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07.11 7,000+ Colleges and Universities Declare Climate Emergency and Unveil Three-Point Plan to Combat It [Fox News and Betsy DeVos never talk about this stuff so it must be Bull Shit, right?]
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Health Care & Environment
07.15 Extinction Rebellion protests block traffic in five UK cities [Non-corporate human animals make their annoying bleating sounds...]
07.14 A Glacier the Size of Florida Is Becoming Unstable. It Has Dire Implications for Global Sea Levels [The willfully ignorant needn't read more, Trump]
07.13 'Climate Despair' Is Making People Give Up on Life [Willfully ignorant governments—having fired many of their best scientists—have made themselves too stupid to despair]
07.13 Trump administration to approve pesticide that may harm bees [The worst government money can buy!]
07.10 Plastic Has A Big Carbon Footprint — But That Isn't The Whole Story [Fixing our world begins by educating your consciousness with the best truth from trustworthy news sources—so you'll then insist truly bad things will get fixed. But if instead you are educated by untrustworthy news sources—then your consciousness could be warped to where you are hating and fighting with your best friends. Clue: untrustworthy news sources never seriously report news about the world's most critical emergency—Global warming.]
07.09 Judge reinstates Madrid's low emissions zone [Yeh!]
07.07 How Solar Panels Work (And Why They're Taking Over the World) [Hope they leave space between panels for wild flowers to grow so birds and butterflies can flourish!]
07.04 US produces far more waste and recycles far less of it than other developed countries [As expected—and made worse by Trump—the U.S. is best at being the worst]07.03 Booming LNG industry could be as bad for climate as coal, experts warn
07.03 Caravan of Americans battling diabetes heads to Canada for affordable insulin [3:36 video; Like Central Americans flee for their lives from criminal drug gangs, Americans flee for their lives for affordable pharmaceutical drugs]
06.30 The US military is a bigger polluter than more than 140 countries combined [Could a world-wide moratorium of military activity dramatically slow the climate crises?]
News Media Matters
US Politics, Policy & 'Culture'
07.16 Turnstile teaching [The problem is NOT the color of students skin, as our fake President reflexively thinks. The problem is the lax attitude and deficient funding by government to always do a much better job for a better future.]
07.15 Sanders Accuses Biden of Parroting Pharma and Insurance Industry Script With Attacks on Medicare for All [Like Trump, Biden explains why he's unelectable every day.]
07.15 Trump Takes Pelosi's Side Against AOC and The Squad as Intraparty Fight Over Immigration Continues [Its about much more than immigration, its about the Corporate Dominance—by many of the same companies, even—over both major Political Parties. With too few exceptions, neither party has represented The Public since Nixon generously raised the minimum wage (Part D Medicare and ACA both became Frankenstein legislation due to excessive corporate price-fixing influence), and that has to change!]
07.14 Trump: People like Paul Ryan almost killed the Republican Party [Then it's too bad he didn't stay to finish the job!]
07.13 Trump's POS Labor Secretary, Acosta, Out. POS Number 2, Linked to Abramoff, to Fill Role [A willingness to perform criminal behavior seems the only competency required...]
07.15 Australia 'deeply concerned' about China's treatment of Uighur people [What are the reasons, exactly, that justify harsh imprisonment of a million people?]
07.15 Zuma tells South Africa corruption inquiry he is victim of foreign plot [Unaccountable corrupt governments are so in fashion these days...]
07.14 Warren vows to probe U.S. crimes on immigrants if elected [Can you imagine living in a nation with a working Justice System? How far we've fallen!]
Economics & Corrupt Capitalism
International & Futurism
07.15 Australia now has the highest minimum wage in the world [From 1960 to 2018 – the U.S. has fallen from 1st place to below the tenth place and off the chart]
07.14 At least 24 Yellow Vests lost eyes in violent protests. Now they're more determined than ever [Protests of all kinds will continue until systemic inequality loses political dominance]
07.13 After a Police Shooting, Ethiopian Israelis Seek a ‘Black Lives Matter’ Reckoning [Since so-called modern humans evolved there have been 10,000 generations of people. It is extremely far-fetched to think anyone is racially pure. SO ALL THIS HATE IS INCREDIBLY STUPID.]
