Mid-Term Senate Races Matter: Heller’s High Water

U.S. Senator Dean Heller (R-NV) released the below statement after a right-leaning federal judge in Texas nullified the Obama Administration’s Department of Labor overtime rule.

“The former Obama Administration’s expansion of the federal overtime rule would have devastated Nevada’s business owners and job creators. Since the rule was issued last year, I have been strongly concerned about its impact because it would fundamentally change how employers compensate their workers, reducing Nevadans’ work hours and benefits. I’m pleased to see that a federal judge acknowledged the regulation’s harmful consequences and ruled it invalid today,” Heller said. “Today’s news is a relief for countless Nevada businesses and employers, and I commend Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt for his leadership in this fight.”

Heller has worked tirelessly at undermining the Obama-era overtime rule aimed at leveling the playing field for workers. Instead, he’s worked to bolster the bottom line of his corporate benefactors. Don’t believe me?  As evidence —

  • In February 2016 he wrote to Department of Labor Secretary Tom Perez about this rule and what he claimed would be its negative impacts on corporations in the state of Nevada.
  • In March 2016, he followed up with yet another letter highlighting his concerns over the new policy change.
  • In the Senate, Heller expressed concerns with his Senate colleagues by writing to Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and related Agencies Chairman Roy Blunt and Ranking Member Patty Murray.

Heller also cosponsored S. 2707, the Protecting Workplace Advancement and Opportunity Act, in the 114th Congress, legislation that would have cancelled the proposed DOL regulation to increase the salary threshold for workers eligible to receive overtime pay and require impact studies for future proposals of related rules.

Protecting Workplace Advancement and Opportunity Act

S.2707 declared that the proposed or the final rule of the Department of Labor entitled “Defining and Delimiting the Exemptions for Executive, Administrative, Professional, Outside Sales and Computer Employees” shall cease to have any force or effect. The rule revises the “white collar” exemption of executive, administrative, professional, outside sales, and computer employees from minimum wage and maximum hour, or overtime, requirements of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (FLSA).

If the proposed rule is a final rule on the date of enactment of S.2707:

  • the Dept of Labor would have been prohibited from enforcing it based on conduct occurring before that enactment date,
  • an employee would not have any right of action against an employer for the employer’s failure to comply with the final rule at any time before that enactment date,
  • any regulations that were amended by the final rule would have been restored and revived as if the final rule had never taken effect, and
  • nothing in S.2707 would have been construed to create a right of action for an employer against an employee for the recoupment of any payments made to the employee before the enactment of this bill that were in compliance with that final rule.

It also specified that the Dept of Labor could promulgate any substantially similar rule only if it had completed certain required actions; but any new rule could not contain any automatic updates to the salary threshold for purposes of exemptions to minimum wage and maximum hour requirements under the FLSA (Fair Labor Standards Act).

The requirement that definitions applicable for such exemptions be defined and delimited from time to time by Labor regulations would have been construed to:

  • require Labor to issue a new rule through notice and comment rule-making for each change in any salary threshold it has proposed (creating more expensive and elongated rule-making processes); and
  • exclude any rule that would result in changes to any salary threshold for multiple time periods, including through any automatic updating procedure.

The Dept of Labor was also prohibited from promulgating any final rule that included any revision to duties tests for exemption from minimum wage and maximum hours requirements unless specific regulatory text for the provision was proposed in the proposed rule.

For clarity, here is the background on that “Final Rule” and what it did for WORKERS:

In 2014, President Obama directed the Department of Labor to update and modernize the regulations governing the exemption of executive, administrative, and professional (“EAP”) employees from the minimum wage and overtime pay protections of the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA” or “Act”). The Department published a notice of proposed rulemaking on July 6, 2015, and received more than 270,000 comments. On May 18, 2016, the Department announced that it will publish a Final Rule to update the regulations. The full text of the Final Rule will be available at the Federal Register Site.

Although the FLSA ensures minimum wage and overtime pay protections for most employees covered by the Act, some workers, including bona fide EAP employees, are exempt from those protections. Since 1940, the Department’s regulations have generally required each of three tests to be met for the FLSA’s EAP exemption to apply:

  1. the employee must be paid a predetermined and fixed salary that is not subject to reduction because of variations in the quality or quantity of work performed (“salary basis test”);
  2. the amount of salary paid must meet a minimum specified amount (“salary level test”); and
  3. the employee’s job duties must primarily involve executive, administrative, or professional duties as defined by the regulations (“duties test”).

