Published November 6, 2018 at NBC News
by Erik Sherman
The new wireless checkout that Walmart, Target, and other retailers are rolling out for the holiday season may lower stress for shoppers — but tension may be building among the roughly 3.6 million people nationwide who work as cashiers.
It's another nail in the occupational coffin. Amazon opened its first store with checkout-free shopping and automatic billing almost two years ago, and self-checkout at Walmart, Target, grocery stores, fast food restaurants, and some department stores is further reducing the need for people manning registers.
Technology continues to race ahead. The question is whether artificial intelligence, automation, robotics, and other developments will cut job opportunities for people who may have few alternatives.
Cashier jobs are hardly the only ones eyed for replacement. Short squat robots in Washington, D.C. roam the city, delivering take-out food to customers. Self-driving cars could eventually replace cab drivers and people moonlighting for Uber or Lyft.
"Walmart is embracing the technology of a company called Bossa Nova Robotics," said Howie Choset, a professor at The Robotics Institute of Carnegie Mellon University. The company, started by a former graduate student of Choset, makes inventory robots. "It's a tall, skinny robot with lots of cameras and bright lights," Choset said. The device roams up and down the aisles late at night, taking count of products on the shelves. Inventory counts at retail stores have long been a staple activity of regular employees or temp workers.
Those who support various forms of automation point to historical patterns back to the Industrial Revolution. "I do think there are going to be jobs that are going to be created that are net new," said Todd Lohr, a KPMG principal in the consulting firm's digital enablement practice. "I think there's opportunity for organization to do right by the workforce."
The theory is that people will shift into new types of work. Drones that make deliveries will need specialized maintenance personnel. Computerized manufacturing equipment requires people to run, program, and monitor it. Read entire article
Published November 1, 2108 at www.CNN.com
by Jill Filipovic
Amazon loves playing hard to get. First, they made cities across the country grovel -- and throw tax breaks and other benefits their way -- for the opportunity to be the company's second headquarters. Now, it seems HQ2 may instead be a pair of satellite offices in near-to-DC Virginia and New York City.
The prospect of this decision, first reported by The New York Times and Wall Street Journal, and the process they have taken to get there tell us two things: First, Republicans can no longer lay claim to being a pro-business party, successful as they've been at making the states they control increasingly undesirable to modern businesses and workers. And second, Amazon -- and any big company -- isn't going to save American workers. They're going take what they can, and many will exploit where they can. Which is exactly why we need robust protections in place now to make sure that formidable companies work for the American public as much as their employees work for them.
Amazon declined to comment to the Wall Street Journal report and didn't immediately respond to a request for comment on The New York Times report. The company has said it will complete its search for an HQ2 by the end of the year. And while a lot remains uncertain, and Amazon may yet come to a different decision, certain aspects of this still-TBD expansion are undeniable.
Amazon has spent all year milling about ostensibly searching for an HQ2, looking at cities including Dallas, Miami, Nashville, Boston, Atlanta and Raleigh. After the company's boom laid waste to affordable housing in my hometown of Seattle, the company is looking to expand beyond the Pacific Northwest.
Amazon has given generously to local Seattle homeless shelters. However, when the Seattle City Council initially passed a new tax to fund affordable housing and homelessness initiatives, Amazon and other Seattle-based corporations helped fund a campaign for a ballot measure to repeal it. Shortly thereafter, the council voted to reverse its vote on the new tax.
What's telling, though, is how quickly most of the potential locations in red states fell out of the running. On the one hand, there's a compelling social and political argument for bringing a young, technologically adept workforce to a red or purple state (or keeps them there), while also expanding opportunities for blue-collar warehouse jobs. Read entire article
Published October 22, 2108 at www.governing.com
by Mike Maciag
By many indicators, the U.S. economy is humming right along. Unemployment is at the lowest level in nearly two decades, and job growth hasn't slowed. But workers mostly haven't reaped the benefits of this growth in the form of higher paychecks. Following years of stagnant wages, real median earnings started climbing slowly in 2014. They peaked around mid-2017 and have since dipped slightly.
Some groups of workers over the past year have actually sustained notable wage declines when the numbers are adjusted for inflation. Governing identified several struggling demographic groups, using the latest quarterly median earnings estimates from the Labor Department's Current Population Survey. These groups include women with low educational attainment, older black women, black men and those with bachelor's degrees. But they also include the much broader category of employees in the prime of their working years.
Stagnant wages are partly due to inflation, which has ticked up in recent months. Inflation over the first half of the year was up 2.5 percent from 2017 and is now rising at the fastest rate since 2011-2012.
There are other plausible reasons for long-term wage stagnation. The higher wages that labor unions used to command are reaching far fewer private-sector workers than they once did. Nationally, workers are less likely to relocate for work, limiting job-movement pay raises. Some research further suggests that with big businesses employing a larger portion of the labor force, and with fewer startup companies coming on the scene, suppressed wages could be a result.
In particular, wages for many groups of women are failing to keep pace with inflation. Their real seasonally adjusted median earnings as a whole have declined or remained essentially unchanged for three consecutive quarters. Read entire article
Published October 15, 2108 at www.alternet.org
By Matthew Smith / Salon
Once considered a trifle (at best) or an escapist vice (at worst), video games are in fact big business. Huge, really: the video game industry was worth $108 billion in 2017, according to Superdata Research — around one-quarter of the value of the overall software industry. The creators of the video game hits today have little in common with their forebears: Myst, the best-selling video game of the 1990s, was created by the brothers Rand and Robyn Miller with help from five friends. Grand Theft Auto V, one of the most popular games of the 2010s, cost $265 million and took a team of over 1,000 workers to create it. Yet despite the vast armies of coders and designers involved in production of games, there is little to no labor organizing of the oft-exploited and overworked employees.
At least, there wasn’t until recently. The tech sector generally has a reputation for being fairly libertarian culturally — in other words, not particularly ripe for a labor movement. Yet the spectacular rise and crash of a once-renowned studio, Telltale Games, has shed a light on the plight of abused developers in a difficult industry. And the fate of Telltale and its workers has a shot at catalyzing unionization across the entire industry.
If you’ve never met someone who works in the game industry, their lifestyles are not glamorous. Well-being of employees is a huge issue: video game makers routinely suffer, terrible working conditions, long work-weeks, sudden layoffs with no severance. Mattias Lehman, a former developer, wrote an essay documenting the situation he witnessed in his four years in the industry: “If you work in the industry, I probably don’t need to explain how we workers are exploited by companies, only to turn around and be abused by the very communities we want to make games for,” he writes. Lehman describes witnessing rampant sexism, a horrible lack of diversity, constant overwork and “abuse of contractors” as norms in the industry.
