Silicon Valley Rising Fights To Give Part-Timers “Opportunity to Work”

A grassroots/labor/faith/community coalition called Silicon Valley Rising on Monday went to the San Jose, Calif. City Clerk’s office to submit the “Opportunity to Work” ballot initiative.

The purpose of the initiative is to require employers to offer qualified part-time employees the opportunity to work additional hours before hiring new part-time or temporary employees.

The Problem: Too Much Part-Time Work

Currently one way (of so many ways) employers nationwide take advantage of their workforce is by limiting the hours they can work in order to avoid providing any benefits that might accrue to full-time employees. Instead of upgrading employees to full-time status when they need more work done, they hire additional part-time or temporary workers. The result is that people have to take on multiple jobs just to (barely) get by. The “Opportunity to Work Initiative” is the first such initiative in the country to limit this abusive practice by requiring employers to expand the hours of their current workforce before hiring new people.

Ben Field, Executive Officer of the South Bay AFL-CIO Labor Council said at the event, “A number of employers avoid providing health care and other benefits by hiring new part-time workers instead of giving more hours to current part-time employees. It’s unfair.”

Poncho Guevara, Executive Director of Sacred Heart Community Service explained, “We are seeing so many parents working hard, willing to do whatever they can to support their families, but most part-time workers are unable to cover their most basic needs, such as food and rent. When part-time workers are denied hours, they are pushed further into poverty, making it impossible for them to support their families without the safety net we provide. They want to work. The ‘Opportunity to Work Initiative’ would help many of the families that we serve by giving them the chance to work more hours and hopefully achieve economic stability.”

Fr. Jon Pedigo, Pastor of Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish and member of the Silicon Valley Rising coalition said, “Every day I see how my parishioners struggle to make ends meet because they do not have access to sufficient work hours. This initiative would help these workers support their families by getting enough hours so that their paychecks cover their bills and they can put food on the table.”

Sara Delete, a fast food employee said, “Despite the fact that I work three part-time jobs, I struggle to make ends meet. Every week the number of hours I get changes, so I am never sure what my paycheck will be. Not having access to more work hours means that I am constantly worried about being able to provide for my son, cover my rent and pay the bills.”

Chava Bustamante, Executive Director of Latinos United for a New America said, “The majority of individuals working part-time jobs are people of color. As such, they are disproportionately impacted by the lack of hours, low wages and non-existent benefits.”

Silicon Valley’s Brand Of Inequality

Even though many Silicon Valley companies make enormous profits one in three Silicon Valley households don’t make enough money to even meet their most basic needs.

Companies everywhere use all kinds of schemes to keep “labor costs” low. One way the wages of lower-skilled workers are kept low is through maintaining intentionally high un- and under-employment levels. Public investment in infrastructure and other job-creating areas is reduced, limiting job availability. Teachers, police, health care, child care and other employees and services are cut back. The result is a surplus “reserve army” of hungry people who can be exploited and set against each other in competition for any private-sector jobs that do exist.

In Silicon Valley there is particular demand for workers skilled in such fields as engineering and programming, so tech employers engage in various schemes to keep tech-specialist pay lower than it should be. One scheme is the use of H1-B visas for bringing in workers from other countries. Higher-paid and older American-born tech workers are laid off or their pay is reduced as these workers are brought in at lower pay rates.

Sometimes the tech companies engage in more direct wage suppression. A number of Silicon Valley companies were caught engaging in a conspiracy that worked in a way similar to price-fixing, except it was pay-fixing. The companies made private, illegal deals between each other to limit the pay of their employees by agreeing not to recruit or hire people already at one of the other companies. This kept down competition for these employees, which limited their pay.

Of course the higher-skilled tech workers are not left in poverty and/or struggling to get by, as the (often people of color) lower-skilled workers are. But it is part of the same “rigged” system where the government, “captured” by wealthy interests, not only does not step in with investment that would correct abuses, it is forced to cut back on spending on the very things – such as antidiscrimination, antitrust and other enforcement – that would make a difference in wages, as well as public services to help people affected by the resulting inequality.

