Sunday Roast: Labor Day — More than a sale at the mall

I know it’s a day early, but it’s just a short video on Labor Day, from the History Channel, so take a few minutes to watch it.  I’ll wait!

Hey, isn’t it AWESOME that the State of Oregon was the first to legalize Labor Day as a holiday in 1887?  I’m not sure I’ve said this before, but I love Oregon!!

Labor unions fought hard for the workers, and we can thank them for the eight-hour work day, weekends, better wages, safer working conditions, pensions, and more.

Unfortunately, corporate America/the ruling class/the 1% succeeded in making “union” a dirty word, and pitted workers against one another to help them forget that unions protect the workers themselves, and severely diminished unions in this country.

So enjoy your day off on Monday, even if you have to hit the mall for back to school supplies, but while you’re there, spare a thought for those who worked so hard to get you that day off — and all your other days off.

This is our daily open thread — Talk among yourselves.

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The Watering Hole, Saturday, May 23rd, 2015: From One to Infinity?

Last night I was doing an extremely necessary cleanup of my emails, and was about to delete some recent ones from our local Republican NYS Assemblyman, when I decided to take a look to see what he was writing about. Here’s one of them:

Cuomo’s Undemocratic Minimum Wage Hike Will Kill Jobs

East Fishkill, NY – (5/7/15) – Assemblyman Kieran Michael Lalor (R,C,I – East Fishkill) issued a statement today criticizing Governor Cuomo’s decision to unilaterally move to raise the minimum wage for some businesses without legislative approval.

“Dictating new regulations outside the legislative process is a recklessly undemocratic decision by Governor Cuomo,” said Lalor. “We have a process for passing new laws and the governor has chosen to bypass it because he was only able to get part of his job-killing minimum wage through the legislature. It seems he’s taking a page from President Obama’s playbook and simply dictating new laws when he can’t do what he wants through the legislature. Impaneling a wage board gives Cuomo’s action a veneer of unbiased approval, but is there any doubt that the board will simply follow Cuomo’s directions? We know how closely Cuomo has controlled previous ‘independent’ commissions.”

Lalor added, “This isn’t just undemocratic, it’s a job killer. San Francisco’s recent minimum wage hike is pushing small businesses to the brink of closure. [emphasis mine] This will hurt minimum-wage earners when businesses that can’t afford the increase start cutting jobs. Studies have shown entry-level job opportunities decline with minimum wage increases. The governor can’t simply mandate a better economy. Small businesses are struggling with New York’s high taxes and never-ending regulations. New York’s economy is struggling because of those taxes and regulations. The only way for government to increase wages and opportunities is to cut taxes and regulations across the board. We need to open up opportunities for businesses to thrive and create jobs in New York.”

“It’s also inappropriate for the governor to target just one industry,” Lalor added. “Governor Cuomo says he wants to raise fast food wages because fast food CEOs are millionaires. But, many fast food restaurants operate as franchises. They’re small businesses. This isn’t just hitting big corporations, Governor Cuomo, this is hitting small businesses. Cuomo’s dictate is so vague, we don’t even know how far this will go. It’s up to his wage board to decide what jobs will be defined as within the ‘fast food industry’. Pizzeria and deli owners, among other small businesses, don’t know if they’ll be included. They might not even know that this regulation could affect them until it’s already passed, missing the chance to voice their opposition.”

###
Assemblyman Kieran Michael Lalor, a former teacher at Our Lady of Lourdes in Poughkeepsie, is a Marine Corps veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom and a frequent guest on the Fox News Channel…”

I started to search for any information regarding what problems have been caused by San Francisco’s recent minimum-wage raise. The Google brought up several articles referencing “a San Francisco newspaper says that some restaurants and grocery stores in Oakland’s Chinatown have closed…” Okay, that’s Oakland, which, as far as I know, is still a separate city across the bay from SF. And my search for even that one “San Francisco newspaper” story yielded nothing but references to it from right-wing sources, i.e., The American Spectator and World Net Daily. As you can see, Thomas Sowell of The American Spectator has apparently coined (or at least emphasized) a new buzzword for the right, “ruinous compassion” – don’t be surprised if you start hearing that phrase in conjunction with any minimim-wage-raise arguments.

