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Right to work fails in New Hampshire House

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From the Concord Monitor:

by Allie Morris

Republican Gov. Chris Sununu says he is “deeply disappointed” the House voted to kill a proposed right-to-work bill.

Sununu set the policy as a priority of his first term and met with representatives before the vote to try and ensure its passage. 

“While it is clear that some House members did not understand this opportunity to unleash the untapped potential of our economy, I know that we can continue to work collaboratively on initiatives that will drive new business into the state,” he said in a statement. 

Other Republican leaders might not be happy with the outcome, but are relieved the fight is over. 

“To put it behind us and move forward is what’s best for the Republican caucus,” said House Speaker Shawn Jasper. He had backed the bill, but warned on Wednesday it could fail due to the opposition of some Republican members.  “We have to start moving forward, there has got to be some healing.” 

Top state Republicans had spent the days before the vote trying to sway opinions toward right-to-work. On Wednesday, leaders at the GOP state party suggested they may not help Republicans who oppose the bill in the next election cycle. 

The last-minute lobbying, however, proved fruitless.

“It’s a good day for New Hampshire,” said Rich Gulla, who heads the largest union of state employees. “We’re ready to get down to business now that this is behind us.” 

Read more from the Concord Monitor.

N.Y. Labor Groups Join Forces to Attack President Trump's Anti-Worker Policies

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SEIU Janitors Protest Firing by JPMorgan Chase

SEIU/Flickr

From NY Daily News:

By Chauncey Alcorn

Some of New York’s largest labor organizations announced Friday they are joining forces in an early attack on what they say are President Trump’s anti-worker policies.

The gathering — which included community activists and leaders — specifically targeted some of Trump’s corporate allies, who are “trying to take advantage of the political moment to decimate workers’ rights,” the coalition said.

Hector Figueroa, president of 32BJ SEIU, a union that was a driving force in New York’s successful Fight for $15 campaign, said labor is pushing for a more progressive agenda — first in the White House, but also in Albany.

“We are witnessing not only an administration populated by billionaires (who don’t) have workers’ interest at heart — we are beginning to see the consolidation and expansion of workers’ exploitation that we thought were gone,” the labor leader said.

He stood with Bhairavi Desai of the New York Taxi Workers Alliance and several other groups as they criticized the influence of so-called “gig” tech companies in Albany.

The corporations are banding together to push for legislation that favors them, the group said.

“For a long time, Uber has cloaked itself in a lot of liberal rhetoric as if to say, ‘We are the progressive voice in our industry,’” Desai said at the meeting Friday.

“(But) it’s the drivers that are the progressive force in this movement, not the $64 billion Wall Street darling,” she added.

Saru Jayaraman, executive director of a coalition of New York restaurant workers, said they’re not covered by the state’s new $15 minimum wage law — and they’re being left behind economically as a result.

“Four hundred thousand restaurant workers saw their wages decline when everybody else’s wages went up,” she said.

Read more from NY Daily News.

Chicago’s lax enforcement of minimum wage hike leaves workers in the lurch

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Scott Olson/Getty Images

From The Chicago Reporter:

by Melissa Sanchez

Sabrina Jackson looked forward to a raise last summer at her job as a crossing guard near her children’s Englewood school.

Chicago’s minimum wage was slated to increase from $10 to $10.50 per hour under a city ordinance, providing a small but welcome boost to Jackson’s paycheck.

But when the new school year rolled around, Jackson discovered, “I didn’t get a raise.” Chicago Public Schools refused to pay the higher wage for the 1,300 crossing guards, telling nonprofit groups that run the program that the district had budget problems and claiming the workers were exempt. The district never explained why it considered the workers an exception.

The underpayment of Safe Passage workers is just one example of how the city’s minimum wage ordinance has fallen short since it took effect in July 2015. A Reporter analysis estimates that thousands of workers have been left behind because of exceptions in the law, which will raise the city’s minimum hourly wage to $13 by 2019.

