ALEC and the Minimum Wage

ALEC and the Minimum Wage
By Seth Sandronsky

The American Legislative Exchange Council is against raising the
minimum hourly wage. We turn to Missouri’s statehouse. Lawmakers there
passed bills barring every past and future law to hike the minimum
wage recently.

“By enacting legislation today to prohibit all past and future local
minimum wage laws in Missouri, the Missouri state legislature dealt a
blow to democracy and workers in the state,” said Christine Owens,
executive director at the National Employment Law Project.
“Legislators have stripped Missouri communities of their long-standing
rights and taken away all hope for cities like St. Louis of addressing
low wages that deny people the opportunity to support themselves
through work.”

Missouri’s anti-minimum wage legislation mirrors a bill that Iowa
state lawmakers passed. In Iowa, that bill reverses local minimum wage
hikes that counties approved, while prohibiting cities and counties
from changing the standards for wages and benefits.

What is going on, and why? According to the NELP, state legislatures
are responding to popular sentiments to increase minimum wage rates.
Over 40 cities and counties have enacted increased minimum wages.
However, 24 states have approved laws to roll back these minimum wage
increases. Continue reading

Trumpism, Labor and the Civil Rights Movement

John Mason,
I have been celebrating May Day, THE international day honoring workers and our achievements in organizing for our rights, and what we accomplish if the workers stand together and fight the bosses and their political minions. I have been active in these campaigns-don’t worry, we’ll still have Labor Day in September.

The origins of May Day are in the struggles in this country for an eight-hour working day, led by the Knights of Labor.  The American origins of May Day have been obscured by the appropriation by the Soviet Union, China, and other Communist regimes of revolutionary culture to further their ends, which have not been revolutionary; it gave the regimes the appearance of being radical and revolutionary. Now, the truth has been coming out, and I urge you to look up the web site, maydayusa.org.   (This raises the question: what other things have we been lied to about, in schools, media, and politics?)

We need to have such solidarity in these times of trump as our “president,” and I have NO obligation to show him ANY respect! A woman was arrested for laughing at Attorney General Jeff Sessions-laughing! Political satire, laughing at the doings of our elected (by whom?) officials is a venerable American tradition; currently, we have seeing a new golden age of it, with the work of Trevor Noah, Jon Stewart, Samantha Bee, and Stephen Colbert-who recently faced trumpist howling after a great monologue. Continue reading

Needed H 1-B Visa Reform

News from EPIH-1B visa needs reform to make it fairer to migrant and American workers

A new EPI fact sheet outlines the major flaws in the H-1B visa program and the ways in which it can be reformed to make it fairer for both U.S. workers and guestworkers.

The H-1B program provides temporary, nonimmigrant visas for college-educated workers and fashion models from abroad. While it is important to attract high-skilled workers to the United States—many of whom contribute greatly to the economy—the H-1B program has been hijacked. The biggest beneficiaries of the H-1B program are not high tech, innovative companies, but are outsourcing companies that use the visas to replace thousands of U.S. workers with much-lower-paid H-1B workers and have a business model designed to send tech jobs abroad to lower-cost countries.

“The H-1B visa is supposed to bring the best-and-brightest workers to the United States,” said EPI Director of Immigration Law and Policy Research Daniel Costa. “But the truth is businesses like it because it provides a steady supply of workers who they can legally underpay and who can’t speak up about wage and hour abuses.”

H-1B workers are underpaid and easily exploited, as the visa itself is owned and controlled by the employer so an H-1B worker who is fired or laid off for any reason becomes instantly deportable. H-1B workers often pay large fees to labor recruiters, which means that many arrive essentially indentured to their employer, fearing retaliation or termination if they speak out about workplace abuses or unpaid wages.

