— Posts About Jobs

Patterson Harkavy supports fast food workers in national day of action

On Thursday, May 15, thousands of fast food workers across the globe went on strike for higher wages, better working conditions, and the right to form a union without fear of retaliation. They were joined by fast food workers in nearly a dozen North Carolina cities.  Many of North Carolina’s fast food workers only earn the minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, and are often forced to rely on public assistance programs.  Many also complain of regular wage theft, where their employers fail to pay them for all of the hours they work.

The National Labor Relations Act protects the right of workers to engage in concerted activity, including strikes and rallies such as those held last week.  However, many are nonetheless subjected to retaliation or intimidation for their conduct.    Patterson Harkavy attorneys Mike Okun and Paul Smith worked with North Carolina’s activists to help ensure that their rights are protected, with Mike coordinating the civil and criminal legal coverage across the state and Paul working on the ground at demonstrations in Mt. Olive, Goldsboro, and Raleigh.

The global fast food organizing movement has been covered by national press, including the New York Times and Time Magazine.  North Carolina’s protests generated local press across the state, including in the Raleigh News & Observer, the Greenville Daily Reflector, and the Greensboro News & Record.


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Employers Using Lockouts More Frequently

The New York Times reported recently that companies are using lockouts more frequently against their unionized employees to force the employees’ hand in negotiations.  American Crystal Sugar, the nation’s largest sugar beet processor, locked out its 1,300 workers last summer.  That year the company was making record profits, but still demanded that their employees pay for a larger percentage of their health coverage and accept more outsourcing among other demands.  The employees rejected these demands, given the record profits, and the company responded by locking them out.  The company then attracted non-union replacement workers with higher pay and negotiations have not succeeded since.  Many workers believe this is a poorly veiled attempt to break the union, though the company denies this claim.

“This is a sign of increased employer militancy,” said Gary Chaison, a professor of industrial relations at Clark University. “Lockouts were once so rare they were almost unheard of.  Now, not only are employers increasingly on the offensive and trying to call the shots in bargaining, but they’re backing that up with action — in the form of lockouts.”

Two decades ago there were 6 times more strikes by unionized employees, but while strikes have sharply declined last year, at least 17 companies used lockouts against their employees.  Hopefully this trend will change and soon; the last thing workers need in a down economy is the threat of a lockout hanging over their heads.

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New Report Out on Economy and Young Workers

The public policy research group Dēmos and the non-profit Young Invincibles, published a new report which came out last month.  The report analyzes the economic status of the “Millennial Generation” as compared to previous generations.  ”The analysis reveals the failure of public investment and public policy to provide young people with the means to achieve economic security and sustain the middle class.”  The report can be found here.

Introduction to the Jobs and the Economy section:

“Our nation has experienced profound economic change over the last three decades. Globalization, new technologies, and deliberate public policies shifted our economy from the production of goods to the production of knowledge and services. As millions of unionized factory jobs moved overseas, our nation lost a primary source of middle-class jobs for people without college degrees. Less-educated workers now have few options outside of non-unionized, low-wage service occupations.”

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Federal Unemployment Benefits Should be Renewed

The National Employment Law Project (NELP) published an excellent paper in October, arguing for a one-year extension of the Federal Unemployment Insurance benefits for unemployed workers.  The paper is entitled “Hanging On By a Thread: Renew Federal Unemployment Insurance to Aid Families, Boost Stalled Economy

The paper states: “Unless Congress reauthorizes the current federal extension programs before the December 31st deadline, millions of workers and their families will be left without their primary means of support to buy food, pay the rent or mortgage, and cover their other most basic necessities.”

NELP’s paper also argues that extending benefits will help families as well as give the economy a leg up:  “Consistent with the prior research, [Wayne Vroman of the Urban Institute] found that the nation’s economy grew by $2 for every dollar spent on unemployment insurance during the latest recession, as unemployed workers spent their benefits in their communities at grocery stores, gas stations, and other retailers and service providers.”

Majority Leader Harry Reid has vowed to keep Congress in session in D.C. until federal unemployment benefits are renewed for the coming year, even if they have to work through the holidays to do so.

