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Progressive Politics in Minnesota, the Nation, and the World

Overtime And the Real Value Of Work

Category: Labor
Posted: 07/13/15 08:17

by Dave Mindeman

In a Strib Commentary, James Sherk offers reasons why Obama's overtime rules will be a "bad" thing. He tells us that employers will simply drop the salary status for these workers, force them to log in their actual hours, and then lower their pay, so that they end up with the same assigned salary anyway.

Well, Mr. Sherk's name is an appropriate one to put on this theory because what he is saying is that business will try to "shirk" its responsibility to its employees.

Whenever something is proposed that could be a benefit to workers, there always seems to be some conservative analyst with an all too convenient "work around" the rule that magically benefits the employer.

Does business think so little about its employees that it really strives to take advantage of every opportunity to forego as much compensation as possible?

That is what Mr. Sherk seems to be suggesting....

So when the government requires employers to pay extra for overtime hours, they do -- and reduce base wages by about the same amount. Workers' weekly take-home pay changes little.

Employers seem to be getting the advantage either way. They can give an employee a salaried position and then guilt them into working an insane number of weekly hours....or they can pay by the hour, make them work over 40 anyway, but at a reduced hourly salary.

Really? Have employee-employer relationships become that cynical?

I will admit that in this union diminished work environment, a number of employers will take advantage of their "options" to always keep employee salaries to the employer's advantage. But you would think that a hard working valuable employee would be worthy of a reward for their labors.

At least that's what they tell you when you get hired on.

Mr. Sherk works for the Heritage Foundation - the think tank that only the Chamber of Commerce could love.

If employers truly act like Mr. Sherk is contending, then the value of work has been greatly diminished and the need for unions has been proven beyond all doubt.

Let's just ponder that for a moment.
comments (3) permalink

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

Category: Labor
Posted: 05/20/15 17:22

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 20:38

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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