The recent downfall of Telltale Games epitomizes Lehman’s observations. The once-great company was responsible for a rejuvenating the adventure game genre, including remaking the classic game “Escape to Monkey Island.” But it was its popular zombie franchise, 2012’s “The Walking Dead,” that launched the company into growth mode. The game tasked the player with building relationships and making tough choices in a zombie apocalypse, set in the world of the graphic novel series-turned-TV show. By releasing “The Walking Dead” in an episodic format, Telltale hoped to reap more in sales than it would have had it sold it as a one-off. That plan worked: the game was a huge financial success, and after only eight months, sold over 8 million copies of multiple episodes with $40 million in sales.
Telltale grew and acquired more licenses to make games over time; properties like the HBO show “Game of Thrones,” a spinoff of hugely popular video game “Minecraft,” “Guardians of the Galaxy,” and even Batman. Yet the company grew too quickly, too fast and struggled to recreate the critical and financial success of “The Walking Dead.” Read entire article
Published October 5, 2108 in The Wall Street Journal
By Paul Ziobro
Teamsters members voted down a new contract with United Parcel Service Inc., UPS +0.70% sending both sides back to the negotiating table ahead of the holiday season.
Preliminary voting results showed that 54.3% of votes cast opposed the five-year deal that represents 243,000 drivers, package sorters and other workers, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters disclosed Friday evening. Another pact representing 11,000 UPS Freight workers was also rejected, with 62.1% of votes cast opposing that deal.
A number of other regional and local agreements were also rejected, dealing a blow to the Teamsters leadership and UPS that tried to sell its rank-and-file on the contracts.
Union leaders said they would reopen talks with the company. “We will be going back to the company to talk to them about some additional changes,” said Denis Taylor, co-chair of the Teamsters negotiating committee.
The Teamsters, however, issued a statement saying the union considered the contract ratified even though it had been defeated. Under the union’s rules, a contract needs to be rejected by two-thirds of ballots when less than 50% of members cast a vote. The final tally was 42,356 in favor and 50,248 opposed.
A UPS spokesman said that the company was disappointed with the results and will meet with the Teamsters to discuss next steps. A contract extension is in place for the previous deal that expired in July and the company expects business to operate as usual.
“The Teamsters’ negotiating committee and UPS developed fair agreements that reward UPS employees for their contributions to the company’s success, including improved wages, benefits and job creation,” company spokesman Steve Gaut said.
The vote adds a layer of uncertainty to UPS operations as it heads into the critical peak period, when the amount of packages flowing through its network spikes.
The tentative deal, reached between the company and union leaders in July, faced a persistent campaign from a Teamster faction that objected to a two-tier wage system for drivers and starting wages that will soon trail those offered at Amazon.com Inc. Read entire article
Published October 3, 2018 in Bloomberg News
By Spencer Soper
Amazon.com Inc. is eliminating monthly bonuses and stock awards for warehouse workers and other hourly employees after the company pledged this week to raise pay to at least $15 an hour.
Warehouse workers for the e-commerce giant in the U.S. were eligible in the past for monthly bonuses that could total hundreds of dollars per month as well as stock awards, said two people familiar with Amazon’s pay policies. The company informed those employees Wednesday that it’s eliminating both of those compensation categories to help pay for the raises, the people said.
Amazon received plaudits when it announced Monday that the company would raise its minimum pay. The pay increase warded off criticism from politicians and activists, and put the company in a good position to recruit temporary workers for the important holiday shopping season.
Even after the elimination of bonuses and stock awards, hourly operations and customer-service workers will see their total compensation increase, the company said in a statement.
“In addition, because it’s no longer incentive-based, the compensation will be more immediate and predictable,” Amazon said. Read entire article
Published October 15, 2108 at www.alternet.org
By Simone Stolzoff
Millennials are murderers.
They’re responsible for killing bar soap, beer, the Canadian tourism industry, fashion, Home Depot, baby names, patriotism, and the American Dream—at least according to the headlines. They cannot, however, be blamed for killing the labor union.
Despite the association of labor unions with depression-era steelworkers, membership is on the rise for people younger than age 35, according to data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. There were almost 400,000 more union members younger than age 35 in 2017 than there were in 2016.
The number of union members 35 or older, meanwhile, hasn’t changed much in the last five years. And the union membership rate, which measures the percentage of union members relative to the total workforce, has been tanking for the past 50 years.
According to Steven Pitts, a labor professor at the University of California, three forces might explain this change in union member demographics.
First, some US industries with older union members—like manufacturing and coal mining—are contracting. “If a steel factory shuts down,” Pitts said, “it’s not just jobs that are lost. You lose a lot of union members, too.” Read entire article
Published September 26, 2018 in The Seattle Times
By Dominic Gates
Seattle Times aerospace reporter
Boeing disclosed in an annual filing to the state Department of Revenue that Washington state’s aerospace-industry tax incentives saved the company $227 million in 2017, a year in which it shed just over 6,000 jobs in the state.
The jetmaker’s tax savings were $15 million less than in 2016. That’s because 2017 revenue at Boeing Commercial Airplanes was down 2 percent from the prior year, primarily due to fewer deliveries of the expensive widebody jets built in Everett.
• $96 million from the 40 percent reduction in the Business & Occupation (B&O) tax rate.
• $82.5 million from B&O tax credits for activities related to setting up production equipment for the new 777X and the 737 MAX jets.
• $34.1 million from B&O tax credits for property excise taxes.
Last year’s figure brings Boeing’s total state tax savings over the past four years to just shy of $1 billion.
Boeing did not disclose how much tax it actually paid in Washington state in 2017, but a portion of the taxes paid can be deduced.
The $96 million tax saving from the 40 percent reduction in the B&O rate implies that Boeing would have been due to pay $240 million without the rate reduction. Read entire article
Published September 11, 2018 in RTE
Boeing is bringing retired workers back on the job as the world's largest planemaker tries to fix delays at its 737 jetliner plant outside Seattle, a union official has told Reuters.
The snarl at its plant in Renton, Washington was triggered by shortages of engines and fuselages as Boeing sped production to record levels in June.
It is likely to hurt third-quarter results and threatens its goal to boost build rates again in 2019, some analysts said after meetings in the Seattle area last week.
Single-aisle aircraft like the 737 and Airbus A320 families are the cash cows of the world's two largest aircraft manufacturers.
Investors will get a peek today at how far behind Boeing is when it releases its order and delivery tallies for August, a month after deliveries fell to the lowest level in years.
Deliveries are crucial to planemakers because that is when airlines pay most of what they owe for the aircraft.
Boeing started hiring retired mechanics and inspectors on a temporary basis after reaching an agreement with the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers on August 15, a union spokeswoman said.
Boeing had a similar agreement with the union last autumn following a round of voluntary layoffs, the spokeswoman added.
Boeing spokesman Paul Bergman said the company was dedicating additional resources to the Renton site "to ensure timely deliveries to our customers."
Boeing has already deployed about 600 employees and new hires to Renton in recent weeks to help fix delays, analysts said. It was not clear how many retired workers Boeing intends to hire.
