Two dynamos of women’s rights law crashed through the glass ceiling—part 2

Marcia Greenberger, the founder and co-president of the National Women’s….

Two dynamos of women’s rights law crashed through the glass ceiling—part 1

Marcia Greenberger, the founder and co-president of the National Women’s…

NCL statement in support of UAW Strike

September 17, 2019

Media contact: National Consumers League – Carol McKay, carolm@nclnet.org, (412) 945-3242 or Taun Sterling, tauns@nclnet.org, (202) 207-2832

Washington, DC—The National Consumers League (NCL) has announced its support for the 48,000 United Auto Workers who have gone on strike this week to demand their share of the $12 billion profits GM earned last year. The strike also comes in protest of GM’s announcement that it–the largest of American automakers–would shutter four different U.S. plants.

“We stand with UAW members who are asking for what is only fair–a reasonable share of the enormous profits GM has enjoyed in the past year alone. The UAW loyally took a hit a decade ago to keep GM profitable and viable. Without the workers, there would be no cars and no profits. Ten years later, with GM back earning billions in profits, auto workers are entitled to enjoy this success and the fruits of their labor: better pay, profit sharing, and an end to GM’s bringing in temporary workers that reduce pay and benefits. Workers also deserve improved health care benefits,” said Sally Greenberg, the League’s executive director.

More than a decade ago when GM was facing bankruptcy, UAW members bore a significant portion of the sacrifices to bring the automaker back to financial health. At the time, the union agreed to a plan whereby General Motors hired many new workers at roughly half the pay of unionized members and greatly reduced their retirement benefits. Then GM brought in temporary workers with even fewer wage-and-benefit packages and little job security.

“GM has reduced its U.S. payrolls, announced it is closing four plants in the United States, and moved a number of others to Mexico–all of which has helped to restore GM to its current health and ability to earn billions in profits, at the sacrifice of its workers,” said Greenberg.

“NCL supports the 48,000 workers who are demanding what is theirs: a fair share in more than 50 GM plants and other locations across the Midwest and South,” said Greenberg. “We support these hardworking women and men and call on GM to sit down with the union and arrive at a contract that shares the benefits of GM’s current profits with its dedicated, hardworking employees.”

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About the National Consumers League

The National Consumers League, founded in 1899, is America’s pioneer consumer organization. Our mission is to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad. For more information, visit www.nclnet.org.

Boy jockeys in Indonesia risk injury and death

Reid Maki is the director of child labor advocacy at the National Consumers League and he coordinates the Child Labor Coalition.

I didn’t quite believe my eyes when I saw the recent New York Times headline: “For Indonesia’s Child Jockeys, Time to Retire at 10, After 5 years of Racing.”  The story, written and photographed by Adam Dean, revealed that child jockeys in Indonesia’s island of Sumbawa as young as 5 are racing horses and getting hurt in the process. The cultural practice is entrenched and boy jockeys are getting younger each year. “In the late ‘90s, jockeys were usually aged from about 10 to 14 years old, but then we found the lighter jockeys to be faster, and now they are aged from about 6 to 10, Fahrir H.M. Noer, a deputy chairman of one of the races, told reporter Dean.

As an advocate who has followed child labor closely for 20 years, I was not surprised that young children might do something dangerous. More than one million children around the world are engaged in mining, which is extremely hazardous. We’ve seen photos of children in the Philippines who mine underwater, connected to very precarious breathing tubes. Children work with toxic chemicals in leather tanning facilities; they help break apart giant ships. Nearly half the 152 million children trapped in child labor perform hazardous child labor.

In this case, however, I was surprised that that children, 5 to 10, could be asked to control animals so large and fast—a task that requires well developed athletic skills. Dean’s stunning photos confirm that this phenomenon is happening:

Racing around the first bend. Adam Dean for The New York Times

Child jockeys, between ages 5 to 10, in a professional race on the island of Sumbawa in Indonesia in July.

The Child Labor Coalition has been posting these photos on Twitter (@ChildLaborCLC) and there has been almost no response from our 17,000 followers. Several tweets have elicited only one or two retweets each. There has been no horror decrying the practice–no expressions of concern for the little boys.  I don’t know why this is the case. Cleary, jockeying a horse is dangerous and these children are too young. Is the public confused because horse racing is a sport? Or does it feel that the use of children as jockeys is an embedded cultural practice in Indonesia and somehow acceptable?

Dean tells the story of Firmansyah, 8, who fell off his horse while racing and hit his head on a wooden railing. Fortunately, the boy’s injury did not seem to be as serious as feared.

Although horse racing officials in Indonesia defend the practice of using child jockeys as part of the culture and something the children want to do, some Indonesian advocates disagree. The Times story quotes Arist Merdeka Sirait, chairman of the National Commission for child protection, a nonprofit: “This is clearly child exploitation. The horses move so fast. The boys ride the horses with no proper protection. This is violence against children. As children, they cannot say no to their parents or whoever ordered them to ride the horse.”