Meanwhile, the city department responsible for enforcement has investigated just a quarter of 454 wage complaints, recovered lost pay for only a few dozen people and has yet to fine a single company for violating the ordinance. Following repeated questioning by The Chicago Reporter about the department’s lax enforcement, city officials now say they will levy fines. Also following the Reporter’s inquiries, CPS reversed course and said it would cover the wage increase, as well as back pay, to its crossing guards. “CPS is committed to meeting the city’s minimum wage ordinance, and we have begun the process of guaranteeing that all Safe Passage workers will be properly compensated this year,” said district spokesman Michael Passman in a statement in late January.

Other cities that have passed higher minimum wage laws, like San Francisco and Seattle, have had much greater success with more rigorous enforcement.

Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th Ward) agreed that Chicago needs to consider ramping up its oversight of the law. He recalled intervening last year to resolve a wage dispute in his ward between the owner of an Albany Park warehouse and a worker, who was undocumented.

“I’m happy to use that leverage,” Ramirez-Rosa said. “But ultimately we need to make sure there are better enforcement opportunities. It’s extremely important that the City of Chicago put teeth behind its existing ordinances. And if what we’re doing is inadequate, we need to get serious about having the right resources and enforcement mechanisms in place.”

For Jackson, who continues to look for higher-paying work and depends on food stamps and a public housing subsidy to support her four children, even a small pay increase is significant.

“It will help out a lot. That 50 cents does add up,” she said. “Maybe it’ll be an extra bill that you don’t have to worry about, extra things I can now get for my kids.”

How Chicago raised pay—for some workers

In the months leading up to his re-election campaign in 2014, Mayor Rahm Emanuel formed a task force to look at raising the city’s minimum wage. Community groups, including those involved in the national Fight for $15 fast food workers’ wage campaign, lobbied for $15 an hour. Business groups pushed back, warning that small businesses would close down or cut workers.

While cities such as Seattle, San Francisco and Los Angeles adopted a $15 minimum, Chicago City Council approved a $13 minimum in December 2014. The task force acknowledged that $13 fell far short of a living wage, given the city’s high housing costs. (The Living Wage Calculator, a project developed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, sets the amount at $24.91 per hour for a single adult with one child in Cook County.)

Still, Emanuel touted the increase as a way to lift working families out of poverty, and supporters viewed it as just a first step. “It’s a big part of the puzzle for people to be upwardly mobile, to start getting paid fairly and have a better way to make ends meet,” said John Bouman, president of the Chicago-based Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law, who co-chaired the task force. (Since Chicago’s ordinance, Cook County passed a $13 minimum wage in 2016. State legislators are considering a proposal to raise the Illinois minimum to $11 an hour.)

City officials estimate that more than 270,000 low-wage workers have benefited from the increase. Yet the Reporter’s analysis found that more than 20,000 workers are exempt, in part because the ordinance incorporated a number of exceptions in state law. The list of exemptions includes certain younger workers, such as those in the city’s One Summer Chicago program, other teens under 18, and student workers at public colleges and universities; disabled workers; workers in transitional employment programs, such as those for the homeless and former-inmates; new employees in their first 90 days on the job; workers for certain small businesses and other groups.

Bouman called that a “tactical decision” to avoid a bigger battle over the ordinance itself. Neither the city nor the task force came up with its own estimates of exempt workers. “The idea was it was going to be hard enough to get a substantial increase in the minimum wage, that it would fracture and get more and more complicated the more of the exemptions and sub-provisions were included in the debate,” Bouman said.

Yet advocates for several groups called on the city to use the ordinance as a chance to level the playing field for all workers.

The exemptions make it “more difficult for people with disabilities to contribute to the workforce and live independently,” said Gary Arnold, spokesman for Access Living, a disability rights group.

Other groups, including those that help place youth in the One Summer Chicago program, were surprised to learn of the exemptions after the ordinance took effect.

“They should be getting paid the minimum, especially those youth who were placed in businesses where there are other employees getting the minimum wage,” said Juliet de Jesus Alejandre, youth program director for the Logan Square Neighborhood Association. “It was a disproportionate number of young people of color, who applied to many different places and this opportunity was the only one that called them back.”

Alejandre sees this as an issue of equity, as white youth from higher-income families tend to have more connections and job opportunities in their neighborhoods. In fact, she recalled that one of the few white participants in the program last summer ultimately turned down a slot after her mother helped her find a higher-paying internship elsewhere.