07.13 Brazil’s President May Appoint Son, Friend to the Trumps, as Ambassador to U.S. [Friend of the Trumps, so we know they're all brain-dead except about near-term profits. They are clear-cutting the Amazon Rain Forest to feed-then-butcher millions of methane farting cows, over and over. Yep, that's there business plan. So therefore the rest of the world will hopefully plant billions of trees elsewhere to sequester CO2 to offset what the Bolsonaro family and investors are destroying. What's wrong with this picture?]
07.13 Trump’s Cruelty and Mexico’s Duty [Our president is immoral to his core and reacts to things like a child, not understanding that his actions are often crueler than they should be. And that cruelty will never completely be excused or forgotten—the people's hatred of Trump is growing, like the Texan's hatred when President General Santa Anna laid seige to the Alamo, which was Mexico's territory at the time...]
MISSION ACCOMPLISHED, WE'RE NOW A BANANA REPUBLIC!
Sweatshop Conditions in US Cities
Friday, 9 October 2009
Ending employer abuses depends on strengthening labor laws and having federal and local governments enforce them. Fixing these problems needs new leadership in charge of mass organizing, building unity and strength of numbers, and educating workers on what they've lost and how to win it back.
A new low-wage industry study by the Center for Urban Economic Development, the National Employment Law Project, and the UCLA Institute for Research on Labor and Employment exposes the dark side of workforce exploitation in America's three largest cities - New York, Los Angeles and Chicago.
From January through August 2008, researchers conducted 90-minute interviews with 4,387 "front-line" workers, aged 18 or older, using "innovative, rigorous methodology" to reach vulnerable people "often missed in standard surveys, such as (undocumented) immigrants and those paid in cash." The goal was to be as statistically representative of workplace violations as possible for a population of about 1.64 million workers, or 15% of the total workforce studied.
The report documented flagrant workplace violations, core protections most Americans take for granted, including a guaranteed minimum wage, overtime pay, regular meal and other breaks, worker compensation for on-the-job injuries, and the right to bargain collectively for better wages, benefits, and working conditions.
Overall, the study found widespread labor law violations, including:
Workplace violations varied by industry and job type. Abuses were most common in apparel and textile manufacturing, personal and repair services, and private household employment. They were much lower in residential construction, social assistance, education, and home health care, and somewhat frequent at restaurants, retail and grocery stores, and warehouses.
Workers getting a flat weekly wage or cash experienced high violation rates compared to those paid a regular hourly rate or by company check.
Workers in firms with under 100 employees were more at risk than those at larger companies, but not all employers were scofflaws.
Immigrants, women, the foreign born, and others in vulnerable categories were most at risk, but all workers (even the better educated) face potential workplace abuses against which they can get little redress.
Weekly wage theft affects over two-thirds of workers, costing them an average 15% of their pay.
The following industries were studied:
The following jobs were studied:
In February 2009, Amish Markets, a leading New York gourmet grocery chain, agreed to pay nearly $1.5 million in unpaid wages to 550 workers. In the same month, the Los Angeles city attorney filed criminal charges against the owners of four car washes for failure to pay minimum wages and grant employees breaks. In Chicago, a large temporary staffing agency settled a class action suit by paying over 3,300 employees nearly half a million dollars.
In 2008, Wal-Mart settled 63 "off-the-clock" abuse cases in 42 states totaling $352 million in unpaid wages to hundreds of thousands of current and former employees. More details below. In the same year, a court-appointed official awarded more than 200 FedEx drivers $14.4 million for being illegally classified as independent contractors.
In large and small companies alike, these examples are commonplace, disturbing, and deteriorating further during hard economic times as recent reports suggest. Working Americans nationwide face increased exploitation as layoffs and cost cutting force unacceptable demands on them, unlikely to be easily reversed.
