There are 39,000 Verizon workers on strike right now. They are not just striking for better pay and conditions from Verizon; this is also about how all of the giant corporations are treating all of us, their workers and customers. It’s just that the workers at Verizon have a union that is still strong enough to carry out this fight for the rest of us.
Fighting Corporate Greed
Verizon makes almost $2 billion in annual profit. Some of this money could have gone to employees. Some of it could have been reinvested in the future of the company, expanding their fiber network and improving customer service. Verizon has had many chances to do the right thing for their employees and customers, but opted instead to give executives raises and bonuses. Verizon also spent $5 billion buying back shares of its stock in an effort to manipulate the stock price.
So Verizon’s workers are taking a stand. They are telling the company that the people who work there deserve a share of the pie.
This is an opportunity to show up and help tell Verizon’s management that this strike is not going away until they negotiate a fair contract. It is time to show up and tell this company to do the right thing. You can help do this on Thursday.
Thursday Day Of Action
On Thursday there will be nationwide actions where you can show up in person to support the striking workers at Verizon Wireless stores across the country and online. Take a look at the map of activities to find a local action that you can join. Maybe bring some coffee for people. Your participation would show support not just for the workers at Verizon, but for holding corporations like Verizon accountable for how they deal with their employees and customers – in other words, us.
It is not just about shareholders; it’s about the country, the economy, and the power of We the People vs. the power of these giant, greedy corporations.
Verizon’s workers are fighting for you and all of us. Please show up and fight with them.
You should also sign this petition that Campaign for America’s Future is helping to circulate: “The public is paying attention and consumers are refusing to cross picket lines. It’s time for Verizon to come back to the negotiation table. Will you show your support for Verizon workers? Click here to add your name in solidarity.”
“”There are no red lines which would clearly protect environment and health.” – Jorgo Riss, director of Greenpeace EU
There has been a major leak concerning another “trade” agreement that is currently being negotiated in secret. This time it is the TTIP and it was leaked by Greenpeace.
TPP, TTIP, What?
First, some explanation. If you are reading this you’ve been hearing a lot about the TPP, which is the Trans-Pacific Partnership. There’s another “trade” agreement being negotiated called the TTIP, which is the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. So for shorthand on the shorthand: TPP = Pacific, TTIP = Atlantic.
The TPP (Pacific) negotiations have been completed. The TPP negotiations took place in a secret process dominated by the giant multinational corporations, and the final agreement is waiting to be approved or rejected by Congress – probably during the “lame duck” session, because that is when members are least likely to be held accountable for their votes.
The TTIP (Atlantic; you may hear it referred to as “tee-tip”), on the other hand, is still being negotiated, also in a secret process dominated by the giant multinational corporations.
The Big Leak
Now, back to the story. There has been a leak of parts of the TTIP (Atlantic). Once again we have to learn about our own government’s positions from leaks instead of through transparent, democratic processes that would impose accountability. And once again we learn that our own government’s positions are actually the positions of the giant multinational corporations and not at all in the interests of We the People, or of the citizens of the countries we are negotiating with.
Here is what the leak shows. Just as we saw happen with the TPP (Pacific), the big corporations are trying to use a “trade” deal to maneuver governments to sign something that gets governments out of their way. The TPP lets corporations around the Pacific bypass the rules and regulations of the governments that sign onto the agreement. It gives corporations the ability to move jobs and production to countries with extremely low wages and minimal worker and environmental protections, and it stops governments from having the ability to do anything about it.
This leak shows that the U.S. government has entered into negotiations asking for the same thing with the Atlantic countries. TTIP limits their sovereign powers to regulate what the giant, multinational corporations do, to bring them under the jurisdiction of sovereign courts, to control their size and power, and to tax them and otherwise protect citizens from their profit-seeking actions. For example, the proposals would actually lower existing European governmental standards for things like food and drug safety, in favor of increasing the profits of giant American and other multinational corporations. It would end the European bans on animal testing, on a number of pesticides (even one that “chemically castrates male frogs”), on GMO contamination in foods, even the “precautionary principle” that requires pharmaceutical companies to prove drugs are safe before offering them to the public.
