Category: Allied Approaches

Robots On Everyone’s Mind At the Fourth Democratic Debate

Matthew McMullan

Matthew McMullan Communications Manager, Alliance for American Manufacturing

Another hours-long primary debate is in the books. There were 12 candidates on stage last night! For another three hours! Not a great format for TV!

That said: One of these people could be in the White House in a little over a year from now, so we should probably pay a little attention, even if we're still months away from voting. So let’s boil it down. What did we notice in last night's debate?  

Elizabeth Warren on trade vs. automation 

Moderator: “Senator Warren, you wrote that blaming job loss on automation is, quote, ‘a good story, except it's not really true.’ So should workers here in Ohio not be worried about losing their jobs to automation?”

Warren: “So the data show that we have had a lot of problems with losing jobs, but the principal reason has been bad trade policy. The principal reason has been a bunch of corporations, giant multinational corporations who've been calling the shots on trade, giant multinational corporations that have no loyalty to America. They have no loyalty to American workers. They have no loyalty to American consumers. They have no loyalty to American communities. They are loyal only to their own bottom line.”

“I have a plan to fix that, and it's accountable capitalism. It says, you want to have one of the giant corporations in America? Then, by golly, 40 percent of your board of directors should be elected by your employees.”

Insta-Analysis: That is indeed Sen. Warren’s plan. Requiring 40 percent of all corporate boards to worker-elected is not the only part of it, but it’s a real big part. You can read about the rest here.

Is she right, though, that trade’s a bigger job-loss culprit than automation? It depends on which jobs you’re talking about. Manufacturing jobs have definitely been lost as we’ve run up trade deficits with China over the years. There’s a plausible argument to be made that import competition killed off factory employment in the United States.  

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UFCW, Public Citizen Sue to Stop Dangerous Slaughterhouse Rules

Mark Gruenberg

Mark Gruenberg Editor, Press Associates Union News

The United Food and Commercial Workers and three of its Minnesota locals, who represent workers at slaughterhouses, and the pro-worker Public Citizen activist group filed suit against a GOP Trump administration rule that could in effect return the nation’s pork production to conditions found in The Jungle more than a century ago.

The case, filed by UFCW and its Locals 2, 410 and 663 on Oct. 7 in U.S. District Court in Minneapolis, says the new inspection regime – or lack of it – that Trump’s Agriculture Department wants to impose endangers both safety of workers on the job and the nation’s health, by leaving pork carcasses open to bacterial hazards.

Trump’s Agriculture Department promulgated the final rule in the last several weeks and officially published it on Oct. 1. Deep in its text, it says the rule will add $87 million to the profits of the nation’s agribusiness pork processors.

But it would do so, the suit and the unions retort, at the expense of worker health and safety – particularly repetitive motion injuries – and consumer health, by letting diseased pork carcasses go by on the production line with no oversight from federal inspectors. They’d only get to look at the hogs before the carcasses enter the line and after they come off.

In between, the suit says, untrained plant employees -- i.e. managers ordered to speed through as many hogs as possible to increase production and profits – would eye carcasses.

Trump’s pork processing rule is yet another instance of his pro-plutocratic GOP administration caving to the wishes of the corporate class. The pork processors have been agitating for years for no speed limits on pork processing lines. They also lobbied for fewer, or no, federal inspectors to yank off diseased hogs. They got their wish in Trump’s rule.

In both senses, those conditions harken back to Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle, published in 1905. It exposed dangerous conditions – both to workers and consumers – in pork slaughterhouses of Chicago’s stockyards, the “Hog Butcher to the World.”

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Twin Cities home health care workers win unpaid overtime

Mark Gruenberg

Mark Gruenberg Editor, Press Associates Union News

It took almost five years to wend its way through state agencies and courts, but home health care workers who toil for the Twin Cities-based Baywood Home Care agency will share $350,000 from the firm for unpaid overtime.

The win came from the Minnesota Supreme Court on Sept. 18, in a case brought on the workers’ behalf by the state Department of Labor, the St. Paul Union Advocate reported.

The department investigated a complaint, filed in 2014, that the agency was violating the state Fair Labor Standards Act, which  mandates time-and-a-half pay for all hours worked over 48 per week.

The federal FLSA mandates overtime pay for all hours worked over 40 per week, but it doesn’t cover home health care workers. Minnesota’s does. Responding to evidence presented by the Service Employees, the Obama-era federal Labor Department brought home health care workers nationwide under the federal FLSA, for one year, until home health care interests got federal courts to toss that rule out.

Baywood broke the state law, the state agency told the state court, by working its employees for 24 hours at a time, but not every day. They were paid set daily rates regardless of how long they worked each week.

