The National Employment Law Project says 315,000 New York City low-wage workers lost an average of $3,000 a year from the failure of employers to pay legal minimum wage and overtime. More than 20 percent of the city’s low-wage workers were paid less than the $7.15 per hour legal minimum.
By Doug Cunningham
Seventeen thousand Colorado United Food and Commercial Workers members reached a tentative agreement on a new Albertson’s grocery chain contract. Workers in Colorado, Grand Junction and Colorado Springs are voting on whether to approve the tentative deal. The UFCW has yet to agree on a new contract at Safeway. Workers at King Soopers stores approved their new contract in December.
AFL-CIO President Trumka: State Of The Union Shows President ready To Fight For Working Families – 01/29/10
By Doug Cunningham
AFL-CIO President Rich Trumka says he came away from President Obama’s State of The Union speech convinced that Obama is willing to fight this year for change that will improve the lives of workers.
[Rich Trumka]: “I came away sayin’ he finally gets it. He nderstands. He knows that we need jobs and he’s willing to fight for it. He knows that we need health care and he’s willing to fight for it.”
Following his State of the Union address on Wednesday night, President Barack Obama traveled to Florida Thursday to detail a plan to commit $8 billion to high speed rail projects throughout the country. He used the opportunity to expand upon the details of his jobs program. At the end of his speech he opened up the floor to questions. One of the questions addressed Obama’s commitment to extending equal benefits to same sex couples. The President said he is hopeful that a bill in Congress that will extend same-sex benefits to federal workers will pass this year.
In his State of the Union address last night, President Obama made jobs the top priority of his administration, and today you can act to let Congress know jobs are the top priority of working people, as well.
Obama praised the House for passing a jobs bill last month and urged the Senate to do the same. You can tell the Senate we need action on jobs NOW! The Campaign for America’s Future is urging everyone who needs a job or who has a friend or relative suffering in this Great Recession to send a message to their senators to follow the House’s lead and pass the jobs bill without cutting or weakening it. To send a message, click here.
The bill is just a first step toward putting America back to work. The AFL-CIO has proposed a five-point plan to create jobs immediately and ease the economic hardships on Main Street’s working families.
Last night in his State of the Union message, President Obama called on Congress to pass a jobs bill to help put millions of Americans back to work. But the U.S. Congress is not the only lawmaking body that can fuel job creation. State legislatures have important roles to play.
The AFL -CIO has developed a State Jobs Agenda that union and community allies and working family lawmakers can use as a guideline in developing legislation and policies to protect and create jobs, address budget issues and protect the safety net.
The agenda offers dozens of innovative and effective ways to develop job-centric laws and policy that put working families first.
Following are just a few examples.
Restoring Jobs and Holding Corporations Accountable
Some states continue to hand out taxpayer dollars to companies in economic development subsidies but don’t hold the companies accountable for creating the promised jobs or stronger tax bases. Some firms have even used state funds for investments in other states or countries.
Activists and lawmakers can hold corporations accountable in several legislative or regulatory ways such as:
- Attaching job quality standards to subsidies and contracts;
- Establishing clawbacks that allow states (and localities) to get their money back from subsidized corporations if they fail to create the number and quality of jobs promised; and
- Passing legislation to ensure that state tax dollars are used to create in-state jobs by prohibiting states from contracting with or providing economic development assistance to companies that ship the work offshore.
The State Jobs Agenda also examines methods to:
- Establish contracting-out standards to ensure that when states contract out services, the contracts go to high quality, law-abiding companies with good workplace practices;
- Create jobs by investing in infrastructure repair and green Jobs development;
- Monitor how investment/stimulus funds are spent; and
- Ensure that U.S. firms and workers have the opportunity to bid on work before a firm with a waiver to Buy American rules is awarded the contract.
Repairing the Safety Net
Unemployment insurance (UI) benefits are the first line of economic defense for jobless workers. But many states have yet to qualify for some $7 billion in federal funding to modernize their UI systems and provide the expanded and improved benefits required to receive the federal funds. Others are facing funding problems. To address these issues, state legislative activists can:
- Expand UI eligibility by actions such as covering part-time workers, including most recent earnings in determining eligibility, providing additional weeks of benefits to laid off workers pursuing job training or other improvements.
- Increase the taxable wage base on which employers must pay UI taxes from the federal minimum of the first $7,000 in income and index to inflation.
Shoring up State Budgets
States are facing a $350 billion budget gap now and in the next fiscal year, in addition to the massive shortfalls from FY 2009. Already, states have cut vital services—and the jobs lost because of the budget cuts are in both the public and private sectors. If states balance their budgets entirely with spending cuts, it could cost the economy 900,000 jobs. Instead, states can use a variety of measures, including use of reserve funds, revenue raisers and appropriate spending cuts.