Simple reforms that could fix the H-1B program include:

  • Requiring employers to recruit U.S. workers and offer jobs to any equally or better qualified U.S. workers before hiring H-1B workers.
  • Requiring employers who cannot find qualified U.S. workers to pay the H-1B workers they hire no less than the local average wage for the job.
  • Providing the Labor Department with additional legal authority to crack down on abuses and exploitation of U.S. and H-1B workers, and to conduct random audits of H-1B employers.
  • Increasing funding to the Labor Department to hire additional agents in the Wage and Hour Division and better scrutinize H-1B applications.
  • Providing H-1B workers with additional protections against employer retaliation and workplace abuse.
  • Ban employers from hiring additional H-1B workers if they have violated any wage and hour, labor, or immigration laws.
  • Reforming the H-1B lottery to prioritize higher-paying employers and non-H-1B-dependent employers.

See related work on Immigration

Continue reading

$1.4 Trillion With Earned Income Tax Credit

Paul Krugman: ” … we can limit the human damage when they do happen. We can guarantee health care and adequate retirement income… We can provide aid to the newly unemployed. And we can act to keep the overall economy strong — which means doing things like investing in infrastructure and education, not cutting taxes on rich people and hoping the benefits trickle down.”

We can rebuild union density so half the workforce isn’t getting paid way less than they would be paid if we had, say, German union density.

If McDonald’s can pay $15 an hour with 33% labor costs, Target pay pay $20 with 10-15% labor costs, Walmart can pay $25 an hour with 7% labor costs. At least that’s the hope — and labor being able to flex its bargaining muscles in the (truly) free market is the only way we are going to find out.

Labor unions are the only way to end punishing just-in-time work scheduling. Continue reading

Jobs at $20 Per Hour

by Denis Drew

Neither rust-belt Americans nor Chicago gang-bangers are interested in up-to-date kitchens or two vans in the driveway.  Both are most especially not interested in $10 an hour jobs.

Both would be very, very especially interested in $20 an hour jobs.

80 years ago Congress forgot to put criminal enforcement in the NLRA(a).  Had union busting been a felony all along we would be like Germany today.  Maybe at some point our progressives might note that collective bargaining is the T-Rex in the room — or the missing T-Rex.

The money is there for $20 jobs.  49 years — and half the per capita income ago — the fed min wage was $11.  Since then the bottom 45% went from 20% overall income share to 10% — while the top 1% went from 10% to 20%.

How to get it — how to get collective bargaining set up? States can make union busting a felony without worrying about so-called federal preemption:
+ a state law sanctioning wholesalers, for instance, using market power to block small retail establishments from combining their bargaining power could be the same one that makes union busting a felony — overlap like min wage laws — especially since on crim penalties the fed has left nothing to overlap since 1935
+ First Amendment right to collectively bargain cannot be forced by the fed down (the current) impassable road.  Double ditto for FedEx employees who have to hurdle the whole-nation-at-once certification election barrier
+ for contrast, examples of state infringement on federal preemption might be a state finding of union busting leading to a mandate for an election under the fed setup — or any state certification setup for labor already covered by NLRA(a) or RLA(a).  (Okay for excluded farm workers.) Continue reading

Day Without Immigrants: The New Workers’ May Day

by Peter Olney and Rand Wilson

Food Production

The buzz about a Day without Immigrants on May 1, 2017 is growing. Spanish radio is already churning with calls for strikes, rallies and demonstrations on May 1. This movement recalls the giant mobilizations of May 1, 2006 that occurred in response to proposed draconian anti-immigrant federal legislation called the Sensenbrenner Immigration Bill.

May Day has its historic origins in the nineteenth century struggle for the eight-hour day. In many cities on May Day in 2006, the marches and rallies proved to be the largest in history. Industries that relied on immigrant labor were paralyzed as millions of workers responded to the call for a Day without Latinos (also called the Great American Boycott). Labor participated unevenly in these rallies and mostly in places where the membership in service unions was predominately Latino. This year, in the turmoil surrounding the Trump Presidency, May 1 could be a great opportunity for the labor movement to flex its muscles and build its future.

Labor’s participation is important to the future of American politics. For example, look at the history of politics in California. Turn back the clock 23 years to 1994 when then Republican Governor Pete Wilson faced a fierce re-election battle. He launched a “Trump-like” assault on “illegal” immigration replete with videos of masses of Mexicans streaming across the border and threatening California. It was a brazen racist ploy called Proposition 187, introduced to bolster his reelection bid. Union leaders in California faced a critical decision about whether to participate in the massive Los Angeles mobilization against Prop 187.

