mykeystrokes.com

"Do or Do not. There is no try."

“Scott Walker’s Race To The Bottom”: His Plan Is As Pure An Expression Of Supply-Side, Trickle-Down Economics As You’ll Find

Scott Walker wants to take his fight against organized labor national. Today he released a plan for a new war not just on union representation, but on worker rights in general.

It’s quite a document, one we might call Scott Walker’s Race to the Bottom.

I have no doubt that Walker is sincere in his desire to see every labor union crushed and every vestige of workers’ power banished — or, in his lingo, “flexibility.” I’d also be surprised if any of the other candidates objected to any part of it. So the plan is worth understanding if you want to grasp what today’s GOP is offering today’s workers.

While he doesn’t say so explicitly, what Walker seems to hope for is really a world without any labor unions at all, or at the very least a world where unions are so weakened that they are unable to advocate for anyone. Here are the major parts of his plan:

Eliminate the National Labor Relations Board. Walker says the NLRB is “a one-sided advocate for big-labor special interests,” but the truth is that Democrats appoint pro-labor members to the board, while Republicans appoint anti-labor members to the board. Transferring the NLRB’s authority to adjudicate labor disputes to the courts would probably be a mixed bag in terms of worker rights.

“Eliminate big-government unions.” This is pretty straightforward. You don’t like unions? Get rid of ’em. Today there are around seven million Americans represented by a public sector union, and around one million of those are employed by the federal government (including the Postal Service). If Walker got his way, the latter group could kiss their representation goodbye — and given his record, it’s pretty clear he wouldn’t mind getting rid of the state and local public-sector unions as well.

Institute a national “right to work” law. The phrase “right to work” is a triumph of conservative PR, because how could anyone object to a right to work? What it means in practice, however, is that in places where unions negotiate salaries and benefits for workers, those workers can’t be required to contribute to the union that got them those salaries and benefits (no one can be required to join a union, but where there are no right to work laws, you can be required to contribute when the union negotiates on your behalf). Whenever a right to work law is being debated in a particular state, Republicans argue that because the law would weaken unions, it will draw employers who don’t want to have to bother with the high wages and good benefits those unions can negotiate.

Which, the evidence suggests, is probably true. But such laws have another effect: they pull down wages and benefits. So that’s the bargain a state makes when it passes a right to work law:  more jobs, but worse jobs.

Think about what would happen if you took this policy national. On a state level, it’s possible for a right to work law to draw a factory from one state to another. But if every state was a right to work state, then that incentive to move is eliminated. The decrease in union representation would spread, which drives down wages and benefits for everyone. Whether you think that’s a good thing depends on whether you are concerned with the interests of large business owners or the interests of workers.

There are a number of smaller ideas in Walker’s plan, like eliminating the requirement that federal contractors pay the “prevailing wage” (i.e. union wage) for construction projects, further reinforcing what seems to be Walker’s belief that the problem with unions is that they let workers earn too much money. And I have to highlight this bit:

“The Obama administration’s government-knows-best proposed rules will require employers to pay overtime rates to greater numbers of salaried works and require federal contractors to provide paid sick leave. Unfortunately, these rules will only reduce wages and deprive workers of the flexibility to balance work and life commitments.

“On Day One of my administration, I will repeal any regulation that reduces employee flexibility, as well as work for changes to federal law to allow time off for overtime hours worked. My changes will protect workplace flexibility by ensuring that misguided big-government mandates do not stand in the way of individuals and families.”

So Walker will roll back the Obama administration’s efforts to make more workers eligible for overtime pay and sick leave, because that would mean more “employee flexibility.” Indeed, just imagine the worker making $7.50 an hour saying to herself, “Boy, now that I have the flu I sure am glad I have to choose between dragging myself into work or staying home and losing my pay. Thanks for the flexibility, President Walker!”

Though Walker’s plan is couched in all kinds of pro-worker rhetoric like that (and endless repetition of the phrase “union bosses”), in truth it’s about as pure an expression of supply-side, trickle-down economics as you’ll find. Its basic principle is that once we eliminate workers’ ability to bargain collectively, everything will turn out great for everyone.

But here’s what we know: union membership has been declining for decades, while incomes have been stagnant and Americans have felt increasingly at the mercy of employers who treat them like interchangeable cogs who can be manipulated, surveilled, and tossed aside at the employer’s whim. There’s no question that Scott Walker succeeded in creating a politically beneficial showdown with public sector unions in Wisconsin. But how many Americans think that the problem with our economy is that too much power in the workplace lies in the hands of workers?

