Unless There’s A Public Option
- Mercury Marine Workers To Hold Second Vote On Rejected Concessions
- Continental Closing Alabama Plant To Send Work To Mexico After UAW Refuses To Re-Open Contract
- Economic Report: Low Wage Workers Hit Hard By Payroll Illegalities
A survey of workers in New York City, Los Angeles, and Chicago revealed that low wage workers on average lost 15 percent of the previous week’s pay through wage violations. On average these workers only make $339 per week. The study financed by the Ford, Joyce, Haynes, and Russell Sage Foundations also revealed that only 8 percent of low wage workers who are injured on the job file for compensation. Seventy six percent of those surveyed were not paid for overtime they worked the week before the survey.
Continental Closing Alabama Plant To Send Work To Mexico After UAW Refuses To Re-Open Contract – 09/03/09
By Doug Cunningham
Because UAW members wouldn’t re-open their contracts and give the company as much as $60 million a year, Continental AG is closing its Huntsville, Alabama automotive components plant. The plant will close by the end of 2010. So far the UAW isn’t commenting publicly about the plant closing. More than 1200 workers will lose their jobs. Continental is shipping the work to Mexico, where desperate workers are more easily exploited for the lowest wages and benefits.
An “aggressive package” from the state of Wisconsin may preserve jobs for Mercury Marine workers. Jesse Russell reports:
Workers at Mercury Marine in Fond Du Lac, Wisconsin have been on an emotional roller coaster for the past few weeks. First they voted down the contract. Then the company said it would move jobs out of state. So workers filed a petition asking the union to push the company for a revote. The company said no…but now it turns out Mercury Marine will allow a second contract vote and the company might keep the jobs in Fond du lac. Voting will take place today and tomorrow on the same contracted that was previously rejected by employees by a wide margin.
By Doug Cunningham
Rich Trumka, the man soon to be new President of the AFL-CIO, says labor won’t support any healthcare reform that doesn’t include a public option.
[Trumka]: “You have to have a public option. You can’t have healthcare reform without having a public option. The public option allows people to vote with their feet. It gives them somewhere to go. And it will eventually force insurance companies to provide better healthcare.”
Executives of banks that were bailed out with taxpayer dollars have pulled down stock options that guarantee them mega-million-dollar windfalls for years to come.
Worse, they’re using our taxpayer money to line their own pockets while laying off workers. Since Jan. 1, 2008, the top 20 financial industry recipients of bailout aid have together laid off more than 160,000 employees. In 2008, the 20 CEOs at these firms each averaged $13.8 million in compensation, for a collective total of over $250 million.
According to a report by the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS), the top five executives at 10 of the top 20 banks that have accepted the most federal bailout dollars received a combined increase in the value of their stock options of nearly $90 million.
Says Sarah Anderson, lead author of “America’s Bailout Barons,” part of IPS’s Executive Excess series:
America’s executive pay bubble remains unpopped. And these outrageous rewards give executives an incentive to behave outrageously, putting the rest of us at risk.
According to the report, the average compensation for the top five executives at the 20 banks averaged $32 million each from 2006 through 2008. It would take 1,000 years for 100 U.S. workers to make as much as these 100 executives made in three years.
These 20 CEOs averaged 85 times more pay than the regulators who direct the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC). These two agencies, many analysts agree, have largely lacked the experienced and committed staff they need to protect average Americans from financial industry recklessness.
One reason the regulatory agencies may lack experienced staff is that many of the best and brightest staffers leave to work for the financial companies where they can make more money. Says report co-author Sam Pizzigati:
The lure of lucrative private-sector jobs doesn’t just siphon off talent from public service. It also breeds corrosive and ever-present conflicts of interest: Why “get tough,” as a regulator, on a firm that could be your future employer?
Click here to download the report.
The IPS report backs up the findings of the AFL-CIO’s 2009 Executive PayWatch site. The PayWatch data shows CEOs and other executives responsible for the financial crisis have pocketed millions of dollars from bonuses and golden parachutes. CEO perks alone grew in 2008 to an average of $336,248—or nine times the median salary of a full-time worker.
Meanwhile, the economy tanked for working people while many companies were bailed out with more than $700 billion in taxpayer money, as well as low-interest loans and guarantees.
Click here to learn more about excessive executive pay on the PayWatch site.
