Newsflash:
Issues Economic and Social Justice The Robin Hood Tax Economic and Social Justice Keith Ellison Blasts Inaction on Government-Backed Poverty: “The Most Remarkable Dodge I’ve Ever Seen”
Saturday, 18 January 2014 16:26

Keith Ellison Blasts Inaction on Government-Backed Poverty: “The Most Remarkable Dodge I’ve Ever Seen”

Written by  Josh Eidelson | Salon

One day after a top Obama administration official deflected a congressman’s call for executive action to raise labor standards for contractors, activists Wednesday announced the filing of a new Department of Labor complaint over alleged wage theft in a government building. The complaint alleges that dozens of workers in D.C.’s government-owned Union Station are owed over $3 million in back pay and damages for rampant failure to pay minimum wage or overtime.

“If a federal contractor thinks that they can steal the pay of workers, it’s very hard to believe that they would voluntarily pay those workers more money,” Rep. Keith Ellison told reporters on a call with Change to Win. “Of course they’re not going to do that.” Ellison and fellow Congressional Progressive Caucus co-chair Raul Grijalva are among 50 members of Congress who’ve urged Obama to wield executive authority to enact more pro-labor standards for federal contracting. Grijalva told Salon last month that he and his colleagues’ months-old urgings had received “no response.”

On Tuesday, Ellison took a different tack: showing up to an Economic Policy Institute panel on which Council of Economic Advisors chair Jason Furman was discussing the federal minimum wage, and asking a question from the audience. After Ellison asked about the prospects for the administration to make a move “outside of legislative action” to help low-wage federal contract workers, Furman answered, “There’s no doubt that the biggest thing we could do is something legislative.” After noting the millions who would be affected by a federal minimum wage increase, Furman said, “I think the biggest question that we should all be asking ourselves is what’s the best way to advance and get to that goal, because that’s what we want to get to ultimately, is everyone, you know, having … that poverty floor, with then the other things on top of that … How can we make sure that there’s no one in this country that’s paid less than $10.10 an hour?”

“Really, it was the most remarkable dodge I’ve ever seen,” Rep. Ellison told Salon Wednesday. Still, he said, “we hope that they’re going to do” an executive order. “We believe it is the right thing to do. It would be federal government leading by example, and that’s all I can say.” Ellison and Grijalva told Salon they still had not received any official response from the White House.

Grijalva told reporters on Wednesday’s call that executive action on contracted workers’ conditions was “a barometer about what we’re going to do about income inequality.” He was joined by Union Station worker Tibebe Ayele, who charged, “My employer paid me $5.86 while I work 60 hours a week,” and said, “Nobody should be treated like I was, especially in a federal building.”

The Department of Labor confirmed receiving the new complaint, which follows a previous complaint regarding alleged wage theft in the also government-owned Ronald Reagan building. Salon received no immediate response to early morning inquiries directed to the Department of Transportation (which owns the building), Ashkenazy Acquisition (to which DOT leases commercial areas), Jones Lang LaSalle (the real estate company that contracts with individual food court vendors), the Office of Management and Budget (which has oversight over federal contracting) and the White House.

As I’ve reported, cleaning and concessions workers in federal buildings have mounted a series of one-day strikes over the past eight months, aiming to force action by Obama. Their effort, Good Jobs Nation, is backed by the Service Employees International Union and its labor federation, Change to Win. The Good Jobs Nation campaign’s most concrete success to date has come directly from one of the contractors, not from the government: According to organizers, about 220 Smithsonian museum workers won union organizing rights and recognition from the food service giant Compass Group, becoming members of the union UNITE HERE (my former employer).

According to a May report from the progressive think tank Demos, around 2 million workers with taxpayer-backed jobs make no more than $12 per hour. According to a December report from Democrats on the Senate’s Health Education Labor and Pensions committee, $81 billion in federal contracts for the previous year went to 49 companies that had drawn nearly 1,800 enforcement actions by the Department of Labor over six years.

“This wage theft issue really dramatizes how serious this whole fight is …” said Ellison. “We will not tolerate it … I’m going to shout it from the rooftops: The fact is, the president can raise the pay of 2 million people right now.”

Link to original article from Salon

Read 4963 times Last modified on Saturday, 18 January 2014 16:36

Robin Hood Tax Articles

  • Could This Tax on Wall Street Turn Back America’s Tide of Inequality?
    Could This Tax on Wall Street Turn Back America’s Tide of Inequality?

    How will you honor the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. this April 4, the anniversary of his assassination? How about by demanding that Congress get out of Wall Street’s pocket? How about by letting your representative know that you support economic equality and a just distribution of wealth in America? As Dr. King himself said, “This is America’s opportunity to help bridge the gulf between the haves and the have-nots. The question is whether America will do it. There is nothing new about poverty. What is new is that we now have the techniques and the resources to get rid of poverty. The real question is whether we have the will.”

    Written on Monday, 31 March 2014 23:57 Read more...
  • Targeting Wall Street, Robin Hood Tax Comes to Washington
    Targeting Wall Street, Robin Hood Tax Comes to Washington

    With Congress about to begin the next cycle of budget battles – mostly focused on how much more pain to inflict on Main Street communities across America – a far different message is bubbling up across the land.

    Written on Wednesday, 30 October 2013 23:08 Read more...
  • The Robin Hood Tax
    The Robin Hood Tax

    Simply put, the big idea behind the Robin Hood Tax is to generate hundreds of billions of dollars.  That money could provide funding for jobs to kickstart the economy and get America back on its feet. It could help save the social safety net here and around the world.  And it will come from fairer taxation of the financial sector.

    Written on Friday, 25 October 2013 15:41 Read more...
  • European Commission Approves “Robin Hood” Tax on Financial Transactions
    European Commission Approves “Robin Hood” Tax on Financial Transactions The European Commission yesterday backed plans by 11 European Union economies to impose a “Robin Hood” financial transaction tax, better known as a Tobin tax, to help raise funds to tackle the region’s growing debt crisis.
    Written on Wednesday, 24 October 2012 16:53 Read more...

Does Your Legislator Support the Robin Hood Tax?

Sign the Petition - Sen. Sanders Run as a Democrat in 2016

Button-SandersPetition

Sign the TPP Fast Track Petitions

MoveOn.org Petition - Congress Don't Renew Fast Track

Public Citizen Petition - Congress Must Reject Fast Track Authority

MoveOn.org Petition - Stop the Trans Pacific Partnership

CREDO Petition - Stop the Massive Corporate Power Grab

 

Find Your Elected Officials for Issues

Enter your zip+4 and find your elected officials. This link provides name, address and phone number

ButtonFindElectedOfficials

 

Like Robin Hood Tax on Facebook

The Robin Hood Tax

Robin Hood Tax: John Nichols and Keith Ellison and Michael Lighty

Why The Robin Hood Tax