Once the ordinance passed, the mayor formed a Working Families Task Force to analyze other issues, including sick leave policies and worker scheduling practices. That group heard from fast food workers whose hours were cut as their hourly pay rose. They were workers like Aiesha Meadows McLaurin, who works at three Burger King restaurants to make ends meet. “They cut back on a lot of our workers’ hours,” she said. “Now I’m running between three jobs and still relying on public assistance.”

The city’s 2016 ordinance mandating paid sick leave for workers was recommended by the Working Families group. But the task force decided to table recommendations to improve scheduling, citing the need for more study.

“You can get a huge increase in your hourly rate, but what happens if the hours you work get cut?” said Robert Bruno, director of the labor education program at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a task force member. “The honest answer is nobody knows what the impact of the higher minimum wage has been. Nobody has done a good, statistically comprehensive assessment.”

The university’s Project for Middle Class Renewal will analyze the impact of the higher wage on working hours, scheduling and earnings as part of a larger study on low-wage work.

Chicago enforcement spotty

As more cities enact measures to raise the local minimum wage or guarantee sick pay, some have created specialized departments to police the new labor laws. Chicago has not. Instead, the city dumped oversight of three labor ordinances — minimum wage, paid sick leave and a 2014 measure that guards against wage theft — onto the Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection without hiring additional employees.

“The scope of this department has changed and expanded, and yet the resourcing and supports and restructuring of that agency that will be necessary has not happened,” said Adam Kader, who directs the worker center at the nonprofit Arise Chicago. Wary of the city department’s capacity, labor activists like Kader often encourage aggrieved workers to consider negotiating with employers or taking other action to resolve pay issues, or even to file lawsuits in particularly egregious cases.

The department declined to provide copies of the minimum wage complaints or files from its investigations, or to allow the Reporter to inspect the documents, which would provide more details and identify the businesses involved. The department claimed this would be “unduly burdensome” and that all files are kept on paper, scattered across different departments.

But data obtained by the Reporter through a Freedom of Information Act request show that the department received 454 complaints from July 2015 (when the ordinance took effect) to December 2016.  So far, only 112 complaints, or about 1 in 4, have led to investigations, mostly because workers don’t submit the required affidavits.

Yet the department’s procedures appear to discourage workers from doing so. The department sends employers a copy of the affidavit, which activists say creates a fear of retaliation among workers (especially undocumented immigrants). Other cities, like San Francisco and Seattle, keep worker affidavits confidential and allow employees to give information over the phone without having to fill out the paperwork.

Department spokesperson Angel Hawthorne said the city doesn’t hesitate to take action. “When we receive complaints we fully investigate them and take action when necessary,” she said in a statement. “We have recovered tens of thousands of dollars in wages owed to workers and stand ready to shut down any business found to be violating wage theft laws.”

City officials told the Reporter that the department recovered wages for 51 workers. The total amount recovered: $82,000.

However, the city has not issued a single fine to or revoked the license of any of the companies found in violation of the ordinance, which states that businesses “shall be subject to fines of $500 to $1,000 per day.

Read more from The Chicago Reporter.

Fort Smith Sen. Jake Files' construction company avoiding $10,000 payment to subcontractor

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From the Arkansas Times:

by David Koon

The Northwest Arkansas Worker's Justice Center, which is representing a subcontractor from Northwest Arkansas, claims that Arkansas Sen. Jake Files (R- Fort Smith) owes the subcontractor they represent almost $10,000 for roofing work done for Files' construction company, FFH Construction. After many attempts to reach Files, they say, he still hasn't paid. 

Files is the chairman of the Senate Revenue and Taxation Committee, and has been in the Senate since 2011. 

Alex Canales, who owns roofing and construction company RG Construction, claims to have subcontracted with FFH to roof a building. Canales claims that himself and a crew of four workers spent roughly a month on the job, using materials purchased by FFH. Canales claims Files did pay him $2,090 for the job in the last week of November, but says FFH still owes him around $10,000. Canales said he's been trying to reach Files since November, and that Files has stopped taking his calls. 

The Northwest Arkansas Worker's Justice Center, a Springdale-based non-profit which lobbies and provides assistance on behalf of low-income and immigrant workers, reached out Files to see if they could help resolve the issue. When that didn't produce results, the group came to the Arkansas State Capitol with Canales in tow a few weeks back to see if they could locate and speak to Files during the session. 

