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Category Archives: Wage Slavery

End the subminimum tipped wage – BayStateBanner

Posted: February 28, 2021 at 10:36 pm

If its passed by Congress, President Joe Bidens COVID-19 relief proposal would do a lot more than fund relief payments and vaccine rollouts. It would also raise the wage floor for all U.S. workers and give a particularly long overdue raise to restaurant servers, taxi drivers, manicurists and other tipped workers.

For Tanya Wallace-Gobern, getting rid of the subminimum wage for tipped workers is a matter of racial justice.

Passing a living wage bill for tipped and non-tipped low-wage workers is essential to reducing inequality, she said in a recent briefing.

As the executive director of the National Black Worker Center Project, Wallace-Gobern oversees a network of eight centers across the country that aim to build power and transform working conditions for Black workers. The subminimum federal wage for tipped workers, which has been stuck at just $2.13 since 1991, is a clear barrier to the projects goals.

While employers are technically supposed to make up the difference if workers dont earn enough in tips to reach the current $7.25 federal minimum, this rule is largely unenforced.

Meanwhile, studies have long found a racial bias in tipping. A survey by One Fair Wage found that prior to the pandemic, 60% of Black tipped workers earned less than $15 per hour, compared to 43% of white tipped workers. And since the pandemic, 88% of them have seen their tips plunge by half or more.

The legislative vehicle for the Biden plan, the Raise the Wage Act, would boost the overall federal minimum wage to $15 by 2025. For tipped workers, it would rise to $4.95 this year and then by $2 per year until it matches the overall $15 minimum in 2026.

The subminimum tipped wage is a shameful relic of slavery. Tipping became prevalent in the United States only after the Civil War, when restaurants and railway companies embraced the practice because it meant they didnt have to pay wages to recently freed slaves.

That past hangs heavily over many Black workers.

Lets face it, Wallace-Gobern told me, Fifty years after President Lyndon B. Johnson declared a war on poverty, Black people in the South still contend with economic hardships, persistent poverty and the enduring legacy of slavery.

Wallace-Gobern, who is based in Raleigh, North Carolina, argues that policies designed to empower Black workers will help every other worker, too.

Black workers are the canaries in the economic coal mine of our country, Wallace-Gobern said. When the canary died, that was a signal that the conditions were bad for the miners. Thats the role Black workers play. If you improve their working conditions, that will lift all workers.

New studies agree with her.

The Economic Policy Institute estimates that nearly one-third of all Black workers would get a raise under the Raise the Wage Act. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that it could also raise wages for 17 million workers overall. Another 10 million workers earning just above $15 could also see an increase.

With the National Black Worker Center Project, Wallace-Gobern is aiming to strengthen the capacity of Black worker centers to win minimum wage increases, build up a cadre of civil rights organizers, and advance a Southern strategy on racial justice and democratic freedoms.

The challenges are many. Particularly in the South, worker advocates are up against anti-union right to work laws and pre-emption restrictions that block cities from improving labor protections at the local level. But Wallace-Gobern is optimistic about the future.

Young people are ready to lead if we step aside and give them space, she remarked. I welcome the opportunity for them to stand on our shoulders and take us to heights that I and my grandparents could never imagine.

Rebekah Entralgo is the managing editor of Inequality.org at the Institute for Policy Studies.

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End the subminimum tipped wage - BayStateBanner

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Biden’s tricky tango with Congress – Action News Now

Posted: at 10:36 pm

"There are men of character in the U.S. Congress, both House and Senate. There are women of character, too. But the evidence for 'character' needs to be something other than the iteration of the word itself," writes Marjorie Garber in her book "Character: The History of a Cultural Obsession."

That is a useful frame for trying to make sense of the dramas that proliferated on Capitol Hill this week as Congress took up multiple nominations to President Joe Biden's Cabinet and held its first hearing on the January 6 insurrection. As Garber notes, the translation of individual traits into a "national character" most often occurs at "times of stress, as a marker not so much of social progress as of social and cultural anxiety."

We saw this. Conviction and commitment (and the lack of same), and in darker terms, eccentricity, hypocrisy and excuses made for bad behavior were on full display on the nation's highest political stage.

Dismissing hypocrisy with a laugh is part of what has left America's political discourse vulnerable to infiltration by dangerous conspiracy theories, wrote Frida Ghitis, reacting to Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson's remarks during hearings about the violent Capitol riots. He suggested, citing multiple discredited claims, that the day had a "jovial," "festive" tone and that the assault had been a false-flag operation. As Ghitis pointed out: "That conspiracy theories exist and are spreading is not news, but hearing them uttered by a US senator during an official congressional hearing marks a new low, one that demands we sit up and take notice." And because tens of millions of Americans "believe the same thing[s]... by uttering that poisonous nonsense from the halls of Congress, Johnson is pumping more fuel into a dangerous fire."

While no huge new revelations emerged during Tuesday's testimony about the US Capitol riots, the hearing sharpened the contours of the story, bringing into focus staggering security, defense and leadership failures, Jill Filipovic observed: "There was no shortage of finger-pointing and blame-passing, but one big takeaway was clear: We've barely scratched the surface of what happened on one of the most ignominious days in American history."

Meanwhile, Biden Cabinet nominees Neera Tanden (Office of Management and Budget), Deb Haaland (Interior) and Xavier Becerra (Health and Human Services) came under fierce questioning from Republicans, putting the focus on the need for support from key moderate Democrats like Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema if they are to be confirmed. In Tanden's case, the fate of her nomination was in doubt at week's end. Andrea Gonzlez-Ramrez, writing for Gen, noted of the nominees, all of whom would be history-making firsts in their positions if confirmed: "I saw a familiar pattern develop. Regardless of their actual record and without even having a chance to discuss it, nominees of color ... have been painted as 'famously partisan' people with 'radical' ideas." (Gonzlez-Ramrez, joining a huge portion of the internet, also mentioned the hypocrisy of going after anyone in the Biden administration for "mean" tweets, given the behavior of the previous administration.)