About 50 semi-finished 737s were scattered around the Renton plant last week, analysts said, several times the number of semi-finished aircraft Reuters reported in July. Read entire article
Published September 11, 2018 in www.commerce.wa.gov
Olympia, Wash. — High scores for industry, infrastructure and economy pushed Washington to the top of the list in a new report from PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) on aerospace manufacturing attractiveness internationally and among U.S. states. The paper notes in particular our 1,400+ aerospace companies and the highest concentration of aerospace jobs in America. Next closest competitor states are Texas and Georgia.
The PwC study is the second major independent research report placing Washington state above all other competitors as the best place to design and build commercial aircraft. In June, the Teal Report on U.S. Aerospace Competitive Economics came to the same conclusion in a study released by the Choose Washington New Middle-Market Airplane (NMA) Council.
“Built on over a century of innovation and leadership that began with the Boeing Airplane Company, Washington state’s aerospace industry today stands head and shoulders above any other. We intend to keep aiming higher by building on our strengths and addressing opportunities identified in this and other independent rankings,” said Gov. Jay Inslee.
“It’s gratifying to see others validate what we know – Washington State is the best place to design and build aircraft in the world. We already have the most productive aerospace workforce and other industry expertise. Now, a confluence of new technologies developing right here in our state – from cloud computing and artificial intelligence to composites and advanced manufacturing – provide incredible opportunities for the future of our aerospace sector,” said Commerce director Brian Bonlender. Read entire article
Published September 6, 2018 in The Seattle Times
By Benjamin Romano
Seattle Times business reporter
The minimum wage increases that started four years ago in SeaTac are spreading across the country, but economists continue to study – and disagree about – the impact of the new policies on pay and jobs.
The latest look at increased wage floors in six U.S. cities, including Seattle, finds that food-service workers saw increases in pay and no widespread job losses. That reinforces the conclusions that the same group of University of California, Berkeley, researchers reached in 2017 after studying the impact just in Seattle.
This time, the Berkeley researchers examined Seattle, San Francisco, Oakland, San Jose, Chicago and Washington, D.C., where minimum wages at the end of 2016 – the end of the study period – ranged from $10 to $13.
“We find that they are working just as the policymakers and voters who enacted these policies intended,” said Sylvia Allegretto, co-author of the report and co-chair of Berkeley’s Center on Wage and Employment Dynamics. “So far they are raising the earnings of low-wage workers without causing significant employment losses.”
Wage floors have continued climbing and are higher and more widespread now, with 10 major cities, seven states, and dozens of other local governments passing laws to boost minimum wages to between $12 and $15 an hour in the coming years, eventually covering more than a fifth of the U.S. workforce.
On average across the six cities studied, “a 10 percent increase in the minimum wage increases earnings in the food services industry between 1.3 and 2.5 percent,” the researchers found.
The Berkeley team said in a news release that their study “casts further doubt” on the 2017 findings of University of Washington researchers that Seattle’s minimum wage increase led to fewer hours and jobs for low-wage workers.
Jacob Vigdor, the Daniel J. Evans professor of public policy and governance who leads research on the Seattle minimum wage at the UW, has his own criticisms of Berkeley’s approach. Read entire article
Published August 8, 2018 at msn.com
By Julie Johnson
Boeing is working through cascading supplier problems that will hamper third-quarter deliveries of its 737 jetliner, the plane maker’s largest source of profit.
Boeing now expects to deliver fewer of the 737s than it makes during the third quarter, before accelerating shipments by the end of the year, Chief Financial Officer Greg Smith said Wednesday. The company is working to streamline production at its single-aisle plant while also investing to help suppliers tackle bottlenecks.
At the 52-jet monthly production tempo that Boeing adopted in recent months for its 737, “a day, an hour, two hours matter,” Smith told a Jefferies conference. “We have a recovery plan in place for them and us, and it’s about executing on that plan.”
The planemaker’s shares dipped 0.8 percent to $348.04 at 1:42 p.m. in New York.
Among the supplier glitches confronting Boeing are airframes shipped hours late or out-of-sequence by Spirit AeroSystems Holdings Inc.. A propulsion joint venture of General Electric Co. and France’s Safran SA, has also fallen a few weeks behind schedule in its Leap engine shipments to both planemakers.
Airbus SE parked about 80 of its popular A320neo family -- down from a peak of 100 jetliners -- as it awaited delayed engines from Pratt & Whitney. At least 40 unfinished aircraft are parked around Boeing’s facility and an adjacent air strip as mechanics scramble to install parts that arrived late or out-of-sequence, the Seattle Times reported last week.
All told, Boeing has about $1.8 billion of 737 inventory sitting on the tarmac at Renton, Ron Epstein, an analyst with Bank of America Merrill Lynch, said in an Aug. 6 report. Read entire article
Published August 7, 2018 in The New York Times
By Noam Scheiber
After a succession of political setbacks in onetime strongholds and a landmark defeat in the Supreme Court, organized labor has notched a hard-won victory as Missouri voters overrode a legislative move to curb union power.
A measure on the ballot on Tuesday asked voters to pass judgment on a prospective law barring private-sector unions from collecting mandatory fees from workers who choose not to become members. The law was rejected by a 2-to-1 margin.
The Supreme Court in June struck down such fees for public-sector employees, achieving a longstanding goal of conservative groups and overruling a four-decade precedent.
Labor leaders argued that the rare opportunity for voters to weigh in directly on a so-called right-to-work measure — which several states have passed in recent years — revealed how little public support the policy has, at least once voters get beyond the anodyne branding.
“It shows how out of touch those institutions are,” said Richard Trumka, president of the A.F.L.-C.I.O. “How out of touch the Republican legislature in Missouri is, how out of touch the Supreme Court is.”
But Jake Rosenfeld, a sociologist who studies unions at Washington University in St. Louis, cautioned against overstating the victory. A mere 8.7 percent of workers in Missouri were union members last year, below the national average and down from more than 13 percent a decade-and-a-half ago.
“A ‘win’ just returns the situation to the status quo,” Mr. Rosenfeld said by email, though he acknowledged that it was “a huge morale boost to a beleaguered movement.”
The victory in Missouri aligns with other tentative signs of a labor revival. Among them are polls showing rising popular support for unions and an uptick in membership in teachers’ unions after walkouts in several states during the past school year.
The examples of Michigan and Indiana, where right-to-work laws took effect earlier this decade, suggest that the legislation could have cost unions thousands of members and millions in revenue.
One question is the extent to which the victory could reverberate beyond Missouri. Read entire article
Published July 11, 2018 at www.CBSnews.com
By Mattie Quinn
The Trump administration on Tuesday proposed rolling back an Obama-era rule that allows Medicaid payments to be diverted to unions supporting home health care workers.
This news comes just two weeks after the U.S. Supreme Court dealt a blow to public unions, ruling that they can no longer require employees who are represented by them to pay so-called agency fees.
In the announcement, Tim Hill, acting director for the Center for Medicaid and CHIP Services, alluded that the Obama-era rule may be illegal.
“This proposed rule is intended to ensure that providers receive their complete payment, and any circumstances in which a state does divert part of a provider’s payment must be clearly allowed under the law,” said Hill.
