Kay wrote at Balloon Juice from 2010-15.
Since then Kay has been sharing her thoughts in the comments rather than on the front page.
I have not read it yet, but here’s a link.
We talked about how some enterprising political party could put together an economic agenda that could include something more than the Earned Income Tax Credit and that agenda might include a discussion about why so many people who should be entitled to overtime pay don’t get any.
I started thinking about overtime pay because my middle son, who barely talks at all, went into a long, detailed explanation a couple of weeks ago on why he was working additional shifts and hours and EXACTLY what that means in terms of what he will make the next pay period. Overtime he understands. This is also true in my law practice. I can have someone in front of me who answers questions with “yes” or “no” but if we’re looking at their pay record they become very engaged and can tell me at length when and why they picked up the hours with the higher wage. They’re the expert. They are happy to explain it to me.
So overtime would be a good thing to talk about and another good thing to talk about might be why so many people who should be employees are being told that they are independent contractors.
Many workplace experts say a growing number of companies have maneuvered to cut costs by wrongly classifying regular employees as independent contractors, though they often are given desks, phone lines and assignments just like regular employees. Moreover, the experts say, workers have become more reluctant to challenge such practices, given the tough job market.
Companies that pass off employees as independent contractors avoid paying Social Security, Medicare and unemployment insurance taxes for those workers.
One federal study concluded that employers illegally passed off 3.4 million regular workers as contractors, while the Labor Department estimates that up to 30 percent of companies misclassify employees.
This is Richard Cordray in 2010. Cordray was the Ohio AG when this was written but is now the head of the CFPB. Cordray chose to portray this as a fairness issue with one group of employers playing by the rules and another group gaining an unfair advantage by flouting the rules. That’s one way to do it. I’m an employer and I don’t think it’s fair if I follow the rules and other employers don’t. I bet I’m not the only one who would see it that way.
“It’s a very significant problem,” said the attorney general, Richard Cordray. “Misclassification is bad for business, government and labor. Law-abiding businesses are in many ways the biggest fans of increased enforcement. Misclassifying can mean a 20 or 30 percent cost difference per worker.”
From the employee perspective, one might focus on this:
This is an even more striking comparison in 2014. The Social Security wage base is expected to increase from $113,700 for 2013 to $117,000 for 2014. That’s not the only thing to keep in mind, of course, but it does suggest that it can be shortsighted to turn down employee status. Apart from tax law, employee status carries a host of nondiscrimination laws, pension and benefits laws and wage and hour protections that apply to employees but not to independent contractors.
So minimum wage, overtime and real employees rather than misclassified “independent contractors”. Nearly everyone has a stake in that discussion and has some personal experience with it.
We talked about how labor unions have been deliberately targeted for extinction and how that has contributed to wage stagnation and income inequality, but labor unions are just one piece of the puzzle.
There’s labor unions and then there’s the state side – government regulations and laws that helped create a middle class. The state side of the equation includes things like minimum wage and family and medical leave and unemployment insurance and laws to protect against discrimination and also overtime.
This is overtime:
The federal overtime provisions are contained in the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Unless exempt, employees covered by the Act must receive overtime pay for hours worked over 40 in a workweek at a rate not less than time and one-half their regular rates of pay.
And this is who used to get it:
In 1975, more than 65 percent of salaried American workers earned time-and-a-half pay for every hour worked over 40 hours a week. Not because capitalists back then were more generous, but because it was the law.
And this is who gets it now:
Only workers earning an annual income of under $23,660 qualify for mandatory overtime. You know many people like that? Probably not. By 2013, just 11 percent of salaried workers qualified for overtime pay, according to a report published by the Economic Policy Institute. And so business owners like me have been able to make the other 89 percent of you work unlimited overtime hours for no additional pay at all.
And here’s what an enterprising political party that was looking to remain relevant to a huge group of people might do about that:
Fulfilling the “opportunity agenda” in his State of the Union address, President Obama signed a memorandum on March 13, 2014 that begins the process of updating the Fair Labor Standards Act’s overtime rules. In some cases, the president said, the federal rule originally designed to limit overtime for highly paid employees now covers workers earning as little as $23,000 a year.
Here’s an example of the type of employee who gets screwed by this, and this is the deliberate government action that cut their wages:
But in 2004, President George W. Bush’s Department of Labor overhauled the rules, which accomplished two things: First, it raised the salary threshold below which all workers are entitled to overtime, from $250 per week to $455 per week. And second, it reorganized all the exemptions in such a way that more employees wouldn’t qualify because of what they did on the job. Under the new rules, people could be defined as managers exempt from overtime, for example, while doing grunt work and supervisory work simultaneously.