The “Google Bus” Effect Of Tax-Dodging On Communities

The use of these and other schemes drive up profits, which the companies then move out of the country to tax havens using various schemes. This defunds government’s ability to provide regulatory enforcement, badly needed public services, and other things that would help fight the inequality that is hurting so many people.

One example of the effect of this government defunding is Silicon Valley’s poor transportation system. There is minimal investment in public transportation options. The rail, road and other infrastructure is poorly maintained and overwhelmed. Meanwhile the wealthy tech companies provide their employees with a private transportation system. Modern, usually white buses known generically as “Google buses” (though companies like Facebook, Genentech, Apple and others have their own fleets as well) take employees from home to work to areas with popular restaurants, etc. while the rest of the people are stuck in traffic jams, squeeze into already-filled trains on their limited routes or wait for the few public buses that operate.

Silicon Valley Rising‘s website states: “Silicon Valley Rising is taking on occupational segregation and severe income inequality with a comprehensive campaign to raise wages, create affordable housing and build a tech economy that works for everyone.”

What is the purpose of our government and economy – to serve a few already-wealthy people and their corporations or to serve We the People? If passed, Silicon Valley Rising’s “Opportunity to Work Initiative” would help hard-working families by helping providing the work hours they need to get by.

The initiative requires 20,000 signatures to make it onto the November ballot.

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This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF. Sign up here for the CAF daily summary and/or for the Progress Breakfast.

Clinton’s Pre-Iowa Assault On Sanders’ Medicare-For-All Plan

As the Iowa caucuses draw near and as Bernie Sanders closes in on Hillary Clinton in the polls, Clinton has started “attacking” (media word) Sanders’ proposals for providing universal health care through a Medicare-for-All plan.

The corporate media largely covers the horse-race aspect of this as an entertainment item. Here is a look at the substance of Clinton’s assertions.

Medicare For All

Sanders has proposed replacing “Obamacare,” the Affordable Care Act mandate to purchase insurance from private companies, with a Medicare-for-All, “single-payer,” “universal heath care” plan. In other words, he proposes to extend (and expand) the current Medicare system to cover every American so they can stop having to locate and purchase private insurance policies. Sanders’ plan would also end the need for other government health programs, including Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).

Medicare for All is very popular, especially among Democrats. The December 2015 Kaiser Health Tracking poll found that 58 percent of Americans support it (34 percent strongly), with 81 percent of Democrats and 6 in 10 independents saying they favor the idea. “This is compared to 34 percent who say they oppose it, including 25 percent who strongly oppose it,” the poll said. Among Republicans, 63 percent say they oppose it.

Proposing Medicare for All is not just the right policy for the country, it is very smart politics.

Clinton Attacks

Clinton claims that Sanders’ plan would require a big tax hike. Politico reports this claim, in “Clinton hits Sanders on middle class tax hikes“:

“Bernie Sanders has called for a roughly 9-percent tax hike on middle-class families just to cover his health-care plan,” said Clinton spokesman Brian Fallon, referring to legislation Sanders introduced in 2013, “and simple math dictates he’ll need to tax workers even more to pay for the rest of his at least $18-20 trillion agenda. If you are truly concerned about raising incomes for middle-class families, the last thing you should do is cut their take-home pay right off the bat by raising their taxes.”

More recently, Clinton’s daughter Chelsea claimed that Sanders’ Medicare-for-All plan would “dismantle Medicare” and “strip millions and millions and millions of people off their health insurance.” (Clinton later stood by her daughter’s statement.) The Huffington Post reported:

“Sen. Sanders wants to dismantle Obamacare, dismantle the [Children’s Health Insurance Program], dismantle Medicare, and dismantle private insurance,” she said, according to an account from NBC News. “I worry if we give Republicans Democratic permission to do that, we’ll go back to an era – before we had the Affordable Care Act – that would strip millions and millions and millions of people off their health insurance.”