For the most part, federal law prohibits Medicaid payments from going to anyone other than a provider. But the Obama administration created an exception to this rule in 2014 and allowed some unions to take a cut of home health care aides' Medicaid payments.
Eleven states -- California, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, Washington, Vermont -- plus Washington, D.C., let home health aides unionize. On the flip side, Michigan and Ohio both passed bills in recent years stripping home health aides of their public-sector status.
Rolling back Medicaid money to unions has been a quiet hobby of some conservative politicians and think tanks who see the payments as unions cheating the system and using Medicaid money for unintended purposes.
Kim Crockett, a senior fellow at the Center for the American Experiment, a free-market think tank in Minneapolis, wrote in the National Review earlier this year that killing the rule would be a victory “for everyone with an interest in seeing welfare dollars directed to those in need -- and not into the coffers of union behemoths and their Democratic allies.” Read entire article
Published July 11, 2018 at www.CBSnews.com
By Irina Ivanova
Six months after the Tax Cut and Jobs Act became law, there's still little evidence that the average job holder is feeling the benefit.
Worker pay in the second quarter dropped nearly one percent below its first-quarter level, according to the PayScale Index, one measure of worker pay. When accounting for inflation, the drop is even steeper. Year-over-year, rising prices have eaten up still-modest pay gains for many workers, with the result that real wages fell 1.4 percent from the prior year, according to PayScale. The drop was broad, with 80 percent of industries and two-thirds of metro areas affected.
"Now, economic confidence has been good, we're in a strong economy, GDP is growing, but the question has been, where's the paycheck?" said Katie Bardaro, vice president of data analytics at PayScale.
The answer is, largely, in the companies' coffers. Businesses are spending nearly $700 billion on repurchasing their own stock so far this year, according to research from TrimTabs. Corporations set a record in Q2, announcing $433 billion worth of buybacks — nearly doubling the previous record, which was set in Q1.
When a company buys back some of its outstanding shares, the effect is usually to boost the value of the rest of its stock, sometimes making the company appear more valuable on paper. Because many senior executives are paid in company shares, buybacks temporarily boost their pay (as well as other shareholders' portfolios), sometimes at the expense of investments in infrastructure or workers. Read entire article
Published July 9, 2018 at www.governing.com
By J. Brian Charles
The recent U.S. Supreme Court decision allowing employees to opt out of paying fees to the unions who represent them will impact public-sector unions across the country, potentially weakening their collective bargaining power.
But the 5-4 ruling in the case, known as Janus v. AFSCME, could have an especially bad impact on African-American women, according to an analysis done by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI).
“The groups that most benefit from collective bargaining are those who are most vulnerable in the labor market,” says Economic Policy Institute Vice President John Schmitt. “The challenge for black women in the labor market is that they face double discrimination based on race and based on gender.”
Black workers in general are more than 30 percent more likely than their white counterparts to belong to a labor union, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). And it's black women who make up the largest single demographic among public union workers, accounting for more than one in every six, according to EPI.
Labor unions, however, have helped women of all backgrounds close gaps in pay and career advancement, according to recent BLS data. When not represented by a union, black women typically earn 67 cents for every dollar earned by a white male, while white women make 80 cents for every dollar earned by a white male. But the gap closes for union employees, with black women earning 72 cents for every dollar earned by a white man, and white women earning 88 cents for every dollar made by a white male worker.
Perhaps the most acute impact will be in public schools, where women make up three-fourths of employees. Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, sees the Janus decision as one motivated by politics and aimed squarely at an employment sector that has allowed women -- and especially women of color -- to gain access to the middle class.
“What’s amazing is that the right wing has set its sights on public-sector unions when at this moment they are disproportionately female and disproportionately people of color,” Weingarten says. “It’s pretty offensive.” Read entire article
Published Tuesday, June 12, 2018 in www.heraldnet.com
By Andrea Brown
MUKILTEO — Amid testy salary talks, Mukilteo teachers Monday took a vote of no confidence in Superintendent Marci Larsen and gave a bargaining committee authority to call a strike if there is no tentative agreement to consider by Aug. 15.
Teachers from across the district met at Kamiak High School after classes were dismissed Monday afternoon for a general membership meeting of their union. Roughly 250 teachers were reported to have taken part.
The district’s teachers will take a second vote of no confidence — this one electronically — so those who did not attend the meeting will have a chance to have their say, according to union leaders.
After the votes, teachers brought their contract beef to school district headquarters. For the third time in a month, they jammed into a meeting room to urge the board to renegotiate the salary portion of their contract.
“We met with them on Friday and we offered a proposal which we thought was pretty generous,” district spokesman Andy Muntz said after Monday’s meeting. He didn’t specify the details.
The flashpoint is the union’s demand to bargain over how the district spends an infusion of state dollars as a result of the McCleary school funding lawsuit. The union wants to renegotiate its contract, which runs through August 2019, to secure the money for salaries. The district has rejected their request.
“The ball is in the district’s court,” Mukilteo Education Association President Dana Wiebe said after the school board meeting. “We just want to bargain. We want professional competitive wages for our teachers. We want to hire the best, we want to keep the best. That’s always been our goal, to get to the table and have some good faith negotiations with the district.”
Larsen is one of Snohomish County’s longest-standing school district superintendents. She has led the district since 2003. The district, which includes schools in Everett, Mukilteo and unincorporated areas, has an enrollment of more than 15,000 students. There were more than 880 teachers in the district during the 2016-2017 school year, according to state records.
Talks have been up and down in recent weeks.
Wiebe said a meeting Friday with the school district’s bargaining team went well, and it seemed that things were on course. Read entire article
Published Tuesday, May 15, 2018 at www.TheStand.com
By David Kumler
As an academic student employee (ASE), I occupy a strange position: I’m both a student and an employee; I’m neither a student nor an employee. You see, my status with respect to these categories is constantly in flux, largely because — in the eyes of a university — sometimes it’s better if employees are seen as students, and other times it’s better if students are seen as employees. The label “academic student employee,” not unlike the term “intern,” offers many advantages to any employer interested in obtaining cheap to free labor.
On the one hand, the university would like ASEs to be perceived as employees. A university needs employees, after all, and very good ones at that. In particular, it needs highly educated and highly qualified academic staff. Unfortunately, high qualifications often come with a high price tag. While professors and full-time faculty are not always paid particularly well at the University of Washington, they are nevertheless significantly more expensive than is desirable. This puts the University of Washington — with tens of thousands of students and billions of dollars in research grants — in a bit of a dilemma: How can it fulfill its obligations to students and grant-providing organizations while keeping costs low? How it offer quality instruction and research without paying the wages that faculty expect?
One answer is to hire “academic student employees,” persons who are both teachers and learners, employees and students. These employees perform the same tasks as professors and tenured researchers — in fact, we perform many of these tasks, like teaching introductory level courses, so that tenured faculty do not have to — but are a significantly cheaper source of labor.
