January, 2014

Majority of Americans See a Growing Chasm Between the Rich and Poor, New Survey Finds

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new survey conducted by the Pew Research Center and USA Today shows that Americans in both political parties see a growing gap between the rich and poor, but have differing views on the causes and solutions regarding income inequality.

The survey, which was conducted on Jan. 15-19 among 1,504 adults, shows that 68 percent of Democrats and 61 percent of Republicans believe income inequality has increased over the last decade.  However, the role of government in combating poverty was viewed along partisan lines, with more than twice as many Democrats as Republicans saying that the government can and should do a lot to reduce poverty.  The majority of those surveyed support raising taxes on the wealthy and corporations to expand programs for the poor (54 percent); raising the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour (73 percent); and extending unemployment benefits (63 percent).

President Obama is expected to highlight income inequality in his State of the Union address next week.

 


UFCW Local 1546 represents workers in Illinois and Indiana in a diverse range of industries including grocery and drug retailers; meat cutting, processing, and packing; chemical works; nursing home and healthcare facilities, and many others.

Let’s Stop the Fast Track to Bigger Trade Deficits and Lower Wages

Let's Stop the Fast Track to Bigger Trade Deficits and Lower Wages

Congress is considering new legislation that would “Fast Track” new trade deals, such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), moving them through Congress more quickly by limiting the transparency, accountability and oversight necessary for such trade deals to serve America’s working families rather than extreme corporate interests. Rep. Dave Camp (R-Mich.) and Sens. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) introduced the Fast Track legislation, and the AFL-CIO has launched a petition calling on Congress to oppose this undemocratic and anti-worker legislation. While proponents of these trade deals often make bold promises about the benefits of such agreements, in reality they do little more than increase trade deficits and hurt America’s working families.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka recently made it clear how strongly the labor federation opposed Fast Track:

The Trade Promotion Authority bill submitted today by Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp, Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus and Senate Finance Ranking Member Orrin Hatch is out of date, poorly conceived and bad for American workers. For that reason, the AFL-CIO opposes this legislation in the strongest of terms and will actively work to block its passage.

As we’ve seen previously, such deals increase our trade deficits and they often do so at the detriment of not only the American economy, but the rights of workers in the countries we trade with. The North American Free Trade Agreement alone has led to the displacement of 700,000 jobs. Workers in countries like Colombia, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Jordan and Bahrain have been the targets of detention, persecution, threats and murder. These deals frequently lead to increased corporate profits and control of the world economy and less and less life, liberty and happiness pursuit for workers.

Working families and their advocates are standing up against these trade deals and things like Fast Track that make these deals less democratic and accountable to the people. In New York, a group of lawmakers and union and environmental activists took to the steps of City Hall to protest Fast Track.

New York State AFL-CIO President Mario Cilento said that the TPP proposal “will not provide adequate transparency, accountability or oversight. It fails to protect American workers and American jobs.” Rep. José E. Serrano (D-N.Y.) echoed those sentiments: “Fast-tracking is simply a way in my opinion, of doing things without Congress really knowing about it. We’re always told that these trade agreements will create jobs and a better environment, and then five years later we find out it’s not true.”

Sign the petition and tell Congress that repeating failed policies is not the way to create jobs and grow the economy.


UFCW Local 1546 represents workers in Illinois and Indiana in a diverse range of industries including grocery and drug retailers; meat cutting, processing, and packing; chemical works; nursing home and healthcare facilities, and many others.

Walmart Illegally Retaliated Against Workers Speaking Out For Higher Wages, Against Income Inequality

The National Labor Relations Board issued the largest-ever complaint against Walmart today for breaking federal labor law by violating workers’ rights. The complaint alleges Walmart illegally fired and disciplined more than 117 workers, including those who went on strike last June to speak out for better jobs.

The NLRB asserts illegal activities in 14 states at 34 stores and shows that company executives conceived—and oversaw implementation—of an unlawful retaliation policy for store managers to execute. The complaint—the largest ever against Walmart in both size and scale—names 63 individual store managers and company spokesperson and vice president of communication David Tovar’s illegal threats made to employees.

Walmart workers, part of the national organization OUR Walmart, have been taking the country’s income inequality head on by standing up for better wages at the country’s largest employer. While the majority of Walmart associates are paid less than $25,000 a year, Walmart makes $17 billion in annual profits and the Waltons—the richest family in the country—have a combined wealth of $144.7 billion.