More smart takes:

SE Cupp: Marjorie Taylor Greene is in Congress to get famous

Thomas Balcerski: What Biden and Pelosi can learn from a 1941-1942 presidential commission

Some pandemic-era unemployment benefits are set to expire March 14, and the House kicked into high gear this week to advance the Biden administration's $1.9 trillion Covid-19 relief packagewhich included a provision to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour from $7.25. On Saturday the House passed the relief bill -- and the minimum wage hike, though that will be stripped out in the Senate version after a ruling by the Senate parliamentarian. Colleen Doody wrote in the Washington Post's "Made By History" that much of the debate on that issue leaves out an important historical point borne out by the original New Deal minimum wage legislation: "The basic idea: Raising wages would increase consumption, thus giving businesses the incentive to hire more workers. It worked, reminding us today that mandating higher wages doesn't just increase standards of living. It boosts the economy."

The relief bill now heads to the Senate. Writing for CNN Business Perspectives, economist Joseph Stiglitz argued that "Congress must pass this legislation or risk an anemic and devastatingly incomplete recovery." In the Washington Post, Ohio Sen. Rob Portman took issue with the package as overly massive and insufficiently bipartisan: "The Biden administration's partisan approach repeats the same mistake that Barack Obama made early in his presidency. It sets the wrong tone for the beginning of a new administration and risks undermining other bipartisan efforts going forward."

On the grim milestone of 500,000 Covid deaths, CNN medical analyst Jonathan Reiner offered a reminder that big lies can be deadly: "The January 6 attack on the United States Capitol was a vivid demonstration of the havoc that can result when a really big lie is repeatedly injected into the body politic. But there was another big lie in 2020, also propagated by former President Donald Trump...a lie that systematically downplayed the severity of Covid-19 and the utility of face masks, and very likely resulted in the unnecessary deaths of hundreds of thousands of Americans." The pandemic's cost isn't limited to lives lost; it also includes a tally of lives broken beyond repair. Writing in the New York Times, nurse Theresa Brown shared harrowing stories of nurses across the country whose careers and existences are crumbling under the onslaught of unyielding and traumatizing demands.

As vaccine efforts continued, Bhaskar Chakravorti described how expanding accessibility to modern technology could make the rollout more equitable as Black Americans continue to bear the brunt of the pandemic: "Black households tend to have less access to computers and the internet compared with White households. ...The digital divide only exacerbates the issue of equitable access to public health. The first step to fixing this inequity is acknowledging that Covid-19 is more than a public health crisis and an economic crisis. It is also an information crisis." Kent Sepkowitz, also a CNN medical analyst, wrote about life after receiving both doses of the vaccine and the questions it raises: What can I do now? What should I not do? "For me," he reflected, "the answer is clear.... The best advice, alas, is what the CDC is pushing: continue to hunker down and keep on doing what you're doing."

More key insights:

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and Sheila Davis: Bring on the reinforcements: The workers who could get us through this crisis

Kathy Giusti: What Covid can teach us about cancer

Dr. Megan Ranney: I'm worried the Olympics can't be made safe against Covid

The American Conservative Union's annual Conservative Political Action Conference was one of the first big GOP stages to set its lights for Donald Trump. The defeated former president, under pressure after the Supreme Court gave the Manhattan DA access to his tax returns and banned from Twitter, is making this year's conference -- themed "America Uncanceled" -- the site of his first major public address since he left the White House.

For Dean Obeidallah, CPAC's invitation to Trump was itself a clear signal that conservatives and Republicans are trying to sell a new "Big Lie": that assaulting democracy through post-election lies and incitement to insurrection isn't that big a deal -- "or worse, such conduct is acceptable in pursuit of political power."

One key aspect of CPAC: It's sure to put a spotlight on the MAGA side of the intra-squad tension among Republicans over whether they should remain the Party of Trump. Former RNC chair Richard Bond explored how those factions have warred within the life and career of a single lawmaker: Lindsey Graham, whose whipsawing transformation from voice of reason to sycophant reveals him to be, in Bond's estimation, the consummate "political opportunist [who] has placed his desire for power above his own professed standards of decency."

According to Julian Zelizer, Trump's CPAC appearance gives Biden a unique opportunity to counter Trump's likely bluster -- by not reacting. "Starting this weekend, the President can deliver the kind of political blow that hurts Trump more than anything else he can ignore him. Indifference is Trump's kryptonite. If Biden can pull it off...this will leave him on the strongest political ground."

Another smart take:

Jennifer Rodgers: On Trump's taxes, here's where it gets interesting

On Friday, the Biden administration released a long-anticipated intelligence report on the gruesome death in 2018 of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. The report found Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman responsible for the killing, but Biden declined to take any direct action against him. In so doing, affirmed Peter Bergen, Biden's administration is reflecting the reality of a longtime marriage of convenience between Washington and Riyadh: "the new administration is hoping a mere rebuke and a slap on the wrist will be enough to signal the changing tides of US foreign policy after the Trump administration. At the same time, the Biden administration wants to maintain an alliance that has served both countries' interests reasonably well for the better half of the last century."

With an airstrike Thursday against Iran-backed Syrian militias, Biden signaled in a measured and direct way -- more than his previous two predecessors -- that Iran can no longer use militias in Syria and Iraq as proxies to attack western, especially American, interests anywhere in the region, argued David Andelman. He wrote: "If the administration's posture in the region remains one of reasoned but consistent toughness, Iran may restrain itself from any tit-for-tat retaliation and response. It may now understand the price it could pay for failing to respond to US overtures at diplomacy -- and continuing to back those militias."

More sharp commentary:

Michael Eisner and Abdullah Alaoudh: How Biden can strike a blow against Saudi Arabia's human rights violations

Amed Khan: What Biden should do about China's atrocities against the Uyghurs

As the disturbing rise in violence against Asian Americans continues, former federal prosecutor Shan Wu argued that prosecutors need to charge anti-Asian violence as hate crimes to effectively deter future racists from inflicting pain not just on the victim but on the entire Asian American community. Prosecutors are often reluctant to charge hate crimes because they don't want to risk losing, Wu wrotes, but "having hate crime laws on the books and not using them undermines confidence in the criminal justice system far more because it sends the message that hate crimes do not really matter."

