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11Rep. Marsha Blackburn Defends GOP Blocking Equal Pay Law (Video)

Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) claimed that Republicans supported “women’s equality” today even though Senate Republicans blocked the Paycheck Fairness Act only days ago.

The Paycheck Fairness Act would require companies to disclose information about payment and their workplace demographic. The bill would not allow companies to punish their workers for exercising their free speech rights when talking about salaries. If women were getting paid less for the same job as a man, they would be allowed to file lawsuits for equal pay, reports MSNBC.

"The legislation was something that was going to be helpful for trial lawyers," Rep. Blackburn claimed on CBS' "Face the Nation," noted RawStory.com (video below).

"What we would like to see happen is equal opportunity and clearing up some of the problems that are not fair to women," added Rep. Blackburn.

However, the problem of women being 77 cents for every dollar that men get paid wasn't mentioned by Rep. Blackburn.

“We’re all for equal pay!” said Rep. Blackburn. “I would love for women to be focused on maximum wage, and I have fought to be recognized with equality for a long time. A lot of us get tired of guys condescending to us.”

However, there is no such law or proposed law called "maximum wage."

Rep. Blackburn also said, "Obamacare has been very unfair to women," but failed to mentioned all the preventive medical services women now get under Obamacare without a co-pay.

Sources: MSNBC, RawStory.com, TheGuardian.com


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11Fox Business Host Says Lower Pay Helps Women Keep Their Jobs (Video)

Fox Business host Melissa Francis claimed yesterday that lower wages for women (compared to men) were actually helping females keep their jobs.

Earlier this week, President Obama asked the U.S. Senate to pass Paycheck Fairness Act, which Republicans blocked, reported Politico.com.

According to MediaMatters.org, during an appearance on Fox News' America's Newsroom, Francis said, "I would also point out that men lost jobs at two and a half times the rate as women in this last recession."

"I know plenty of families where the man is now out of work and the woman is the one who's working full time," added Francis. "Probably because she makes a little less, so she was able to keep her job."

But according to the Monthly Labor Review by the Bureau of Labor Statistics:

Historically, the goods-producing industries—manufacturing, construction, and mining and logging—have accounted for the overwhelming majority of job losses.

...Men hold the overwhelming share of jobs in a group of goods-producing industries that are considerably more sensitive to changes in the business cycle, while women hold the majority of positions in the less cyclical service-proving industries.

Typically, as demand declines for goods such as automobiles, furniture, and new homes, employment in the related industries that supply those goods falls.

Additionally, goods-producing jobs are often outsourced overseas by U.S. corporations, noted The New York Times.

Sources: Politico.com, MediaMatters.org, Monthly Labor Review, The New York Times


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11Ex-McDonald's Managers Say They Were Told to Illegally Change Employees’ Hours (Video)

McDonald’s workers in California, Michigan and New York recently sued the fast-food giant for wage theft.

According to The New York Times, the employees are claiming McDonald's engaged in "illegally erasing hours from their timecards, not paying overtime and ordering them to work off the clock."

Two ex-McDonald's managers, Kwanzaa Brooks and Lakia Williams, recently explained to Salon.com how they were told to illegally alter timesheets of workers.

“My general manager notified us that someone had exceeded forty hours, and they were going to take their hours off and put it on their next paycheck [in order to avoid paying overtime]," Williams told Salon.com. “Which, you know, that’s illegal.”

Brooks said an assistant manager told her change a computer record to make it look as if an employee had taken a 30-minute break, even if the employee worked through their break, to keep down labor costs.

In a new video (below) produced by "LowPay NotOk," the ex-managers go into depth on how they were allegedly told by their bosses to change employees' hours.

The former managers say they were told to make illegal deductions from employees' paychecks for company uniforms, name tags, meals and "anything."

There is an online petition at RobbedOnTheJob.com that people can sign to remind McDonald's that these alleged practices are illegal.

For its part, McDonald's claims it is looking into the wage theft and the lawsuit, but cautioned the public not to judge the company by the possible actions of franchises.

Sources: The New York Times, Salon.com, RobbedOnTheJob.com, LowPay NotOk


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11Wealthy Americans Hiring Servants for 'Downton Abbey' Service

The U.S. Labor Department reported today that the unemployment rate is 6.7 percent.

Bloomberg News noted today that 175,000 jobs were added in February, which was more than most economists expected.

