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This is your Moment of Clarity #250: Workers are suffering around the country and the world. We need to create our own solutions to these problems.
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This is your Moment of Clarity #250: Workers are suffering around the country and the world. We need to create our own solutions to these problems.
By Joe Sexton, ProPublica
Emeritus Senior Living, the country's largest assisted living company, has agreed to pay up to $2.2 million to settle claims that it routinely underpaid workers at dozens of its California facilities.
Hands-on workers at Emeritus facilities – the non-salaried aides and support staff who statewide help care for hundreds of often frail seniors – alleged in a lawsuit that the company had not only shortchanged them in their pay, but also violated state laws concerning mandated meal times and rest periods. Workers were denied overtime and not properly compensated for days during which they underwent training sessions, according to the lawsuit.
A recent investigation of Emeritus by ProPublica and PBS Frontline showed that the company's top executives saw controlling labor costs as critical to sustaining the publicly traded company's financial success and maintaining its appeal to investors on Wall Street. The investigation found evidence that the zeal of senior Emeritus officials to cut costs had led to understaffing at many facilities and considerable disgruntlement among remaining staff about their workload and wages.
Emeritus, both in interviews and court papers, has said its close to 500 facilities across the country are adequately staffed and that its workers are properly compensated.
Under the settlement, which needs to be approved next month by a state judge, Emeritus will compensate workers who were employed in its facilities in California from 2007 to 2013. The workers can range from the men and women who bathed and fed the elderly residents to those who administered their medications to those who cleaned the hallways and restrooms of the facilities.
Despite the settlement, Emeritus rejects the accusations made in the lawsuit.
In this Labor Day message, Robert Reich, the former Secretary of Labor and subject of the upcoming documentary “Inequality for All,” breaks down what it’ll take for workers to get a fair share in this economy — including big, profitable corporations like McDonald’s and Walmart to pony up and finally pay fair wages.
After you watch, as a first step toward making this vision a reality, sign Robert Reich’s petition calling on the CEOs of McDonald’s and Walmart to pay their workers fair wages.
Shaniqua Davis, a fast food worker in New York City, talks about the struggles she faces trying to raise a family on the federally mandated minimum wage of $7.25 an hour. She plans to participate in a nationwide strike scheduled for Thursday.
Shaniqua Davis, 20, lives in the Bronx with her boyfriend, who is unemployed, and their 1-year-old daughter. Davis has worked at a McDonald's a few blocks from her apartment for the past three months, earning $7.25 an hour. Her schedule varies, but she never gets close to 40 hours a week. "Forty? Never. They refuse to let you get to that (many) hours."
Her weekly paycheck is $150 or much lower. "One of my paychecks, I only got $71 on there. So I wasn't able to do much with that. My daughter needs stuff, I need to get stuff for my apartment," said Davis, who plans to take part in the strike Thursday.
She pays the rent with public assistance but struggles to afford food, diapers, subway and taxi fares, cable TV and other expenses with her paycheck.
"It's really hard," she said. "If I didn't have public assistance to help me out, I think I would have been out on the street already with the money I make at McDonald's."
Fast-food workers are planning walkouts in dozens of cities to pressure chains like Taco Bell, McDonald’s, and Wendy’s to pay higher wages. Organizers claim Thursday’s strike will be the largest ever by fast-food workers. Employees are demanding $15 an hour, for a full-time-employee yearly salary of $31,000, more than double the federal minimum wage ($7.25 an hour, or $15,000 yearly).
The National Restaurant Association says the low wages reflect the fact that most fast-food workers tend to be younger and have little work experience. Scott DeFife, a spokesman for the group, says that doubling wages would hurt job creation, noting that fast-food chains are already facing higher costs for ingredients, as well as new regulations that will require them to pay more in health care costs.
In reality, few of these workers are teenagers. Most have to support their families. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median age of fast-food workers is over 28; and women, who comprise two-thirds of the industry, are over 32. The median age of big-box retail workers is over 30. These workers typically bring in half their family’s earnings.
They deserve a raise.
Inequality is real, it's personal, it's expensive and it was created. Today, 1% of Americans are taking home nearly 20% of the country's total income and own nearly 35% of the country's wealth. This didn't happen by accident. As former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich explains, we allowed it to happen.
We can't have a prosperous economy without a strong and prosperous middle class. Inequality can be fixed. So, let's fix it.
inequality.is, a new interactive site from the Economic Policy Institute, explains the causes of and solutions to income inequality.
The recent past has seen greater economic inequality in America than at any time since the Great Depression.
In the three decades after World War II American incomes grew quickly and equally, but starting in the late 1970s things began to change.
Today, 1% of Americans are taking home nearly 20 percent of the country's total income, and own more than 35% of America's wealth.
And it didn't happen by accident. It's the result of policy decisions on taxes, education, trade, labor, macroeconomics, and financial regulation -- all of which shifted economic power away from low and moderate-income American families.
Economic inequality is real, it's personal, it's expensive. And it was created.
It's May Day, and Occupy Wall Street will be acting in force across New York City.