The public document offers a robust defence of the EU’s right to regulate and create a court-like system for disputes, unlike the internal note, which does not mention them.
Jorgo Riss, the director of Greenpeace EU, said: “These leaked documents give us an unparalleled look at the scope of U.S. demands to lower or circumvent EU protections for environment and public health as part of TTIP. The EU position is very bad, and the U.S. position is terrible. The prospect of a TTIP compromising within that range is an awful one. The way is being cleared for a race to the bottom in environmental, consumer protection and public health standards.”
U.S. proposals include an obligation on the EU to inform its industries of any planned regulations in advance, and to allow them the same input into EU regulatory processes as European firms.
The Sierra Club said the documents showed that the Americans were proposing to allow corporations to “petition” for the repeal of a regulation if it was “more burdensome than necessary to achieve its objective,” given its impact on trade, and that the Europeans had proposed allowing certain environmental standards to be deemed “technical barriers to trade,” which would, perhaps, weaken labels that require the climate footprint of a product or service to be disclosed.
The group also warned that the text included trade rules that could be used against “buy local” programs that support local clean-energy jobs in nearly two dozen American states.
Corporations At Center Of Policymaking
According to Greenpeace’s director, these proposals “would put corporations at the center of policymaking, to the detriment of environment and public health.”
If these proposals are enacted the giant corporations will have power to, according to a statement from Robert Weissman, President of Public Citizen, “block, slow, undermine and repeal European regulations. … [T]he Regulatory Cooperation chapter poses a major threat to health, safety, environmental, labor, consumer, civil and political rights, and other regulatory protections. The U.S. proposals in the Regulatory Cooperation chapter seek to export many of the worst features of U.S. rule-making.” The U.S. proposals are “proposals are affirmatively hostile to the precautionary principle.”
This Shows It Is Time To Remake Our Trade Negotiating Process
This leak shows that it is time to completely reformat the way the U.S. initiates and negotiates trade deals. Instead of our current “captured”, corporate-dominated process, rigged from the start to produce “trade” deals that only benefit the giant corporations, their executives and their Wall Street shareholders, we need a process that includes from the start all of the stakeholders in international trade. Consumer groups, labor groups, environmental groups, democracy groups, human rights groups and all other stakeholders must be represented in this process from the start. The process must also be transparent, so the public knows what is being negotiated in their name, from the start.
This is the only way we can come out of the process with actual trade deals that bring about actual, beneficial trade between countries that actually lifts all people on all sides of trade borders.
Is it really “extreme” to think we should have fair trade policies?
The New York Times on Tuesday published a story by Nelson D. Schwartz and Quoctrung Bui, “Where Jobs Are Squeezed by Chinese Trade, Voters Seek Extremes,” reporting that, “research to be unveiled this week by four leading academic economists suggests that the damage to manufacturing jobs from a sharp acceleration in globalization since the turn of the century has contributed heavily to the nation’s bitter political divide.”
By “sharp acceleration in globalization since the turn of the century” they mean millions and millions of manufacturing jobs, and more than 60,000 factories, all moved to China since 2000 to take advantage of China’s non-democracy that allows exploitation of workers and the environment. (But China doesn’t really “trade” with us by buying things, resulting in a record $365.7 billion trade deficit with China just last year.)
They go on:
Cross-referencing congressional voting records and district-by-district patterns of job losses and other economic trends between 2002 and 2010, the researchers found that areas hardest hit by trade shocks were much more likely to move to the far right or the far left politically.
“It’s not about incumbents changing their positions,” said David Autor, an influential scholar of labor economics and trade at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and one of the paper’s authors. “It’s about the replacement of moderates with more ideological successors.”
Mr. Autor added: “In retrospect, whether it’s Trump or Sanders, we should have seen in it coming. The China shock isn’t the sole factor, but it is something of a missing link.”
So Sanders, who basically advocates returning to policies that are not even as “left” as those that were dominant in the Eisenhower era, is now considered by these reporters to be “extreme” and “the far left”? In some minds, apparently, the answer is yes.
There’s Trade And Then There’s “Trade”
There is trade and then there’s “trade.” Trade is the exchange of goods and services across borders. People who live in certain climates and can grow bananas can also have cars, and people who make cars can have bananas. Both sides benefit – as long as the value of the banana going one way and the value of cars going the other way line up. In other words, with actual trade we buy things from other countries and they buy things from us.