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Plum Line, The Washington Post, September 14, 2015

September 16, 2015 Posted by | Organized Labor, Scott Walker, Workers Rights | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“More Worried About Their Reputation”: Republicans Don’t Really Care About Inequality

The Republican Party appears to accept that poverty and the inequities of wealth and political power that have prevailed over the last 15 years are issues it can no longer ignore. Not without paying a price. After all, Mitt Romney’s cool indifference to the everyday struggles of working Americans went a long way toward sinking his 2012 campaign.

But expressing concern about inequality is one thing. Doing something about it is another. The GOP so far appears more worried about its reputation as being the party of the very, very rich, than the empirical reality of its being the party of the very, very rich.

At a recent Republican gathering, Senator Ted Cruz of Texas gave voice to the party’s incongruity of perception and reality. “I think Republicans are and should be the party of the 47 percent,” he said. Later at that same event, billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch announced plans to spend nearly $1 billion through their political network in the next race for the White House, with virtually all of it going to the Republican Party’s nominee.

If the GOP were truly troubled by historic rates of income and wealth inequality, it would rubber-stamp President Barack Obama’s plan to raise taxes on the wealthy and use the proceeds to fund infrastructure projects like roads, bridges, waterways, and sewer systems. Public investments like these have historically garnered broad support, because they are neutral vehicles for achieving the goals of statecraft. Such expenditures would not only create hundreds of thousands of seasonal jobs, as well as many thousands of permanent jobs, but also stimulate economic activity on a national scale. And they’d pay for themselves over time.

The president’s $4 trillion fiscal budget would tap into offshore accounts and Wall Street transactions that only the very, very rich possess and thus care about. In addition to public works, which Obama has been calling for since his took office, increased revenues would be used for free community college and universal child care.

This, or something like it, is what serious people talk about if they are serious about combating inequality. Progressive redistribution, however bitter-tasting the phrase may be, must be on the table. But all we are likely to hear, especially from Republicans aiming high, are platitudes steeped in conservative morality, homilies to the power of private enterprise freed from the bonds of bureaucratic red tape, or the benefits of cutting taxes. Really. Anything. Anything at all to avoid tax hikes even on the treasonous few who hide their money offshore.

All one needs to do to see the difference between what Republicans are saying and Republicans are doing is look at the current session of Congress. The very first item on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s to-do list was passing a bill authorizing the construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline. That project would indeed create thousands of seasonal jobs, but only about 40 permanent ones. It would have virtually no impact on the U.S. economy. Moreover, the public would get nothing in return, unless you count greater levels of global warming.

That’s not to mention other items being pushed which have nothing to do with serving the greater good. A short list: House Republicans have introduced legislation to restrict abortion (the melodramatically titled “fetal-pain bill”), to dismantle part of the Dodd-Frank financial reform law, and to starve to death the president’s modest executive action on illegal immigration.

Even if the Republicans really did believe, as Jeb Bush is trying to convince us, that addressing inequality is the right thing to do, don’t bet on any action. Doing the right thing had rarely been an incentive, because this is a party now committed to total warfare against Obama and the Democratic agenda. The only way the Republicans will take action on inequality is if they are forced to, but even then, they’ll likely do everything short of raising taxes on the very, very rich.

That’s why we should keep our eyes on the minimum wage and paid sick leave. House Speaker John Boehner has said he’d rather kill himself than raise the minimum wage. Conservatives are poised to attack Republicans entertaining mandated sick days. But in terms of inequality, these are the easiest ways to say you’ve done something without raising taxes on the very, very rich.

So yes, inequality is emerging as a major issue in the 2016 presidential race, and Jeb Bush, Ted Cruz and others are going to try hard to convince us that the Republican Party cares, really cares, about the plight of the poor and an ever-shrinking middle class. But remember the last time a major candidate talked about such “compassionate conservatism.” By the end of his second term, the greatest beneficiaries of that compassion were the very, very wealthy.

 

By: John Stoehr, Managing Editor of The Washington Spectator; The National Memo, February 6, 2015

February 9, 2015 Posted by | Economic Inequality, Poverty, Republicans | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“If We All Lose Together, We Practically Win Together”: Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin Makes It Illegal To Establish A Minimum Wage

In a move that fits seamlessly into the GOP’s War on the War on Poverty, Oklahoma governor Mary Fallin (R) has signed a bill into law that prohibits cities in the state from establishing mandatory minimum wages or vacation and sick-day requirements. The new law’s proponents claim that such a ban is necessary for economic homogeneity across the state, as allowing different municipalities to have different minimum wages could draw work disproportionately away from or towards certain cities. In essence, it seems that the logic goes something like this — if we all lose together, we practically win together.

