PEN Training Manual: How to Talk About Good Jobs and Workers Rights
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PEN Training Manual: How to Talk About Good Jobs and Workers Rights PEN Training Manual: How to Talk About Good Jobs and Workers Rights Document Transcript

  • A Training Manual for Telling Our Story www.nelp.org/tellingourstory How to Talk About AN ECONOMY THAT WORKS FOR ALL OF US: GOOD JOBS AND WORKERS’ RIGHTS
  • AN ECONOMY THAT WORKS FOR ALL OF US: GOOD JOBS AND WORKERS’ RIGHTS 2 How to Talk About AN ECONOMY THAT WORKS FOR ALL OF US: GOOD JOBS AND WORKERS’ RIGHTS What is this I’m reading? This is a learning/practice manual for how to best talk about key issues on good jobs and workers’ rights. It explains how to talk about good jobs generally and includes exercises to help you learn how to talk about specific issues in terms of the bigger conversation on the economy. What issues does it address? The manual includes several issues related to good jobs and workers rights: Fixing the minimum wage. Paid sick days. Wage theft. The right to organize a union. Part-time and contingent work. Worker safety and health. Who might benefit from using this manual? Anyone who, as a volunteer or paid staff person, talks with people about issues of good jobs. Whether you are looking to build support at your workplace or community, writing about the issues or doing public speaking, the lessons here all apply. What does the manual include? Key messages and points on good jobs and workers rights. Practice applying those messages and points to individual issues. How to respond to the other side’s arguments.
  • AN ECONOMY THAT WORKS FOR ALL OF US: GOOD JOBS AND WORKERS’ RIGHTS 3 GOOD JOBS AND WORKERS RIGHTS: KEY MESSAGES AND POINTS TO MAKE 1. THE PROBLEM: Too many of America’s workers can’t find good jobs, and too many jobs don’t pay enough to support a family, hurting our communities and slowing down the economy. Powerful corporations are using their influence to push down wages and benefits. When jobs don’t allow workers to afford the basics, they can’t spend in our communities. Millions of America’s workers are denied basic benefits like sick days, paid less than minimum wage or not paid for overtime. Employers want to call all the shots, even denying their employees the freedom to join together in a union and bargain for decent wages and benefits and better working conditions. 2. THE SOLUTION: Working families and the middle class are the engines of the economy. Workers who earn good pay and have decent benefits, who can shop at local businesses and support and care for their families, keep the economy moving forward. 3. HOW WE GET THERE: We build a strong middle class by decisions we make together. Decisions to invest in people—world-class education, affordable health care, secure retirement, strong communities. Decisions to pave the way for businesses to innovate and invest in good jobs in America. Decisions to write rules so that businesses will pay decent wages and benefits; arrange work so that workers can do their jobs and care for their families; and respect workers’ freedom to organize together and form unions. 4. CALL TO ACTION: We’re all in this together. We all do better when we all do better. To gain prosperity for all, we have to exercise our political power. Around the country, people are standing up for the freedom to stick together at work, to be treated with dignity, to have our hard work rewarded with good pay and benefits that make it possible to support and care for our families. It’s up to us to make sure that profitable corporations don’t get away with paying poverty wages. The issue is not the size of our government, it’s whose side the government is on. Our government should ensure opportunity for every working family, not just those with the most money and power. It doesn’t have to be this way. If we want an America that works for all of us, we need a government that works for all of us. NOTE: A longer version of these message points, with more examples of what to say, can be found at www.progressivenarrative.org/issues. Click on the link for “Pen Good Jobs and Workers Rights.”