This new report of child jockeys is not the first. We’ve known for a long time that the Persian Gulf nations used child jockeys—boys trafficked form Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sudan—to ride camels in races. For a time, there were reports that the boys were being replaced with robotic jockeys but that attempt appears to have been short-lived. In July 2002, Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed Al Nahyan announced a ban on child jockeys under 15, but in 2010, Anti-Slavery International photographed violations of the ban. A report in FrontPage Mag in December of 2011 said that the “Camel jockey slave trade [is] still alive and well.” The report noted that some of the Persian Gulf’s boy jockeys in training were “starved, beaten and sometimes sexually abused.” Death and serious injury, as well as damaged genitals, may result from jockeying. The child jockeys in the Persian Gulf were also often victims of trafficking from other countries—something that doesn’t seem to be happening to the child jockeys of Indonesia.

The Indonesian jockeys wear masks on their faces. We can’t help but wonder if it is a deliberate attempt to obscure the riders’ faces so that race fans can ignore the fact that children are risking their lives for their pleasure.

An owner embracing his horse after a winning ride. Adam Dean for The New York Times

Check out this boy who is resting after an injury—he looks so young and fragile:

Imam Dudu, 8, resting after a fall. Adam Dean for The New York Times

And the facial injuries to this rider:

Firmansyah, 8, who fell from his horse the day before, getting ready for another race.

Isn’t it time for this dangerous practice to end?

Our gratitude to Adam Dean for breaking this story and for his stunning photos. Thanks to the New York Times for this powerful expose.

NCL heralds House passage of Raise the Wage

July 19, 2019

Media contact: National Consumers League – Carol McKay, carolm@nclnet.org, (412) 945-3242, or Taun Sterling, tauns@nclnet.org, (202) 207-2832

Washington, DC—The National Consumers League (NCL), celebrating its 120th Anniversary of fighting for minimum wage workers, and author of the first minimum wage bills in America,  praised the  actions of the US House of Representatives in the passage July 18, 2019 Raise the Wage Act of 2019 (H.R. 582) by a 231 to 199 vote.  

“I just know that Florence Kelley is smiling upon us today,” said Sally Greenberg, NCL’s Executive Director. Kelley, NCL’s pioneering champion for the League’s first 33 years, wrote the nation’s first of these bills in the early decades of the 20th Century. “She had many setbacks along the way,” said Greenberg, “including when DC’s minimum wage law was found unconstitutional in 1918 by the Supreme Court.”

But she persisted, and today the minimum wage is recognized as both constitutional and necessary to protect the lowestpaid workers in America. NCL advocates for the $15 an hour minimum wage in today’s legislation and supports a long overdue increase to a wage that is fair, livable, and conducive to a dignified quality of life.  

The bill would raise the minimum wage–stuck at $7.25 for nearly 10 years–to $15 an hour by 2025, helping lift millions out of poverty. In addition, Raise the Wage will decrease the wage gap between minimum and median wage workers, as after 2025, the wage will continue to increase indexed to the median wage. Raise the Wage will also ensure fair wages for people with disabilities, who currently could make mere pennies an hour. The current exemptions for disabled employees is “legalized discrimination,” NCL believes. Raise the Wage has the added potential to decrease unemployment and reduce poverty, as shown by the University of California at Berkeley research examining the results of raising the minimum wage in the city of Berkeley.  

Democratic Members reminded their colleagues that Congress set the minimum wage since 1938 when it was enacted in the Fair Labor Standards Act. Representative Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) called the Republican claim of federal interference “hogwash.”  

NCL congratulates and thanks the House Members who supported this landmark overdue legislation. “We salute Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) for her towering leadership,” said GreenbergShe noted that the bill grows our economy and creates economy, increases families’ purchasing power and drives economic growth that lifts up all communities. Affording people a livable minimum wage benefits local economies, since workers will have higher earnings to spend at local businesses. 

NCL was founded in 1899 on the principles of promoting a fair marketplace for workers and consumers. More than a century–120 yearslater, NCL continues to work to ensure progressive reforms take place in communities and workplaces across the country. NCL is also proud of its history of championing state minimum wage laws. Our founder, Florence Kelley, led a campaign that saw 14 states pass some of the first minimum wage laws. Following those victories, NCL worked to pass the 1938 federal Fair Labor Standards Act, which established federal minimum wage. Since then, we have advocated – and will continue to advocate – for increased federal minimum wages. 

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About the National Consumers League

The National Consumers League, founded in 1899, is America’s pioneer consumer organization. Our mission is to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad. For more information, visit www.nclnet.org.

