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On August 3rd, in one of the largest climate justice protests in recent history, thousands of people will come together in a momentous West Coast mass action – “We Can Stop Climate Chaos” – to stand with the people of Richmond who are on the frontlines of our common fight for the health and safety of our workplaces and communities, and to declare our collective resistance to fossil fuels.
As part of the action, hundreds of union and non-union workers together with members of worker centers and cooperatives will march as a Labor Contingent demanding UNION JOBS FOR LOCAL RESIDENTS IN THE CLEAN ENERGY ECONOMY and a just transition from dirty, harmful fossil fuels.
The labor contingent joins 350.org, 350 Bay Area, the Richmond Progressive Alliance, Communities for a Better Environment, Asian Pacific Environmental Network, No Keystone Action Council, Idle No More SF Solidarity, Urban Tilth, Gathering Tribes, and many more in demanding:
• A Just Transition from Dirty Fossil Fuels to Union Jobs in Clean Energy
• No More Life-Threatening Hazards at Chevron
• No Refining of Dirty Crude
• No More Corporate Tax Evasion by Chevron
• No More Polluting Our Democracy by Chevron
• No Keystone XL Tar Sands Pipeline
Unions, worker cooperatives, and worker justice organizations sponsoring to date include: AFSCME District Council 57, AFSCME Local 3299, California Nurses Association (CNA), CWA District 9, and Design Action Collective.
For more information about the action, visit http://joinsummerheat.org/
When large corporations like Walmart dodge their responsibilities to provide health care to their employees, taxpayers are forced to pick up the tab. That’s unfair, and it must change.
AB 880 (Gomez) demands that the state’s largest corporations pay their fair share like the rest of us. It closes the ‘Walmart Loophole” in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) that encourages big, profitable companies to cut hours and wages so low that workers end up on taxpayer-funded programs like Medi-Cal. The law would assess a penalty on unscrupulous corporations that are pushing their costs onto taxpayers. And it improves access to affordable medical care for millions of low-income Californians.
Just the Facts
- The Affordable Care Act is designed to ensure everyone – employers, taxpayers and the government – pay their fair share. The ACA requires big employers to pay a penalty to offset the costs of public subsidies for their workers’ healthcare.
- However, big corporations are exploiting a loophole in the ACA, which does not impose a penalty on employers whose workers enroll in Medi-Cal. That means that employers who pay low wages, reduce hours and fail to provide benefits are able to evade the ACA penalties and shift the cost of health coverage for their employees onto taxpayers.
- A 2004 study by the UC Berkeley Labor Center found that Walmart workers’ reliance on public health care programs cost the state $32 million annually, and that figure has continued to grow.
- Now, according to a new report from UC Berkeley found that as many as 380,000 workers employed by Walmart and other big companies will end up on the state’s Medi-Cal program by 2019.
- The state expansion of the Medi-Cal program allows large employers to shift even more of the costs of their employees’ health care onto the public. A childless adult could work 30 hours a week at $10 an hour and still qualify for Medi-Cal. Given that the typical retail worker earns $9.61 an hour, and Walmart workers earn an average wage around $8.81 an hour, many of new Medi-Cal employees will be working for Walmart and other huge, multinational companies with billions in revenue.
- Other large low-wage corporations are also cutting hours and eliminating benefits, since the penalty only applies to full-time employees. Darden Restaurants, which owns Olive Garden and Red Lobster and operates 121 restaurants in California, announced that it will reduce workers’ hours to part-time to avoid ACA penalties.
Q: There are already penalties for employers under ACA, why should California get in the way of this federal issue?
A loophole in the ACA encourages large employers like Walmart to circumvent the federal penalties they’d pay if their workers get health coverage through the insurance exchange. They plan to pay workers so little they wind up on the state Medi-Cal program instead. If California doesn’t act, our taxpayers and small businesses will pick up the tab for nearly 400,000 workers dumped by big employers by 2019. California must act to protect our taxpayers and small businesses.
Q: Who pays the penalty?
Only very large employers who aren’t paying their fair share and dump their health care costs onto taxpayers will pay any penalty. Small and mid-size businesses are exempt.