  • AN ECONOMY THAT WORKS FOR ALL OF US: GOOD JOBS AND WORKERS’ RIGHTS 4 EXERCISE 1 TELLING OUR STORY THROUGH YOUR STORY The goal of this exercise is to practice telling the story above, through telling your personal story. Start by thinking about how you relate to these issues personally. How have lower wages and benefits impacted your community? Connect your story to the 4 points in the story above. Include a specific solution. Do this in your own words, but also use some of the words on page 3, if they feel right. EXAMPLE: Here’s how you might begin. “I can see in my neighborhood how tough it is when so many people now barely get paid enough to meet the basics. A lot of stores have closed, restaurants have more empty seats, people have trouble keeping up their houses.” Then connect that story to the 4 points above. You might say: It’s no wonder the economy is stuck. When so many people don’t have enough to afford the basics, they’re locked out of the middle-class lifestyle. We’ll never get the economy moving if people can’t afford to support their families and their communities. This won’t get better by itself. Raising the minimum wage would help a lot of people and our communities. So would having employers give people a few paid sick days, so you can take care of yourself or your family without worrying about losing your job. That’s why I’m working hard to get the state legislature to raise the minimum wage and require employers to offer some paid sick days. Use the next page (or your own paper) to tell your story and our story as in the example above.
  • AN ECONOMY THAT WORKS FOR ALL OF US: GOOD JOBS AND WORKERS’ RIGHTS 5 1. _______________________________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________________________________ 2. _______________________________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________________________________ 3. _______________________________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________________________________ 4. _______________________________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________________________________
  • AN ECONOMY THAT WORKS FOR ALL OF US: GOOD JOBS AND WORKERS’ RIGHTS 6 EXERCISE 2 OUR STORY IN A SHORT RAP The following is a written version of our story using the 4 message points. Today, too many of America’s workers can’t find good jobs, and too many jobs don’t pay enough to support a family. That hurts our communities and slows down the economy. We see powerful corporations using their influence to push down wages and benefits. And when jobs don’t allow workers to afford the basics, they don’t have enough to build strong families and communities. It’s working families and the middle class that are the engines of the economy. We don’t build a strong middle class by accident—we build it by decisions we make together. Decisions to invest in people, in our children’s futures, in strong communities. To pave the way for businesses to innovate and invest in good jobs here at home. And to write rules that lift up businesses that pay decent wages and benefits and respect workers’ right to organize together. The fact is—we all do better when we all do better. To gain prosperity for all, we have to exercise our political power. Our government should ensure opportunity for every working family, not just those with the most money and power. That’s how we can build a strong middle class with good jobs and a bright future for our kids. Around the country, people are standing up to be treated with dignity, to have our hard work rewarded with good pay and benefits, to support and care for our families, for the freedom to stick together at work. That’s what America is all about. Take a few minutes to do the following: Read the story out loud. Read it again and circle the phrases that have the most power. Find and number each of the 4 message points in the story. Now answer these questions: What are the main values in this story? ____________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________________________ Who are the villains and what did they do wrong? __________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________________________ Who are the heroes and what are their tools to make a better world? ________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________________________
  • AN ECONOMY THAT WORKS FOR ALL OF US: GOOD JOBS AND WORKERS’ RIGHTS 7 EXERCISE 3 TELLING OUR STORY ABOUT A SPECIFIC ISSUE In the following section, you will practice using the 4 message points to tell a story about a specific issue. Each issue has a 2-page fact sheet, which can help with some ideas and key facts. But the fact sheets do not tell the story. That’s your job. For each issue, do the following (you can use the next page or your own paper): Take each of the 4 message points, one at a time. Write down the key messages of each point—those are the bold sentences on page 3 of this manual. Then write in your own words, how that message applies to the specific issue. Now look at the fact sheet on the following page. Look at the headline messages and the bulleted facts. Circle messages from the fact sheet that you find are most compelling. Add a message to each of the 4 message points you wrote down above. For each message point, pick 1 or 2 facts that you find most compelling and add them to what you’ve written above. You can also use some of the points from the “They Say…We Say” section, if you find that helps you tell your story. Now read over what you’ve done. Reorganize the information so it sounds like a story (you may need to use more paper). Be sure that what you have come up with is mostly about values and not about facts! You should have just a few facts to support the story you are telling. Note: The sources for all the facts on the following pages can be found at: www.nelp.org/10WaysToRebuildMiddleClass.