Prevalence of Workplace Violations
Labor laws since the New Deal aren't working. They're not enforced, have been greatly weakened, are out of date, exempt some industries and occupations partially or entirely, and leave the most vulnerable, like immigrants, minorities and women, subject to exploitation.
Violations found in the week prior to the survey included:
Violations in the previous 12-month period included:
Minimum Wage Violations
Employers must pay all workers (full or part-time, documented or undocumented) at or above federal or state minimum wages, whichever is higher. Yet 26% of those surveyed were underpaid, and the amounts weren't trivial as 60% lost on average $1.43 per hour.
The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) mandates "time and a half" pay for all covered employees for weekly hours worked exceeding 40. Yet 73% of "at risk" workers weren't paid the legally required rate, and 19% overall were unpaid or underpaid for overtime.
This is work taking place before or after regular shifts. Employers are legally required to pay for all hours worked. Yet often they take advantage and don't.
Meal Break Violations
By law, New York, California and Illinois require employers to provide uninterrupted meal breaks for workers, although their length varies by state. Yet violations were frequent and took a variety of forms, including no break one or more times, shorter ones than mandated, employer interruptions, and having to work part of the time.
Other Pay Violations
As outlined above, they included late payments, no pay stubs, illegal deductions, and "tip stealing" from tipped workers.
Illegal Employer Retaliation
About 43% of workers complained about workplace abuses, and those attempting to form a union experienced employer or supervisor retaliation as follows:
Laws vary by state, but in most cases employers must contribute to state worker compensation funds and carry insurance to cover the costs of on-the-job injuries or illnesses. Yet only 8% of injured workers during the previous three years filed a claim for their most recent injury, a clear sign that the system is dysfunctional because of how employers work it to their advantage.
Around 43% of seriously injured workers said they were required to work in spite of it. Another 30% said their employer refused any help, 13% were fired shortly afterward, 10% were required to be at work even if unable to perform their duties, and 3% were told not to file a claim.
In the past three years, about 50% of respondents suffering an on-the-job injury experienced a worker comp violation for their most recent one. Only 55% of those seriously injured sought treatment, and only 40% of those said their employers paid all or part of their medical bills. Only 6% of injured workers had company insurance cover their medical expenses as required.
Violations Vary by Job Category and Industry
Minimum wage violations vary significantly - most flagrantly in apparel and textile manufacturing, personal and repair services, and private households; less often in residential construction, social assistance, education, and home health care. Other industries fall somewhere in between.
Violations also vary by job category. Faring worst are child care workers, beauty, dry cleaning and general repair workers, and those employed as sewing and garment workers. Best off are general construction workers, waiters, cafeteria workers, bartenders, and teachers' assistants.
Overall, 64% of workers got hourly wages. The rest received either a flat weekly or daily amount. Non-hourly workers fared worst as well as those paid in cash, not company checks, and "piece rate" employees, subjected to unattainable productivity levels to earn minimum wages. In addition, companies with less than 100 employees had almost double the violations rate of larger firms.
Overtime violations occur frequently as 76% of respondents exceeding 40 hours work during the previous week were denied time-and-a-half pay as required. Non-hourly workers fared worst, especially with jobs in personal and repair services, private households, retail and drug stores, and home health care. Best off were food and furniture manufacturing, transportation, and warehousing employees. Again, companies with under 100 employees were the most flagrant violators.
Off-the-clock violations were also commonplace, affecting 70% of workers surveyed, unpaid for exceeding their regular shifts, especially in private households, social assistance, and home health care jobs.
Meal break violations affected 69% of workers, denied breaks or having them shortened or interrupted. Overall, study findings revealed "routine violations of labor and employment laws across the wide range of industries, occupations and workplaces....But the low-wage labor market is not monolithic (as) 49% (of workers said) their employers offered them health insurance, provided paid vacation days, paid sick days, or had given them a raise in the past year."
