The Supreme Court Is Not Where Workers Get Our Power!

Supremes

Today the Supreme Court decided that non-union workers can no longer act in their collective self interest but must make claims individually and arbitrate wages, conditions, and hours disputes alone, is a deep and devastating blow to the labor movement.

Stripping workers of the right to band together to enforce rules regarding their well being will inevitably lead to the worst abuses and a serious and intractable lack of enforcement of state and federal labor rules.

“It is the result of take-it-or-leave-it labor contracts harking back to the type called ‘yellow dog,’ and of the readiness of this Court to enforce those un-bargained-for agreements. The FAA demands no such suppression of the right of workers to take concerted action for their ‘mutual aid or protection.'”

-Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

However it would do us well to remember that if we organize right and build unions everywhere that today’s decision will not matter. It is only in our collective strength that we can force the bad employers to step back and treat us as we demand to be treated.

Today’s bullshit ruling should serve as a notice that business as usual has not and can not work. That workers organized and unorganized are in the fight of our lives and we can sweep away rules like this.

STOP TALKING ABOUT SNAP FRAUD

AMERICAN PROSPECT.

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) ads in the District of Columbia were hard to miss. Posters begging passersby to help “STOP SNAP FRAUD!” replaced the usually more innocuous ads in Washington’s Metro system. While many of the ads were in underground subway stations, buses were also wrapped in fraud prevention ads. They plastered the Capitol South metro station, too—the one used by many legislative staffers—as Congress is gearing up to renew the farm bill, the massive legislation that may contain sweeping changes to SNAP, the program commonly known as food stamps.

The nation’s capital has a progressive population (just 4 percent of the city’s votes went to Trump in 2016), so these ads did not go over well. SNAP fraud, after all, is a relatively uncommon phenomenon in the District of Columbia and elsewhere. In 2016, out of 1,000 completed investigations of the city’s roughly 134,000 SNAP recipients, officials found only 134 clear-cut cases of fraud—a fraud rate of a tenthof a percentage point. The national rate is not much higher.

Washington residents, organizations, and elected officials criticized the ads and complained to the D.C. Department of Human Services (DHS), the agency that administered the ad campaign. George Washington University’s Food Institute published an article saying that the ads “were not reflective of D.C. values.”

Metro riders did not think much of the ads either and came up with some pithy edits.

The official D.C. DHS Twitter account responded to complaints about the ads by saying that D.C. was “federally mandated to educate SNAP customers on fraud and penalties.”

About two weeks into the ad campaign, the D.C. DHS announced that it would take the ads down. “[The ad campaign] came across as punitive, when really it was supposed to be about education,” says D.C. DHS Chief of Staff Larry Handerhan. “Our goal was to protect our clients … not to accuse them, not to suggest they’re criminals.” The agency moved to invited local anti-hunger groups to a stakeholder meeting to discuss what happened and where the agency went wrong—and how they could avoid making similar mistakes in the future.

In a “statement to the community,” human services department officials had admitted that the ads “missed the mark.” The department added, “This campaign was 100 percent funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service for the explicit purpose of educating residents on ways to ensure the program can meet its goal of addressing food insecurity.”

While it may be tempting to punt responsibility for the ads to Trump officials, the D.C. DHS decided to apply for a $3 million federal grant whose requirements mandate“awareness programs aimed at reducing and preventing SNAP fraud, trafficking, and misuse of benefits.” (In addition to the District of Columbia, Delaware, Indiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Ohio, South Dakota, Utah, Washington, West Virginia, and Guam also received funding for 2018 public awareness campaigns.)

Washington received a $272,000 grant; city officials said the ad campaign alone cost about $80,000. The D.C. DHS did not use the USDA logo in the advertisements and a USDA spokesperson told The American Prospect via email that the department “did not have any creative input in the D.C. ad.”

Many social welfare advocates argue that fighting fraud is just a way for conservatives to limit social spending—and that depicting welfare beneficiaries as criminals not only demonizes the poor, but also discredits public assistance programs. But many progressives also resort to fraud prevention arguments to protect the “integrity” of anti-poverty programs so that rampant abuse is not used as a reason to attack those supports. The D.C. DHS used “protection” language in its statement about the anti-fraud ads, arguing that the purpose of the campaign was to “educat[e] residents on ways to ensure the program can meet its goal of addressing food insecurity.”

So can anti-poverty advocates chalk up the anti-fraud advertising crusade to Trump’s war on the poor? Not exactly—this grant program is similar to others that the USDA has sponsored in the past. The fight against SNAP fraud was a part of the Obama administration’s “Campaign to Cut Waste.” Another SNAP fraud awareness campaign, sponsored by the Indiana Family Social Services Administration (FSSA) in 2016 and 2017, included ads with slogans like, “Turn your radar on. Detect fraud,” and “Only for food. Only for you.”

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Other states have set up anti-fraud initiatives on their own: Massachusetts and Maine both require photo identification on Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards, though there is little evidence that this reduces trafficking, the practice of exchanging benefits for cash.

Of course, that does not mean that the Trump administration isn’t ramping up its targeting of fraud at the expense of other anti-hunger or nutrition initiatives. Trump’s USDA has shifted its aims to an “enhanced focus on program integrity,” announcing in March that it was planning to create a new position: a “chief integrity officer.” “Integrity” is a more formal, and less provocative, way of saying “waste, fraud, and abuse.” “Where protection of taxpayer dollars is concerned—the job is never done,” FNS Administrator and USDA Acting Deputy Undersecretary Brandon Lipps said in a statement. (At a recent anti-hunger conference in Washington, Lipps said that Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue was interested in SNAP cuts to help trim the federal deficit—the deficit that Republicans increased by $1.4 trillion after passing the tax reform package. Conference attendees responded by booingLipps when he spoke about the USDA’s Harvest Box proposal.)

SNAP fraud is extremely rare: It was more prevalent when food stamps were actually stamps.

But SNAP fraud is extremely rare: It was more prevalent when food stamps were actually stamps. Today benefits are loaded onto an EBT card, similar to a debit card, which makes the buying and selling of food stamp funds difficult. In an appearance before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform in 2016, Stacy Dean, vice president for food assistance policy at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, said, “The overwhelming majority of SNAP errors that do occur result from mistakes by recipients, eligibility workers, data entry clerks, or computer programmers, not dishonesty or fraud by recipients.” She added that only about 1 percent of benefits are trafficked.

Handerhan says that one goal of the ad campaign was to publicize a fraud reporting hotline, so if a person sees something suspicious they can call “professionals who can look into this.” But this “see something, say something” approach opens the door for reports based on (often racist) stereotypes of people in poverty.

And even honest mistakes can force a person to lose benefits. “Clients don’t know they’re breaking the rules, and all of a sudden they’re losing benefits that they’re eligible for because they didn’t realize what a program violation was,” says Handerhan. “You can get punished regardless of your intent, so the idea is really to make sure clients understand [the rules].”

He explains that a person could buy some fruit with their benefits, make a fruit salad, and then sell it. That SNAP recipient may not know it, but that’s considered fraud, as is having someone get your groceries who isn’t officially designated to shop for you. Retailers, too, sometimes engage in SNAP fraud, either by exchanging a person’s SNAP benefits for cash (and taking a cut of the money) or by submitting false information to qualify as a SNAP outlet even though the business does not meet the program’s requirements for retailers.

D.C. DHS plans to use the rest of its grant funds, a little less than $200,000, to educate SNAP clients on the regulations, using pamphlets detailing SNAP rules, and using public service announcements at locations where clients get their benefits. Handerhan says that after the ad backlash, DHS decided to get input from anti-hunger stakeholders, like the George Washington University Food Institute, to help develop these new initiatives and from SNAP clients themselves to help “test the messaging.”

DHS has also solicited client input regarding other programs like Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, according to Handerhan. “I think we missed the mark on the advertisements, but I know we have an opportunity to make that up and really focus on the education,” he says.

Despite these kinds of efforts, many anti-hunger advocates argue that the focus on SNAP fraud, like the Trump administration’s hiring of a chief integrity officer, distracts from honest conversations about poverty and hunger. Few people on SNAP misuse their benefits, but one would be hard-pressed to believe that watching some conservative news commentators foam at the mouth at the mere mention of SNAP fraud.

“Is a client guide even the right way to get to the issue?” asks Ariel Kagan, a senior researcher at the Food Institute and author of the institute’s critique of the Metro ads, noting that retailers are a key source of SNAP fraud. “If we really want to make SNAP fraud and abuse go even further down—and it’s pretty much at zero—thinking about policies and programs and campaigns that actually get to the issues that are happening and not just villainizing SNAP users [would be] a good idea.”

And here’s an essential point: Though it rarely happens, consider why a SNAP recipient would choose to sell their SNAP benefits for cash. SNAP can only be used for food, not other necessities that require cash, like toiletries or diapers. If a person is eligible for SNAP, that means their income is typically at or below 130 percent of the poverty line, or $26,600 annually for a family for three. And according to a 2014 study, in 2004 just 10 percent of families receiving SNAP also received cash assistance, as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families reaches less than a quarter of people in poverty. Nearly all of our public assistance programs limit the agency of poor people by focusing on in-kindbenefit transferslike food stamps, instead of cash assistance.

The federal government should instead focus on making it easier for people to live without having to use SNAP in the first place, which means policies like strengthening worker protections and higher wages, or once-radical ideas like a guaranteed annual income or a guaranteed job program.

“My feeling is that DHS should be making sure that every person who is eligible for SNAP receives it,” says Kagan. “They should be serving the people in D.C. who need this help to get ahead.”

On Mother’s Day We Remember its Call To end Militarism

Arise, then, women of this day! Arise all women who have hearts, whether our baptism be that of water or of tears!… We women of one country will be too tender of those of another country to allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs. From the bosom of the devastated earth a voice goes up with our own. It says “Disarm, Disarm! The sword of murder is not the balance of justice.” ~Julia Ward Howe, 1870
From her Mother’s Day Proclamation for Peace
(Full proclamation below)

Solidarity Rally For Striking DHLNH Workers

Facebook Event Page

WHEN: MAY 11, 10:00 AM

​WHERE: 101 CONCORD ST PAWTUCKET RI

​WHY:

The drivers, and dockworkers​​​​​ wake up everyday and put in the honest hours working for DHLNH (a sub contractor for DHL). What they take home in their wallets should reflect the work they do.  A real wages and benefits that can support a family is a humble ask, and that is what these workers are asking for.

The bosses at DHLNH have done nothing but treat these workers with contempt and scorn. And along with RI’s fightingest Union IBT Local 251 Teamsters have said enough. If you refuse to talk in good faith we will show you how strong the labor movement is in RI.

​​

TOMORROW MORNING AT 10AM WE WILL GATHER AT THE DHLNH AT 101 CONCORD ST PAWTUCKET AND SHOW THE BOSSES WHAT SOLIDARITY LOOKS LIKE.

For about a year the workers have asked that the company be fair and do whats right. Now we will do what we must. If you are a member of a union wear your colors.

I look forward to seeing you there.

In Solidarity

Mike Araujo

Here is a link to the facebook event.

Workers Standing Up All Over The World.

More than a year and a half ago, a factory in Indonesia closed without any prior notice or negotiations with the union.  Two hundred workers were left without jobs, and have never received their final month’s pay.

Click here to support the workersThe company is called Umas Jaya Agrotama and it’s a wholly-owned subsidary of a huge corporation known as GreatGiant Pineapple.

The workers, members of the SBMUJA union, have been campaigning and demonstrating for their rights with the support of their global union federation, the IUF.  They are demanding that the company come to the bargaining table to negotiate a solution.  They need our support.

Please click here to support the IUF global campaign in support of these workers:

http://www.labourstart.org/go/pineapple

Statement in Response to President Trump’s decision to end Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Nicaraguans

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
November 7, 2017

Contact:
Ehmonie Hainey, ehmonie (at) jwj.org, 202-393-1044 x106

In response to President Donald Trump’s decision to end Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Nicaraguans, Jobs With Justice Executive Director Sarita Gupta issued the following statement:

The Trump administration continues to demonstrate that it will do anything to strip dignity and basic protections away from immigrants and working people.

The 300,000 Nicaraguan, Honduran, Haitian and Salvadoran individuals who count on TPS to live and work in the U.S. contribute to our society, communities, and economies in myriad ways. They are our neighbors – some, for decades. They pay taxes, own businesses, create jobs, and are homeowners. Many of them are home health professionals, providing care to millions of Americans, as well as construction workers, who currently are helping the hurricane recovery efforts in Florida and Houston. They are parents to over 275,000 children who are U.S. citizens, and the administration has no plan to address the breakup of these families.

The countries they were forced to leave have not fully recovered from natural disasters or civil unrest. These families since have made America their home. Ending TPS upends the lives of thousands, and mass deportation within these communities simply is inhumane.

Jobs With Justice does not stand by the administration’s decision to end TPS for Nicaraguans. We urge them to reconsider, as well as take action to extend TPS for Hondurans, Haitians and Salvadorans. Jobs With Justice continues to resist white supremacist actions displayed as hatred towards immigrant communities.

New Rule Will Allow Bosses To Take Servers Tips!

A Labor Department proposal to kill an Obama-era rule preventing employers from pooling workers’ tips is now under White House review.

The White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) received the proposed rule from the Labor Department on Tuesday according to the list of regulations under review.

In the semi-annual Unified Regulatory Agenda in July, the agency announced plans to rescind the current restriction on tip pooling by employers that pay tipped employees the full minimum wage under the Fair Labor Standards Act. The change would allow restaurants, for example, to share the tips waiters receive with untipped workers, such as cooks.

The National Restaurant Association has long been pushing for the change. The group argues the rule finalized under former President Barack Obamacreated pay disparity between servers in the front of the house and the cooks in the kitchen.

It does not appear the Labor Department will allow employers to pool the tips of employees who make less than minimum wage, but the agency’s proposal has not yet been made public.

Worker rights advocates, though, have blasted the proposed change, saying the administration is once again catering to business and corporate interests over workers.

In a statement Wednesday, Christine Owens, executive director of the National Employment Law Project, said tips belong to the worker who earns them.

“The Trump Labor Department may say that it’s taking away this protection to let some employers redistribute tips freely to all employees, regardless of whether they are tipped workers or not,” she said. “But if companies have trouble retaining non-tipped workers because their pay is so bad, then the solution is for the companies to raise their wages, not to essentially steal what tipped workers take home at the end of the day.”

Owens fears the rule opens the door for employers to pocket a portion of the tips.

“The Labor Department and the National Restaurant Association can dress this up any way they want to, but ultimately, this rule change is nothing more than robber barons masquerading as Robin Hood—not to mention that it absolves employers of their responsibility to fairly and adequately pay their employees,” she said.

Once OIRA signs off on the proposed rule it will be published in the Federal Register and the agency will accept public comments.

OIRA has 90 days to review the rule, but can take longer.

Rhode Island Needs RhodyCare

RHODYCARE: CHARTING THE COURSE FOR CARE

Everyone deserves the freedom to live full and healthy lives and sustain their families. Taking care of a child, a loved one with a disability, or an aging parent should be a source of joy. Yet, high costs of living and stagnating wages challenge Rhode Islanders’ ability to make ends meet. And the skyrocketing price tags of childcare and eldercare, which can easily exceed rents, further exacerbate this problem.

As Ocean State families shoulder the responsibilities of care, the crippling financial and emotional burden of caregiving mounts. Approximately 134,000 family caregivers in Rhode Island provide an average of 142 million hours of uncompensated care for an aging parent or loved one, with an estimated economic value of $1.78 billion per year. Women across the state make up the majority of unpaid family and underpaid professional caregivers, and bear the brunt of this financial crisis. With the oldest per-capita population in the country, Rhode Islanders need elder care more than ever before. And as baby boomers reach retirement age and childcare costs rise, more people will struggle to provide care for their families.

No one should have to choose between paying for basic necessities or the care they need for their families. Conditions in Rhode Island are ripe for an ambitious policy that addresses the family care challenge: long-term care, childcare, and paid family leave. RhodyCare can ensure that families don’t have to make tough decisions without a safety net to support them.

Join us to win RhodyCare!                                                        Check out our RhodyCare page above!

Want to get involved?                                                              Email us: rhodycare@gmail.com

Labor’s Day 2017 Labor Day March Against Racism

 

 

Amilcar Cabral said: “We tell no lies and claim no easy victories.  Are we going to ignore labor’s past or only claim the good?  No, we have so much to be proud of, but we also have a legacy of pain and exclusion.  We claim Ben Fletcher, a fierce Black IWW dock worker who formed one of the most enduring and fearless multi-racial unions in the history of the U.S., as a model of working class power. We also have the Philadelphia Streetcar workers who went on strike in 1944 to prevent Black drivers from driving, or Samuel Gompers who was a strong supporter of segregation and encouraged the destruction of Black workers organizations.  It is this mixed history that makes the old union song Which Side Are You On a hymn when sung by settler workers and a blues when sung by black workers. It is this past that makes this Labor Day so important as we assert that we; “Tell no lies and claim no easy victories”.

Labor Day Poster English

 

The prisons chock a block with the working poor, our cities are crumbling, our public schools under constant attack, our immigrant neighbors targeted and threatened, mass demonstrations of anti-black terrorists, our queer siblings cut out and isolated, even our children used as centers for profit. There is no end to the creativity of the bosses and the politicians they hire. We watch as the Confederate flag alongside the Nazi flag is flying on our soil.  This assault on us is real and total, there is no quarter offered to us as the safety net is clipped away to line the pockets of the greedy.

It is this Labor’s Day that we put ourselves into history’s service, not as pawns like the bosses wish, but as the authors, architects, makers, and builders of a future that is open and unapologetic in our stand against racism and fear. On Labor Days to come, let our children and our children’s children mark what was done here in Providence on Labor’s Day 2017.

 

That we the members of battered unions, tired fast food workers, and struggling health care workers stood together to say enough. That the wounds we carry are the binding contract to the future that holds to account those who try to divide us. Let the racists remember with a shudder that we working people are the masters of this world and if you attempt to harm us we will organize the next. We offer no home to racism, xenophobia, homophobia, transphobia, anti-Semitism, in our hands, in our halls. in our hearts, or in our heads. Let this wave of hate break on the rock of labor for we will not be bowed.