News from the Daily Kos Labor
- Trump wants to restructure government to more effectively target the safety net
June, 21 2018
Donald Trump is planning to restructure the entire federal government to more effectively hurt poor people. How do you hurt people through the structure of the government? By lumping safety net programs into a new department with the unpopular word “welfare” in its name—once you’ve formally redefined programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program as “welfare” (which, remember, was ended as we know it back in 1996) and put them all together in one place, it’ll be that much easier to pick them off and defund them.
“They have been using the word welfare because it is pejorative,” said Elaine Waxman, a senior fellow in the Income and Benefits Policy Center at the Urban Institute, a nonpartisan Washington think tank. “The programs you can call welfare are actually very small in comparison to SNAP, which is an income support necessary to help families, workers and millions of kids.”
The plan, developed by White House budget director Mick Mulvaney, would also “reorganize” 45 job training programs down to 16 job training programs, move Community Development Block Grants from the Department of Housing and Urban Development to the Commerce Department, and potentially merge the Labor and Education Departments. Basically, if there’s a program that’s helping low-income people and is run by staff who sympathize with its function and execute it competently, the Trump administration wants to shift the program to more hostile staff and weaken it enough to make it a serious target for funding cuts in the long run.
The good news is that this plan is unlikely to get through Congress. The bad news is literally everything else about it and what it signals for Trump’s plans for government and the direction of the Republican Party.
- Daily Kos Labor digest
June, 20 2018
“These folks were on the picket line and supporting the strike, but stood to not be able to pay their rent or heating bill,” said Stephen Smith of the West Virginia Working Families Party.
So he and a few other local activists set up an online appeal to help cover lost wages. Seven thousand people from all over the country gave an average of $48 apiece, totaling $332,945.
Lots going on in Massachusetts. The state’s Supreme Judicial Court killed a ballot question raising taxes on the highest earners, following which the state legislature has worked out a tentative bargain on a $15 minimum wage, paid family leave, and a sales tax holiday.
- Undocumented Texas domestic workers suffer widespread exploitation
June, 19 2018
Donald Trump likes to talk about the terrible threat that Latino immigrants pose to Americans. But in Texas, a Republican state with a lot of border wall enthusiasts, plenty of people have immigrants working in their homes—and too many of those people are using their domestic workers’ immigration status and vulnerability to exploit them. A new report by the National Domestic Workers Alliance draws on a survey of more than 500 domestic workers near the Texas-Mexico border conducted in 2016 and finds widespread wage theft and abuse.
Just over half of the workers surveyed were undocumented or didn’t have work authorization, and those workers faced some of the worst abuses:
Thirty-five percent of workers with an insecure immigration status reported being paid less than initially agreed to, or not being paid at all. They were also three times more likely to be paid late, or be pressured to work longer than their scheduled hours. Thirty-two percent of undocumented workers said their employers had threatened to report them to immigration officials.
Overall, workers are underpaid, with more than 40 percent having trouble paying their rent and 37 percent going hungry at some point in the past year. Few of them have contracts, making them more vulnerable to wage theft (which 24 percent had experienced) or being forced to work longer hours than scheduled (60 percent). More than a quarter had been yelled at by their employers and 12 percent had been physically assaulted on the job.
The United States does poorly by its workers, poorly by its immigrants, poorly by its women, poorly by its people of color—and a majority of these workers encompass all of those categories. Consider, too, that this survey was done in 2016. Do you think things have gotten better since Donald Trump’s been in the White House sending clear signals that immigrants are safe targets for abuse?
- Minimum wage workers can’t afford rent anywhere in the U.S., and Trump wants to make it worse
June, 14 2018
Decent housing remains out of reach for many American workers, the National Low Income Housing Coalition’s 2018 Out of Reach report confirms. As you can see on the map below, there’s not one state where a two-bedroom market-rate rental is possible on 40 hours a week of minimum wage work, even in states with a higher minimum wage than the federal rate of $7.25 an hour.
How much would you have to earn to rent a two-bedroom home? The national rate is $22.10, or $17.90 for a one-bedroom. Arkansas is the cheapest state—a worker would need to make $13.84 an hour to afford a two-bedroom rental there. But the Arkansas minimum wage is just $8.50.
Many renters are being paid more than minimum wage, of course. But the report estimates that the average renter’s hourly wage is $16.88—still below what a single adult would need to afford a one-bedroom apartment. People end up spending far more than they can afford on rent and struggling to pay their other basic expenses.
This is the reality nationally as the Trump administration pushes to cut federal affordable housing funding. Things are bad, and Team Trump only wants to make them worse.
- This week in the war on workers: Check out how unions make California’s economy more equal
June, 9 2018
As the Supreme Court gets ready to deal a major blow to public sector unions, here’s a reminder of how much unions do to increase equality in this country. A University of California-Berkeley Labor Center report on the effects of unions in California shows how unions help close racial and gender gaps in wages and more:
- Union coverage increases wages by 26 percent for women, compared to 15 percent for men.
- Black and Latino/a workers see a bigger increase in their average wages from union coverage
(19 percent for Black workers and 40 percent for Latino/a workers) compared to White workers (9 percent).
- Immigrant workers also see slightly larger wage gains from union coverage (19 percent) compared to U.S.-born workers (18 percent).
Effects are similar for having employer-sponsored health coverage and retirement plans—unions make it more likely workers will have these benefits, and they make the economy a little more equal. And if more workers were in unions, that could make the economy a lot more equal.
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