Bigotry and hatred in our history, unless rooted out and fully addressed, leave toxic traces that cannot heal. As the US contends with its Confederate monuments and slavery-built past, wrote Lev Golinkin, the nation must also reckon with its role in allowing some Nazi and Nazi collaborators to seek refuge here after World War II. Golinkin wrote: "We're in the middle of a heated national conversation fueled by a hunger for racial justice. But how can we hope to acknowledge the impact of centuries-old institutions like slavery and Jim Crow when we can't be honest about coddling perpetrators of the Holocaust, which still has living eyewitnesses, victims and veterans? We can't get to 1619 if we can't get past 1945."

This is the last weekend of Black History Month, and US House majority whip Rep. James Clyburn took stock of the sobering challenges Americans face: the pandemic, chronic economic insecurity, growing racial divides and gender inequities. Clyburn made a passionate case that getting beyond this difficult moment requires all of us to reflect on moments in Black history when people got out of their comfort zones to help make America better: "We may feel safe and secure remaining inside our bubble interacting only with those who look and think like us. But doing so risks living in echo chambers and insular existences."

How to bridge the gaps between those echo chambers is one goal of "Renegades: Born in the U.S.A.," a new podcast with former President Barack Obama and rock superstar Bruce Springsteen. And while their "conversations across the divide" approach may work for these two legends, observed Nicole Hemmer, they don't "truly reckon with the structures and forces that are eroding American democracy, nor get at the deeper challenges around race and justice in the US." The show "feels like it's doing the hard work of thinking about race," noted Hemmer, and the problem is "that will suffice for people whose primary goal is to feel like they're doing that work." Actually getting the change made is another matter entirely.

More on Black History Month:

Peniel Joseph: We can finally meet the real Malcolm X

Terence Moore: What Tiger Woods means to Black America

Bill McGowan and Juliana Silva: Attacking Joe Biden's dog Champ is a low blow

Persis Yu: Big student loan debt is not a 'Harvard, Yale, Penn' problem

Richard Thompson Ford: The fashion police are judging you on Zoom

Catherine Clinton: Why Mary Lincoln is as controversial as ever

Suzanne Russo: Texas goes it alone on electric power. That's actually a good thing

Allison Hope: Potato Head is getting with the times. So should Congress

AND...

Lawrence Ferlinghetti, who died this week at 101, was the center of a literary revolution, remembered Tess Taylor. As a poet, the founder of City Lights and City Lights Pressrespectively, a bookstore that democratized literature as the first to sell only paperbacks and a press that fought for free speech in its publication and defense in court of Allen Ginsberg's "Howl" -- Ferlinghetti was the crux of an ecosystem of poetry and culture that fostered generations of poets, including Taylor, and built a California world where words could thrive for all.

Wrote Taylor: "Here was not only a poet but a movement. Here was a hive and honey. Whether we ever wrote poetry like Ferlinghetti, or like the Beat Poets he championed, or like the formalist poet Marie Ponsot, who he also championed, he had made more spaces to which we could respond, as if the web of connections he had built simply made more oxygen in the air."

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Biden's tricky tango with Congress - Action News Now

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How a $15 minimum wage could help restaurants and other hard-hit small businesses – Brookings Institution

Posted: February 25, 2021 at 1:53 am

A funny thing happened on the Senate floor in the wee hours of February 5. As senators worked through a series of amendments in the vote-a-rama to advance President Joe Bidens $1.9 trillion rescue package, Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) moved to strike any provision raising the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour this year. And none other than progressive lion Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) rose to agree.

Pundits theorized that Ernst sought to trap Democrats, especially those from battleground states, into voting in favor of a minimum wage increase while the nation is still in the throes of the pandemic. But thats not congressional Democrats position: Sanders and his allies support raising the minimum wage gradually, over a four-year period. In the end, no Democrats opposed Ernsts amendment.

The belief that Democrats want to dramatically and immediately raise the federal minimum wagea belief the National Restaurant Association has eagerly fueledisnt the only myth floating around about the proposal. Critics also declare that increase is only popular with progressives and that it will be a job killer for restaurants and other hard-hit small businesses, especially in lower-wage regions.

One of us runs a restaurant in a very high-cost market, so we understand concerns that raising the minimum wage might limit hiring or even drive more restaurants and other small companies out of business. But we need to get some facts straight.

First of all, raising the minimum wage isnt just a progressive position. There is now robust bipartisan support among voters for a significant increase in the federal minimum wage, which has not budged in a dozen years. In November, Florida voters approved an increase to the state minimum wage by a margin 11 points wider than Donald Trumps victory there. (Florida became the first state in the South, and eighth in the nation, to approve a gradual hike to $15.) Meanwhile, a Quinnipiac poll conducted in late January found that 61% of Americans favor the increase to $15 at the federal level.

A new Brookings analysis shows that pre-COVID-19, about half of workers earning less than $15 an hour were essential workersa share that is likely higher now because of the pandemics disproportionate effects on low-wage occupations. Voters across the spectrum have come to agree that it is simply not possible for workersessential or otherwiseto survive on the federal minimum of $7.25 an hour or the state wage floors close to that.

But its even less possible to survive on restaurant and other service work that relies on tips and is still paid a subminimum rate: $5 an hour or less in 38 states. Heavy reliance on tips rather than wages meant that for many workers laid off during the pandemic, total earnings were too low to even qualify them for unemployment insurance, as labor researchers at the University of California at Berkeley found last year.

Over 110,000 restaurants have shuttered during the pandemic, and Black restaurateurs and other owners of coloralong with their workershave been hit especially hard. But just as voters have realized that the minimum wage in America is a poverty sentence, leaders in the restaurant businessthe nations largest source of private sector jobsare waking up to the fact that the industry will not survive unless it changes dramatically. On this point in particular, the restaurant industry is a microcosm of the American economy.