  • AN ECONOMY THAT WORKS FOR ALL OF US: GOOD JOBS AND WORKERS’ RIGHTS 8 1. _______________________________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________________________________ 2. _______________________________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________________________________ 3. _______________________________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________________________________ 4. _______________________________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________________________________ __________________________________________________________________________________________
  • AN ECONOMY THAT WORKS FOR ALL OF US: GOOD JOBS AND WORKERS’ RIGHTS 9 ISSUE 1 FIX THE MINIMUM WAGE The minimum wage is worth dramatically less now than it was in the late 1960s. The minimum wage would be approximately $10.55 per hour if it had kept pace with the rising cost of living since 1968. Today’s minimum wage of $7.25 buys 30% less than it did 40 years ago. The minimum wage for tipped workers is $2.13 an hour, the same as it was in 1991. Over the last few decades, families have seen more and more middle-class jobs being replaced with low-wage work in the service sector. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that 6 of the top 10 growth occupations for the next decade are low-wage. Most minimum wage workers are employed by big, profitable businesses. Two out of three low-wage workers (66%) are employed by corporations with over 100 employees. It would take a minimum wage worker 156 days to make the $9,066 an hour that the top executive of Walmart gets paid. Corporate profits are now the largest share of GDP since 1950, while wages and salaries are now the lowest share of GDP since 1955. More money in the pockets of working people will be spent to make ends meet, boosting local economies and creating jobs in our communities. Raising the minimum wage will add $25 billion to the national economy and create 100,000 jobs. Every $1 in wage increases for a minimum wage worker results in $2,800 in new consumer spending by the worker’s household over the following year. If you work for a living, you should be able to make a living from work. Raising the minimum wage increases take-home pay for 1 in 5 of America’s workers—28.4 million people—including many who make more than the minimum wage. Raising the minimum wage to at least $10 an hour would raise pay directly for 19.5 million workers earning less than that and push up earnings for another 8.9 million workers who earn just above the proposed minimum wage. Congress should: o Raise the minimum wage to at least $10 an hour and index the minimum wage to automatically increase each year with the rising cost of living. o Raise the tipped minimum wage to 70 percent of the full minimum wage.
  • AN ECONOMY THAT WORKS FOR ALL OF US: GOOD JOBS AND WORKERS’ RIGHTS 10 THEY SAY…WE SAY TELLING THE TRUTH ABOUT THE MINIMUM WAGE THEY SAY: Minimum wage workers are teens. Raising the minimum wage will hurt youth employment. WE SAY: Most minimum wage workers are adults who are supporting their families. The overwhelming majority of low-wage workers are adults, not teens, and they contribute a substantial portion of their households’ incomes. Three out of four workers earning at or near the current minimum wage of $7.25 are adults 20 or over. Raising the minimum wage will mean that teens will be able to put more money aside for college and better help their families make ends meet. THEY SAY: Raising the minimum wage will cost people jobs. WE SAY: A higher minimum wage does not cause job losses. That’s what opponents always say… but it’s just not true. A large body of rigorous academic research has found that raising the minimum wage increases incomes of low-paid workers without reducing employment. Nearly two decades of research has found that minimum wage increases did not lead to job loss, even during periods of high unemployment. The low-wage workers who are most helped by a minimum wage increase spend their earnings in their local communities. That helps neighborhood businesses. THEY SAY: Small businesses will be most hurt by raising the minimum wage. WE SAY: The fact is: Walmart and McDonald’s and other powerful corporations have the most low-wage workers. Two out of three low-wage workers are employed by corporations with over 100 employees. It would take a minimum wage worker half a year to make the $9,066 that the CEO of Walmart gets paid in just one hour. CEOs of the 50 largest employers of low-wage workers—firms like Walmart and McDonald’s—averaged $9.4 million last year. When the minimum wage is raised on all employers, it’s fair to all employers. Nobody gains an advantage.
