In today's On the News segment: The Supreme Court virtually eliminates the President's power to make recess appointments; more Americans think that being stuck in poverty is not simply the result of "character flaws"; California lawmakers want to get money out of politics; and more.
Thom Hartmann here – on the best of the rest of Economic and Labor News...
You need to know this. Last week, the Supreme Court virtually eliminated the President's power to make recess appointments. While the Justices kept in place that power in the case of a few unusual circumstances, their ruling could have some serious implications in the future. That case involved recess appoints the President made to the National Labor Relations Board, the agency with exclusive authority to protect workers and enforce national labor law. In an effort to block the President from nominating anyone to fill the vacancies on that board, Republican senators used ridiculous tactics to prevent the Senate from ever going in to an official recess. Although the Senate Democrats used the so-called "nuclear option" to change the rules regarding nominations, this ruling still presents a serious threat to labor law. The term of the current NLRB board expires in 2018, which means that even if we have a Democratic president, a slim majority of the Senate could undo decades of labor law. The balance of power between the executive and legislative branches protected workers against anti-union politicians, and protected business against extreme regulations. Thanks to the Supreme Court, a Republican-controlled Senate could destroy workers' rights, and there could be nothing standing between Democrats and an all-out attack on business. However, the Supreme Court's recent history proves that they don't have a problem with one branch of government gaining way too much power. That is not what our Founding Fathers intended, and workers won't be the only ones at risk if we don't restore a real balance of power among our three branches of government.
Twenty years ago, more than two-thirds of Americans polled believed that people who lived in poverty were only poor because they were not "doing enough." Today, nearly half of respondents admit that being stuck in poverty is not simply the result of "character flaws." After three decades of Reaganomics, most people no longer assume that the poor are not working hard enough. They know that privatization, outsourcing, and low wages have left Americans with less money to spend. And, the soaring costs of healthcare, education, and every-day essentials have made it impossible for many to save or invest. Today, even middle-class Americans feel the pinch of more and more money going straight to the top. If they aren't struggling themselves, they don't have to look far for a friend or family member who can barely get by. Half of Americans know that people aren't living in poverty because they're not working hard enough, and it's time to take back our economy, and make it start working for all of us.
California lawmakers want to get money out of politics. Last week, state legislators approved a measure calling for a Constitutional Convention to overturn Citizens United. State Senator Mark DeSaulnier said, "Voters are clearly fed up, and polling shows this, with the notion that money is speech and big money can drown out the speech of average Americans." California joins Vermont as the second state to call for a convention, with the goal of changing our Constitution to say that money is not speech and to allow Congress to place limits on campaign spending. Regardless of what issue you feel is most important – from GMOs to global warming to government spying – the best way to fight it is to limit the power of corporate lobbyists and billionaires in our elections. This is the most important issue of our time. The corporations and the one percent have stolen our democracy, and it's up to us to take our power back. Two states have already taken a giant step towards restoring our electoral process, and we must push every state to say that money is not speech and corporations are not people. Go to MoveToAmend.org to find out how you can help.
Rosie the Riveter dates back to World War II, when women took on male-dominated jobs to support their families and keep our nation running during the war. The cultural icon has come to represent feminism and women's economic power, and that's why some of today's low-wage female workers are calling themselves "The New Rosies." Last week, hundreds of women dressed up like Rosie and joined a protest for federal contract employees outside the Smithsonian National Zoo. The protestors held signs saying, "We Can't Do It on $10.10 an hour," and chanted, "President Obama go all the way, Give us a union, today!" Federal women contractors are asking for the right to unionize and bargain collectively, and the right to demand a living wage, health insurance, flexible schedules, and paid time off. Ben Pack, from the think tank Demos, said, "Seven out of 10 low-wage federal jobs are occupied by women. The US government is the largest employer of low-wage women." These women work hard to provide for their families, and they should have the right to bargain for better working conditions. The "New Rosies" - and all low-wage workers – deserve some respect and a living wage.
And finally... Another business is raising their own minimum wage. The Swedish retailer Ikea is increasing pay for all workers to an average of $10.76 an hour. Last week, the chain announced the raise, which will differ depending on location, and explained that hourly wages will be set based on the cost of living in each location. Areas like Pittsburgh will pay their workers at least $8.69 an hour, and employees in locations like Woodbridge, Virginia will earn as much as $13.22 an hour. The increase represents an average raise of about 17 percent for workers, and Ikea says it will not result in higher prices for their products. Acting president and CFO, Rob Olson, said that Ikea is "investing in [their] co-workers," because they "believe [workers] will invest in customers, and [customers] will invest in Ikea's stores." He added, "We believe that it will be a win-win-win for our co-workers, our customers, and our stores." Ikea may be the latest company to decide that they won't wait on Congress to increase wages, but hopefully they won't be the last.
And that's the way it is - for the week of June 30, 2014 – I'm Thom Hartmann – on the Economic and Labor News.