Archives for June 2015

USCCB posts itinerary for the pope’s September apostolic visit to the US

Wld_familyThe US Conference of Catholic Bishops has posted Pope Francis’ schedule for his apostolic visit to the US. The visit begins on Sept. 22 and concludes on Sept. 27.

Click here for the schedule.

Pope to new archbishops: Practice what you preach

In his homily to new archbishops at a Mass celebrating the feasts of Sts. Peter and Paul on June 29, Pope Francis said the church wants pastors who are unafraid of persecution, are angels of hope and charity, and are convincing witnesses with a life rooted in prayer and the Gospel. “It’s quite simple, because the most effective and authentic witness is one that does not contradict, by behavior and lifestyle,” what one preaches and teaches, he said.

Forty-six archbishops representing 34 countries, who were named over the course of the last year were invited to come to Rome to concelebrate the feast day Mass with the pope. During the Mass he blessed the palliums that were then given to the new archbishops. What was different this year is that the palliums were not “conferred” upon the new archbishops. The conferral will take place in archbishop’s archdiocese in the presence of his faithful and bishops from neighboring dioceses. The pallium, which is a white cloth made of wool signifies the bond of unity and communion with the pope.

For the Catholic News Service (June 29, 2015) report on the ceremony, click here.

For the Zenit News Agency (June 30, 2015) report, click here.

For Pope Francis’ homily on the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul supplied by Zenit, click here.

President Obama raises the overtime salary threshold, reestablishing a key labor standard

By Jared Bernstein June 29, Washington Post
Jared Bernstein, a former chief economist to Vice President Biden, is a senior fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and author of the new book ‘The Reconnection Agenda: Reuniting Growth and Prosperity.’

 
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By significantly increasing the salary threshold below which salaried workers get overtime pay, President Obama just took a big step toward updating a critical labor standard with the potential to boost the paychecks of millions of middle-wage workers, many of whom should be getting overtime but are not.

And because this is a “rule change”—analogous to an executive order—it doesn’t have to go through this Congress, where conservatives would surely try to kill it. In other words, the president meant it when a few months back he said that if Congress wasn’t willing to work with him to help reconnect the economic fortunes of the middle class to the growing economy, he’d find ways to do it himself.

In this case, the reconnection involves the updating of labor standards introduced in the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) of 1938, legislation that included a national minimum wage and time-and-a-half pay for hourly and certain salaried workers after 40 hours of weekly work.

Why cover any salaried workers? Because the law needed to preempt the possibility that some employers might just label someone a salaried worker to avoid having to pay time-and-a-half. So a salary threshold was introduced, below which workers were automatically non-exempt. The problem is the threshold wasn’t regularly adjusted for inflation, and while it has been sporadically raised, it has fallen well behind its historical levels, once you adjust for inflation (the new rule also proposes to index the new threshold to either price or wage growth; which one will be decided during the forthcoming comment period, where outside stakeholders can weigh in on the proposed rule).

The current threshold is only about $23,700. The president’s proposal takes it up to $50,400, about $970 per week.

As Ross Eisenbrey argued in a paper written a few years ago (for the 75th anniversary of the FLSA), that’s the 1975 threshold, adjusted for inflation. To us, that level made most sense for a variety of reasons:

The salary threshold is one way we avoid labeling someone a “manager” while paying them what are clearly non-managerial wages. So you want a threshold well above the median wage, which in our economy tends to be the wage paid to the typical production, nonsupervisory employee, someone who clearly should be paid overtime. When the Ford administration raised the salary threshold in 1975, it was 1.57 times the median wage. When Ross and I did our research, the median wage today was $16.70 per hour. Were we to update that same ratio—1.57 times the median wage—you’d get around $26.20 an hour, $1,050 a week, or $54,536 a year. The administrations $970 per week fits neatly in that ballpark.
Earlier analysis by policy makers who still understood the intent of the FLSA argued that the salary threshold should be “considerably higher” than the level of newly hired “college graduates just starting on their working careers.” The 1950 rule set the level 25 percent above the college entry-level wage; applying that same ratio today would yield a salary of $1,000 a week, again, in the ballpark of the president’s new rule.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics publishes data on supervisory workers by occupation and median weekly earnings (bona fide supervisors should typically be exempt from OT). For management occupations, the BLS breaks out four levels of supervisory responsibilities, and the median weekly earnings range from $1,520 to $3,995. In other words, by this metric, the new threshold is well below a level associated with supervisory, and presumably exempt, duties on the job.
BLS grades the responsibilities of occupations by a metric they call “leveling factors” (scores given to each occupation based on its demands for skill, knowledge, and responsibilities). They find the hourly wage of about $24 ($970/40) to be consistently below level 7 (out of 15), fully consistent with nonsupervisory responsibilities.
Yes, that’s all pretty weedy and wonky. Here’s the way the president put it:

Right now, too many Americans are working long days for less pay than they deserve. That’s partly because we’ve failed to update overtime regulations for years — and an exemption meant for highly paid, white collar employees now leaves out workers making as little as $23,660 a year — no matter how many hours they work.

