Posts tagged "Workers' Rights"

Sign the petition to say NO to RTWFL in Missouri: http://petitions.moveon.org/sign/stop-the-out-of-state 

mediamattersforamerica
Far right anti-worker shill Eric Bolling DEFENDS China’s law labor laws. 

From the 04.15.2014 edition of FNC’s The Five:

Joan Banks wrote this excellent editorial about Missouri’s awful “right-to-work” for less bill in the Joplin Globe:

Right-to-work legislation is up in the air right now in the Missouri Legislature.  Last week, the bill failed to get enough votes to advance to the Senate, but supporters are working to get those votes and move it forward.

It sounds so good. Who doesn’t want the “right to work”? In fact, who doesn’t have the “right to work” now? What does the slogan mean?

“Right-to-work” is a deliberately misleading phrase intended to appeal to two basic American values: rights and work.

Here’s what it’s actually about: The law would make it optional for workers to pay dues to a union in a company in which the workers are protected by a union contract while allowing those who don’t belong to the union to reap the benefits of the contract.

A basic conservative value is that people shouldn’t get a free ride. But in a right-to-work environment, some workers, by not paying dues, would be getting benefits from union activities without paying their fair share. In other words, some workers would be getting a free ride to better working conditions and wages. So what would be the effect of making joining optional? Very simply, it would further erode and ultimately destroy unions.

Unions have given us some of the best working conditions in the world. Do you get paid vacation days, sick leave and holidays? Two breaks a day? Do you have a 40-hour work week? Are there workplace safety requirements? Wrongful termination protections? The list goes on. All of these important benefits were brought about by unions.

Missouri Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder’s op-ed column in the Globe (April 6) cited statistics supporting right-to-work. I don’t believe his staff did enough homework.

When researchers rigorously separated the impact on states with right-to-work laws from other variables like tax incentives, the general business climate in a state and other factors, the evidence shows that right-to-work was associated with a decrease in per-capita personal income and wages and had no effect on economic growth.

These were the findings reported in an Economic Policy Institute briefing paper. A search on the Web can uncover many such supporting studies.

Workers who think they can depend upon the goodwill of corporations for good working conditions and good wages are deluded. (There are some socially conscious corporations.) CEOs may talk about “being part of the team” with their rank-and-file employees, but first and foremost, their goal is about maximizing stock performance and profits. Their “team” is made up of them and their stockholders, not the declining middle class.

Unions, pushing for living wages and better conditions for workers, fostered the growth of the middle class. Looking at the history of union membership and the health of our economy suggests that the current decline in union membership correlates with our soaring income inequality.

Our economy has the highest corporate profit margins in history, the lowest wages as a percent of the economy and one of the highest unemployment rates. This has contributed to the huge gap between the wealthiest 1 percent and the very large group of low-income people.

The main backers of right-to-work policies are big business and Republican lawmakers, who get generous donations from corporations. They have joined together with a group called the American Legislative Exchange Council, which has drafted “model” right-to-work legislation that Missouri’s proposed law mimics very closely.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is also a supporter and has long lobbied for right-to-work and against the increase of the minimum wage and fair labor practices. These people do not have the backs of workers or the middle class. They are the one percent.

Stand up for the middle class. Urge your legislator to vote no on right-to-work.

Joan Banks lives in Joplin.

Hopefully Missourians reject the anti-worker scam known as “right to work for less” (RTWFL) when it likely gets put on the ballot in August. 
ANY Missouri politician who votes for RTWFL should be denied communion. 

h/t: Marie French at STLToday.com

h/t: Joan Walsh at AlterNet, via Salon

I want to see VW Chattanooga unionized. 

h/t: Bryce Cover at Think Progress Economy

Today in Dana Loesch stupidity: she callously mocks fast food protesters who are fighting for a fairer minimum wage and the right to unionize without intimidation from overzealous bosses. This isn’t surprising, given her long history of attacks on workers’ rights and unions.


Joe.My.God:

Some restaurant workers are striking today for a liveable wage and teabaggers are responding at the Twitter hashtag #EatFast where they are posting mocking photos of themselves gorging on fast food.

