By: Luz Lazo
On the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, one of the busiest travel days of the year, workers at 15 major U.S. airports are planning a day of fasting, vigils and rallies, aiming to galvanize the traveling public’s support for their fight for better wages.
The workers— a mix of cleaners, baggage handlers, wheelchair attendants and security officers— will wear buttons that say “Ask Me Why I’m Fasting” and pass out petitions and flyers illustrating their campaign for a $15-per-hour minimum wage, the Service Employees International Union said.
Besides pushing for $15 minimum hourly wages, the workers want health care, sick leave, retirement benefits and job protections. They’re also protesting threats against their efforts to unionize.
Last week, as many as 2,000 workers went on strike at seven major hubs, including New York’s Kennedy and LaGuardia airports. The walkout didn’t disrupt air travel, but workers and union leaders say they are planning to step up their efforts as the busy holiday season takes off. Their goal is to put pressure on airports, airlines and, most importantly, the contractors that hire the workers.
“These used to be good jobs 20 years ago, but with subcontracting the jobs have really gone down,” said Valarie Long, executive vice president of SEIU International. “Some people are making as little as $7.25 an hour, some less because they are considered tipped employees. It is clear that something needs to change and the workers are going to use this holiday season to make sure that the public knows this.”
The 24-hour fast, along with vigils and rallies, are being organized at San Francisco, Portland, Ore., Chicago O’Hare, Cleveland, Columbus, Minneapolis, Denver, Boston, New York’s Kennedy and LaGuardia, Newark, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Fort Lauderdale and Reagan National airports.
At National, at least 300 workers pledged to participate in the fast from noon Tuesday to noon Wednesday, workers and SEIU leaders said.
“I believe it’s the right thing to do,” said Alex Aram, 24, a fulltime baggage handler at National making $8.50 an hour through the facility service and management company Eulen America. “We all come from the same struggle, we all have the same thing in common and want it to get better.”
The national campaign mirrors that of fast-food restaurant workers who have been organizing in cities across the U.S. in their “Fight for $15″ campaign. The airport workers have gained steam, expanding from just a handful of airports three years ago to 15 major hubs, where workers have held strikes and protests, and in the process have won some concessions.
In Philadelphia, city leaders in June forced airline contractors to raise wages to $12 an hour. In Seattle, a state court ruled in August that a $15-an-hour minimum wage law applies to airport workers. And in South Florida, Broward County officials last month voted to extend a living-wage ordinance to contract airline workers, upping salaries by more than $3 an hour for some workers.
Members of the clergy and high profile politicians including Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton have also pledged support.
“Airport jobs should be good jobs,” Clinton said in a letter last month. “Too many workers are living on the brink, struggling to make ends meet. We need you out there saying loudly and clearly—no one who works an honest job in America should have to live in poverty.”
In Washington, Rep. Gerald E. Connolly (D-Va.) was one of several members of Congress who last week spoke in solidarity with the workers strike outside the Capitol. Connolly bashed the workers’ salaries and conditions.
“Airports should be economic drivers, not sweatshops,” he said. “These men and women shouldn’t have to juggle multiple jobs and still struggle to pay the bills or support their families.”
The low-wage airport workers are employed by private contractors that are free to pay the minimum wage. Some workers, including wheelchair attendants are paid $3.77 an hour because they are considered to be tipped employees, workers said. In some markets, there is a push to be get the workers included under living-wage ordinances that cover employees working directly for the airports.
At National, where some workers began to organize over the summer, they are working to garner support from the travelers as well as urging more workers to join the effort. Some say they plan walkouts, rallies, and protests that could cause disruptions if no concessions are made. This week, however, they say they will focus on fasting and prayer to bring awareness of the labor struggle during one of the year’s busiest travel days. AAA Travel estimates that nearly 47 million Americans will travel this Thanksgiving and 3.6 million of them will fly. Tuesday is traditionally the busiest travel day before the holiday.
“A lot of people think that we make a lot of money because we work at the airport. But they don’t know that we work for contractors who don’t pay their employees that much money,” said Tranden Baccus, 33, an Alexandria, Va. resident who makes $8.25 an hour as a baggage handler. “There’s no benefits, not sick leave, no paid vacation. Nothing.”