The state court said the daily rates are no substitute for overtime pay. When the home health care workers toiled more than 48 hours a week each, the workers were entitled to time-and-half pay “regardless of how the worker was compensated” before hitting that weekly limit.

Not paying the workers overtime is a form of wage theft, which costs Minnesota workers alone $22 million statewide every year, estimates show.

“All Minnesotans deserve to be paid every dollar they are owed for the work they perform,” state Labor Commissioner Nancy Leppink said in a statement after the court’s decision. The court also ordered the firm to pay the state agency $350,000 in damages.

“Too many workers are not being paid their full wages. With this decision, these employees are now one step closer to being correctly compensated for their work and for the harm they experienced,” she added.

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Black and Hispanic men could face disproportionate job loss due to transportation automation

Carl Romer Intern, EPI

On August 12, 2019, Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang tweeted, “I’ve done the MATH, it’s not immigrants taking our jobs, it’s automation. Instead of blaming immigrants, let’s give our citizens the means to thrive through the fourth industrial revolution.” This, like much of Yang’s and others’ current discourse regarding automation, is focused on an exaggerated fear that automation can and soon will replace workers’ roles in production, resulting in widespread job loss. But for hundreds of years, technological progress has continually reshaped the way work is done—and yet this progress has never resulted in a long-term decline in the labor force. Focusing on overstated risks of job loss from automation distracts from efforts to advocate for higher wages, better benefits, and increased bargaining power—issues that have been, and will continue to be, essential to the well-being of workers and their families.

However, while there is no reason to believe that automation will lead to widespread, sustained decline in the overall number of jobs, there will be specific jobs, industries, and workers for whom the impact of automation will come with real costs, at least in the short term. One industry in which concerns about automation may be warranted in the near term is transportation. Ford and Volvo have both announced plans to put fully autonomous vehicles on the road as early as 2021; Honda has announced a partnership with GM to begin developing autonomous vehicles; and Nissan recently introduced “no-hands driving” on highways in its ProPilot 2.0. While consumer skepticism may slow down the industry’s timelines, many advances have already been made: Most new cars have computerized driver assistance options; Tesla’s Autosteer has logged at least one billion miles of supervised autonomous driving; and Caterpillar is already producing autonomous vehicles for hauling mining materials.

The automation of transportation could have particular implications for truck drivers. Although truck drivers represent a small share of all workers, that share has grown since the early 1980s: Truck drivers have gone from being 0.7% to just under 1% of the total workforce. More than one-third of these truck drivers are black and Hispanic men. According to EPI analysis of 2016–2018 Current Population Survey Outgoing Rotation Group (CPS-ORG) microdata, among full-time workers, “Driver/Sales Workers and Truck Drivers” is currently the number one occupation for black men and the number two occupation for Hispanic men. For the sake of this analysis, my definition of “Truck Drivers” includes this occupational category as well as the category “Industrial Truck and Tractor Operators” and is limited to the detailed industry categories “Trucking Services” or “Truck Transportation.” In order to have a large enough sample to examine employment by race, ethnicity, and gender, I combine data from the CPS-ORG into five-year intervals.

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The Key to Distributing Wealth More Equitably

Sam Pizzigati

Sam Pizzigati Editor, Too Much online magazine

CEO compensation in the United States may have finally crossed the line — from outrageously unfair to intolerably obscene. In 2018, a new Institute for Policy Studies report details, 50 major U.S. corporations paid their top execs over 1,000 times the pay that went to their most typical workers.

What can we do about obscenity this raw? Plenty. We can start by placing consequences on the CEO-worker pay ratios that publicly traded U.S. corporations must now annually disclose.

In Oregon, the city of Portland already has. Since 2017, major companies that do business in Portland have had to pay the city’s business tax at a higher rate if they compensate their top execs at over 100 times what they pay their median — most typical — workers.

State lawmakers have introduced similar legislation in seven states, and, earlier this week, White House hopeful Bernie Sanders announced a plan to hike the U.S. corporate income tax rate on all large firms that pay their top execs over 50 times their worker pay. Some context: A half-century ago, few U.S. corporations paid their chief execs over 25 times what their workers earned.

The new Sanders plan has drawn predictable scorn from the usual suspects. One analyst from the right-wing Manhattan Institute, for instance, told the Washington Post that a pay-ratio tax “could dramatically affect industries such as fast food and retail that naturally pay lower wages.”

Corporations pay “what the market demands,” added Adam Michel from the equally conservative Heritage Foundation, “and levying new taxes on high pay will just make U.S. businesses less able to compete globally, expand their workforces, or raise wages of rank and file workers.”

