“In a speech on voting rights delivered on Friday, Attorney General Merrick Garland warned that “the dramatic increase in menacing and violent threats against all manner of state and local election workers” is a threat to the country’s democracy.
Garland is right to be concerned. A new survey released by the Brennan Center for Justice found that 17 percent of local election officials in the United States have faced threats because of their job. The same survey, which was released alongside a larger report by Brennan and the Bipartisan Policy Center on threats to America’s elections, found that nearly a third of these officials — 32 percent — have “felt unsafe because of [their] job as a local election official.”
The survey was conducted by Benenson Strategy Group, and it included interviews with 233 election officials “from across the country.”
The Brennan Center’s survey quantifies a phenomenon that appears to have emerged from former President Donald Trump’s conduct during the 2020 election, and his subsequent defeat in that election. Just hours before Garland pledged to prosecute individuals who target election officials in that same speech, Reuters published a long article cataloging some of the threats faced by election administrators and their families.”
“After an intensive, months-long election, only one-eighth of the workers at Amazon’s Bessemer, Alabama warehouse voted in favor of a union. More than twice as many voted against. Roughly half didn’t vote at all.
The election’s losers are incredulous that they could have fallen short on the merits. Challenges are already underway, accusing Amazon of unfair labor practices such as positioning a mailbox improperly. And to be sure, Amazon appears to have behaved obnoxiously, and perhaps even unlawfully in some instances.
But when nearly 6,000 workers have two months to cast ballots, and the union secures fewer than 750 “yes” votes, the idea that it has what workers want looks a bit ridiculous.”
“Workers have shown that they dislike the hyper-adversarialism and political activism that American unions bring into their workplaces but are eager for more representation, voice, and support than they can achieve individually. What they want, and need, is a middle ground that neither side is offering.
Research has borne this out. In a landmark 1994 survey, Harvard professor Richard Freeman and University of Wisconsin professor Joel Rogers asked more than 2,400 nonmanagement workers whether they would prefer representation by an organization that “management cooperated with in discussing issues, but had no power to make decisions” or by one “that had more power, but management opposed.” Workers preferred cooperation to an adversarial stance by 63 percent to 22 percent, a result that held even among active union members.
In 2017, MIT professor Thomas Kochan conducted a similar survey and found that interest in joining a union had grown and workers wanted a wide range of services that a union could provide to them, including: collective bargaining; health, unemployment, and training benefits; legal assistance; input into work processes; and representation in management decision-making. On the long menu of options, the two that stood out as making workers less likely to join are exact the ones that seem to get union activists most excited: politics and strikes.”
“April, who works at a pet shop in Minneapolis, makes $11.75 an hour. She loves her job, and it pays better than the federal minimum wage, but not by much. She and her partner get by. They still don’t make enough money to afford a car, but they can manage rent, their phones, and internet, and support their 12-year-old daughter.
Her partner lost his job as a body piercer when the pandemic hit. He went on unemployment insurance for a while, and he and April finally found health insurance through a public assistance program. It was more consistent income than they’d seen in quite some time. “We were able to get a little bit of extra money into our accounts for once. We weren’t going paycheck to paycheck for a while. That was wonderful,” April said. “I think a ton of people were finally out of the poverty level with that money.” Her partner has now found a different job that allows him to work from home.
Life is more or less fine, but April said it would be better if they made more. “We would be able to have a house like a normal family,” she added.
April and her family’s situation is quite normal: In 2019, about 39 million people made less than $15 an hour. When the pandemic hit, that number actually fell — not because people were making more but because low-wage workers became unemployed.”
““The fossil fuel industries were unionized in long struggles that were classic labor stories,” said University of Rhode Island labor historian Erik Loomis. “Now, they’re in decline and you have these new industries. But a green capitalist is still a capitalist, and they don’t want a union.”
