In today's On the News segment: According to data from the International Trade Union Confederation, corporations have almost completely destroyed workers' rights in the US; the low-wage workers of Seattle will see a huge bump in their paychecks; by leaving homeless people on the street, we're paying at least three times as much as we would to house them; and more.
Thom Hartmann here – on the best of the rest of Economic and Labor News...
You need to know this. Big Business should declare victory. According to data from the International Trade Union Confederation, it appears that corporations have almost completely destroyed workers' rights in the United States. A 97-point evaluation of labor-related criteria found that our nation ranks as bad as Pakistan, Indonesia, and Thailand when it comes to workers' rights. The criteria for the study ranged from the right to strike or protest, to collective bargaining rights, to basic civil liberties. The only places that were ranked worse for workers were countries experiencing "open violent conflict." In the last century, people in our nation fought and even died for labor laws and rights that made us proud to live and work in America. However, over the last three decades, the billionaires and the big corporations have destroyed those rights and waged a war on the very unions that gave us a robust middle class. In the last three years alone, more than a dozen states have put limits on collective bargaining for public employees, and another 19 states have pushed for right-to-work-for-LESS laws to destroy private unions. The rich and powerful have declared an all-out war on working people, and it has left us with more in common with Third World nations than the developed world. From the Fight for 15 to the Fast Food strikes, American workers are beginning to stand up and fight back. We have a long way to go to restore the labor rights that we've lost, but we can do it, so let's get busy.
The Republicans said that Obamacare would make some doctors quit, and it turns out that in a way, they were right. In the states that have expanded Medicaid, the formerly uninsured now have coverage, so free clinics are closing up shop. The doctors, nurses, and staff who worked and volunteered at those facilities are actually happy that they're no longer needed – and, they're finding jobs at other offices and clinics, which are treating all these patients who are now able to pay for care. In addition, the fact that these patients now have coverage means that emergency rooms and doctors who were treating the uninsured are finally getting paid for their services. Harborview Medical Center in Seattle said that they expect a $20 million dollar boost in revenue thanks to all the new coverage. Similar results are popping up in Colorado, Arkansas, and other states. The only medical jobs we're losing over Obamacare are the ones we shouldn't have needed in the first place – because doctors shouldn't have had to volunteer their time to ensure that everyone had access to care. In states that have expanded Medicaid, doctors and hospitals are actually getting more revenue, which means they'll be able to keep more staff and hire more people. This is yet another reason why Red-state lawmakers should expand Medicaid now.
By leaving homeless people on the street, we're paying at least three times as much as we would to house them. A recent study from the Central Florida Commission on Homelessness found that taxpayers shell out $31,000 dollars a year on every person living on the street. However, it would only cost about $10,000 a year to give them a place to live AND services like health care and job training. Studies in North Carolina, Colorado, and other states have found similar results. Rather than ignoring homeless people or throwing them in jail, we could save a ton of money by giving them a home and a future. Florida alone could save $350 million dollars over the next decade by providing hosing for the homeless – and that number doesn't even count the benefits of having more working people contribute to our society. We need to stop treating people like criminals because they find themselves on the street and remember that social services are a hand up, not a hand out.
Only one large retailer got top marks from their employees for excellent pay and benefits – Costco. A recent survey conducted by the online career community Glassdoor found that Costco beat out all other retailers, and even most of the big tech companies, on the issue of employee compensation. In fact, the retailer is number two on the list of the top 25 companies, and they actually have the same positive rating as the number one company, Google. The starting pay for workers at Costco is $11.50 an hour, and their average pay is about $22 dollars an hour. On top of paying well, Costco offers great benefits, and nearly 90 percent of their employees are enrolled in a company-sponsored health plan. In exchange for healthcare and a decent wage, Costco employees are more loyal and more productive. Costco is proving that it's possible to make a profit and treat your employees well, and many customers are happier shopping in stores with business practices that they support.
And finally... The low-wage workers of Seattle will see a huge bump in their paychecks. Last week the City Council Committee approved a proposal to raise that city's minimum wage to $15 dollars an hour, and this week it was accepted by the full city council. However, the group 15 Now is still fighting for workers in that city. The approved increase won't take effect until April of 2015, and it phases in the pay hike over the course of several years. For the activists and labor groups who have been pushing the increase, the current offer isn't enough to help workers now. Members of the group 15 Now are still collecting signatures to put their measure before voters, which would include an immediate wage increase for large businesses, and a slower phase in for companies with fewer than 250 full-time employees. The group already has more than 10,000 signatures, and they only need 30,000 to put their measure on the ballot. Either way, everyone in Seattle will soon be paid a living wage, and that's great news for workers and for Seattle's economy.
And that's the way it is - for the week of June 2, 2014 – I'm Thom Hartmann – on the Economic and Labor News.