Raise the Wage Act 2019: House majority looking to lift millions out of poverty

headshot of NCL Health Policy intern Alexa

By NCL Health Policy intern Alexa Beeson

June 16 marked the longest period the United States has gone without an increase in the federal minimum wage. The federal wage floor was last raised a decade ago, in 2009. The current minimum wage is just $7.25 an hour, which is a poverty wage by federal standards, but tipped workers and people with disabilities often make even less. Worse yet, the value of this wage has decreased by 13 percent since its enactment due to inflation.

Many states have increased their minimum wages, including some red states like Arkansas and Missouri. These states have done so through the popular-vote referendum process. There is widespread support from all Americans–Democrats and Republicans alike–on this issue. In fact, 70 percent of Republican voters want a raised federal wage floor. There are still 21 states, however, whose workers receive only the bare minimum federal wage or, even worse, a tipped wage.

The U.S. House of Representatives, now led by a Democratic majority for the first time in many years, will be taking up the Raise the Wage Act (H.R. 582), and there is a companion bill by the same name in the Senate (S. 150).

The Raise the Wage Act will incrementally lift the federal wage floor to $15 an hour over the next five years. If enacted, the legislation would reduce levels of poverty across the nation without driving vulnerable populations into unemployment. It will also help decrease the wage gap between minimum and median wage workers. The House is expected to have a roll call vote on H.R. 582 before the August recess. If it does pass in the House, the act will have a hard time making it through the Republican-controlled Senate. However, this is still a progressive step in the right direction.

This act will also end subminimum wages for tipped employees. If employees make less than the $7.25 federal minimum wage, including tips, employers are supposed to add the rest to their paycheck. However, some employers fail to do so. The affected employees can make as little as $5 less than the minimum wage. The way the system works now, customer gratuities act as wage subsidies that we believe should be covered by the employer. For those concerned with whether raising the minimum wage will stop customers from tipping, studies show that eliminating the tiered wage system will not stop patrons from leaving tips.

Raise the Wage will end the subminimum wage for people with disabilities, some of whom make mere pennies an hour. Subminimum wages act as a form of legalized discrimination, and this bill will make it impossible for employers to get new special exemptions to pay their employee’s subminimum wages. It will also end current exemptions because all wages will be increased to $15 an hour in the next seven years.

Some fiscally conservative groups have claimed that raising the wage to $15 an hour would lead to high unemployment or business closures, with small businesses burdened by the extra costs. However, studies contradict those claims. Many show that raising the minimum wage would have little or no impact on employment. A study conducted by the University of California at Berkeley Institute for Research on Labor and Employment found that when the town of Berkeley raised the minimum wage, it actually saw a decrease in unemployment and a reduction in poverty. Further research showed that wage increases in 51 counties over 45 states had no adverse effect on employment hours or weeks worked.

NCL has been a long-standing advocate for fair minimum wages. In the early 1900s, the League’s General Secretary Florence Kelley ran a minimum wage campaign, which passed laws in 14 states. We are encouraged to see the House of Representatives taking affirmative steps to raise the federal minimum wage.

Alexa is a student at Washington University in St. Louis where she studies Classics and Anthropology and concentrates in global health and the environment. She expects to graduate in May of 2020.

D.C. City Council Angers Voters by Moving to Overturn Initiative 77 – National Consumers League

By NCL Public Policy intern Melissa Cuddington

After the passage of Initiative 77, seven members of D.C. City Council pledged to overturn the initiative, essentially suppressing the will of the voters. This move by the City Council has further outraged D.C. voters, who already feel disenfranchised. Considering the 80,000 DC voters who weighed in on this issue, its no wonder.

In the past few weeks, there has been controversy surrounding Initiative 77 and its hope of survival in D.C. City Council. Initiative 77, a worker-led campaign that passed by a 56% to 44% margin, would raise the minimum tipped wage by $1.50 a year until it reaches $15.00 by 2025. Currently, in the District of Columbia, the minimum tipped wage is a mere $3.33. Employers are allowed to pay tipped workers this small amount if tips make up the difference. Therefore, if tipped workers make at least $13.25 in tips, the current minimum wage, then employers are “off the hook” for covering the difference.

According to a recent article in The Washington Post, even those who voted against the initiative agreed that the City Council should not negate the will of the people. Those interviewed for the article responded with heated comments saying, “it enrages me,” and, “the City Council shouldn’t assume an electorate…doesn’t know what they are voting for.” These are not isolated responses; many voters have reached out to their City Council members, strongly protesting the possibility of repeal.

NCL supported the OFW campaign but regardless, it is not democratic or just for the City Council to overturn the decision of the voters. Many, including the leading group in this effort, Restaurant Opportunities Centers United (ROC United), have accused the City Council of voter suppression and stomping on democracy. 

NCL believes in Initiative 77 and shedding the distinction between a tipped and minimum wage. We also strongly believe that civic participation is the foundation of our democracy. If the City Council moves to overturn this measure, it will send a very negative message to voters about the importance of the democratic process and the value of their voice in it.