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Factories Lose 2,000 Jobs in September

From the AAM

Manufacturing employment dropped in September, with the sector losing 2,000 jobs, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported on Friday. Motor vehicles and parts saw 4,100 lost jobs, while computer and electronic products gained 3,800 jobs.   

Meanwhile, new trade figures showed that the overall goods and services deficit hit $54.9 billion in August, up $0.9 billion from July, while the goods deficit with China reached $28.9 billion.

Alliance for American Manufacturing President Scott Paul said:

September was a lousy month for factory jobs. While many pressures may have contributed to this month's employment decline, one thing is becoming more clear: Manufacturing is weak right now.

There are a couple of policy shifts that could help strengthen the sector. First, passing a robust new investment in our nation’s infrastructure. Second, reconsidering the merits of an overvalued dollar, which is hampering our exports. Third, a final trade agreement with China that will rein in its massive industrial overcapacity and subsidies, and provide our businesses and workers with more certainty and a better playing field.

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Unions oppose discrimination against LGBTQ+ people

Mark Gruenberg

Mark Gruenberg Editor, Press Associates Union News

The nation’s largest unions and the nation’s largest labor federation both back outlawing employer discrimination against lesbian-gay-bisexual-transgender people – a ban bosses are challenging in top cases at the U.S. Supreme Court.

And the Oct. 8 argument over whether bosses can discriminate against LGBTQ people – including firing them – solely because of their sexual orientation or gender preference isn’t the only big-ticket civil rights case the justices will hear in the next six weeks.

The other will come up in early November, as Comcast challenges the wide-ranging ban on discrimination written into the Reconstruction Era’s 1866 Civil Rights Act and its famous Section 1981, which lets individuals and firms sue against business racism.

And in both instances, the GOP Donald Trump administration is arguing on the other side, for discrimination.

Both issues are important for the future of civil rights and human rights in the United States, which have been frequently under attack by Trump, right-wing Republicans and their ideological think tanks and, in the Section 1981 case, the corporate class.

The tangle over LGBTQ job discrimination will hit the High Court the day after it starts its 2019-20 term. Four separate lawsuits, consolidated into one long hearing, will force the justices to consider whether employers can discriminate against LGBTQ people.

That’s illegal under the 1964 Civil Rights Act’s ban, in its famous Title VII, on employment discrimination based on sex, according to the AFL-CIO, both big teachers’ unions, and a combined brief from the Service Employees International Union, the Teamsters and Jobs With Justice – along with other allies of LGBTQ people.

Title VII also bans discrimination based on race, color, religion or national origin.

The Section 1981 case will come up in November. It outlaws racial discrimination by businesses in making contracts.

Until now, courts inserted one big caveat into Section 1981 cases: What’s called a “but for” clause, meaning that “but for” specific circumstances – namely that but for the fact that the person hurt was African-American – the discrimination would not have occurred.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco took away even that caveat and ruled the 1866 law means what it says and that victims only need to show race was “a factor” – not the factor – to get their day in court after firms didn’t do business with them.

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Federal workers protest Trump anti-union edicts

Mark Gruenberg

Mark Gruenberg Editor, Press Associates Union News

Culminating several days of in-person lobbying, but continuing a defense that’s been going since Donald Trump’s first day in office, federal worker unions, their congressional allies and other union leaders took their campaign against the GOP president’s edicts to Congress.

The mass rally of several thousand people on Capitol Hill on Sept. 24 drew attention to Trump’s anti-worker actions, from curbs on union representation for all two million federal workers down to sudden declarations that 900 of the lowest-paid disabled workers in the Portland, Ore., Veterans Administration hospital would be laid off – with two weeks’ notice.

Led by the Government Employees (AFGE) and the Treasury Employees (NTEU), unions and workers lobbied for legislation to stop Trump‘s edicts in their tracks in the new fiscal year, which starts Oct. 1.

The Democratic-run House has agreed. The GOP-run Senate is another matter, though one speaker, Sen. Chris Von Hollen, D-Md., promised the crowd he would push the ban on Trump’s edicts through. Whether and when he, and other Senate Democrats, can succeed is up in the air.

The point of the rally was to get them to do so. “Talk is cheap. Let’s get to work,” AFL-CIO Executive Vice President Tefere Gebre said. “Something is happening in America,” federation President Richard Trumka declared before challenging Trump: “Bring it on!”

Typical support came from Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio: “You can’t say you love your country and you love workers and then attack unions.”

Trump’s edicts throw federal worker unions out of their small offices in federal buildings; yank away their computers, phones and fax machines; curb due process rights for federal workers; make it easier for bosses to fire workers for no reason at all, and even tell union stewards that when they defend federal workers, they must do so on their own time and on their own dime.

