On August 18, Mayor Mitch Landrieu signed into law a new living wage ordinance for New Orleans’ city contractors and financial assistance recipients.
“If you’re working full-time, you should not be living below the poverty line,” Landrieu said.
The ordinance was sponsored by Councilmember Jared Brossett. It will apply to city contractors with contracts worth at least $25,000 and to companies or organizations that receive more than $100,000 in financial assistance from the city, including subsidies and tax breaks, over a 12-month period. Covered businesses must also provide workers with seven days of paid sick leave annually.
TakePart’s profile of the workers who came to help rebuild New Orleans 10 years ago and who remain, despite wage theft and discrimination. Their story is very much the heart of the Workplace Justice Project and the Wage Claim Clinic and is still an essential element of the landscape for low-wage workers in New Orleans.
By Jazmin Woods, Loyola University
El Secretario de Seguridad Nacional anunció DACA (la acción diferida de niños llegados) el 15 de Junio 2012, un programa que concede cualificados niños indocumentados alivio temporal de deportación. DACA de 2012 permite que los niños queden en los Estados Unidos por 2 años extras y obtiene trabajo. El 20 de Noviembre de 2014, el Presidente Obama anunció una extensión de DACA, que concede inmigrantes deportación deferida por 3 años en lugar de 2, y decrece el máximo requisito de edad para los candidatos de 31 años de edad a 16. Los inmigrantes pueden aplicarse por la extensión de DACA si cumplan las siguientes cualificaciones:
- Llegó a los Estados Unidos antes de se cumplió 16 años
- Ha vivido en los Estados Unidos desde el 1 de enero en 2010
- Estaba presente físicamente en los Estados Unidos el 15 de junio en 2012 y ya lo hizo un solicitud de una acción deferida con servicios de ciudadanía e inmigración de los estados unidos
- En este momento esta asistiendo una escuela, ha graduado o obtenido diploma de equivalencia general
- Haya cumplido honorablemente servicios de fuerzas armadas o la guardia costera de los Estados Unidos
- No haya condenado un delito, una falta significante o 3 o más faltas
- No haya pasado por una amenaza
En el 20 de Noviembre de 2014 el Presidente Obama también anunció DAPA (Acción diferida de los padres de americanos y los residentes permanentes legales), un programa que permite los padres que han vivido en los estados unidos hasta 2010 y son padres de las ciudanías americanas o residentes permanentes legales exención de deportación por 3 años y un permite de trabajo. Una persona cualifica por DAPA si cumpla las siguientes cualificaciones:
- Ha vivido en los estado unidos hasta el 10 de enero de 2010 ininterrumpido
- Ha estado en los estados unidos hasta el 20 de noviembre de 2014 cuando el programa fue anunciado
- Tenga un hijo en los estados unidos que ha estado desde el 20 de noviembre de 2014 y sea un ciudadano americano o un residente permanente legal
- Esta aquí fiscalmente cuando esta aplicando por el programa
- No ha condenado de un delito, una falta significante o 3 o más faltas
- No presente una amenaza al publico o a la seguridad nacional
Se considera que aproximadamente 3.7 de millones de inmigrantes son/sean elegibles para DACA. Esta información es del sitio de web de USCIS; para más información sobre DACA y DAPA, visita www.uscis.gov o llame 1 (800) 375-5283.