For example, Oregon voters this week approved two measures to raise income taxes on the state’s wealthiest earners and increase the $10 minimum annual corporate tax—that hadn’t been changed since 1931—to $150 a year. That extra income will be used to pay for education, health care, public safety and other vital services.
Other solutions include strengthening tax enforcement programs, eliminating tax loopholes that let corporations take taxable profits out of state and tightening rules to prevent employers from avoiding payroll taxes by misclassifying workers as independent contractors instead of employees.
The 2010 AFL-CIO State Jobs Agenda also provides steps to ensure that green jobs created by state funding and grants are good jobs and the corporations who receive grants for green jobs and environmental services are held accountable.
In addition, the state jobs blueprint outlines several initiatives states can take to provide the type of education and training needed to prepare current and jobless workers, along with students, for the 21st century.
For more information or a complete copy of the AFL-CIO State Jobs Agenda contact:
Christine Silvia-DeGennaro, state legislative issues coordinator, AFL-CIO Government Affairs Department, at 202-637-5177 or email@example.com.
If the Federal Reserve had done its job, the worst economic downturn since the Depression of the 1930s would not have occurred. Rather than heeding warnings that the sharp upturn in the housing market was a bubble that inevitably would bust, economists at the Fed ignored all the warning signs, says Dean Baker in a Point of View (POV) guest column at the AFL-CIO website.
Baker is co-founder of the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) and author of several books and the popular blog Beat the Press. He will speak tonight about his new book, False Profits: Recovering from the Bubble Economy, at Busboys and Poets in Washington, D.C., at 6:30 p.m. For more information, call 202-387-7638.
Baker says there was more behind the near-collapse than greed and incredible economic mismanagement.
Wall Street greed has received considerable attention—but the failure of those in policy-making positions is still not fully appreciated.
Many economists pointed out as early as 2002 that the huge run-up in housing prices did not make sense given the low demand for new homes and an increase in supply. The only plausible explanation was a financing bubble, Baker said. But Fed officials and economists kept insisting everything was fine. We all know how wrong they were, but they are not being held accountable. Here’s Baker:
Remarkably, the economists at the Fed and the others responsible for this disastrous policy are suffering no consequences. Unlike the school bus driver who drunkenly crashes his bus or the restaurant worker who leaves the stove on and burns down the restaurant, the economists who burn down the economy get to keep their jobs. In fact, Ben Bernanke, the chairman of the Federal Reserve Board who was at the center of economic policymaking since 2002, seems likely to be approved for a second term.
This shows how badly the nation needs to change the course of politics in this country, Baker adds.
It was bad enough that the Wall Street banksters were allowed to run wild for a decade and bring the economy to the brink of a Great Depression. However, it is truly amazing that the people who failed to rein them in get to keep their jobs. We have some real work ahead of us.
You can read Baker’s POV column, “The Great Recession Didn’t Have to Happen,” here.
Today in Tampa, Fla., President Obama is announcing $8 billion in high-speed rail grants that will save or create tens of thousands of jobs in areas like track-laying, manufacturing, planning and engineering.
Edward Wytkind, president of the AFL-CIO Transportation Trades Department (TTD), says the commitment to develop high-speed rail “couldn’t come at a better time.”
Investing in America’s passenger transportation systems and infrastructure not only builds a lasting contribution to future generations of travelers, it puts people to work at a time when so many Americans are jobless.
In his State of the Union message last night, Obama pointed to rebuilding the nation’s transportation infrastructure as a vital component of a blueprint to create jobs and boost the overall economy.
We can put Americans to work today building the infrastructure of tomorrow. From the first railroads to the Interstate Highway System, our nation has always been built to compete. There’s no reason Europe or China should have the fastest trains or the new factories that manufacture clean-energy products….There are projects like that all across this country that will create jobs and help move our nation’s goods, services and information.
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act includes awards of $2.25 billion for California, $1.25 billion for Florida and $2.6 billion for 24 projects in the Midwest, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. A total of 31 states and the District of Columbia will receive high-speed rail grants, including money for planning and development for future rail lines. Those projects, says Wytkind,
will not only create transportation and construction jobs, but it will also boost American manufacturing jobs if our government vigorously enforces domestic content requirements. This new investment in passenger rail presents a historic opportunity for U.S. manufacturing to seize and flourish.
He also urged lawmakers on Capitol Hill to craft and pass a jobs bill that invests in aviation, mass transit, highway, and passenger and freight rail, maritime and port infrastructure.