In our country’s current trade regime, however, “trade” is used as a justification and enabler for closing American factories and moving American jobs to places where people are paid less and the environment is not protected, and bringing the same goods that used to be made here back here and selling them in the same outlets. The people who used to employ those American workers can then pocket the wage and environmental-protection-cost differential; the country gets a massive trade deficit.
The Times article quotes corporate economists who, “like most economists,” explain that “we all” benefit because “lower prices” result when things are made somewhere else by people who are paid almost nothing. (Apparently moving our jobs out of the country is good for us.) It does not address the inequality and economywide worker wage stagnation that has resulted from these policies. It ignores that our country has had enormous, humongous trade deficits every single year since “free trade” ideology became dominant in elite thinking. Oh well.
This is the reason for the disconnect in American thinking about trade. Elites tell us “free trade” is good but voters can see and feel that what this country has actually been doing has been bad for them. Americans like the idea of actual trade, but they hate our country’s trade deals. They are rational; they see that the “trade” deals have really been about moving jobs to benefit corporate elites and they see and feel the terrible results of this all around them.
What About Clinton?
Note that the story specifically names Sanders as on the “far left,” while candidate Hillary Clinton also claims to oppose the trade deals that shipped jobs and the upcoming Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), also claims to be as “progressive” as Sanders, and has taken many of the same positions on most issues as Sanders. The reporters apparently simply do not believe her. There’s that old credibility problem cropping up in the strangest places.
This exposes what will likely be one of Clinton’s biggest problems in the coming election if she and Trump are the nominees. As the Times story notes, Trump has built his campaign partly on a popular and resonating message about how our trade deals have hurt the country. Clinton says she opposes TPP and other bad trade deals, but no one believes her.
Yes, much of Donald Trump’s message has a white nationalist and anti-woman character to it. But here is a warning: If Hillary Clinton is going to be the Democratic nominee she had better get tough on trade – and mean it.
One of Donald Trump’ main elements of appeal to his voters – if not the main appeal – is his stance on trade and bringing jobs back to America. It is a winning message and Clinton is waaaayyyy behind the curve on this.
Much Of Trump Appeal Based On Trade
Much of Trump’s campaign message is about how our country’s trade deals have wiped out jobs. On Day 1 much of his speech announcing that he was running was about trade. From the transcript, here is some of the trade talk:
The Bush administration negotiated the Panama free trade agreement without addressing Panama’s bank and corporate secrecy. Panama has little to “trade” with the U.S., so maybe leaving secrecy out of the agreement wasn’t an accident; it was the point. It provided a stamp of legitimacy and protections for “investors” moving their money to Panama.
Panama Trade Agreement
The Panama–United States Trade Promotion Agreement, negotiated by the Bush administration, was finalized by the Obama administration and went into effect in 2012. The U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) website promotes the agreement as removing “barriers to U.S. services, including financial services.” It removed some duties and tariffs on U.S. exports and phased out others, like agricultural goods and technology products. It provided “protections” for U.S. “investors.”
Hillary Clinton has a credibility problem when it comes to our country’s trade policies and the resulting enormous, humongous trade deficits that measure job loss – especially with regard to the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
But Clinton has a chance to shore up her credibility with Democratic voters on this issue. It comes as President Obama, Wall Street and the multinational corporations are preparing to grease the skids for pushing the TPP through Congress in the post-election “lame duck” session.
Clinton, Credibility And Free Trade
Following months of demands that she take a position on the trade agreement, Clinton stated during an October PBS Newshour interview (just before the first debate with candidate Bernie Sanders) that TPP could, “… end up doing more harm than good for hard-working American families whose paychecks have barely budged in years.”
Unfortunately for Clinton, few believe she means it. The business community, for example, sees Clinton’s position as simple posturing to voters for the election, believing she will switch back to supporting the agreement immediately after the election, as Obama did on NAFTA after promising throughout the 2008 campaign to renegotiate the agreement.
