Friday, January 17, 2014

Last Call For The Taste Of Freedom

Freedom Industries, the company that poisoned the water supply for 300,000 West Virginians with its coal chemical leak last week, has officially filed for bankruptcy protection.

Freedom Industries Inc., facing multiple lawsuits and state and federal investigations after the Jan. 9 spill, filed a Chapter 11 petition with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in the Southern District of West Virginia. 
Company president Gary Southern signed the paperwork, which lists the company's assets and liabilities as a range — both between $1 million and $10 million. It says the company has at least 200 creditors and owes its top 20 creditors $3.66 million. 
The water was tainted after a chemical used to clean coal leaked from a storage tank and then a containment area at a facility owned by Freedom Industries. The water ran into the Elk River, contaminating the state's largest water system. 
The bankruptcy document says the leaky storage tank appears to have been pierced through its base by some sort of object. It also says a current theory for the hole is that a local water line that broke near the Charleston plant could have made the ground beneath the storage tank freeze in the cold days before the spill.

No doubt the company will get a nice Chapter 11 deal at taxpayer expense, while taxpayers also pay for the cleanup, and the company will emerge from bankruptcy with immunity to all those lawsuits and will be able to get back in the business of awesome coal chemicals by say, this time next year.

Business as usual, because America, where corporations are protected at all costs.  People, on the other hand, well, not so much.

Wisconsin's Working For No Weekends

As I mentioned in StupidiNews on Wednesday, Wisconsin Republicans want to get rid of the 40 hour work week.

The measure's authors, Sen. Glenn Grothman of West Bend and Mark Born of Beaver Dam, say the bill brings Wisconsin in line with federal law, gives workers a way to make extra money and employers a way to boost production. But Democrats and labor leaders insisted bosses would use the bill to force their employees to work longer and effectively erase the weekend. 
"Even God said rest on the seventh day," said David Reardon, secretary-treasurer for Teamsters Local 662, a union that represents about 10,000 workers across various industries in west-central and east-central Wisconsin, including manufacturing, truck driving, public workers and food service workers. "I would hate to see that Republican bill pass. Some employers would really take advantage of that." 
Current Wisconsin law requires employers who own or operate factories or retail stores to give their workers at least 24 consecutive hours off every seven days. Under Grothman and Born's proposal, workers could volunteer to work seven straight days without a rest day. 
Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, the state's largest business organization, brought the idea to them, the two Republicans said. The organization was doing a study on discrepancies between federal and state law and discovered federal law imposes no such limits on consecutive work days as long as minimum wage and overtime payment requirements are met, Born said.

"Volunteer".  Sure.

Rep. Cory Mason, D-Racine, called the legislation a "slap in the face to ordinary working folks in Wisconsin." 
"Workers fought long and hard for a 40-hour work week and the weekend," Mason said. "People deserve at least a day off a week. It's a legal protection for a reason." 
Grothman dismissed their concerns, saying he's never heard of any business where pressuring employees to work extra hours has been a problem. He, too, insisted the bill would help workers make extra cash. 
"It's ridiculous when people want to work extra hours why Democrats would stand in the way of that," he said. "I don't know why some people want some people to remain poor."

 Ahh, but how quickly we forget that Republicans passed legislation to eliminate overtime pay last May.

The bill would amend long-standing labor law by allowing private-sector employers to offer compensatory time off in lieu of time-and-a-half pay for overtime. Employers and workers are supposed to agree on the arrangement, but there is nothing to stop an employer from discriminating against those who prefer payment by cutting back on their overtime hours. Nor would employers face any real deterrent against forcing unpaid overtime on workers who fear losing their jobs if they object. The recourse for coerced workers would be to sue, a far-fetched and unaffordable option for most people. 
For employers, then, the bill is a way to impose extra work at no additional cost, effectively shifting what would otherwise be worker pay into corporate profits.

So imagine if both laws were in effect in Wisconsin:  Your boss could say "I need you to work this weekend. You won't get any overtime pay.  In fact, you won't get any pay at all for it.  You'll get comp time, which I don't have to let you actually take off and that you'll lose after a year.  So you'll end up working 60 hours this week and get paid for 40, or I'll fire you."

All your boss has to do is say "It was my understanding that they volunteered for extra hours and they didn't show up for work. Of course I fired them."  Oh well.

And yet that's exactly what Republicans want to make legal.

Because Republicans care about jobs and working class Americans.

Carolina Out Of My Mind

Just a gentle reminder that my home state of North Carolina is now under complete GOP control, and that they continue punishing those who traditionally vote for Democrats and will do so until they leave the state and become somebody else's problem.  Today's target:  those making under $50,000 a year.

The 900,000 poorest working families in North Carolina just got another tax hike from the conservatives who swept state legislature elections in 2010. 
The change took effect at the beginning of 2014, meaning that the taxes those families file this spring will be the last to feature the state’s tax break for the working poor. The provision, known as the Earned Income Tax Credit or EITC, will also be 10 percent less generous in its final year. State-level EITCs work by tacking on an additional benefit to the federal EITC, and the law repealing North Carolina’s EITC for 2014 also cut the credit from 5 percent to 4.5 percent of the federal benefit. 
In order to qualify for the federal or state-level tax credit, tax filers must earn less than about $50,000. The goal of the credit is to buoy the incomes of working people whose employers pay them too little to provide the economic stability that having a job is supposed to ensure. Many conservatives who oppose other policies to boost poor peoples’ income, such as minimum wage hikes, support the EITC as an alternative way of keeping working people out of poverty without interfering with how private businesses operate. 
But that argument didn’t carry the day among North Carolina Republicans, and lawmakers slashed and then eliminated the state’s EITC during last year’s legislative session. That change was overshadowed by the GOP’s broader changes to the basic shape of the income tax codein the state to favor the rich and harm the rest.

So yes, Republicans have no problem raising taxes on those who can afford it the least to give tax breaks to the wealthiest.  North Carolina is now under a flat income tax of 5.8%, saving those making six figures or more thousands and those making seven figures tens of thousands in taxes.

In turn, that tax burden, along with the elimination of the state's Earned Income Tax Credit, just jacked up income taxes on the poor, big time.

Now combine this with the state's new draconian cuts to unemployment insurance in order to get the unemployed to leave the state and become someone else's problem.

"We had the ninth most generous unemployment compensation in the country and we were having a lot of people move here, frankly, especially in urban areas to get unemployment and then work other sectors and survive. So,people were moving here because of our very generous benefits, and then of course, we had more debt. So I think, personally, more people got off unemployment and either got jobs or moved back to where they were going or came from and quit the migration as much because of unemployment. We’ve seen this in other states where the benefits are very high, it could draw people from outside the state."

What happened of course is that since North Carolina now has the worst unemployment insurance in the country as of last summer, in turn they now have one of the highest rates of workers leaving the job market completely.  What Republicans have managed to do is drive people out of the job market and into government programs.  That's happening across the country, but it's happening faster in NC.

The GOP goal is to make being poor so awful that the poor just vanish, move away, or who knows?  Die, maybe?

Either way, they're not the NC GOP's problem anymore.

Related Posts with Thumbnails