I live and work in an area where lots and lots of working class, hourly people still receive overtime. I can tell you that they know exactly what it’s worth. They can tell you how many hours they worked “over” the previous week and in the next sentence they will tell you they can rely on an increase in their hourly wage and paycheck for that overtime work.
Maybe we could put members of the two groups in a room, the working and lower middle class people who still receive overtime and those who don’t. They can compare jobs, hours worked and pay stubs. Then they can ask their elected officials how this was allowed to happen and what they plan to do about it.
Here’s a nice story about workers coming together to create a non-state collective alternative to state actions (worker-friendly laws and regulation) for worker protection and negotiation.
Those non-state entities are called labor unions, and no one has come up with anything to replace them yet which is probably why they keep rising from the dead every time they’re declared O.V.E.R (!) and annoying both politicians and private sector CEO’s with their olde timey, noisy and unfashionable demands. Obviously, both political leaders and private sector CEO’s would find this whole “worker” thing a lot easier to deal with if politicians and the private sector were the only game in town for worker protections and negotiating clout and we all had to go thru them, but thankfully this “union” idea will not die because we need a third avenue, an outside force to push back and watch the other two, and a lot of us know it.
On a drizzly afternoon in mid-June, about 1,000 low-wage workers and their supporters marched down Boylston Street, trombones and drums creating a jubilant soundtrack. Adjunct professors walked alongside fast-food workers, religious leaders with retail staffers, construction union officials with waiters.
Home health aides waved signs that read, “Hold the burgers, hold the fries, make our wages supersize.”
The march was part of “Fight for $15,” a campaign to lift up low-wage workers that has spread across the country, spurring unprecedented collaboration between unions, worker centers, community organizations, and faith-based groups.
Propelled by public outrage over corporate greed and income inequality, the effort to improve the lives of the working poor is reshaping and reinvigorating the labor movement, cutting across lines of geography and self-interest that have divided these groups.
As the movement gains momentum, workers from different industries are becoming more united and vocal. Maureen Sullivan, once a full-time faculty member at Boston University, became an adjunct sociology professor at the school after she was laid off in 2012. With no benefits, and only one BU class to teach, Sullivan joined the Fight for $15 effort, helping to lead protesters down Boylston Street in June.
“Why am I identifying with fast-food workers?” she said. “We are the same.”
But some in the business community say the movement is just a ploy by the Service Employees International Union to collect more dues.
“It would be wrong to allow the SEIU and its affiliates to hide behind an altruistic plea for higher wages when what they really want is a shortcut to refill their steadily dwindling membership ranks and coffers,” said Steve Caldeira, president of the International Franchise Association, a trade group in Washington
I love this argument, I must say. Unions are self-interested. They want members, union dues AND higher wages for members. Let me pick myself up off the floor because all this time I thought they were like Worker Fairy Angels with no expenses or costs and no goal of expanding membership or “playing politics”. Heaven forbid.
They are “self interested”, it is true, unlike our altruistic and completely self-sacrificing political and business leader sector, who operate from the purest possible motives and are never captured or corrupt or getting paid. If you believe in self-interest as the only motivating force possible in all human activity, don’t you have to apply that analysis across the board to labor unions AND politicians AND lobbying groups for business interests? Funny how that works, huh?
We’ve talked about this quite a bit and I’m pleased it’s getting attention:
Navarro is at the center of a new collision that pits sophisticated workplace technology against some fundamental requirements of parenting, with particularly harsh consequences for poor single mothers. Along with virtually every major retail and restaurant chain, Starbucks relies on software that choreographs workers in precise, intricate ballets, using sales patterns and other data to determine which of its 130,000 baristas are needed in its thousands of locations and exactly when. Big-box retailers or mall clothing chains are now capable of bringing in more hands in anticipation of a delivery truck pulling in or the weather changing, and sending workers home when real-time analyses show sales are slowing. Managers are often compensated based on the efficiency of their staffing.
Scheduling is now a powerful tool to bolster profits, allowing businesses to cut labor costs with a few keystrokes. “It’s like magic,” said Charles DeWitt, vice president for business development at Kronos, which supplies the software for Starbucks and many other chains.
Yet those advances are injecting turbulence into parents’ routines and personal relationships, undermining efforts to expand preschool access, driving some mothers out of the work force and redistributing some of the uncertainty of doing business from corporations to families, say parents, child care providers and policy experts.