I finally found one article from Yahoo! Finance titled “Minimum Wage Hike Closes San Francisco Bookstore.” Although I had seen other stories from 2011 on about several booksellers such as the Borders chain losing business or closing, none of those seemed to be as a result of minimum wage hikes; it’s been pretty much a given for several years now that any bookseller would be in tough competition with current technology, with which one can access any book one wants with a few clicks. However, even this particular bookstore in San Francisco isn’t exactly going out of business entirely:

“Borderland Books, which specializes in science fiction and horror, says it has withstood a host of challenges since it opened in 1997, including the rise of Amazon.com and e-books, a landlord who supposedly doubled their rent while dotcoms were first booming, and a deep recession that the owners say “hit us very hard.” A higher minimum wage, though, would take the business from being modestly profitable to being a money loser, the owner says. “Although all of us at Borderlands support the concept of a living wage in principal and we believe that it’s possible that the new law will be good for San Francisco — Borderlands Books as it exists is not a financially viable business if subject to that minimum wage.”

But according to the article:

“The blog post went on to say that the Borderlands café business will stay open and should have “no difficulty at all” with the new minimum wage because it will be able to raise prices as needed. The bookselling business is different, the blog post argued, because book prices are set by the publishers and clearly printed on the books.”

So, although the owner wasn’t making much of a profit anyway from selling books, he’s still going to do just fine with the cafe associated with his bookstore. The last paragraph of the article itself links to this survey of economists who are mostly supportive of minimum-wage raises.

Hmm…So why is this one bookstore being used as, it appears, the definitive argument against all minimum-wage hikes, and why does it sound like the Ronald Reagan “Cadillac-driving welfare queen”? And since when does ONE = ALL?

I think I’m going to have to write to Assemblyman Lalor about his research team – if he has one.

This is our (very late) Daily Open Thread–what’s on your mind?

Sunday Roast: Just say NO to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)

via Ring of Fire

The TPP is another HORRIBLE trade deal for the U.S., and I don’t understand why President Obama (and in the past, President Clinton) is pushing the damn thing — while simultaneously yammering on about how concerned he is about “jobs,” “hard-working Americans,” and the suffering of the “middle class.”  Having the Republicans eager to work with the President on TPP ought to be our first giant red flag, the second is all the secrecy surrounding the issue.

To me, Robert Reich is the best guy to give an understandable thumbnail sketch of things like this — with pictures!

This is our daily open thread — Say NO to fast track!!

The Watering Hole, Monday, December 9th, 2013: Minimum Wage Scrooge

Yes, I still occasionally read parts of Newsmax and Moneynews, just so that you won’t have to. You’re welcome.

The Moneynews email subject that caught my eye this time was “Fast-food Workers Rally for Higher Minimum Wage.” I wanted to see how they would spin this issue. Surprisingly, it didn’t seem to be skewed, with the one notable exception.

“Fast-food workers in hundreds of U.S. cities staged a day of rallies on Thursday to demand higher wages, saying the pay was too low to feed a family and forced most to accept public assistance.

The protests escalated a series of actions at several Walmart stores on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, seeking to draw attention to workers at the lowest end of the wage scale.

The description of fast-food workers, once viewed mainly as teenagers looking for pocket money or a first job, has changed. Today’s fast-food worker is typically over 20, often raising a child, and 68 percent are the primary wage earners in their families, according to a report by the University of Illinois and the University of California, Berkeley.

About 100 workers in Chicago marched along Michigan Avenue with a large costumed Grinch, chanting: “We can’t survive on $7.25.” Protesters want the hourly U.S. minimum wage raised to $15 from $7.25.