Of course, it is also true that, with any source of labor — cheap or expensive — an employer benefits most when employees are well-trained and well-prepared for the task they have been hired to perform. For this reason, employers pay for their workers to attend training sessions, to visit trade shows, to present and learn at conferences, to teach and learn from their peers — in a word, employers pay their employees to become more educated, because they know that this is in the best interest of the company.
The University of Washington also knows this. The administration is fully aware that it cannot hire students directly out of high school or undergraduate institutions and place these individuals in demanding research and teaching positions without providing some training. The university then has two options: First, they could hire highly qualified staff, with doctoral degrees and ample research experience. This would be a wonderful option, were it not so expensive. The university’s second option, then, is to hire less-experienced employees for a fraction of the cost. The trade-off is that the university must train these employees. Read entire article
Published Sunday, May 13, 2018 in The Columbian
By Jake Thomas, Columbian staff writer
When Monica Stonier first started working full time as a teacher in 2001, she was more focused on learning her students’ names than about her union, the Washington Education Association. But now Stonier, who has since been elected as a Democratic state representative for Vancouver, gives more thought to the future of organized labor.
Stonier said that somehow the Freedom Foundation, an Olympia-based conservative think tank, found her home address. Like thousands of other public employees, she receives a letter each year reminding her that she can limit her financial support for her union.
In recent years, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled on a series of cases that right-to-work advocates hope will further the decline of organized labor (particularly among public-sector employees).
The Freedom Foundation has actively sought to reduce the power of public-sector unions using these rulings. Last legislative session, Stonier, and other like-minded lawmakers, passed legislation intended to minimize the impact of court rulings unfriendly to unions. This legislation could soon be put to the test.
In June, the court is expected to rule on Janus v. AFSCME. The case is centered on an Illinois state employee who is arguing that being forced to pay fees to a union for representation violates his civil rights. A ruling in favor of Janus would overturn a decades-old precedent and could significantly peel back support for politically influential public-sector unions.
“Janus is the newest attempt to undermine and destroy public-sector unions,” said Gov. Jay Inslee and state Attorney General Bob Ferguson, both Democrats, in a press release. “If Janus succeeds, it will be a win for powerful special interests and another setback for the struggling American middle class.”
Democrats could have reason to worry about the outcome of Janus. In 2011, Wisconsin’s Republican governor signed sweeping legislation that later undercut the finances and political influence of that state’s public-sector unions. Union membership plummeted and the once-dominant Democratic Party saw its influence wane. Read entire article
Published Friday, May 11, 2018 at www.King5.com
By Natalie Brand
The Seattle head tax debate seemingly divided the city, as well as labor groups who usually stand united.
Politically powerful unions representing home and healthcare workers, grocery workers and nurses wrote the city council in support of the tax, while key trades groups across building, shipping and the food industry sent letters in opposition.
“This is about our ability to work,” Monty Anderson of the Seattle Building Trades testified on Friday, ahead of the council committee vote.
“The ability for us to work is based on companies wanting to come here and build, and that's just a fact for us,” he continued.
Tensions over the proposed head tax escalated last week after Amazon announced it would pause construction on one of its new buildings downtown, pending a vote.
According to Anderson, Amazon would move forward with the project, if Mayor Jenny Durkan’s compromise proposal to cut the head tax in half passes, instead of the original proposal to charge $500 per full-time employee for Seattle’s largest companies.
Both Anderson and Dale Bright of Laborers International Local 242 support the Mayor’s more moderate proposal saying it strikes the right balance between protecting jobs and helping to address the homelessness crisis.
“We will support a tax, as long as it doesn't negatively impact our members. The original head tax—we have developers threatening to walk away from projects in Seattle. We build these buildings,” said Bright.
Bright says he doesn’t blame Amazon for pausing its project, but rather believes it opens the door to a compromise before it’s too late.
“I don’t really see it as bullying, they just stated their position, and it’s a fair position,” said Bright.
“They’re looking for a second headquarters, they’re looking for a place to put more employees. They’re just stating a fact that they cannot continually make it hard to do business in Seattle, or business will start to look elsewhere.”
However, supporters of the original proposal accuse Amazon of holding the city hostage. The activist labor group Working Washington even asked Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson to charge Amazon with a felony charge of “intimidating a public servant.” Read entire article
Posted by GKLYM on April 30, 2018 in seiu6.org
After a busy three months of organizing and bargaining, the hard work paid off as SEIU6 union security officers voted on Thursday to ratify a new collective bargaining agreement. The new contract sets several industry-leading standards, including a minimum wage for officers working in Seattle and Bellevue that will come into effect on May 1 at $15.65 and will increase each year, to $17.27 by 2022.
With 73% of the present membership voting “YES” to ratify, security officers overwhelmingly approved the proposal recommended by the member bargaining team.
In addition to strong wage increases, officers won stronger seniority rights, protections from mandatory overtime, established a 3-day time limit to resolve wage and hour discrepancies, guaranteed minimum pay if a shift is canceled, and more paid time off.
SEIU6 security officers will re-open negotiations this fall in order to make further improvements to healthcare.
Want to get involved so we can win big?
Contact our union at 206-448-7348 and ask for Bryce.
Published April 13, 2018 in The Stand
The following is a message from Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO President Jeff Johnson and Secretary Treasurer Lynne Dodson sent last week to the hundred of union members, stewards, staffers and leaders who attended the WSLC’s “Building Strong Unions” Labor Summit in February.
Sisters and Brothers,
On February 5th, we came together as labor and community leaders and vowed to stand together against anti-worker attacks and protect the freedom to join together in unions. At the Building Strong Unions Summit, the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO and its affiliated unions highlighted our collective power and how that power makes the American Dream possible for everyone. We committed to a comprehensive program of one-on-one conversations about how we win in a “right-to-work” environment and build even stronger unions. When we plan, have conversations, recruit and train others to have conversations, and hold ourselves accountable to this at our worksites — we win. Worksite conversations are our secret weapon; listening to our members and working together is how we will grow stronger unions and a stronger labor movement.
Today, we are asking each of you to take the time this week to “Strive for Five” worksite conversations about right to work (for less), the conservative billionaires and anti-labor politicians behind these attacks, and court cases like Janus v. AFSCME that are intended to take away our freedom to join together and negotiate a fair return on our work. At our Summit we spent some time talking about the best ways to have those conversations. The three key points when talking about right to work are 1) Call out the extremists pushing RTW; 2) Describe the effect of RTW and make it personal; and 3) Explain our vision and values.
This is the first in a series of weekly emails that will give updates about the status of the Janus case that threatens to impose right to work on all public employees, talking points, and actions you can take as activists. All of materials distributed in these weekly emails, the contents of the Summit Toolkit binder, and additional materials submitted by WSLC affiliates since the Summit can be found at the WSLC website on a password-protected page. (Click here to request the link/password.) If your union is willing to share your internal organizing plans, training materials, message and talking points, membership/recommitment forms, or other materials related to this effort, please send them to David Groves at email@example.com and he will add them to this password-protected site.