P.T. Manolakos / Flickr
By: Melissa Burden, Michael Wayland and Michael Martinez
An estimated 142,000 American autoworkers, including 60,000 in Michigan, will receive retroactive pay and $3,000-$10,000 signing bonuses before Christmas, following contract ratifications between Detroit’s Big Three and the United Auto Workers.
Collectively, contract bonuses from General Motors Co., Ford Motor Co. and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV are estimated to put more than $400 million, before taxes, into the pockets of hourly union members in this state. In addition, they’ll get retroactive pay from mid-September, when the previous contract expired.
Retailers across Metro Detroit and in plant communities across the U.S. are gearing up for the potential influx of buyers. Some businesses are soliciting autoworkers with special offers.
“Detroit’s retail fate and the auto industry are one and the same,” said Rachel Tronstein, president of Auburn Hills-based furniture retailer Gardner White. “We plan everything around it.”
At Gardner White furniture, autoworkers can receive about $500 cash back on purchases if they pay up front with bonus money. That offer can be combined with Black Friday deals.
GM and Ford contracts became effective Monday, following ratification Friday.
- Fiat Chrysler workers rejected their first tentative contract before passing a second, more lucrative deal. The automaker’s 36,600 U.S. hourly workers received ratification bonuses Nov. 6, according to a compensation time line obtained by The Detroit News. Entry-level, or in-progression, workers received $3,000; veteran workers received $4,000.
Fiat Chrysler-UAW workers are expected to get retroactive pay to make up the difference in wages from the time the former contract was extended until approval of the new contract — a period running from Sept. 15 through Oct. 25. Checks are expected Dec. 4.
- GM’s 52,700 U.S. hourly employees will receive lump-sum ratification payments of $8,000 for most hourly workers, and $2,000 for temporary workers. Those payments will come in Dec. 4 paychecks. The payout could total more than $420 million nationally, with more than $150 million going to GM’s Michigan workers.
Retroactive pay for GM hourly employees for the period of Sept. 15 through Nov. 23 is expected to be paid in lump sums in the second or third pay period of 2016. A $500 annual quality bonus payment will be made Dec. 11.
GM retirees, about 240,000 in all, will receive $500 checks that will be printed and mailed beginning Dec. 15.
- Ford workers will receive $8,500 ratification bonuses Dec. 4, followed by $1,500 advances in profit sharing on Dec. 11 and $250 annual competitive bonuses on Dec. 13. Workers will receive retroactive pay for the period from Sept. 15 through Nov. 23; those checks will be available by Dec. 20.
Workers at all three of the automakers will have to wait until February or March to receive profit-sharing bonuses based on how the each company’s North American operations performed in 2015.
Over the four years of the former contract, most Fiat Chrysler workers received about $16,500 in bonuses and profit sharing before taxes. Over the same four years, Ford hourly employees received up to $43,200 in bonuses and profit sharing before taxes, and GM workers received $39,250 pre-tax.
Angeline Eimers, an hourly worker at GM’s Pontiac’s Customer Care & Aftersales plant, said the payments over the next few weeks will come at a perfect time around the holidays. However, she isn’t planning a big shopping spree.
“I have nothing big planned for my bonus,” said Eimers, 25. “I’m just going to put it in the bank for now.”
William Sellers, a 56-year-old worker at Ford’s Ohio Assembly Plant, plans to use the money to help his two children pay their college tuition.
“It isn’t about buying a new Harley or a boat; it’s about taking care of your family,” he said. “Years ago, when the economy was robust, I think you could go out and buy a new car for five or six grand. Now, it’s more about building a foundation and saving.”
Susan Hiltz, a spokeswoman for AAA Michigan, said the bonus payments will help people to book vacations as the holidays and winter approach.
“It stands to reason we’ll see more people visiting our travel offices and booking trips,” she said.
For workers with their sights on new cars or trucks, retirees under the UAW-Fiat Chrysler deal receive $1,000 vouchers; GM retirees receive $500; and Ford retirees receive $250 during each year of the contract.