In a meeting of labor leadership, some union leaders argued that it was important not to participate in the Los Angeles’ May 1 march so as not to alienate “Encino Man” — the Reagan Democrats of the San Fernando Valley and elsewhere. In the midst of a heated discussion, AFL-CIO Regional Director David Sickler made a dramatic plea to Los Angeles’ trade unionists:

“If we don’t march with these Latin workers, we will lose the confidence and trust of whole generation of Latinos.”

Sickler’s argument won the day, and Los Angeles’ labor turned out for the march. That action, and many others, solidified the labor/Latino nexus. In one generation, California went from “Reagan-land” to solid Blue Democratic.

Again the same challenge faces labor, however now it’s on a national scale. And the opportunity for the labor movement is equally huge. Supporting the upcoming May 1 protests, strikes and other actions will clearly demonstrate that unions are ready to be a champion of the rising Latino demographic. Conversely, sitting on the sidelines will mark us as bystanders to racist repression.

Recently building trades labor leaders blindly and naively embraced Trump’s agenda by meeting with him at the White House just days after his inauguration and lauding his commitment to build infrastructure and oil pipelines — but with no commitment to pro-labor codes like prevailing wage or project labor agreements. AFL-CIO President Rich Trumka — usually a strong voice for racial justice — recently embraced Trump’s talk of immigration reform after his speech to a joint session of Congress. Again, a major labor leader is blindly and naively playing into Trump’s racist rhetoric. These actions by the building trades and the leader of the AFL-CIO undermine the U.S. labor movement’s need to squarely be on the side of immigrants battling Trump’s racist rhetoric, executive orders and travel bans.

There are many possible levels of participation for labor and unions on May 1. Each union must determine what’s the most appropriate way to participate based on its members needs and consciousness. In California, SEIU’s United Service Workers West, representing over 60,000 janitors, security guards and airport service workers has announced on Facebook its support for a May 1 strike. The United Food and Commercial Workers, representing supermarket workers in Southern California and the hotel workers union (UNITE HERE) are both assessing their actions in California. California is fertile ground for these protests with a sympathetic and supportive political infrastructure and a demographic tidal wave that means that Latinos are now the largest ethnic group in the state — out numbering Anglos 39 to 38 percent.

These calls for strikes may snowball. On the hastily organized February 17 “Day without Immigrants,” tens of thousands of mostly Latin service workers in many cities and towns stayed home (in many cases with the support of their employers). Earlier in February, Comcast employees at the company’s headquarters walked out to march and rally against Trump’s immigration policies. There is no reason not to expect similar dramatic actions on May Day. The social fervor is such that strikes in certain sectors and workplaces are very possible and possible with relative impunity.

With the prospect of large rallies and marches on May 1, some other unions are talking about participating in an organized way — even if it means after work or on off shifts. Just visibly marching with banners and signs in support of immigrant rights would be important and impactful to the thousands of immigrants who will brave deportation to hit the streets. Unions at the national and local level have an opportunity to speak with one voice in defense of immigrants. In specific locations like Los Angeles, these unions and others may hold joint press conferences and public events. Equally important will be actions in the “heartland” where immigrants may feel more politically and organizationally isolated than on the coasts.

Some unions have already begun “Know Your Rights” solidarity trainings to prepare workers for Immigration Control and Enforcement (ICE) raids that could take place in the community and the workplace. Union halls could become “Sanctuary Sites” for the undocumented. And now is a timely moment for always appreciated contributions of money, materials and office space to immigrant rights groups.

In addition to SEIU’s United Service Workers West, several national political and immigrants’ rights groups are organizing for the May 1 Day Without Immigrants including: Solid (an open-source project offered by Brandworkers), Strike Core, Cosecha, and the Beyond the Moment March.

May 1 is the traditional international day of working class solidarity, a holiday born of the U.S. struggle for the eight-hour day. It can be reclaimed with gusto this year as a focused attack on the anti-immigrant policies of Trump. But more than that, it is a day to cement the alliance between labor and the immigrant working class.