Many restaurants must raise wages to attract and retain workers, who face new safety risks as well as the loss of income from a big drop in tips. Evidence shows that raising wages can cut expensive employee turnover in half and trigger a shift to new business models, as Seattle and other local markets show. This adaptationwhich is a crucial part of the future of retail more generallyis just one thing that pessimistic economic projections of the effects of a federal minimum wage hike (like that by the Congressional Budget Office) ignore or downplay.

Whats more, tipping and the cruel logic of a subminimum wage are vestiges of slavery. After emancipation, employers in the South mobilized to keep Black labor as cheap as possible, winning the legal right to have workers in key occupations (such as waitressing) survive on customer tips rather than employer-paid wages. To this day, food servers reliance on tips makes restaurant customers very powerful, contributing to the worst incidence of reported sexual harassment of any industry.

A phased-in move to one fair wage, with tips supplementing rather than replacing a robust base wage of at least $15 per hour nationwide, is now critical. And its not just industry icons like Danny Meyer and Jos Andrs who have come out in favor of such a move, but also Main Street employers and a national network of hundreds of restaurateurs organizing for fair wages as part of industry innovation. Last year, even McDonalds announced that it would not oppose the raise.

Minds are also changing across the capital markets that have done so much to drive short-term thinking about whats good for business. A new policy package created by a commission of conservative and progressive leaders from business, investment, economic research, and other fields has endorsed the move to $15 and one fair wage as the law of the land, emphasizing that capitalism needs to work for everyone. The time for virtue-signaling is over, wrote the commission, which one of us serves on.

Finally, this is not just about fairness to workers. As a sizable body of economic research makes clear, raising wages on the bottom of the economy boosts consumption, and thus supports the growth of local economiessomething thats desperately needed to help our communities recover from the COVID-19 recession. Lets recall that Franklin Roosevelt and Congress created the federal minimum wage during the Great Depression.

Its time for the Senate to back a phased-in raise to the minimum wage and end the subminimum tipped wage, which is both racist and sexist. The evidence shows that we can offer dignity to millions of low-income workers and boost the economy at the same time.

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How a $15 minimum wage could help restaurants and other hard-hit small businesses - Brookings Institution

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End the Subminimum Tipped Wage – The Good Men Project

Posted: at 1:53 am

By Rebekah Entralgo

If its passed by Congress, President Joe Bidens COVID-19 relief proposal would do a lot more than fund relief payments and vaccine rollouts. It would also raise the wage floor for all U.S. workers and give a particularly long overdue raise to restaurant servers, taxi drivers, manicurists, and other tipped workers.

For Tanya Wallace-Gobern, getting rid of the subminimum wage for tipped workers is a matter of racial justice. Passing a living wage bill for tipped and non-tipped low-wage workers is essential to reducing inequality, she said in arecent briefing.

As the executive director of the National Black Worker Center Project,, Wallace-Gobern oversees a network of eight centers across the country that aim to build power and transform working conditions for Black workers. The subminimum federal wage for tipped workers, which has been stuck at just $2.13 since 1991, is a clear barrier to their goals.

While employers are technically supposed to make up the difference if workers dont earn enough in tips to reach the current $7.25 federal minimum, this rule is largely unenforced.

Meanwhile, studies have long found a racial bias in tipping. A survey by One Fair Wage found that prior to the pandemic, 60 percent of Black tipped workers earned less than $15 per hour, compared to 43 percent of white tipped workers. And since the pandemic, 88 percent of them have seen their tips plunge by half or more.

The legislative vehicle for the Biden plan, the Raise the Wage Act, would boost the overall federal minimum wage to $15 by 2025. For tipped workers, it would rise to $4.95 this year and then by $2 per year until it matches the overall $15 minimum in 2026.

The subminimum tipped wage is a shameful relic of slavery. Tipping became prevalent in the United States only after the Civil War, when restaurants and railway companies embraced the practice because it meant they didnt have to pay wages to recently freed slaves.

That past hangs heavily over many Black workers.

Lets face it, Wallace-Gobern told me, 50 years after President Lyndon B. Johnson declared a war on poverty, Black people in the South still contend with economic hardships, persistent poverty, and the enduring legacy of slavery.

Wallace-Gobern, who is based in Raleigh, North Carolina, argues that policies designed to empower Black workers will help every other worker, too.

Black workers are the canaries in the economic coalmine of our country, Wallace-Gobern said. When the canary died, that was a signal that the conditions were bad for the miners. Thats the role Black workers play. If you improve their working conditions, that will lift all workers.

New studies agree with her.

The Economic Policy Institute estimates that nearly a third of all Black workers would get a raise under the Raise the Wage Act. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that it could also raise wages for 17 million workers overall. Another 10 million workers earning just above $15 could also see an increase.

With the National Black Worker Center Project, Wallace-Gobern is aiming to strengthen the capacity of Black worker centers to win minimum wage increases, build up a cadre of civil rights organizers, and advance a Southern strategy on racial justice and democratic freedoms.

The challenges are many. Particularly in the South, worker advocates are up against anti-union right to work laws and pre-emption restrictions that block cities from improving labor protections at the local level. But Wallace-Gobern is optimistic about the future.

Young people are ready to lead if we step aside and give them space, she remarked. I welcome the opportunity for them to stand on our shoulders and take us to heights that I and my grandparents could never imagine.

Previously published on otherwords with Creative Commons License

***

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Part 1 Race and the American Presidency: From Abraham to Joseph | New York Carib News – NYCaribNews

Posted: at 1:53 am

Joseph Biden has been elected the 46th President of the United States. It has been traditional for presidential succession to proceed peacefully for hundreds of years except the 45th to the 46th President.

Historians have judged American presidents and unquestionably Donald Trump will be judged as one of the worst in American history.

There is some consensus on who are the great American presidents. George Washington is often mentioned not only because he won the Independence War but for the fact that he stepped down after serving two terms and returned as a private citizen to his home in Mount Vernon. Invariably, Abraham Lincoln is mentioned as he assumed the presidency at the height of the Civil War. In that same vein, Franklin Delano Roosevelt and his herculean effort to bring back the economy from the devastation of the economic depression. Lyndon Johnson also was at the helm when Civil Rights legislation and the Great Society Programs were passed even though Johnson was less than truthful in his pursuit of the Viet Nam War.