On Feb. 26, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Janus v AFSCME. We know Janus is a blatant attempt by right-wing individuals and corporations to take away the freedoms of working people to join together in strong unions, but we will not be deterred. Here are some important articles from The Stand with more background on the case, the threat to unions, and how we can stick together and win:
As many of us remember the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. this week, we must remember what he said, “In our glorious fight for civil rights, we must guard against being fooled by false slogans, such as ‘right to work.’ It is a law to rob us of our civil rights and job rights. Its purpose is to destroy labor unions and collective bargaining…”
Jeffrey Johnson, President
Lynne Dodson, Secretary Treasurer
Published April 12, 2018 in The Guardian
A nationwide network of rightwing thinktanks is launching a PR counteroffensive against the teachers’ strikes that are sweeping the country, circulating a “messaging guide” for anti-union activists that portrays the walkouts as harmful to low-income parents and their children.
The new rightwing strategy to discredit the strikes that have erupted in protest against cuts in education funding and poor teacher pay is contained in a three-page document obtained by the Guardian. Titled “How to talk about teacher strikes”, it provides a “dos and don’ts” manual for how to smear the strikers.
Top of the list of talking points is the claim that “teacher strikes hurt kids and low-income families”. It advises anti-union campaigners to argue that “it’s unfortunate that teachers are protesting low wages by punishing other low-wage parents and their children.”
The “messaging guide” is the brainchild of the State Policy Network (SPN), an alliance of 66 rightwing “ideas factories” that span every state in the nation. SPN uses its $80m war chest – funded by billionaire super-donors such as the Koch brothers and the Walton Family Foundation that flows from the Walmart fortune – to coordinate conservative strategy across the country.
Another financial backer of SPN is the billionaire DeVos family of the Amway empire. Betsy DeVos is the current education secretary in the Trump administration.
SPN’s previous campaigns have included a plan to “defund and defang” public sector unions. Now it is turning its firepower on the striking teachers. Read entire article
Published April 10, 2018 in USA Today
By Nick Hanauer
Free tip from a successful businessman: Always get paid.
In selling you their trickle-down tax plan, President Trump and congressional Republicans promised you a $4,000 pay raise.
"This change, along with a lower business tax rate, would likely give the typical American household around a $4,000 pay raise," Trump said in October.
“At least $4,000,” House Speaker Paul Ryan emphasized in a post on his official website.
So now that rich people like me have gotten our billions of dollars in tax cuts, you might be wondering where your $4,000 raise is.
Spoiler alert: You’re not getting one.
Take it from someone who has helped run three dozen companies: Businesses don’t give raises because they can. Businesses give raises when they have to. They give raises when they fear losing employees to a competitor, or when the government requires them to through minimum wage laws. But businesses don’t give raises just because they got a tax cut. Businesses pay you what you can negotiate. And few employees in today’s economy have the leverage to negotiate. Read entire article
Published March 11, 2018 in the Chicago Sun-Times
The following is from Rick Hicks, President of the Joint Council of Teamsters No. 28:
Dear Sisters and Brothers:
Western Conference of Teamsters Pension Trust Union Chairman Chuck Mack will be at the Teamsters Building located at 14675 Interurban Ave. S. in Tukwila, WA 98168 to explain the immediate ramifications of the “Select Committee on Pension Reform” and the impact to all multi-employer defined benefit Pension Plans, including the Western Conference Pension Plan.
As the birthplace of the Western Conference Teamsters Pension Trust, Seattle will be the first stop in a series of meetings throughout the West that each Joint Council will be conducting. This is an extremely important meeting. We would like to include our local Trade Unions and Union Leaders.
If you would like to attend the meeting, you are more than welcome.
The results, unless we mobilize quickly and decisively, will be devastating to our Pension Plan.
Date: Friday, March 23, 2018
Time: 9 a.m.
Location: Tukwila Teamster Building – Main Auditorium
For more information on the Select Committee on Pension Reform, see this news release from Sen. Sharrod Brown (D-Ohio).
Published March 11, 2018 in the Chicago Sun-Times
By David McGrath
I had no inkling there was a problem.
The students in my college English class were working in the computer lab, where each station has a wraparound console which affords pupils the privacy they need to concentrate on their writing. But this also means I can’t see everyone at a glance, the way I do in a regular classroom.
So not till I walked to the middle of the room, and then to the very end of a row of stations, did I see the student I’ll call William with his head buried in his hands.
“Are you feeling okay?” I whispered.
No answer. He was shaking.
Having been a teacher for over three decades, I’ve encountered students in distress. Once I had to make a referral for domestic abuse. Another time, I had to drop a student after he kept arriving inebriated.
William, it appeared, was in some kind of pain.
“Would you like me to call the school nurse?” I asked.
In the past decade, I’ve dealt with immaturity issues with students as young as 16 because of dual enrollment, a program which allows high schoolers to sign up for college classes to get a head start and save on tuition. But William looked to be about 19, average for a college freshman.
Finally, when I insisted he speak to me so that I would know how to help him, he reluctantly lifted his head.
“I can’t do this,” he said. No tears, but his eyes were red, his face a coil of hurt. “Too much pressure.” Read entire article
Published February 8, 2018 by www.HeraldNet.com
By Jerry Cornfield
One of the world’s leading aerospace industry experts is going to help the state try to convince the Boeing Co. to build its next new plane in Washington.
Richard Aboulafia, vice president of the Teal Group, will analyze the state’s competitive strengths and weaknesses to design, manufacture and assemble the New Market Airplane on the Boeing drawing boards.
He’s been enlisted by the Choose Washington Council, a coalition of representatives of local and state government, and business and labor organizations. It is tasked with making the business case for Washington as the preferred site for the new passenger plane program. The analysis, for which his firm will earn $55,000, is expected in April.
“We are seeking an outside perspective so we know where we can improve as a region,” said Brian Bonlender, director of the state Department of Commerce and a leader of the council. “We can never be complacent about these things.”
Boeing is eyeing a so-called mid-market aircraft, informally dubbed the 797. It would fit somewhere between the largest 737 and the smallest 787. With 200 to 270 seats, it would fill a niche left by the discontinuation of the Renton-built 757.
Boeing officials, who first discussed the plane openly at the Paris Air Show in June, aren’t expected to commit to this new plane before summer and only after that start thinking about where to assemble it.
“We know our state provides the best value for building that airplane,” Gov. Jay Inslee told a room full of aerospace executives and civic leaders in Lynnwood in September. “I think it’s reasonable for Washington state residents to expect that Boeing would build its next aircraft here.”
Inslee announced formation of the Choose Washington Council in December. Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers is a member. Other members include the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers District 751 and Aerospace Futures Alliance, which is an industry lobby group. Read entire article
Published February 5, 2018 in TheNation.com
By Michelle Chen
Are you a young adult confused about your economic future? You’re not alone. The president brags of surging markets and job growth, but you’re getting rejected for every job you apply for, scrambling to pay rent, and stuck in a dead-end retail job. Maybe it’s time to take inspiration from the latest stats about millennials: Workers age 35 and under are the main component of an unprecedented surge in union membership over the past two years.