Workplace Violations Related to Race, Ethnicity, Gender and Other Worker Characteristics
Not surprisingly, US-born workers and those best educated fared best, undocumented foreign-born ones (especially Latinos) worst, and women experienced more violations than men over minimum wages. In contrast, overtime, off-the-clock, and meal break violations varied much less demographically.
As noted above, it steals 15% of worker wages amounting to $2,634 annually on an average $17,616 total earnings. Also in a given week, over 1.1 million workers in the three cities studied experienced at least one pay-related violation costing them over $56 million in total - mostly over unpaid minimum wages but also the above cited abuses.
Protecting American Workers - What Can Be Done
The problem is endemic in key industries throughout the country, and has a profound effect on workers, their families and communities. The cities studied aren't unique as evidence nationwide suggests. Low-wage worker rights are compromised in jobs ranging from agriculture, meat and poultry processing, hotels, nursing homes, day care centers, retailing, and residential construction in every city where exploitive day labor hiring sites exist.
Ending employer abuses depends on strengthening labor laws and having federal and local governments enforce them. However, since passage of the landmark 1935 National Labor Relations (Wagner) Act, workers have been disadvantaged ever since, more than ever today at a time of weak unions, empowered companies, and an economic crisis letting employers cut jobs, wages and benefits freely, and have government turn a blind eye to their most egregious violations.
Fixing these problems needs new leadership in charge of mass organizing, building unity and strength of numbers, and educating workers on what they've lost and how to win it back. In a globalized corporate world and hostile governments, workers must go on the offensive, take to the streets, go on strike, hold boycotts, demand more from elected officials, replace unresponsive ones, and battle the old-fashioned way for fair labor laws and government officials they can count on for enforcement. Short of that, labor rights will keep deteriorating until workers across the board are totally at the mercy of unscrupulous employers, while government remains indifferent to their plight. Conditions are well eroded already, and nothing short of total mass-commitment has a chance to reverse it.
Addendum on Wal-Mart
With over $400 billion in sales and about 2.1 million employees, the company ranks third globally in the 2009 Fortune 500 rankings behind Royal Dutch Shell and Exxon Mobil.
In 2008, Wal-Mart's average full-time Associate, its most common position, earned $10.84 an hour (for a 34-hour week) or an annual income of $19,165, $2,000 below the federal poverty line for a family of four. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2, 2008), the average full-time Wal-Mart Associate last year earned 16% less than the average retail wage. At the same time, its CEO Lee Scott (January 2000 - January 2009) earned $29.7 million in total compensation.
On December 23, 2008, the company announced that it settled 63 wage and hour class action lawsuits, representing about 86% of the 73 total pending. Through evidence obtained and employee testimonies, these cases revealed company ruthlessness in keeping labor costs down and unions out.
Legal documents showed that managers are rewarded for forcing employees to work off-the-clock, skip meal and rest breaks, then manipulate time and wage records to cut costs. They also overwork minors and keep them during school hours. An internal July 2000 company audit revealed that these violations were longstanding. Company executives engaged in illegal activity and hid the evidence to avoid liability.
Under terms of the settlement, Wal-Mart agreed pay at least $352 million and perhaps as much as $640 million to present and former employees. According to Professor Paul Secunda of Marquette's School of Law, the company settled to avoid an even worse defeat, including what unionization might cost.
On October 23, 2003 in a 21-state raid, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents arrested more than 250 undocumented workers at 61 Wal-Mart stores. As cleaning crews and janitors, they were forced to work seven days a week under harsh conditions at below minimum wage rates, no overtime, and according to one employee "no benefits, no health insurance, no nothing."
Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to The Global Research News Hour on RepublicBroadcasting.org Mondays from 11AM to 1PM US Central time for cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on world and national topics. All programs are archived for easy listening.
Mr. Lendman's stories are republished in the Baltimore Chronicle with permission of the author.
Copyright © 2009 The Baltimore News Network. All rights reserved.
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Baltimore News Network, Inc., sponsor of this web site, is a nonprofit organization and does not make political endorsements. The opinions expressed in stories posted on this web site are the authors' own.This story was published on October 9, 2009.
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