Posted 1 year ago on Oct. 2, 2012, 6:23 p.m. EST by LeoYo
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Why Don't Americans Care About Democracy at Home?
Tuesday, 02 October 2012 13:47 By Henry A Giroux, Truthout | Op-Ed
In Move That Stunned Advocates, Jerry Brown Vetoes Domestic Workers' Bill of Rights
Tuesday, 02 October 2012 14:07 By Sheila Bapat, RH Reality Check | News Analysis
Ai-jen Poo, Director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance, has often compared social justice campaigns to great love stories because “you can change policy, but you also change relationships and people in the process.” It follows that heartbreak is inevitable to some of these great love stories.
Poo and her fellow organizers at the National Domestic Workers Alliance (NDWA) had their hearts broken, or at least a bit scarred, most recently this past Sunday when California Governor Jerry Brown vetoed the state’s Domestic Workers Bill of Rights, AB 889, which passed the California legislature several weeks ago. For years the NDWA has been working on passing this law to require protections for California’s 200,000 primarily foreign-born domestic workers who labor as nannies, housekeepers, and home health aides. The law would have required overtime pay, adequate sleeping conditions for live-in workers, and meal and rest breaks. A similar law was vetoed by former California Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2006. Had Gov. Brown not vetoed AB 889, California would have been the second state in the country to pass such legislation. (New York was the first, having passed its domestic workers bill of rights in 2010.)
“While we knew the veto was a possibility, we were stunned,” NDWA said in a statement to its allies and friends soon after the veto was announced.
In his veto message, available here, Gov. Brown suggests that the legislature and/or activists investigate the costs that domestic worker protections could place on disabled or elderly people and their families before a bill is signed. NDWA anticipated partnering with the Governor’s office in ironing out these issues after the bill was signed and sent to the Department of Industrial Relations to promulgate regulations.
“We were surprised he raised those questions, given that it was clear we would work through those questions during the regulatory process,” Poo said.
Brown’s decision is indeed surprising given his progressive leanings on most issues—though immigrant advocates have pointed out other Brown policies that are tough on the state’s immigrant populations. Regardless, this outcome will not deter the tenacious organizers at NDWA who are both motivated by love and armed with a multifaceted strategy. State laws are only part of their overall plan, and they are neither the beginning or the end of advocacy for domestic workers' rights.
Aside from their state legislative strategy, advocates have focused on mobilizing the many stakeholders who are affected by the rights of domestic workers, as a means of building awareness and changing hiring practices. NDWA has already brought about change by influencing employers. Jill Shenker, NDWA’s field director, explained to MSNBC’s Lean Forward blog that she and her colleagues have long been partnering with families who employ domestic workers to ensure that the law would be workable for all involved.
Further along in their post-Brown-veto statement, NDWA pointed out that the movement for the California law has been a vehicle for building awareness and changing perceptions about domestic workers.
Our new statewide web of relationships between domestic workers and their families, employers, faith communities, unions, and celebrities is unstoppable; it’s built around the dignity of domestic work. Thousands of Californians are touched by the work of domestic workers; thousands more are now inspired by their advocacy and leadership. This movement will only continue to grow.
In addition, the activist work in California has helped inspire campaigns to launch throughout the country. As as Andrea Mercado, campaign director for AB 889 told me last month, Massachusetts, Washington, Hawaii, and Illinois are all poised to launch domestic workers’ rights campaigns.
And, there is greater attention to domestic workers rights at the federal level. Labor Secretary Hilda Solis is a friend to the movement; most recently NDWA met with Solis about revising federal labor regulations pertaining to home health care aides. While Poo and her colleagues push forward with their many strategies, codifying domestic workers rights in a state as large as California will continue to be a critical part of their agenda. When media cheer leading and Hollywood attention for the movement eventually ebbs, having a law in place will ensure that domestic workers have a legal basis for raising complaints and a stronger position when negotiating with employers over the long term. California, being the home of so many domestic workers, will continue to be a target of the movement.
This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license.
Pilfering Your Paycheck
Tuesday, 02 October 2012 10:04 By David Cay Johnston, Portfolio/Penguin | Book Excerpt
David Cay Johnston previously wrote "Perfectly Legal: The Covert Campaign to Rig Our Tax System to Benefit the Super Rich--and Cheat Everybody Else" and "Free Lunch: How the Wealthiest Americans Enrich Themselves at Government Expense (and Stick You with the Bill)." His new book, "The Fine Print: How Big Companies use 'Plain English' to Rob You Blind," is the Truthout Progressive Pick of the Week. You can obtain it here for a minimum donation, directly from Truthout. "Fine Print" explains how corporations bill consumers extra fees and keep money that should not be theirs, and legally. The following excerpt exposes how, in an increasing number of circumstances, corporations can keep worker deductions for state taxes.
Take a look at your pay stub. In all but six states, workers will see a deduction for state income taxes. You probably expect that money to finance public schools, the state university and college system, law enforcement and the other services that businesses and individuals rely on. Mostly it does, but in a growing number of states, your state income taxes will also be increasing the profits of your employer. You read that right. Many employers in nineteen states can now keep state income taxes withheld from paychecks. General Electric, Goldman Sachs and Procter & Gamble have these deals, along with a host of foreign firms from the German computer maker Siemens to the Swedish appliance maker Electrolux and a host of Canadian, European and Japanese banks. In all more than 2,700 companies get to pocket the state income taxes withheld from some of their workers' paychecks.
In Illinois, for example, six big companies made deals with the state to pocket half or all of the state income taxes paid by their workers over ten years. Ford got a deal in 2007 by threatening to close an automobile assembly plant. In 2009, when the economy was in the worst shape in eight decades, Chrysler and Mitsubishi used threats of assembly plant closings to get similar deals.
In 2011, three more companies threatened to move out of Illinois. The state paid them off by letting them keep all the taxes withheld from their workers' paychecks for ten years. The German tire maker Continental will pocket $22 million of its workers' taxes, about a tenth of what it invested to modernize a tire plant in poverty-stricken southern Illinois, retaining 2,500 jobs and creating 444 more. Navistar, maker of big diesel trucks for industry and the military, threatened to go to Alabama or maybe Iowa. In return for staying put, Navistar will pocket almost $65 million. The big winner, though, was Motorola Mobility, the cell phone maker. Just for promising not to move out of state and take three thousand jobs with it, Motorola gets to siphon $136 million from the paychecks of its well-paid high-tech workers. As if to make this transaction all the more interesting, Motorola Mobility agreed to be acquired by Google soon after the state made the big tax deal. The Motorola board then paid its CEO, Sanjay Jha, to go away. He received $66 million. Thus, Illinois taxpayers underwrote his golden parachute, which amounted to roughly half the value of the worker taxes flowing to Google. Google hardly needs a subsidy from Illinois taxpayers. It dominates the worldwide search engine and advertising business. Its founders, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, are each worth more than $15 billion. Monopoly profits are the key to such fortunes and oversize toys: at a Capitol Hill hearing in September 2011, Senator Herb Kohl of Wisconsin asked if Google was effectively a monopoly and Eric Schmidt, Google's CEO, acknowledged, "We're in that area." If you work for one of the above companies in Illinois, you probably have not heard that your employer is keeping the state taxes taken out of your check. The diversion is stealthy by design. No law requires the companies to notify the workers that state income taxes are being diverted. The state treats you as having paid your taxes even though it never got the money.
Excerpted from "The Fine Print: How Big Companies use 'Plain English' to Rob You Blind." Published by Portfolio/Penguin.
Copyright © David Cay Johnston, 2012.
This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license.