Secretary of Homeland Security first announced DACA (Deferred Action for Children Arrivals) on June 15th, 2012 a program that grants qualified undocumented immigrant children temporary relief from deportation. DACA of 2012 allowed the children to stay in the United States for an extra 2 years and obtain work authorization. On November 20th, 2014 President Obama announced the extension of DACA, which grants immigrants deferred deportation for 3 years instead of 2 and lessens the maximum age requirement for applicants from 31 years of age to 16. Immigrants can apply for Extended DACA if they meet the following qualifications:
- Came to United States before their 16th birthday
- Have lived in the United States since January 1st, 2010
- Have no lawful status on June 15th, 2012
- Were physically present in the United States on June 15th, 2012 and made a deferred action request with United States Citizenship and Immigration Services
- Are currently enrolled in school, have graduated, or obtained a GED
- Were honorably discharged from United States armed forces or United States Coast Guard
- Have not been convicted of a felony, a significant misdemeanor or 3 or more misdemeanors
- Do not pose as a threat to the public or to national security
On November 20th, 2014 President Obama also announced DAPA (Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents), a program which allows parents who have lived in the United States since 2010 and are parents of American citizens or lawful permanent residents exemption from deportation for 3 years and a working permit. A person qualifies for DAPA if they meet the following qualifications:
- Have lived in the United States since January 10th, 2010 uninterrupted
- Have been in the United States since November 20th, 2014 when the program was announced
- Has a child in the United States who has been here since November 20th, 2014 and is an American citizen or a lawful permanent resident
- Are physically present when applying for the program
- Have not been convicted of a felony, a significant misdemeanor or 3 or more misdemeanors
- Do not pose as threat to the public or to national security
It is estimated that around 3.7 million undocumented immigrants are eligible for DACA. The following information is from the USCIS website; for more information regarding DACA and DAPA, please visit www.uscis.gov or call 1 (800) 375-5283.
By Juchan Rim, Tulane University
The Work in the South Conference—hosted by the Workplace Justice Project (WJP)—brought up many important topics of debate. The panels focused on the historic background of low-wage work since World War II, an overview of the southern labor market, and possible solutions to the challenges that low-wage workers face, which include wage theft, racial and employee discrimination, and little to no employee benefits, especially in the South.
The federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour and $2.13 for tipped workers, a wage that is barely enough to live on. The state of Louisiana, along with five other states, does not have a minimum wage; businesses with a net income of less than $500,000 that do not conduct interstate commerce do not have to comply to the minimum wage law. Additionally, the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 has the 14c exemption which allows employers to base disabled workers’ wages off their productivity without complying with the federal minimum wage law. In the Bureau of Labor Statistics of 2013, about 1.5 million workers age 16 and over earned the federal minimum wage, while another 1.8 million earned below the federal minimum wage. Annual incomes depend on gender, age, and ethnicity; in 2011, men earned an average of $48,202 while women earned $37,118. Real median household income was the lowest among African Americans and Hispanics, at $32,229 and $38,624 respectively, while White and Asian Americans earned $55,412 and $65,129 respectively. How did this come to be?
In the period between the Civil War and World War II, black southerners experienced institutional racism; author Douglas A. Blackmon has called this period “the Age of Neoslavery”. At the end of the Civil War, the Thirteenth Amendment was passed, which abolished slavery with the exception of a punishment for a crime. However, southern states—whose economies (run mainly by cotton and slave labor) were devastated by the war—passed laws known as the Black Codes, which restricted African Americans’ freedom and forced them to work for little to no wages. One of the defining laws in these Black Codes was the vagrancy law, which allowed authorities to arrest unemployed free African Americans and force them into either county labor or private employment (convict-leasing system)—prisoners could be a source of revenue for southern states. Slaves were replaced with convicts and the working conditions were often brutal. The convict-leasing system became a source for economic development in the South.
By 1890, 19,000 people were imprisoned, 90% of whom were African American men. The growth of the Southern economy (industrialization and agriculture) helped the U.S rise to become a global economic leader. Employers in the south also relied on peonage (which was outlawed by Congress in 1867), and sharecropping (which required African Americans to take out loans with interest rates above 60%). This racial segregation and exploitation restricted the lives of southern African Americans, and prevented them from integrating into American life. Poverty was widespread, and institutional racism intensified. Racial segregation was upheld by the U.S Supreme Court in the separate but equal doctrine. By the turn of the century, peonage laws were enforced, but many of those found guilty were lightly punished or pardoned. In 1909, the NAACP was formed, which called for the reformation of the justice system and labor laws in the South. African Americans started joining the NAACP and labor unions. Finally, in December 1941, President Franklin Roosevelt’s attorney general Francis Biddle issued Circular No. 3591 as part of the war effort; this enforced the prosecution of those guilty of involuntary servitude (Slavery By Another Name).
