‘No One Should Be Surprised’: After Long Career Stiffing Workers, Trump Blocks Back Pay for Federal Contractors

‘No One Should Be Surprised’: After Long Career Stiffing Workers, Trump Blocks Back Pay for Federal Contractors

Lack of back pay for low-wage contractors also called a “policy and political failure” for Democratic leaders, who were accused of failing to publicly fight the president’s cruelty

By Jake Johnson

As a real estate mogul, Donald Trump was notorious for swindling low-wage workers out of pay.

So—as economist Robert Reich put it—”no one should be surprised” that Trump is continuing this cruel practice as president, this time by reportedly refusing to sign any government funding deal that includes back pay for the estimated 580,000 federal contractors who were furloughed or forced to work without pay for over a month due to the shutdown.

“Just in case you need more evidence that Donald Trump doesn’t care about American workers, he views giving back pay to federal contractors like custodians and food service workers as a dealbreaker
—Rep. Mark Pocan

“I’ve been told the president won’t sign that,” Sen. Roy Blunt told ABC News, as Democrats made a last-minute push on Wednesday to attach back pay for contractors to the bipartisan federal spending package. “I guess federal contractors are different in his view than federal employees.”

Unlike government employees, who are typically guaranteed compensation for lost pay following shutdowns, federal contractors are usually deniedback pay because they work for third-party companies.

In response to Blunt’s comment, Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.)—who, along with Sen. Tina Smith (D-Minn.), has been pushing for back pay for contractors—declared on Twitter, “It would be cruel and unnecessary to block back pay for federal contract workers who lost more than a month of wages and are still behind on bills due to President Trump’s shutdown.”

But late Wednesday night, just hours after Blunt’s remark, the final text of the spending agreement was made public—and its sprawling 1,768 pages does not include back pay for federal contractors.

“Just in case you need more evidence that Donald Trump doesn’t care about American workers, he views giving back pay to federal contractors like custodians and food service workers as a dealbreaker,” said Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.), co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. “This is egregious. Especially since he is the reason they didn’t get paid.”

But while Democrats worked behind the scenes to include back pay for contractors in the final spending agreement—which is expected to receive a vote before the full Congress as early as Thursday—analysts argued that Democratic negotiators and leaders share some of the blame for failing to publicly fight for some of the most vulnerable workers in the country.

“Letting Republicans anonymously kill back pay for federal contractors in some backroom seems like a policy and political failure for Democrats.”
—Matt Fuller, Huffington Post

“Demanding pay for the 500,000 federal contractors who were locked out of work for 35 days seems like one of those things Democrats could take to the American people and shame Trump and other Republicans into doing the right thing,” wrote Huffington Post reporter Matt Fuller. “[L]etting Republicans anonymously kill back pay for federal contractors in some backroom seems like a policy and political failure for Democrats.”

While the agreement doesn’t include back pay for contract workers, it does include over $1.3 billion in funds for fencing and barriers along the U.S.-Mexico border and money for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)—concessions by Democrats that rights groups have decried as deeply harmful to immigrant communities.

“Trump threatened to shut down the government again unless Congress gave him and his deportation force more cash to execute their racist vision of mass deportation, and while Democrats gave him the money, immigrant families will pay the price,” Greisa Martinez Rosas, deputy executive director of United We Dream, told The Intercept.

Source: ‘No One Should Be Surprised’: After Long Career Stiffing Workers, Trump Blocks Back Pay for Federal Contractors

‘For Our Students and For Our Profession’: Denver Educators Strike for First Time in 25 Years

For Our Students and For Our Profession’: Denver Educators Strike for First Time in 25 Years

“You left us no choice, we have to use our teacher voice!”

By Julia Conley

Taking their place among a national awakening of public school educators demanding better treatment of their profession and better schools for their students, thousands of teachers went on strike Monday after 15 months of negotiations stalled.

The walkout is the district’s first in about 25 years, with teachers decrying their chronically low pay resulting from an incentive-driven compensation system, and the suffering it inflicts on Denver’s 71,000 students.

“In the richest country in the world, our teachers should be the best-paid, not among the worst-paid. I stand with Denver teachers. We must invest in public education because our students and teachers deserve better.”                                                                                                                                         —Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.)

“We will strike Monday for our students and for our profession, and perhaps then DPS will get the message and return to the bargaining table with a serious proposal aimed at solving the teacher turnover crisis in Denver,” said Henry Roman, president of the Denver Classroom Teachers Association (DCTA), in a statement Saturday, after the union rejected Denver Public Schools’ latest offer to reform compensation.

Outside the district’s schools on Monday, many students braved the cold to join their teachers in demanding fair pay. Demonstrators carried signs reading “On strike for our students” and “I’d rather be teaching but I can’t afford it.” Many chanted, “What do we want, fair pay! When do we want it? Now!”