  • AN ECONOMY THAT WORKS FOR ALL OF US: GOOD JOBS AND WORKERS’ RIGHTS 11 ISSUE 2 PAID (EARNED) SICK DAYS The rules of the workplace have not kept up with the changes in the workforce. Fewer than 20% of workers in the lowest-wage jobs have paid sick days, compared to 86% of the highest paid. Two-thirds of women are either primary or co-primary breadwinners. Managing work-family conflict is toughest on the lowest-wage workers, who most need but have least access to paid leave. Four out of ten private sector workers (42%)—44 million people—do not have any earned sick days to recover from an illness. Millions more do not have paid sick days they can use to care for a sick child or close family member. Not having paid sick days can cost you your job. Almost 1 out of 4 workers (23%) say they have lost a job or been threatened with losing a job because they took time off when they were sick or needed to care for a sick family member. Earned sick days help families cover the basics. For a family without paid sick days, on average, 3.1 days of pay lost to illness are equivalent to the family’s entire monthly health care budget, and 3.5 days are equivalent to its entire monthly grocery budget. Workers struggle to keep their jobs and make ends meet in the face of medical needs or family caregiving demands. One-third of working parents fear losing employment or pay if they stay home with a sick child. Basic standards providing earned sick days and affordable family leave are indispensible to today’s workforce, our communities and economy. Allowing workers to earn paid sick days helps them hold onto their jobs, support their families and sustain local businesses. Make today’s workplace pro-family, so that workers can do their jobs and take care of themselves and their families. Allowing workers to earn a limited number of paid sick days is a common-sense measure that will create job security for our families, help rebuild an American economy that values hard work, and protect our health and safety.
  • AN ECONOMY THAT WORKS FOR ALL OF US: GOOD JOBS AND WORKERS’ RIGHTS 12 Elected officials should work with workers, businesses and community groups, rather than listening to the lobbyists for big corporations who keep getting richer at the expense of the rest of us. The Healthy Families Act would give 90% of private sector workers (those in businesses of 15 or more) the right to earn up to 7 earned sick days each year to deal with personal or family illness or seek medical care. THEY SAY…WE SAY TELLING THE TRUTH ABOUT EARNED SICK DAYS THEY SAY: With the tough economy, now is the wrong time to impose more mandates on businesses. WE SAY: Earned sick days will help get our economy moving forward again. In these tough economic times, no one should have to lose income—or worse, lose their job—just because they get sick. But that is the reality for 44 million men and women in our country, who don’t have a single paid sick day. And that hurts all of us, whether we have paid sick days or not. THEY SAY: If paid sick days passes, businesses will flee, new businesses won’t open. WE SAY: No one should have to choose between their job and their health or the health of a loved one. When companies respond to the needs of working families, workers are more committed and productive, and workplaces stay healthy. After San Francisco enacted a sick days law, its economy kept adding jobs while surrounding counties, with no paid sick leave protections, lost jobs. Even the chief lobbyist against the San Francisco law later acknowledged to a business reporter that paid sick days “is the best public policy for the least cost. Do you want your server coughing over your food?” THEY SAY: Requiring paid sick days will hurt small businesses. WE SAY: Many small business owners care about their workers; too often it’s the big fast-food chains and big-box stores, with huge profits, that don’t care. Big business lobbyists hide behind the banner of “Mom and Pop” stories, but every local coalition that supports earned sick days includes small business owners. They’re people like Makini Howell, a restaurant owner in Seattle. “I’ve had jobs where I haven’t been treated well,” says Makini. “I want to be the kind of business I would like to work for.” She also points out that turnover is the death of small business. “If people feel secure and happy when they come to work, they will want to keep working and helping the business succeed.”
