Posts Tagged ‘Walmart’

Progressive news out of Florida: Miami-Dade workers to benefit from wage theft ordinance

Posted on: September 23rd, 2011 by The American Independent No Comments

Early Friday morning, Miami-Dade County Commissioners voted to approve county Mayor Carlos Gimenez’s proposed budget of $6.1 billion, which includes funding to enforce the county’s wage theft ordinance.

According to a press release issued Thursday by the mayor’s office:

“The Wage Theft Ordinance has proven to be an effective tool for promoting economic security and dignity for those working in the County. This is yet another example of how combining resources through collaborative partnerships leads to successful outcomes and achievement of objectives for everyone,” said Mayor Carlos A. Gimenez.

The mayor’s release adds that a collaboration between Miami-Dade County’s Small Business Division — which implements the Wage Theft ordinance — and the U.S. Department of Labor resulted in the recovery of of $147,777 in unpaid wages for 47 employees who were “not covered under federal wage and hour laws but are covered under the County’s ordinance were able to file complaints with SBD and were assisted with the recovery.”

A 2010 Research Institute on Social and Economic Policy report on wage theft indicates that the restaurant, food, construction, health care and social assistance industries show the highest number of reported wage theft cases in South Florida.

During the month of August, a group of restaurant workers organized a series of protests at De Rodriguez Cuba, a restaurant owned by Douglas Rodriguez, to demand their wages for hours worked. According to Spanish-language news outlet Univision Noticias 23, the workers alleged Rodriguez owed them about $21,000.

Juan Carlos Ocampo, a labor activist who supported the restaurant workers, tells the The Florida Independent that support from the Small Business Division helped the employees recover $11,000.

According to the South Florida Wage Theft Task Force, in its first year, Miami-Dade County’s wage theft ordinance “has processed 662 claims for a total amount of $1,760,177. Almost $400,000 has been recovered through conciliation and over $300,000 has been awarded through a hearing examiner process. In August alone, the program recovered and collected thru conciliation $52,000 for 109 workers.”

“It’s amazing how many people weren’t yet aware of the program,” says the Task Force’s Jeanette Smith. “While the program has been successful and we appreciate the support we have gotten from local governement, we think this is a unique partnership we have with local government. I don’t think we’ve gotten to the depth and breadth of the problem, and that will take a concerted effort between local government, community and local businesses. I think wage theft is one more thing that hurts small businesses.”

Cynthia Hernandez, a research associate at the Research Institute on Social and Economic Policy, has extensively studied wage theft. She says wage theft cases, like the one recently exposed by the Independent at a Fort Lauderdale construction project, are “very common”:

Small contractors to even large corporations like Wal-Mart and Toys-R-Us have used this method to not pay employees. It happens a lot in construction because there are so many different levels of contractors and subs, which make it even harder for the worker to identify ultimately who is responsible for their pay. I have even heard of sub-contractors (employers) who have been stiffed out of their cut by contractors and as a result, have been late or unable to pay their employees. Until we can actually get some enforcement, this will continue to happen.

Department of Labor expands enforcement of wage violations

Posted on: September 19th, 2011 by The American Independent No Comments

Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis today signed an agreement with the IRS and nine state agencies to “improve departmental efforts to end the business practice of misclassifying employees in order to avoid providing employment protections.” (more…)

Broward County, Fla., construction workers say they’re not being paid

Posted on: August 29th, 2011 by The American Independent No Comments

Cesar, a construction worker who asked that we not use his last name, tells The Florida Independent he has not been paid after working eight weeks at a construction project in the Broward County city of Sunrise. He says at least 50 workers who work 10 hours or more a day on this project have not received their wages for anywhere from three weeks to two months. #


School choice trailblazer currently at odds with fellow reformers awarded for work in voucher movement

Posted on: May 13th, 2011 by Mikhail Zinshteyn 1 Comment

Dr. Howard Fuller, a longtime advocate for school choice options in inner cities who recently came out against aggressive voucher expansion in his home state of Wisconsin, was recognized with an award this week for his work in the movement.