At least one Metro Detroit auto dealer is offering a special deal for UAW-Fiat Chrysler workers: Parkway Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram will match up to $1,750 on a down payment for UAW members and their families. The deal includes $750 from the company and $1,000 from the Clinton Township dealer.
“This is an unprecedented down-payment match,” said Mike Riley, Parkway general manager. “It keeps gaining momentum. We’re seeing more and more deals.”
Riley said a “few dozen” people have taken advantage of the deal, which started around the time workers were awarded their bonuses. It is expected to continue until the end of the year. Riley said the dealership could offer it again for union profit-sharing or other bonuses.
“It seems to be working,” he said. “So if it helps them and helps us, we will be doing it again.”
elstudlo / flickr
From the Los Angeles Times:
By: Melissa Healy
As the annual "season of giving" dawns, a new study finds that stark income inequity -- a dramatically rising trend in the United States -- makes the "haves" less generous toward others.
Higher-income people were less inclined to be generous both when they came from states where income inequality is high and when they were made to believe that there was a sharp divide between rich and poor, a new study found. And they were less charitable in both cases than were low-income people.
Since the 1980s -- the end of a 30-year period during which the middle class flourished in the United States -- wealth has grown increasingly concentrated at the top of the economic ladder, while low-income Americans have commanded a smaller and smaller share of the nation's wealth.
In 2013, the top 0.1% of households received approximately 10% of the pretax income, versus approximately 3%-4% between 1951 and 1981. The Congressional Budget Office reckoned that between 1979 and 2007, households controlling the top 1% of the nation's wealth increased their incomes 275%, while the incomes of those in the economy's lowest tier picked up a mere 18%.
A study published in the PNAS on Monday compared the giving patterns of rich and poor two ways. Using results from a nationally representative survey that included a donation opportunity at the end, researchers looked at how patterns of giving corresponded to wealth distribution in donors' home states.
Of the 1,498 people who participated in that survey, donation by those with household incomes above $125,000 was more prevalent among those who lived in states in which income inequality was low. Among wealthier survey-takers from states with higher income inequality, fewer took the opportunity to donate.
The authors also conducted an experiment in which 704 people were presented with simulated information portraying their home states as having either high or low income inequality, and then given the opportunity to bestow raffle tickets on another participant.
When they were prompted to believe they lived in a state with high income inequality, those with household incomes above $125,000 were less generous than when they believed incomes in their state were more equitably distributed.
The authors found no such difference in donor behavior among people whose household income was below $15,000.
The new findings may actually somewhat improve the view of wealthy Americans among social science researchers. A wide range of recent studies had suggested that wealthy Americans are, across the board, less generous than less wealthy Americans. This study suggests that that stinginess is, at least, more prominent where the rich are richer and the poor are poorer.
The researchers, led by Stanford University sociologist Robb Willer, surmised that wealthy people embedded in a milieu where rich and poor live in starkly different circumstances may feel more entitled to their moneyed status, or more threatened by the prospective loss of privilege that would come if resources more evenly distributed. They may feel that the system whereby wealth is apportioned is fairer because they so rarely come into contact with the poor.
And the authors of the study do not shrink from its obvious implications: progressive taxation policies and social services that lift up the poor might not only lift their boats. They might also make the rich more generous about pitching in a penny or two to do so.
From The Nation:
By: Michelle Chen
This Thanksgiving, New Yorkers will be asked to “Remember the Needy.” But for millions of households, that starts with thinking about themselves. The latest statistics on hunger in the city tells the proverbial Tale of Two Cities as a Tale of Two Pantries.
New York’s abysmal wealth gap is evident in many indicators: unemployment rates, rent hikes, surveys showing heavy economic anxiety. The scourge of hunger is more elusive, often masked by shame and hard-nosed resilience. But well over a million New Yorkers have trouble securing their next meal, surviving on a precarious latticework of charities, government subsidies, and informal social networks.