Catherine Ruetschlin and Amy Traub from Demos.org have the facts about why minimum wage increases will HELP fast food workers:

1. IT WOULD CREATE JOBS.Low wages are holding back economic growth, but a raise for our country’s lowest paid workers would put money in the pockets of those most likely to spend it, generating much-needed consumer demand and contributing to economic growth across industries. That translates to higher GDP and new hiring in the labor market.
2. IT WOULD REDUCE POVERTY.
More than ten million Americans—and the family members they support—live beneath the poverty line even though they have jobs. With a median wage of $8.85, a fast food cook in a family of three lives in poverty even if she never takes a day off. Raising wages in the fast food industry could improve living standards for millions of hard working people.
3. COMPANIES CAN AFFORD IT.
With annual profits in the billions, the largest fast food companies could raise wages for their entire workforce and shareholders would still see a return. In fact, many of these employers already do pay higher wages to workers in other countries without wrecking their bottom lines.
5. COMPANIES THAT INVEST IN THEIR WORKERS THRIVE.
Low-wage jobs are a business choice, but some employers take the high road offering fair wages, hours, and benefits. This investment in the workforce pays off in lower turnover and higher worker productivity, generating good service to customers and a solid bottom line.
8. IT WOULD PUSH UP WAGES FOR OTHER UNDERPAID WORKERS.
Increasing the standard for decent pay in fast food could be a boon to low-wage workers across industries. The ripple effects start with increased consumer demand and economic growth, and create pressure in the labor market to raise wages in other low-pay positions. Contrary to popular myth, the vast majority of those affected by a raise at the bottom are working adults, struggling to make ends meet for themselves and their families. Even in fast food, most workers are 21 or older and have at least a high school degree. Raising wages in fast food could impact living standards for millions of American workers and the families that depend on them.



Dana’s baseless smears of fast-food workers who are striking:




This biased article from the New York Post's Twitter account was retweeted by Loesch.












Her regular fill-in host for The Dana Show and guest Tony Katz falsely accuses unions of “bullying fast food workers.”

Fast food workers are planning a strike to force employers to pay them $15 per hour. This Thursday, in over 100 cities across the nation, Big Labor is coordinating with “grassroots” activists to pressure these employers to pay a “living wage.” From all the press, you’d think the push toward higher wages was something noble. But, this is Big Labor. And no one will bully, threaten or intimidate to steal your hard earned money more than Big Labor. The group Fast Food Forward, one of the organizations in sync with Big Labor to shame fast food restaurants into extinction, states their purpose:
In America, people who work hard should be able to afford basic necessities like groceries, rent, childcare and transportation.
While fast food corporations reap the benefits of record profits, workers are barely getting by — many are forced to be on public assistance despite having a job.
Raising pay for fast food workers will benefit workers and strengthen the overall economy.
It’s not the workers that Big Labor wants to benefit. It’s Big Labor that Big Labor wants to benefit.
[…] 
There is no way to determine a living wage anywhere in America. It’s a lie, and so is the idea that groups like Fast Food Forward and Big Labor care about fast food employees. Listen up, fast food workers, because you’re being used! Not by McDonald’s or Wendy’s or Chick-Fil-A, but by Big Labor and the political candidates (ideology) they support. BIg Labor wants you to unionize because Big Labor wants you to pay union dues.
They want your money, and they don’t give a good holy damn about you!


More lies from Loesch acolyte Katz.

(cross-posted from DanaBusted.blogspot.com)

aflcio:

Today furloughed federal workers from American Federation of Government Employees (AGFE), American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees (afscme), National Tax Employees Union (NTEU), along with the Congressional Progressive Caucus rallied on Capitol Hill calling for the end of the government shutdown.

Fox News continued its assault on the labor movement during a Cashin In panel discussion that characterized unions as parasitic “vestigial” lobbying organizations that do nothing for their members and harm the economy. As evidence of their claims, the panel referenced a decades-long decline in union membership, but ignored the sustained political assault behind the drop as well as the empirically established economic benefits of a robust labor movement.

On the September 14 edition of Fox News’ Cashin In, host Eric Bolling introduced a segment about union membership drives and protests taking place this month, asking whether the effort was “bad for workers.”

Fox regular Jonathan Hoenig explained that the membership drive was necessary, because unions are “parasites” that “need new blood.”

Guest Sabrina Schaeffer complained that unions are “no longer representing workers. They’re representing political views.” She added that labor unions provide “very, very little” to their members.

Fox guest Wayne Rogers argued that unions are “vestigial,” saying, “They’re not doing anything for the worker.”

The panel blamed unionized workers for the demise of Hostess, the textile industry, and the health of the overall economy while gloating that union membership has reached a 40 year low.

Bolling’s panel was content to dedicate their airtime to glib metaphors and baseless attacks, ignoring a more substantive discussion on the reasons for declining union membership and the benefits that organized labor provide to union worker, non-union workers, and the economy as a whole.