  • AN ECONOMY THAT WORKS FOR ALL OF US: GOOD JOBS AND WORKERS’ RIGHTS 13 ISSUE 3 WAGE THEFT Wage theft is all too common, particularly for low-wage workers, in a wide variety of jobs. A major survey of workers in low-wage jobs found that 2 out of 3 workers experienced at least one pay-related violation in the previous work week. Women and people of color in low-wage jobs are most likely to have their wages stolen. Immigrants—including immigrants who are authorized to work in the U.S.—are most likely to be cheated of their wages. Wage theft happens in too many ways. Workers are: Paid less than the minimum wage (26% of workers). Not paid for overtime or worked off the clock (70% of workers). Cheated of their tips (30% of tipped workers). Wage theft robs families, honest businesses, our communities and our government. An average worker loses $51 a week, out of average weekly earnings of $339. The economies of the nation’s 3 biggest cities (New York, Chicago and Los Angeles) lose over $56 million each week in unpaid wages. Honest businesses are forced to compete with employers who cheat their workers out of the wages they earned. When workers go without pay, they pay fewer taxes. In New York State alone, $427 million in taxes is lost each year due to wage theft. Weak laws reward dishonest employers and give them an advantage over law-abiding businesses. Since the most common penalty for wage violations is to pay back the stolen wages, dishonest employers have little to lose by cheating workers. Four out of ten workers (43%) who complained faced retaliation, including firings, suspensions, or threats to cut their hours or pay. The laws on the books aren’t enforced enough to deter dishonest employers. The average employer has just a 1 in 100,000 chance of being investigated by the U.S. Labor Department’s Wage and Hour Division or the Occupational Safety and Health Administration in any given year.
  • AN ECONOMY THAT WORKS FOR ALL OF US: GOOD JOBS AND WORKERS’ RIGHTS 14 We can act to protect workers, honest employers and our communities. States should enact comprehensive measures to stop wage theft, including stiff penalties to raise the cost of stealing wages and tough measures against employers who retaliate when workers assert their rights. The federal government should focus enforcement on employers in high-violation industries and prioritize actions against employers who retaliate. Immigrant workers who try to exercise their basic civil and labor rights should be protected from retaliation. THEY SAY…WE SAY TELLING THE TRUTH ABOUT WAGE THEFT THEY SAY: The amount of wage theft is really exaggerated; it’s a few bad apples. Most businesses are honest. WE SAY: Two out of three low-wage workers having their wages stolen is not a few bad apples. As the CEO of a large Texas construction company said, “Wage theft is our industry’s dirty little secret. But it is not little and not really secret.” THEY SAY: New regulations will hurt the majority of businesses that are honest and comply with the law. WE SAY: Why would regulations against wage theft hurt businesses who are not stealing their employees’ wages? Honest businesses have nothing to worry about. THEY SAY: There are already laws on the books. We need to enforce them, not overreact with more job-killing regulations. WE SAY: The laws on the books don’t have any teeth. Dishonest employers who steal wages only get their wrists slapped. We have to toughen the laws so that employers who steal wages will have to pay stiff-enough fines to make them stop.
