Terrance Heath

Fast Food Strikes Are Back, Bigger Than Ever

The fast-food strikes are back, and bigger than ever. Today, workers in 150 cities will take to the streets to demand livable wages for themselves and their families, the right to organize, and a better economy for all of us. Last year, low-wage workers in over 60 cities went on strike for livable wages. What’s different about this year’s fast-food strikes is that they’re more than twice as big, and spreading beyond fast-food and retail workers. The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) is calling on home health care workers to join the movement for a $15-an-hour minimum wage, a week after 27,000 home health aides in Minnesota said yes to joining the union, which represents about 600,000 home health workers in 20 states.

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Richard Eskow

Robert Borosage on Unions and the Middle Class [Audio]

Labor Day was last weekend. For the occasion we interviewed our own Robert Borosage on The Zero Hour radio program regarding his piece entitled “Inequality: A Broad Middle Class Requires Empowering Workers.” That piece begins as follows:  “On Labor Day, families gather, politicians pay tribute to values of hard work, and some workers even get an extra day off. But this Labor Day arrives with working families struggling to stay afloat. Working family incomes haven’t gone up in the 21st century. Inequality reaches new extremes. Corporate profits are reaping a record portion of the nation’s income, while worker wages wallow at record lows. Three-fourths of Americans fear their children will fare less well than they have.

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Bill Scher

There’s No Republican Wave Because Nobody Likes Republicans

In late July, the head of the Republican House campaign committee predicted a “wave” election. And pundits have generally assumed it will be strong Republican year, arguing the Democrats are being weighed down by President Obama’s low approval ratings. Republicans can still take full control of Congress in November, but only because the 2014 map is heavily tilted to the right, with several Democratically-held Senate seats up for re-election in states Mitt Romney won. If it was a real wave, we’d see blue states becoming redder. We’d see big Republican gains in the House as well as the Senate. We’d see Republicans hold a clear advantage in the polls. None of that is on the horizon. Republican strategists tell Politico they don’t expect to win more than a few additional House seats.

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Dave Johnson

Anti-Union, Low-Wage States Spend More On “Safety-Net” Help

A study from Labor and Employment Relations professor Robert Bruno of the University of Illinois-Urbana and policy director of the Illinois Economic Policy Institute Frank Manzo IV showed that states with anti-union “right-to-work” laws have lower tax revenue, and have to spend more on government assistance to the poor as a result. The study, titled, “Free-Rider States,” found that legislation supporting workers’ right to organize increases wages and reduces income inequality. As a result, collective bargaining states have higher incomes and less inequality. States with “right-to-work” laws have lower wages. These lower wages mean lower state income tax revenue, a slower economy in those states, and higher demand for government “safety-net” services.

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Harvey J Kaye

Don’t Wait On the White House – Fight for Workers’ Rights!

President Obama came to Milwaukee’s 2014 Laborfest this past Monday. He said he had come to celebrate Labor Day, to celebrate workers’ pursuit of America’s promise – or as he put it: “We’re here to celebrate something that sometimes the American people take for granted — the 40-hour workweek, overtime pay, a minimum wage, weekends like this one. All that didn’t happen by accident. It happened because America’s workers organized for it, fought for it. History shows that working families can get a fair shot in this country, but only if we’re willing to fight for it.” But, of course, the real point of his trip to the biggest city in the Dairy State was to urge Wisconsinites to avoid “cynicism” and turn out in November to vote.

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Richard Kirsch

Truck Drivers Draw The Line: Treat Employees As Employees

Imagine your boss suddenly told you that from now on you were going to be considered an independent contractor. You’d have to pay for your office space, supplies, and equipment. Your employer would deduct those expenses from your paycheck. And you’d have to pay all your payroll taxes, including your employer’s share. You’d also be responsible for doing whatever work your boss gave you, no matter how long it took, with no extra pay. That’s the situation most of the nation’s port truck drivers are in. You may not know what a “port truck driver” is, but virtually everything in your home or office that is imported was carted around at some point by one of them. On average, these drivers work 59 hours a week. The companies that hire two-thirds of port drivers deduct the cost of buying and maintaining their trucks from their paychecks.

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Dean Baker

Labor Day Victories to Celebrate

Read the full report, “Rebuilding the Middle Class Requires Reviving Strong Unions” In recent decades the news for the country’s workers and the labor movement has been mostly bad. We’ve seen stagnant wages, declining unionization rates, anti-union court rulings, and for the last six years mass unemployment as the labor market is still far from recovering from the collapse of the housing bubble. It would be easy to go on about how bad things are, but it is worth highlighting a couple of good news items against this backdrop. First, there was the victory of the workers at Market Basket, the Boston based grocery store chain. This was far from a normal labor action. It involved most of the workers, and most of the managers, uniting to bring back Arthur T. Demoulas as CEO of the company, after he had been fired in a coup engineered by his cousin Arthur S. Demoulas.