The federal government has done too little too late to seriously address the problem of executive pay. The IPS report praises the Patriot Corporations Act (H.R. 1874), sponsored by Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), which would extend tax breaks and procurement bidding preferences only to those companies that compensate their executive at no more than 100 times the income of their lowest-paid workers. In 2008, the IPS report shows, compensation for top executives averaged 319 times more than average U.S. worker pay.
IPS Director John Cavanagh says:
Unless we also address more fundamental questions about the overall size of executive pay, about the gap between the rewards that executives and workers are receiving, the executive pay bubble will most likely continue to inflate.
Or as IPS Senior Scholar Chuck Collins aptly put it:
Public officials in Congress and the White House hold the pin that could pop the executive pay bubble. They have so far failed to use it.
This Labor Day, many American workers will be watching their pennies as much as they watch the annual parades. This year, working people across the board are being hit with an unprecedented array of economic problems, ranging from a lack of jobs to reduced wages for those who have jobs.
The impact of the recession goes far beyond those people who are unemployed or underemployed. A combination of slow wage growth, mandatory unpaid leave and a drop in benefits is going to make it harder for the economy to recover, says a leading economist.
During a conference call with reporters today, Lawrence Mishel, president of the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), said the recession is hitting working people hard across the board, including white-collar workers, blue-collar workers, women, men, union members, nonunion workers and both college and high-school educated workers.
Later this week, EPI will release a briefing paper, “The Recession’s Hidden Costs: Workers Lucky Enough to Keep Their Jobs Still Feel the Pain in Their Paycheck,” which chronicles the widespread pain being spread by the recession.
Mishel points out that private-sector wages grew only by 1.3 percent between December 2008 and June 2009. Meanwhile, production and nonsupervisory workers—representing about 80 percent of employees—have seen their annual wage growth slow drastically to 1.4 percent after a relatively steady growth of 4 percent from 2007 to 2008.
This sluggish wage growth could have a serious dampening effect on the economy, Mishel says.
Wage growth is the fuel for what’s going to happen to household consumption growth, which is essential to a robust recovery.
Right now, wages are growing slower than the rate of inflation, and we’re going to see real wages falling remarkably in the months ahead.
Adding to the misery is the trend by employers to require workers to take furloughs—time off without pay. If you take a week off without pay, Mishel points out, it costs you 2 percent of your income, or takes away 2 percent of your ability to pay bills, buy food and support your family. In fact, furloughs have become so common that average weekly work hours are at the lowest level in the 35 years that records have been kept, he says.
These trends naturally are raising anxiety in the workforce. Mishel cited a recent Gallup Poll, which shows 31 percent of respondents say they are afraid of being laid off, up from 19 percent in 2003 at the height of the last recession. Some 27 percent say they are concerned that their work hours will be cut back, and 32 percent say they are worried that their wages will be reduced.
Women workers especially are being hurt, Mishel says. While the bulk of unemployment was among men, the wages of college-educated women dropped more than any other group.
A strong, sustainable economy doesn’t just depend on job creation—it depends on the creation of good jobs in which employees are paid fairly and receive health care and retirement benefits.
As workers across the country know, we’ve been heading in the wrong direction, and to turn the economy around, we need to give workers a shot at bargaining for a better life.
In a new report, “Creating Decent Jobs in the United States,” Jeannette Wicks-Lim of the Political Economy Research Institute (PERI) at the University of Massachusetts takes a close look at trends in employment, wages and benefits. She concludes that we need to make real policy changes to help improve jobs in this country—including restoring the freedom to form unions by passing the Employee Free Choice Act.
The race to the bottom in job quality has real consequences for workers and their families. Wicks-Lim notes that, if current trends continue, nearly two-thirds of the workforce in 2016 won’t have a job that pays 200 percent of poverty-level wages or provides health and retirement benefits.
To turn this dangerous trend around, we need real changes in policy—including making sure workers have the power to have an impact on their own wages, benefits and working conditions through the bargaining process. As Wicks-Lim notes:
Unions represent one important structural change that would improve the ability of the U.S. economy to create decent jobs. Labor unions equip workers with the bargaining power they need to negotiate significant improvements to their working conditions. At the same time, no strong evidence exists that the better pay that unions can achieve for workers will raise business costs excessively and thereby reduce the availability of jobs.
A significant rise in the proportion of workers who bargain collectively over their working conditions could meaningfully raise the number of decent jobs offered in the U.S.
Wicks-Lim looks at the striking disparity between productivity growth and wages in America over the past three decades and says that when more workers collectively bargain, they’re more likely to get a fair share of the value their work creates. She also demolishes the all-too-common claim that unions hurt employment.