Support Justice for Migrant Workers

by Paul Garver

Free Kike and Zilly

When a repressive government wants to stifle organizing of migrant workers, it first strikes at those key leaders that are most effective in defending their rights..   

Talking Union posts last year pointed out how the Chinese government was closing migrant workers centers and jailing their volunteers to stifle the wave of organizing among internal migrant workers in China.

Now it appears that migrant worker organizers in Vermont are being targeted by the new Trump administration policies through ICE.

Please respond as quickly as possible to this plea from Migrant Justice. To sign the petition to

Demand the release of detained human rights leaders Kike and Zully!

Go to Migrant Justice website at:  http://migrantjustice.net/free-enrique-and-zully

Enrique “Kike” Balcazar, is a seasoned human rights leader in Vermont. Kike has lived in the state since 2011, when he became one of the many migrant dairy workers who make Vermont’s iconic dairy industry possible. He joined Migrant Justice in 2012, and soon became a spokesperson for his community, helping to lead the successful campaign for driver’s licenses for all Vermont residents. Kike has represented migrant workers at numerous national gatherings and coalitions, including the national Food Chain Workers Alliance, the Northeast Organic Farming Association’s recent convention, and in the Cosecha National Assembly in Boston. He has received an invitation to speak at Harvard University on April 1st.  Kike leads the nationally-acclaimed Milk with Dignity campaign, and is part of the Vermont Attorney General’s task force on immigration. Kike’s infectious smile has cheered all of us who have had the fortune to interact with him.

Zully Palacios is an active member of Migrant Justice. Zully has participated in Migrant Justice Assemblies, learning about the reality that dairy farmworkers face in Vermont. She has been an active member since 2015, leading presentations, participating in activities of an immigrant women’s group, and designing know-your-rights information for the immigrant community. Zully participated in the campaign to secure a commitment from Ben & Jerry’s to join the Milk with Dignity Program. Her work for human rights includes joining meetings and trainings about the rights of workers and immigrants at the national level. In November, Zully went to New York for the Food Chain Workers Alliance’s Justice in the Food Chain Training, and in February, Zully participated in the Cosecha National Assembly in Boston.

On Friday, March 17, Enrique and Zully were leaving the Migrant Justice office in Burlington, when Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents targeted and arrested them. They are now in detention awaiting a court date. Neither has a criminal record. Their targeting appears to be political retaliation for their effective work in defending the human rights of workers and immigrants in this country.

Please sign to send the following letter to ICE Boston Field Office Director Todd Thurlow demanding the immediate release of Enrique and Zully, and calling for their deportation proceedings to be terminated!

Field Office Director Todd Thurlow

DHS/ICE/ERO

Boston Field Office

1000 District Ave

Burlington MA 01802

Director Thurlow:

I am writing to ask you to please grant Prosecutorial Discretion to Jose Enrique Balcazar Sanchez (birth date: 03/09/1993) and Zully Palacios (05/14/1993).

Mr. Balcazar is a seasoned community leader and spokesperson. He has lived in Vermont since 2011, where he is known for his advocacy to improve living and working conditions for all farm workers, particularly migrant workers. Enrique has lived in Vergennes, Burlington and South Burlington, where he has developed strong ties with his neighbors and peers. Mr. Balcazar has shown tremendous solidarity and integrity by traveling the state to listen to farmworkers’ problems, then sharing them with government and corporate leaders to develop solutions. He currently sits on the Vermont Attorney General’s task force on immigration, leads the Milk with Dignity campaign, and led Migrant Justice’s successful campaign to win access to driver’s licenses for all Vermonters.

Ms. Palacios is not a threat to the public or to her community. Rather, she is an outstanding community activist and human rights defender. ICE should not be spending resources keeping Ms. Palacios detained. She is an important figure in her community and her continued detention does harm not only to Ms. Palacios but to the farmworker movement for human rights of which she is a respected and beloved member.

I trust that this request will be promptly considered and that Mr. Balcazar and Ms. Palacios will soon be released.