The Wagner Act was passed in 1935, and is a labor law that guarantees basic rights to private sector employees to organize labor unions and engage in collective bargaining and collective action. It faced opposition by the Republican Party, and soon after World War II ended, the Taft-Hartley Act was passed, which restricted the activities and powers of labor unions, and prohibited radicals as union leaders. It was passed by Congress as a response to the Strike wave of 1946. Millions of veterans returned home after the war; Congress passed the G.I. Bill of Rights which encouraged home ownership and higher education. The U.S experienced a golden era of economic growth, with a boom in manufacturing and consumerism. The GDP grew, the middle class prospered, and labor union membership peaked in the 1950s. Military spending also soared because of the Cold War and Korean War. The economic boom came to an end in the early 1970s with the collapse of the Bretton Woods system in 1971 (the U.S ended convertibility of the U.S dollar to gold), the 1973 oil crisis, the 1973-74 stock market crash, and the growing inflow of imported goods. The economy experienced stagflation during the 1970s. Income inequality also shot up drastically during this decade, a period known as the Great Divergence. Income inequality has been growing ever since and is correlated with the decline in labor unions, globalization, and privatization (Dezhao).
The outsourcing of jobs into the private sector has had very negative effects on the middle and working class communities. It has contributed to an increasing income gap; the rich get richer while the poor get poorer. Income is shifting towards the wealthy, who tend to spend less than the middle class, slowing down economic growth. Profits are concentrated into private corporations and therefore are not used for public benefits and costs. The private sector is usually not as efficient as the government, as their main objective is to make money. This could cause an inferior quality of goods and services and cuts in essential services such as the water supply and electricity. This also means less transparency, wage cuts, and fewer work benefits. Throughout the years, private industries have fought to drive down the costs of their goods and services in order to maximize profitability. These industries focused on employing non-unionized workers and fought against private sector unions. This negatively affected the bargaining power and abilities of private sector unions. As a result, private sector unions have been declining in numbers (Moberg).
The decrease in labor unions, particularly private sector unions, is correlated with a decrease in wages and employee benefits; in 2012, union workers earned about 20% more than non-unionized workers. Labor unions have been less prominent today than in the past: union membership has halved since its peak in 1980. Currently there are 16.2 million labor union members. The majority of labor unions are public sector unions, despite the public sector having a lower number of workers than the private sector: 35.7% of government workers are unionized compared to 6.6% of private sector workers (“Union Members Summary”). The declining union membership is due to the changing market structure, public opinion on collective bargaining (particularly right-wing opposition), neoliberal policies (deregulation and privatization), economic globalization, and the power that employers and their privatized companies hold. In order to counter the effects of globalization, unions have been promoting labor regulations internationally; they have also opposed free trade agreements such as NAFTA and DR-CAFTA (Mary Jane). However, employers have employed restrictive strategies to reduce unionization, such as the illegal firing of union employees. Additionally, undocumented workers have almost no power or bargaining ability with their employers, and they are a huge part of the labor force in the United States.
The Workplace Justice Project (WJP) is a legal services clinic dedicated to native and immigrant low wage workers experiencing wage theft, harassment, discrimination, and safety violations in the workplace. The WJP’s weekly Wage Claim Clinic assists these low wage workers through workshops and seminars that guide them through the process of litigation for their unpaid wage claims. The New Orleans Workers’ Center for Racial Justice and its organizations Congress of Day Laborers and Stand with Dignity are post-Katrina organizations that support the poor, working-class African Americans and Hispanic immigrants, and organize communities against racial and employee discrimination. These organizations have given a voice for many minorities in New Orleans. Fast-food workers are also being represented by Fight for $15, an organization and movement to fight for a livable wage; on April 15, workers from around the nation will go on strike for better wages and workplace treatment. The Service Employees International Union, one of the largest labor unions in the United States, unites two million members from the U.S, Canada, and Puerto Rico, and is supporting Fight for $15.