Q: Will this penalty drive businesses out of state and kill jobs, as big corporate groups claim?
This penalty only applies to those few very large employers who do not provide coverage and pay so little that their employees qualify for Medi-Cal. A large number of these employers are in the retail and restaurant industry—industries that will NEVER leave California because this is where their customers are. California is a huge market for retailers and restaurants and they can’t leave the state.
Q: Won’t this bill trigger more lawsuits against employers by creating a new class of protected workers? Don’t employers in California have enough lawsuits already?
No, this bill does not create a new class of protected workers. What is does is prevent retaliation by employers, so they can’t avoid the penalty by intimidating workers into not enrolling in Medi-Cal.
Q: How much will this penalty bring in?
That will be determined by how many companies decide to avoid their responsibilities and instead dump their health care costs onto taxpayers and small businesses. Most companies offer their employees a decent wage and benefits for a hard day’s work. This law only impacts those companies that are trying to cheat the system by paying workers so little that they end up on taxpayer-funded programs.
Q: How many employers will this affect?
This bill will only affect the largest, most profitable companies who evade federal law by slashing workers wages and benefits so low they quality for taxpayer-funded Medi-Cal. There are approximately 1200 employers in California with over 500 employees, though not all of them will have workers enrolled in Medi-Cal so won’t be subject to the penalty. Responsible employers that pay good wages and provide benefits will not be subject to the penalty.
Q: How will the funds be allocated and who makes that decision?
The funds will be put in a trust fund to pay for the state share of the Medi-Cal program, to increase reimbursement rates for Medi-Cal providers and to county health systems, community clinics and other safety net providers that provide care to the residually uninsured. The Department of Health Care Services will administer the funds.
The revenues from the penalty will take pressure off of the state budget to pay for the Medi-Cal program. Freeing up that revenue means more money for other state programs like schools, public safety and infrastructure.
AB 880 (Gomez)
- AB 880 would close the “Walmart loophole” in the ACA that allows low-wage employers to evade their responsibility to provide affordable coverage or pay a penalty for workers on subsidized coverage. It will ensure that large employers pay their fair share into our public health care system, saving money for the General Fund and improving access to care for recipients.
- Large employers will be subject to a fee if they have employees enrolled in the Medi-Cal program. The fee is equal to the cost of a commercial health plan that large employers provide to employees. The fee will be pro-rated for the number of hours worked by employees enrolled in Medi-Cal.
- Revenues from the fee will be used to pay for the non-federal state share of the Medi-Cal program, to increase reimbursement rates for providers to care for Medi-Cal recipients and to shore up the state’s safety net.
- AB 880 does not apply to small or medium-sized businesses. The fee only applies to large private employers with more than 500 employees. Federal, state and local public employers are exempt from the fee.
In the News
- Forbes: Walmart Bails On Obamacare; Sticks Taxpayers With Employee Healthcare Costs
- KOVR-TV: Protesters At Wal-Mart Pushing To Close Loophole In Affordable Care Act (video)
- KCRA-TV: Protesters attack ‘Walmart Loophole’ in West Sacramento (video)
- KGO-TV: Bill proposes cracking down on ‘Walmart loophole’ (video)
- KPBS: California Bill Would Penalize Large Companies That Don’t Provide Health Coverage
- LA Times: Part-timers to lose pay amid health act’s new math
- Sacramento Bee: Labor-backed plan would fine large employers who send workers to Medi-Cal
- Ventura County Star: Companies that dump workers into Medi-Cal could face fines
- Southern California Public Radio: Part-time employees losing hours as ACA implementation approaches
- American Prospect: How Low Can Part-Timers’ Hours Go?
Friends and Allies,
Save the date and join us for a fundraiser cocktail party on Wednesday, March 20th at the David Brower Center, Berkeley, CA.
Honorary Host: Representative Barbara Lee
(If you are unable to attend, you can still support USLAW with a donation.)
Proceeds of this event will be used to support the ongoing work of USLAW.
While the state budget is in better shape than previous years, California’s economy is still fragile. Every available dollar of state spending should go to creating jobs and strengthening the middle class.