The John T. Walton Champions for School Choice Award was given to the professor by the American Federation For Children, which recently held its second annual National Policy Summit in Washington, D.C. Dr. Fuller was present during the summit, as was Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker. Read The American Independent’s coverage of the event.

John T. Walton, a son of Walmart founder Sam Walton, sat on the Philanthropy Roundtable, a private, free-market, non-profit organization with ties to the Heritage Foundation and the George W. Bush administration. He also co-founded the Children’s Scholarship Fund in 1998, a charitable organization that supports needy students’ tuitions at private schools.

Fuller has rebuked Wisconsin elected officials for supporting legislation that would reform the Milwaukee school voucher program by providing public funds to any student, regardless of family income, to attend private schools. In an op-ed that appeared in the Journal Sentinel in April, he wrote:

It was not easy for me to stand before the state Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee and threaten to withdraw my support from the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program… But if lawmakers approve Gov. Scott Walker’s proposal to lift the income requirement that has maintained the program for children from low-income families, that is exactly what I will do.

The American Independent has reached out to Dr. Fuller but he has yet to offer a comment.

On Wednesday, the state assembly of Wisconsin passed AB 92, which would lift income eligibility requirements in the voucher program of Milwaukee. Leading Republican state senators have yet to put in their support for the legislation despite Gov. Walker’s push for the proposed law. AFC supports the governor and his backers in expanding the city’s voucher program without income eligibility requirements.

Florida grocery chains receive failing grades on Greenpeace’s sustainable seafood list

Posted on: April 13th, 2011 by The American Independent No Comments

Greenpeace today released its fifth edition of “Carting Away the Oceans,” a report and scorecard that ranks top retailers in the U.S. on their sustainable seafood. Among those receiving failing grades are Florida-based grocery chains Winn-Dixie and Publix. #

According to the report, Winn-Dixie has continually ignored all inquiries from Greenpeace on its seafood policies and practices, which has resulted in a consistently low ranking. And, though it announced the creation of a “seafood ranking system” last year, Publix has yet to implement a sustainable seafood policy. #

Greenpeace says that Publix “fails to offer any information on seafood sustainability to its customers which would allow them to avoid purchasing destructively fished species.” Further, seemingly no information on the results of the store’s seafood-ranking system is available. #

Both retailers are among the few to continue selling orange roughy, a fish that can reach nearly 100 years of age and bears few young, making its population particularly sensitive to over-fishing. In the past several years, dozens of big-name retailers (including Whole Foods, Target, Walmart, Wegman’s and Costco) have discontinued sales of orange roughy, which is a critically endangered, “red listed” fish (a Greenpeace list of the most over-fished species). Of the 22 “red listed” fish, Publix sells 15, Winn-Dixie 13. #

Nearly every other major grocery store on the list has made changes to its seafood counter in recent years, specifically when it comes to selling some of the most critically endangered species of fish, but the Greenpeace report concludes that much more should be done in order to attain a truly sustainable seafood retail industry: #

We need a real paradigm shift in how we think about seafood. Most seafood merchants continue to focus on large, predatory fish such as cod, sharks, and tuna, while globally, populations of these ecologically vital animals have dropped by as much as 90 percent. #

The surprising chain to take the top spot on Greenpeace’s list? Conventional grocer Safeway, which leapt up three places from last year, surpassing specialty grocers like Whole Foods and Wegmans and taking the top position from last year’s top-rated big-box retailer, Target. #

Rick Scott and public sector wages

Posted on: March 8th, 2011 by The American Independent 1 Comment

The Miami Herald reports that Gov. Rick Scott once again praised the thrifty ways of America’s largest retailer, Walmart, on Monday: #

Scott said he saw a study last week (we’re checking to see where it came from) that showed the average government worker earns $9,000 more than the average private sector employee. #

“It doesn’t mean the study is right. There are so many studies that come out,” Scott said. “But if you just think about it on the private side, if you’re a taxpayer, almost no taxpayer has a pension plan anymore. Very few, because the private companies couldn’t compete. #