The unions took Trump to court, won in district court – and lost in the U.S. Court of Appeals for D.C. on Sept. 25. In an unsigned order, the judges declined to hear the case.

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Executive Excess 2019: Making corporations pay for big pay gaps

Sam Pizzigati

Sam Pizzigati Editor, Too Much online magazine

INTRODUCTION:

For two full years now, publicly held corporations in the United States have had to comply with a federal mandate to report the gap between their CEO and median worker compensation. The resulting disclosures, this report makes clear, have produced truly staggering statistical results.

Americans across the political spectrum have been decrying the yawning gaps between CEO and worker compensation for several decades now. Yet Americans still, the research shows, vastly underestimate how wide these gaps have become. Today, with corporations required to disclose their pay ratios, the public can finally see the actual size of pay gaps at individual firms. These excessively wide compensation gaps hurt us on three major fronts:

  • Corporate pay gaps help drive extreme inequality in the U.S.
  • Wide pay gaps undermine business efficiency and effectiveness
  • Runaway CEO pay endangers our democracy and the broader economy
 

KEY FINDINGS:

  • At the 50 publicly traded U.S. corporations with the widest pay gaps in 2018, the typical employee would have to work at least 1,000 years to earn what their CEO made in just one..
  • Among S&P 500 firms, nearly 80 percent paid their CEO more than 100 times their median worker pay in 2018, and nearly 10 percent had median pay below the poverty line for a family of four.
  • S&P 500 corporations as a whole would have owed as much as $17.2 billion more in 2018 federal taxes if they were subject to tax penalties ranging from 0.5 percentage points on pay ratios over 100:1 to 5 percentage points on ratios above 500:1.
  • Walmart, with a pay gap of 1,076 to 1, would have owed as much as $794 million in extra federal taxes in 2018 with this penalty in place, enough to extend food stamp benefits to 520,997 people for an entire year..
  • Marathon Petroleum, with a 714-to-1 gap, would have owed an extra $228 million, more than enough to provide annual heating assistance for 126,000 low-income people.
  • CVS, with a 618-to-1 ratio, would have added a revenue stream that could have provided annual Medicare prescription benefits for 33,977 seniors.
  • The report also includes the most comprehensive available catalog of CEO pay reform proposals.

Download the full report here.

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From the Institute for Policy Studies

No One Should Have To Bargain For Health Care

Negin Owliaei

Nearly 50,000 members of the United Auto Workers began striking earlier this month, demanding that General Motors pay them their fair share of the billions in profits the company raked in last year.

The response from General Motors was shocking. The automaker, which accepted billions in government bailouts during the last recession, cut off its payment of insurance premiums for the striking workers.

As the news broke, former Vice President Joe Biden was at an AFL-CIO event, campaigning against a single-payer Medicare for All plan that would replace employer-provided insurance. “You’ve broken your neck to get it,” Biden told the crowd. “You’ve given up wages to keep it. And no plan should be able to take it away.”

But what if that’s actually the problem? Why should union workers — or anyone — be breaking their necks to get health care, a basic human right?

Health care has been a constant subject of debate among Democratic presidential candidates. Biden and others have argued that a single-payer system would be unfair to union workers who’ve taken pay cuts in exchange for better health care plans.

But, as GM showed, our current system turns health coverage into leverage for employers. What could unions fight for if they didn’t have to constantly play defense against employers trying to gut their health care?

If we already had Medicare for All, the United Auto Workers could be using their collective power to fight for higher wages and better benefits. Instead, GM gets to use the health of its employees as a bargaining chip.

Auto workers aren’t the only union workers fighting for health coverage.

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Union Matters

America’s Wealthy: Ever Eager to Pay Their Taxes!

Sam Pizzigati

Sam Pizzigati Editor, Too Much online magazine

Why do many of the wealthiest people in America oppose a “wealth tax,” an annual levy on grand fortune? Could their distaste reflect a simple reluctance to pay their fair tax share? Oh no, JPMorganChase CEO Jamie Dimon recently told the Business Roundtable: “I know a lot of wealthy people who would be happy to pay more in taxes; they just think it’ll be wasted and be given to interest groups and stuff like that.” Could Dimon have in mind the interest group he knows best, Wall Street? In the 2008 financial crisis, federal bailouts kept the banking industry from imploding. JPMorgan alone, notes the ProPublica Bailout Tracker, collected $25 billion worth of federal largesse, an act of generosity that’s helped Dimon lock down a $1.5-billion personal fortune. Under the Elizabeth Warren wealth tax plan, Dimon would pay an annual 3 percent tax on that much net worth. Fortunes between $1 billion and $2.5 billion would face a 5 percent annual tax under the Bernie Sanders plan.

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No Such Thing as Good Greed

No Such Thing as Good Greed