Nationwide in 2017, nearly 860,000 workers under age 35 got hired, and nearly a quarter of those were union jobs. According to an analysis by the Economic Policy Institute, “Historically, younger workers have been less likely than older workers to be a member of union,” so in that sense there’s a lot of room to grow among younger workers, whose union membership lags behind other age groups. Millennials are responsible for a huge portion of the recent gains in union representation across the workforce, which has managed to remain fairly steady (yep, young people are keeping labor alive). Growing by some 198,000 workers, youth in union jobs are offsetting loss of union jobs in older age brackets; union jobs for workers age 45 to 54 dropped by some 75,000 over the same period.
So, in contrast to the myth of millennials’ being economically and politically adrift, they’re stepping in readily to fill the union ranks that have hemorrhaged middle-aged workers over the years—2017 actually saw an increase in the overall number of unionized workers over the previous year. A movement that we’re used to thinking of as getting older and smaller is actually growing stronger and younger—and they may well be leading the next progressive voting bloc in tandem with the labor movement.
In addition to breaking with an overall long-term decline in unionization across the workforce (now 10.7 percent), the youth surge highlights another dimension to the simultaneous rise in “gig economy” jobs. A recent analysis of job growth since 2005 reveals massive growth in temporary, irregular, or subcontracted work, known for unstable pay and precarious working conditions. And yet there hasn’t been a correlating backslide necessarily in younger workers’ labor power. There are actually signs that youth are increasingly driven to join unions precisely in response to economic precarity and eroding economic mobility. Even youth-oriented sectors have seen high-profile union victories, from digital-newsroom unions at Vice and Fusion to graduate-faculty unions at many public and increasingly, private, university campuses. Read entire article
Published January 31, 2018 in The Everett Herald
Bloomberg News and Associated Press
The Boeing Co.’s stock price jumped to an all-time high Wednesday as the company reported higher earnings in the fourth quarter of 2017 on surging deliveries of the 737 and an unexpectedly large one-time gain from U.S. tax cuts.
The world’s largest aerospace company is extending a remarkable stock rally as it benefits from strong jetliner demand and plans to ramp up output of the 737, its largest source of profit. Meanwhile, the U.S. corporate tax cuts are taking effect just as the 787 Dreamliner starts to generate hefty cash gains after a decade of losses.
The company’s stock has more than doubled since the start of 2017. Chicago-based Boeing has surpassed General Electric to become the largest U.S. industrial company by market value. Its stock price had advanced 15 percent this year alone through Tuesday, the largest gain among the 30 members of the Dow Jones Industrial Average.
Shares closed Wednesday at $354.37, up 4.93 percent — near an all-time high of $360.97, reached earlier in the trading day.
“It’s a very visible, must-own stock right now,” said Carter Copeland, an analyst at Melius Research, who added that strong numbers across the board will probably entice more investors.
Driving the bullish outlook was the announcement of results for the fourth quarter of 2017 and the full year. The company pocketed a tax boost of $1.74 a share in the quarter and expects more benefits to come this year.
Lower taxes are combining with record jetliner deliveries to fuel the cash gush at Boeing. In an earnings report, the company predicted the first annual sales growth since 2015 and said operating cash flow, a focus for investors, would climb to $15 billion.
Boeing delivered a record 763 airliners in 2017 and predicts that will rise to between 810 and 815 planes this year. It has a backlog of more than 5,800 planes valued at $488 billion, although that figure is based on list prices, and airlines usually get big discounts. Read entire article
Published January 29, 2018 by NBCnews.com
By Conor Ferguson
More than 50,000 bridges across the U.S. are falling apart and endangering drivers, according to a new report.
NBC News found cases from Florida, Georgia, Michigan and other states where pieces of crumbling bridges broke off and fell to the roadway, sometimes hitting vehicles.
In Utah, driver Mike Peterson escaped serious injury when a chunk of a bridge smashed through his windshield as he drove underneath.
"Another six to eight inches, you might not be talking to me today," said Peterson.
Using government data, the American Road & Transportation Builders Association compiled a report showing that 54,259 American bridges are "structurally deficient."
So many bridges are in need of repair, says the report, that if placed end-to-end they'd stretch nearly from New York City to Miami. And experts say that at the current rate of repair or replacement it would take 37 years to fix all the bridges.
"It really comes down a failure of leadership in Congress to address some of these issues and provide additional funding," said Dr. Alison Black, author of the ARTBA report. Read entire article
Published January 28, 2018 in USA Today
By Richard Wolf
WASHINGTON — The nation's powerful public employee unions stand to lose membership, money and political muscle at the hands of the Supreme Court this year. The only question appears to be how much.
On the court's docket next month are fees paid in 22 states by police, firefighters, teachers and other government workers who decline to join unions that must represent them anyway. But much more is at stake in a nation with declining union membership and growing economic inequality.
After three tries in 2012, 2014 and 2016, the high court is poised to reverse its own 40-year-old precedent and strike down the so-called "fair share" fees as unconstitutional. The 1977 ruling said workers did not have to pay for unions' political activity. The verdict expected by June would allow them to contribute nothing at all.
If the court's five conservatives vote the way both sides anticipate, public employee unions in traditionally Democratic states in the Northeast and West will lose those workers and the fees they pay. Other lawsuits could follow if workers are allowed to band together and seek refunds for fees already paid.
On top of that, unions are braced for a slow bleed of full dues-paying members. Until now, those workers could save only about 10% to 20% of their costs by quitting the union; a ruling against fair-share fees would enable them to become "free riders." That could force unions to raise dues on those who remain or lose clout in states such as California, New York, Illinois, Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
"If they don't see this coming, they're totally blind," says Daniel DiSalvo, a labor expert at the conservative Manhattan Institute. He predicts public employee unions could lose from 10% to 30% of their membership and financing over time.
The case, Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, will be heard Feb. 26 and decided by the end of June. It's backed by conservative groups that have tried for years to overturn the court's decades-old decision in Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, which upheld charging non-members fees to pay for collective bargaining, but not politics.
The court has ruled 7-2, 5-4 and 4-4 on three similar cases in the past six years, eating away at that 1977 decision without overruling it entirely. In 2016, Justice Antonin Scalia's death a month after oral argument denied conservatives their fifth vote — a vote Justice Neil Gorsuch is widely expected to provide.
Less assured is the impact such a ruling would have on organized labor in general, and public employees unions in particular. But after a 70-year decline in union membership, the consensus is for more of the same. Read entire article
Published January 17, 2018 by the Economic Policy Institute
By Heidi Shierholz, David Cooper, Julia Wolfe, and Ben Zipperer
The Department of Labor (DOL) has proposed a rule that would make it legal for employers to pocket their workers’ tips, as long as they pay those workers at least the minimum wage. The proposed rule rescinds portions of longstanding DOL regulations that prohibit employers from taking tips. We estimate that if the rule is finalized, every year workers will lose $5.8 billion in tips, as tips are shifted from workers to employers. Of the $5.8 billion, nearly 80 percent—$4.6 billion—would be taken from women who are working in tipped jobs.