“Walmart thinks it can scare us with attacks to keep us from having a real conversation about the poverty wages we’re paid,” said Barbara Collins a fired Walmart worker from Placerville, CA, who is one of the 117 workers named in the complaint. “But too much is at stake—the strength of our economy and the security of our families—to stay silent about why Walmart needs to improve jobs. Now the federal government is confirming what we already know: we have the right to speak out, and Walmart fired me and my coworkers illegally. With a new CEO taking over in a few weeks, we hope that Walmart will take a new direction in listening to associates and the country in the growing calls to improve jobs.”

The complaint details the Board’s decision to prosecute the company for its illegal firings and disciplinary actions against workers standing up for better jobs.

The Board’s action will provide additional protection for Walmart’s 1.3 million employees when they are calling for Walmart to publicly commit to paying workers a minimum of $25,000 a year for full-time work. The complaint addresses threats by managers and the company’s national spokesperson for discouraging workers from striking and for taking illegal disciplinary actions against workers who were on legally protected strikes.

If Walmart is found liable, workers could be awarded back pay, reinstatement and the reversal of disciplinary actions through the decision; and Walmart could be required to inform and educate all employees of their legally protected rights. While historic, the complaint alone is not enough to stop Walmart from violating the law. Since the start of the year, Walmart has continued to retaliate against workers who speak out for better jobs.

“Shoppers, workers and activists all stand with Walmart workers calling for a decent day’s pay so they can support their families and contribute to the economy. We’ve never seen a complaint against Walmart of this size or scope, and we’re glad the NLRB is taking action. Walmart’s attacks on its own employees and cannot go unchecked,” said Sarita Gupta, executive director of Jobs With Justice. “We are proud to stand with workers calling for respect from Walmart.”

“Walmart workers are bravely leading the national movement to end low wage work,” said Bill Fletcher Jr., chairman of the Retail Justice Alliance. “Walmart is a major driver of the widening income inequality gap with its low wages that set the standard for retail jobs. We cannot get our economy moving again when the largest employer breaks federal law in an effort to keep wages down. Walmart needs to start following the law and improve jobs by paying workers a living wage.”

Today’s complaint addresses charges filed one year ago in advance of Black Friday 2012, when Walmart managers escalated their efforts to threaten and discourage workers from going on legally protected strikes. David Tovar, spokesperson for the company, even went so far as to threaten workers on national television, saying “there would be consequences” for workers who did not come in for scheduled shifts on Black Friday.

“Walmart workers like me are calling for better jobs for all Americans,” said Colby Harris, a fired worker from Lancaster, TX. “It’s not right that so many of us are struggling to get by on less than $25,000 a year while the Waltons have more wealth than 42% of American families combined. Today the federal government confirmed that Walmart is not above the law, will be held accountable, and I have rights.”

Additionally, the complaint covers the illegal firings and disciplinary actions that occurred after 100 striking Walmart workers took their concerns to the company’s June shareholder meeting in Bentonville. Support from investors, Walmart workers and the general public continued to grow after tens of thousands of shareholders heard from workers who are OUR Walmart members at the company’s annual shareholder meeting.

When these workers returned to work, Walmart systematically fired and disciplined them despite their legally recognized, protected absences. This included disciplinary action against at least 43 workers and the firing of at least another 23 worker-leaders.

Prior to the extended strike in June, American Rights at Work/Jobs with Justice released a white paper documenting Walmart’s extensive and systematic efforts to silence associates. At that time, there were more than 150 incidents in stores across the country, with few signs that Walmart would soon stop targeting those who speak out and act collectively.

In other labor charges against Walmart, workers have been winning. In California alone, the National Labor Relations Board recently decided to prosecute Walmart for 11 violations of federal labor law from some threats made around Black Friday in 2012.

In Kentucky, one settlement was reached between Walmart and Aaron Lawson in which Walmart fired Lawson after he distributed flyers and spoke out against the company’s attempts to silence those who called for better wages and consistent hours. As part of the settlement, Walmart agreed to rehire Lawson and provide full back wages for the time that he was out of work.

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UFCW Local 1546 represents workers in Illinois and Indiana in a diverse range of industries including grocery and drug retailers; meat cutting, processing, and packing; chemical works; nursing home and healthcare facilities, and many others.

LEGAL DISCLAIMER: UFCW and OUR Walmart have the purpose of helping Wal-Mart employees as individuals or groups in their dealings with Wal-Mart over labor rights and standards and their efforts to have Wal-Mart publically commit to adhering to labor rights and standards. UFCW and OUR Walmart have no intent to have Walmart recognize or bargain with UFCW or OUR Walmart as the representative of Walmart employees.