  • AN ECONOMY THAT WORKS FOR ALL OF US: GOOD JOBS AND WORKERS’ RIGHTS 15 ISSUE 4 FREEDOM TO ORGANIZE IN A UNION As the share of Americans in unions has plummeted, the income gap between the very rich and the middle class and working families has become a giant chasm. Over the past 100 years, the higher the share of workers in a union, the lower the share of income going to the richest 10%. With only 11% of workers belonging to a union in 2012—and just 7% of privately employed workers— it is no wonder that good jobs are tougher than ever to find. When workers join together in a union, they can bargain for higher wages and benefits. From 2003 to 2007, being represented by a union increased wages by 12% for all workers and 21% for the lowest-wage workers. Workers who are members of unions are 28% more likely to get employer-provided health coverage and 54% more likely to get retirement benefits. Women who are represented by unions earn 9% more pay. African-Americans in unions earn 17% more, and Latinos get an 23% boost. Workers organized by unions also win more on-the-job training and safer workplaces. More unions leads to better earnings, even for those not in unions. When a large-enough proportion of workers in an industry form a union, wages and benefits go up for non-unionized workers. One out of four U.S. workers does not have the right to stick together and form a union. Domestic workers, independent contractors, supervisors, many farm workers and even 5 million public employees are not covered by federal collective bargaining laws. Compared to the 1990s, employers are more than twice as likely to use 10 or more anti-union tactics in their campaigns to stop workers from organizing. Our public policy should uphold the freedom for all workers to stick together and choose to be represented by unions. We should: Fix the National Labor Relations Act to create a fair process for workers to choose union representation and restore the freedom to bargain collectively. Implement strong penalties for violating labor laws. The laws against employers who fire pro-union workers must be enforced vigorously and penalties stiffened. Employers must be held accountable when they fail to respect their employees’ rights.
  • AN ECONOMY THAT WORKS FOR ALL OF US: GOOD JOBS AND WORKERS’ RIGHTS 16 Modernize labor law to ensure all workers have the full federal protection of the right to organize and bargain collectively. Currently, tens of millions of workers like independent contractors, temps and domestic workers and immigrants are left out of labor laws or lack access to full remedies when labor laws are violated. These low-wage workers need the right to join together to improve their working conditions. THEY SAY…WE SAY TELLING THE TRUTH ABOUT THE RIGHT TO ORGANIZE A UNION THEY SAY: Unions force people to join against their will. WE SAY: Unions are workers banding together to be treated fairly at work. The power of working together is how workers in unions secure higher wages and benefits and better working conditions. So it’s only fair that workers who benefit from union representation help pay for the costs of their being represented. THEY SAY: Union rules make it hard for companies to be flexible and compete with other countries. WE SAY: Actually, the countries around the world with the highest wages—the ones we want to compete with for good jobs—have a much bigger share of their workers in unions. Businesses in these countries understand that it’s better to work with unions, so that the business and employers are together in building the company. In Germany, for example, unions are represented on the board of directors of big corporations. THEY SAY: Public employee unions are a big reason taxes are so high. WE SAY: The truth is that pay and benefits for public employees is generally less—by around 7%—than for workers with comparable education in the private sector. Only the lowest-paid public employees earn more than workers in the private sector. We should be raising the minimum wage paid by big corporations, not cutting pay to low- wage workers who repair our roads or take care of seniors.
  • AN ECONOMY THAT WORKS FOR ALL OF US: GOOD JOBS AND WORKERS’ RIGHTS 17 ISSUE 5 CONTINGENT WORK Employers are hiring more contingent workers as a way to avoid paying wages, benefits and taxes. Contingent workers include people employed by temp agencies or working as independent contractors. The category also refers to when major employers subcontract work to other employers, to avoid responsibility for hiring workers directly. A recent survey of 200 large companies found that 1 out of 5 workers were in the contingent workforce. The number of temp workers has more than doubled in the past 20 years. Contingent workers make less money for the same work than regular employees. Temporary workers are paid lower hourly wages than directly hired employees in 46 out of 48 occupations. The greatest number of temp jobs is in warehouses, where temp workers get paid an average of $8.69 an hour, almost $2 less than regular employees. Contract truck drivers at the nation’s ports averaged earnings of $28,783 a year, for a 59-hour workweek, which is $6,000 less than employee drivers. Big corporations exploit contingent workers to avoid payroll taxes and benefits and to deny workers’ rights like minimum wage laws, health and safety protections, and protection from discrimination. Construction, janitors, poultry processing, hotels, retail, airports and many others are using contingent workers. Walmart uses contingent workers in warehouses, often at low pay and in dangerous conditions. Hyatt Hotels uses low-paid temp agency workers for housekeeping, sometimes firing its entire housekeeping staff and using temps. FedEx considers its drivers independent contractors, so it doesn’t have to pay payroll taxes and the drivers don’t have the right to organize. The use of contingent work hurts honest businesses and steals from retirement programs. Law-abiding employers find it tougher to compete against employers who cut payroll by using contingent workers. By escaping payroll taxes, businesses get out of paying billions of dollars each year into Social Security and Medicare.