While unemployment still remains high, there is one employment area that is booming in America: servants for wealthy people.

Claudia Kahn, founder of a Los Angeles staffing agency, recently told the Wall Street Journal that rich people are requesting "Downton Abbey-type service” that they see on the popular PBS TV series.

Of course, "Downton Abbey" is a period production set when workers had little, if any, rights.

Kahn says a housekeeper for a super rich client can earn up to $60,000 a year and a “lady’s maid” can make $75,000.

Full-time butlers can bank $70,000 a year, while butlers who travel with wealthy clients can earn as much as $200,000 a year.

However, it's not always big bucks. Many maids and housekeepers are underpaid because they are illegally in the U.S.

According to National Affairs, in 2008, Illegal immigrants were 27% of maids and housekeepers, 28% of dishwashers, 10% of workers in leisure and hospitality and 23% in private household employment.

For these workers, there are no legal protections and they live a real-life "Downton Abbey" existence without the glamour.

The Daily Mail notes that wealthy people in the UK are also hiring butlers. In fact, the demand has doubled in recent years.

Sources: Bloomberg News, Daily Mail, National Affairs, Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg News


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11Thousands of Sochi Olympics Workers Still Haven't Been Paid (Video)

After two weeks of competition, the Sochi 2014 Olympic Games came to an end today with another giant fireworks display and numerous performers celebrating Russia.

The President of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), Thomas Bach, also praised Russia, which spent a record $51 billion on the Winter Games, noted RT.com.

“Let’s ask those who criticized the Games if they are ready to change their opinion,” Bach said today. “I spent four nights in different Olympic villages and had an opportunity to learn the opinions of those sportsmen who are important to me. None of the athletes uttered a word of complaint to me.”

However, Bach didn't mention the thousands of foreign workers who were lured to Sochi with promises of 2,000 Euro ($2,700) per month for building the infrastructure of Sochi's Winter Olympics (video below).

According to Mother Jones, thousands of these migrant workers were only given little pay for basic living expenses, forced to live in a dormitory with pay-to-use showers and had to share four toilets with 200 workers.

According to Human Rights Watch, rather than pay these workers, their Russian employers had them arrested for being illegal immigrants, detained by the police and then flown back to their foreign homes, noted Reuters.

With only six months left until the games, thousands of foreign workers were rounded up and deported without pay.

"The employers realize the workers' vulnerability," Semyon Simonov, a Sochi-based labor lawyer trying to get the workers paid, told Mother Jones. "They don't have paperwork, so they can report them to the police, who could arrest them and kick them out."

"It is clear," added Simonov, "That this is just a method of swindling the person."

The IOC was aware of this travesty as far back as October 2013 when Human Rights Watch sent the IOC a list of Sochi workers who claimed their employers had cheated them of wages.

An IOC spokesman said it had "a longstanding commitment to follow-up" on the reported instances of non-payment.

Eventually, after investigations by Russian authorities into more than 500 companies, 13 of the companies paid $8.34 million to more than 6000 ex-workers, but thousands of foreign workers without contracts did not get a dime.

Sources: RT.com, Mother Jones, Reuters


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11Tenn. Auto Workers Turn Down UAW Membership, Higher Wages

Volkswagen workers in Chattanooga, Tenn. voted against joining the United Auto Workers (UAW) by 712 to 626 last week.

This vote also means the workers will not get the higher wages and benefits that usually come with UAW membership, noted BillMoyers.com.

Why did the auto workers vote against their best interests in a state which has the fifth lowest median household income in the US?

Pro-corporate, anti-union activists used fearmongering tactics to scare the workers into not joining the union, even going as far as to falsely claim that the UAW was somehow Obama's union, noted the TimesFreePress.com.

The billboards (pictured) were put up by right wing activist Grover Norquist and a new anti-union group, the Center for Worker Freedom. The 13 billboards warned that the city might become the next Detroit if the workers voted for union membership, reported The New York Times.

Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam (R) made a vague threat that if the workers voted to unionize then the state would take away VW's  special tax incentives and State Sen. Bo Watson (R-Chattanooga) actually claimed that Americans workers who unionize are “un-American," according to BillMoyers.com.

U.S. Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) falsely claimed that the VW plant would get awarded a big production deal if workers voted down union membership, which VW denied.