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Machinists’ Union and Boeing Work to Extend Contract

Last, week, the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAMAW) and Boeing reached a tentative agreement which would extend the Union’s contract for four years and, when ratified, will increase wages, maintain and improve traditional pensions and add new jobs.  The Union and Boeing have been in a troubled relationship recently since Boeing decided to build a new plant for its 787 Dreamliner in South Carolina where unions are weak.  The National Labor Relations Board filed a suit claiming that Boeing had decided to build the new plant in South Carolina in illegal retaliation against the Union for striking.  That case now looks like it may be dropped if the new contract is ratified by the Boeing employees.   Additional coverage here.

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President Obama Signs Jobs Bill Helping Veterans

President Obama this week signed into law the first portion of his jobs package. The bill, H.R. 674, which had vast bipartisan support, also known as VOW to Hire Heroes Act, creates tax incentives for companies to hire veterans, especially those who have been unemployed for more than six months and those with service connected disabilities.  Though there has been very little action from Congress on the jobs front, this is an encouraging first step.  Hopefully the House and Senate can get their act together and start really helping unemployed workers secure employment, and in doing so jump-start the economy.  More on the bill here.

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Unemployment Benefits Extended through 2011; More Help Needed

On Friday, President Obama signed the large tax cut bill that includes an extension of extended unemployment benefits through the end of 2011.  While, the extension of those benefits was sorely needed, it is extremely unfortunate that the bill did not include additional spending measures that would stimulate the economy.  As further evidence that the Great Recession continues, the latest report shows that North Carolina lost 12,500 jobs in November, more than any other state, pushing the statewide unemployment rate to 9.7 percent.  Without further assistance, the economy is unlikely to grow enough to create the needed amount of jobs.  And, 2011 state budget cuts, which are starting to be discussed, are likely to make things even worse.

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Millions to Lose Unemployment Benefits, Even if Extension Passes; New Course of Action Needed

Even if Congress manages to extend emergency unemployment benefits for more the millions of workers who could receive them, about four million others will see their benefits end over the next year, unless an entirely new program is created.  This is according to a report recently issued by the President’s Council of Economic Advisers.  So, the crisis facing some now is going to be experienced by even more later, unless serious job-creating actions are taken.

You would think that the latest, terrible monthly jobs report would convince those in power that the Great Recession continues unabated, doing terrible damage to working families.  Those unemployed for long periods face especially long odds of finding work in today’s economy.  And, even for those with good jobs, wages are continuing to be cut as even profitable employers take advantage of the ongoing crisis for workers.

Misguided worries about the budget deficit are allowing Republicans and the Deficit Commission to pursue Social-Security-cutting, Medicare-slashing, job-destroying agenda instead of a program that can end the Great Recession and put people back to work.  A new course of action is needed, and responsible policy options are out there.  For instance, check out the program set out by Our Fiscal Security, a collaborative effort of Demos, the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), and The Century Foundation (TCF).

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Congress Provides Funds to Save Teacher Jobs

Last week, the Senate finally passed the $26 billion package to aid states that are still reeling from the effects of the recession.  The legislation provides $10 billion to retain teachers who might otherwise lose jobs to cutbacks, and an additional $16 billion to help states with rising health care costs.  The bill was quickly passed by the House and signed by President Obama.

Of that amount, North Carolina received about $300 million to save teachers’ jobs.  North Carolina leaders are now figuring out when and how to use the money.  Obviously, one possibility would be to use some of the funds to re-hire teachers and teaching assistants who were recently laid off due to budget cuts.  Also, some amount may be saved till next year, when the state’s deficit will reach its highest level.

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Republicans Continue Assault on Unemployed Workers

Senate Republicans (with the help of one Democrat, Ben Nelson) have continued their filibuster of the Democrats’ jobs bill, mustering the 41 votes needed on Thursday to prevent the bill from passage.  Republican obstructionism will ultimately spell the end of extended unemployment benefits for millions, even as the economy is nowhere near creating significant job growth.

On top of that, failure to pass the bills means states will not receive the much-needed $23 billion to pay for sharply rising Medicaid costs.  (The great recession has swelled the ranks of those eligible for health insurance through Medicaid.)  Without this money, states will be forced to impose even greater cut backs, which will mean lost jobs for teachers and other state employees.

Republicans say they oppose the bill on the grounds that it raises the deficit, but what they really oppose are the small tax increases (such as one on hedge fund managers) that would be used to pay for the bill.  Disappointingly, the NY Times notes that the “Obama administration has not fought aggressively for the legislation.”  It appears the President is not focusing on jobs, which should be his highest priority.

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