Fernando Garcia, a caseworker with the Worker's Justice Center. said that during that trip to the Capitol, they tried to have Files paged in the Senate and sent notes for Files into the Senate chamber twice, but he never came out to speak with them. When they checked back later, Garcia said, they were told that Files had left for the day. 

Garcia said they had previously sent a letter to FFH Construction, and had been in touch with a person who identified himself as a general manager with the company. As of Friday, Feb. 3, Garcia said Canales hadn't received payment or been contacted by either Files or a representative of FFH to talk about the issue. 

Contacted by Arkansas Times, Files said he didn't know anyone named Alex Canales, and didn't recall receiving notes from anyone by that name during the session. Files said he has a subcontractor who has hired roofing crews for FFH jobs in the past. 

"It's a little strange," Files said. "I don't even know. It sounds like a misunderstanding and I don't know that it's newsworthy. I get that you've got things to print but I don't know anything about it. So I'll do some digging to see what I can find out." 

A short while later, Files called back to say that an employee he worked with had hired roofing crews in the past. though Files himself "didn't even interface with them." Files said the subcontractor he contacted had "used a guy named Alex before, but he didn't know his last name and I've never seen the name. So I don't know what the end of it is. I'll try to get a number and try to get in touch with him and go from there. As far as I know, I don't owe him any money." 

"I may have written checks to some but a lot of them I wrote to [the FFH subcontractor] and he paid them on from there," Files said. "I have heard the name RG Construction but I didn't know who it is associated with and I didn't know that we possibly owed them any money." 

Garcia said that number one issue the NWA Worker's Justice Center receives complaints about is wage theft.  "In the construction industry, it's very common," he said. "I think it's because there's a lot of confusion between the General Contractor, who can hire a subcontractor, who might hire another subcontractor along the way as well. What we've heard is: 'Well, I can't pay because I haven't been paid by the person who hired me.' Then we talk to them, and it's: 'I already paid them. I don't know why they're not paying you.' It can get a little confusing when there's a lot of subcontracting going on." 

Asked if he believes Files is actively dodging Canales to avoid paying him, Garcia said: "I'm sure his general manager told him what was going on. We've sent a letter to the company and we've had a little contact with the general manager. It wouldn't surprise me if he passed on the info to the Senator." 

Read more from the Arkansas Times.

State Investigates Wage Theft Claim at Luxury Downtown Apartment Project

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Edward Gonzalez found out he was getting paid about half as much per hour as his co-workers.

From WCPO Cincinnati:

By Lucy May, Dan Monk, Craig Cheatham 

CINCINNATI -- Edward Gonzalez felt fortunate to be earning the best wages of his life when R & R Steel hired him to work on the 8th and Sycamore development Downtown.

But his attitude changed when, six months into the job, Gonzalez found out he was getting paid about half as much per hour as his co-workers.

Gonzalez and two other Hispanic ironworkers -- all of whom are entitled to protections under state and federal labor laws -- claim R & R underpaid them by thousands of dollars and took advantage of Hispanic workers.

Their complaints have prompted investigations of the company by the city of Cincinnati, the Ohio Department of Commerce and the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

The 8th and Sycamore development is a "prevailing wage" project where non-union construction workers are required to be paid the same rate as union workers.

As a ironworker, Gonzalez learned, he was supposed to be earning $46 per hour. Instead, R & R Steel hired him at a wage of $19 an hour. He got a raise that took him up to $26.80 before he found out what he was supposed to be making.

"I was angry," said Gonzalez, the father of four young children. "I do the hardest work out there. How is that guy making more than me?"

He began asking questions and said he believes he got fewer hours of work as a result. He left the job in June and sought help from the Cincinnati Interfaith Workers Center.

R & R Steel's president maintains the problems with pay were a misunderstanding that he has rectified.

Read more from WCPO Cincinnati.

Right to Work is Wrong for Your Family - Whether You are Union or Not. Here’s Why

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Anti-right-to-work sign being held by worker.