A decline in union membership cannot be attributed to unions’ failure to provide their members with benefits. In fact, surveys indicate the desire to join a union has been growing since the 1980s. Unions are in decline in part because of an ongoing campaign from the political right that has resulted in legislation at state and federal levels making it more and more difficult to engage in the unionization process. So-called “right-to-work” laws pushed in several states by the likes of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and conservative billionaire Charles Koch have “blindsided” the labor movement and resulted in precipitous declines in those states. And U.S. law places significant obstacles in the way of workers attempting to unionize.

Unions provide significant benefits to workers, and a strong union base is also healthy for the American economy overall.  According to the Economic Policy Institute, unionized workers make 13.6 percent more in wages than non-union counterparts and are 53.9 percent more likely to have employer-provided premiums. Others have pointed out that “unions restore demand” to the economy by raising wages and “putting more purchasing power to work.”

h/t: MMFA

The “blame Unions” syndrome visits Fixed Noise yet again. And to make this point seem even sillier for the union-busters at RNCTV, aren’t all the hosts who bash them, the producers, and directors making the shows on the network involved in unions in some fashion?

Nine months after fast food workers in New York City walked off the job on “Black Friday,” their efforts to change the industry’s pay standards have gone national. Workers are striking in roughly 50 cities on Thursday in hopes of converting the trickle of strikes throughout the summer in cities like Seattle, St. Louis, and Milwaukee into a flood.

In addition to the nine cities that have already seen strikes this summer, places like Boston, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, and Hartford are joining the fight on Thursday. Organizers welcomed reports that one restaurant manager in Hartford plans to fire anyone who participates in the strike, saying that such illegal retaliation will only bring immediate high-profile pressure from workers and their supporters, further raising the profile of the effort to end poverty wages in food service.

Kyle King, a Burger King cashier in Boston, told the Boston Globe that he and the thousands of other workers expected to strike Thursday have to risk being fired if they want to change anything. “I don’t know what I’ll lose first,” King said, “lose my job or lose my sanity.” Thursday also brings the fast food strikes to major cities in the south for the first time. Unions are less powerful in the south, and legal protections for workers tend to be weaker in southern states.

Low-wage workers in the retail and fast food industries have been walking off the job since last year to demand a minimum wage of $15 and the right to organize into unions. The fast food industry’s profits have soared, but those gains haven’t trickled down to workers. Fast food jobs, like the other low-wage service sector jobs that have been the primary source of post-recession job growth, do not currently allow workers to support themselves financially. McDonald’s recommends that its employees find a second job and go without heat or air conditioning in order to survive on the chain’s typical wages.

As the strikes have spread, the drumbeat to raise the minimum wage has grown louder. One congressional proposal would raise the federal minimum wage to $10 an hour, which would barely catch up to the buying power the minimum wage had in 1968.

Fast food operations in other countries and a handful of chains in the U.S. that are committed to paying livable wages have shown that companies can still make healthy profits while paying substantially higher wages.

h/t: Alan Pyke at Think Progress Economy

Editors note: This is the first in a series of reader-supported—i.e. crowdfunded —articles about the powerful National Restaurant Association and the plight of low-wage workers who are being screwed at every turn by industry lobbying tactics and misleading propaganda. An amazing 387 AlterNet readers contributed more than $5,500 to support this ongoing investigative project. Many of the donors are listed at the end of the article.
While thousands of fast-food workers were preparing to walk off their jobs earlier this summer to seek raises to $15 an hour, the industry’s corporate lobbyist, the National Restaurant Association, was celebrating a string of political victories blocking state minimum wage increases and preempting local sick day laws.

In June, the NRA boasted that its lobbyists had stopped minimum wage increases in 27 out of 29 states in 2013. In Connecticut, which increased its state minimum wage, a raise in the base pay for tipped workers such as waitresses and bartenders vanished in the final bill. A similar scenario unfolded in New York State: It increased its minimum wage, but the NRA’s last-minute lobbying derailed raising the pre-tip wage at restaurants and bars. The deals came despite polls showing 80 percent support for raising the minimum wage.   

The NRA’s lobbying didn’t stop there. It also told members that it blocked a dozen states this year from passing laws that would require earned paid sick leave, which is what New York City and Portland, Oregon adopted. Meanwhile, it boasted that six states, including Florida, passed NRA-backed laws that preemptively ban localities from granting earned and paid employee sick time.

“These are horrible things, but there are amazing things that are happening to change it,” said Saru Jayaraman, co-director and co-founder of the Restaurant Opportunities Centers United (ROC), which has been working a dozen years to slowly change the industry’s exploitive business model and labor practices. “And there will be increasingly important stuff coming up.”    