In Kansas City, Missouri, Kizzy Sanders, 30, an employee at a local Popeye’s restaurant, joined about 100 protesters picketing fast-food restaurants in freezing temperatures.

“I love my job, I love the people I work with, but the $7.70 I make does not cut it,” said Sanders, a mother of three. “It doesn’t pay my bills, I can’t buy my kids anything for Christmas. I can’t even celebrate Christmas.”

Thursday’s protests were organized by groups such as “Fast Food Forward” and “Low Pay is Not OK” that have the support of labor union giant Service Employees International Union, which represents more than 2 million members including healthcare, janitorial and security workers.”

“Despite the involvement of organized labor, the protests are focused on wages, not unions, for the moment, said John Logan, a labor studies professor at San Francisco State University’s College of Business.

“The immediate goal is to focus national attention on the impact of poverty-level wages on employees and the negative impact of poverty-level wages for the public and the economy,” Logan said.

Data from the U.S. Census Bureau and public benefit programs show 52 percent of fast-food workers relying on at least one form of public assistance, between 2007 and 2011, according to the report from the University of California, Berkeley, and the University of Illinois.”

“Because the current minimum wage, on an inflation-adjusted basis, lags behind those of decades past, the purchasing power of minimum-wage earners has diminished.

Increasing the minimum wage, however, would not reduce poverty, said Michael Saltsman of the Employment Policies Institute, because employers will compensate by reducing staff and workers’ hours. Instead, they should expand the Earned Income Tax Credit, which provides a small-wage supplement for low-income families in the form of a tax refund, he said. A 2012 study published by the Employment Policies Institute found that states that increase the Earned Income Tax Credit by 1 percent saw a 1 percent drop in state poverty rates.
[Emphasis mine.]

“Others disagree. Christian Dorsey, director of external and governmental affairs for the Economic Policy Institute [the progressive organization with which Employment Policies Institute wants us to be confused], said tax credits should not let employers skimp on wages.

“Businesses have a responsibility to pay workers enough to keep them out of poverty,” Dorsey said. “The idea that we would simply not look at wages is passing off the problem to someone else.”

Yes, Employment Policies Institute, one of soulless lobbyist Rick Berman’s stable of “non-profits.”

Charity Navigator is a website which provides “information and ratings on charities”. Here’s an excerpt from their review of Employment Policies Institute:

Charity Navigator has become aware of the following information in connection with this charity:

During our analysis of this charity’s FYE 2011 Form 990, the document revealed that more than half of the Employment Policies Institute Foundation’s functional expenses were paid to its CEO Richard Berman’s for-profit management company, Berman and Company. The document revealed that, out of total expenses of $2.10 million, $1.17 million were paid to Berman and Company for staff[ing] and operat[ing] the day-to-day activities” of the charity.

Sourcewatch, too, provides lots of information regarding the tangled web of EPI and other Berman & Co. ‘non-profits.’ It’s a sweet, and profitable, arrangement for Berman & Co.

A quick glance at some of the ‘studies’, ‘press releases’ and ‘letters to the editor’ touted on Employment Policies Institute’s home page pretty much sums up whose side they’re on in the employer vs worker fight. And while Berman’s EPI should still be nursing their bruises after the recent thrashing given by Chris Hayes to one of Berman’s minions (who was unable to answer the simple question “how many economists do you have on your staff?”), instead, his “think-tanks” continue to crank out ludicrous reasoning for keeping workers from getting ahead.

It all comes back to what Bill Maher said several weeks ago: “Do you want smaller government with less handouts, or do you want a low minimum wage? Because you cannot have both.”

This is our daily open thread–don’t be shy!