The Jungle and the Meat Packing Industry Today

Upton Sinclair’s book The Jungle shed light on the labor conditions in the Chicago Stockyards helping lead to labor reform and establish work standards that still are the bedrock for workplace safety today. But meatpacking still remains a dangerous job. Joining in the conversation is Professor of Labor Relations, School of Labor and Employment, Steven Ashby, and UFCW Local 1546 Director of Food Processing, Packing and Manufacturing Jon Willigman on WBEZ 91.5 FM.

Click here to listen to the broadcast.

 

 


UFCW Local 1546 represents workers in Illinois and Indiana in a diverse range of industries including grocery and drug retailers; meat cutting, processing, and packing; chemical works; nursing home and healthcare facilities, and many others.

Rauner Calls for Reduction in Illinois’ Minimum Wage

Republican candidate for Illinois governor Bruce Rauner has proposed reducing the state’s minimum wage from $8.25 to $7.25. Rauner made the statement last month during a candidates’ forum in the Quad Cities and again on downstate Alton radio station WGBZ-AM.

“I will advocate moving the Illinois minimum wage back to the national minimum wage,” Rauner told the radio station. “I think we’ve got to be competitive here in Illinois.”

On Wednesday, Jan. 8, Rauner denied that he wants to reduce the state minimum wage saying his remarks were “flippant”. “I should have said, ‘Tie the Illinois minimum wage to the national wage and, in that context, with other changes in being pro-business, I support raising the national minimum wage.’ I’m OK with that,” said Rauner.

On Thursday, Jan. 9, a video surfaced that shows Rauner saying “I am adamantly, adamantly against raising the minimum wage. My view is we already have the second highest unemployment in America. We already have an outrageously high unemployment rate among low-income, poor minority kids in Chicago, in Rockford, in Peoria and East St. Louis. And raising the minimum wage is just going to blow them out and take away their jobs. We cannot do this.”

Rauner is running in a four-way Republican primary on March 18. The three other Republican candidates, Republican state Treasurer Dan Rutherford, State Sen. Bill Brady, (R-Bloomington) and State Sen. Kirk Dillard (R-Hinsdale), have all said they oppose raising the state minimum wage. None of them have proposed reducing the current wage.

Governor Pat Quinn, who is seeking re-election, has proposed raising Illinois’ minimum wage to $10.

Tell Congress to Renew Unemployment Insurance Benefits

Since the House GOP left 1.3 million people out in the cold this holiday season when it refused to extend emergency unemployment insurance (UI) benefits, working families advocates, including President Barack Obama, are continuing to urge Congress to do the right thing.

Call your representative today and ask him or her to renew the emergency UI benefits: 877-318-0483.

Yesterday, President Obama said in a press conference that the benefits are a lifeline during the job search. Obama talked about one woman from California who was laid off 13 months ago. During her job search she has volunteered, sent out résumés, took seasonal work and online courses to gain new skills. The job search would be next to impossible without the jobless benefits that enabled her to pay her car and phone bills.

“This is not an abstraction, these are not just statistics,” said Obama. “These are your neighbors, your friends, your family members…that could at some point be any of us.”

The Economic Policy Institute reported that Congress has never allowed UI extensions to expire with long-term unemployment so high.

Check out this infographic below from the White House on the importance of renewing unemployment insurance:

Here's why it's so important to extend emergency unemployment insurance:


UFCW Local 1546 represents workers in Illinois and Indiana in a diverse range of industries including grocery and drug retailers; meat cutting, processing, and packing; chemical works; nursing home and healthcare facilities, and many others.

UFCW Calls for One-Year Extension of Unemployment Insurance

The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) released the following statement calling for a one-year extension of unemployment insurance benefits, which are set to expire for 1.3 million Americans tomorrow.

“It is unconscionable that Congress went on holiday break without extending assistance for those out of work through no fault of their own. A few positive employment reports do not change the fact that millions of Americans are still without a job and struggling to make ends meet. 1.3 million Americans will lose their benefits tomorrow and the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities estimates nearly 5 million Americans will have their assistance reduced if no extension is passed. Add this to the proposed cuts to food stamps and families in need are being pushed to the brink. We call on Congress to immediately pass a one-year extension of unemployment insurance. It is the least we can do to help jobless Americans get back on their feet.”


UFCW Local 1546 represents workers in Illinois and Indiana in a diverse range of industries including grocery and drug retailers; meat cutting, processing, and packing; chemical works; nursing home and healthcare facilities, and many others.