As fast-food workers across the country prepare for a second nationwide walkout over wages on Thursday, most Americans have little idea how profitable and politically aggressive the corporate mainstays of America’s second biggest employer have become. While labor activists have had victories in 2013, such as New York and Portland passing sick leave laws, and New Jersey poised to raise its minimum wage via a ballot measure this fall, the restaurant industry’s lobbying powerhouse is at war with the industry’s workers.

“It’s an old-boy network. It’s very old-school thinking. It’s very, very conservative,” said Paul Saginaw, founder of Zingerman’s food companies in Michigan, which employes 600 people and unlike the NRA, supports better benefits for employees like healthcare. “There has to be some pressure put out to provide better lives for people.”

Most Americans are unaware that millions of people who work in the industry—especially the 2.5 million fast-food preparers and servers who earn an average of $8.74 an hour, according to federal labor statistics—are not just teens in their first job, but adults with families to support. They may not know there’s a separate minimum wage for tipped workers, $2.13 an hour, that hasn’t changed in 22 years—although 32 states have raised it slightly. They may not realize that they, as the restaurant-going public, subsidize owners via cash tips, even as the NRA routinely tells legislators its industry cannot afford to pay better wages or basic benefits.

Most Americans don’t know that restaurant salaries are so low that the industry’s 12.2 million workers use food stamps at twice the rate of the U.S. workforce, and are three times as likely to be below the poverty line. Or that women earn less than men in similar jobs. Or that restaurants are among the biggest low-wage employers of people of color. Or that virtually every chain—except for In and Out, according to ROC—don’t want to pay living wages and benefits or offer real opportunities for advancement.

Most tellingly, almost every national chain—from fast-food outfits such as Yum! Brands Inc. (Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, KFC) and McDonald’s to full-service dining such as Darden Restaurants Inc. (Olive Garden, Red Lobster, Capital Grille)—have reported higher revenues, profits, margins and cash holdings to Wall Street analysts despite the recession, according to the National Employment Law Project. Giants like McDonalds had 7.8 percent revenue growth over the past decade, according to Gurufocus.com, a financial reporting site. Yum had 10-year revenues of 8.7 percent, and Darden’s 10-year revenues grew 9.1 percent. 

But last winter, as the NRA was fighting minimum wage increases and paid sick leave, it was telling lawmakers that the industry could not afford to pay employees more. Yet this August, the NRA’s newsletter was predicting another profitable year, where revenues would be up 4 percent compared to 2012. “Restaurant and foodservice sales are expected to reach a record high of $660.5 billion this year,” another 2013 revenue forecast on its website said.

“The NRA is the worst employer lobby in the U.S.,” Jayaraman said, speaking about its lobbying and PR operation that pretends it is not an industry dominated by Fortune 500 companies, but instead a rickety mom-and-pop operation teetering on the brink of ruin. “The [earnings] data does not bear any resemblance to what they say is true.” 

There are many reasons why America’s restaurant industry, which employs nearly one in 10 Americans, gets away with underpaying its workers and blocking laws that would benefit employees. These reasons include the industry’s longtime low-wage business mode; its longstanding fear-based lobbying that any wage or benefit increase would kill jobs; and a sophisticated political operation that nurtures ties to both parties, encouraging lawmakers to adopt anti-worker laws. 

“The question is where is it coming from and who benefits,” said Ben Goldfarb, executive director of Wellstone Action, a group that trains progressive activists. “We know who benefits. It’s the Restaurant Association members and the electeds [legislators] who do their bidding… It’s not about what’s good or bad for the economy.”   

Exploitive Roots, Exploitive Lobbying

The business model—where almost everyone except for top management earns an average of slightly more than $11 per hour—is premised on paying workers the lowest legal salary and has not changed in decades. As theNew Yorker’s James Surowiecki recently explained, many of today’s largest service-sector companies, particularly restaurants and big-box retailers, were founded decades ago and sought to hire young people and housewives as low-wage, part-time employees, to give them work experience and spending money. “The reason this has become a big political issue is not that the jobs have changed; it’s that the people doing the jobs have.”

This summer’s fast food walk-outs—which will continue this fall—are part of a campaign to challenge and change that status quo, particularly as the media is discovering that the largely non-unionized restaurant workforce is filled with people with families. One consequence of the Great Recession is that millions of middle-class jobs have been replaced by lower-paying service jobs—food sector jobs that are now filled by adults with children, and jobs that offer little opportunity for advancemment.