Buckeye State voters in both parties delivered wins to trade-friendly candidates on Tuesday—and denied them to a pair who staked their claims on pledges to oppose new deals, starting with the Trans Pacific Partnership. That outcome was in doubt after Ohio’s neighbors to the north in Michigan last week voted for reality-show billionaire Donald Trump and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, the most aggressive trade foes in the field.
But in Ohio, Hillary Clinton and home-state Gov. John Kasich prevailed.
The business community doesn’t believe for a minute that Clinton really opposes TPP.
Working-class voters have a similar problem, solidly identifying Clinton with free-trade positions. Candidate Bernie Sanders has used this perception against her, winning Michigan and Wisconsin and gaining on her in Ohio and other states. These wins were a result of campaigning as a candidate who will restore balance to our country’s trade policies, as opposed to Clinton as a candidate favoring agreements that send jobs out of the country and who has even said such offshoring “is probably a plus for the economy in the long run.”
President Obama Presents Clinton With An Opportunity To Restore Credibility
President Obama is presenting Clinton with an opportunity to restore her credibility on TPP. Politico’s Morning Trade reported on Monday that the Obama administration is ramping up “a process” for “pushing for TPP approval in Congress.”
The escalating anti-trade rhetoric emerging from the presidential election isn’t striking any fear in the heart of President Barack Obama or decreasing his willingness to send the TPP to Congress for approval, Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker said in an interview with Pro Trade’s Doug Palmer.
“This president is not intimidated and he’s not afraid to act here,” she said. “We have a process we have to go through first. We reviewed the process this week, so we could understand all the steps. This president is fully committed to TPP, as is our administration and, frankly, as is the business community.”
Pritzker said she met with the CEOs and former CEOs of Caterpillar, Boeing and the Campbell Soup Company in recent days to talk about “the efforts their companies are going to make” as well as the efforts of the Business Roundtable, which Caterpillar CEO Doug Oberhelman chairs. She added that businesses are “raring to go” when it comes to pushing for TPP approval in Congress.
Also in Monday’s Morning Trade, another Obama official says “there will be an opportunity to get TPP done this year,” likely meaning after the election:
National Economic Council Director Jeff Zients argued forcefully on Friday for Congress to approve TPP. … “So I am very confident that there will be an opportunity to get TPP done this year, and we’ve got to do everything we can to get it done because, if we don’t, there’s no guarantee when we’ll have our next shot,” he said, arguing the trade deal matters to U.S. workers and businesses. “I can assure you it matters to this president, which is why he will be doing everything he can to get TPP done.”
Obama’s push for TPP therefore harms Clinton as she tries to be seen by voters as the Obama successor. Voters hate the TPP. Having that threat of its passage after the election hanging out there only harms Clinton in the eyes of the electorate. Candidate Clinton has an opportunity to address her TPP credibility problem by asking Obama to withdraw TPP from consideration by Congress, and calling on her supporters and endorsers in Congress to join her in demanding that the agreement be withdrawn.
Should our own government help oligarchs, billionaires and their corporations, criminals and terrorists hide their loot, launder their funds, and drain countries and their governments of needed revenue? Or should our government try to help stop this?
So far our government has too often been on the side of the bad guys.
Criminals, drug cartels, human traffickers, arms dealers, tax evaders, corrupt politicians, terrorists, oligarchs and plutocrats can use anonymous, secret shell corporations in tax-haven countries to stash, launder and hide their money. There are trillions of dollars of hidden wealth, much of it accumulated through crime and corruption. The secrecy is draining governments around the world of badly needed tax revenue, and it is enhancing and accelerating poverty and inequality.
A new report finds that around the world the extremely wealthy have accumulated at least $21 trillion in secretive offshore accounts. That’s a sum equal to the gross domestic products of the United States and Japan added together. The number may sound unbelievable, but the study was conducted by James Henry, former chief economist at the consultancy McKinsey, an expert on tax havens and offshoring. It was commissioned by Tax Justice Network, a British activist group.