“Ninety-five percent of all Americans shop at Wal-mart at least once a year. When those Americans go shop there, they don’t say, ‘Gosh, I’m going to pay for that product because they have the best pension plan, or the best health care insurance or the nicest boss. They go based on price. #

“As taxpayers and as consumers, we go to price.” #

The study came from USA Today. Among other things, it didn’t control for employees’ education or other factors that affect people’s wages. #

One liberal economist quoted by the paper, who has done studies that do control for those factors (and found public sector workers are actually paid less), said USA Today‘s results were misleading. #

Still, Scott said, wages in the private sector have been decreasing, and almost nobody in the private sector has a defined-benefit retirement plan. #

Rick Scott’s governing philosophy in one sentence

Posted on: February 23rd, 2011 by The American Independent No Comments

Visiting another state agency on Tuesday, Gov. Rick Scott followed up on a question raised earlier this week by a Department of Corrections employee, who wanted to know whether the governor would require wealthy Floridians to help reduce the state deficit. #

Here’s what he told the staff of the Agency for Workforce Innovation, according to The Buzz: #

“Somebody asked me yesterday, they asked me why I didn’t tax the rich more,” Scott said. “I said I’d like everybody to move to Florida so they can help create jobs, basically.” #

That’s a shorter, more decipherable version of his rambling response to the Corrections employee, which mentioned China, Walmart and General Electric in an effort to make the point that, in the vision Scott has expressed since his campaign, Florida is competing with other states for jobs, and if we make it less expensive to live and do business here, we will win. #

Medical Marijuana cases dealt blows from state and federal courts

Posted on: February 14th, 2011 by The American Independent No Comments

Friday was not a good day for Michigan’s controversial medical marijuana law, with two separate court cases being denied by one state court and one federal court.

In one case, a federal judge in Grand Rapids upheld the firing of a Walmart employee with an inoperable brain tumor. Joseph Casias was fired from his post at a Battle Creek Walmart after a routine drug test associated with a worker’s compensation claim Casias filed determined he was using marijuana. He was using the medication to control symptoms of the tumor.

His attorneys and the American Civil Liberties Union sued Walmart, claiming Casias couldn’t be fired for using medical marijuana, but on Friday U.S. District Judge Robert Jonker ruled Walmart had the right to dismiss Casias, in spite of the fact he had a valid MMA card and patient status for the prescription medication.

Judge Jonker ruled that Michigan’s medical marijuana law “says nothing about private employment rights” but “only provides a potential defense to criminal prosecution or other adverse action by the state.”

“Nowhere,” he said “does the (law) state that the statute regulates private employment, that private employees are protected from disciplinary action should they use medical marijuana, or that private employers must accommodate the use of medical marijuana outside of the workplace.”

Casias has vowed to appeal the decision.

Meanwhile, the Michigan Court of Appeals ruled that while a man arrested in Grand Haven had a legal prescription for medical marijuana, the state could still charge him with a felony for possessing 25 marijuana plants.

In 2009, officers visited Benjamin Curtis Walburg, 24, at his home. They were acting on a tip that he as growing marijuana. Police and prosecutors filed criminal charges of manufacturing marijuana — a felony that could land Walburg in prison for up to seven years.

But Walburg argued that he should not face criminal charges, citing the affirmative defense in Michigan’s Medical Marijuana Act. He provided a valid prescription for the drug and Ottawa County Circuit Court Judge Edward Post dismissed the case in Nov.

Prosecutors, however, weren’t happy with Post’s ruling, so they appealed.

Friday, the Appeals court agreed with prosecutors that Walburg, even if legally qualified under the MMA, had violated the provision about how many plants he could have. The law allow a patient to grow no more than 12 plants, but Walburg had 25.

Walburg’s attorneys argued that the 12 plant limit was something instituted by the Michigan Department of Community Health, under provisions in the law which define the number of plants as ‘reasonably necessary.’

“Unfortunately, the Legislature neglected to define the term ‘reasonably necessary’ within the statute, leaving it open to interpretation based on the individual circumstances of each case,” opined the court in a ruling made public Friday.