This week, I’ll [present] my plan to extend overtime protections to nearly 5 million workers in 2016, covering all salaried workers making up to about $50,400 next year. That’s good for workers who want fair pay, and it’s good for business owners who are already paying their employees what they deserve — since those who are doing right by their employees are undercut by competitors who aren’t.

Trust me on this: you’d be very hard pressed to come up with a rule change or executive order—i.e., non-legislation—to lift the pay of this many middle-wage workers. That’s important, because we live in a time when the bargaining power of many who depend on their paychecks is much diminished relative to the clout and power of those whose income derives from their wealth portfolios.

This isn’t the first time in our history when such conditions prevailed. In fact, the FLSA was born of the acute realization that one role of government was to help rebalance those powers, to stand up for those who, absent rules like OT, risked exploitation, overwork, and inability to claim their fair share of the productivity growth they themselves were helping to generate.

All the president did Monday was to put a powerful thumb on the scale to add some balance on behalf of working people. And for that he deserves our thanks.

Meet one of the first home care workers in the country to win a $15 minimum wage

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CREDIT: SHUTTERSTOCK

Kindalay Cummings-Akers has been working as a personal care attendant, caring for the elderly and disabled in their homes, for nearly a decade. But she will soon be making $15 an hour for the first time ever after she and her union, 1199SEIU, reached an agreement with Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker (R) at the end of last week.

“I’m so excited, I am,” she told ThinkProgress with joy filling her voice. “I’m happy that we have opened the door. It’s a big thing.”

Home care workers have long been poorly paid, thanks in part to the fact that they are excludedfrom federal minimum wage and overtime requirements. They make just $9.61 on average, while a quarter live in poverty and three in five rely on public benefits.

Cummings-Akers’s wages and those of her fellow attendants had stayed stuck at $10.84 an hour for years before a contract last year brought them up to $13.38. But after she and other home care workers joined up with the Fight for $15 movement, those in her union have become the first home care workers in the country to win such a wage level.

Despite the low pay, home care aides do tough work. For her client and his wife, who has dementia, Cummings-Akers gives them showers, lifts them and their wheelchairs, gives them medication, makes them meals, takes them to doctor’s appointments and talks with the doctors, does the grocery shopping, cleans their clothes, and even helps care for their cat. “It’s a lot of work, it truly is a lot of work,” she said. “When you do work like this, you have to be a very strong person.”

Even while doing all of this hard work, though, she struggled to support her family. Both her husband and her eldest daughter have disabilities, and her husband’s Social Security payments plus her wages made it barely possible to scrape by. In the winter, they had to choose between paying the mortgage and other necessities. “It’s like, well do I pay the home mortgage bill or do I pay so much money in the propane bill or how much food can we buy for the house,” she said. “Those are hard choices that we have to make.” This summer, her son couldn’t play football like he normally does because they couldn’t afford the program. “There’s no McDonald’s and pizza or going out for dinner or taking a vacation, because you can’t afford it.”

Making at least $15 an hour will start to ease those difficult choices. “Oh my god, it’s going to make a big difference,” she said. “That way we don’t have to pick and choose as much. We can do a little bit more.”

She still sees more work to do, of course. She noted that many home health workers don’t have health insurance themselves. She also noted, “I personally deserve more than $15 an hour, but it is a start in the right direction.”

But she’s proud of how quickly they were able to make progress on a higher wage. “Maybe $15 now and a little bit more later,” she noted. “I’m really happy that we won this $15. It was a long road to get there.”

A $15 minimum wage wasn’t under much consideration before 2012, when fast food workers first went on strike demanding they make at least that much. Since then, they have staged a number of strikes across the country and been joined by Walmart workers, adjunct professors, and home care aides. That minimum wage has also now become law in Seattle, San Francisco, and Los Angeles.

Immigration audit prompts strike at Ruprecht

BY ERICA SHAFFER, Meat & Poultry

Ruprecht Company
Meatpackers staged a walkout at Ruprecht Company’s processing plant.

MUNDELEIN, Ill. – A Department of Homeland Security immigration audit at Ruprecht Company, Chicago’s oldest operating beef processor, recently sparked a walk-out organized by members of a hospitality union. Nearly 100 employees at the company’s meat processing plant participated in the walk out. MEAT+POULTRY reached out to Ruprecht, but the company has not commented.

“The walk out lasted for a few hours only on Friday, though the campaign is continuing and there will be further actions,” said Joe Shansky of Unite Here.