“On what I’m earning right now you have to choose between paying your rent and eating the next day,” Christopher Drumgold, a 32-year-old father of two from Detroit who earns $7.40 an hour after a year at McDonald’s, told reporters during July’s fast-food worker walk-out. “Fifteen dollars an hour would be great. We’d be able to pay our living costs.”

This kind of working-class struggle prompted President Obama to call for raising the federal minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $9 in his 2013 State of the Union speech. Some Democrats in Congress quickly responded by going higher, proposing it be raised to $10.10, and that the minimum cash wage for tipped workers be 70 percent of the federal (or higher state) minimum wage.

While polls consistently find that 80 percent of Americans, including majorities of Republicans and people earrning more than $100,000 a year, support a $10.10 wage, the industry’s national and state-level lobbyists went to work to kill any increase at the state or federal levels. And if that didn’t work, they sought exemptions for tipped workers in states where the increase was seen as passing.

What unfolded in New York, which raised its minimum wage but not for tipped restaurant workers, and in Maryland, where the NRA stopped a minimum wage increase in a legislative committee, shows just how the NRA wields its power and influence.

“The NRA is a very conservative organization… my values are so different,” said Saginaw, who has been in the restaurant business for 31 years and was a former member. “They certainly weren’t representing my interests. They talk the small business owner game a lot but their lobbying efforts are dictated by the large corporate chains. I’m a small businessman.”

New York State: A Cautionary Tale

Many Americans are not aware that there is more than one minimum wage. There’s the federal wage for non-tipped workers, which is $7.25 an hour or $15,080 a year and took effect in July 2009. Nineteen states and the District of Columbia have raised that rate. A few states, such as New Mexico and California, allow jurisdictions to set locally higher minimums.

Then there’s the tipped wage, for jobs where the public tips workers. The federal tip wage, which is $2.13 an hour, was last raised in 1991. Thirty-two states have raised it slightly. Employers are supposed to pay the difference between that base and other state or federal minimum. But, as ROC United said, that doesn’t always happen. And then there are other minimum wages for immigrants, minors and people with disablities.

In New York, the minimum wage increase in 2013 fell prey to partisan games. “It could be seen as good intentions gone awry,” said Frank Sobrino, press secretary for New York State Democratic Sen. Jose Peralta, explaining what happened as his state legislature raised the state’s minimum wage this year from $7.25 an hour to $9 an hour by 2016.

New York’s Senate is controlled by an odd majority of Republicans and so-called independent Democrats—not his boss, Sobrino said. When the GOP agreed to raise the wage in secret last-minute negotiations—after blocking it for years—the final bill did not include a tip wage increase for waiters and bartenders, which is what the industry wanted. Tipped workers at car washes and airports will get a raise, said Working Families spokesman Joe Dinkin. “But hotel and restaurant waiters and bartenders, which are the largest group of tipped workers, do not get an automatic increase. Rather, the tipped minimum wage will go to the Wage Board, which is controlled by Gov. [Andrew] Cuomo, to do what he wants with it. And yes, this is because of the National Restaurant Association.”

The bill also contained an unprecedented and alarming payoff to fast-food chains and big retailers: a tax credit offsetting the cost of hiring teenagers, but only for minimum wage. That subsidy drew the media’s attention. A Wall Street Journal editorial, “Minimum Intelligence,” said it provided an incentive to fire workers 20 years and older and replace them with teens. “For a teen working full time, the annual subsidy could be worth as much as $2,800 per worker by 2016,” the Buffalo News editorial said.

Sen. Peralta, the Queens Democrat, has since proposed a bill to nullify the tax break that analysts say will be worth millions to big employers.

There were two features of this deal that exempifly how the NRA operates, ROC’s Jayaraman said. First, NRA lobbyists keep telling lawmakers that their industry primarily employees teenagers and young people who don’t need higher wages and benefits. Their PR shop has even absurdly claimed that raising minimum wages would kill entry-level jobs. That line apparently was bought by New York State’s Republican senator who inserted the tax subsidy at the last minute.

But the brouhaha over the tax subsidy also helped the NRA keep its last-minute deal on excluding the minimum wage for food servers somewhat hidden. “They are worried about public outrage,” Jayaraman said, noting that the same kind of secret last-minute deal excluding tip wages emerged in Connecticut when it raised its minimum wage. “That happened at the last minute with legislators and lobbyists for the NRA,” she said. “Everyone who had been working on this was blindsided. Typically, they don’t bring it [excluding tip wages] up at hearings.”