  • AN ECONOMY THAT WORKS FOR ALL OF US: GOOD JOBS AND WORKERS’ RIGHTS 18 We need to be sure that companies take responsibility for employees who are really working for them. We should: Vigorously enforce the laws that are meant to stop employers from treating actual employees as independent contractors. Stop excluding independent contractors and temporary workers from access to organizing and bargaining rights. Provide public contracts and tax incentives only to employers who directly hire workers, or use contractors who provide decent wages and benefits. Ensure temps are genuinely temporary, by requiring employers to hire regular workers as permanent employees after 6 months. THEY SAY…WE SAY TELLING THE TRUTH ABOUT CONTINGENT WORKERS THEY SAY: Workers like the flexibility of temp work. WE SAY: Workers want reliable jobs, with good pay and benefits. Almost all temp workers want to find a full-time job, but can’t when more than 20 million people are looking for work. It’s employers who want the flexibility to hire workers without paying them benefits, not workers. Now employers keep “temp” workers doing the same job for months at a time. THEY SAY: Independent contractors are small business people who want to be their own bosses. WE SAY: Big businesses are exploiting the law to avoid paying decent wages and benefits. We’re not talking about high-paid consultants who work for several clients. We’re talking about truck drivers, janitors, home health care workers, and construction workers. In many cases, like FedEx, the company controls everything about the worker’s job. That’s not independent! THEY SAY: When businesses subcontract with outside firms for work, they are not responsible for those employees. WE SAY: Big businesses are shirking their responsibility and cutting pay by using subcontractors. When Walmart uses an outside company for its warehouse workers or Hyatt Hotels uses a subcontractor for housekeepers, those employees are still working for the direct benefit of Walmart or Hyatt. NOW HIRING TEMPORARY POSITIONS
  • AN ECONOMY THAT WORKS FOR ALL OF US: GOOD JOBS AND WORKERS’ RIGHTS 19 ISSUE 6 HEALTH AND SAFETY PROTECTIONS Millions of workers are injured or made sick on the job every year, and thousands die. In 2010, more than 3.8 million workers had work-related injuries and illnesses that were reported by employers. The true toll is estimated to be between 7.6 million to 11.4 million injuries and illnesses a year. 4,690 workers were killed on the job in 2010, and an estimated 50,000 died from occupational diseases. Workers in many low-wage occupations have high injury rates. More than 6 in 10 workers (63%) at warehouses in central California were injured on the job. 60% of housekeepers in Seattle hotels report severe back pain, twice the rate of the general population. The system for compensating workers when they are hurt at work is broken. About half of workers who are injured or made ill on the job do not receive workers’ compensation benefits. Only 1 in 20 workers with an occupational illness receives workers’ compensation benefits. For occupational cancer, the number is fewer than 1 in 100. We are all paying when workers don’t get compensated. The total cost of illness and injury on the job in 2007 was estimated to be $250 billion. The workers’ compensation system absorbed only 25% of those costs, shifting the rest onto the public and injured and sick workers and their families. Retaliation against workers for reporting job safety and health problems is rampant. Half of low-wage workers reported that when they told their employer about the injury, they experienced an illegal employer reaction—including firing the worker, calling immigration authorities, or instructing the worker not to file for workers’ compensation. Enforcement of laws protecting safety and health are weak, with little incentive for employers to comply or stop retaliating against workers who raise job safety concerns. Federal OSHA can inspect workplaces on average once every 131 years; the state agencies can inspect them once every 73 years. The average penalty for a serious violation of OSHA was $2,107 in 2011. When a worker was killed in an oil refinery explosion, the fine imposed for the deaths of fish and crabs was 50 time higher that the OSHA fine for the dead worker.