The Clinton campaign also said that Sanders’ plan would “send health insurance to the states, turning over your and my health insurance to governors” including Republican governors like Iowa’s Terry Branstad. “I don’t believe number one we should be starting over. We had enough of a fight to get to the Affordable Care Act. So I don’t want to rip it up and start over,” Clinton said.

Sanders Campaign’s Response

Sanders campaign spokeswoman Ariana Jones responded:

“It is time for the United States to join the rest of the industrialized world and provide health care as a right to every man, woman, and child. A Medicare-For-All plan will save the average middle-class family $5,000 a year. Further, the Clinton campaign is wrong. Our plan will be implemented in every state in the union regardless of who is governor.”

Sanders himself explained his health care plan and his strategic thinking behind it in an interview Wednesday with MSNBC’s Chris Hayes. The claim of $5,000 a year in savings for average middle-class families refers to the plan’s elimination of ever-increasing private insurance premiums, co-pays and deductibles that people currently have to pay under Obamacare. People would end up paying less and in many cases much less – an average of $5,000 each year. Companies would also no longer have to provide health insurance coverage for employees.

On the claim that Sanders’ has a “$18-20 trillion agenda,” switching to Medicare for All would replace the current costs of Medicaid, CHIP, Obamacare and other healthcare programs. Sanders’ plan would actually cost fewer trillions in the future than continuing the current system. The large “trillions” figure is misleading because it does not take into account the cost of the current system of Medicare for people over 65, Medicaid, CHIP, current Obamacare subsidies and other government health programs that would be replaced by Sanders’ plan. Left alone these would add up to more than Sanders’ plan.

Since Sanders’ plan also removes private-company profits from the system, this “Sanders agenda” amount is actually lower than the cost of continuing with the current system. (It also includes Sanders’ plans to repair the country’s infrastructure, cut college costs, and the rest of his proposals. Note that Sanders has outlined specific revenue sources to cover the costs of the proposals.)

The claim that Sanders’ plan would “strip millions and millions and millions of people off their health insurance” is perhaps the most misleading and disingenuous claim of all. People would not be “stripped” of their insurance; everyone would get Medicare instead so people would not need “insurance.” Clinton’s “strip” wording here implies that millions of people would lose health care, when in fact they would only lose the need to pay insurance premiums, co-pays and deductibles.

[fve]https://youtu.be/ABwdClfKwHQ[/fve]

Sanders responded to this respectfully, saying, “As much as I admire Chelsea Clinton, she didn’t read the plan.”

Old-Style Politics

Clinton’s accusations over Sanders’ Medicare-for-All proposal are not based on the actual policy proposals. They misrepresent the positions and are misleading at best. Some call this “blatantly dishonest.”

“Muddying the waters” by implying that “millions and millions and millions” of people will be “stripped” of their insurance, when the proposal actually replaces insurance is the kind of politics-of-the-past that people have rejected, even come to despise. Telling people they will have to pay a “tax” when the proposal actually reduces the amounts people will pay out of their pocket is misleading at best.

These accusations come out of an old style of politicking that is void of substance and depends on manipulation of people’s understanding of issues. Misleading people by misrepresenting the policy positions in this way borders on a character attack instead of contrasting policy positions. It is a politics of personality versus the politics of issues that Sanders is popularizing.

Here is Clinton in 2008, talking about Democrats who attack proposals for universal health care, as Clinton has done to Sanders’ plan this year:

[fve]https://youtu.be/hFOujExdPpw[/fve]

Sanders is campaigning on what the country should be doing. Clinton is now campaigning on why she should be president instead of on what she would do as president. She is trying to turn people against Sanders instead of winning them over to her. She is using misrepresentations and deceptions, not serious and constructive policy disputes. This should be rejected by voters.