Altogether, according to the latest annual report by the charity network Food Bank for New York City, roughly “1.4 million New York City residents rely on emergency food programs, including soup kitchens and food pantries, each year.” This includes nearly 340,000—about one in five—children, one in five seniors, and nearly one in three veterans. About the same number, 1.3 million New Yorkers, are food insecure, meaning they lack a stable, adequate everyday source of food.
While hunger has always been a pernicious fixture on New York’s landscape, today’s food insecurity reflects rising economic precarity at many social levels, from unaffordable housing to unstable jobs: One in every six people on a crowded subway car may be returning from work to an empty fridge, or beg for a rent extension to pay for groceries, or skip dinner to ensure their children eat their fill, or quietly add extra oatmeal to beef up an otherwise skimpy meatloaf.
Hunger patterns follow neighborhood segregation lines. About one-fifth of Bronxites and Brooklynites are food insecure, compared to just 11 percent of Staten Islanders.
Reflecting nationwide racial disparities in food security,according to a 2012 Food Bank survey, nearly 40 percent of Latino New Yorkers and over a third of blacks “report buying less food to save money,” compared to the (still stunningly high) 23 percent of whites. Similar proportions report eating smaller meals to make do.
And a paycheck is no guarantee of food security, since many jobs often fall short of a living wage: nationwide, Latino households with children depend on food aid at a higher rate than the general population, yet these families are still “more likely to have one or more members working” compared to the general population, according to Feeding America.
In perhaps the most paradoxical illustration of the city’s food insecurity, the restaurant workforce, running on tipped wages and unstable schedules, is one of the hungriest in the region:According to Restaurant Opportunities Center-NY, about a third of restaurant workers suffer food insecurity, with even higher rates among undocumented immigrants and workers of color.
Besides outright scarcity, variety and nutritional value is often lacking. Many of the families surveyed by Food Bank reported trading quality for quantity by purchasing cheaper, apparently more filling pastas and rice. About a fifth of low-income residents reported they struggled “to provide adults in their household with healthy, nutritious foods.” A larger proportion of blacks and Latinos than whites reported buying less healthy foods and “less fresh fruits and vegetables” because of economic hardship.
From Daily Kos:
by Rev. Sung Yeon Choimorrow
Over the last few months, especially the last few weeks as the weather has started to turn cold, Syrian and Iraqi refugees arriving at the shores of Greece have been weighing on my heart and mind. The pictures of little children being taken off rafts or pictures of children sleeping in the forest in Serbia as they make their way to Hungary with their families.
When I look at these images and hear the stories, I hear parents, a grandfather, an uncle or a widow desperately trying to find safety and refuge for their loved ones. I hear a longing for normalcy, a longing for peace. A longing for a better future for their little ones.
Yesterday some of our political leaders demonstrated, yet again, how disconnected they are to people and their realities. There is no way that you could hear and see these heartbreaking stories and vote to exclude Syrian and Iraqi refugees from coming to the United States. Their Islamophobia masked in national security has not fooled anyone.
This narrative of exclusion and oppression isn't a new one. It is one that has repeated and continues to repeat itself in history. The lawmakers' attitude towards these refugees are not that different from their attitude towards millions of immigrants who live in the U.S. contributing to the society, who just don't happen to have the right papers. Their attitude towards these refugees are not that different from their attitude towards the poorest of the poor in America who work for minimum wage (also known as poverty wages) and cannot put a roof over their family's heads and provide regular meals for their children.
Our country is facing a crisis of leadership because our elected leaders refuse to believe that their job is for the common good. They refuse to believe that it is their responsibility to work for and fight for the most vulnerable- Syrian and Iraqi refugees, immigrant families and low-wage workers. Our leaders are driven by fear- fear of not being reelected, fear of losing large campaign donors and ultimately, the fear of losing power and control.
Fear does not win. When people who live in hope and fight for justice work together, we can and do drive out fear. We, the people of faith must act on our convictions to stand up against Islamophobia that is driving our legislators to pass a bill that would stop women and children fleeing war from coming to our shores. We, the people of faith must act on our convictions to stand up against splitting up families due to deportations. We, the people of faith must act on our convictions to stand up against poverty wages and corporate greed that puts profits before people.