Maryland: Sowing Fear Not Hope

But in Maryland, the NRA’s lobbyists were more brazen. They did bring it up excluding tipped workers and they trashed them—but only after waiting six hours to testify, long after most labor activists had testified and the hearing room was almost empty.  

First came Carville Collins, representing a regional Wendy’s chain with 108 stores and 3,100 employees. He rolled out the NRA’s standard “job killer” speech, which was also presented by NRA lobbyists in Congress this spring. Carville said that raising wages “imposes costs we cannot pass onto consumers.” He said a proposed three-step increase to $10 an hour would cause “five to eight” stores to close, putting as many as 300 people out of work. Moreover, if Maryland’s minimum wage was higher than nearby states, it would attract out-of-staters who would “come and displace Maryland workers.” Carville then cited research from the NRA-funded Employment Policy Institute, projecting that a national $9.80 minimum wage would kill “256,000 to 768,000 jobs,” including thousands of jobs in Maryland.

Melvin Thompson, senior vice president of the NRA’s state affiliate, the Restaurant Association of Maryland, immediately followed, and opposed raising minimum wages “for all the reasons you have heard already.” But then he attacked, claiming that servers often stole tips—saying they didn’t need an increase. He said restaurant workers made two to three times the minimum wage and some waiters earned more money than owners. He concluded, “the tip portion doesn’t need to be included in this bill.”   

Needless to say, progressive restaurant owners, activists and economists have thoroughly debunked each of these claims. As Zingerman’s Saginaw said, “The workforce has changed. It’s not just students and people out of college. It’s much more diverse than that.” Economists have pointed out that at McDonald’s, for example, half of the cost of raising its minimum hourly pay to $10.50 could come by adding a nickel to the price of a $4 Big Mac. Other studies by ROC have found that a dime increase in daily food prices could support a 33 percent raise for minimum wage workers and a doubling of the base tip wage.

But, as the Wellstone Institute’s Ben Goldfarb explained, NRA lobbyists seek to sow just enough doubt and gray areas that it becomes easy for legislators to vote against proposed wage-increase bills, or just exempt their industry entirely.  

These fear-based scripts—which have been studied and rebutted by the National Employment Law Project (NELP)—prompted legislators, including a handful of Democrats, to vote against the Maryland bill in committee. The local advocates,Raise Maryland, are not giving up. They have analyzed how much Maryland gave away in business subsidies this year and written memos rebutting the NRA’s testimony. Raise Maryland volunteers have been knocking on thousands of doors this summer to generate support and get people to write to lawmakers to change their minds and reconsider the issue, campaign coordinator Matt Hanson said.

Suppressing Wages Isn’t Enough

The NRA did not respond to a list of questions from AlterNet beyond an initial phone call where a spokeswoman emphasized that the industry’s profit margins are so slim—3 or 4 percent—it can’t afford to do more. Yet the industry is America’s largest low-wage sector and is filled with corporations that have been consistently profitable despite the sluggish economy, according to NELP’s analyses of Wall Street earnings reports. Yet the NRA not only opposes raising wages and linking wages to inflation, it has another draconian priority: opposing local laws granting earned sick leave.

Despite protests by workers who have publically explained what it’s like to have to go to work sick, the NRA has been lobbying in statehouses to preempt cities and counties from passing local laws that would require employers to grant earned paid sick leave. ROC notes that 90 percent of restaurant workers don’t have paid sick days, and “two-thirds report cooking, preparing and serving food while sick.” That reality, captured in videos by sick workers, helped a coalition led by Working Families in New York City and Connecticut to adopt local sick leave laws. These were significant victories. The New York City law will affect a million workers. (San Francisco, Seattle, Portland, Oregon, and the District of Columbia also require earned sick time.)

New York’s passage of sick leave legislation grabbed headlines, especially as it became law when the city council overrode Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s veto. But in the past two years, NRA lobbyists have pushed eight states to preempt or repeal local labor laws that include requiring paid sick leave. The industry—helped by prominent Democrats such as Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper and Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter—also beat proposed sick leave laws in Denver and Philadelphia.

This trend started in Wisconsin and shows how right-wing alliances spread anti-labor legislation. In 2011, Wisconsin’s Republican Gov. Scott Walker backed an industry-led effort to ban paid sick leave laws, like the one Milwaukee’s votersadopted as a ballot measure in 2008 while Walker was county executive—its top elected official. Seventy percent of voters had backed paid sick leave. That spring, the passage of Wisconsin’s bill preempting local laws was touted as a model by the NRA at meetings of the American Legislative Exchange Council, the pro-corporate lobbying mill. ALEC members, almost all Republicans, introduced copycat bills in their states, Wellstone Action’s Goldfarb said, saying this was how the NRA’s priority spread and “scaled.” These were passed by GOP-majority statehouses, sometimes using strongarm tactics that dismayed labor organizers.