The Watering Hole, Monday, October 28th, 2013: Bill Maher: “You Cannot Have Both”

This past Friday night’s “Real Time with Bill Maher”‘s panel consisted of Michael Moore, a surprisingly quiet Al Sharpton, Valerie Plame, and Richard Dawkins. And while the group had some interesting discussions, the best part of the show came in Bill’s soliloquy at the end of the show. Crooks and Liars has the video, but I have borrowed their transcript, here:

MAHER: “Now, when it comes to raising the minimum wage, conservatives always say it’s a non-starter because it cuts into profits. Well, yeah. Of course. Paying workers is one of those unfortunate expenses of running a business… you know, like taxes, or making a product.

If you want to get rich with a tax-free enterprise that sells nothing, start a church.

You might think that paying people enough to live is so self-evident that even crazy people could understand it, but you would be wrong.

Michele Bachmann is not only against raising the minimum wage, she’s against having one at all. She once said “if we took away the minimum wage… we could virtually wipe out unemployment because we would be able to offer jobs at whatever level.”

Put that in your brain and smoke it. You could hire everyone if you didn’t have to pay them. And naturally, Ted Cruz agrees. Ted Cruz thinks it’s a good thing that when his Cuban father came to America he was paid $.50 an hour to work as a dishwasher, before becoming Charo.

When did the American dream become this pathway to indentured servitude? This economic death spiral where workers get paid next to nothing, so they can only afford to buy next to nothing, so businesses are forced to sell cheaper and cheaper shit?

Walmart employees can only afford to shop at Walmart. McDonalds workers can only afford to eat at McDonalds. And Hooters waitresses have to wear shirts they grew out of years ago.

Even if you’re not moved by the “don’t be such a heartless prick” argument, consider the fact that most fast food workers, whose average age by the way now is 29, we’re not talking about kids, are on some form of public assistance. Which is not surprising. When even working people can’t make enough to live, they take money from the government in the form of food stamps, school lunches, housing assistance, day care. This is the welfare that conservatives hate.

But they never stop to think, if we raised the minimum wage and forced McDonalds and Walmart to pay their employees enough to eat, we the taxpayers wouldn’t have to pick up the slack.

This is the question the right has to answer. Do you want smaller government with less handouts, or do you want a low minimum wage? Because you cannot have both.

If Col. Sanders isn’t going to pay the lady behind the counter enough to live on, then Uncle Sam has to, and I for one am getting a little tired of helping highly profitable companies pay their workers.”

Bravo, Bill – hear, hear!

O/T: Today my mum would have turned 93 – Happy Birthday, Mum, wish you were here.Scan10002

This is our daily open thread, got anything on your mind that you’d like to discuss?

The Watering Hole, Monday, September 2nd, 2013: Whose American Dream?

On a weekend which is supposed to celebrate the lowly worker and his/her hard-fought-for rights, and less than a week after Republicans refused to participate in the celebration marking the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, hard-core conservatives gathered in Florida to “Defend” a much different “Dream.”

Most Americans, like King, might describe the American Dream as one of fairness, an America where hard work, thriftiness, integrity, compassion, and sharing were among the most admirable characteristics. Most Americans dream of a life of somewhat limited goals, i.e., a nice house in a decent neighborhood, enough earnings to perhaps travel, to afford a few little luxuries, indulge in a hobby – generally, to be content and free from everyday financial worry.

Others trivialize both this type of American Dream and the dreamers who dream it, and hold in contempt those who cannot, through no fault of their own, achieve such a minor goal. To them, the American Dream is one of unfettered greed, and those who do not dream ‘big’ are not worthy of their consideration, let alone assistance. And these dreamers of greed went to Florida to “Defend The American Dream.”

Yes, the “Defending The American Dream Summit” was held in Orlando this past weekend, sponsored by your friendly neighborhood free-market-unregulated-capitalism group “Americans For Prosperity”, along with such proud bastions of integrity as The Blaze, Townhall.com/Townhall Magazine, and Altria. Who, you might ask (as I did) is Altria? From their website:

“For more than 180 years, Altria’s companies have built some of the best-known brands in the world – Marlboro, Copenhagen, Skoal and Black & Mild – that today lead their respective categories.”

Yeah, big tobacco.