Members of Unite Here Local 1 filed charges of unfair labor practices over Ruprecht’s “failure to provide information regarding the potential audit, and the use of temporary workers,” the union said in a statement. The union said a majority of the workers at the processing plant are Latino immigrants. The audit comes in the midst of negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement between the company and Unite Here Local 1.

“Until America comes up with a real solution to our immigration crisis, disrupting its own economy is shooting itself in the foot,” Karen Kent, president of Local 1, said. “We will use every resource available to fight for the rights of our members to provide for their loved ones.”

Ruprecht management notified workers about the audit some weeks ago, and the deadline for DHS to release results of the audit was June 26, but Shansky said DHS has not released the audit results. The union criticized the audit itself as an attempt to target immigrants. Father Clete Kiley, UNITE HERE director for immigration and a priest of the Archdiocese of Chicago, urged President Obama “to ensure the agencies in his administration don’t go rogue.”

Established in 1860, Ruprecht Company is a privately held meat processor and food manufacturer serving domestic and international foodservice and retail customers, according to the company’s website. New Hope Investment Fund acquired the company in December 2014.

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Vatican Commission recognizes martyrdom of Father Stanley Rother

 Illustration courtesy of the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City


Illustration courtesy of the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City

The Theological Commission of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Causes of Saints has voted to recognize the martyrdom of Fr. Stanley Rother, a priest of the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City, who was murdered by an unknown assailant on July 28, 1981 while pastor of the parish of Santiago Atitlan in Guatemala. The parish was a mission of the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City.

According to Zenit News Agency (June 26, 2015), a majority of the nine-member commission voted to determine Fr. Rother died in odium fidei (in hatred of the faith).

The Zenit report goes on to note that the next phase will see Fr. Rother’s Cause move forward to a panel of cardinals and archbishops of the Congregation of the Causes of Saints.

For the entire Zenit report, click here.

For the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City new release, click here.

For a historical perspective on Fr. Rother’s ministry by writer Maria Scarperlanda published in Our Sunday Visitor (Nov. 16, 2011), click here.

Five myth busting facts about raising the minimum wage

Fast Food Wages
Fast food workers rally before a meeting of the wage board in New York, on June 15. The board, created by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, will consider a minimum wage increase for New York’s fast food workers. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

Charley Hannagan | channagan@syracuse.comBy Charley Hannagan | [email protected]
June 24, 2015, syracuse.com

Paying workers more was so successful for Ikea, that the company Wednesday announced another hike to its minimum wage.

Ikea’s not alone in seeing what it said are the benefits of raising the minimum wage in lower employee turnover and greater productivity. The GAP has also raised its minimum, so has Target and Marshalls. McDonald’s is thinking about it. There’s even a website, Fight for $15 , dedicated to hiking the minimum wage around the country to $15 per hour.

The decision to raise the minimum wage comes with controversy, however. Some businesses oppose it, while workers at the low end of the wage scale applaud the wage hikes.

While President Obama has been trying to get a wage hike through Congress, Gov. Andrew Cuomo took the matter out of legislators’ hands and ordered New York’s Wage Board to look at raising the minimum wage for 180,00 fast food workers. A decision is expected next month. Earlier this year the Wage Board acting on the governor’s proposal hiked the minimum wage for tipped workers.

As the board researches its decision here are five myths to consider about the impact of hiking the minimum wage.

Hiking the minimum wage only helps teenagers.

Fact: Only 12 percent of the people impacted by a hike in the federal minimum wage are younger than 20. The remaining 88 percent are 20 and older, and 55 percent are women, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

Most of the people impacted work part time.

Fact: The Economic Policy Institute in 2013 said that 47.3 percent of minimum wage workers are employed full-time working at least 35 hours a week. Some 35.8 percent work 20 to 34 hours, and the remaining 16.9 percent work less than 20 hours a week.

Only the really poor benefit from a minimum wage hike.

Fact: 70 percent of the families with incomes of less than $60,000 a year would be impacted by a wage hike, according to the Economic Policy Institute. The majority of those families, 53.8 percent, earn between $20,000 and $60,000 a year.

Some people will lose their jobs if the minimum wage goes up.

Fact: The Department of Labor says a review of 64 studies on minimum wage increases found no noticeable effect on employment. More than 600 economists have signed a letter in support of raising the federal minimum wage to $10.10 by 2016.

Small business owners can’t afford to pay their workers more and don’t support an increase in the minimum wage.

Fact: A 2014 poll by the American Sustainable Business Council found that 61 percent of small business owners surveyed said they support a gradual increase in the federal minimum wage by 2016. They also favor yearly adjustments to the minimum to keep pace with inflation.

More than 50 percent of the owners agreed that increasing the minimum wage would help the economy and increase consumer spending power.They also agreed it would lower employee turnover and increase productivity, as well as, customer satisfaction.

NFPC This Week, #618 – 6/21-6/27/2015

Of Note This Week –