South Carolina Raising Wages Summit

by Rick Patelunas

south carolina

The last of four Raising Wages summits sponsored by the AFL-CIO was held at the International Longshoreman’s Hall in Charleston, South Carolina on February 6th.  Previous summits were held in Iowa, Nevada and New Hampshire, but South Carolina might present the environment most hostile to raising wages.  South Carolina is one of only five states without a minimum wage; it is a right-to-work state and Governor Nikki Haley said:

“We discourage any company that has unions from wanting to come to South Carolina because we don’t want to taint the water . . .[W]e educate different companies coming in from outside to understand that’s not what we want to do in South Carolina; and if they’re interested in that, we’re not where they need to come.”

That’s the same Governor Haley who delivered the Republican response to President Obama’s State of the Union address in January.  She is also responsible for the infamous “It’s a great day in South Carolina” phase that state workers are forced to say when they answer the phone.  Speakers at the Raising Wages summit tell a different story.

Charleston Mayor John Tecklenberg explained how his office is wrestling with the falling wages in the city at the same time housing costs continue to climb.  Using the Massachusetts Institute of Technology living wage calculator, the Mayor found that $11.60 an hour was needed for a living wage in Charleston.  With no state minimum wage, the federal minimum wage of $7.25 prevails.

On the legislative front, State Senator Marlon Kimpson talked about two bills he sponsored in the state legislature:  one to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour and one to provide paid sick leave to workers.  It’s an uphill battle with the Koch brothers behind some of the opposition in the state, but workers need to be respected with a livable wage and paid sick leave.

At the federal level, Congressman Jim Clyburn spoke of his support for a livable wage of $15 per hour.  He also recognized that everyone should do what they can at the local level and if $10.50 is all that’s possible in South Carolina, South Carolina needs to work for that.

Chris Kromm, Executive Director of the Institute for Southern Studies provided examples of South Carolina’s “low road” approach to economic development.  For instance, the $1,020 Billion incentive package the state put together to attract Boeing to North Charleston.  A handout from Mr. Kromm reports that the State newspaper “estimated that the price tag for incentive deals for just four companies – BMW, Boeing, Bridgestone and Michelin – totaled $800 million, or about $100,000 for each of the 8,000 jobs created.”

It’s interesting to find BMW in the list of incentives given Governor Haley’s anti-union polemics and policies.  From the BMW website:  “In accordance with the regulations contained in the German co-determination Act, BMW AG’s Supervisory Board shall comprise ten shareholder representatives . . . and ten employee representatives.”  Those ten employee representatives are the union.  That’s the law in Germany and it’s not simply for show — the Supervisory Board has final veto power of whether plants open or close.

Eight hundred million dollars is more than a price tag.  It’s $800 of taxpayer money that is not used elsewhere.  Politicians made a decision to use that money for business incentives rather than investing in the people of South Carolina.  Consider the plight of two Raising Wages panelists.   After ten years as a fast food worker, Rachel Nelson toils for $9.00 an hour with shifts lasting twelve hours with no breaks.  That’s above the minimum wage, but it is not a livable wage.  Likewise, Amy Reece is a child care worker who considers leaving the job she loves because her pay may be above the minimum wage, but it is not a livable wage.  Both are fighting for $15 an hour and the chance to unionize.

At a time when South Carolina’s education system, health and quality of life rankings are routinely at the bottom of the country, incentives to lure businesses to low wage, no union “havens” have another cost.  It’s corporate welfare.  Corporations keep the profits from paying low wages and leave taxpayers the responsibility of helping the underpaid.  Days before the Raising Wages summit, the Economic Policy Institute released a report showing how raising the minimum wage to $12.00 an hour would save billions of taxpayer dollars by 2020.