Worse, misrepresenting Sanders’ positions in this way risks reinforcing voter apprehension about Clinton’s “trustability” as well as about the entire political process. At a time when voters crave honesty, Clinton’s attack reinforces arguments that Sanders offers an “authenticity” and consistency that Clinton does not. Clinton should return to offering policies to solve the country’s actual and important problems and stop trying to turn voters against opponents and the process itself.

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This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF. Sign up here for the CAF daily summary and/or for the Progress Breakfast.

The Country Is Moving Left

It might not seem so in the middle of a day’s news cycle, especially with that news always being about Donald Trump, but 2015 marked a year of change in a progressive direction. And the country is solidly behind this move.

Progressive Victories In 2015

The country is moving in a progressive direction. In November, OurFuture.org’s Terrance Heath wrote in Progressive Victories from Maine to Washington Inspire Hope,

Off-year elections are almost never good for progressives, and 2015 is no exception. But this off-year election held some surprising victories for progressives in Maine, Ohio, Washington and elsewhere that could lay the foundation for more victories to come.

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Lack Of Public Options Shows How The Economy Gets Rigged Against Us

In a country with a Constitution beginning with the words, “We the People,” should our economy work for all of us instead of just a few of us? You would think it should work for We the People, but example after example shows how it is actually rigged to work for only a few people.

Postal Banking

Last week, in “Citizens Deliver 150K Petitions Demanding Postal Banking,” made the point: “We can continue to have a rigged system that enables and encourages predators to take advantage of the public, or we can offer public options that protect and provide services for the public.”

Here is a new video of the speakers at the Postal Banking petition delivery:

[fve]https://youtu.be/zAwC3VyWGH4[/fve]

Nearly 28 percent of U.S. households (54 percent of African-American households) are forced to turn to payday lenders, check-cashers and other financial predators, because they can’t get accounts at private banks. Postal banking — having the post office offer simple savings accounts, bill paying, debit card and ATM services and small loans — would provide low-cost financial services through the nation’s 30,000 U.S. Post Offices.

Every other developed country has a postal banking option to serve their people. We do not. Because we do not, if Americans can’t get a bank account they are forced to rely on predatory services. That rigs the financial services game against We the People.

Health Care

If you need to see a doctor in England you just do, and you don’t have to pay to do it. Almost every other developed country provides health care to serve their people. We do not. We are instead on our own — forced to purchase private insurance with its high deductibles and co-pays.

We are banned by law from buying into Medicare until we are 65 — and Republicans are trying to get rid of that by turning Medicare into a limited voucher to buy private scam insurance. That rigs the health care game against We the People.

Telecommunications

How about our internet service? Did you know that municipalities — or the Post Office — could offer us “public option” high-speed internet at a very low cost? (In many countries their Post Office offers internet and phone options to the people.) But by and large we don’t get a public option. Instead we have to rely on telecommunications monopolies who deliver slow broadband speeds and make us pay whatever they say we have to pay. (And don’t forget the fees!) This rigs the internet/telecommunications game against We the People.

Public Options Forbidden

We have been through decades of “privatization” – turning public services over to private enterprise. They lay off the well-paid, unionized public employees and hire people at minimum wage. This cuts the tax base, hits local businesses, and forces foreclosures. On top of that, minimum-age employees require public services like food stamps just to get by.

The privatizers justify that by saying that private businesses always do everything better than government. But if We the People decide that we want to provide ourselves with a public option for a service, this is banned because it would be “unfair competition” with the private sector.

Why would it be unfair competition? Because government offers economy of scale, public oversight of operations, transparency, higher standards, good service, and most of all doesn’t have to push all the gains to a few people at the top. This last is, by the way, the real reason for privatization — to push all the gains to a few people at the top.

Our government is meant to serve We the People, instead of just some people. When We the People are not allowed to offer each other public options, it rigs the economy against us and in favor of an already-wealthy few.

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This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF. Sign up here for the CAF daily summary and/or for the Progress Breakfast.

Citizens Deliver 150K Petitions Demanding Postal Banking

“The United States has two separate banking systems today – one serving the well-to-do and another exploiting everyone else,” – Prof. Mehrsa Baradaran, author of How the Other Half Banks.

