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Buy union-made gifts this holiday season – National Consumers League

holiday_scams.jpgIt’s that time of year again! Holiday season is upon us, and that means more trips to the mall and online retailers for many of us. Gift buying and giving can be stressful, fun, exhilarating, and all of the above. But how many of us have stopped to consider where these products come from, and under what conditions they are being made?We here at the National Consumers League encourage buying American- and union-made goods. Consider this about the companies you are buying from: do they treat their employees fairly? Are the employees paid a living wage? Are they using child labor in the production of their goods?

We recently blogged about avoiding gifts produced by child labor this holiday season in the Huffington Post. The Department of Labor has created the Sweat and Toil smartphone app to help consumers research which products are made from child labor and forced labor.

Our friends and fellow labor advocates at Labor 411 recently released a shopping guide to help consumers shop ethically this holiday season. The guide features gift makers that support good jobs, such as Hasbro, Russell Stover, Ghiradelli Chocolates, See’s Candies, Harley Davidson, Craftsman, and Jack Daniel’s. Check out Labor 411’s website for more information on American-made gifts and familiar union-made brands that are domestically produced.

It’s important to be kind and give back during this joyous season, but it’s equally important to be ethical in our shopping choices! Thinking twice about where that present under the tree comes from could help support workers and sustain our economy.

Victory for hourly workers in four states despite the nation’s turn to the right – National Consumers League

SG_HEADSHOT.jpgWhile American voters elected a president who campaigned against all things liberal on Tuesday, four states supported minimum wage increases in the same election. These add a measure of hope that progressive agenda issues can succeed, even in a year when progressives are not elected to the highest office.The winning tallies will raise hourly wages in Colorado, Arizona, Maine, and Washington. In Washington State, the wage will rise to $13.50 by 2020 and to $12 per hour in others, in the same time frame.

According to the Wall Street Journal, that would put them on the level of what is deemed the current statewide living wage by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s living-wage calculator, which uses location-specific expenditure data to estimate the wage needed to support an individual or family in a given area.

The nonprofit Ballot Initiative Strategy Center helped to get these measures passed and by the look of things, they are very good at it. The group describes itself as “the only progressive organization that works across the many policy, organizing and political organizations, with local, state and national players to analyze and support the ballot measure landscape.”

In the one state, Arizona, that supported an increased minimum wage and also supported Donald Trump for president, education groups and about 200 local small businesses supported the measure, saying it would be better for their employees and the community as a whole. They won by a whopping 59 to 41 percent! The current minimum wage equates to about $17,000 a year. Both local and national groups put about $1.6 million into the campaign to support Prop. 206. Apparently, the restaurants and other businesses that opposed it didn’t put any money behind their campaign, which might explain the lopsided win.

The Washington state measure was backed by labor unions and worker advocates and appears to have won by a wide margin. Supporters argued that the state’s current minimum wage isn’t enough to live on, and a boost would mean workers have more to spend. They also argued that many workers don’t have access to paid sick leave, posing a public-health problem.

Business groups opposed the initiative, saying that while Seattle’s booming economy can support a high minimum wage, the rest of the state isn’t faring so well. Boosting the minimum wage in those areas could lead to higher prices and cuts in jobs and work hours, they say.

The Maine provision had a 56 percent lead when The Associated Press called the measure yesterday, while the effort in Colorado garnered around 55 percent of counted votes, compared with 44.9 percent against.

These resounding votes in support of minimum wage hikes are certainly an interesting development. They seem to show that the public largely supports fair wages for hourly workers, even in states that lean right. That’s an important message for progressives in an election year when not much went their way.

Updated November 10, 2016: Voters chose health in California and Boulder, Colorado, where measures were passed on November 8, 2016 to tax sugary beverages in hopes to decrease high rates of chronic disease and fund more public health programs.

McDonald’s employees fight for fair wages – National Consumers League

gavel_icon.jpgBy Hannah Rudder, NCL Intern

We were preparing a blog on the issue of McDonald’s workers forming a class to sue McDonald’s when we came across the fact that the fast food chain reported an increase in net income from the first quarter of 2015 to the first quarter of 2016 and attributed this increase to the minimum wage raise. McDonald’s CEO Steve Easterbrook cites lower employee turnover and higher customer satisfaction as a result of the higher wages. While raising the minimum wage has not helped every company increase profits, and organizations like the Chamber of Commerce argue it will lead to higher unemployment and a decrease in profits, McDonald’s shows that it has not hurt the company’s bottom line. Based on the experience of McDonald’s, it appears that paying a living wage is good for the company, the economy, and the worker-and other large chains should follow suit.In relation to McDonald’s wage news, three weeks ago, a District Court in California certified a class of past and present McDonald’s employees to bring certain wage-related claims against the fast food giant. This is the first time a judge has ruled that McDonald’s employees can band together and bring claims against the corporation, rather than just the individual franchisee. We loudly applaud the ruling. Historically, McDonald’s workers have never been granted the right to unionize, and this recent court decision gives workers the ability to petition one controlling body as a group.

Similarly, this decision parts with McDonald’s long-held stance that it is not responsible for franchise workers because it is not a joint employer; McDonald’s argues the franchisee is the sole employer. McDonald’s asserts that it is not fair to hold the franchiser accountable for franchisee’s employment practices. The court did not hold that McDonald’s was a joint employer, but instead agreed with the employees’ ostensible agency theory that posits that the employees are agents of McDonald’s.

The class of current and former employees initially brought 13 causes of action against McDonald’s and its franchisee. These claims included a large negligence claim, failure to pay overtime, failure to pay minimum wage, failure to give appropriate meal or rest breaks, and failure to reimburse employees for time required to maintain uniforms. The court ruled, however, that this class can only bring the claims of unpaid overtime, maintenance of uniforms, and miscalculated wages against McDonald’s; the other claims, including the negligence claim, were dismissed.

The group of employees settled with the franchisee for $700,000. This settlement means that if the class of employees proves McDonald’s violated the California labor laws, then McDonald’s will be liable for all of the damages under those claims.

The implications of this District Court decision certifying former and current employees as a class has far reaching implications, not only for McDonald’s, but for the whole fast food industry. This decision opens the door for fast food employees to introduce labor lawsuits against chains like McDonald’s, rather than just against a single franchisee. As the New York Times reported: “The district judge in California has now given lawyers for the McDonald’s employees the chance to prove in court what should be evident: that McDonald’s is responsible for ensuring that pay is fair and adequate and, as such, must be accountable when workers in its restaurants are stiffed.” If McDonald’s is found responsible for the wage violations, the fast food company will have to change its ways, and be far more aggressive in ensuring that its franchisees are paying workers fairly and adequately, and that the company is abiding by the laws related to all employee wages, hours, and benefits.