The last thing we should be doing is giving corporate CEOs big tax breaks for eliminating good-paying jobs. Yet, that’s exactly what the state’s enterprise zone (EZ) program does. This fat giveaway to huge corporations costs taxpayers over $700 million a year while study after study proves that the program doesn’t create new jobs.
Governor Brown has proposed meaningful reform that curbs the worst abuses and waste of taxpayer dollars. His budget closes the outrageous loophole that allows a corporation to get a tax break for someone they don’t even currently employ and requires more accountability.
The Governor’s proposal is a solid first step to reform this abusive program but much, much more needs to be done. We need your help!
Send a letter of support for the Governor’s proposal to reform EZs today! And, if you can, attend an upcoming hearing in your community (schedule of hearings can be found below). We can send corporations a message that the gravy train is over. Act today!
Portrait, Robert Reich, 08/16/09. (photo: Perian Flaherty)
Inequality is Undermining Our Democracy
By Robert Reich, Robert Reich’s Blog
11 December 12
ashington has a way of focusing the nation’s attention on tactical games over partisan maneuvers that are symptoms of a few really big problems. But we almost never get to debate or even discuss the big problems because the tactical games overwhelm everything else.
The debate over the fiscal cliff, for example, is really about tactical maneuvers preceding a negotiation about how best to reduce the federal budget deficit. This, in turn, is a fragment of a bigger debate over whether we should be embracing austerity economics and reducing the budget deficit in the next few years or, alternatively, using public spending and investing to grow the economy and increase the number of jobs.
Even this larger debate is just one part of what should be the central debate of our time – why median wages continue to drop and poverty to increase at the same time income and wealth are becoming ever more concentrated at the top, and what should be done to counter the trend.
With a shrinking share of total income and wealth, the middle class and poor simply don’t have the purchasing power to get the economy back on solid footing. (The wealthy don’t spend enough of their income or assets to make up for this shortfall, and they invest their savings wherever around the world they can get the highest return).
As a result, consumer spending – fully 70 percent of economic activity – isn’t up to the task of keeping the economy going. This puts greater pressure on government to be purchaser of last resort.
The dilemma isn’t just economic. It’s also political. As money concentrates at the top, so does power. That concentrated power generates even more entrenched wealth at the top, and less for the middle class and the poor.
A case in point is what’s now happening in Michigan. In the state where the American labor movement was born – and where, because of labor unions, the American middle class once had the bargaining power to gain a significant portion of the nation’s total income – Republicans and big money are striking back.
Legislators in the Michigan state House, followed almost immediately by Republicans who dominate the state Senate, voted Thursday afternoon to eliminate basic union organizing and workplace protections for both public and private-sector workers. Michigan Republican Governor Rick Snyder says he’ll sign the measure.
This anti-labor blitzkreig was launched and coordinated by “Americans for Prosperity” – a group developed and funded by the right-wing industrialists and billionaire campaign donors Charles and David Koch, to “pave the way for right to work in states across our nation.”
The Koch brothers are the same ones, not incidentally, who several years ago backed a group called “Citizen’s United,” on its way to the Supreme Court for an opinion by the Court’s Republican majority that opened the floodgates to big money corrupting our federal and state governments. (The brothers Koch have also entertained Justices Scalia and Thomas at strategy meetings they’ve organized of Republican donors.)
Connect the dots: As unions have withered, the middle class’s share of total income and wealth has dropped. The decline of the median wage in America over the last three decades correlates exactly with the declining percentage of American workers who are unionized.
And as the super-rich have grown even wealthier, they’ve been able to extend their power through the Supreme Court and the Republican Party – advancing a war on the middle class.
These moneyed interests may lose a skirmish or two, particularly at the federal level when the public’s attention is focused there (Michigan voters went overwhelmingly for President Obama and Democratic Senator Debbie Stabenow on November 6). But the moneyed interests are patient and relentless and, as is evident in Michigan, able to strike suddenly with extraordinary organization and precision.
They’ve taken on our tax system, successfully raising taxes on the middle class and the poor (Social Security payroll taxes, sales taxes, and user fees) while reducing their own top marginal tax rates. They’ve taken on public spending – cutting government workers and programs the poor and middle class depend on (teachers and school budgets, social workers and family support services, job training and unemployment insurance, to name only a few.)