“Car title loan for $1200.00. $300 a month interest. They are killing me and no way to pay back the loan. I dont know what to do! Can you help?” – Marta, IN

We can continue to have a rigged system that enables and encourages predators to take advantage of the public, or we can offer public options that protect and provide services for the public.

Wednesday the Campaign for Postal Banking, Campaign for America’s Future and dozens of other national consumer, labor, and civic organizations delivered petitions signed by more than 150,000 Americans, asking the USPS Postmaster General to implement Postal Banking. Postal Banking would provide low-cost financial services through the nation’s 30,000 U.S. Post Offices.

CAF’s Roger Hickey spoke at the event, saying,

“I’m here to call attention to all the groups you haven’t heard from today.

The idea of Postal Banking is so simple, so innovative — that when people hear about it, they say Yes!!!. Why not?

Despite attempts in Congress to sabotage the Postal Service, Post Offices are still everywhere in America

… postal banking would be a god-send in communities where banks are leaving – and where “Payday loan” and “car title” loan predators suck the financial blood out of the working poor.

…the bankers, and the payday loan ripoff artists — and the conservative enemies of the Postal Service had better get out of the way.”

CAF’s Roger Hickey at the petition-delivery event.

Why Postal Banking?

While every other developed country has Postal Banking to serve their people, America’s rigged, Wall Street-dominated system gives great banking services to people with money but squat to those who do not. As a result of this rigged system, nearly 28 percent of U.S. households are forced to turn to payday lenders, check-cashers and other financial predators. They end up having to spend an average of 10 percent of their income on fees and services.

If this reminds people of the way the US health care system only offers predatory insurance companies with no “public option”, there’s a reason. The US Postal Service (USPS) could provide an affordable, high quality “public-option” alternative right now. But in our rigged system, it doesn’t. Postal Banking is a non-profit banking “public option” that would both serve Americans who need this service — and help preserve the USPS at a time when it is under attack by the same privatizers who have rigged the rest of our system against us.

It would be simple for the USPS to set up Postal Banking. The USPS offered savings deposit accounts until 1967. It still offers money orders and international wire transfers. They have the authority to expand this. Adding savings accounts, bill paying, ATM services and other services would be easy. And this is why Wall Street is fighting to keep it from doing so.

A May 15 report from the USPS Inspector General David Williams said, “Offering expanded financial services would help the Postal Service improve the lives of millions of Americans as it fulfills its universal service obligation.”

“The sad part is that the people who go to loan stores can’t get a loan from the bank because, they either have bad or no credit to get approved. The loan stores take advantage of this and make a bad situation worse. It is completely unethical and a sad picture of the way humanity is on a downward spiral.” – Heather, WI

“I am caught in the payday loans cycle… I cannot afford to pay them off so I have to continue borrowing month after month and it is draining me.” – Toni, KS

See also:

The Campaign for Postal Banking website

This Postal Banking Petition Is Important

Sanders Pushes Postal Banking

Postal Workers And The Public Want A Postal Banking Public Option

A “Grand Alliance” To Save Our Public Postal Service

Why We Need Postal Banking: Statements from Leaders

The Need for Postal Banking: Personal Stories

How The Clinton and Sanders Infrastructure Plans Measure Up

“Investing in infrastructure makes our economy more productive and competitive across the board.”
– Hillary Clinton

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has announced a plan for infrastructure investment. How does her plan stack up against that of her chief competitor, Bernie Sanders?

Also, how will Clinton and Sanders pay for their plans? On that question, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) recently came up with a set of principles we can use to judge this.