  • AN ECONOMY THAT WORKS FOR ALL OF US: GOOD JOBS AND WORKERS’ RIGHTS 20 The maximum criminal penalty for a worker death associated with a willful violation of an OSHA standard is a misdemeanor with up to 6 months in jail; yet harassing a wild burro on federal land is a felony with a sentence of up to a year. The Occupational Safety and Health Act does not cover 8.1 million state and local public employees. We need to protect worker safety and health now. We should hold employers accountable by increasing penalties and making it easier to bring criminal cases. All injured and ill workers should have access to patient- oriented, quality health care, and adequate compensation for lost wages. THEY SAY…WE SAY TELLINGTHETRUTHABOUTWORKERSAFETYANDHEALTH THEY SAY: New regulations will hurt the majority of businesses that care about their workers’ safety and health. WE SAY: It’s not the businesses that care about workers that object to regulations, it’s the businesses that are looking to cut corners and risk the health and lives of their employees. Common sense regulations are welcomed by employers who want to learn more about the best way to safeguard their workers’ health. THEY SAY: There are already protections on the books. We need to enforce them, not overreact with more job-killing regulations. WE SAY: The problem is, the laws on the books are out of date and don’t have any teeth. Employers who put their workers’ lives at risk only get their wrists slapped. We have to update protections and toughen the penalties so that employers will have real incentive to safeguard their workers’ health. THEY SAY: Employers have a strong incentive to keep their workers safe; they don’t need government telling them how to run their business. WE SAY: Unfortunately, some employers think it’s cheaper to work their employees to the bone, than protect them from getting injured or exposed to dangers on the job. That’s why more than 8 million workers are injured or made ill at work every year. It’s up to us to be sure that powerful corporations aren’t allowed to injure their workers.
  • Working families and the middle class are getting crushed, while the super-rich are getting richer by gaming the system at our expense. Big corporations are cutting our wages and benefits and shipping our jobs overseas. CEOs put profits before the best interests of workers, communities and the country as a whole. Millions of American workers are denied basic benefits like sick days, are paid less than minimum wage or are not paid for overtime. Employers want to call all the shots, even denying their employees the freedom to join together in a union and ask for decent wages and benefits and better working conditions. Workers who earn good pay and have decent benefits, who can shop at local businesses and support and care for their families, keep the economy moving forward. Decisions to invest in people—world-class education, affordable health care, secure retirement, strong communities. Decisions to pave the way for businesses to innovate and invest in good jobs in America. Decisions to write rules so that businesses will pay decent wages and benefits; arrange work so that workers can do their jobs and care for their families; and respect workers’ freedom to organize together and form unions. Around the country, people are standing up for the freedom to stick together at work, to be treated with dignity, to have our hard work rewarded with good pay and benefits that make it possible to support and care for our families. We are going to hold our elected representatives responsible for protecting working families and expanding the middle class. The issue is not the size of our government, it’s whose side the government is on. Our government should ensure opportunity for every working family, not just those with the most money and power. It doesn’t have to be this way. If we want an America that works for all of us, we need a government that works for all of us. Americans have done this before. This is who we are. This is what America is all about. A longer version of these message points, with more examples of what to say, can be found at: www.progressivenarrative.org/issues. Click on the link for “Pen Good Jobs and Workers Rights.” 1. THE PROBLEM Too many Americans can’t find good jobs, and too many jobs don’t pay enough to support a family. 3. HOW WE GET THERE We build a strong middle class by decisions we make together. 4. CALL TO ACTION We’re all in this together. We all do better when we all do better. 2. THE SOLUTION Working families and the middle class are the engines of the economy. GOODJOBSANDWORKERSRIGHTS