And they’ve taken on the unions that once negotiated good wages on behalf of the middle class and of those who aspired to join it.
The result has been a degree of inequality this nation hasn’t witnessed since the days of the robber barons of the late nineteenth century – an inequality that’s harming our economy as much as it’s undermining our democracy.
As Washington fiddles over the fiscal cliff, a larger battle over inequality is being waged all over America.
The City College of San Francisco administration is planning to use the $16 million in new annual revenues from Proposition A to…
a) offset budget cuts, prevent layoffs, and provide an affordable, quality education for students, as voters understood the funds were intended to do.
b) squirrel the money away, citing vague demands from the accrediting agency AACJC.
Never mind that voters and the rest of us at City College want option A.
Click here to read and sign the petition: http://bit.ly/PropApetition
Tell the CCSF Board of Trustees: San Francisco voted to Save Our City College
In November, San Francisco voters passed Prop. A to fund City College of San Francisco, provide relief from relentless budget cuts, and help sustain the college. In passing this $79 per-year parcel tax by 72.9%, San Franciscans sent a clear message: they want City College of San Francisco to exist and to succeed, and they want it to continue providing the accessible, quality education to its diverse student body.
Instead of using this additional $16 million to restore cuts or maintain program, the CCSF administration is moving to squirrel away all of the new revenue into savings and other secret items related to the college’s accrediting process. Meanwhile, it has implemented layoffs and demanded that workers at the college, who have already given back millions of dollars in the last several years, take additional, permanent pay cuts and reductions in health benefits.
We, the undersigned, call on the Board of Trustees of City College of San Francisco to respect the wishes of San Francisco voters and use the revenue generated by Prop. A for voter-approved purposes of providing quality education and services for students and preventing layoffs.
By Seth Koenig, BDN Staff
Posted Nov. 16, 2012, at 4:32 p.m.
Last modified Nov. 18, 2012, at 5:56 p.m.
BIDDEFORD, Maine — Labor leaders in Maine say the resilience of the Hostess workers on the picket line at the company’s Biddeford plant, which is in the process of being shut down after the company on Friday said it would liquidate the business, gives them inspiration in the face of what they believe have been ongoing efforts — by politicians, including Gov. Paul LePage, and corporate investors — to reduce union influence.
Bakers’ union officials and their supporters say also that the demise of Hostess Brands Inc., which failed to convince striking workers to return to their jobs, is a warning sign for corporate investors seeking to squeeze more profits out of the working class.
“Unions have been losing power for years,” said Ken Rumney, a striking worker outside of the Hostess plant in Biddeford on Friday. “This is an exceptional case. If Hostess had been allowed to get away with what they’d been trying to do, other corporations would have lined up to try the same tactics. Hopefully, this will be an example to other companies not to [try to] break their unions.” Continue reading
UFCW Local 1428 Honors Veterans with Day of Service
Our nation’s veterans risk their lives to preserve our freedoms and democracy. Yet, upon returning from military service, many veterans face extraordinary challenges – economic, social and emotional. This Veterans Day holiday, members of UFCW Local 1428 decided to show their appreciation to veterans by giving back through a day of service that will hopefully make life a little better for those who have sacrificed so much for our country.
I was honored to join more than 150 members of Local 1428 bright and early Monday morning at St. Trinity church in Pomona to embark on a day of appreciation to veterans through community service. Union members fanned out across Southern California in the communities of Pomona, Shadow Hills, Ontario, Chino, Claremont and Monrovia to provide help in a variety of ways to veterans and show their gratitude to our men and women who have served this nation in uniform.
The day, organized by leaders and staff of Local 1428, was in lieu of the union’s annual steward’s conference. Local 1428 President Connie Leyva said her members really embraced the idea of getting out into the community to do something positive rather than sit in a stuffy conference room.
We just wanted to give back to people who have given so much to us. Most people want to make a difference they just don’t know how. We give them a vehicle to do that and they responded overwhelmingly.
In Pomona, members began the day at American Legion Post 30 by serving a hot breakfast and distributing toothpaste, gift certificates for new shoes and other items of necessity to more than 200 hundred homeless and disabled veterans. Continue reading