Clinton’s Infrastructure Plan

Clinton on Monday announced a plan for investing in infrastructure improvements. Meteor Blades laid out the need for infrastructure investment at Daily Kos in “Clinton proposes $275 billion spending for infrastructure“:

… 11 percent of the nation’s bridges are structurally deficient and a fourth of them are functionally obsolete. Similar deficiencies can be found in schools, dams, levees, railroads, the electrical grid, and wastewater facilities. In its 2013 quadrennial report card on U.S. infrastructure, the American Society of Civil Engineers said the nation would need to invest an additional $1.6 trillion by 2020 to put its infrastructure into good repair. And that doesn’t include innovative infrastructure like universal broadband.

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Warren Draws Contrast: Give Social Security Recipients A CEO-Sized Raise

CEOs got an average 3.9 percent pay increase last year. This increase is subsidized by taxpayers because corporations can deduct it as an expense.

Meanwhile, America’s struggling seniors will receive no cost-of-living allowance (COLA) increase next year because the COLA doesn’t take into account the things seniors need to buy. If only there were some way to make an adjustment that fixes this discrepancy…

The SAVE Benefits Act

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) introduced the Seniors and Veterans Emergency Benefits Act (SAVE Benefits Act). If passed, the act would provide a one-time 3.9 percent ($580 on average) payment for Social Security recipients, disabled veterans and SSI recipients in 2016. This week, Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.) introduced a companion bill in the House.

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Sanders’ Socialism Speech: America Is For All Of Us, Not Just Wealthy

“I don’t believe in some foreign “ism”, but I believe deeply in American idealism.”
– Senator Bernie Sanders

Sen. Bernie Sanders billed his talk Thursday at Georgetown University as a speech on “democratic socialism,” but it was immediately clear that what Sanders was really talking about were not the ideologies of a Cold War adversary but deeply American traditions of fairness that have been under attack by ideologues brandishing American flags.

Sanders anchored his speech as building on President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s 1944 “Second Bill of Rights” address. “Real freedom must include economic security.” he said. “That was Roosevelt’s vision 70 years ago. It is my vision today. It is a vision that we have not yet achieved. It is time that we did.”

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Sanders Pushes Postal Banking

Senator and presidential candidate Bernie Sanders has once again added his voice to a growing movement to bring banking to the United States Postal Service (USPS).

“I want to see our post office be reinvigorated,” Sanders said in a Fusion interview this week with Felix Salmon, and postal banking is “one of the ways that I think we can help not only the U.S. Postal Service, but help a lot of low-income people.”

Situation: Exploitation

Millions of Americans are “unbanked,” meaning they do not have (and cannot get) bank accounts for one reason or another. This means they cannot easily cash checks, pay bills, save a bit of money, get a small loan in an emergency and other simple and basic banking services. This leaves them vulnerable in the predatory path of payday lenders and check cashing services, where exploitative fees and incredibly high interests rates eat them alive and leave them poorer than ever.

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Run For Congress As A Democratic Socialist

Bernie Sanders is going to give a big speech on Democratic Socialism.

I think this presents an opportunity for people to run for Congress in Democratic primaries — or as the ONLY Democrat is some districts — as Democratic Socialists. I’m looking at how to register to run in my district.

You might not win but I think it makes sense to make the case for — and get people thinking about — taxing the rich, corporations and Wall Street transactions and using the money to provide:
● Increases in Social Security
● Medicare-for-All
● Free higher education with a stipend while attending
● Low-cost child care
● Help elderly stay in homes and low-cost nursing home care
● Modern mass transit, high-speed rail, etc.
● Well-maintained modern infrastructure (and associated jobs)
● A huge push to solar, wind and other alternative energy, with a weatherization program (and associated jobs)
(The “associated jobs’ thingy is part of a full-employment program.)

Think of other things that We the People can do together to make our lives better — also known as democratic government for the people.

Bernie Sanders Describes Socialism

Here is Bernie describing “socialism”

Free college, free nursing homes, free child care, free health care, 5-6 weeks vacation, fewer working hours, good pensions, great transportation, cleaner environment, other things. They also have low govt debt compared to countries that are run to channel $$ to the corporations and billionaires.

This is what happens when a government is run for its people — “socialism” — instead of a few wealthy people — “capitalism”.