Posts tagged capitalism
Posts tagged capitalism
Low wage workers rally in national call to #RaisetheWage
July 25, 2013
"Let’s get better wages in this country!" was the rallying cry Wednesday as workers nationwide took to the streets in demonstrations marking the four year anniversary since the last time the federal minimum wage was raised.
Currently set at $7.25 an hour, the national wage hasn’t had a boost since July 24, 2009 when President George W. Bush increased it from $6.55. Despite skyrocketing costs of living, a full-time worker earning the minimum wage is only making roughly $15,000 per year—far below a living wage in most parts of the country.
In honor of this ‘dispiriting anniversary,’—asHuffington Post’s Dave Jamieson writes—labor groups supporting a minimum wage boost have called for a National Day of Action with planned demonstrations in an estimated 30 cities across the country.
In Pittsburgh, protesters have reportedly shut down the street outside of a Target in the East Liberty section of the city. Other rallies are being held outside of a downtown McDonald’s and on the campus of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, among other locations throughout the city.
"Tell Panera bread we can’t live on bread alone," one protester, Pastor Battle, said before an assembled group.
Under the banner Raise Up Massachusetts, a coalition of groups are staging rallies outside the locations of 13 employers of low-wage workers throughout the New England state including Wal-Mart, Dunkin’ Donuts, and Papa John’s. Advocates are calling for a gradual increase of the wage from $8 to $11 by 2015 and are also pushing for paid sick leave for all workers.
Demonstrators in Cleveland are marching on a local Wal-Mart at noon on Wednesday.
"It is not ‘a Wal-Mart action,’ ‘It’s a ‘let’s get better wages in this country action,’" said rally organizer Pamela Rosado, who added that Wal-Mart was chosen because it is the top low-wage employer in the country.
"The problem is that these jobs don’t help people to meet their basic needs—not wants and desires or trying to keep up with the Joneses," she added. “We’re talking about basic needs: shelter, food, clothing and transportation."
Elsewhere, restaurant chains affiliated with the National Restaurant Association—or “the other NRA” as PR Watch’s Mary Bottari quips—will be receiving “surprise visits” by members of the Restaurant Opportunities Center (ROC) to protest the restaurant industry’s coordinated campaign to pass laws preempting local ordinances on worker wages and sick day benefits.
Throughout cities and communities across the country, thousands are expected to hit the streets today in similar demonstrations. A list of other actions is available on the National Employment Law Project (NELP) website.
National labor organizations such as NELP and SEIU are pushing for passage of the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2013, which would raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 by 2015. A new poll released Wednesday by NELP found that 80 percent of Americans support this increase.
Despite the national consensus, bills pushing to raise the minimum wage have largely stalled in the House and Senate.
During his 2008 campaign, President Obama stumped for hiking the minimum wage to $9.50 by 2011 and tying it to inflation in perpetuity. During his State of the Union address earlier this year, he amended that to a lesser goal of $9.00 per hour.
If no wage increase becomes law during his second term, he will become the first president since Ronald Reagan who didn’t raise the minimum wage at all.
When there’s a fee to get your pay: Pre-paid payroll card fees mean paying up for getting paid
June 25, 2013
In the years since the financial crisis struck in 2008, it’s often been pointed out that gains for bankers have gone hand in hand with losses for workers. But few cases provide a better example of just how direct that relationship can be than that of Natalie Gunshannon, who says her employer put her in a situation that forced her to pay fees to one of the big banks just to access her wages.
Gunshannon, of Dallas Township, Penn., filed a class action lawsuit this week against a McDonald’s franchise where she worked, claiming that she and other workers were paid not through check or direct deposit, but through a pre-paid JPMorgan Chase debit card. Along with her card, her lawsuit alleges, she received a list of fees she’d incur when she used it: $1.50 for ATM withdrawals; $5 for over-the-counter cash withdrawals; $1 per balance inquiry; 75 cents for online bill pay and $15 if she lost the card or had it stolen from her.
“I need to receive all the money I earn,” Gunshannon, who was being paid around $7.44 an hour,told a local newspaper. “I can’t afford to lose even a few dollars per paycheck. I just think people should be paid fairly and not have to pay fees to get their wages.”
The lawsuit, filed by attorney Mike Cefalo of Cefalo & Associates and provided to In These Times by the firm, alleges that the cards violate the Pennsylvania Wage Payment and Collection Act, which provides that “Wages shall be paid in lawful money of the United States or check.” The suit further alleges that the fees reduce the actual wages workers receive—in some cases bringing them below minimum wage, which in Pennsylvania remains at the federal minimum wage rate of $7.25 per hour.
The lawsuit also notes that managerial employees were paid by regular direct deposit; only hourly workers were stuck with the cards and the fees.
In a statement, Albert and Carol Mueller, the owners of the McDonald’s in question, said that they could not comment on the case, and added, “We are committed to providing them the best possible work environment so [employees] can deliver the fast, reliable service that our customers expect.” (McDonald’s Corporation did not return a request for comment.)