The Department last updated these regulations in 2004, when it set the weekly salary level at $455 ($23,660 annually) and made other changes to the regulations, including collapsing the short and long duties tests into a single standard duties test and introducing a new exemption for highly compensated employees.

This Final Rule updates the salary level required for exemption to ensure that the FLSA’s intended overtime protections are fully implemented, and to simplify the identification of overtime-protected employees, thus making the EAP exemption easier for employers and workers to understand and apply. Without intervening action by their employers, it extends the right to overtime pay to an estimated 4.2 million workers who are currently exempt. It also strengthens existing overtime protections for 5.7 million additional white collar salaried workers and 3.2 million salaried blue collar workers whose entitlement to overtime pay will no longer rely on the application of the duties test.

* Key Provisions of the Final Rule *
The Final Rule focused primarily on updating the salary and compensation levels needed for EAP workers to be exempt. Specifically, the Final Rule:

  1. Set the standard salary level at the 40th percentile of earnings of full-time salaried workers in the lowest-wage Census Region, currently the South, which is $913 per week or $47,476 annually for a full-year worker;
  2. Set the total annual compensation requirement for highly compensated employees (HCE) subject to a minimal duties test to the annual equivalent of the 90th percentile of full-time salaried workers nationally, which is $134,004; and
  3. Established a mechanism for automatically updating the salary and compensation levels every three years to maintain the levels at the above percentiles and to ensure that they continue to provide useful and effective tests for exemption.

Additionally, the Final Rule amended the salary basis test to allow employers to use non-discretionary bonuses and incentive payments (including commissions) to satisfy up to 10 percent of the new standard salary level. The Final Rule made no changes to the duties tests.

Effective Date
The effective date of the Final Rule is December 1, 2016. The initial increases to the standard salary level (from $455 to $913 per week) and HCE total annual compensation requirement (from $100,000 to $134,004 per year) will be effective on that date. Future automatic updates to those thresholds will occur every three years, beginning on January 1, 2020.

Frankly, it wouldn’t surprise me to see Senator Heller espouse and promote a nationwide move such as that just made by the Missouri GOP-led legislature which lowered the minimum wage from $10/hr to $7.70/hr (or, from $20, 800/yr to $16,016/yr for Missouri citizens.

Afterall, Senator Heller has made it exceedingly clear that he represents only his corporate benefactors and is a firm believer and double-downer in a failed trickle-down philosophy.

“Congress is ready to address tax reform, and that’s why I’m encouraged by the President’s comments today about bringing tax relief to all Americans. Nevada’s hardworking families and small business owners have been waiting for a simpler, fairer tax code for years now, and Congress and the White House are poised to make that happen,” Heller said. “I was honored to host Secretary Mnuchin earlier this week in Las Vegas for a meeting with Nevada employers and the message we received from these business leaders was clear – lowering rates will help boost the economy, create jobs and increase wages. As a member of the Senate Finance Committee, I’m looking forward to working with the Administration on this issue and having a seat at the table to make sure that the final product is what’s best for Nevada.”

Mid-term elections matter and we cannot let Dean Heller get re-elected to the Senate, nor can we let AG Laxalt get elected to the Governorship of Nevada.

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Prosperity—Not Poverty

Post by @ForAJustSociety  [https://thejobgap.org/]

Nationally, this report finds that there are seven job seekers for every job opening that pays the national single adult living wage of $17.28 per hour. This leaves six out of seven job seekers unable to secure employment that allows a single adult to make ends meet, much less support a family.

This lack of good paying jobs reinforces income inequality that continues to play a major role in perpetuating existing wealth gaps for women, people of color, and the LGBTQI community. While occupations that traditionally employ high rates of women and people of color include occupations with the most openings, those jobs are more likely to be low-wage. This contributes to existing wealth gaps by diminishing the ability of women and people of color to save and build up wealth.

A strong public infrastructure plan can address racial, gender, and LGBTQI wealth gaps while providing a large number of good paying jobs through a number of mechanisms, such as targeted hiring from struggling communities – including women, people of color, and the LGBTQI community – and strong wage floor requirements. Equally as important are the types of infrastructure projects that are prioritized. Ensuring access to clean water for marginalized communities, for example, must come first while any plan that would privatize public assets must be rejected.

Paying for Low-Wage Pollution

Whether it’s half a dozen of one or 6 of another, we continually find ourselves contributing to the socialization labor costs as corporations incorporate poverty wages into their wage compensation schemes.  The article below may look at how Cook County, IL is looking for ways to combat those practices, but I thought it was apropos as food for thought, as you vet those candidates you choose to support with your coveted vote at the ballot box this fall.