As we go into our Thanksgiving week, it is my prayer that the spirit of hospitality and generosity will rule this nation. It is my prayer that we give thanks that we get to partner with our creator in this journey of seeking justice and peace.
Sung Yeon is the Director of Strategic Partnerships at Interfaith Worker Justice and an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church.
From The Atlantic:
Earlier this week, one analysis suggested that the growth of American women’s wages had stalled this year. While it’s important not to put too much emphasis on data from a single year, it does seem that some decades-long trends—including an increase in the percentage of women who are part of the workforce—seem to be leveling off.
On Thursday, the World Economic Forum published its 10th annual report on the gender inequality around the world, and the findings were similarly discouraging. The report analyzed data from over a hundred countries, and assessed women's progress in the categories of the economy, education, health, and politics. On the economic front, the gap shrunk only 3 percent in the last decade, with “progress towards wage equality and labor force parity stalling markedly since 2009 to 2010.” If the rate of change for the last decade stayed constant, the report estimated that it would take 118 years—until 2133—for the gender pay gap to fully close.
“While the world as a whole and most countries have made a lot of progress on closing the gap in health and education overall, we’re still a long way from parity on economic participation,” says Saadia Zahidi, the head of employment and gender initiatives at the World Economic Forum. Iceland, Norway, Finland, and Sweden top the WEF’s list in having the smallest gender gaps in the world, but, Zahidi reiterates, they still haven’t eliminated their gaps entirely.
In the WEF report, the U.S. dropped eight spots from last year, coming in at 28thfor gender equality overall. A good amount of this slide can be attributed to the disappointing gains in economic equality between genders. Meanwhile, the countries that have made significant strides in increasing female labor participation include Nepal, Botswana, and Nigeria—not coincidentally, places where there was a lot more improvement to be made 10 years ago than in most countries.
One persistent question that researchers have yet to conclusively answer about the gender wage gap is why women tend to have jobs, such as teaching or nursing, that tend to pay less. Zahidi sums up the debate: “Are they lower paid because women are primarily occupying them, or is it just coincidence that women happen to be going into these professions?” It’s not clear what it is that drives some women to go into lower-paying industries, as many do in the U.S., it’s important to bear in mind that women earn less even when it comes to high-paying jobs.
How might the gap be closed sooner than 2133? The Economic Policy Institute recently released a “Women’s Economic Agenda,” which includes 12 recommendations that would help align men’s and women’s pay. The agenda is mindful of the fact that low-wage jobs are held disproportionately by women, and so prescribes many of the things that are often proposed to support lower-paid workers in general: raising the minimum wage, strengthening unions, and instating family- and sick-leave policies. Hopefully, some of these policies will work and women won’t have to wait more than 100 years until equal pay becomes a reality.
From Catholic News Agency:
Several bishops are saying we must resist the temptation to scapegoat all Middle Eastern refugees, since they themselves are fleeing violence similar to what happened in Paris last Friday.
“We cannot and should not blame (refugees) for the actions of a terrorist organization,” Bishop Eusebio Elizondo Almaguer, auxiliary bishop of Seattle, said Nov. 17 during the United States bishops' general assembly.
“These refugees are fleeing terror themselves—violence like we have witnessed in Paris. They are extremely vulnerable families, women, and children who are fleeing for their lives,” said the bishop, who is chair of the bishops' committee on migration.
Coordinated gun and bomb attacks linked to militants of the Islamic State killed 129 people in Paris Nov. 13, and wounded some 350 others. Officials have identified one of the suspected terrorists as a Syrian national who they believe posed as a refugee to gain entry into France. Several other suspected attackers, however, are French nationals.
Bishop Elizondo condemned the Paris attacks, saying, “I offer my deepest condolences to the families of the victims of the November 13 attacks in Paris, France and to the French people. I add my voice to all those condemning these attacks and my support to all who are working to ensure such attacks do not occur again – both in France and around the world.”
Read the full article from Catholic News Agency.
Chalk up another win for parents at tech companies. Spotify, the Swedish music streaming service, just announced a new, global paid parental leave policy that will apply to all its full-time employees worldwide.