CNN has been running a new documentary on Lincoln and it deviates from the romantic notion of Lincoln and emancipation. Lincoln like most white Americans of his generation wrestled continuously on the question of slavery.

Lincoln was bothered by the cruelty of slavery. Nonetheless, in his early career as a public figure never was an abolitionist. In his epic debates for the Senate race in Illinois, what became known as the Lincoln-Douglas debates, Douglas accused Lincoln of being in favor of emancipation and giving black folks the same rights as white Americans.

Douglas being engaged in race-baiting was not entirely honest. Lincoln was not in favor of expanding slavery into the new territories or the new frontiers that had emerged as a critical question dealing with political hegemony. From the inception of the country, the southern states were able to exercise more power over the Legislative and Executive Branch than those concentrating in northern states. If slavery was allowed to expand to the new western territories, that would mean the extension of the political power of those advocating the perpetration of slavery.Such further shifting of free labor would also inhibit the advance of industrial capital.

Douglas won the Senate race but with the formation of the Republican Party, Lincoln became the Partys standard-bearer in the presidential election of 1860. On ascending to the presidency, the Confederate or slave-owning states immediately seceded from the Union. Abraham Lincoln insisted on his messaging that he was fighting the Civil War not to free the slaves but to preserve the Union.

As the war progressed, Lincoln and his Generals were very much aware that the backbone of the Confederate states was the slave economy and if Africans voted with their feet, it would weaken the capacity of the Confederate states to effectively wage the war. Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation to take effect on January 1, 1863, that would free all slaves in states which were in a state of rebellion against the Union.

President Lincoln even after the Emancipation Proclamation could not envision the free black population living as free men and women with the same rights as white Americans. He floated the possibility of free blacks leaving America en masse and establishing residence somewhere in Central America. The black abolitionist, Frederick Douglas, in meetings with Lincoln made it abundantly clear that black folks were not going anywhere.

By his second term, Lincoln recognized the folly of any mass migration. Black folks had contributed to the wealth creation of America and were entitled to the spoils, at least their share of the spoils.

The Radical Reconstructionists were adamant about reparations and explored the possibility of the free black population being given 40 acres and a mule.

After Lincolns assassination and the Democrat Andrew Johnson succeeded, Andrew Johnson was vehemently opposed to the U.S. Government giving black people any reparations for their labor and insisted that poor whites were not getting a similar rescue package.

The Confederacy refused to accept their defeat on the battlefield. Immediately after the Civil War, the secessionist states introduced the Black Codes which were an attempt to keep black people in a state of subservience. The Black Codes introduced harsh penalties for black workers who abandoned working on plantations. The criminal justice system was used to exploit black labor and black people were sentenced for frivolous crimes and sent to prison to work as gang laborers in surrounding farms.

The Federal government abandoned its protection of the freed African-Americans. The violence of the Klu Klux Klan was used to prevent black people from exercising the right to vote. In 1877 with the Tilden-Hayes presidential compromise, Hayes agreed to withdraw federal troops from the Southern States for electoral college votes to become President of the United States.

With the Federal troops withdrawal, the white terrorists were given free reign to subjugate black folks. The Jim Crow Era had been ushered in. The Supreme Court traditionally refused to recognize the humanity of black citizens. In the case of Dred Scott, in 1857 the Supreme Court ruled that blacks were protected by the United States constitution and even if they migrated to free states they were still defined as slaves. The Supreme Court in 1896 would declare separate but equal was not a violation of the constitution. The Union was intact but black folks had been forced into a new form of bondage.

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Prosecution of a Fraudulent Labor Agency in Taichung: An Insight on the Exploitation of Migrant Workers in Taiwan – The News Lens International

Posted: at 1:53 am

By Bonny Ling

On January 28, 2021, public prosecutors in Taichung indicted four individuals on charges of human trafficking, violations of the Employment Services Act, and forgery of documents for their role in exploiting Vietnamese migrant workers in Taiwan.

The four involved worked at the Hong Yu Employment Service Agency Company () in Taichung to recruit migrant workers from Vietnam. Established in 2017, Hong Yu placed 126 Vietnamese migrant workers in the construction sector around Taiwan from July 2018 to August 2020.

The indicted were key members of the recruitment agency: the proprietressDiao Yu-hong (), deputy general-manger Hsu Shih-chang (), accountant Lin Chia-chin (), and language interpreter Ngo Quoc Ha (). The four defendants reportedly set up a complex web of 19 shell companies in manufacturing, using false residential addresses and names of over 200 Taiwanese individuals.

After Hong Yu organized the recruitment of workers from Vietnam, it then contracted 38 different construction companies around Taiwan to hire out the workers originally allocated to manufacturing. During the three years of its operation, Hong Yu thrived by exploiting its recruited workers by deducting and pocketing half of their pay every month. In what is described by the public prosecutors as the largest organized human trafficking operation undertaken by a registered recruitment agency in Taiwan, Hong Yu reportedly took in illegal gains of about NT$25 million (about US$900,000).

Whereas Hong Yu charged the construction companies monthly NT$36,000 to 42,000 about US$1280 to 1500 plus other fees, the workers themselves did not receive the full amount. The agency deducted around half of the workers wage under the guise of paying labor insurance and other costs, leaving them only around NT$16,000 to 19,000 (about US$570 to 680) of their monthly wage.

The Vietnamese workers reportedly undertook heavy overtime to supplement their monthly earnings and feared taking time off. For those who did raise questions about their employment, the agency threatened them with deportation a threat backed up by the confiscation of their passports and personal papers.

