Monday, April 29, 2013

Monday Morning Links

Assorted content to start your week.

- Lynn Stuart Parramore discusses the epidemic of wage theft by U.S. employers:
Americans like to think that a fair day’s work brings a fair day’s pay. Cheating workers of their wages may seem like a problem of 19th-century sweatshops. But it’s back and taking a terrible toll. We’re talking billions of dollars in wages; millions of workers affected each year. A gigantic heist is being perpetrated against working people: they’re getting screwed on overtime, denied their tips, shortchanged on benefits, defrauded on payroll, and handed paychecks that bounce like rubber balls. A conservative estimate of unpaid overtime alone shows that it costs workers at least $19 billion per year.
The sheer scope of the problem is jaw-dropping, sweeping across key industries and inflicting massive damage on individuals and society as a whole. In 2009, the National Employment Law Project (NELP) released a ground-breaking study, “Broken Laws, Unprotected Workers,” which found that in America, an honest day’s work is frequently rewarded with theft and abuse. A survey of over 4,000 workers in Chicago, L.A. and New York found that minimum and overtime violations were rife, and any attempt to complain or organize was swiftly met with punishment. Among the revelations:
  • 26 percent of low-wage workers got paid less than the minimum wage.
  • 76 percent of workers toiling over 40 hours were denied overtime.
  • Workers lose an average of $2,634 a year due to these and other workplace violations.
- But of course, it’s easier for employers to get away with violating workers’ rights in the absence of any alternative. And the erosion of public assistance surely figures into that equation:
For the record, the Rae government established a single welfare rate of $663 a month in 1993 — the high water mark. He then froze social assistance rates in both 1994 and 1995, the first two-year freeze since 1973. Mike Harris cut rates by 21.6 per cent, establishing a single rate of $520 a month and let it stay there until Dalton McGuinty took over eight years later. That low $520 single rate, if adjusted for inflation, would now be $617 a month but the current rates stands at just $606 a month.
For the last 20 years, social assistance has eroded to the point that it would take a 56-per-cent rate increase to bring the single rate back to where it was in 1993.
- Meanwhile, Paul Krugman discusses how the 1% has managed to keep dominating policy debates even when its demands have consistently produced disastrous results. And Miles Corak points out that Canada’s Standing Committee on Finance is examining some useful suggestions to address income inequality - though it’s unlikely that study will produce many results in light of the anti-social majority wielded by the Cons.

- Finally, Simon Enoch and Erika Shaker write that the labour movement’s fight for safer workplaces is far from over.


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