DOL has masked the fact that this rule would be a windfall to restaurant owners and other employers—out of the pockets of tipped workers—by making it sound as if this rule is about tip pooling. Of course, once employers have full control of tips, one of the things they could do with those tips is distribute them to “back of the house” workers like dishwashers and cooks. But the proposed rule does not require employers to distribute the tips, so employers would be no more likely to share tips with back-of-the-house workers than they would be to make any other choice about what to do with a business windfall, including using the money to make capital improvements to their establishments, to increase executive pay, or to line their own pockets.
Many employers pocket tips even now, when it is illegal for them to do so (for example, research on workers in Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York found that 12 percent of tipped workers had tips stolen from them by their employer or supervisor). The fact that illegal tip theft is so prevalent underscores that when employers can legally pocket tips, many will. And basic economic logic dictates that it is highly unlikely that back-of-the-house workers will get more pay. There is currently no limit to what these workers can be paid, so employers are already paying their back-of-the-house workers what they need to pay to attract workers willing to work in those jobs. If employers do share some tips with them, it will likely be offset by a reduction in their base pay, leaving their take-home pay largely unaffected. Read entire article
Published January 12, 2018 by the Economic Policy Institute
By Josh Bivens, Daniel Costa, Celine McNicholas, Heidi Shierholz, and Marni von Wilpert
The tax cut law that President Trump boasts will make his wealthy friends “a lot richer” is just the latest in a series of betrayals of working people by the administration and Congress since Trump took the oath of office on January 20, 2017. In addition to passing a massive tax cut for wealthy business owners, Trump and Republicans in Congress have rolled back important worker protections, advanced nominees to key administration posts who have a history of exploiting working people, and taken other actions that further rig the system in favor of corporate interests and the wealthiest Americans.
Here are the 10 worst things Congress and Trump have done to undermine pay growth and erode working conditions for the nation’s workers:
The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) signed into law at the end of 2017 provides a permanent cut in the corporate income tax rate that will overwhelmingly benefit capital owners and the top 1 percent. It also includes temporary reductions in the tax rates faced by the richest households and a temporary tax cut for “pass-through” business owners—a provision that has been marketed as a small business tax cut but that will actually deliver an even higher share of benefits to top one percenters than the corporate rate cuts will. While TCJA also includes some temporary cuts that could potentially benefit some low- and moderate-income families, these benefits are both stingy and temporary, whereas the tax cuts for the largest corporations have no expiration date. President Trump’s boast to diners at the $200,000-initiation-fee Mar-a-Lago Club during the holidays says it best: “You all just got a lot richer.”
The net effect of the TCJA is clearly regressive, with 83 percent of the benefits accruing to the top 1 percent by the time it is fully phased in, in 2027, according to the Tax Policy Center. Defenders of the TCJA argue that the benefits of corporate tax cuts will trickle down to workers in the form of faster productivity growth and higher wages, but this claim falls apart in the face of many real-world data points; for one thing, the historically high level of corporate profits proves we do not need to redistribute wealth upward through the tax code to give corporations funds for productivity-enhancing capital investment—they already have the funds they need.
A wide body of research finds that the benefits of a cut in corporate income taxes accrue overwhelmingly to owners of capital instead of to workers. In turn, capital ownership is extraordinarily concentrated at the top of the income distribution. For example, the top 1 percent of households own roughly 40 percent of all stocks, including those owned indirectly in 401(k)s and other savings vehicles. Read entire article
Published January 10, 2018 in Politico
By Danny Vinik
In 2013, Diana Borland and 129 of her colleagues filed into an auditorium at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. Borland had worked there for the past 13 years as a medical transcriptionist, typing up doctors’ audio recordings into written reports. The hospital occasionally held meetings in the auditorium, so it seemed like any other morning.
The news she heard came as a shock: A UPMC representative stood in front of the group and told them their jobs were being outsourced to a contractor in Massachusetts. The representative told them it wouldn’t be a big change, since the contractor, Nuance Communications, would rehire them all for the exact same position and the same hourly pay. There would just be a different name on their paychecks.
Borland soon learned that this wasn’t quite true. Nuance would pay her the same hourly rate—but for only the first three months. After that, she’d be paid according to her production, 6 cents for each line she transcribed. If she and her co-workers passed up the new offer, they couldn’t collect unemployment insurance, so Borland took the deal. But after the three-month transition period, her pay fell off a cliff. As a UPMC employee, she had earned $19 per hour, enough to support a solidly middle-class life. Her first paycheck at the per-line rate worked out to just $6.36 per hour—below the minimum wage.
“I thought they made a mistake,” she said. “But when I asked the company, they said, ‘That’s your paycheck.’”
Borland quit not long after. At the time, she was 48, with four kids ranging in age from 9 to 24. She referred to herself as retired and didn’t hold a job for the next two years. Her husband, a medical technician, told her that “you need to be well for your kids and me.” But early retirement didn’t work out. The family struggled financially. Two years ago, when the rival Allegheny General Hospital recruited her for a transcriptionist position, she took the job. To this day, she remains furious about UPMC’s treatment of her and her colleagues.
“The bottom line was UPMC was going to do what they were going to do,” she said. “They don’t care about what anybody thinks or how it affects any family.” UPMC, reached by email, said the outsourcing was a way to save the transcriptionists’ jobs as the demand for transcriptionists fell.
It worked out for her former employer: In the four years since the outsourcing, UPMC’s net income has more than doubled. Read entire article
Published January 9, 2018 in www.salon.com
Amazon’s soaring stock this year has granted Jeff Bezos a title of a lifetime: the richest man in the world. Some claim that he’s the richest man in history.
While that’s debatable, Bezos is a very wealthy man and is likely to only going to get wealthier.
According to Bloomberg’s billionaire tracker, Bezos’ total net worth is $105 billion. This week alone, CNN reports he’s added $1.4 billion to his fortune; Amazon stock increased 1.4 percent on Monday and Bezos reportedly own 78.9 million shares. Market forecasters have publicly predicted that they don’t foresee a downward trend for Amazon in the near future.
It’s worth noting that Bill Gates would still likely be wealthier than Bezos now if he didn’t donate much of his wealth to charity.
The richest man in the world doesn’t become the richest man in the world without a little help, though. In Bezos’s case, his help is thousands of workers at fulfillment centers who are reportedly subjected to grueling work conditions— workers who are vital to Amazon’s success; ensuring Amazon’s picking, packaging and sorting. A new study by Policy Matters Ohio showed that more than 700 Amazon workers receive food stamps in Ohio — yet, Amazon has reportedly received an estimated $123 million in tax breaks in Ohio. That means that American taxpayers are subsidizing Bezos's fortune, as Amazon isn't paying a living wage to many workers. Read entire article