News from the Daily Kos Labor
- Black Women’s Equal Pay Day is a powerful reminder of how equal pay isn’t
August, 22 2019
Equal Pay Day, the day when women had made as much since January 1, 2018, as white men made in 2018, was back on April 2. It is just now—August 22, 2019—Black Women’s Equal Pay Day. That’s because while women overall make 80 to 81 cents for every dollar a white man makes, there are major racial disparities among women.
Asian women have the smallest disparity, making a whopping 85 cents on the dollar, so their equal pay day comes in early March. White women come next, at 77 cents—their equal pay day is just a few days after the overall one, on April 19. For black women, it’s 61 cents, which is why we’re here in late August talking about equal pay, by which we mean how equal the pay isn’t. That gap adds up fast, Jocelyn Frye writes at the Center for American Progress, “amounting to $23,653 less in earnings over an entire year. In the span of a 40-year career, this translates into an average lifetime earnings gap of $946,120 between Black women and white men.” Black women face a massive gap no matter how much education they get—and they’re left with higher student loan debt than any other racial group.
When we talk about Equal Pay Day, we’re always talking about apples to apples—people who work full time and year round. And with black women, we’re talking about the group of women that has always worked outside the home at the highest rates, with a complicated and often viciously discriminatory history in which, Frye writes, “Black women frequently encounter a workplace narrative that deemphasizes the importance of their personal caregiving responsibilities or suggests that their caregiving roles should be secondary to their paid work.” Black women have long cared for white children for low wages while their caregiving role for their own children was shoved to the side, and black women remain disproportionately in occupations in which scheduling abuses and unpredictable weekly hours of work make life even more difficult than low wages alone would do.
Since Native American women earn 58 cents for every dollar a white man makes and Latina women earn 53 cents, their equal pay days won’t come until September 23 and November 20.
- Bernie Sanders unveils sweeping workplace democracy plan
August, 21 2019
Sen. Bernie Sanders has released his “workplace democracy plan,” a sweeping set of proposals for strengthening and modernizing U.S. labor laws that would, if enacted, create a major shift in the power balance in American workplaces. Sanders debuted the plan Wednesday as he and other candidates appeared at the Iowa Federation of Labor’s convention.
The reasons for the plan are at the core of Sanders’ candidacy. As its introduction notes, “Declining unionization has fueled rising inequality. Today, corporate profits are at an all-time high, while wages as a percentage of the economy are near an all-time low. The middle class is disappearing, and the gap between the very rich and everyone else is growing wider and wider”—and some key reasons for this aren’t a mystery. “There are many reasons for the growing inequality in our economy, but one of the most significant reasons for the disappearing middle class is that the rights of workers to join together and bargain for better wages, benefits, and working conditions have been severely undermined.”
Sanders’ plan takes off from that point and has a lot of ways to fix it. Among them:
- Allow workers to organize unions through a majority sign-up process.
- Guarantee all workers, including domestic and farm workers, the right to unionize.
- Prevent companies with new unions from exploiting loopholes to delay a first contract—currently “more than half of workers who vote to form a union don’t have a union contract a year later and 37 percent still do not have a first contract two years after the election” because of employer foot-dragging and weak labor laws.
- Repeal Section 14(b) of the Taft Hartley Act, which allows states to pass so-called “right to work” laws, which allow workers to get out of paying union dues while getting the benefits of union representation.
- Crack down on misclassification of workers as independent contractors, denying them minimum wage and overtime protections, workers comp and unemployment benefits, and more; or as supervisors, exempting them from overtime.
- Keep companies from using franchises or contractors to evade responsibility for their workers. “If a company can decide who to hire and who to fire and how much to pay an employee at a franchise, that company will be considered a joint employer along with the owner of a particular franchise — and both employers must engage in collective bargaining over the terms and conditions of employment.”
- Give federal workers the right to strike and all public sector unions the right to negotiate.
- ”Issue an executive order to prevent companies from receiving federal contracts that outsource jobs overseas, pay workers less than $15 an hour without benefits, refuse to remain neutral in union organizing efforts, pay executives over 150 times more than average workers, hire workers to replace striking workers, or close businesses after workers vote to unionize.”
