fresh voices from the front lines of change







In January the President sidestepped Republican obstruction and made “recess appointments” to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). This was because Senate Republicans were blocking all nominations, in order to keep these agencies from operating. Now that they are operating we can all see what it was Republicans were trying to prevent.

One example: In New York, a company named Renaissance Equity Holdings owns Flatbush Gardens, a 59-building, 2,500-unit complex. They have “locked out” 70 or so employees for refusing to take a 30% pay cut and for taking them to the NLRB for unfair bargaining. Renaissance was depending on the NLRB being unable to do anything about this thanks to the Republican effort to keep the agency from operating. So now is trying to keep the NLRB from enforcing the rules by contesting Obama’s recess appointments. Bloomberg: Obama Labor Board Recess Appointments Challenged in New York Lockout Trial,

The Flatbush porters and handymen, many of whom filled the courtroom gallery today, were frozen out of their jobs in November 2010 after they refused to accept an at least 30 percent pay cut. The Service Employees International Union Local 32BJ is seeking to have them returned to work at the higher wages they were making while the dispute is resolved.

The labor board filed the court case on Jan. 25 saying there was “reasonable cause to believe” that Renaissance engaged in unfair labor practices and the lockout should end.

The union said in court papers that Renaissance is trying to eliminate organized workers from the complex.

CFPB To Regulate Debt Collectors

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is going to regulate debt collectors. For more on this here is US News:CFPB Takes Aim at Debt Collectors, Credit Reporting Agencies,

“These are [firms] involved in the financial system who have not been traditionally regulated,” says Ira Rheingold, executive director of the National Association of Consumer Advocates, adding that while the Federal Trade Commission has historically handled regulating debt collectors and credit reporting agencies, it has had limited reach.

… The details of the new oversight are still murky, but it could allow the CFPB to go into theses business and examine their books and evaluate their practices. “They could do a compliance review, which was never really done before,” Rheingold says.

It could also mean the CFPB has the authority to set rules governing the practices of the industry. “It’s a very important announcement and something that we’ve needed for a very long time but didn’t really have because the FTC was hamstrung,” Rheingold says. “They didn’t have quite the same authority as the CFPB has.”

Why is this so important to regular people? Matt Stoller, writing at Naked Capitalism, explains, in One in Seven Americans Pursued by Debt Collectors,

…Ten years ago, one in fourteen American consumers were pursued by debt collectors. Today it’s one in seven.

The experience of debt collection can be chilling, as this 2007 ABC News report suggests.

Consumers around the country have taped threatening phone calls from collectors who have called in the middle of the night, used abusive language and have threatened to have people fired from work or thrown in jail. All of these tactics are illegal under federal law.

… There are now thousands of people legally jailed because they aren’t paying their bills, ie. debtor’s prisons have returned. Occasionally elites let it slip that this is not an accident, but is their goal – former Comptroller General David Walker has wistfully pined for debtor’s prisons overtly (on CNBC, no less).

… This is part of the new social contract. The sheer percentage of consumers with third party collections in pursuit is striking. Additionally, the uptrend through both Bush boom and Obama bust years of the percentage of people being tracked down by third party collection agencies suggests we live in a different country than we did just ten years ago.

By having a functioning CFPB maybe we can start to get these credit bureaus under control, helping people instead of helping prey on people.

So these agencies are operating, starting to do their jobs, protecting regular, working people. The big companies, union-busters, scammers and other 1%ers are screaming over how unfair this is.

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