  • Among workers in the bottom three wage deciles, every $1 increase in hourly wages reduces the likelihood of receiving means-tested public assistance by 3.1 percentage points. This means that the number of workers receiving public assistance could be reduced by 1 million people with a wage increase of just $1.17 an hour, on average, among the lowest-paid 30 percent of workers. These workers would see higher incomes, even as they no longer received public assistance.
  • For every $1 that wages rise among workers in the bottom three wage deciles, spending on government assistance programs falls by roughly $5.2 billion. This estimate is conservative, as it does not include the value of Medicaid benefits.
  • Raising the federal minimum wage to $12 per hour by 2020 would reduce means-tested public assistance spending by $17 billion annually. These savings could fund a variety of improvements to government anti-poverty tools, such as expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) to childless adults, or provide funding for new education initiatives, such as improving access to preschool for children from low- and moderate-income families.

Governor Haley’s anti-worker, anti-union, anti-minimum wage, anti-government policies are not particular to her or South Carolina.  At the Republican forum on poverty in South Carolina three weeks before the Raising Wages summit, six Republican Presidential candidates shared their remedies for poverty.  Governor Christie called teachers unions the single most destructive force in education.  Ben Carson called the US progressive tax system socialism that doesn’t work in America.  Senator Rubio dismissed raising the minimum wage because it would make people more expensive than machines.

On the Democratic side, both Secretary Clinton and Senator Sanders favor raising the minimum wage, support unions and advocate raising taxes on the wealthy.  Their plans are different, but understanding the problems and the way towards solving them stands in stark contrast to Republican policies.

Our economic situation did not just happen.  It is not the working of some free market.  It is the result of government decisions and policies that have rigged the system against workers for forty years.  A number of the speakers called for the need to change the rules and the upcoming primaries and elections are an opportunity to begin the change.  Hold politicians accountable.  Ask them what they’ve done, what they’re doing and what they will do.

The Raising Wages summit provided a road map listing policies that can begin to turn things around for workers:

  • Restore Freedom of Association
  • Restore and Strengthen Labor Standards
  • Ensure Full Employment
  • Reform the Global Economy
  • Reform Wall Street
  • Increase Productivity Growth to Allow for Higher Wage Growth.

South Carolina AFL-CIO Executive Board Supports Sanders Candidacy

by Paul Garver

bernie-150526-launch-shake

On June 13th the Executive Board of the South Carolina AFL-CIO adopted the following resolution urging support for Bernie Sanders in 2016.  Thus South Carolina joins Vermont in urging the National AFL-CIO to support the Sanders campaign.

Given that Sanders wholeheartedly supported the tentatively victorious struggle by American unions to block the antidemocratic and anti-worker corporate power grab of Fast Track Trade Promotion Authority, while Hillary Clinton maintained a resolute silence on the issue until as late in the day as possible, some other state and local AFL-CIO bodies might follow the lead of their colleagues in Vermont and South Carolina by endorsing Sanders..

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Resolution Urging Support for Bernie 2016
On June 13, 2015, the Executive Board of the South Carolina AFL-CIO met and voted to adopt the following resolution:

Whereas: The SC AFL-CIO Executive Board is committed to building a broad, effective movement for democratic change, and
Whereas: Our goal is a government that carries out the will of the people, not prop up the profits of the 1% at the expense of the rest of us, and
Whereas: We firmly believe that Senator Bernie Sanders is the strongest candidate articulating our issues. His commitment to union principles and labor’s values is longstanding and heartfelt, and
Whereas: As a truly progressive candidate for the Democratic Party nomination, Bernie has the chance to inspire millions of Americans with policy proposals that put the interests of the labor movement, front and center. His campaign will draw attention to what unions and collective bargaining have accomplished for workers and energize our movement, and
Whereas: Labor must step up to fundamentally change the direction of American politics, by refocusing on the issues of our time: growing inequality and pervasive racism, the power of concentrated wealth and its corruption of our democracy, an escalating pension and retirement security crisis, runaway military spending and a militarized foreign policy, Medicare for All, and the need for new, bold solutions to our shared problems.

Therefore be it resolved that: We call on the AFL-CIO, union members and working people everywhere to unite behind Bernie Sanders and elect the President America’s workers desperately need, and
Be it further resolved that: The South Carolina AFL-CIO Executive Board strongly urges the AFL-CIO to support Bernie Sanders 2016 and his campaign to become the nominee of the Democratic Party for president.