From Medium:

By Jesse Isbell

I spent 36 years working at the Bridgestone Tire Plant in Oklahoma City. The work was hard but rewarding, it afforded me the opportunity to provide for my family, always ensure there was enough food at the table and that my kids were afforded every modest opportunity to grow up in a household that was stable, secure and free from worry. That all changed suddenly in 2006, five years after Oklahoma passed a so-called “right to work” law that was billed by politicians as a job-creator. For the 1,400 men and women who worked at the plant, Right to Work didn’t work as advertised. Not only did the plant close, but the effects of the closing and the chilling effect that Right to Work has on a state’s economy were felt by everyone.

What is Right to Work anyway?

“Right to Work” is a dangerous and divisive bill that politicians use to intervene in the rights of people like you and me to negotiate with our bosses as we see fit. The bill is championed by big companies, the same ones that ship jobs overseas, by taking away our rights to organize and negotiate for fair paychecks and safety standards on the job. These companies argue that this will make states more competitive and attract jobs, but, in reality, that doesn’t happen.

So then, what does happen?

All evidence, actual facts, from non-partisan sources show that “Right to Work” doesn’t create jobs and actually has a negative effect on state’s economies. We saw this in Oklahoma. In the wake of Right to Work, the number of new companies relocating to our state has decreased by one-third and the number of manufacturing jobs has also fallen by a third. That’s according to the United States Bureau of Labor and Statistics. That same thing is happening in other right to work states as well, seven of the top ten states with the highest unemployment are “Right to Work” states. Worse, the jobs that stay in “Right to Work” states are lower paid. On average, workers in “Right to Work” states make about $5,000 less a year than in other states.
That means that everyone has less money to spend in the community.
That’s the thing that supporters of this bill don’t want you to know. This law takes money out of EVERYONE’s pockets. It means that you will be paid less, that you will have less to spend on groceries, in pharmacies, on going out to dinner or to the movies, on your hobbies and home improvement projects. It means that everyone that you PERSONALLY interact with on a daily basis has less to spend, spends less and then can’t spend on other things…it’s a vicious cycle.

WORSE, Right to Work means that our communities will be less safe.

Another thing that supporters of “Right to Work” don’t tell you is that Nurses, Teachers, Firefighters and Police Officers come together collectively to negotiate with politicians over the critical equipment they need to keep our communities safe. Nurses negotiate to ensure there are enough on staff working humane hours to respond when our life is in danger in a hospital emergency rooms. Firefighters negotiate for the equipment they need to safely and quickly put out fires. Police Officers negotiate for new equipment to respond to violent emergencies. Teachers negotiate over class sizes. All of these critical negotiations by folks who know how to keep our community safe get threatened by the consequences of this bill.

Read more from Medium.

Gov. Eric Greitens Signs Missouri Right-To-Work Bill, but Unions File to Overturn It

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Gov. Eric Greitens held multiple signing ceremonies Monday for right-to-work legislation, the last inside the Capitol in Jefferson City.

From The Kansas City Star:

By Jason Hancock

 In an abandoned warehouse in Springfield, Gov. Eric Greitens on Monday signed legislation making Missouri the country’s 28th right-to-work state.

Hours later, organized labor struck back by filing a rarely used referendum petition seeking to freeze the law and put it before voters in 2018.

Greitens’ signature was thought to be the final step in a decades-long push by Republicans and business groups to enact a right-to-work law in Missouri. But if the law’s opponents gather enough signatures, the battle will carry on.

In right-to-work states, such as Kansas, employees in unionized workplaces can opt out of paying unions for the cost of being represented.

Proponents of right-to-work argue it will bolster Missouri’s economy by making the state more hospitable to businesses.

Unions vehemently oppose right-to-work laws, arguing that the real motivation is political: Republicans want to weaken a political nemesis by allowing some workers to benefit from the contracts labor unions negotiate without having to contribute to covering the costs of those negotiations.

By signing the bill, Greitens fulfilled one of his major campaign pledges. Labor unions spent heavily to defeat Greitens last year based largely on his promise to enact right-to-work legislation. He also mentioned the idea in his State of the State address last month, saying that “Missouri has to become a right-to-work state.” 

