Consumer Protections / Workers' Rights

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This is a collaborative knowledge base; feel free to propose edits/additions that you believe are important for others to know. Contributions will be reviewed and approved based on quality and accuracy.

How You Can Resist
How You Can Resist
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Actions Taken by the Federal Government
Laws Proposed by Congress
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Legislative Actions[edit]

Legislation that Supports Equity and Justice

  • S. 337 The FAMILY Act is a bill that entitles every individual to a family and medical leave insurance benefit nationwide, currently it is limited only to states with enacted legislation. The bill will grant up to 60 days of paid leave and the language is gender neutral.[1]
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  • H.R. 179 / S. 175 The Miners Protections Act of 2017 is legislation that would ensure that the federal government and coal operators honor their obligation of lifetime pensions and health benefits to retired miners and their families.
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Harmful Legislation

  • H.J. Res. 41 repeals a regulation by the SEC as part of the Dodd-Frank Act, requiring energy companies to disclose payments made to foreign governments.[2]
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  • HR 785 National Right to Work Act would reduce Union resources from which to collective bargain for both members and nonmembers.
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  • HR 1031 targets the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and Dodd-Frank by removing consumer protections and regulations.
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See also the State and Local Pages for state-by-state legislative tracking.

Attempted Undermining of Unions[edit]

  • By law, unions are required to collectively bargain on behalf of both member and nonmember workers. Right to Work laws allow a state to prohibit unions from collecting fees from nonmembers to reduce contributions to help cover the costs of bargaining.[3]
  • Without the resources to support both members and nonmembers, union impact falls and a consequence is reduced wages in Right to Work states compared to states without the law.[4]
  • Right to Work laws have nothing to do with the right to have a job or be provided employment. Right to Work laws have nothing to do with whether people can be forced to join a union to contribute to a political cause they do not support; that is already illegal.[5]
  • Go to your State and Local Pages to see if your state is trying pass a Right to Work law.

Wage Theft[edit]

There is a core set of wage and workplace protections that help define America's Workplace:[6]

  • The right to be paid at least the minimum wage
  • The right to be paid for overtime hours
  • The right to take meal breaks
  • The right to access workers' compensation when injured
  • The right to advocate for better working conditions

Preemptive Wage Theft[edit]

After cities such as Seattle and San Francisco passed laws that require employers to schedule shifts weeks in advance, pay workers when their hours are cut, and ensure that on-call employees are paid even if they don't end up coming in, state governments are preemptively passing legislation that would block city regulations on worker schedules.[7]

  • A bill pending in the Georgia Senate would block local governments from requiring employers to pay workers when their schedules change at the last minute.[8]
  • Minnesota and New Mexico (and possibly other states) are trying to block cities from regulating how workers are scheduled. Alabama, Arizona, Indiana, Kansas and Michigan already have similar laws).[9]

Wage Inequality[edit]

Women in the Workplace[edit]

Families depend on women’s wages more than ever, but a woman working full-time, year round is typically paid less than a man working full time, year-round. The Wage Gap for Women negatively affects women nationally.[10]

Workers with Disabilities[edit]

There is a direct benefit to expanding employment opportunities for people with disabilities. For employers who are projected to face labor shortages as the baby-boom generation retires,[11], unemployed people with disabilities could help fill those needs. For people with disabilities, employment has not just economic value but also important social and psychological value.[12]

Overtime Pay Protections[edit]

  • An Obama administration regulation required employers to pay workers earning $47,476 or less time-and-a-half overtime pay for the overtime hours they worked. In November, a judge struck it down, keeping the amount at $23,660 or less to earn time-and-a-half overtime pay.[13]
  • Trump shows indications that he may raise the amount of money you have to earn below in order for your employer to be required to pay overtime, but not to what Obama was suggesting to roughly keep pace with inflation. One-third of salaried employees would have been eligible for overtime with the $913 threshold that Obama had created.[14]

Instances of Wage Theft[edit]

According to a study performed by the National Employment Law Project on 4,387 low-wage workers, these rights are being denied to a significant number of US workers:

  • Over 25% of respondents worked more than 40 hours during the previous week.[15]
  • Among workers who had overtime violations, on average 11 hours of overtime were underpaid or completely unpaid.[16]
  • 86% of respondents worked enough consecutive hours to be legally entitled to at least one meal break during the previous week. More than two-thirds (69%) received no break at all, had their break shortened, were interrupted by their employer, or worked during the break—all of which constitutes a violation of meal break law.[17]

Minimum Wage[edit]

  • Trump has sent mixed messages regarding the federal minimum wage, at one point calling for eliminating the federal minimum wage and at another point supporting increasing the federal minimum wage to $10.[18] Trump's attitudes regarding the minimum wage are of particular concern for people with disabilities, who are currently allowed to be paid a sub-minimum wage.[19]
  • 19 states began 2017 with increased minimum wages:[20]

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  • Minimum wage legislation can also be raised in your state. Go to State and Local Pages to see what your state is doing.