Adopted on June 13, 2015 and respectfully submitted for consideration to the AFL-CIO by the SC AFL-CIO Executive Board.

Boeing’s Wage-Slashing Move to SC Backfires as Company Can’t Meet 787 Production Demand

by Chaz Bolte

Boeing-787-groundedWhen Boeing left Washington for South Carolina in order to suppress the wages of its workers, it also left behind the quality work that had been provided by a highly skilled, union workforce.  Now, that union-busting is backfiring as productivity has dropped immensely and Boeing is unable to meet their 787 Dreamliner production goals.

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Chasing South Carolina: For Boeing and Washington state, it’s a race to the bottom

Stan Sorscher

Stan Sorscher

(July 17, 2013) — Washington State has a world-class aerospace cluster, employing more than 130,000 people making products the rest of the world wants to buy. In 2003, Boeing cast a chill on the state, moving its headquarters to Chicago. In 2009, the chill deepened with the decision to assemble some 787s in South Carolina.This trend continues with recent announcements to move engineering work to Southern California, start an engineering center in South Carolina and transfer computing and pilot training work, too.

One interpretation is that Boeing is so averse to unions that it will move to any region committed to suppressing unions — South Carolina being a case in point.

Some industry observers and elected officials conclude that Washington State should weaken unions, to “compete.” There’s something creepy about this.

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New Documents Show Charleston was Boeing’s riskiest option

Machinist News

Newly uncovered Boeing Co. documents show the company’s own executives believed that “Project Gemini”– their plan to establish a second 787 line in South Carolina – was the highest-risk option for their new Dreamliner jet and the one most likely to fail.

At the same time, a report by a public interest research group shows that Boeing follows a deliberate strategy of boosting profits by squeezing taxpayers for handouts in South Carolina, Washington and other states.

The Project Gemini documents and the report on Boeing’s tax strategy were released by Machinists Union District Lodge 751 Friday at the International Labor Communicators Association’s convention in Seattle.

“The Project Gemini documents prove what we’ve suspected all along – that Boeing moved to Charleston to punish our members for exercising their union rights,” said Connie Kelliher, a spokeswoman for District 751.

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Code of the Pirates: Boeing and the NLRB

by Stan Sorscher

A great line in the Disney pirate movie was where Geoffrey Rush (as Captain Barbossa) explained the Code of the Pirates, this way, to Keira Knightley (as Elizabeth Swann), “… the Code is more what you’d call ‘guidelines’ really, than actual rules.” He was a pirate, after all.

Citizens are expected to obey laws, and we all get nervous when laws are ignored or swept aside, particularly at the insistence of someone who is wealthy or powerful.

We are witnessing a case in point, in the recent investigation by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), which charges that Boeing threatened and intimidated its unionized workers in Washington State. The intimidation and punishment are well documented. Boeing executives repeatedly threatened to move assembly work for the new 787 airplane from Washington State to South Carolina, pointing to strikes over the years by the Machinists’ union.

In labor law, this is a textbook example of “runaway shop.” It is illegal. Workers’ right to strike is protected by law, and employers cannot punish or threaten workers for exercising that right. The National Labor Relations Board has a duty to protect that right.

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IAM Charges GOP Senator with Ethics Violations in Boeing Case

IAM

The IAM (International Association of Machinists)  released a letter sent to the Senate Select Committee on Ethics calling for an investigation into South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham’s conduct and statements regarding the National Labor Relations Board’s (NLRB) pending complaint against the Boeing Company.

The IAM letter cites potentially unethical efforts by Sen. Graham and others to pressure NLRB Acting General Counsel Lafe Solomon to drop the law enforcement proceeding against Boeing.

“I believe that prior to the issuance of the Boeing complaint on April 20 th, Senator Lindsey Graham communicated with NLRB Acting General Counsel Lafe Solomon in one or more attempts to pressure him not to do so,” said IAM General Counsel Chris Corson. “I also believe that these communications included threats that the Senator would seek to defund or otherwise adversely affect the funding of the NLRB if the Boeing complaint were pursued.”

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