There’s more, too, including sectoral bargaining in which unions would negotiate a floor for an entire industry in a given area, working with wage boards set up by local governments, as well as a proposal for a careful transition from negotiated health plans to Medicare for All.
- U.S. Steel lays off Michigan workers a week after Trump bragged ‘business is thriving’
August, 20 2019
“Steel was dead. Your business was dead. Okay? I don’t want to be overly crude. Your business was dead. And I put a little thing called ‘a 25 percent tariff’ on all of the dumped steel all over the country. And now your business is thriving” Trump said, in the same Monaca, Pennsylvania, speech at which he had a coerced audience of workers told they’d lose pay if they didn’t attend. “And I’ll tell you what,” he added later, “Those steel mills—U.S. Steel and all of them, all of them—they’re expanding all over the place. New mills. New expansions. We hadn’t have—we didn’t have a new mill built in 30 years, and now we have many of them going up.”
This is, of course, false. There are not “many” new steel mills going up (and on top of it, there had been at least one built within the last 30 years). U.S. Steel is investing $1 billion in its Mon Valley Works facilities, but there’s no guarantee of new jobs there.
And now U.S. Steel is idling blast furnaces and laying off workers—temporarily, we very much hope—as steel prices have fallen significantly from a 2018 peak shortly after Trump announced his tariffs. The steel tariffs did at least temporarily lead to increased investment and jobs. But of course Trump had to lie about the scale of the improvements and you’re unlikely to see him admitting to the slump that’s hitting now.
- CEO pay is a scandal—or anyway, it should be—this week in the war on workers
August, 17 2019
Since 1978, CEO pay has grown 1,007.5% by one measure and a mere 940.3% by another measure, the Economic Policy Institute reports. Average workers? Their pay has gone up just 11.9%. That’s not all, either. The increase in CEO pay has dramatically outstripped the increase for other very high earners, which is positively modest at 339.2%.
The numbers start to seem a little more manageable if you drill down to more recent years, but the inequality is still striking:
CEO compensation has grown 52.6% in the recovery since 2009 using the options-exercised measure and 29.4% using the options-granted measure. In contrast, the typical workers in these large firms saw their annual compensation grow by just 5.3% over the recovery and actually fall by 0.2% between 2017 and 2018.
EPI also finds in the data an indication that no, CEOs aren’t magical unicorns who are worth all that money on their own unique merit: “CEOs of large firms earned 5.4 times that of the average top 0.1% earner in 2017, up from 4.4 times in 2007. This is yet another indicator that CEO pay is more likely based on CEOs’ power to set their own pay, not on a market for talent.”
- House Democrats oppose extreme anti-worker Labor nominee, this week in the war on workers
August, 10 2019
Nearly 30 House Democrats sent Donald Trump a letter “to express our strong concerns” about the nomination of Eugene Scalia as labor secretary. “We believe Mr. Scalia’s consistent record of opposing workers’ rights disqualifies him from heading the Department designed to protect American workers,” the letter, led by Michigan Rep. Andy Levin, reads. “We urge instead that you put forward a nominee who will improve working conditions across the United States, defend workers’ rights, and raise the standard of living for working people.”
The members of Congress offer a number of examples of the work that has disqualified Scalia from ever claiming to have the welfare of workers in mind. Among them:
- Mr. Scalia fiercely opposed a Clinton administration regulation to protect workers from repetitive stress injuries and issues like carpal tunnel syndrome, arguing “that ergonomic regulation will force companies to give more rest periods, slow the pace of work and then hire more workers (read: dues-paying members) to maintain current levels of production.” […]
- Mr. Scalia represented SeaWorld after a killer whale killed trainer Dawn Brancheau in 2010. While the Occupational Safety and Health Administration determined “SeaWorld either knew or should have known that the whale posed a threat to humans and should have taken steps to protect trainers,” Scalia and his colleagues claimed “SeaWorld already had adequate safety measures in place, and that the trainers had accepted the risks inherent in their jobs and that it was their responsibility to manage these risks.”
Perfect Trump nominee, in other words.
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