These “payroll cards,” which after being loaded with wages work like a regular debit card, are growing increasingly popular as companies look for alternatives to paper checks and payroll services. Like most debit cards, payroll cards can be used to purchase goods, or they can be used to make withdrawals from banks or ATMs. JPMorgan Chase is one of several banking companies, including Bank of America and U.S. Bank, that offer them.
JPMorgan’s website touts its “Prepaid Card Solutions” as an efficient and cost-effective way to pay employees, calling them a “direct deposit alternative for unbanked and underserved employees.” Cost-effective, apparently, for the employer—who transfers the cost of the service to the workers themselves. As the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau—the government office founded by Elizabeth Warren to inform consumers of their rights when dealing with financial products—explains, employers make arrangements with the financial institution as to the terms of the cards, including “any fees that may be charged to [the employee].”
According to the CFPB, employers “typically” offer the card as one of several payment options and advise employees who opt for the payroll card to read the terms and conditions carefully. But according to Gunshannon’s lawsuit, when she asked if she could be paid another way, she was told, “If you don’t activate the card, there is no way for us to pay you.” She quit, and called a lawyer.
Peak capitalism is $1 billion spent on Mitt Romney to be elected president and him not really wanting to be president.
Italy to join Greece, Portugal and Spain in European mega strike
November 8, 2012
Italy will join Greece, Spain and Portugal in holding strikes against austerity on November 14 in an unprecedented show of co-ordinated action on the continent.
The decision to take a four hour strike was announced Monday night by Italy’s largest trade union confederation, CGIL, which stated:
‘For many years, the European trade union movement deplores austerity measures…They are dragging Europe down into economic stagnation and recession. This results in stunted growth and unemployment that continues to increase.’
‘Cuts in wages and social protection are attacks on the European social model and exacerbate inequality and social injustice.
‘The ‘errors of judgment’ of the International Monetary Fund have had an incalculable impact on the daily lives of workers and citizens. The whole basis of the policies of austerity has to be revisited. The IMF must apologize. And the Troika must revise its demands.”
‘Twenty five million Europeans are out of work. In some countries the youth unemployment rate exceeds 50%.
‘The sense of injustice is widespread and social discontent is growing.”
‘We need to change direction towards a European social pact. The European trade unions are calling for a change of course.”
The European Trade Union Confederation, which has called a day of action on November 14, has been campaigning for economic policies that stimulates quality employment, ‘solidarity’ between countries and social justice.
‘It is time to end tax evasion, tax havens and tax competition between countries. A financial transaction tax should help repair the damage of unregulated capitalism,’ the CGIL added.
The CGIL’s strike was also called in opposition to a fresh set if austerity measures and neo-liberal reforms recently unveiled by the government of unelected prime minister and former Goldman Sachs advisor Mario Monti.
Spain and Portugal are planning on holding a second wave of general strikes on November 14 while Greece, Malta and Cyprus are also planning strike action on the day.
Court: Texas can cut off Planned Parenthood funds
August 21, 2012
A federal appeals court ruled late Tuesday that Texas can cut off funding for Planned Parenthood clinics that provide health services to low-income women before a trial over a new law that bans state money from going to organizations tied to abortion providers.
The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans lifted a federal judge’s temporary injunction that called for the funding to continue pending an October trial on Planned Parenthood’s challenge to the law.
State officials sought to cut off funding to Planned Parenthood clinics that provide family planning and health services to poor women as part of the Texas Women’s Health Program after the state’s Republican-led Legislature passed a law banning funds to organizations linked to abortion providers. No state money goes to pay for abortions.
The appeal’s court decision means Texas is now free to enforce its ban on clinics affiliated with abortion providers. Planned Parenthood provides cancer screenings and other services — but not abortions — to about half of the 130,000 low-income Texas women enrolled in the program, which is designed to provide services to women who might not otherwise qualify for Medicaid.
The ruling is the latest in the ongoing fight over Texas’ efforts to halt funding to clinics affiliated with abortion providers. The federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has said that the new state rule violates federal law. Federal funds paid for 90 percent, or about $35 million, of the $40 million Women’s Health Program until the new rule went into effect. Federal officials are now phasing out support for the program.
Gov. Rick Perry has promised that Texas will make up for the loss of federal funds to keep the program going without Planned Parenthood’s involvement. State officials have said ending the program would result in more unplanned pregnancies that would cost the state much more than self-financing the program.
In a statement, Perry called Tuesday’s ruling “a win for Texas women, our rule of law and our state’s priority to protect life.”
“Texas will continue providing important health services for women through this program in spite of the Obama Administration’s disregard for our state law and unilateral decision to defund this program,” the governor said.
Perry’s office referred questions about continued funding for the Women’s Health Program to the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, which said it would move to begin enforcing the ban.
Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, said the case “has never been about Planned Parenthood — it’s about the women who rely on Planned Parenthood for cancer screenings, birth control and well-woman exams.”