Join us on this day of celebration and agitation for the struggles of workers the world over. As the May Day music video "We Stand For Justice" depicts.
"We stand for justice. We know what it feels like. We stand together, for justice we will fight!"
Indeed, the most important way you can show your support is by joining us in the streets on May Day. But we also need financial and material resources to spread the word and to support actions.
Then tomorrow, stand together with us and fight for justice for the 99%!
-- from the ‘Your Inbox: Occupied’ team
May Day NYC
See the full May Day NYC schedule, as well as specifics on the events below:
all day: The People’s Puppets
We begin the day early in 2 groups: Uptown (meeting in Bryant Park at 10am) and Downtown (meeting in Union Sq at 11am). After marching with different groups, we’ll meet back at Union Square for more performances, especially game time at 4pm!
11am- 230: Free University @ Cooper Union
The Free University of NYC invites neighborhood organizations, schools, unions, spiritual centers, and other community education-oriented groups to create your own Free Universities this May 1st. The impetus behind this May Day call to education is to encourage local communities to host your own gatherings of free education to ensure they’re directly relevant and empowering on a ground level.
noon: Immigrant Worker Justice Tour @ Bryant Park
Join immigrants and workers this May Day as we highlight the daily struggles facing immigrants and workers in New York City. We will visit several workplaces in midtown to demand an end to exploitation of immigrant workers, ending at Schumer's office for a speak-out on what real immigration reform looks like.
2:30: #99PKTS Solidarity Swarm @ Union Square
Join 99 Pickets, the Rude Mechanical Orchestra, and allies as we march on employers around Union Square to demand fair pay and justice for all workers. We'll be visiting the offices of Frieze Art Fair to call for a fairer art world, Wendy's to support the Coalition of Immokalee Workers and the Travel Channel to support members of the Writers Guild. Gather at 2:30pm in the NE corner of Union Square; we'll leave at 3pm. Look for Rude Mechanical Orchestra!
3:30: Everybody Now! Sing along @ Union Square
Everybody Now! is a choir that you join as soon as you start to sing (or whisper or hum). On May Day, we will be sharing this song, "We Stand For Justice", at the beginning of the rally at Union Square, and we would love to you to lift your voice and sing with us! Our goal is to make it as resonant and contagious as possible - ideally everyone at the rally will feel empowered and excited to sing along! Listen to a demo of the song and meet us at the SE corner of Union Square (14th St between Broadway and Lafayette, right across from the Duane Reade) AND THEN SING WITH US IN THE RALLY AT 4 PM!!
4pm: Unified Rally for Immigrant & Worker Rights @ Union Square
Joint rally with the May 1st Coalition; the Alliance for Labor Rights, Immigrant Rights and Jobs for All; immigrant rights groups; and Occupy Wall Street. The rally will be a mix of speakers and entertainment drawing attention to the struggles and victories of labor unions, workers, immigrants and the 99%. Followed by a march down Broadway to City Hall.
7pm: May Day People’s Assembly @ Foley Square
This Assembly will be the first in a series of monthly People's Assemblies that will take place on the first Wednesday of each month. What do we have in common, how do our experiences vary, and what can we build together? As the march ends, gather in Foley Square starting at 7pm. We will split into multiple groups based on the struggles, campaigns and people present.
7:30: Occu-Evolve Kimani Grey Assembly @ Zucotti Park
Emphasis on current labor struggles, ending Police Murder and Brutality, stop & frisk, mass incarceration and the War on Black and Brown People, justice for victims of Hurricane Sandy and building Occupy Wall Street to truly reflect and fight for all of the people in New York City.
9pm: Dance Your Debt Away @ Washington Square Park
A party to end the day!
Learn more about the plethora of events and actions happening all day at http://maydaynyc.org/schedule/.
Chiquita Brands International sued the Securities and Exchange Commission, seeking to block the release of documents related to payments the company made to terrorist groups in Colombia to protect its banana-growing interests according to the complaint filed in U.S. District Court.
The company paid the Justice Department a $25 million fine in 2007, after admitting that it had given Colombian paramilitary groups that the U.S. classifies as terrorist organizations more than $1.7 million. Chiquita has maintained that it was extorted by the groups and made the payments in an attempt to protect its workers.
Chiquita’s newest legal action, filed Thursday in federal court in Washington, D.C., attempts to block the SEC from releasing documents tied to the case to the National Security Archive.
In 2007, the National Security Archive published thousands of documents from Chiquita that it said showed how the company and paramilitary groups had a mutually beneficial relationship.
The "reverse" FOIA filing is the latest development in a four-and-a-half-year Archive legal effort to document Chiquita's financial relationships with illegal armed groups responsible for some of the worst human rights atrocities of Colombia's decades-old civil war.
The new case is the direct outgrowth of a 2010 lawsuit in which the Archive sought to compel the SEC to process a pair of FOIA requests relating to the Chiquita investigation. More than three years later the agency made its final decision with respect to legal, financial and other documents Chiquita turned over to the SEC during the course of its inquiries, granting confidential treatment to only 45 pages among some 23 boxes of responsive material. Chiquita's "reverse" FOIA action follows multiple attempts on its part to convince the SEC to reverse that decision.