Greitens held multiple signing ceremonies for the bill Monday, the first being held in Springfield at an abandoned warehouse that Parker Briden, the governor’s press secretary, called in a press release “a far too familiar sight for many towns across Missouri.”

The owner of the warehouse, Gary Newkirk, told the Springfield News-Leader that his company went out of business five months ago, but that lack of a right-to-work law wasn’t to blame. While Newkirk said he supports the legislation, he told the newspaper that offshore competition was the real culprit.

Monday afternoon, Missouri AFL-CIO President Mike Louis and Missouri NAACP President Rod Chapel filed a petition for referendum with the secretary of state’s office. They have until Aug. 28 — the day the right-to-work measure is scheduled to go into effect — to collect enough signatures to place the law on the ballot. If they succeed, right to work won’t take effect until Missourians get the chance to have their say in 2018.

A “yes” vote would mean right to work becomes law, while a “no” means it doesn’t.

Citizens may call a referendum on a measure approved by the General Assembly and not vetoed by the governor as long as they collect signatures totaling 5 percent of the voters from two-thirds of the state’s congressional districts. That would appear to be roughly 90,000 signatures.

Although the referendum petition was regularly used in Missouri during the early 20th century, the last time it was used was 1982.

Of the 26 times a referendum has been placed on the ballot, voters have rejected actions by the General Assembly all but twice.

Read more from The Kansas City Star.

California Unions Playing Defense as Trump Presidency Begins

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SEIU Protest.

LCCR & LCCREF/Flickr

From KQED News:

By Katie Orr

Labor unions in California helped push successful efforts for increasing the minimum wage, mandatory paid sick leave and expanding overtime rules for farmworkers in the state. But the Trump administration has unions playing defense, even in labor-friendly California.

The new administration worries Belinda Beeks-Malone. She’s a member of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME). She says her biggest concern is actually very basic.

“One is if we’re even going to have a union,” she says. “Is it going to be a right-to-work-state here in California? So that’s one of the things I’m concerned about is our collective bargaining rights.”

In California, union representation continues to grow. But nationally it’s on the decline. Over half the states in the country are right-to-work states. That means employees cannot be compelled to join unions. Sylvia Allegretto is a labor economist with the Center on Wage and Employment Dynamics at UC Berkeley. She says it will be telling to see how the federal Department of Labor will act on workplace policies under Trump.

“Do they believe in expanding paid leave? Instituting better scheduling practices, especially for part-time workers?” she asks. “What will they do with the overtime the Obama administration wanted to expand and pass?”

Allegretto says early signs indicate the administration won’t be very helpful to union workers. She points to Trump’s pick of Andy Puzder to be labor secretary. Puzder is chief executive of a company that franchises fast food restaurants. He has criticized minimum wage increases and paid sick leave. And Allegretto says the U.S. Supreme Court will likely revisit a case that could expand those right-to-work laws, which many regard as anti-union.

Still, California labor groups are trying to stay positive. Laphonza Butler, president of California’s Service Employees International Union (SEIU) State Council, says many of Trump’s campaign promises actually align with union goals.

“Trump has said to the American people that he was going to be a jobs creator,” she says. “He was going to bring manufacturing back. And he was going to keep auto plants thriving in our nation. And those are union jobs.”

Butler says SEIU wants to focus on protecting the Affordable Care Act and protecting immigrants. But she doesn’t believe California’s strong labor laws can shield unions from changing federal policies.

Steve Smith is with the California Labor Federation. He acknowledges unions are under siege.

“But we also look at this as an unprecedented opportunity to organize, to talk to workers about the value of having a union, to talk to workers about being able to stand together to demand fair treatment from their employers,” he says. “We don’t want to just play defense for four years, we want to go on offense.”

Read more from KQED News.

Andy Puzder Is an Indefensible Nominee Who Can and Must Be Stopped

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Andrew Puzder speaking at an event in Las Vegas, Nevada.

From The Nation:

By John Nichols

 Donald Trump’s cabinet picks are greedheads and grifters, blank-stare ideologues and full-on neocons, Koch brothers mandarins and campaign donors who have bought their way into the White House. But the rigid partisanship of Republican senators and the wobbly responses of some Senate Democrats have moved nominee after nominee into positions of immense authority.