“It is shocking that politics would get in the way of women receiving access to basic health care,” Richards said in a statement.
The case began when Planned Parenthood sued, saying the new Texas law violated its rights to free speech. Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott countered by arguing that lawmakers may decide which organizations receive state funds.
A federal judge in Austin ruled in May that the funding should continue pending the trial on Planned Parenthood’s lawsuit, saying there’s sufficient evidence the state’s law is unconstitutional.
But the three-judge appellate panel disagreed, unanimously finding that Planned Parenthood was unlikely to prevail in future arguments that its free-speech rights were violated.
Abbott cheered the decision Tuesday, noting that it “rightfully recognized that the taxpayer-funded Women’s Health Program is not required to subsidize organizations that advocate for elective abortion.”
“We are encouraged by today’s decision and will continue to defend the Women’s Health Program in court,” Abbot said in a statement.
The ruling comes as conservative groups across the nation try to pass and enforce laws to put Planned Parenthood out of business and make getting an abortion more difficult. Earlier this year the same court upheld a new Texas law requiring doctors to perform a sonogram and provide women with a detailed description of the fetus before carrying out an abortion.
Richards said the decision left Planned Parenthood “evaluating every possible option to protect women’s health in Texas.”
Unacceptable. Free abortions on demand & without apology!
Schools for sale: City hands school district over to charter operator
August 10, 2012
“Back-to-school” sales seem to start earlier every year. These days, more than binders and backpacks are on offer. Now, public schools themselves are for sale.
In July, Muskegon Heights, Mich., became the first American city to hand its entire school district over to a charter-school operator.
More than 1.6 million American kids attend charter schools, which emerged in the early 1990s. Whatever their original intent, charters are fundamentally restructuring the school system by placing it in private—often for-profit—hands. They’re making teachers and staff work harder and longer for less pay, usually without union benefits or protection.
In May, Philadelphia’s schools announced a plan to close 64 schools and outsource 25 more to so-called “achievement networks” run by charter operators. The goal: that 40 percent of Philadelphia’s children attend charters by 2017. Detroit’s plans are similar.
Restructuring may seem the best option. Urban school districts have long struggled to serve their students. And many of us know firsthand—as former students, teachers, administrators, or parents—that many of America’s public schools require radical change.
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Charter proponents claim that their schools are less bureaucratic and more efficient, and thus save taxpayer money. Yet evidence is mounting to show that the opposite is true.
When Philadelphia first announced its restructuring plans, the budget earmarked for charters stood at $38 million. By July, that figure was “rounded up” to an astonishing $139 million. Since when is a $100 million cost overrun a sign of cost-effectiveness?
Moreover, charter proponents argue that competition and choice pressure all schools to perform better. This assumes that schools operate on even playing fields. However, Detroit officials followed their restructuring plans by imposing a contract on teachersthat caps class sizes at more than 40 students starting in kindergarten and at a staggering 61 for sixth grade through high school. No school can possibly “compete” under such conditions.
Finally, consider Muskegon Heights. The city hired charter operator Mosaica Education, a for-profit company premised on earning more from contracts to run schools than it pays out in expenses. In fact, Mosaica expects to earn as much as $11 million in itsMuskegon Heights deal.
That’s roughly the same amount as the current budget deficit that officials gave as the reason to hire this outfit in the first place. Apparently, officials weren’t troubled by Mosaica’s record elsewhere in Michigan—its six other charter schools performed on average at the 13th percentile, according to the state’s annual ranking in 2011.
That none of these developments has made national headlines is mind-boggling. Perhaps this has something to do with the institutional racism that led to the Supreme Court’s crucial Brown v. Board of Education ruling in 1954.
Muskegon Heights is a highly segregated African American community adjacent to the predominantly white Muskegon. In Muskegon Heights, median household income stood at just over $26,600 in 2010, with over 30 percent of residents living below the poverty line.
It’s primarily in minority-majority communities like this where schools are being sold off to the highest bidder, regardless of those bidders’ track records.
The same story has played out in Chicago for almost a decade. The city has closed dozens of neighborhood schools and considered replacing them with charters.
What’s different in Chicago, though, is that the Chicago Teachers Union is leading the fight against this agenda. After several years of building strong alliances with parent and community groups, the union is challenging Democratic Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s attack on public schools. In July, Emanuel blinked and agreed to reinstate 477 laid-off art, music, PE and foreign language teachers.
The union is demonstrating that teachers and students share common interests. Together with their parent and community allies, Chicago’s teachers and their unions are proving that they can put public schools back in the public’s hands and win the funding required for the world-class education that all our children deserve.
This article is written by Sarah Knopp & Jeff Bale, editors of “Education & Capitalism: Struggles for Learning & Liberation,” our second book club pick. Now that our Kickstarter project is finished, we’ll be back on track with our book club!
We hope you can join us in reading it & learning more about the fight for an effective & fair education system in the US.