Today’s post comes from guest author Thomas Domer, from The Domer Law Firm.
Mary Domer heads the local chapter of the Ladies of Charity and just chaired the national conference held in Milwaukee. She recruited Kim Bobo, Director of Interfaith Workers Justice and author of Wage Theft in America to speak to the assembly. Kim’s presentation reminded us of the disparities of wealth in America and how that wage gap is increasing, in some measure because of wage theft. Among the gems garnered from Kim’s presentation
- If your employer tells you you are an independent contractor, you’re probably not.
- Methods of “contingency employment” are on the increase including ever increasing temporary workers, seasonal workers and permanent “part time” workers.
- Three-quarters of low wage workers don’t get overtime. These include folks who can’t do all the work needed in 40 hours, but who would be fired if they didn’t perform all the work needed, daycare workers who have to stay off the clock and wait for parents to arrive, and “off the clock” work done in set up and clean up. The most egregious examples were McDonalds workers told by their managers to clock out and sit and wait in the car until they were needed when more customers arrived.
Kim noted that many “tip” workers do not receive any of the tips, reminding us to either ask the question about whether the worker would receive a tip paid for by credit card or alternatively to simply pay in cash. She noted an average of $2,600 lost average per year for low wage workers including janitors, drivers, landscapers, care workers.
Despite these negative trends, Kim suggested five ways in which we can all support low wage workers.
- Support campaigns to increase the minimum wage.
- Help with legislation and ordinances on paid sick days (40 million low wage workers have no paid sick days).
- Push Wal-Mart, McDonalds and other employers to increase their wages. (She noted Wal-Mart does pay well in Europe so they have the capability when they are forced to do so. Astoundingly, she noted six members of the Walton family possess a significant portion of the wealth in America.)
- Support legislation to provide a clear paystub to all employees. (Many are being paid by debit cards where they have to actually pay money to their employers to get paid.)
- Honor employers who pay well through “a living wage certification program” in each of our communities.
Through these methods and many more, we can all be men and Ladies of Charity.
Facts about food stamps. Click on this image to see it full size.
I write about a debate now occurring in Congress in which the GOP is threatening millions of American families, including 200,000 Iowa households. The debate is over food stamps, now known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (“SNAP”).
To understand the problem, we need only review the survey-report issued by the Department of Agriculture on September 4. (Alisha Coleman-Jensen, Mark Nord, Anita Singh, “Household Food Security in the United States in 2012”). The report shows that nearly 49 million Americans lived in “food insecure” households last year. This means family members lack consistent access to adequate food throughout the year. In short, 49 million Americans (over 16 times the Iowa population) went hungry for long periods in 2012. Worse, children were found to be hungry in 10% of all U.S. families with children. The agency found that hunger rates since the 2007 recession are much higher than before.
Many people have a misunderstanding of this hunger; many think the hungry are the same persons who are homeless. In fact, in most cases the hungry are persons who work at low-paying jobs or are disabled from work.
The GOP (mostly the House GOP) wants to cut food stamps. Yet, food stamps have been the centerpiece of our country’s safety net for the poor. Benefits are adjusted for income. Recipients can use SNAP benefits only for food, notwithstanding Rep. Steve King’s assertion that he knows food stamps are used for bail and tattoos. Nearly 48 million Americans now receive food stamps (about 15% of the approximately 314 million Americans), at an annual cost to us of about $80 billion.
No matter what Congress decides, food stamps expenditures will be reduced in November, when a provision in the 2009 stimulus bill expires. House Republicans, however, propose Continue reading
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The number of worker’s compensation claims has dropped dramatically
Today’s post comes from guest author Charlie Domer from The Domer Law Firm.
The Wisconsin Association of Worker’s Compensation Attorneys (WAWCA) just held its tenth annual worker’s compensation seminar in Madison, Wisconsin. (I presented the annual case law update.) A report on the economic health of Wisconsin worker’s compensation (presented by a colleague on the defense side, Paul Riegel) noted reported worker’s compensation claims have dropped from 55,000 in 2001 to less than 35,000 in 2011. Based upon the first five months of 2012 reporting, 30,000 reported claims are anticipated to be made in 2012.
Applications for hearing on those claims have also diminished, from 7,000 in 2001 to about 5,500 in 2011. Again based upon projections, the 2012 number of Applications for Hearing will be about 5,600.
Several potential explanations for this drop were provided including:
- The days of asbestosis, silicosis, and similar disease may have ended due to the aging population of those of exposed before the implementation of OSHA in 1970 and the lessening amounts of these substances in the workplace.
- Employers argue that workplaces are simply safer, resulting in lesser claims.
- The safer workplaces argument is rebutted by employee and Union data that fewer people are willing to make claims in a depressed economy for fear of losing their jobs. While Wisconsin law assesses a “one year’s wages” penalty against an employer who fires or refuses to rehire an injured worker, in tough economic times, that may not be a risk an injured worker is willing to make. Anecdotal evidence from a variety of sources indicates viable claims, specifically for “wear and tear” type injuries are simply not being made.
- The impact of extending Unemployment Compensation benefits from its initial 26 weeks through multiple extensions may diminish worker’s compensation claims since another “safety net” exists. Additionally, the availability of Social Security may diminish worker’s compensation claims. General employment trends also suggest Continue reading
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