About 4 percent of solar industry workers and 6 percent of wind workers are unionized, according to the 2020 US Energy and Employment Report. The percentage of unionized workers in natural gas, nuclear, and coal power plants is about double that, around 10 to 12 percent unionized (although still not a huge amount). In addition, transportation, distribution, and storage jobs — which exist largely in the fossil fuel sector — about 17 percent of the jobs are unionized. Still, the solar and wind unionization rates are in line with the albeit very low national rate of unionized workers in the private sector, which is about 6.3 percent.
This is one of the big reasons there’s a real hesitancy on the part of many unions and workers to transition from fossil fuel to renewable jobs: They are worried the jobs waiting for them in wind and solar won’t pay as well or have union protections. This has long been a tension point between environmental groups and labor”
“discouraged workers aren’t the only problem with the unemployment rate. In fact, these days the headline unemployment rate isn’t just an undercount, it actually paints an alternate reality that masks the degree to which low- and moderate-income people are hurting. As a result, policymakers believe these Americans are better off than they actually are.
There are two additional problems with the way we count people who are unemployed.
First, there’s no accounting for how many hours a part-time worker is working. By the BLS’ traditional definition, a handyman or private nurse who works for a single afternoon each week is counted in the headline national unemployment figure as “employed,” even if they want more work but can’t find it. Our unemployment figures make it look like the person working a handful of hours because that’s the only work they can get is just as “employed” as a full-time CEO. In practice, this means that the unemployment rate actively obscures how many workers are living in poverty in part not because they don’t have a job, but because they can’t get enough hours.
Second, the data doesn’t indicate whether the job a worker is doing pays enough to keep them out of poverty. The assumption implicit in the data is that if you’re “employed,” all should be well, but as the growing movement toward raising the minimum wage attests, it’s increasingly clear that many American workers are employed, often full-time, but still living in poverty.”
“even when the economy was purportedly at its peak before the pandemic, approximately a quarter of Americans looking for full-time work at a livable wage couldn’t find it. And then at the nation’s worst moment in nearly a century, that number jumped, showing that 32.4 percent of the workforce was out of luck.”
“The bottom line for too many Americans and for minorities in particular, is that for a long, long time, the American economy has not been performing as well as the headline unemployment rate suggests. And while that may be news to those living in comfortable neighborhoods and suburbs, it will not surprise those living in more downtrodden corners of many cities, let alone those who are living in places like the largely forgotten city where I grew up, York, Pa. Over the last several decades, as businesses including York Dental or York Air Conditioner have either closed facilities or scaled back, middle-class prosperity has become more of an impossible dream than an American Dream.
Washington, D.C., has failed to respond appropriately because the headline unemployment figures, particularly in good times, have given some policymakers of both parties license to embrace a narrative that in the absence of a crisis like the one we’re enduring today, our economic approach works fairly well.
We need an economic agenda born from the realization that the true unemployment picture is much worse than policymakers realize. A quarter of the workforce, including a disproportionate share of minority communities, can’t land a full-time job with a living wage even when the overall economy appears to be healthy. The window through which we view the economy matters. We’ve been using a broken measuring stick to keep track of our success.”
“Mandated “hero pay” will add up to about $0 an hour for some grocery store workers in Los Angeles. Grocers there are closing three stores in response to newly enacted legislation that requires them to pay their workers an additional $5 an hour during the pandemic.
“It’s never our desire to close a store, but when you factor in the increased costs of operating during COVID-19, consistent financial losses at these three locations, and an extra pay mandate that will cost nearly $20 million over the next 120 days, it becomes impossible to operate these three stores,” said grocery store chain Kroger in a statement given to CBS Los Angeles, announcing that two Ralphs-branded stores and one Food 4 Less location, would be shutting down.”
“The company also said it would be shutting down three underperforming stores in Seattle, Washington, in response to that city’s hazard pay law.”
“”The fallout from the misguided extra pay ordinances is enormous and politicians are to blame,” said Ruben Guerra of the Latin Business Association in a Wednesday-issued press release. “Workers will lose jobs, and communities of color will be left with fewer grocery options and more food insecurity. Consumers in other areas where grocery stores are able to stay afloat will pay higher grocery bills.””
