COLUMBUS, OH: I am on the ground in Ohio, here to cover the protests for the couple days that I can afford to be away from DC. Today, despite a persistent rain, demonstrators lined the sidewalk outside of the Capitol Building in Columbus to voice their opposition to Senate Bill 5 which threatens state employees' bargaining rights. Today's protest was a lead up to tomorrow, when thousands are expected to descend on Columbus.
I also want to include the full interview I did with one of the teachers:
Some helpful facts about Ohio and collective bargaining (from the Examiner , not directly quoted)
• Ohio public employees make the same or less than their counterparts in the private sector (although a higher percentage of state workers have college degrees) • In the last 9 years, state workers have taken 5 years of pay freezes (that's with collective bargaining) • Budget gaps are higher, on average, in states that do not allow collective bargaining • State employee payroll in Ohio equals only 9% of the state budget
We'll be here for part of the protest tomorrow too!
The debate over measures to fix America’s broken labor laws took a back seat during the long debate on health care. Now that the focus has shifted to efforts to stimulate economic growth and job creation, it’s time to put workers’ rights front and center.
Since few media outlets have a reporter assigned to the labor beat anymore, we've heard little this year about one of President Obama's best cabinet appointments: Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis.
Tracy Kurowski wrote a good post at Blog for Iowa about the Department of Labor's annual Statement of Regulatory and Deregulatory Priorities, released three weeks ago (full report here). The gist is that Solis is getting her department "back to the business of looking out for labor rather than commerce." Here are some highlights, but you should go read Kurowski's whole post for more details and background:
* Companies would be required to file financial disclosures on their union-busting activity. [...]
* A rule change to allow third parties to report Wage and Hour violations. This is huge. As the DOL themselves put it, "because workers are fearful of losing their jobs in this economy and therefore less likely to file complaints when they are cheated," a third party which has sufficient information to indicate a probable violation may report the abuse. It's as easy as calling 866-4US-WAGE.
* Companies would be required to document a separate ergonomic job injury log in their Occupational Safety and Health Administration reports. No more dismissing carpel-tunnel and other repetitive motion injuries.
* [...]the Wage and Hour Division will hire 250 new investigators - not nearly enough, but a major departure from a decade of attrition and a fox-watching-the-henhouse regulatory culture. The division will focus on industries with high violation rates including agriculture, restaurants, janitorial, construction and car washes.
* Advancing safety standards to protect workers from combustible dust - diacetyl, the artificial butter flavoring used in microwave popcorn and the source of the potentially deadly disease [bronchiolitis obliterans] [...].
* Also better regulation of exposure to crystalline silica dust which causes debilitating respiratory disease which ultimately may be fatal.
* Requiring pay stubs to break down how pay is computed to guard against wage theft.
* [...]Now all government contractors are required to post notices of their workers' rights under federal labor laws -- a move that will better inform a fifth of the private sector workforce of their rights. [...]
* Strengthening the restrictions of how much coal dust workers are allowed to inhale.
I've been critical of the corporate-friendly Obama administration, but at least the Department of Labor is taking steps to protect workers' rights. Now if only we could get Congress to move on the Employee Free Choice Act...