The only sponsor that may be non-partisan/bipartisan, (based on its client list), is Tray, Inc., a marketing firm.

From “About The Summit”:

“In this banner event, free-market champions from Main Street to Capitol Hill come together for an unforgettable weekend with a shared desire to advance the time-honored ideals of economic freedom.

All around us a battle of ideas rages, and the very fabric of American prosperity is under attack. Now more than ever, we must be alert, involved, and engaged in the fight for freedom and liberty.”

The group of speakers touted include some of our favorite rabid righties: Senator Ted Cruz, Governor Bobby Jindal, Senator Ron Johnson, Governor Rick Perry, Michelle Malkin, Governor Voldemort Rick Scott, and total whack-job David Horowitz – more on him later.

From the Summit Agenda, some of the “Defending The Dream” Summit Breakout Sessions”:
-Bully on the Playground: Beat Back the Bureaucrats (Policy Session)
-Get Past the Gotchas: Staying in Control (Social Media & Messaging Session)
-Medicaid Expansion: Breaking the Bank While Cheating the Poor (Policy Session)
-Freedom in Decline: How Big Government is Ruining Your Future (Youth Oriented Session)
-The Green Monster: Subsidizing Failure in Renewable Energy (Policy Session)

One of the “exhibitors” at the DTD Summit is Go For The Heart – yeah, I never heard of it either. The website says ‘About’ itself:

“Go For the Heart, Inc. is a private non-profit corporation
dedicated to defending the principles of a free society
and to training conservative activists, strategists,
legislators and candidates in the art of political war.”

Its ‘Mission Statement’:

“Conservatives do not have a response to the attacks leveled at them during the Election Cycle as the “party of the rich” and “the oppressors of women, minorities and the poor.” Go For The Heart will equip and empower elected officials, candidates, campaign professionals, grassroots activists, and the conservative youth with the messaging tools to blunt the baseless attacks by Liberals and to be successful in winning elections for conservatives, whether Democrats, Libertarians, Republicans or Independents.”

Guess who seems to be in charge at Go For the Heart? Well, the “Go For The Heart in A Nutshell” video features David Horowitz – as do the downloadable publications offered. Yes, David Horowitz, again. [NOTE: I did not have the stomach to watch the video – do you?]

While there has been little reporting on what each speaker said, that little is enough to show just how extreme and divided the speakers and other conservatives really are. Marco Rubio received mixed greetings due to his lack of Tea Party purity over immigration, as reported by The Washington Post as well as at Breitbart.com:

From Breitbart: “Heckling calls of “no amnesty” and “Secure the border” were heard around the room and throughout Rubio’s presentation. In fact, calls of “traitor” were even heard in some corners of the audience. The catcalls proved that few were pleased with Mr. Rubio.”

But, again, that pesky David Horowitz delivered the most ironically delusional fantasy that I’ve heard in a while, calling the president “…the most brazen and compulsive liar to ever occupy the White House…”

“The reason we don’t attack him is obvious, but no one will say it out loud. I will: It’s because the color of his skin is black…It is because Obama is a minority that nobody will hold him to a standard or confront him with what he has done.”

This is no “American Dream” that the Koch Brothers-backed Americans For Prosperity is trying to “defend” – this is any sane American’s nightmare.

This is our daily open thread — go ahead, start your rants!

The Watering Hole: Saturday, December 15, 2012 – What Is Right To Work Legislation?

Without unions there would be no middle class. I want you to remember that as we discuss just what is “right to work” legislation. Don’t let the name fool you. It does NOT mean that you have a right to any particular job, or that you can sue your employer just for being fired (whether you deserved it or not). What it really refers to is your right to work at a place without being forced to join a union. Before going into more detail about the concept, here’s a brief (less than 2 minutes) video on the history of unions. For a timeline of major events in union history, see here.