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Bill Moyers

Politicians Show Their Gratitude Where It Count$

By Bill Moyers and Michael Winship There shall be eternal summer in the grateful heart, a poet wrote, and as this year’s summer winds toward its end and elections approach, gratitude is indeed what our politicians have flowing from that space where their hearts should be. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is grateful to his friend Rick Anderson, the CEO of Delta Airlines. In late July, a week after McConnell treated him to breakfast in the Senate Dining Room, checks for McConnell’s super PAC came winging their way from Anderson and his wife, as well as Delta’s political action committee. “This is the kind of rare access that most of us will never experience.” That’s Sheila Krumholz, executive director the Center for Responsive Politics, the campaign finance watchdog.

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Lynne Stuart Parramore

Wages Dropped for Almost All American Workers in First Half of 2014

Think your money’s not going very far this year? It’s not your imagination. According to new research by the Economic Policy Institute, real hourly wages declined for almost everybody in the U.S. workforce in the first half of 2014. Thanks, so-called recovery. Photo via DG EMPL @ Flickr. Economist Elise Gould pored over data from the government’s Current Population Survey and determined that workers at the 20th, 30th, 40th, 50th, 60th, 70th, 80th, 90th, and 95th percentiles all saw declines in their real wages in the first half of 2014 compared with the same period last year. This was true whether you had no high school degree, a high school diploma, some college, a college degree, or an advanced degree. In fact, people with advanced degrees saw the biggest drop (2.7 percent). EPI reveals this isn’t just a blip.

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Dave Johnson

Eric Cantor Goes To His Reward

Eric Cantor was a congressman from Virginia and was House majority leader. He was known for being particularly friendly to Wall Street and the giant, multinational corporations. In the June Republican primary, his Virginia constituents got fed up with this and booted him, choosing to nominate Cantor’s challenger, David Brat, instead. Conservative Erik Erikson explained at FOX, that Cantor’s Virginia constituents did this because, “K Street, the den of Washington lobbyists, became his chief constituency.” Cantor didn’t bother to finish his current term supposedly representing his Virginia constituents. He resigned from office effective August 18. Just two weeks later Cantor has gone to his reward.

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Robert Borosage

It’s Harder to Reach the American Dream If You’re Reaching All Alone

Read the full report, “Rebuilding the Middle Class Requires Reviving Strong Unions” “Hours of chaos” is how the New York Times described the work reality of more and more Americans. It highlighted Jannette Navarra, a Starbucks barista, who is regularly forced to work part-time with fluctuating hours. She usually gets her work schedule three days ahead of the workweek, so she is always scrambling to arrange childcare for her son. Any hope Navarra has of advancing by pursuing a degree is shattered by her inability to schedule classes. These sorts of lousy jobs are the increasing reality for many American workers. They are labeled “contingent” workers — part-time, temporary, on contract, on call. They generally earn lower wages than fulltime employees, with little or no benefits, and constant insecurity.

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Terrance Heath

Wingnut Week In Review: “No Angel”

Michael Brown was laid to rest in Ferguson, Missouri this week. But that doesn’t mean that wingnuts and right-wingers will let him rest in peace. It was bad enough when the New York Times built its profile of Michael Brown around the idea that he was “no angel.” (What eighteen year old — male or female — is?) Apparently, young black men must now be “angelic” to be worthy of living through an encounter with the police.

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Terrance Heath

Beyond Ferguson: Tell The President To Take Action

Michael Brown has been laid to rest. The National Guard has begun “systematically withdrawing,” and calm has returned to the streets of Ferguson, Missouri. With no more dramatic scenes, and no major news to cover unless or until investigations lead to litigation, media will pack up and leave until Ferguson offers a new story to cover. In the meantime, life goes on. Much as they cleaned the streets in the wake of the first violent protests, Ferguson residents are returning to a semblance of “normal” life, and starting the long process of helping their communities recover. The disparities and tensions that fueled angry protests in Ferguson still fester below the surface. Ferguson is still a 67 percent black city with an overwhelmingly white power structure. All but one city council member, all but one school board member, and all but 3 of its 53 police officers are white.

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Sam Pizzigati

Inequality and the USA: A Nation in Denial?