In making its case against disclosure of the "Chiquita Payment Documents," the company cites FOIA Exemption (7)(B), which exempts from disclosure "records or information compiled for law enforcement purposes" to the extent that production "would deprive a person of a right to a fair trial or an impartial adjudication." 5 U.S.C. § 552(b)(7)(B). Chiquita claims that it is subject to two pending "adjudications," a consolidated civil suit filed in Florida on behalf on behalf of victims of the terrorist groups that Chiquita funded, and a preliminary criminal investigation now underway in Colombia.
A lawsuit filed by thousands of Colombians who claim their relatives were killed by the paramilitary groups is still working its way through federal court in Florida. The plaintiffs allege the paramilitary groups helped keep labor unions out of the banana fields and brutalized workers.
Apparently, Wal-mart CEO Mike Duke isn't getting the message from all those employee protests over pay and benefits.
During an event sponsored by the Council on Foreign Relations, Bloomberg LP President Dan Doctoroff asked Duke about Wal-Mart employee wages, and noted that "New York is claiming that wages, you know, aren't adequate for that middle-class or emerging middle-class."
Duke claims that Wal-Mart's over 2 million employees earn "competitive wages."
"Retailing is the most competitive industry out there, and we do pay competitive wages," Duke said. "Last year we promoted 165,000 people from entry-level to managerial positions."
Duke added that Walmart provides health insurance to 1 million people in the United States.
But he said he's used to all the criticism.
"With more success comes more responsibility and expectations from the public," Duke said. "So I'm thrilled to be in a position where people expect more of me."
Duke has been CEO since February 2009. According to Forbes, his compensation was $18.7 million last year.
If Duke is comparing Wal-Mart's wages to say Target, sure, maybe they're competitive. And as for the health insurance, I wonder if that is being "provided" to the less than 50% of Wal-Mart employees or simply "offered"? As many employees can't afford their share of the expense for the plans on their low wages
Note, too, that Duke didn't really respond to Doctoroff's question of "adequate" wages. How could Duke, who received a base salary of about $1.2 million and a performance-based bonus of nearly $3.9 million in 2010, possibly truthfully say those employee wages were adequate?
As CEO Duke spoke, Wal-Mart employees stood outside protesting their treatment at work.
In America, people who work hard should be able to afford basic necessities like groceries, rent, childcare and transportation. While fast food corporations reap the benefits of record profits, workers earn $7.25/hr and are barely getting by—many are forced to be on public assistance despite having a job. Raising pay for fast food workers will benefit workers and strengthen the overall economy.
On Thursday, NYC fast food workers from dozens of stores, including McDonald’s, Burger King, Domino’s, KFC, Taco Bell, Wendy’s and Papa John’s held a walkout, in a historic one day strike for a fair unionization process, decent wages, reasonable scheduling, paid sick days and an end to retaliation.
Put these multi-billion dollar corportations on notice: these workers do not stand alone.
Friday, Nov. 30th
Show solidarity with striking workers as they go back to for work. Collective action is protected under U.S. labor law, and the workers are asking the community to be on-site at fast food locations around the city to support them as they return to the job.
Sign up for a shift on Friday by RSVPing to email@example.com. Two shifts are available: 5:30am-8:30am and 9:30am-12:30pm. Meet-up locations are all over the city, including Manhattan (310 W. 43rd St.) and Brooklyn (2-4 Nevins).
Join the movement to support New York City workers in moving FAST FOOD FORWARD: www.fastfoodforward.org
They’re mad as hell, and they’re not going to take it anymore. Fast-food workers from restaurants across New York City walked off the job Thursday, marking the beginning of an extremely rare strike against the nearly union-free industry. Employees from McDonald’s, Burger King, Domino’s, Taco Bell, Wendy’s, and Papa John’s all participated, with workers from the Golden Arches making up the most of the activists. This is considered the first salvo in an effort to unionize workers in the industry, typified by low wages, limited hours, and high turnover. Civil rights groups, religious leaders, and a labor union organized the walk out.
At 6:30 this morning, New York City fast food workers walked off the job, launching a rare strike against a nearly union-free industry. Organizers expect workers at dozens of stores to join the one-day strike, a bold challenge to an industry whose low wages, limited hours and precarious employment typify a growing portion of the U.S. economy.
New York City workers are organizing at McDonald’s, Burger King, Domino’s, KFC, Taco Bell, Wendy’s and Papa John’s. Organizers expect today’s strike to include workers from almost all of those chains, with the largest group coming from McDonald’s; the company did not respond to a request for comment.
But employees were clear about their reasons for walking out. “They’re not paying us enough to survive,” McDonald’s worker Raymond Lopez told Salon in a pre-strike interview. Lopez said he decided to join today’s strike because “This company has enough money to pay us a reasonable amount for all that we do … they’re just not going to give it to us as long as they can get away with it. I think we need to be heard.”
Thursday's strike also comes one week after non-union Wal-Mart workers staged their unprecedented strike wave against the retail giant.