Thom Hartmann here – on the best of the rest of Economic and Labor News...
You need to know this. Last week, fast-food workers in more than 150 cities went on strike to demand a living wage and the right to unionize. For the first time, home health workers also joined the protests to fight for higher pay. According to organizers, almost 500 people were arrested around the country for civil disobedience like blocking intersections. Those protests are being called the largest coordinated action by the low-wage workers movement so far, stemming from the original “Fight for 15” movement that started just a few years ago. Protesters in cities from New York City to San Diego stood together chanting “Low Pay is Not O.K.,” and workers as far away as Denmark joined protests to show their solidarity. In a relatively short time, a few hundred low-wage workers in New York City sparked an international movement, and it doesn't appear to be going away any time soon. Although some cities and towns throughout the United States have increased their minimum wage, millions of workers are still struggling to make ends meet on the federal minimum of $7.25. And, despite strong regulations and recent rulings against it, many employers are still blocking workers' attempts to form unions. Kaya Moody, a protester in Detroit, said, “We always get the 'Do you really think you deserve $15 an hour as a fast food worker?' We get that a lot, and I just feel like, who doesn't deserve $15 an hour, you know? It's a living wage.” These low-wage workers have recognized that if they want fair pay and the right to organize, they're going to have to fight for it. However, last week's massive strike proved they're not backing down from the challenge. Latoya Caldwell, a Wendy's worker in Kansas City, Missouri, said, “We're a movement now. We know this is going to be a long fight, but we're going to fight it [un]till we win.” In the richest nation on earth, no one who works full time should be living in poverty, and every worker should have the power to bargain collectively. The best way to protect our right to unionize is to use it, and low-wage workers all around the world are showing us how it's done.
A coalition of over 50 organizations is calling on Google to drop ALEC. Last week, the group known as “Stand Up to ALEC” sent a letter to Google Executives, calling on them to end their membership in the American Legislative Exchange Council. The letter stated, “The public knows that the ALEC operation – which brings state legislators and corporate lobbyists behind closed doors to discuss proposed legislation and share lavish dinners – threatens our democracy.” Stand Up to AELC added, “The public is asking Google to stop participating in this scheme.” Microsoft recently dropped their support for ALEC, and it's time for Google to do the same. Corporations should not be meeting in secret with our lawmakers, and legislators should not be doing the bidding of Big Business. So far, hundreds of thousands of Americans have signed petitions asking Google to drop the lobbying group. The Stand Up to ALEC coalition will keep gathering signatures, and fighting for the public, until the tech giant breaks up with ALEC for good.
Millions of Americans are struggling to make ends meet, despite the fact that their putting in long hours at work. A new Gallup survey found that the average full-time employee clocks in for 47 hours each week, and nearly one in five workers put in more than 60 hours. The numbers get even higher for Americans working more than one job. Americans work many more hours than workers in other developed nations, but that doesn't translate into higher productivity. The most productive workers, like those in Germany, actually spend fewer hours on the job. In fact, several studies have shown that working more than 60 hours a week may boost productivity in the short run, but that benefit disappears after just a few weeks. More and more Americans are putting in long hours in an attempt to make up for stagnant pay, but employers should be paying higher wages for fewer hours and more productive work. Employees perform better when they're rested and respected, and being overworked doesn't benefit anyone.
A lawsuit against government spying has reached the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. That court is the highest level thus far to hear a challenge to the constitutionality of the NSA surveillance program. That case is ACLU vs. Clapper, and in it, the American Civil Liberties Union argued that the government's collection of phone data violates our First and Fourth Amendment rights. Previous legal challenges to government surveillance have been thwarted with claims of state secrets or lack of standing, and prevented a ruling on the constitutionality of these programs. After last week's hearing, Alex Abdo, staff attorney for the ACLU, said, “we're one step closer to having a definitive ruling on the legality of at least one of those programs.” Americans are demanding an end to these invasive spying programs, but we haven't even been able to get a full court hearing. This may be our best chance yet to have government surveillance declared unconstitutional. Let's just hope that our government doesn't come up with another legal hurdle.
And finally... Clothing company ModCloth is standing up to unrealistic and unhealthy body images. The brand recently signed on to the “Truth in Advertising Heroes Pledge,” and committed to using a diverse range of models. One of the company's founders published an open letter on their website about their latest promise. She wrote that she is “deeply disappointed in the way [the clothing] industry depicts fashion to consumers” and she said it's “time for real change.” Despite strong public opposition, many in the fashion industry continue to photoshop models and depict unrealistic standards of weight and beauty. This practice has contributed to issues like eating disorders and depression over body image. Slowly but surely some companies are waking up to the importance of featuring healthy, realistic body images, and learning to celebrate body diversity. It's great that ModCloth is leading this charge, and hopefully they'll inspire more clothing companies to sign the “Truth in Advertising Heroes Pledge.”
And that's the way it is - for the week of September 8, 2014 – I'm Thom Hartmann – on the Economic and Labor News.