“Supporters of hazard pay have argued that grocery stores’ record profits during the pandemic make wage premiums easily affordable, and that store closures are nothing more than cynical politics.
Profits for some grocery chains increased by as much as 100 percent during the height of the pandemic when restaurants were closed and everyone was stocking up on groceries.
The Washington branch of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW)—which represents grocery store workers and has been a driving force behind hero pay laws—called the store closures in Seattle “a transparent attempt to intimidate other local governments,” noting how profits for grocery store companies had “soared.”
“They absolutely can afford this increase,” Los Angeles City Councilmember Paul Koretz said in February about grocery store companies when discussing that city’s hazard pay proposal, reports the Los Angeles Times. “They absolutely should be paying this increase. And if they shut down stores, it’s just out of spite.”
Grocers counter that while their profits did go up, those increases came on top of the very slim one or two percent margins supermarkets typically earn.
A CGA-sponsored analysis of hazard pay mandates found that at $5 an hour, these laws would increase the average grocery store’s labor costs by nearly 30 percent, and their overall costs by about 5 percent. That’s about twice the profit margins most grocery store chains were making during the height of the pandemic. The same report says that those record profits are already starting to recede.
A report by Los Angeles city staff noted that the likely economic impacts of that city’s hazard pay law would be some mix of higher wages for some workers, higher prices for consumers, and the potential for companies to either close stores or delay openings, renovations, and promotions.
The debate about hazard pay laws is a very compressed version of the debate about minimum wage laws. Proponents focus on the fact that a lot of workers will get a pay increase, while detractors note the potential for higher disemployment (meaning job losses but also hours cuts and reduced hiring) and higher prices.
Unlike the minimum wage, however, the costs of hazard pay laws are obvious, immediate, and visible for everyone to see.”
“Although less than half of 1 percent of the U.S. population resides in nursing homes, they account for nearly 40 percent of all Covid deaths. Nursing homes are supposed to help residents remain safe and healthy, but the opposite turned out to be the case: When it came to the coronavirus, residents in nursing homes were more vulnerable, not less.”
“rebuilding nursing home facilities is an expensive and long-term solution to an immediate crisis. I’ve been studying long-term care settings for many years, and I think there’s a quicker and possibly even more effective approach we can take in the short term to ensure better care for our seniors in the post-Covid era: improve staffing.
It’s no secret that nursing home staff are paid relatively poorly for incredibly demanding work. Certified nurse aides who provide over 90 percent of direct resident care are often paid at or near minimum wage — the same wages as entry-level workers in retail establishments or fast-food chains. Nursing staff are also underpaid; registered nurses and licensed practical nurses who work in nursing homes are often paid below their counterparts who work in hospitals and other health care settings.
What’s more, nursing home staff often lack essential benefits, like health insurance and paid sick leave. That means nursing home workers are incentivized to come to work even when sick — how does that make sense when they are caring for medically vulnerable residents during a pandemic?
Nursing homes are also very hierarchical workplaces with lower-level staff having little autonomy and control in their jobs. Not surprisingly, being undervalued and unempowered makes it hard to recruit and retain individuals to work in nursing homes.
The result is that many facilities around the country often have dangerously low levels of staffing. Additionally, the average U.S. nursing home was recently found to have an annual staff turnover rate of 128 percent. This suggests an average facility’s staff completely changes over the course of a year, and many nursing homes have even higher turnover rates — as much as 300 percent — suggesting the staff changes every four months. If some part of good nursing home quality depends on the relationship between staff and residents, it’s hard to see how those relationships can develop when staff keep changing.”
“There are a number of things we can do to improve this situation. Here are a few ideas”
“One solution would be to increase the number of direct care workers by raising the federal minimum staffing standards in nursing homes. The federal standards are relatively low and have not been updated in over 30 years. Many states set staffing levels above the federal standards and these state policies have generally been found to increase staff.”