This summer, for example, Republicans in Florida’s Orange County—near Walt Disney World—were lobbied by fast-food giants, including Darden, which owns Red Lobster, Olive Garden and Capital Grille, and Disney, and intentionallydelayed acting on another sick leave ballot measure that had 80 percent support in polls. That tactic gave the restaurant lobby time to push its preemption bill through its legislature, which GOP Gov. Rick Scott signed into law in July. Arizona, Mississippi, Louisiana, Kansas, Indiana and Tennessee have all passed bans on local sick leave laws. Michigan, Alabama, Oklahoma and South Carolina are considering it.

The Arizona Restaurant Association lobbyist said last March that no one was proposing a sick leave law in her state, but “we’re fortunate to get out in front if it.” In Memphis, Tennessee, the prospect that Shelby County was considering a wage theft ordinance—because restaurants there hadn’t paid $270,000 in back wages to workers that a coalition of lawyers and churches recovered in court—prompted its GOP-majority state legislature to act and preempt local labor laws. “That [wage-theft law]… would have been very harmful to local businesses,” the Tennessee Hospitality Association told its members. 

Public Health vs. Private Profits

In all these political fights, the question of who is being harmed is the critical question. The NRA is touting an old anti-regulatory script—trotted out by state chambers of commerce for years—that any cost that cuts into profits is a job killer and must be stopped. But advocates like ROC and Working Families say that argument is upside down. Low pay and no benefits not only hurts worker productivity, it also hurts families and undercuts local consumer spending.

“It’s an old-school chamber of commerce attitude—it’s anti regulation,” Zingerman’s Saginaw said. “We believe that by paying higher wages and benefits we will get better productivity from our staff and have more satisfied customers.”   

And when it comes to sick leave, there is another dimension: the public is at risk when food is prepared by workers who can’t afford to take a day or few hours off to visit a doctor. ROC’s 2012 report on Darden described a North Carolina Olive Garden worker who came to work in 2011 with Hepatitis A, prompting the county to vaccinate thousands of people and a class-action lawsuit.  

“Almost no laws anywhere in the country require restaurants to provide paid sick leave for employees who come down with anything from the sniffles to a norovirus,” noted Grubstreet.com. “On the other hand, pretty much every single municipal health department in the country has a rule or law requiring employers to keep sick employees away from food and out of the restaurants, and that’s where things get problematic.”

Problematic is not exactly the correct word. When it comes to the NRA and its state affiliates, greedy and shamelessly political are more accurate. And that is why thousands of fast-food workers across the country plan to walk out of their jobs on Thursday, in what organizers says will be months of continuing labor actions—including a focus in September on raising tip wages.

“The NRA is a lobbying machine—it is for the owners of restaurants and restaurant chains that are turning a profit off the backs of workers,” said Shannon Liss-Riordan, a labor lawyer and owner of the Just Crust, a pizza restaurant in Harvard Square in Cambridge, Massachusetts. “It doesn’t have to be that way.”

High Road Employers

Meanwhile, advocates like ROC have formed a progressive restaurant trade association, RAISE, and are encouraging people to sign petitions to raise minimum wages and benefits, as well as use its new National Diners’ Guideidentifying which restaurants treat employees fairly. They’re also encouraging people dining out to ask owners about paying fair wages, just as the public asked about organic and local foodstuffs and gradually changed menu offerings.

“We try to encourage that kind of economic inquiry,” said Liss-Riordan, a RAISE member. “A few years ago, it was pretty revolutionary to ask, ‘How fresh is your arugula?’ Now we want people to ask, ‘Are you paying fair wages?’ It’s just getting started. We are hoping that it’s a powerful idea that will take off.”

h/t: AlterNet

aflcio:

Our thoughts and prayers are with Boston. We salute all of the EMS workers who rush in when others are rushing away.

aflcio:

Our thoughts and prayers are with Boston. We salute all of the EMS workers who rush in when others are rushing away.

WASHINGTON (AP) — It seems like a simple proposition: give employees who work more than 40 hours a week the option of taking paid time off instead of overtime pay.

The choice already exists in the public sector. Federal and state workers can save earned time off and use it weeks or even months later to attend a parent-teacher conference, care for an elderly parent or deal with home repairs.

Republicans in Congress are pushing legislation that would extend that option to the private sector. They say that would bring more flexibility to the workplace and help workers better balance family and career.