I talk to parents like this all the time and just listening to the scheduling they have to do exhausts me, particularly because they make so little money. I sit there and wonder when they’ll figure out that working under these conditions makes no sense for them, and just give up. I don’t want them to give up and I admire the hell out of them for trying but there’s so little reward for working and so much downside that it has to occur to some portion of them that we have made it nearly impossible for them to get out of this trap. One of the big draws for factory work versus service work in this county isn’t the pay which sometimes sucks, and it certainly isn’t the work itself which is often both mindless and physically demanding, it’s that they get a regular schedule. They don’t want “flexibility.” They want consistency and order and predictability because lower-wage people need that more than people who make more money. They have no room for error.
I love this piece because it follows the worker’s chaotic life and includes how that disorder and uncertainty ripples to all of the people who live with the worker and all of the people who provide childcare for low wage workers. It sucks a huge group of people in and makes numerous households subject to the demands of the low wage employer. If there were some PAY attached to this it might make sense for people, but they’re not even making enough to live on.
But Ms. Navarro’s fluctuating hours, combined with her limited resources, had also turned their lives into a chronic crisis over the clock. She rarely learned her schedule more than three days before the start of a workweek, plunging her into urgent logistical puzzles over who would watch the boy. Months after starting the job she moved out of her aunt’s home, in part because of mounting friction over the erratic schedule, which the aunt felt was also holding her family captive. Ms. Navarro’s degree was on indefinite pause because her shifting hours left her unable to commit to classes. She needed to work all she could, sometimes counting on dimes from the tip jar to make the bus fare home. If she dared ask for more stable hours, she feared, she would get fewer work hours over all.
No one could manage this well. No one. We’re setting them up to fail and then blaming them when they do fail.
The Wisconsin state court said last week that Scott Walker’s voter suppression law was okay as long as Wisconsin somehow figures out “administratively” how to turn it into something other than a poll tax. Free birth certificates for everyone I guess!
This is from Justin Levitt writing at Election Law Blog. I did not know this was also a myth:
“The Wisconsin Supreme Court also claimed that “photo identification is now required . . . to board a commercially operated airline flight.” The only problem with that statement is that — despite endless repetition in the last few years — it is still flatly not true.
I should know: in 2011, I flew to DC to testify about voter ID rules, without any photo ID in my wallet. Exactly as regulations permit, I got on the plane just fine. It wasn’t a fluke — it was precisely what the law required.
Proponents of restrictive ID laws often fall back on the argument that a government-ID requirement for voting is reasonable, because having an ID is a purported necessity in modern life. You have to have an ID to board a plane, they say. It’s a curious example they choose.
The first problem is that the example is irrelevant. Voting is at the heart of our constitutional order, guaranteed to every eligible citizen. Boarding a plane is a nice perk. The republic doesn’t crumble if the people don’t fly on planes.
But the example is also dead wrong. Actually, you don’t have to have an ID to board a plane. I proved this firsthand, when I had the opportunity to testify before a subcommittee of the Senate Judiciary Committee just over one year ago, on the propriety of voter ID laws. As recounted here in an ACS brief, when I got to Los Angeles airport, I had no photo ID in my wallet, government-issued or otherwise. Instead, I had two credit cards, a firing range card, a health insurance card, a blood donor card, a coffee shop frequent visitor card, and a few business cards, all without photos. I was also carrying a checkbook.
The TSA officer at the airport check-in station examined my boarding pass, and asked me to step aside for additional questions; another officer reviewed my other paperwork, and asked a bit more. I was then asked to step through the (regular) security line, where my bags were screened, and a backscatter image was taken. I estimate that the procedure lasted approximately ten minutes longer than the normal procedure experienced by individuals in the same line who had photo identification on hand.
After clearing security, I enjoyed a beer in the airport Chili’s — without using photo ID. When I arrived in Washington, DC, I checked into my hotel — without using photo ID. I then made my way to the Dirksen Senate office building, and to the Committee’s hearing room — without using photo ID. Commercial vendors and federal governments alike have demonstrated that when it is financially or politically important to extend access even to citizens without certain photo identification, such citizens can be accommodated with minimal disruption to normal business practices.
Since my trip, I’ve often been asked whether my experience was a fluke, or a parlor trick. It was, emphatically, neither. It was policy — for years, the TSA and its predecessor agencies have consistently maintained a policy making sure that they can accommodate those without particular government-issued photo identification.
You may discuss why our learned judges believed this for all these years and never checked, or anything else you want to talk about.