Instances of Wage Theft[edit]

According to a study performed by the National Employment Law Project on 4,387 low-wage workers, these rights are being denied to a significant number of US workers:

  • 26% of workers were paid less than the legally required minimum wage in the previous work week.[21]
  • 60% of workers were underpaid by more than $1 per hour.[22]
  • Foreign-born Latino/a workers had the highest minimum wage violation rates of any racial/ethnic group.[23]
  • African-American workers had a minimum wage violation rate triple that of their white counterparts.[24]
  • Women were significantly more likely than men to experience minimum wage violations, and foreign-born workers were nearly twice as likely as their US-born counterparts to have a minimum wage violation.[25]

Workplace Protections Under Attack[edit]

The Labor Department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires companies to report any workplace injuries or illnesses.

Last December the agency extended the window where a company can be penalized for failing to make these reports to five years.[26] The limit was extended in response to a decision of the US Court of Appeals in DC, where a majority realized that OSHA was not permitted to impose a continued record-keeping obligation on employers. A clarification was needed and the new 5-year limit was imposed.[27] On March 22nd, 2017 the Senate voted to block the the Obama-era rule and send the bill to President Trump, who is expected to sign it.[28]

Removal of Penalties for Wage or Safety Violations[edit]

An Obama Administration regulation called the Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces rule encouraged federal contractors to follow labor laws by penalizing contractors with egregious records of violating wage and safety laws. The penalty would be losing their government contracts if they did not come into compliance.[29]

The Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces rule was determined necessary after analysis determined that almost 30% of the top violators of federal wage and safety laws are also current federal contractors (as of 2013).[30]

Specifically:

  • 18 federal contractors were recipients of the largest 100 penalties issued by OSHA between 2007 and 2012. Almost half of the total initial penalty dollars for OSHA violations were against federal contractors (in 2012).[31]
  • 42 American workers died as a result of OSHA violations by federal contractors in 2012.[32]
  • 32 federal contractors received back wage assessments among the largest 100 issued by the Department of Labor between 2007 and 2012.[33]
  • 35 of these companies violated both wage and safety laws.[34]
  • 49 federal contractors responsible for large violations of federal labor laws were cited for 1,776 separate violations of these laws and paid $196 million in penalties and assessments. In fiscal year 2012, these same companies were awarded $81 billion in taxpayer dollars.[35]

On March 27, President Trump signed a bill to repeal this regulation without any legislation for replacement.[36]

Cuts to Training and Placement Programs[edit]

  • With the recent 21 percent budget cut to the Labor Department budget[37], the Trump Administration has a clear goal of reducing funding for job training programs and workplace protections for seniors and disadvantaged youth.
  • Cuts to take place:
    • Senior Community Service Employment Program, which helps low-income job seekers age 55 and older find permanent work by pairing them with nonprofit organizations and public agencies. The Trump administration criticized the programs as "ineffective" because one-third of participants do not finish and only half who complete the program end up finding un-subsidized jobs.[38]
    • Job Corps, a program that provides workplace training for disadvantaged youth would close centers that "do a poor job educating and preparing students" for the labor force.[39] There would be no replacement program offered.
    • Legal Services Corporation[40] provided low-income workers the ability to receive legal assistance to vindicate their rights on the job and to ensure that they receive the types of public benefits they are entitled to by virtue of living in poverty.[41]
    • Bureau of International Labor Affairs, which is a department that helps ensure workers around the world are treated fairly. The bureau would refocus itself to ensure that "U.S. trade agreements are fair for American workers." This change would eliminate the bureau's grant program[42] that has provided funds for foreign programs like Youth Apprenticeship in Argentina, Costa Rica and Kenya.[43]

The Open Internet[edit]

The FCC has set up what it calls Open Internet rules to protect a consumer’s ability to go where they want, when they want while they are online. Broadband service providers cannot block or deliberately slow speeds for internet services or applications, create special “fast lanes” for content, or engage in other practices that harm internet openness. These rules are often referred to as “Net Neutrality.”[44]

Network Neutrality[edit]

Network neutrality is the idea that your cellular, cable, and phone internet connections should treat all websites and services the same. Big companies like AT&T, Verizon, and Comcast want to treat them differently so they can charge you more depending on what sites and services you use.[45]

How is the Open Internet protected?[46]

  • Blocking: Broadband providers may not block access to legal content, applications, or services, or non-harmful devices.
  • Throttling: Broadband providers may not deliberately target some legal internet traffic to be delivered to users more slowly than other traffic.
  • Paid prioritization: Broadband providers may not favor some internet traffic in exchange for consideration of any kind—in other words, no "fast lanes." Internet service providers are also banned from prioritizing their affiliates' content and services.

Reporting Violations[edit]

Consumers can share complaints or stories here.