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Progressive Politics in Minnesota, the Nation, and the World

If Business Can't Pay A Fair Wage, Then It Should Fail

Category: Labor
Posted: 05/20/15 11:22

by Dave Mindeman

While perusing through headlines this morning, I came across the possibility that Los Angeles has put forward a $15 minimum wage.

Immediately the conservative bells and whistles went off and the ever popular argument of lost jobs for the people who need it most went out far and wide.

Well I'm getting tired of this rhetoric.

Yes, some jobs will probably be cut because of the higher wage, but let me say this. Maybe it is time we get rid of a business model that depends on substandard wages to survive. Let that business model die. Let it end.

If a worker has to live in poverty and get welfare benefits to survive, while he or she is working full time....how to we intellectually justify that?

Conservatives talk about a "culture of dependency" in welfare. Well, it is hard to break that culture when working (full time, meaningful work) gives you no chance of moving out of that culture.

And maybe it is time that business stop trying to suppress wage increases as the means to please their shareholders. It is almost embarrassing to see the gap between the pay of CEO's and their average employee expand beyond reasonable means. How can a country that promotes "upward mobility" provide so many road blocks for that path?

Business is always saying that the market should provide the "minimum wage"....that a government mandate only hurts job creation. Well, in one sense, I agree - we shouldn't need a minimum wage. Anybody who is paid the current minimum wage is not making a living. They are subsisting and often would be better off not working at all - especially if they have kids.

Poverty wages (which the minimum wage is) should not exist in a country that supposedly "values" work. That wants its citizens to work to pay for their own way.

But if any of that is to happen, the business community needs to examine the reality of how they truly value their employees. If the $15 movement is necessary to move minimum wage workers out of poverty, then it needs our support. Businesses should be forward thinking enough to make that push unnecessary.

Americans see the exploitation of workers beyond our borders. We have allowed business to use that exploitation to expand profits. But if we need to take a stand against that exploitation somewhere, then let us at least start here at home.

Yes, some jobs will be lost. Business has no loyalties - they don't have a moral code. Business is just business. But American citizens should stand against exploitation of workers. We are better than corporate standards. We have to think of our own country's bottom line as well. There is no reason the American taxpayer should subsidize low wages. None.

If business cannot pay a fair wage, then that business should fail. It is as simple as that.

Nobody is going to get rich on $15 an hour - but it might buy some dignity. I think that is only fair.
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President Obama, Nike, And The TPP

Category: Labor
Posted: 05/08/15 14:38

by Dave Mindeman

If President Obama is choosing Nike in Oregon as the poster child for promoting his Trans Pacific Partnership trade agreement, then he is confirming why labor and progressives are against it so strongly.

Nike employs 26,000 workers in the US - most of them in Oregon. But it has 1 million workers in Southeast Asia; a third of them in Vietnam and the standard wage is 60 cents an hour.

If that is what the TPP is going to give us more of, then it should not be.

I think President Obama will be listed among the great Presidents of our time. I think President Bill Clinton already is on that list. But both of them have the same serious flaw. They favored business over labor on trade. And that simply has to be challenged.

Clinton gave us NAFTA and the problems that Organized Labor warned us about and predicted have come true. Jobs are moving to the third world. American workers get shortchanged and foreign workers are being exploited.

Clinton and Obama are simply wrong on this issue - and we shouldn't hesitate to say so. We can disagree on this and still support our President overall. It is not a sign of weakness for him or us - it is a healthy and just debate.

These trade agreements have given business a cheaper option on labor but it has been a race to the bottom on human dignity. The sweatshops that we were horrified about in the '90's are still there - and there are more of them. Business tells us that these people are happy for their work - that their lives have been improved because of these jobs.

But when a job pays a meager wage and your comparison is abject poverty with no hope, of course you will be happier, but how will those questions be answered by the next generation? Will their lives continue to improve or will this continue an exploitation that goes on indefinitely?

Our economy is doing well right now. We just had another good jobs report. But the next recession is always around the corner....and let's face facts....these recessions get deeper because so many jobs are permanently kept overseas. American workers are left holding the bag with few alternatives.

Maybe Nike has Obama's ear and the Northwest manufacturing base needs to continue this type of trade policy. But ask the manufacturers in the Carolinas and the Midwest as to where the long term prospects end up.

Nike Shoes may be profitable via trade, but the number of people who can afford to buy their shoes is in danger of a large decline.

President Obama - pull back the agreement and protect workers...all workers.
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Health Care Providers Union YES

Category: Labor
Posted: 08/27/14 01:52, Edited: 08/27/14 01:57

by Dave Mindeman

Republicans don't like unions.

Rep. Tara Mack, (R) Apple Valley seems especially upset about the home health care providers union that was just formed via a positive union vote....

"I strongly believe in the right to free association, but the government should not use its power to make private, independent care providers into employees of the state," said Rep. Tara Mack, R-Apple Valley. "The law passed by Minnesota Democrats in 2013 gives government greater power to decide how a mother provides care for her disabled child. There are significant concerns about the conduct of this election given that barely one in 10 affected providers supported public sector unionization, but any regulations agreed to between the union and state could affect all care providers. In light of the United States Supreme Court decision from late June, I hope the Dayton administration will respect the independence of providers who do not wish to participate in this arrangement."

Hmmm...very somber tone. You would think that these independent care providers were looking at impending doom.

She seems to be insinuating that this is some kind of a government takeover. Except the State of Minnesota was already paying them. The only difference now is that they have someone to represent them in wages and working conditions. In light of the fact that they barely make a living wage, I would think that might actually be a good thing.

And I am a little puzzled that Ms. Mack wants to use some kind of 1984 analogy in that "government" will decide "how a mother provides care for her disabled child". What? It seems to me that government mandates were already a distinct possibility because although these workers are hired by the families, these particular workers are paid via Medicaid through the State. The reality of this is that a union can now intervene if these workers or the working conditions that may be regulated by the State of Minnesota are not what the workers or providers want or expect. There is now an advocate....someone with contract strength to intervene.

And then there is the election. Yes, there was a low percentage of participation....but those that voted were in the affirmative by 60%. But if that bothers Ms. Mack or the providers who didn't vote, the question has to be asked why didn't they voice there objections by a negative vote? And why didn't Ms. Mack's concern translate into encouragement to get out and cast a negative vote? Democracy works only when you participate. Apparently opponents of this union think participation is optional in all aspects.

And speaking of optional, recent court rulings seem to indicate that union dues may be optional. Which seems a little unfair in that if the union manages to increase wages or get better contracts, all of the providers will probably benefit.

If Rep. Mack wants the "independence" of providers who did not participate then I think that should also mean that they do not get any of the benefits that the union might negotiate. But I doubt that will happen.

Some of Rep. Mack's Republican colleagues sense an advantage in the possible "opt-out" provisions - because another GOP statement was issued on the same subject....

Minnesota Republican lawmakers tentatively welcomed the new union, saying it in the wake of the Supreme Court ruling, it "would be the first union in Minnesota to operate under the concept of employee freedom."

This union forms (as part of the SEIU) with a number of obstacles but it does exist. If the union is able to bring needed changes for all of these workers, then I think the union will be able to whether the storm and benefit everybody.

They will have to fight for that existence every step of the way, but it is still a major step forward for unions in Minnesota. Maybe the tide has turned.
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