Every August, for most of the last four decades, top central bankers from around the world have been making their way to the Wyoming mountain resort of Jackson Hole for an invitation-only blue-ribbon economic symposium. This year’s Jackson Hole hobnob, once again hosted by the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, last week attracted the usual assortment of central bankers, finance ministers, and influential business journalists. But this year’s gathering also attracted something else: protesters. For the first time ever, activists converged on Jackson Hole — to let the Fed’s central bankers know, as protest organizers put it, that “it’s not just the rich who are watching them.” Over 70 groups and unions backed the protest and signed onto an open letter that calls on America’s central bankers to start nurturing an economy that works for workers.

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Dave Johnson

Why Fight For Unions? So We Can Fight An Economy Rigged Against Us

The other day I wrote about how FedEx has been pretending that their employees are not employees, which gets around labor standards for things like overtime, family leave and the rest. This misclassification game is just one way that big companies have been rigging the rules to give themselves an edge, getting around what We the People set down for our democracy. The result, of course, is even more people paid even less with even worse working conditions. And the bad players get an advantage that drives out the good ones. Like misclassification, this game-rigging, cheating, edge-seeking, rule-bypassing stuff is everywhere you look. (Rigged trade deals, corporate tax “deferral” and inversions, corporate campaign donations, too-big-to-fail banks, Congressional obstruction, etc. and etc…) This rigging of the game in favor of the ultra-wealthy gets worse and worse.

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Richard Eskow

Looks Like Burger King’s Subjects Are Royally Pissed Off

Tolstoy wrote in “War and Peace” that “kings are the slaves of history.” And when the “king” in question depends on the patronage of happy customers for his well-being, his monarchy is also a slave to public opinion. Unfortunately for Burger King, which intends to renounce its American status for tax purposes, neither history nor public opinion is on its side. In fact, if social media is any gauge, the Burger King’s American subjects are downright pissed. Tell Burger King’s CEO: “Stay American and pay your fair share of taxes or I’ll dine elsewhere.”Burger King’s Facebook page currently features the rather unfortunately timed slogan, “Chicken Fries Are Back” (is that as in, too chicken to pay your taxes?), and it has drawn a lot of angry comments about its planned tax move.

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Terrance Heath

From Ferguson To Raleigh: The March For Jobs And Freedom Continues

Fifty-one years ago, thousands of Americans gathered for the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Today, events in Ferguson, Mo., and North Carolina show how much work remains, and how we can carry on the mission of the March. America has made tremendous progress since thousands marched for “civil and economic rights”, and Dr. Martin Luther King delivered his famous “I Have A Dream” speech before the Lincoln Memorial. As I wrote last year, on the fiftieth anniversary, we have undoubtedly come a long way: We are more educated. Seventy-five percent of African-Americans complete high school now, compared to 15 percent in 1963. There are 3.5 times more African-Americans attending college, and five college graduates for every one in 1963. Fewer of us live in poverty. The number of African-Americans living in poverty has declined 23 percent since 1963.

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Dave Johnson

Court Rules That FedEx Employees Are FedEx Employees – Why This Matters

You know all those people who work for FedEx? A court has ruled that they work for FedEx! FedEx, like so many other companies, has been shifting costs onto employees by pretending they are not employees. This is called “misclassification” and this ruling matters. FedEx has been pretending that their employees are “independent contractors” even though they are FedEx employees. Just in time for Labor Day, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that FedEx’s employees (in California and Oregon, and likely many states with similar employee-protection laws) are FedEx’s employees, ruling that, “… we hold that plaintiffs are employees as a matter of law.” This ruling matters because actual employees have certain rights and benefits that contractors do not have. These rights include, Overtime pay.

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Jeff Bryant

Charter Schools Don’t Need An Ad Campaign; They Need Regulation

This time of year, while classroom teachers and administrators in public schools are busy welcoming students back to a new school year and figuring out how they’re going to cope with devastating financial constraints, advocates in the charter schools industry are propping up their image with an extensive new public relations campaign called “Truth About Charters.” That contrast alone pretty much tells you everything you need to know about where we are in the nation’s parallel education narratives, in which a gritty documentary competes with what is essentially an advertising campaign for a shiny, new product. There are good reasons for charter schools advocates to feel they need an ad campaign.

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Robert Borosage

Inequality: A Broad Middle Class Requires Empowering Workers

On Labor Day, families gather, politicians pay tribute to values of hard work, and some workers even get an extra day off. But this Labor Day arrives with working families struggling to stay afloat. Working family incomes haven’t gone up in the 21st century. Inequality reaches new extremes. Corporate profits are reaping a record portion of the nation’s income, while worker wages wallow at record lows. Three-fourths of Americans fear their children will fare less well than they have. This Labor Day, we should do more than celebrate workers – we should understand how vital reviving worker unions is to rebuilding a broad middle class. The raging debate on inequality and its remedies often omits discussion of unions. Inequality is blamed on globalization and technology that have transformed our workforce.

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