Economic justice activists are championing laws that shift the costs of toxic poverty wages from communities to corporations.
— by Liz Ryan Murray

liz-ryan-murrayImagine if a corporation set up shop in your community and immediately dumped toxic sludge in your local waterways and buried radioactive waste next to your biggest playground. You and your neighbors, I bet, would demand full compensation from that corporation to pay for the clean-up and public health costs.

You’d have a strong case.

What about corporations that pollute communities not with chemicals, but with poverty wages? The impact can be every bit as toxic, and yet companies that pay low wages get off scot-free. In fact, their CEOs usually get bonuses.

Economic justice activists across the country are fighting back against this outrage. They’re demanding that corporate polluters pay a price for low wages.

In the Chicago area, for instance, Cook County commissioners are considering a bill that would slap fees on corporations employing more than 750 workers at less than the local living wage — currently $14.57 per hour, or $11.66 with health benefits.

Walmart_fair_wages_minimum_wage_labor_workers
Courtesy of National People’s Action

Under this proposed Responsible Business Act, companies would pay the local government $750 per employee each year for every dollar their wages fall below the living wage. The bill would generate an estimated $580 million in the first four years.

Community stakeholders would get a voice in deciding how to spend this revenue to help low-income residents. For example, some of that money might boost health care options, pre-trial services, and housing assistance.

Why not just raise the minimum wage? In an ideal world, it would be the best solution. That’s why “Fight for $15″ campaigns are catching on. Unfortunately, the vast majority of Americans still live in places where wages won’t lift working families out of poverty anytime soon.

Low-wage employer fees provide a good alternative by targeting the large corporations that can afford to pay their workers more, but are choosing to drive low-wage pollution instead. This approach encourages these companies to raise wages while leveling the playing field for the businesses that are already taking the high road.

As long as poverty wages persist, we’ll all pay the price.

Poverty wages leave workers with too little buying power. Local businesses suffer when local people can’t afford to buy their products and services.

And young people suffer, too. Researchers have linked high poverty rates to lower educational achievement and poor health. And poverty wages make high poverty rates inevitable.

Low-income people, especially in communities of color, also face a far greater risk of being arrested and jailed for minor offenses, leaving them with even higher barriers to future economic opportunities.

Who subsidizes these poisonous poverty wages? Taxpayers.

To keep their families healthy and safe, low-wage workers have little choice but to turn to public assistance programs. Reforms like Cook County’s Responsible Business Act could help us recoup some of these costs.

Large corporations are “socializing labor costs,” sums up Will Tanzman of IIRON, the Illinois-based economic and social justice organization that’s part of a growing movement for the Responsible Business Act. One local poll, he points out, shows county residents favoring the bill by a 2-1 margin.

Connecticut activists pushed a similar bill last year. A new law in that state mandates the creation of an advisory board where workers will join employers, public assistance recipients, elected officials, and other stakeholders to develop recommendations for how the governor and state legislators can address the public cost of low-wage work.

Activists and elected officials elsewhere, including Colorado and New York, are also exploring the possibility of applying low-wage employer fees.

These campaigns aren’t about demonizing public assistance. In the richest country in the world, we should have a safety net strong enough to ensure that all our most vulnerable people live in dignity. That ought to be a matter of national pride.

But a system that lets overpaid CEOs underpay workers and then get taxpayers to foot the bill for the damage that results? None of us can take any pride in that.


Liz Ryan Murray is the National People’s Action policy director. Distributed by OtherWords.org and cross-posted at Inequality.org

Hair Force of One

The Mis-Education Of The Republican Party
— by CAP Action War Room

The GOP presidential field needs an education, but for the moment their only teacher is Donald TDebaterump. With President Ronald Reagan’s Air Force One casting a shadow over them, eleven GOP candidates spent three hours debating largely about Donald Trump and failing to address the many key issues facing working families. On education, raising wages, and health care, the GOP candidates said close to nothing, instead doubling down on attacks on immigrants, women’s health, working families, and the Iran nuclear deal. Over three grueling hours of television, the Republican candidates mentioned “middle class” just three times, “health care” twice, and “students” just once.