The Panama Papers
The Panama Papers exposé by The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists has helped expose how certain countries enable the world’s plutocrats, outlaws, corrupt leaders, terrorists, warmongers, and the rest of the worst to use tax havens and anonymous shell corporations to hide their wealth, dodge taxes, dodge sanctions and even drain the wealth of countries. The reporting so far shows that just one Panama company had created up to 215,000 offshore shell companies for 14,153 clients. The reports link 143 politicians (or their families and close associates) to the use of tax havens to shield huge amounts of money. Again, this is from just one company in just one tax-haven, anonymous shell corporation-enabling country.
This also exposes how our own government is sometimes a party to enabling, even encouraging this activity. Our own government allows anonymous shell corporations here at home, and does not fight countries that enable them abroad when it negotiates so-called “trade” agreements that are supposed to lay down rules for financial interaction.
So-Called “Trade” Agreements, For Example
Our government negotiates what are called “trade” agreements with other countries. These negotiations are an opportunity to set up the rules for financial interactions between countries.
The 2012 U.S.- Panama Trade Promotion Agreement is promoted by our own U.S. Trade Representative’s office as “a comprehensive free trade agreement that provides elimination of tariffs and removes barriers to U.S. services, including financial services.” This agreement was an opportunity to fight global tax evasion, shell-corporation secrecy and other results of Panama’s bank and corporate secrecy. We could have negotiated to require an end to bank secrecy and shell corporations. But bank and corporate secrecy were not even part of the negotiations.
This demonstrates how the warped priorities of our “trade” process are hurting not just U.S. citizens and government but all citizens and governments.
Before the Panama trade agreement was approved, individuals, organizations and even politicians warned repeatedly that the agreement would enhance the ability of corporations and individuals to hide wealth and taxable income from governments and criminal investigators.
In 2011, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, for example, gave a speech on the Senate floor opposing the trade agreement, warning that Panama’s entire economic output at the time was obviously too low to be of any benefit to American workers. “Then why would we be considering a stand-alone free-trade agreement with Panama?” Sanders said the real reason for the agreement is that “Panama is a world leader when it comes to allowing wealthy Americans and large corporations to evade taxes.” He said it “will make this bad situation much worse.”
It’s so easy for U.S. corporations to set up an offshore tax haven in Panama, an intern could do it. Really! To make this point, Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch division had one of its interns call up some Panamanian law firms for advice on starting up a shell company.
“Panamanian corporations basically pay no taxes on foreign-derived income,” one man explained to the intern, Jessica. Another said: “You’re protected by the strictest banking secrecy laws in the world,” thereby “totally removing you from the legal trail.”
Public Citizen was warning that the Panama Free Trade Agreement (FTA) did not fight and in fact further enabled the secrecy:
“It would give investors registered in Panama new rights to challenge U.S. anti-tax haven regulations and other initiatives for taxpayer-funded compensation,” said Todd Tucker, research director for Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch division, in an interview with The Huffington Post.
… Tucker said that the Panama FTA would compromise the Obama administration’s recently-announced crackdown on tax havens, which the president said would save $210 billion over the next decade. (A 2008 Senate report estimated that the U.S. loses $100 billion to tax havens every year.)
With so many groups and individuals warning that the Panama agreement would boost the ability of people and corporations to dodge U.S. taxes using subsidiary shell corporations and secret bank accounts, the Obama administration announced in 2010 a “Tax Information Exchange Agreement with Panama.” This agreement had a loophole letting Panama to set aside tax transparency provisions if Panama decides they are “contrary to the public policy” of Panama. Of course, Panama invoked the loophole because so much of Panama’s income comes from bank secrecy, tax-free status and the ability to set up anonymous Panama shell corporations.
This week Public Citizen’s Lori Wallach issued a statement on the revelations in The Panama Papers:
“Nearly five years after the U.S.-Panama Free Trade Agreement (FTA) vote, the Panama Paper leak proves once again how entirely cynical and meaningless are the American presidents’ and corporate boosters’ lavish promises of economic benefits and policy reforms from trade agreements. The top promise about the benefit of the U.S.-Panama FTA was that it would end Panama’s financial crime secrecy protections and tax haven and money laundering activities, but what this leak shows is that, if anything, Panama’s outrageous financial crime facilitation has intensified while the FTA’s investor protections and official U.S. stamp of approval have increased inflows of dirty money to Panama.