 They are stepping into those positions with insufficient scrutiny and in the face of scandals that should disqualify them. Yet a collapse of the system of checks and balances holds out the prospect that most will be approved—as became all too evident last week, when Republican-controlled Senate committees endorsed inadequately scrutinized and scandal-plagued nominees such as attorney-general pick Jeff Sessions, Treasury-secretary pick Steve Mnuchin, and Department of Health and Human Services secretary pick Tom Price. Even Betsy DeVos, the administration’s shockingly inept nominee for secretary of education, won committee approval and—despite the principled objections of two Republican senators, Maine’s Susan Collins and Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski—was being propped up by rubber-stamp Republicans in the Senate and Vice President Mike Pence.

With Republican committee chairs ripping up the rules (and holding votes without Democratic senators present), with partisan lines being drawn ever more deeply in the sand, can any of Trump’s nominee be stopped? Yes. 

 The confirmation process should continue to be a focus of Americans who object to Trump’s assembling of a wrecking-crew cabinet—even as the resistance focuses energy on the fight over the nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch to fill the US Supreme Court seat that Republicans denied Judge Merrick Garland. That focus should target the worst of the nominees, including the atrocious Andy Puzder—Trump’s pick for secretary of labor.

The Department of Labor is powerful, with a budget in excess of $12 billion, more than 17,000 employees, and a charge to protect the rights of more than 125 million workers and to assure than 10 million employers respect those rights. And it is a defining agency that sets not just the specific standards of regulations and mandates but a societal standard that is, at best, an extension of the vision former labor secretary Frances Perkins outlined when she said, “The people are what matter to government [and] a government should aim to give all the people under its jurisdiction the best possible life.”

“Being Secretary of Labor is about making sure working men and women of this country are treated with decency,” says Congressman Mark Pocan, the Wisconsin Democrat who is a key player on labor issues in the House: 

The nomination of Andy Puzder is another broken promise to the American people. President Trump likes to talk and tweet about putting hard-working Americans first, but at the end of the day, he wants to make sure only big business and special interests have seats at the table.

 Pocan’s comments highlight why the fight against Puzder is vital. 

 It is also winnable. 

 Puzder’s nomination is on shaky ground. On Monday night, the wealthy businessman acknowledged that he had for many years employed an undocumented immigrant as a housekeeper — admitting to engaging in the sort of wrongdoing that derailed the nomination of George W. Bush’s pick for Labor Secretary, along with the nomination of Bill Clinton’s choice to serve as Attorney General.

Last week, the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee hearing on Puzder’s nomination was delayed for a fourth time, with a committee aide telling The Washington Post that a new hearing will not be set until the fast-food company CEO provides the Senate with necessary paperwork—including Puzder’s financial disclosures and his plan for avoiding conflicts of interest.

“There are also reports that Puzder is considering dropping out of the running for the position,” notes AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, who says, “The pressure we’re putting on our senators is working, but we need to keep it up. They need to hear us loud and clear: Puzder would be a disaster for working families.” 

 Trumka says that Puzder’s anti-worker record could fill a book: 

He’s railed against increasing the minimum wage and expanding overtime. He’s shortchanged workers at his Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s restaurants and even refused to pay managers overtime they earned. He’s talked about replacing working people with machines.

 Trumka has plenty of company in opposing the Puzder pick. This week, 105 farm and food-safety groups, including Friends of the Earth to Food & Agriculture Watch, Organic Consumers Association, and National Family Farm Coalition, wrote senators to argue that the Puzder nomination “betrays [Trump’s] promise to improve the lives of working people.”

Arguing that the fast-food CEO’s record proves he would be miserable Labor Secretary for fast-food workers, the groups explained in their letter opposing the Puzder nomination that, 

Contrary to what Puzder and other corporate leaders at the National Restaurant Association say about good working conditions in the restaurant sector, the majority of restaurant workers are women and people of color, making as little as $2.13 per hour and rely on tips to survive. These workers face disproportionate rates of poverty, discrimination, and sexual harassment and deserve a Labor Secretary who believes that, as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “All labor has dignity.” Instead, with the National Restaurant Association’s champion heading the Department of Labor, workers will have to rely on vocal opponents of labor regulations to protect their basic workplace rights.

Read more from The Nation