What the GOP Candidates Failed to Mention:

Ensuring Access to an Affordable, Quality Education. Families are finding it harder and harder to access an affordable, quality education. Between 2000 and 2011, the cost of higher education grew three times faster than overall inflation and students are being saddled with debt. However, the Republican candidates were silent on whether they would support measures such as allowing Americans to refinance their student loans and restoring public investment in education. Not only did Republicans ignore the plight of students seeking a higher education, they also ignored the needs of our youngest learners. High-quality public preschool programs range from $6,500 to $11,000 across the country—putting them out of reach for many families. But on solutions like providing universal pre-school, the Republicans were mum.
Raising Wages for Working Families. Higher wages are what working families need most. Instead of seeing their incomes improve, middle class households saw their incomes fall 2 percent between 2000 and 2011. However, the Republican presidential contenders overwhelmingly failed to offer, or support, real solutions that would improve incomes for families, such as raising the minimum wage or reforming overtime rules.

A Plan to Improve Access to Health Care. On a day when new data became available showing that the number of Americans lacking health insurance dropped by more than eight million people in 2014, Republicans once again attacked the Affordable Care Act (ACA) but offered no alternatives. Before the implementation of the ACA, health care costs were skyrocketing. From 2002 to 2012, health care costs paid by a family of four with an average employer-sponsored PPO plan rose by 85 percent. The ACA, however, has helped control rising health care costs. At the same time, the ACA has improved access to health care. Overall, 15.8 million people have gained coverage since the ACA’s marketplaces opened. Republicans, however, have offered no ideas on how to keep improving upon the successes of the ACA, instead continuing to call for repealing the ACA.

What the GOP Candidates Did Say:

Follow Trump’s Lead on Immigration. Trump’s extreme rhetoric on immigration is often credited with putting immigration right at the center of the GOP presidential primary. But at the debate on Wednesday night, several Republican candidates went out of their way to show that they stand with Trump on his extreme positions.

  • Trump doubled down on his claim that birthright citizenship isn’t settled in the Constitution, saying, “Well, first of all, the — the 14th Amendment says very, very clearly to a lot of great legal scholars — not television scholars, but legal scholars — that it is wrong.” Trump wasn’t alone–Rand Paul, the author of a constitutional amendment to repeal birthright citizenship, restated his support for ending it.
  • Trump again raised his plan to build a wall between the United States and Mexico to deter illegal immigration, even though the border is more secure than ever. The other GOP candidates, however, raced to outdo Trump: Chris Christie jumped at the opportunity to say that he would push to establish “more than just a wall,” pledging “electronics” and “drones,” while Ben Carson said he would turn off the “spigot that dispenses all the goodies so we don’t have people coming in here.”

Defund Planned Parenthood. During the debate, the GOP candidates spent much of their air time attacking women’s health. In rushing to declare that they support defunding Planned Parenthood, they ignored the fact that Planned Parenthood provides critical health care services for millions of women.

  • Jeb Bush believes “that Planned Parenthood should[n’t] get a penny from the federal government.” This is not a surprising statement from a man who previously said he was “not sure we need a half billion for women’s health issues.” However, Planned Parenthood helps millions of women—in 2013 alone it served more than 2.7 million patients and provided 10.6 million services, including the treatment of chronic diseases and authorization for hospital care.
  • Ted Cruz called Planned Parenthood a “criminal enterprise” and says he’s “proud to stand for life.” But 90 percent of Planned Parenthood’s activity is preventive care. Defunding Planned Parenthood would limit women’s access to lifesaving cancer screenings, birth control, and more.

Give Tax Breaks to the Wealthy Few. Several GOP candidates talked about their tax plans and records on taxes at the debate, but their rhetoric was the same rehash of tired Republican talking points: cut taxes on the wealthy to boost the economy. That didn’t work before, and it won’t work again.

  • Bush promoted the $19 billion in tax cuts he pushed as Governor of Florida, but analysis of his time in Florida show that he catered his tax cuts to the wealthy. What’s more, Bush’s tax plan, just released last week, would be a massive giveaway to the wealthiest Americans, would blow a hole in the deficit, and give Bush a personal tax savings of $774,000.
  • Walker claimed that under his watch, Wisconsin passed $4.7 billion in tax cuts “to help working families, family farmers, small business owners and senior citizens,” but the richest 20 percent reaped a full half of the benefits of his income tax package — all while Wisconsin ranked 44th in the country in middle class income growth under Walker.
  • John Kasich boasted about having the “largest amount tax cuts of any sitting governor,” but he neglected to mention that his so-called “tax cuts” benefited wealthy Ohioans. Under Kasich’s tax proposals, the average tax bill went up for the bottom 60 percent of taxpayers, while the top one percent of taxpayers saw an average tax cut of nearly $12k.