It is important to point out that much of the coverage reporting on the indictments centered on the unscrupulous agency owner: Diao Yu-hong (). This is because she is a naturalized Taiwanese citizen of Vietnamese origin. Therefore, many headlines were reporting on this case, focusing on how a person exploited her compatriots. Such examples can be seen in the Liberty Times Vietnamese Woman Sets Up Shell Labor Agency and Deducts Compatriots Salary for an Easy Profit of NT$25 Million ( 2500), United News Shell Companies Recruit Foreign Workers; New Immigrant Defrauds Compatriots ( ) and China Times Illegal Labor Recruiter Exploits Compatriots; Vietnamese Woman Pockets NT$25 Million ( 2500).

In comparison, little is known about the deputy general manager, accountant and the interpreter, who, it is assumed, also had extensive knowledge of the complicated operation. However, the human-interest emphasis on the founders Vietnamese origin has the unfortunate effect of shifting attention from a much-needed examination about the complexity of labor migration to Taiwan and how it structurally embeds labor exploitation risks.

Under the current system, migrant workers heavily depend on labor agencies in their home countries to arrange their employment abroad. Once they arrive in Taiwan, they are again dependent on these entities in their relationship with Taiwanese employers. Taiwanese employers use labor agencies effectively as their contracted human resource team for their foreign worker pool, often citing difficulties of managing across cultures and languages. Migrant workers pay for this human resource service, whereas most professional (so-termed white-collared) workers do not bear their own employments administrative costs.

The deductions pocketed by the fraudulent recruitment agency must be seen against the background that heavy deductions are normalized for a migrant workers pay in Taiwan. Under the Standards for Fee-Charging Items and Amounts of the Private Employment Services Institution, migrant workers pay monthly service fees to their labour agency in Taiwan for [e]xpenses required for undertaking employment services matters (Article 2(5)). This monthly service fee is set at the following rates (Article 6):

In contrast, service fees charged on employers are NT$2,000 per year and not monthly, as for the migrant workers (Article 3(2)). This means that migrant workers pay roughly nine to 11 times more for service fees than their employers, depending on the specific year of their employment.

The service fees that migrant workers pay in Taiwan represent a hefty portion of their monthly wage. For instance, migrant workers in domestic care receive NT$17,000 (about US$600) as their monthly minimum wage, excluding overtime pay. In their first year, service fees paid to their labor agency in Taiwan would be about 10% of their minimum monthly pay. For migrant workers outside domestic care, this figure would be around 7.5% since their minimum monthly wage of NT$24,000 as of January 1, 2021 is higher than those in domestic care whom the Labor Standards Act does not cover. These are high costs in proportion to their total monthly wage.

No doubt the four individuals, if convicted, will be used to exemplify Taiwans commitment to combat human trafficking. The Taichung public prosecutors have asked the court to deal with the case without leniency because the exploitation is a transgression against the fellowship of kinship (). Beyond the heavy killing the chickens to scare the monkeys () rhetoric of punishment, however, the case raises fundamental questions about the system of oversight for the 1,500 labor agencies registered and operating in Taiwan to hire workers from Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam.

Under international law, states must protect against human rights abuses within their territory. This means that Taiwan must have an effective legal framework to prevent, investigate, punish, and redress human rights abuses. The Hong Yu arrests point uneasily to Taiwans legal framework dealing with the registration and monitoring of labor recruitment agencies.

How did the fraudulent shell company structure, with 19 dubious firms and their respective paper trails, get past registration? Moreover, how did it then remain undetected for almost two and half years before suspicions were first raised, apparently after a tip-off to Taichung City Governments Labor Affairs Bureau in September 2020? Does this attest to a weak system of monitoring and oversight, failing to ensure that recruitment agencies operate in accordance with the applicable laws and regulations? What mechanisms ensure workers can report, without fear of retribution, when their passports are confiscated or when abuses occur?

The same questions exist for Vietnam as the country of origin. It is important also to understand which business(es) Hong Yu collaborated with in Vietnam to organize the migrants departure paperwork? There needs to be a careful cross-border investigation to examine whether labor recruitment agencies and individuals in the country of origin also profited illegally from the fraudulent recruitment scheme in Taiwan.

The case also points out that the concept of human rights due diligence, at least among the construction sector, has yet to take off as a central component of the corporate responsibility to respect human rights in Taiwan. Questions here would remain on whether, if any, of the 38 firms that employed the migrant workers from Hong Yu had conducted human rights due diligence to establish whether the workers were employed in a coercive relationship.

In recent years, many countries of origin of migrant workers have embarked on tentative measures to improve labor migration. One of the most well-known of these efforts is the regulation proposed by Indonesia in July 2020 to split the recruitment fees between the government of Indonesia and the overseas employers so that Indonesian workers would not become heavily indebted just for securing a job abroad. The proposed regulation, however, received heavy criticisms from the Taiwan government and employer associations.

In early January 2021, Indonesia announced the regulation could not take effect due to funding shortfalls that prevented their implementation in Indonesia. This must have offered some relief for the Taiwan government, which held firmed last year, without basis in international law, that Indonesia cannot unilaterally embark on measures to improve the situation of its migrants (see analysis here). Nevertheless, what is happening in developments around Taiwan is a deep push by U.N. agencies, governments, civil society organizations, business groups, and individual brands to advocate for a different type of labor recruitment of migrant workers.

AU.N. officialsaid: Structures where migrant workers are essentially forced to pay for work opportunities mean they carry additional vulnerability to the destination workplace. To reduce the risk factors that contribute to persistent modern day slavery, we have to restructure these systems so that the employers are paying the costs. Recruitment agencies that profit from the desperation of migrant workers to gain decent work must be held accountable.

In November 2020, the government of Vietnam passed revisions to the Law on Contract-Based Vietnamese Overseas Workers (Law 72), which removes brokerage commissions paid by migrant workers to recruitment agencies from 1 January 2022. Although this round of revisions did not go as far as dropping recruitment fees completely in Vietnam, it is a clear sign that this travel direction is towards a no-fees model of labor migration. UN agencies like the International Labor Organization have long advocated that migrants do not bear the cost of their own employment recruitment in both countries of origin and destination.

Taiwan can only build a migrant labor recruitment system that reduces gross labor exploitation risks if we reflect comprehensively and honestly about structural faults. These faults have persisted for decades in the current way of bringing migrants to meet local labor demands.

