News from the Daily Kos Labor
- Daily Kos Labor digest
October, 18 2017
● At Napa vineyards untouched by fires, the grapes still must be picked. Which means workers breathing a lot of smoke.
● Chipotle downgraded by Bank of America on new concern: It’s paying employees too much. Well, isn’t that terrible.
● University of Chicago grad students, after being told their labor isn’t work, vote on union. Stay tuned for the result.
- Get ready for the Republican push for ‘small business’ tax cuts for the 1 percent
October, 17 2017
Get ready to hear a lot about “small business” as Republicans try to sell their tax plan. Who doesn’t like small business? It’s your next-door neighbor, it’s the corner store that bails you out when you just need one thing and don’t want to go all the way to the big store, it’s the coffee shop where they know your name, it’s the site you turn to for news, activism, and community. Right?
Yeah, not so much. Sure, those are all small businesses, but they’re not the ones who’d benefit most (or even at all) from Republican plans for a “small business” tax cut. Republicans want a 25 percent tax rate for “pass-through” businesses, where the business pays no taxes because all of the profits pass through to the owners, who pay regular income taxes. And, according to the Economic Policy Institute:
In fact, 49 percent of all pass-through income goes to just the top 1 percent of households. This makes pass-through income one of the most concentrated-at-the-top income categories in the entire economy. […]
For example, take a married couple whose small restaurant made them $150,000 in net profits. They will not be helped by this proposal because they’re already paying a 25 percent marginal income tax rate. 86 percent of households with pass-through income already pay 25 percent or less, so will see nothing from this Republican tax plan. The people this pass-through loophole helps wealthy people like President Trump, whose top tax rate on income from more than 500 pass-through businesses would fall from 39.6 to 25 percent.
So when you hear that Republican “small business” refrain, always ask which kind of small business they mean. Your plumber or neighborhood restaurant? Or Donald Trump, Ivanka Trump, and Jared Kushner?
- Poultry lobbyists hope Trump will okay dangerous chicken processing speed-up Obama rejected
October, 16 2017
The poultry industry really, really wants to process the chickens you eat at rates of more than 140 per minute. Under former President Obama, the USDA considered and then backed off of an increase to 175 chickens per minute going down the line being eviscerated and inspected. Under Donald Trump, the National Chicken Council hopes that the sky’s the limit, asking for plants to be allowed to operate “at any line speed” if they adopt a new inspection system.
The Obama-era cap is an “arbitrary” limit that is holding back the industry’s ability to compete in the global marketplace, the National Chicken Council stated in its petition.
Granting waivers would help the Trump administration achieve its goals of “reducing regulatory burdens on the industry,” the council said, adding that it would help poultry plants cut costs and expand production to meet rising demand.
Because what you really want to hear about the meat you’re eating is that cutting costs was the producer’s primary goal, and that the government went right along with that.
Do chicken eaters trust the safety of that new inspection system? The jury is out on that and under Trump we can be sure of never getting trustworthy data. But one thing is for damn sure: if line speeds increase, the workers who process chickens will lose limbs.
Poultry workers are almost twice as likely to suffer from serious injuries as workers in private industry, and more than six times as likely to have a work-related illness. Two poultry and meat processing plants, Tyson Foods and JBS/Pilgrim’s Pride, are among the 10 companies with the highest number of work-related amputations and hospitalizations, out of more than 14,000 companies reporting to the federal government, Berkowitz, a former Obama Labor Department official, discovered.
But what are the hands and arms of a heavily immigrant workforce when a bunch of big companies could profit? Nothing, in Trumpworld.
- This week in the war on workers: A win for dining hall workers at Northeastern University
October, 14 2017
A year ago, Harvard University’s dining hall workers organized, went on strike, and got a raise. This week, inspired by the Harvard workers, Northeastern University’s dining hall workers averted a strike and got a similar contract:
The agreement includes wage increases that will bring full-time workers to $35,000 annually by 2019, and an increase in the number of full-time schedules for dining hall workers. The five-year contract includes health care plans where the employer, Chartwells, will pay 97 percent of costs, according to Unite Here Local 26 members.
The contract also “provides enhanced protections for immigrant workers, strengthened non-discrimination language including the addition of gender identity and expression, and additional sick days,” according to Unite Here Local 26.
Presumably other universities in the Boston area are sitting up and taking notice here—and they should.
- Results be damned, Betsy DeVos loves her some online charter schools
October, 9 2017
Betsy DeVos is a big fan—huge fan—of online charter schools, from investing in a virtual charter company in the past to pushing them in her current role as Donald Trump’s education secretary. Because to DeVos, “choice” is the top goal of the education system, rather than, you know, education:
… in Pennsylvania, an early adopter where more than 30,000 kids log into virtual charter schools from home most days, the graduation rate is a dismal 48 percent. Not one virtual charter school meets the state’s “passing” benchmark. And the founder of one of the state’s largest virtual schools pleaded guilty to a tax crime last year. […]
… as the virtual schools have expanded, so have questions about their effectiveness. Large swaths of Pennsylvania kids leaving a brick-and-mortar school for one of the virtual charter alternatives went to one with lower math and reading performance, according to research based on the 2009-2010 school year compiled by the Pennsylvania General Assembly’s Center for Rural Pennsylvania.
Some parents love virtual schools. Some parents also don’t believe in vaccinating their kids and make any number of other bad choices. When we’re talking about government funding, the question should not be “can you find some people who like a thing,” it should be “is this thing effective? Is it good for society? If it supposedly exists to educate children, does it do an acceptable job at educating children?”
But those are not the questions Betsy DeVos wants the federal government asking.