According to Rep. Randy Grau (R-Edmond), the bill’s main supporter in the House, the ban provides ”safeguards that protect small businesses and consumers,” while raising the minimum wage “could derail local economies in a matter of months.” According to Grau, without a “level playing field” across the state, it seems that economic prosperity would all but perish. Currently, Oklahoma’s minimum wage stands at $7.25, equal to the federal level.

The bill was officially passed by Oklahoma’s House of Representatives on Tuesday.

Oklahoma’s new law comes only two months after Governor Fallin, the chair of the National Governors Association, led a national conference of governors that clashed over President Obama’s proposal to increase the national minimum wage to $10.10. In February, Obama signed an executive order that required federal contractors to pay their employees $10.10 an hour. But Gov. Fallin, along with many of her Republican colleagues, found the minimum-wage hike to be poor planning.

Claiming that the market would “take care of itself,” Governor Fallin insisted that a higher minimum wage was not only unnecessary, but actively harmful to the American economy.

“I’m not for increasing the minimum wage because I’m concerned it would destroy jobs, especially for small-business owners,” she said at the time. Her concerns were quickly echoed by GOP leaders, who latched onto a Congressional Budget Office report that said raising the minimum wage by nearly $3 could reduce jobs in 2016 by about 500,000. Of course, the CBO also found that approximately 45 million Americans would fall below the poverty line in 2016 if the minimum wage were to remain at its current level. That finding was handily ignored.

Many critics say that Fallin’s new measure unfairly targets Oklahoma City, where proponents of Obama’s $10.10 wage are collecting signatures to support the increase. The author of the initiative petition, lawyer David Slain, told the Associated Press that he was disappointed that state lawmakers “would vote in such a way to take the right of the people to decide minimum wage.”

In a press release on Monday, Governor Fallin insisted that increasing the minimum wage is not the path out of poverty that Democrats suggest it is, stating:

“Most minimum-wage workers are young, single people working part-time or entry-level jobs. Many are high school or college students living with their parents in middle-class families. Mandating an increase in the minimum wage would require businesses to fire many of those part-time workers. It would create a hardship for small business owners, stifle job creation and increase costs for consumers, and it would do all of these things without even addressing the goal of reducing poverty.”

Governor Fallin, once again, seemed to ignore the CBO’s report that such an increase could boost collective earnings by $31 billion for 33 million low-wage workers and bring an estimated 900,000 people out of poverty. But who’s counting?

 

By: Lulu Chang, The National Memo, April 15, 2014

April 16, 2014 Posted by | Minimum Wage, Poverty | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“More Sickening Than Stomach Flu”: With The Help Of ALEC, Corporate Greed Is Making Us Sick

The failure of our corporate and political leaders to make sure every worker gets good health care is causing some unpleasant consequences — like widespread stomach flu.

Ill workers often spread illness, because millions of employees who deal directly with the public are not covered by paid sick leave policies. So, when they come down with something like the stomach flu, they tend to drag themselves to work, rather than going to bed until they recover, since staying home means a loss of pay — or even the loss of their jobs.

Low-wage workers in the restaurant industry are particularly vulnerable and, since they handle food, particularly threatening. Nearly 80 percent of America’s food service workers receive no paid sick leave, and researchers have found that about half of them go to work ill because they fear losing their jobs if they don’t. As a result, a study by the Centers for Disease Control finds that ill workers are causing up to 80 percent of America’s stomach flu outbreaks, which is one reason CDC has declared our country’s lack of paid sick leave to be a major public health threat.

You’d think the industry itself would be horrified enough by this endangerment of its customers that it would take the obvious curative step of providing the leave. But au contraire, amigos, such huge and hugely profitable chains as McDonald’s, Red Lobster and Taco Bell not only fail to provide such commonsense care for their employees, but also have lobbied furiously against city and state efforts to require paid sick days.

Ironically, the top corporate executives of these chains (who are not involved in preparing or serving food to the public) are protected with full sick leave policies. For them to deny it to workers is idiotic, dangerously shortsighted — and even more sickening than stomach flu.

But what about our lawmakers? Where’s the leadership we need on this basic issue of fairness and public health? To paraphrase an old bumper sticker: “When the people lead, leaders will follow. Or not.”

Not when the “leaders” are in the pocket of corporate interests that don’t like where the people are leading. Take Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin, who never met a corporate pocket too grungy to climb into. This story starts in 2008, when the people of Milwaukee took the lead on the obvious need for a program allowing employees to earn a few days of paid sick leave each year, to be used if they fall ill or must care for a sick family member. Seven out of 10 Milwaukee voters approved that measure in a citywide referendum.