Bolle, Mary Jane. “DR-CAFTA Labor Rights Issues.”Congressional Research Service Report for Congress Order Code RS22159. 8 Jul 2005.
Slavery By Another Name. Dir. Sam Pollard. Prod. Catharine Allan and Douglas Blackmon. By Sheila Curran Bernard. PBS, 2012. PBS. PBS. Web. 10 Apr. 2015.
Dezhao, Chen. “The “Decline” of U.S. Economy: A Historical Comparison.” www.ciis.org.cn. China Institute of International Studies, 2006. Web. 10 Apr. 2015.
Moberg, David. “Privatizing Government Services Doesn’t Only Hurt Public Workers.” Www.inthesetimes.com. In These Times, 6 June 2014. Web. 10 Apr. 2015.
“Union Members Summary.” U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 23 Jan. 2015. Web. 10 Apr. 2015.
On March 6th, 2015 at Loyola University College of Law, Mr. Douglas A. Blackmon, author of Slavery by Another Name: The Re-Enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to WWII, gave the keynote address for the the WORK IN THE SOUTH Conference. Setting the historical context for the conference, Blackmon framed the discussion of why low-wage workers in the South are more vulnerable than workers in other regions.
The Wisconsin state Senate on Wednesday passed a right-to-work bill, sending it for likely approval to the GOP-controlled state Assembly. Supporters of the Wisconsin right-to-work law note that laws like it are sweeping the Midwest, and have already been passed in Michigan and Indiana. They say it will help make the state more competitive for business.
A right-to-work law is a statute in the United States that prohibits union security agreements, or agreements between labor unions and employers.
While the pro-business package offered to businesses by right-to-work states can be appealing, it has also been shown that wages, employer-sponsored health insurance and employer-sponsored pensions in right-to-work states are lower than those in non-RTW states, and that RTW states have a higher percentage of low-wage jobs. While overall economic growth may occur more rapidly in RTW states, the benefits of this style of growth favor businesses over communities.
As reported by NPR, “in urging greatly expanded subsidies during his Tuesday [State of the Union] address, the president referenced a national child care program that was in place during World War II, when his grandmother and other American women were needed in the nation’s factories. The program is not widely known today, but if it seems hard to believe, you can see evidence for yourself on YouTube.”
These days, affordable, quality childcare in the U.S. is hard to find, and yet crucial to the participation of so many parents in the workforce. “This grainy newsreel from Kaiser Shipyards in Richmond, Calif., shows smiling toddlers doing puzzles, painting and listening to a woman play music. All this plus lunch and snacks, for 50 cents a day, or about $7.25 adjusted for inflation… The Works Project Administration first ran the day cares. The idea was to employ teachers and to also watch kids so that their unemployed parents could look for jobs. When women replaced deployed soldiers in the domestic workforce during World War II, the government funded a major expansion.” Read more or listen to the original story from NPR here.
Each time there has been a demographic shift in America that threatens the existing balance of power, new election laws have appeared to try to insulate the electorate from the emerging population.
Rev. Dr. William Barber: The 3rd Reconstruction
“This first of its kind in New Jersey, the local law allows the city to deny the renewal of operating licenses, issued annually on December 1st, if any wage theft claims against the business are not resolved. Because a business cannot remain open without an operating license, the ordinance incentivizes not only adherence to federal and state standards for minimum wage and for overtime, but also settlement of any wage disputes in a timely fashion.” Read more about the case of Irene Lopez seeking unpaid wages of $5,000 from La Hacienda Grocery Store here.