Tear Up the Iran Deal. Last night, many of the GOP candidates offered much of the same, similar-sounding bluster we have heard on the campaign trail: tear up the Iran deal on “day one.” Their empty rhetoric presented no real leadership, just more partisan attacks on a tough-minded deal.

  • Cruz claimed that the Iran deal “will only accelerate Iran’s acquiring nuclear weapons.” He continued to say that if elected, he would “rip to shreds this catastrophic Iranian nuclear deal.” Far from being a bad deal, the agreement cuts off all pathways to an Iranian nuclear weapon and is verifiable through rigorous international inspections of Iran’s nuclear supply chain and facilities. This accord proves that American diplomacy — and not war — can bring meaningful change to make our homeland and the world safer and more secure.
  • Walker casually remarked, “I’d love to play cards with this guy because Barack Obama folds on everything with Iran.” That is simply not true. The Iran deal is the result of years of tough-minded American diplomacy and a comprehensive strategy. The deal is backed by our partners and allies across the world, but conservative GOP candidates are putting politics over patriotism.

BOTTOM LINE: The eleven GOP candidates had an opportunity last night to offer real solutions to the key issues they face. But on education, working families, and health care, the GOP candidates came up empty. Instead, they spent their stage time fighting with each other and catering to the most extreme wing of the Republican Party. What we need are real leaders ready to tackle the problems facing working families, not panderers who are alienating entire communities of Americans.


This material [the article above] was created by the Center for American Progress Action Fund. It was created for the Progress Report, the daily e-mail publication of the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Click here to subscribe.


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The Middle Class At Risk

Jul 27, 2015 | By CAP Action War Room

The Gap Between Rhetoric and Reality of Republican Prescriptions for the Economy

In recent decades, dramatic changes have squeezed the middle class, making it harder and harder for middle-class families to feel economically secure. In response to these changes, GOP candidates have shifted their rhetoric and begun decrying stagnant wages, inequality, and rising middle class costs. For example, in his campaign launch speech Jeb Bush said we need to “make opportunity common again.” Meanwhile, Sen. Marco Rubio introduced his tax plan in an op-ed with Sen. Mike Lee saying, “Too many Americans believe the American dream is slipping away.

But a new report from CAP Action finds that despite its new rhetorical shift, the GOP continues to propose policies that would undercut economic security for working- and middle-class families. Even as Republican candidates talk about restoring the American dream and expanding opportunity to all Americans, they continue to embrace the same, failed policies that have led to middle class Americans being squeezed by rising costs and stagnant wages.

Here are a few of the key facts on how the middle class is at risk and how Republican policies would only make things worse:

  • Republicans continue to support tax policies that favor the wealthy but do little for middle class families. Many of the GOP candidates favor eliminating capital gains taxes, which would do nothing for middle-class Americans. Middle-class families receive very little income from capital gains and dividends: Only 6 percent of market incomes for households in the middle quintile come from business income, capital income, and realized capital gains. The top 1 percent of households, on the other hand, receive more than half of their incomes from these sources. Eliminating capital gains taxes is nothing more than a massive tax cut for the wealthiest few.
  • Republican governors are blocking bills that help families juggle the demands of work and home.Of the 12 states with laws preempting localities from taking actions like increasing the minimum wage or offering paid sick leave, 11 were passed by a GOP governor and legislature since 2011. In particular, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker signed a preemption bill that nullified Milwaukee’s paid-sick leave law which would have helped 120,000 Milwaukeeans–or 47 percent of the city’s private sector workforce.
  • Despite the rhetoric, GOP economic policies favor the wealthy. In 2014, 41 Republican senators with an average net worth of $8.1 million, including several eventual presidential candidates, voted against giving low-income Americans a $6,000 raise.
  • Instead of investing in working Americans, Republicans have been slashing key pillars of opportunity, such as education. More higher education cuts have occurred under Republican leadership than under Democrats. Between 2007 and 2014, real state funding for public education grew under Democrats and fell 10 percent in states led by Republicans. This also led to higher tuition increases.
  • Republicans still oppose a minimum wage. If a Republican president spent two terms in office continuing to block a minimum wage increase, like each of their positions today, the value of the minimum wage would fall below $6 in today’s dollars, lowest in 70 years.

BOTTOM LINE: Decades of failed, trickle-down economic policies have left middle-class Americans struggling. Disguising old, top-down policies with new rhetoric is as disingenuous as it is dangerous.


This material [the article above] was created by the Center for American Progress Action Fund. It was created for the Progress Report, the daily e-mail publication of the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Click here to subscribe. Like CAP Action on Facebook and follow us on Twitter!