The Hong Yu prosecution offers this critical chance. This is the time to fully acknowledge the abuse of the 126 migrants, who toiled for years in Taiwans construction sector for half their pay, by probing behind the faade of nationality and the collective outrage against compatriot-based exploitation. Only by moving beyond this artificial narrative can we meaningfully begin to build a labor system based on migration with dignity.

The author thanks the quoted colleague for thoughtful discussions.

The News Lens has been authorized to repost this article. The piece was first published by Taiwan Insight, the online magazine of the University of Nottinghams Taiwan Studies Program.

READ NEXT: Human Rights Abuses in Laos Are Rampant. International Businesses Should Take Action.

TNL Editor: Bryan Chou (@thenewslensintl)

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Prosecution of a Fraudulent Labor Agency in Taichung: An Insight on the Exploitation of Migrant Workers in Taiwan - The News Lens International

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Raise the Minimum Wage? Yeah, and the $2.13 Subminimum Wage for Servers, Too. – Phoenix New Times

Posted: February 22, 2021 at 2:41 pm

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It felt good to be heard at last weeks One Fair Wage rally, Haley Holland said.

It was empowering to stand up for those whose stories dont get told, Holland, who spoke at the eventheld at Senator Kyrsten Sinemas office on East Camelback Road, said.

An organizer of the rally, she was there to demand that Sinema commit to advocating for adding service workers to the Fair Wage act. This isnt just about raising minimum wage, she clarified. Its about including the sub-minimum wage, which is what servers in bars and restaurants are paid. People living off of tips are not being included in this recovery bill, and thats why we held the rally.

Raising the sub-minimum wage would level the playing field for service workers, Holland said. Right now, the federal wage for tipped workers is $2.13. (In Arizona, the minimum wage for such workers is significantly higher, though: $9.15.)

If we can get Sinema to commit to raising it to $15 an hour, with tips on top, we can bring respect and dignity to the service industry, Holland said. That would mean I dont have to tolerate the atrocious behavior of some patrons, where Im thinking, Wow, this guy is being rude, he isnt going to tip me, and without his tip, Ive already got a lousy paycheck.

Holland sees a connection between slavery and the fact that some people don't view service work as a real job. Southern slaves freed in the nineteenth century often took food service jobs, but restaurant owners didnt want to pay black people, who came to rely on tip money as a wage. Part of that money went back to the employer.

People of color were paying restaurant owners for the privilege of working, Holland said. The work we do in this industry remains linked to that kind of thinking. Thats why were paid sub wages.

Holland has had enough of lousy pay. She's also sick of sidestepping COVID-19 "of sanitizing, of changing into gloves and a mask and wondering if I was still going to end up infecting a patron or would wind up on a ventilator myself in two weeks.

Before the pandemic, she worked 65-hour weeks, bartending nights and weekends and as a hostess/server at a local restaurant. Now, Im doing the same work, but my hours are super minimal.

As a One Fair Wage organizer, Holland phone-banks for seven hours a day, calling people to encourage them to tell their stories of being underpaid, to write letters to congresspeople demanding fair treatment.

She's hopeful things can change. Although President Biden has been vocal about raising minimum wage, the response from Sinemas office has been silence. That could change, too, she said. For all I know, she could be in a meeting right now, discussing this.

Either way, she knew things wont change overnight. All of us who were at the rally, we knew those mom-and-pop businesses cant afford to go from paying sub-minimum wage to paying $15 an hour. But Arizona is blue! she exclaimed. So anything can happen.

Ultimately, raising lousy wages isn't about money, Holland insisted. It's about dignity.

You show respect when you pay a worker a livable wage, she pointed out. You give them the freedom not to tolerate bad behavior from patrons and employers. A decent wage is symbolic of something bigger than how much cash we take home at the end of the day.

This story was updated to include the state's minimum wage for tipped workers.

Keep Phoenix New Times Free... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Phoenix with no paywalls.

Robrt L. Pela has been a weekly contributor to Phoenix New Times since 1991, primarily as a cultural critic. His radio essays air on National Public Radio affiliate KJZZ's Morning Edition.

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Zhao’s ‘Nomadland’ is a masterpiece exploring life on the road – The Spokesman-Review

Posted: at 2:41 pm

In Nomadland, filmmaker Chlo Zhaos vision of life on the road in the postmodern American West, van life isnt quite what youd see under that Instagram hashtag. Instead of young folks posing among carefully designed decor, Zhao turns to the practical details, like the lack of indoor plumbing.

No nuance of life on the road goes unexamined by Zhaos attentive gaze, regarding each detail the same way she regards her heroine Fern (Frances McDormand), observing without judgment. Ferns a great listener, and Zhao, as a filmmaker, listens to her in return even when shes not speaking, yet saying everything, about grief, loss, work and the value of her own human, American life.

Nomadland, which has earned a slew of film festival and critics groups awards, is based on the book by Jessica Bruder but feels of a piece with Zhaos previous film, The Rider, a poetic portrait of a young, injured rodeo rider, which blurred the lines of documentary and fiction. In Nomadland, Zhao immerses her characters in the real world, buttressing their stories with nonfiction.

The end is the beginning and the beginning is the end in this journey called Nomadland, as Fern circles round and round the American West. Shes a refugee from a town called Empire, in Nevada.

Introductory text onscreen informs us that this company town ceased to exist when the plant closed, discontinuing even the ZIP code. A widow, Fern takes to her van working seasonal gigs and adapting to this lifestyle with the help of her new friends. Shes not homeless but houseless, finding her home on the road and in the vast great beauty of the wilderness.

This is a film about work, its personal importance and its declining value. McDormand isnt so much acting as she is existing in this role, and when it comes to the work Fern manages to scrape up, she puts her back into it. Fern is focused and intense on the job. She thrives in action taping Amazon boxes, scrubbing toilets, slicing deli meats and shoveling potatoes.

She likes work, any kind of good, honest work. She hates when work ends. But its difficult, rough and dehumanizing labor. And the seasons change. The parking lots become too cold for sleeping in a van.