Corporate interests, however, sued to stall the people’s will, tying the sick leave provision up in court until 2011. By then, the corporations had put up big bucks to put Walker into the governorship — and right into their pocket. Sure enough, he dutifully nullified the Milwaukee vote by passing a “state pre-emption” law, autocratically banning local governments from requiring sick leave benefits for employees.

Just three months later, Walker’s pre-emption ploy was the star at a meeting of ALEC, the corporate front group that brings state legislators into secret sessions with CEOs and lobbyists. There, legislators are handed model laws to benefit corporations — then sent home to pass them. At a session overseen by Taco Bell, attendees got copies of Walker’s no-paid-sick-leave edict, along with a how-to-pass-it lecture by the National Restaurant Association. “Go forth, and pre-empt local democracy!” was the message.

And, lo, they did. Bills summarily prohibiting local governments from passing paid-sick-leave ordinances are being considered in at least 12 states this year, and Arizona, Florida, Indiana, Louisiana, Kansas, Mississippi and Tennessee have already passed theirs.

Florida’s process was especially ugly. Organize Now, a coalition of voters in Orlando, had obtained 50,000 signatures to put a sick leave referendum on last November’s ballot. But, pressured by the hugely profitable Disney World empire, county commissioners arbitrarily removed it from the ballot.

The scrappy coalition, however, took ‘em to court — and won, getting the referendum rescheduled for a 2014 vote. Disney & Gang scuttled off to Tallahassee this year to conspire with Gov. Rick Snyder and GOP legislative leaders. Quicker than a bullet leaves a gun, those corporate-hugging politicos obligingly delivered a “kill shot” to Orlando voters by enacting a Walkeresque state usurpation of local authority.

By spreading Walker’s autocratic nastiness from state to state, money-grubbing low-wage profiteers are literally spreading illness all across our land.

 

By: Jim Hightower, The National Memo, August 14, 2013

August 15, 2013 Posted by | Corporations | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Gov. Walker Signs Bill Blocking Milwaukee’s Paid Sick Leave Law

In 2008, Milwaukee, Wisconsin became the third city in America to guarantee workers paid sick leave, joining Washington D.C. and San Fransisco. These cities are stepping up to fill a void left by the federal government, which is content to leave America as one of the only countriesin the developed world that does not guarantee workers paid time off if they are sick.

The sick leave law was approved by referendum — with nearly 70 percent of voters in favor — and was upheld a few weeks ago by the state’s court of appeals. However, Republicans in the Wisconsin state legislature passed a bill preempting the city’s law and ensuring that no jurisdiction within the state of Wisconsin is allowed to decide it wants to mandate paid sick days. Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI) — who gained notoriety for proposing a law stripping public sector workers of their collective bargaining rights and sparking mass protests — signed the anti-sick leave bill into law today:

Gov. Scott Walker has signed a bill that prohibits local governments from passing ordinances guaranteeing workers’ paid sick and family leave…Walker, a Republican, says in a statement the bill removes another barrier to creating jobs.

But Walker’s concern about job-loss is overblown. The Drum Major Institute conducted a study examining San Francisco’s paid sick leave law and found “no evidence that businesses in San Francisco have been negatively impacted by the enactment of paid sick leave.” In fact, the U.S. economy as a whole loses $180 billion in productivity annually due to sick employees attending work and infecting other workers.

Despite Walker’s misguided action, as the National Association of Working Women noted, plenty of other cities are forging ahead with paid sick leave legislation:

In Philadelphia, a paid sick days bill was passed out of a City Council committee a few weeks ago, and in Connecticut, the state legislature is moving forward on a bill with bipartisan support. Paid sick days legislation in New York City has 35 City Council sponsors, legislation is about to be introduced in Seattle, and more than a dozen states have coalitions advocating actively for paid sick days and paid family leave policies.  San Francisco and Washington, DC have already implemented paid sick days laws.

In the end, repealing Milwaukee’s paid sick leave law is simply one more way in which Walker is undertaking his assault on Wisconsin’s workers.

By: Pat Garofalo, The Wonk Room, Think Progress, May 5, 2011

May 6, 2011 Posted by | Collective Bargaining, Conservatives, Democracy, Economy, GOP, Gov Scott Walker, Governors, Ideology, Jobs, Lawmakers, Middle Class, Politics, Republicans, Right Wing, State Legislatures, States, Unions, Wisconsin, Wisconsin Republicans, Women, Womens Rights | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

%d bloggers like this: