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The Senate Turns its Back on American Workers

10257716_10152785482317729_1090544038972089681_oThis week, Senate Republicans turned their backs on American workers everywhere by failing to advance legislation to raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour and index it to inflation.

CEO pay has risen 725 percent over the last 30 years, yet the real value of the minimum wage continues to decline. In the retail sector alone, too many workers are struggling to survive in minimum wage jobs with inconsistent hours and few benefits, and many of these workers are being forced to rely on taxpayer funded programs like food stamps just to make ends meet.

This is simply wrong, and states and localities from California to New Jersey are refusing to sit by, with many raising their own minimum wage to levels higher than the federal rate.  In fact, Seattle just raised its minimum wage to $15 per hour.  But all Americans deserve a living wage, and this problem calls for a federal solution.  This is an election year, and the Retail Justice Alliance urges Senate Republicans to think about the many voters who are struggling to survive in low-wage jobs and raise the minimum wage.

The Walton family’s role in school re-segregation

Reposted from The Walmart 1%

UFCW BENTONVILLE WALMART 101211Under the guise of “reforming” K-12 education, the Walton family, which owns a majority of Walmart and has raked in unfathomable wealth off the backs of low-wage Walmart workers, has poured over $1 billion into efforts to undermine public schools and promote a corporate-friendly, privatized model of education.

The Walton family’s work in education is both misguided and profoundly anti-democratic. Yet, asArkansas Times columnist Max Brantley wrote in a blog post discussing an Atlantic report on the re-segregation of Southern public schools, there is a less-examined but equally serious consequence of the family’s interference with schools: The Waltons’ chosen approaches to school reform, namely school choice and charter schools, are contributing to the re-segregation of public schools and the potential resurgence of highly segregated “apartheid schools.”

For example, In Little Rock, the capital of the Waltons’ home state of Arkansas, Brantley notes that a new Walton-funded charter school is expected to attract wealthier students away from the local public schools, leaving behind poorer students. The family also backed state legislation that bars school districts from considering race in its decisions about student school transfers. (For over twenty years, in order to preserve the integrity of school desegregation efforts, districts were permitted to consider race in transfer decisions.)

Scores of academic studies from a variety of states and countries demonstrate that the Waltons’ approach to education is probably worsening segregation not just in Arkansas, but everywhere they are funding “education reform.” As Iris Rotberg, a George Washington University education policy professor, wrote for the Phi Delta Kappan, school choice programs and the expansion of charter schools drive increases in school segregation by race, ethnicity, income, and other characteristics.

In spite of this evidence, the Walton family—itself an emblem of income inequality—remains a staunch advocate of school choice and is believed to be the country’s largest funder of charter schools. Walton-funded “reform” organizations often make the audacious, arrogant claim that they are leaders in the “new civil rights movement.” Actually, their efforts risk setting civil rights back by decades.

Ending child poverty has been shown to improve children’s academic performance. Walmart, which the Walton family controls roughly half of, continues to keep many of its associates in poverty, with low wages, poor benefits and unpredictable schedules that make parenting even more difficult. If the Waltons really want to make meaningful, substantive improvements in children’s education, they could help combat child poverty by ensuring living wages for the 1.3 million Walmart workers in the United States.

New Report Shows How Walmart’s Walton Family Receives $7.8 Billion in Tax Breaks and Taxpayer Subsidies

WM_TaxesA report released this week by Americans for Tax Fairness titled Walmart on Tax Day: How Taxpayers Subsidize America’s Biggest Employer and Richest Family shows how Walmart and the Walton family receive tax breaks and taxpayer subsidies estimated at more than $7.8 billion a year, while many of its workers are forced to rely on taxpayer-funded programs like food stamps and Medicaid.

The breakdown provided in the report shows where the estimated $7.8 billion in subsidies and tax breaks occurred:

• Walmart receives an estimated $6.2 billion annually in mostly federal taxpayer subsidies. Walmart pays its employees so little that many of them rely on food stamps, healthcare and other taxpayer-funded programs.

• Walmart avoids an estimated $1 billion in federal taxes each year. It uses tax breaks, loopholes, and a strategy known as accelerated depreciation that allows it to write off capital investments considerably faster than the assets actually wear out.

• The Waltons avoided an estimated $607 million in federal taxes on their Walmart dividends which are taxed at a much lower rate than income from salaries and wages. The report also estimated that $7.8 billion is enough to hire 105,000 new public school teachers.

In reaction to the news that the country’s largest retailer and richest family received an estimated $7.8 billion in tax breaks and subsidies in 2013, Walmart workers and taxpayers in Phoenix delivered a $7.8 billion tax bill to Walmart Chairman Rob Walton’s home in Paradise Valley, outside Phoenix.

“Like most Americans, I work hard, pay my taxes and play by the rules. Why can’t America’s richest family pay their fair share of taxes like the rest of us?” said Venanzi Luna, a Walmart worker who undersigned the bill.

 

Expansion of NYC “Living Wage” Law Set to Help Retail Workers

UFCW/RWDSU staff and members are joining allies and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio in support of the passage of a new bill that they are framing as an expansion of the “Living

Wage” law enacted in 2012. The new bill would bar retail tenants in developments that receive city subsidies from opposing efforts from workers to organize and join a union. In return, union members would promise not to picket the stores or call for work stoppages.

In his State of the City Address this week, Mayor de Blasio stated that he will push efforts to pass the new bill and improve working conditions and wages for workers in the city.

As an official supporter of the new bill, President RWDSU District Council of the UFCW Stuart Applebaum argues that even though the bill does not directly affect wages, through collective bargaining, workers can achieve not just higher wages, but steadier hours and better workplace conditions.

The current “Living Wage” law requires companies that receive city subsidies, and their on-site contractors or subcontractors, to pay workers at least $10 an hour plus benefits, or $11.50 without benefits, above the state’s minimum of $8 an hour. There are many exemptions to the current law, though, including companies with less than $5 million in annual revenue, manufacturing companies and companies that receive less than $1 million in subsidies.

 

New Report Sheds Light on Extent of Poverty in the U.S.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA new report from the U.S. Census Bureau shows that while a small fraction of people live in poverty for more than a year, a large percentage of people experience poverty for shorter time periods.  According to the report, nearly one third of the U.S. population — 31.6 percent — fell below the official poverty line for at least two months between 2009 and 2011, while 3.5 percent of the U.S. population remained poor for that entire period.

It’s clear that more needs to be done to help Americans get back on their feet and the retail sector is a good place to start.  According to the Department of Labor, the retail sector continues to play a major role in the U.S. economy—adding 55,000 jobs in December and an average of 32,000 jobs per month in 2013—but most of these jobs are low-wage or part-time positions. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, workers in the retail industry typically make about $25,000 per year, which is a far cry from the nation’s average annual pay of $45,790.

As our country observes the 50th anniversary of President Johnson’s anti-poverty campaign, the Retail Justice Alliance looks forward to another year of standing with retail workers across the country as they take the lead in the new war on poverty.

Other Retailers Join Walmart in Opposition to LRAA

This week, Macy’s, Target and other large retailers joined Walmart in opposing the Large Retailer Accountability Act, a bill requiring major retailers in Washington, D.C. to pay employees a ‘living wage’ of at least $12.50 an hour.

source: dc direct action news

On its second reading before the D.C. Council, the Large Retailer Accountability Act passed by a margin of 8-5 earlier in July. While the bill enjoyed the support of a majority of councilmembers and many D.C. residents, Walmart threatened at the last minute to cancel the construction of three stores slated to open in the District if the bill became law.

With so much at stake, workers in Washington, D.C. need your help to make sure the bill gets finalized. Please click here and send an email to D.C.’s Mayor Gray, asking him not to veto the bill. Washington, D.C. is just the beginning–cities around the country are pushing for living wages, and corporations are beginning to realize that the people have a say in how businesses operate on their turf.  Let’s tell Walmart that if they want to be in the nation’s capital, they need to pay a living wage!

DC Mayor Gray Should Sign the Large Retailer Accountability Act

Statement from EPI President Lawrence Mishel

Lawrence Mishel, president of the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) and a member of the Retail Justice Alliance, issued the following statement on July 16 in support of the Large Retailer Accountability Act, a bill requiring major retailers in Washington, D.C. to pay employees a ‘living wage’ of at least $12.50 an hour.  To view the original statement, visit http://www.epi.org/publication/dc-mayor-gray-should-sign-the-large-retailer-accountability-act/.

I strongly support the Large Retailer Accountability Act and urge Mayor Gray to sign it into law. When large retailers pay wages far below what families need to get by, it brings down the wages of workers across all sectors and forces workers to rely on Medicaid and other public assistance programs to make LRAAcrowdends meet. Walmart and other large retailers can afford to pay workers more, but they don’t. Instead they have been a leader in driving down wages nationwide. Make no mistake, this bill is not about Walmart—it is about the role that workers play in our city and our nation. As the economy—and corporate profits—continue to grow, we must ensure that workers and indeed all citizens in the District benefit as well.

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ABOUT EPI

The Economic Policy Institute (EPI) is an independent, nonprofit think tank that researches the impact of economic trends and policies on working people in the United States.

Walmart’s Treatment of Workers Is Shameful

By Bill Fletcher, chair of the Retail Justice Alliance

It’s been a busy week for Walmart.  The retail giant threatened to pull out of three planned stores in Washington, D.C. after the city council voted on a bill requiring major retailers to pay employees a ‘living wage’ of at least $12.50 an hour.  And after refusing to sign the Accord on Fire and Building Safety, which would make real improvements in the safety of garment workers in Bangladesh, Walmart, Gap and other retailers announced that they had established a “Global Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety,” a bogus plan with no enforceable commitments to workplace safety.

Walmart has also continued to fire or retaliate against workers who were simply exercising their right to speak out for a better life and improved working conditions.  These workers are members of the Organization United for Respect at Walmart (OUR Walmart), who traveled to Walmart headquarters in Bentonville, Ark., in June to protest the company’s practice of retaliating against workers who speak out for change.

It’s time for Walmart to put people before profits and be a good employer here at home and abroad.  For more information about the brave workers who are fighting for better wages, benefits and safer working conditions here at in the U.S. and for their brothers and sisters in Bangladesh, visit http://makingchangeatwalmart.org/.