The Employee Free Choice Act, Wicks-Lim says, is the kind of positive policy change we need to make sure workers have the power to improve their jobs. These effects will lift up the whole economy, she concludes.
You can read the full report here.
Saying the best is yet to come for working people, three affiliated unions called for teamwork and urged their members to take advantage of the new political landscape in Washington to help working families.
Painters and Allied Trades (IUPAT) President James Williams, AFGE President John Gage and Sheet Metal Workers (SMWIA) President Michael Sullivan, who all were re-elected at their unions’ conventions, echoed AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Richard Trumka’s call for union members to work together to take back the country. Trumka spoke at all three conventions.
Williams said the challenges facing working families will require unity and teamwork.
It’s all about team…we can’t overcome the challenges ahead of us all alone, we need each and every one of you to help us.
Gage told delegates to AFGE’s convention that with new leadership in Congress and the White House, the focus for public workers is now on the midterm congressional elections and making sure the American people have the public services they deserve.
We plan to help elect a Congress with men and women who are actually responsive to the needs of the American people, particularly the nation’s working families.
Sullivan attacked those in Washington who are resisting changes that would benefit workers.
There are still people in Washington who like the way things used to be. I call them the do-nothing, right-wing hate mongers who never did a real day’s work in their lives.
Speaking last month at the IUPAT convention in Las Vegas, Trumka called for a union movement that “believes change makes us stronger.”
We should not become complacent about our recent political victories, especially those in the White House, Trumka said, but instead we should be further spurred into action.
We can’t let it be a record we stand on; we need to make it an achievement we build on. We don’t have a minute to spare. Working people today are being crushed out there.
He stressed that the job of rescuing the nation’s middle class rests squarely on the shoulders of union members.
Even though we weren’t the people who got us into this mess, we are the people who are going to lead America out of this mess.
Along with Williams, IUPAT Executive Vice President Kenneth Rigmaiden and IUPAT Secretary-Treasurer George Galis also were re-elected.
AFGE Secretary-Treasurer J. David Cox also was re-elected. Augusta Thomas was elected as the new vice president for women’s and fair practices. She succeeds the late Andrea Brooks, who died in April. Thomas previously served as fair practices coordinator for AFGE’s District 6, which represents federal employees in Indiana, Kentucky and Ohio. The three officers will serve three-year terms.
In addition to Sullivan, SMWIA Secretary-Treasurer Joseph Nigro was re-elected.
It’s no secret now. The Bush administration’s clandestine move to loosen the rules on how much toxin or dangerous chemicals to which workers can be exposed—and to make it more difficult to issue new worker protection rules—is now officially dead.
The U.S. Department of Labor announced this week that the proposed rule was unnecessary and withdrew it. The rule came to be known as the secret rule because of the Bush administration’s attempt to keep it off the public’s and media’s radar screen last year.
In January, as one of its first official acts, the Obama administration ordered work halted on the chemical exposure rule and other last-minute regulatory changes the Bush administration tried to ram through before leaving office.
The secret rule could have led to increased exposure of workers to dangerous chemicals and toxins by changing the way worker exposure is measured. The rule was pushed by Bush political appointees over the objections of career health and safety professionals and kept secret until media reports in July 2008 revealed the plan.
When the rule became public knowledge, it unleashed a firestorm of criticism from workplace safety advocates who pointed out that for the eight years the Bush administration had been in office, it had not developed any significant new worker safety rule—but with the clock running out, the administration was rushing to weaken protections.
Last September, Dr. Celeste Monforton, from the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health at George Washington University, told the House Workforce Protections Subcommittee it already takes far too long to implement new safety standards, and the Bush secret rule would only add further delays.
Our nation’s system for protecting workers from harmful substances that cause injuries, illnesses and deaths is paralyzed. Thousands of workers are exposed every day to chemical compounds and physical hazards that are known to be harmful, yet these exposures are permitted by outdated or non-existent OSHA [Occupational Safety and Health Administration] and MSHA [Mine Safety and Health Administration] standards. This is a sloppy piece of work that will impede, not improve, protection for workers.
As AFL-CIO Health and Safety Director Peg Seminario testified:
It is shameful that after refusing to take action to protect workers from serious well-recognized health hazards for seven-and-a-half years, that the Bush administration is spending its last months and taxpayer money to lock in place rules that would prevent the next administration from taking prompt action.