“Another idea is to raise minimum wages to increase nursing home staff pay. Many certified nurse aides would see their hourly wages increase under the $15 minimum wage proposed by the Biden administration. In the absence of a broader minimum wage hike, policymakers could also increase wages specifically for nursing home and other long-term care workers.”
“The elephant in the room is what additional Medicaid or other public funding would be necessary to pay for greater staffing and higher wages. The nursing home industry will inevitably push back against any “unfunded mandates.” The Medicare Payment Advisory Commission has found overall nursing home operating margins are currently thin based on the Medicare cost reports. However, there is quite a bit of variability in profitability across facilities. It is also unclear whether some facilities are accurately reporting their costs. Resident advocates have questioned whether a sufficient amount of existing public nursing home funds are spent on staffing. Thus, higher Medicaid funding will be necessary to improve staffing levels and wages, but it needs to be paired with the next suggestion.”
“We currently lack transparency in how nursing homes spend public dollars on staffing and other areas. Nursing homes are required to submit Medicare cost reports each year to detail their revenues and spending, but these data are known to be incomplete, especially in the context of increasingly complicated corporate ownership arrangements. A series of financial reporting and oversight steps need to be taken to tighten the requirements for facilities. The bottom line is that regulators need to be able to follow the public’s money and ensure it is being spent on staffing as policymakers intended.”
“Beyond putting more money into wages, policymakers might also consider ways in which they could provide financial support to allow additional education and training to certified nursing assistants and licensed practical nurses seeking upward mobility within a facility. For example, some nursing homes currently have ladder programs that provide nursing assistants with financial support in seeking nursing degrees. These programs could be expanded through direct reimbursement via Medicare and Medicaid.”
“Improving wages and benefits is a necessary but insufficient step towards valuing nursing home caregivers; we also need to begin to value the work these individuals do and the individuals that do it. If you can believe it, this might be harder than increasing staffing standards and wages. Finding additional money is one thing — changing the culture around nursing home staffing is another.”
The New Americans: Economic, Demographic, and Fiscal Effects of Immigration National Research Council. 1997. The National Academies Press. https://www.nap.edu/read/5779/chapter/6#138 Yes, Immigration Hurts American Workers George J. Borjas. 9/10 2016. Politico. The Impact of IllegalImmigrationon the Wagesand EmploymentOpportunitiesof Black Workers The United States
“ProPublica interviewed 15 teenagers and young adults in Bensenville alone who said they work or have worked as minors inside more than two dozen factories, warehouses and food processing facilities in the Chicago suburbs, usually through temporary staffing agencies, and nearly all in situations where federal and state child labor laws would explicitly prohibit their employment.
Though most of the teens interviewed for this story are now 18, they agreed to speak on the condition that they not be fully identified and that their employers not be named because they feared losing their jobs, harming their immigration cases or facing criminal penalties.
Some began to work when they were just 13 or 14, packing the candy you find by the supermarket register, cutting the slabs of raw meat that end up in your freezer and baking, in industrial ovens, the pastries you eat with your coffee. Garcia, who is 18 now, was 15 when he got his first job at an automotive parts factory.”
“The teenagers use fake IDs to get the jobs through temporary staffing agencies that recruit immigrants and, knowingly or not, accept the papers they are handed.”
“Before they disappeared into crowded assembly lines, the young Guatemalan immigrants in Bensenville arrived in the United States as part of a new wave of young Central American asylum-seekers who have captured the nation’s attention in recent years.
Many of them passed through the federal network of shelters for unaccompanied immigrant minors that came under scrutiny in 2018 during the Trump administration’s policy of separating children from their parents. As they waited weeks or months to be released to sponsors, they grew anxious about their mounting immigration debts, desperate to get out and work so their relatives back home didn’t suffer the consequences of a loan default.
“Honestly, I think almost everyone in the system knows that most of the teens are coming to work and send money back home,” said Maria Woltjen, executive director and founder of the Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights, a national organization that advocates for immigrant children in court. “They want to help their parents.””