According to a statement from Spotify’s chief human resource officer Katarina Berg, the benefits are effective immediately and include:
- Up to six months’ parental leave with 100% pay; inclusive of birth, adoption, or surrogacy.
- Parents will be able to take their leave up to the child’s third birthday, with all Spotify employees who had children from the beginning of 2013 also eligible for the benefit.
- Mothers and fathers are encouraged to take the full time off, with the added flexibility of splitting their leave into separate periods.
- A one-month "Welcome Back!" program, allowing returning team members to ease back into their job with the ability to work from home, on a part-time schedule, and with flexible hours.
"This policy best defines who we are as a company, born out of a Swedish culture that places an emphasis on a healthy work-family balance, gender equality, and the ability for every parent to spend quality time with the people that matter most in their lives," Berg wrote.
Spotify is the latest company to announce a more generous parental leave policy. Others have included Netflix, Adobe, and Amazon. This is the first time a company has extended the leave through the child’s third birthday and included surrogacy among those eligible for the benefit.
From The Huffington Post:
by Dave Jamieson
The owner of several Papa John's franchises in New York City will serve 60 days in jail for failing to pay his workers the minimum wage and overtime, New York's attorney general announced Monday.
Two months isn't a particularly long time in the hoosegow, but any jail time at all is notable in a wage theft case. Although unscrupulous business owners are often forced to shell out backpay, it's rare that they spend any time behind bars.
In addition to serving 60 days, Abdul Jamil Khokhar has agreed to pay $230,000 in restitution to the workers. He and his company, BMY Foods, together ran nine Papa John's locations in the Bronx, according to the attorney general's office. Khokar pleaded guilty to failing to pay wages under New York law, which is a misdemeanor, while BMY pleaded guilty to falsifying business records, which is a felony.
"Wage theft is a crime and a Papa John's franchisee is now going to jail for cheating his employees and trying to cover it up," New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said in a statement Monday. "My office will do everything in its power to protect the rights of New York's workers and make sure that all employers -- including fast food restaurants -- follow the law."
Read the full article from The Huffington Post.
From the Providence Journal:
by Karen Lee Ziner
Recent wage-theft cases in Rhode Island have involved food workers, construction workers and garbage collectors. Among them:
Protesters targeted the popular Providence deli and take-out restaurant owned by Chung Cho at its downtown Providence store on Weybosset Street last December. A Gourmet Heaven store on College Hill had closed abruptly two weeks before.
Workers who were among the dozens of demonstrators alleged they had not been paid overtime or minimum wage. In claims filed with the Rhode Island Department of Labor against Cho, some alleged "physical abuse by lower-level management," and said they'd been injured on the job. Two other protests followed, including one outside Cho's Connecticut home.
The Rhode Island Center for Justice subsequently filed a federal court lawsuit against Cho on behalf of three former Gourmet Heaven employees in February; five others subsequently joined the case. They are seeking back wages and more than $140,000 for alleged violations of state and federal wage laws.
The suit alleges Cho violated state minimum wage law — in some cases paying $360 to $400 for as many as 84 hours of work per week — and violated the federal Fair Labor Standards Act by denying overtime wages.
In court documents, Cho denies the workers' claims. Barring a settlement, the case is set to go to trial in 2016.
The lawsuit notes Cho's legal troubles in Connecticut, which overlapped the Rhode Island workers' wage dispute. After Cho violated the terms of a settlement agreement requiring him to pay $150,000 in back wages to employees at his two New Haven stores, a judge spared him criminal prosecution and possible imprisonment, but he must pay the back wages by year's end.
Cilantro Mexican Grill
The Rhode Island restaurant chain was ordered to pay $100,417 in back wages and damages to 32 restaurant workers in May after federal investigators found that it violated federal wage and hour laws by failing to pay overtime.
The company was also ordered to pay a civil penalty of $2,325 for allowing three minors to use their own cars to deliver food.
The case marked the first in an ongoing U.S. Department of Labor restaurant enforcement initiative here and in Connecticut.
Read the full article from the Providence Journal.