Relationships on the road are temporary but deeply felt. She connects with Linda (Linda May), Swankie (Swankie) and Dave (David Strathairn), the only one for whom she comes close to giving up the nomad life. But Zhao carefully sidesteps every sentimental story choice in Ferns friendships because Fern is not sentimental.

Shes a crystalline version of the American bootstraps attitude, mostly refusing help and affection from others. In her, some might see freedom, some might see pain and loss, some might see her as trapped. Shes all of that, which demonstrates the sheer thematic magnitude of the film.

Zhao, who wrote, directed, produced and edited the film, is a master at subtle, deft filmmaking rich with complexity. Conversations allude to the housing financial crisis, the casual bourgeois greed Fern runs from into the arms of van life proselytizers who are a collective on the margins sharing resources and who promise a life free from property and wage slavery and imagine a new way of life.

But is it utopian? Lyrical montages set to the gorgeous piano compositions of Ludovico Einaudi contain all the beauty, pain, ugliness and exhilaration of Ferns journey.

As Fern wanders through the crumbling remnants of Empire, it strikes you that Nomadland feels simultaneously like both a memory and a prophecy. Zhao has managed to marry these juxtaposing ideas in her film, which is the essence of bittersweet distilled into an arrow and shot straight through the heart. And Zhao doesnt miss.

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Bill would create commission to study reparations for descendants of slaves – KGBT-TV

Posted: at 2:41 pm

WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) Democrats in the House are again looking at the idea of reparations for African Americans.

They have reintroduced a bill that would create a federal commission to study of the effects of slavery and develop solutions to bridge the economic, educational and health disparities between descendants of slaves and white Americans.

The government must account for its ongoing role in perpetuating, supporting and upholding white supremacy, Rep. Cori Bush, D-Mo., said during a Wednesday hearing on the matter, the second one in two years.

She said for generations, Black families have been systematically disenfranchised.

When white soldiers came back from fighting abroad, they were given housing preferences and education subsidies, Bush said. My grandfathers Ulysses and Clifton Blakney were denied those benefits.

Civil rights scholar Kathy Masaoka said reparations are long overdue, arguing descendants of slaves deserve the same as Japanese Americans who were granted reparations after being forced into internment camps during World War II.

This is a chance for many Black voices to be heard and for the Black community to discuss what kind of reparations it is owed, Masaoka said.

Republicans do not support the bill.

I cant imagine a more divisive, polarizing or unjust measure, Rep. Tom McClintock, R-Calif., said, saying it would be unfair to punish white Americans today for their ancestors mistakes.

Herschel Walker, a retired athlete and support of President Donald Trump, agreed that reparations would be counterproductive and promote division.

Who is Black? What percentage of Black must you be to receive reparations? he wondered.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki on Wednesday said President Joe Biden supports the idea of a commission but stopped short of backing the bill.

Democrats are also introducing a plan to forgive up to $50,000 in student loan debt, a move that Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said will help Black people and could help close the wage gap. Biden has supported $10,000 in student loan forgiveness.

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Eight Children Say Chocolate Companies Like Nestl Aided and Abetted Slavery in Ivory Coast – Legal Reader

Posted: at 2:41 pm

The U.S. Supreme Court has previously refused to hear cases filed against chocolate companies overseas.

Eight children have launched a lawsuit against several of the worlds biggest chocolate companies, accusing brands such as Nestl, Hershey, and Mars of profiting from slave labor used on Ivory Coast cocoa plantations.

According to The Guardian, the lawsuit states that a number of highly-profitable, globally-recognized brands have aided and abetted the enslavement of thousands of children in the West African nation.

The defendants include Nestl, Cargill, Barry Callebaut, Olam, Hershey, and Mondelz.

The Guardian notes that the lawsuit was filed in federal court in Washington, D.C., earlier this week. The child-plaintiffs are being represented by International Rights Advocates, an organization which sponsors litigation against U.S.-based corporations accused of committing human rights abuses abroad.

While other slavery-related lawsuits have been filed against Hershey and its counterparts, this attempt marks the first time the cocoa industry has been taken to account in American courts.

The Guardian observes that, while all of the minor plaintiffs are from Mali, they were purportedly abducted and forced to work on cocoa plantations in Ivory Coast, while produces 45% of all cocoa worldwide.

The childrens story of abduction and exploitation is neither unique nor particularly uncommonthe lawsuit states that thousands of minors from other parts of West Africa have endured similar ordeals.

In the past, chocolate companiesalong with other enterprises which use cocoa in their productshave protested allegations they profit from slavery. Nestl, for instance, says that it has rigorous supply-chain controls, which blacklist local firms suspected of using child slavery.

However, this lawsuits claims that, even if companies like Hershey and Nestl do not own or control plantations which use slave labor, they nonetheless knowingly profited from child exploitation.

International Rights Advocates noted in their filing that plantations which use slave labor are able to provide cocoa at unusually low pricesprices that any firm paying adults a local wage could not likely afford.

One of the plaintiffs, says The Guardian, claims to have been only 11 years old when he was promised a job in Ivory Coast. A contractor approached the child, telling him he could earn about $40 per month working on a plantation.

He agreed, and was soon transported to Ivory Coast. Once there, however, the boy was forced to work for two years without ever being paid. On the plantation, he was often required to handle pesticides and other hazardous chemicals without safety training or protective equipment.

He, like many of the other plaintiffs, says plantation oversees promised to pay him after harvestbut the promised payment never came, and he was compelled to stay put for yet another season.

The lawsuit, was reported by The Guardian, charges that such abuses are not only morally repugnant, but that they contribute to Ivory Coasts rampant poverty by depressing wages and decreasing economic opportunities for qualified adults.

All of the companies named in the suit told The Guardian that they are not aware of potential child abuse within their supply chain and make active, ongoing efforts to disavow any plantations which profit from the same.

Children sue Nestl, Mars and Hershey for child slavery in Ivory Coast

Mars, Nestl and Hershey to face child slavery lawsuit in US

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