The silver lining in the Panama Papers scandal is that the world’s attention is being focused on a global problem in which the wealthy and powerful act beyond the reach of law, playing by a different set of rules from the rest of us. The United States does not have to go it alone in addressing this problem. But our elected officials, and the people running to be our next president, should lead. Supporting legislation that supports more transparency would be a start.
Countries that allow banking secrecy, the formation of anonymous shell corporations and tax-haven status should be considered rogue, outlaw countries. There should be international sanctions against individuals and corporations that do any business with such countries. There certainly should not be “free trade” agreements with such countries.
Harmonizing international tax law and prohibiting anonymous shell corporations should be at the center of our trade negotiations. Unfortunately, our corporate/billionaire-dominated trade process appears to have worked toward just the opposite. We the People and all of trade’s stakeholders – labor, consumer, human rights, environmental, democracy and other such groups – need to have seats alongside our businesses and government representatives at the trade negotiating table.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce claims to be “a business federation representing companies, business associations, state and local chambers in the U.S., and American Chambers of Commerce abroad.” They claim to be “the voice of” their members. They are supposed to represent their members.
So what does the Chamber do when it learns that their members support policies that do not align with the right-wing ideology of the “conservative movement”? Do they work to implement the policies their members support? Or do they hire experts to manipulate their members and the public into thinking that businesses do not support what they know their members actually do support? (Hint: they don’t go with their members.)
If the Chamber of Commerce is not really the voice of its members as it claims, whose voice does the Chamber really represent, and why?
Here’s the story. The Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) – the people who exposed ALEC – obtained a confidential poll and webinar done by LuntzGlobal, the polling firm of prominent GOP pollster Frank Luntz, for Chamber of Commerce lobbyists.
The Council of State Chambers (COSC) commissioned Frank Luntz’ firm LuntzGlobal to poll members and potential members, and found they overwhelmingly support progressive policies. The poll of 1,000 local, state and national top senior corporate executives who are either current or prospective Chamber members found that business executives overwhelmingly support progressive policies. Some of the poll results:
● 80 percent of current or prospective Chamber members support raising their state’s minimum wage – only eight percent opposed it,
● 73 percent support paid sick days,
● 78 percent support predictive scheduling policies,
● 72 percent support increased maternity leave time,
● and 82 percent support increased paternity leave time, among other policies.
What did the Chamber do after learning that their members support these policies? In response, the Chamber had Luntz’ firm instruct lobbyists on messaging to use to defeat policies their own members support.
Webinar On How To “Combat” What Its Members Support
LuntzGlobal held a webinar for the Chamber’s Council of State Chambers lobbyists on how to counteract this support, so they can advance their anti-worker agenda. From the webinar:
“So what we’ll try to do is actually give you a few helpful hints on how to actually combat these [workplace reform efforts and their popularity among business leaders] in your states…”
“This webinar reveals just how deeply corporate interests and their lobbyists are influencing the priorities of state Chambers of Commerce, even when that agenda contradicts the opinions of their local business members,” said Lisa Graves, executive director of CMD. “Rather than listening to its members and crafting a policy agenda that reflects their priorities, Chamber lobbyists pick their policy positions behind closed doors and then figure out how to convince their members to fall in line.”
The U.S. Chamber has close ties to some of the largest multinational corporations in the world, including Koch Industries, whose leaders, Charles and David Koch, have funded an array of groups that actively oppose policies like increasing the minimum wage. The Koch brothers’ group Freedom Partners has donated millions to the Chamber of Commerce in recent years. In January, the Council of State Chambers held a session for state lobbyists on “Policy and Politics in 2016,” where Marc Short, then-President of Freedom Partners, was a designated speaker.
The LuntzGlobal survey reflects a national sample of business owners and executives who are registered voters and who are members of the local, state, or U.S. Chamber of Commerce or match the profile of executives that the chambers would want to attract. In all, 73% were CEOs or owners; more than half (59%) had revenues of between $50 million and $500 million; 39% had fewer than 100 employees while another 41% had 100-499 employees. The results included 250 responses per region (East, Midwest, South, West), with results weighted among all states in each region.