The year 1947 saw one of the most significant changes to union and labor law. Prior to that year, if you wanted to work at a place where the employees belonged to a union, you could be required to join that union and pay dues to it. (And that union could spend those dues on many things with which you may not have agreed.) There were exceptions, such as certain federal jobs (ironically), but closed shops were not unusual. You had to join the union and pay its dues to work there, and if you were no longer in the union (for whatever reason) you could be fired. In the 1947, the very pro-business 80th Congress, when both Houses were controlled by the Republican Party, passed the Labor Management Relations Act (nicknamed the Taft-Hartley Act) over President Harry Truman’s veto. For a “Do Nothing Congress”, they sure did a doozy with that one. They were a very anti-union Congress, and we should be grateful they didn’t pass more legislation.

You often hear that unionized places force people to join the union, but that’s not true (thanks to the Taft-Hartley Act.) State right to work laws force all unionized shops to become “open shops,” meaning employees cannot be forced to join a union. They also have the right to enjoy all the benefits that union workers enjoy. The union might fight for better working conditions for you and your fellow employees (it isn’t always about more pay), but whether or not you join the union you can, by law, enjoy whatever benefits the union wins. If they want, non-union workers can ask the union for help in dealing with their employer, and while they don’t have to pay union dues, they do have to compensate the union for acting on their behalf. But other than that, you can work at any non-federal place that has a union without being forced to join the union.

Now, you’re going to hear a lot of Republicans (like Michigan Governor Rick Snyder) say that right to work laws benefit workers and lead to more pay. Don’t believe it for a second. As union membership declines, so does middle class income. Without unions there would be no middle class.

As of this writing, the following 23 states have some form of right to work laws: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan(!), Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Wyoming. The latest addition to that list is Michigan. Nobody campaigned on busting unions in Michigan, even the governor. Why not? Because if they did, they would have lost control of the state government. (You can also thank some heavily gerrymandered districts for that. More people voted for Democrats than for Republicans, but because of gerrymandered districts, more Republicans were sent to the next Congress than Democrats.)

Ask any union member about right to work laws and they’ll tell you they should be called “Right to Work For Less” laws, because that is the ultimate effect of those laws. When workers enjoy the right to bargain collectively, everybody benefits, including the business owners. Again, it isn’t just about fair pay though that is often at issue, it’s about all working conditions. Unions, by fighting for higher standards for workers, businesses, families, the environment, and public health and safety, have helped to build the middle class and make sure the economy works for everyone. Are you eligible for overtime pay for working more than 40 hours? You can thank unions for that. Do you get paid sick days? Thank unions again. Is your work place safe? It probably wouldn’t be without unions.

Interestingly enough, both sides see this as a “Freedom of Assembly” issue. The pro-union side sees it as the right to assemble with those with whom you do want to assemble, and the anti-union side sees it as the right to not have to assemble with those with whom you don’t want to assemble. In other words, the pro-union side sees it as the freedom of assembly, and the anti-union side sees it as the freedom from assembly.

Without unions, if you weren’t a member of the very, very wealthy elite (and if you’re reading this blog, you probably aren’t, but I thank you for being here), then you would be among the very poor. It would just be the very few rich and the very many poor. If Republicans had their way, there would be no unions at all. The only way to stop them is to vote them out of office. But that will be difficult because they’ve done their best to rig the elections so that fewer people can vote who would vote against them. It is a strategy without honor, but so is the Republican Party. While the year 2020 is a long way off, it will be a very, very, very important year for elections. That is the year the next census is conducted, and as a result of that census, voting districts will be redrawn. If Republicans manage to win more seats around the country (and I’m not just talking about Congress, I’m talking about state legislatures, too), they will put the final nails in the coffin of Democracy. They will rig any and all elections so that they can never be voted out of power. We cannot let that happen, and we don’t have to wait until then. Start voting them out of office now. Make sure you are registered to vote and VOTE! And whatever you do, do not vote for Republicans. They lie. All the time.

[This post originally appeared on Pick Wayne’s Brain and has been slightly modified.]