The main issue teachers are striking over is a compensation system which they say favors giving out incentives over base pay, making it hard for the district to attract and retain qualified educators. More than 30 percent of Denver teachers have been in the district for three years or less, according to DCTA.

Under the compensation system, teachers are given financial incentives to teach hard-to-staff subject areas and schools. This keeps base pay at an average of $43,255 per year, according to USA Today—an amount that makes it hard for many to make ends meet in Denver.

“Over the years,” education reporter Jenny Brundin said on NPR‘s “Morning Edition” Monday, the system “became really complicated and unpredictable. Some of the incentives would suddenly disappear or shrink. And teachers say that makes it really hard to plan or even pay rent.”

CNN shared stories on Monday of the struggles of some Denver teachers, including a physical education teacher who drives a Lyft on off-hours to cover his bills, a Spanish teacher who hasn’t made enough in nine years of teaching to start a savings account, and two teachers who are considering leaving the field because they can’t afford to live on their paltry salaries.

“We’re not asking for a million dollars,” gym teacher Sean Bowers told CNN. “We’re asking for an extra $200 to $300 per paycheck so that I can save up so that I can buy a house and live in my community and not jump from house to house.”

Over the weekend, the DCTA rejected DPS’s offer of more funding for base salaries, as the plan kept incentives in place and “lacked transparency,” according to the union.

“We are incredibly disappointed that on the last day of bargaining and less than two days before a strike, they doubled down on one-time incentives teachers do not want, and the data shows do not work to keep teachers in their schools,” said Roman. “The bizarre proposal proves what we have said during this entire process, that DPS is not interested in listening to the concerns and needs of its teachers and special service providers.”

Last month, DPS superintendent Susana Cordova came under fire for approaching furloughed federal workers to entice them with paid substitute teacher jobs in the event of a teacher strike, as 800,000 government employees languished without paychecks during the 35-day government shutdown. One local union officialdenounced the move as “union-busting.”

On social media, some local substitute teachers indicated that they would refuse to cross the picket line.

Also on social media, progressive politicians including Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Colorado state Rep. Emily Sirota pledged their support for DCTA—with Sirota posting a video from a picket line where she had joined teachers Monday morning.

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Source: ‘For Our Students and For Our Profession’: Denver Educators Strike for First Time in 25 Years

After Dissent in Louisiana Abortion Case, Warnings That ‘Kavanaugh Has Declared War on Roe v. Wade’

After Dissent in Louisiana Abortion Case, Warnings That ‘Kavanaugh Has Declared War on Roe v. Wade’

While relieved that the Supreme Court temporarily blocked state’s anti-abortion law, NARAL says “it’s a sobering reminder that our rights hang by a dangerously thin thread.”

By Jake Johnson

While reproductive rights advocates expressed relief on Thursday after the Supreme Court temporarily blocked an extreme Louisiana anti-abortion law that could have left the state with just one doctor authorized to perform the procedure, legal experts and women’s groups warned that Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s dissent in the case confirmed fears that he is dead-set on overturning Roe v. Wade.

“Kavanaugh has declared war on Roe v. Wade,” wrote Slate legal affairs journalist Mark Joseph Stern after the high court’s 5-4 decision, in which Chief Justice John Roberts joined the court’s liberal justices in voting to block the law, while Kavanaugh sided with Justices Neil Gorsuch, Clarence Thomas, and Samuel Alito in voting for the law’s implementation.

In a four-page dissent (pdf) that Stern described as “absurd” and “astoundingly dishonest,” Kavanaugh brushed aside a 2016 Supreme Court ruling that declared a similar Texas law unconstitutional, and highlighted Louisiana’s promise that it would not “move aggressively” to enforce the harsh abortion restrictions as a reason they should be allowed to move forward.

“The most astounding aspect of Kavanaugh’s dissent is its credulous belief in Louisiana’s ostensible benevolence toward abortion clinics,” Stern wrote. The entire state of Louisiana has just three abortion clinics.

Rights groups that warned throughout Kavanaugh’s confirmation process last year that he would work to overturn Roe viewed the Trump-appointed judge’s dissent on Thursday as further vindication of their worst fears.

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), in particular, was called out for her decisive vote to confirm Kavanaugh, and progressives vowed to ramp up their efforts to oust her in 2020.

Following the Supreme Court’s decision to temporarily block Louisiana’s anti-abortion law, NARAL Pro-Choice America applauded the hold as good news but warned that reproductive rights are still at risk nationwide.

“While this ruling falls on the right side of history,” the group concluded, “it’s a sobering reminder that our rights hang by a dangerously thin thread.”

Source: After Dissent in Louisiana Abortion Case, Warnings That ‘Kavanaugh Has Declared War on Roe v. Wade’