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LaborPress National Report

November 9, 2015
By Roger Kerson

Mixed bag on minimum wage
Voters turned down proposals for a $15 minimum wage in Portland, ME and Tacoma, WA off-year balloting on Nov. 3. But wages will go up in Tacoma; a “compromise” $12/hour measure was approved with 58.6% of the vote.

 Current minimum in WA is $9.67/hour. Tacoma corporate leaders concede they backed a gradual wage hike to $12/hour because of pressure from the city’s 15 Now Tacoma campaign.“By and large, our businesses weren't excited about raising the minimum wage,” local Chamber of Commerce chief Tom Pierson tells the Huffington Post. “But faced with $15 overnight, the tone started to change in terms of what is workable.

"Maine marches on: The defeat of the $15/hour minimum in Portland won’t deter the Maine People’s Alliance (MPA), which has 30,000 signatures in hand to get a $12/hour proposal on the ballot in 2016. "People were literally lining up to sign our petition," on Election Day, MPA director Amy Halsted tells the Washington Post. "So there is certainly a real appetite for raising wages.

"Fast Food Strikes Set for
Tuesday, Nov. 10
Workers at America’s biggest restaurant chains are certainly hungry for a better standard of living. Backers of Fight for 15, the nationwide campaign to raise wages, are planning strikes at fast-food restaurants in 270 cities on Nov. 10th. Thousands are expected to turn out that same night in Milwaukee for a protest at the GOP presidential debate sponsored by Fox Business Network.

Who makes less than $15? A new report from the National Unemployment Law Project (NELP) finds that 42 percent of the U.S. workforce earns less than $15 year. With a current U.S. labor force of just over 157 million workers, that’s a whopping 65 million people. Nearly half are over 35 years of age – and many are not currently registered to vote. A survey conducted for NELP by Victoria Research finds that nearly 70 percent of unregistered low-wage workers would be more likely to sign up and vote in 2016 if there were a presidential candidate advocating a $15 minimum wage.

Join the fun: Hashtag for November 10th events is #Fightfor15; Facebook page here. For info about an event near you, sign up at this RSVP page.

TPP text is out; labor leaders are not down

The White House released the long-awaited text of the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Nov. 5th. Leaders of major U.S. labor unions are reviewing the controversial “free trade” pact—and are universally underwhelmed. 

     AFL-CIO Pres. Rich Trumka is “deeply disappointed… our policy recommendations… were largely ignored.” 
·   UFCW Pres. Marc Perrone: “This trade deal will destroy jobs and lead to lower wages in America.”
·   TPP “forces U.S. workers to compete with the 65-cent an hour wages of Vietnamese workers and the slave labor employed in Malaysia,” says CWA Pres. Chris Shelton.
·    “[T]he labor provisions [are] warmed over language from failed past agreements, says Machinists Pres. Tom Buffenbarger. “[I]nvestors and corporations can still challenge basic worker and environmental protections.”
·    Teamsters Pres. James Hoffa: “Americans’ fears over how the TPP will tamp down on wages, allow foreign companies to sue governments and create even larger trade deficits …are very real and justified.”

Pres. Obama will push for approval in Congress; Politico’s Brian Mahoney says the pact has a “narrow path” to yes, dependent on support from GOP leaders. Ass’t. Sec’y. of State for Human Rights Tom Malinowski calls TPP “the best opportunity we’ve had in years” for reforms in Vietnam.  Malinowski joined the administration after working at Human Rights Watch (HRW).

His former colleagues don’t see eye-to-eye with him on TPP.“Are trade unionists who actually produce all the capital that we’re talking about here allowed to bring complaints against a country for violations?” asks John Sifton, HRW’s Asia Advocacy Director. “No, of course not.

”Is your boss a law-breaker?
Ever get the feeling that the unscrupulous employer who is screwing you and your members is promiscuous enough to screw others at the same time? Now you can check for sure, at Violation Tracker. It’s the first-ever comprehensive database – free and open to the public – of corporate wrongdoing.  The site was created by the Corporate Research Project at Good Jobs First, a DC-based policy shop that promotes corporate and government accountability.

Violation Tracker collects data on corporate crimes and penalties from EPA, OSHA, the Justice Department, the Mine Health and Safety Administration and a slew of other federal agencies. If your employer is putting workers at risk by violating OSHA regulations, for example, you can now check if the same company – and its parent or subsidiaries – has safety, environmental or other violations in other locations.
 “Large corporations are responsible for the vast majority of the penalties,” write Good Jobs First Exec. Dir. Greg LeRoy and Research Director Phil Mattera at Huffington Post. “Leading federal contractors are also among the most-penalized companies… The fact that so many of the companies in Violation Tracker are repeat offenders highlights the need to find more effective ways to deter corporate recidivists.”

This LaborPress National Report is a selective round up of news about working people and our unions. Send news releases, links, images (we love pictures!) announcements of coming events and good rumors to:

Roger Kerson provides national labor news for LaborPress.  He also works with labor unions, environmental groups and non-profit organizations. Roger is a member of UAW Local 1981, the National Writers Union. Opinions expressed here are entirely his own.

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