The push is part of a broader Republican agenda undertaken by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., to expand the party’s political appeal to working families. The House is expected to vote on the measure this week, but the Democratic-controlled Senate isn’t likely to take it up.

“For some people, time is more valuable than the cash that would be accrued in overtime,” said Rep. Martha Roby, R-Ala., the bill’s chief sponsor. “Why should public-sector employees be given a benefit and the private sector be left out?”

But the idea Republicans promote as “pro-worker” is vigorously opposed by worker advocacy groups, labor unions and most Democrats. These opponents claim it’s really a backdoor way for businesses to skimp on overtime pay.

Judith Lichtman, senior adviser to the National Partnership for Women and Families, contends the measure would open the door for employers to pressure workers into taking compensatory time off instead of overtime pay.

The program was created in the public sector in 1985 to save federal, state and local governments money, not to give workers greater flexibility, Lichtman said. Many workers in federal and state government are unionized or have civil service protections that give them more leverage in dealing with supervisors, she added. Those safeguards don’t always exist in the private sector, where only about 6.6 percent of employees are union members.

Republicans and business groups have tried to pass the plan in some form since the 1990s.

Democrats say the bill provides no guarantee that workers would be able to take the time off when they want. The bill gives employers discretion over whether to grant a specific request to use comp time. Opponents also complain that banking leave time essentially gives employers an interest-free loan from workers.

h/t: TPM

Lochner v. New York is widely viewed as one of the worst Supreme Court decisions in American history. It is taught in law schools, alongside decisions upholding segregation and permitting Japanese detention camps, in order to instruct budding lawyers on how judges should not behave. Even Robert Bork, the failed, right-wing Supreme Court nominee who claimed women “aren’t discriminated against anymore”, called Lochner an “abomination” that “lives in the law as the symbol, indeed the quintessence of judicial usurpation of power.”

Lochner fabricated a so-called right to contract in order to strike down a New York law preventing bakery owners from overworking bakers, but its rationale has implications for any law intended to shield workers from exploitation. In essence, Lochner established that any law that limits any contract between an employer and an employee is constitutionally suspect. If desperation forces someone to agree to work 18 hours a day, seven days a week, for a dollar a day in a factory filled with toxic air, then courts must treat that law with heavy skepticism. Not every workplace law was struck down during the so-called Lochner Era — the justices of that era sometimes valued sexism more than they valued exploiting workers, for example — but Lochner placed any law benefiting workers on constitutionally weak footing. Needless to say, the “right to contract” it invented appears nowhere in the Constitution.

Nevertheless, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) took several minutes out of his lengthy talking filibuster yesterday to praise this “abomination” of a decision on the Senate floor:

You get to the Lochner case. The Lochner case is in 1905. The majority rules 5-4 that the right to make a contract is part of your due process. Someone cannot deprive you of determining how long your working hours are without due process. So President Obama’s a big opponent to this, but I would ask him — among the other things I’m asking him today — to rethink the Lochner case… . I think it’s a wonderful decision.

Paul’s speech also includes a somewhat rambling attempt to claim that Lochner helped “end Jim Crow,” a claim that would cause anyone with even a rudimentary understanding of civil rights history to scratch their head. Lochner was decided in 1905, and, while Paul is correct that the Lochner Era justices very occasionally struck down discriminatory laws, Jim Crow was still very much alive when Lochner was overruled in the 1930s. The Supreme Court decision that did the most to eradicate Jim Crow — Brown v. Board of Education — rested on the Constitution’s guarantee that no person shall be denied the “the equal protection of the laws,” not on some fabricated right to contract. And Brown alone was insufficient to overcome the campaign of “massive resistance” segregationists mounted in defense of Jim Crow.

What finally killed American apartheid was big, centralized government of the kind Paul and his fellow tea partiers love to hate. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 required business owners to contract with minorities — something that would undoubtedly been unconstitutional under Lochner. And, of course, the same Voting Rights Act that is now endangered in the Supreme Court tore down Jim Crown voter exclusions. Sen. Paul, for his part, has incorrectly suggested that the Civil Rights Act violates the Constitution.

Paul’s endorsement of Lochner reflects a disturbing evolution in Tea Party thought. For much of Obama’s first term, Tea Party conservatives rallied behind “tentherism,” the false belief that most of what the federal government does is unconstitutional.  Unlike tentherism, which applies only to federal laws, Lochnerism prevents both the federal government and the states from enacting necessary legislation.

"Wonderful decision" my ass, Rand!

h/t: Ian Millhiser at Think Progress Justice