Whenever minimum wage increases are proposed on the state or federal level, business groups tend to fight them tooth and nail. But actual opposition may not be as united as the groups’ rhetoric might make it appear, according to internal research conducted by a leading consultant for state chambers of commerce.
The survey of 1,000 business executives across the country was conducted by LuntzGlobal, the firm run by Republican pollster Frank Luntz, and obtained by a liberal watchdog group called the Center for Media and Democracy. … Among the most interesting findings: 80 percent of respondents said they supported raising their state’s minimum wage, while only eight percent opposed it.
There is no force in America that has spent more time and effort to keep wages low than the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the state chambers that aggressively lobby against increasing the minimum wage. The U.S. Chamber is a $165 million dollar lobby shop (2013 990), which raised and spent $35 million in the 2014 election cycle, according to Open Secrets.
“With their internal polls showing that business owners and executives support raising the minimum wage by an overwhelming 80-to-8 percent, it’s unconscionable that the U.S. Chamber and state chambers continue to fight the wage increases that America’s workers and our economy need,” said Christine Owens, executive director of the National Employment Law Project.
You can see videos, transcript, the poll, and presentation slides from the webinar here.
“We knew the tech industry was booming, but we weren’t seeing that translate into an abundance of jobs for our communities – until we looked at the low-wage jobs in contracting industries. Those are growing fast, just like tech profits are. It’s no wonder that one in three working households in Silicon Valley can’t make ends meet when these growing industries pay wages that barely cover rent.”
– Derecka Mehrens, Executive Director of Working Partnerships, USA.
In the last two-and-a-half decades, the number of Silicon Valley “second-class” jobs in potential contract industries has grown three times faster than overall Silicon Valley employment. These contractors and subcontractors jobs are disproportionately filled by Black and Latino workers compared to direct tech employees, and these workers receive much lower wages. As a result, Silicon Valley’s inequality and occupation segregation is amplified, especially among people of color.
The report finds that direct tech employees earn $113,300. Contractor and subcontractor tech industry workers – workers employed indirectly rather than treated as legitimate employees – are paid much less. White-collar workers in contract industries average $53,200 and blue-collar workers in contract industries average $19,900.
Along with this wage differential, as income drops the proportion of the workforce that is comprised of Black and Latino workers goes up. According to the report, Black or Latino workers make up, on average:
● 10 percent of Silicon Valley’s direct tech workforce.
● An estimated 26 percent of the white-collar contract industry workforce.
● An estimated 58 percent of the blue-collar contract industry workforce.
Silicon Valley companies have gotten a lot of heat in recent years for failing to recruit people black and Hispanic people into their ranks. But if you factor in contractors and others whose jobs bring them inside those companies, the industry appears bit more inclusive — just perhaps not in the way one might hope.
At one time in history, the janitors, bus drivers, food service workers, and security guards who staff corporate campuses might have been employed directly by the businesses where they cooked lunches and cleaned floors. That’s become less and less true in recent decades, according to a new analysis of labor data by researchers at the University of California – Santa Cruz — especially in Silicon Valley.
The Road to Responsible Contracting
The report concludes with a section on how companies could contract out jobs responsibly.
Silicon Valley Rising calls on our region’s leading businesses to commit to the following principles:
Responsibility: Ensure that their subcontracted workers are paid a livable wage, receive equitable benefits, have the right to a voice at work without fear of discrimination or retaliation, do not suffer mass layoffs when contracts change hands, and are protected from misclassification and other forms of wage theft.
Transparency: Release public data on their subcontracted workforces, including diversity, pay, and benefit data for each subcontractor.
Inclusion: Invest in building a community where janitors, security officers, cafeteria workers, teachers, nurses, firefighters and other non-tech workers can afford to live. Support access to full-time work, affordable housing, an accessible, world-class public transit system, and high-quality education for low-wage workers and their children.
Opportunity: Work with advocates to explore new approaches to create education and career pathways for contract workers and their families to move into core tech jobs.
The technology industry faces a clear choice. It can continue the status quo of exclusive jobs and exclusionary growth, widening the existing racial, gender and income gaps and accelerating the race to the bottom. Or it can wield its enormous economic influence combined with its capacity for innovative solutions to become a true global pioneer – to not just disrupt markets and technology, but to disrupt inequality.