No special project has been announced since the workers voted down union membership.

Sources: BillMoyers.com, TimesFreePress.com, The New York Times


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11Underpaid Maine State Troopers Go Without Heat, Eat Roadkill (Video)

The state of Maine froze its pay for state troopers in 2013 to save money, but the austerity measure is hurting families of law enforcement.

Two state troopers recently testified in front of the Maine Legislature in support of a proposal that would restore $6 million to the state's general and transportation funds.

According to the Bangor Daily News, Trooper Jon Brown (pictured) said that he has to feed his family of six children with roadkill, while Trooper Elgin Physic claimed he could not afford furnace oil (video below).

“During the winter seasons, we often have to buy heating oil a few gallons at a time, because we rarely can afford the minimal delivery amount,” said Physic.

“I had to sell my wife’s engagement ring, military souvenirs from the war and other personal items just to make ends [meet],” added Physic.

State records show that Physic was paid $42,712 in pre-tax wages in 2012, while Brown made $37,375.

Brown said his family depends on the state’s Medicaid program and food stamp program, but also relies on roadkill, reports WMTW.

“I am a hunter because the meat I hunt is necessary to feed my family,” Brown stated. “I do not hesitate to collect a deer carcass from the roadway, this is necessary to provide for my family.”

Sources: WMTW and Bangor Daily News


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11Rep. Pete Sessions Says Extending Unemployment Benefits is 'Immoral'

Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Texas) says that he opposes extending unemployment benefits to Americans, who have been out of work for more than six months, because such help would be "immoral."

“I believe it is immoral for this country to have as a policy extending long-term unemployment [benefits] to people rather than us working on the creation of jobs,” Rep. Sessions said on Tuesday, notes The Huffington Post.

"Too much of the time we have been hung up on, instead of job creation, we talk about the symptoms that are related to unemployment and long-term unemployment,” added Rep. Sessions.

"In this case, the president of the United States thoughtfully articulates the need for us to make sure we help people, but I believe he errs on the side of not pushing jobs bills," claimed Rep. Sessions.

However, Rep. Sessions failed to mention that Republicans blocked President Obama's jobs bill, The American Jobs Act, in 2011.

According to CBS News, that jobs bill included, "$140 billion in spending on education, transportation projects and public workers, including police officers."

Rep. Sessions also did not explain why Congress could not extend unemployment benefits and work "on the creation of jobs" at the same time.

ThinkProgress.org reports that 1.6 million adult Americans have lost their long-term unemployment benefits, which also hurts an estimated 2.3 million dependent children of these adults.

Sources: The Huffington Post, ThinkProgress.org, CBS News


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11South Korean Woman Earns $9,300 a Month by Eating Online (Video)

Park Seo-Yeon, who uses the online name "The Diva," claims she makes $9,300 a month by allowing people to watch her eat via webcam.

Seo-Yeon, who lives in South Korea, starts her hours-long online meal each night at 8 p.m. That's when thousands of people watch her on Afreeca.com.

Her high pay comes from fans who send her donations, but why?

"A lot of my viewers are on diets and they say they live vicariously through me, or they are hospital patients who only have access to hospital food so they also watch my broadcasts to see me eat," Seo-Yeon told CNN (video below).

"One of the best comments I ever received from a viewer who said that she had gotten over her anorexia by watching me eat," added Seo-Yeon. "That really meant a lot to me."

Seo-Yeon is one of many "eating rooms" that people can watch on Afreeca TV, which hosts the webcasts, notes UPI.

Afreeca TV spokeswoman Serim An says the success of the eating rooms is because of "the rise of one-person households in Korea, their ensuing loneliness and finally the huge trend of 'well-being culture' and excessive dieting in Korean society right now."

Sources: UPI and CNN


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11State of the Union Highlights: Big Ideas or Empty Promises?

While the State of the Union address always has the attention of the nation, President Obama’s latest stood in contrast to the tough year his administration faced. You know, the one that saw the government shut down, an unproductive Congress, and the troubled rollout of his signature health care plan. Of course, the State of the Union is the most deliberately crafted speech and was delivered by one of the best oratory Presidents in recent memory.

The speech—which clocked in at just over an hour—was packed with the hopes of President who feels as if he can no longer rely on the legislature. From the climate to the temperature of the economy, from immigration to retirement planning the President suggested that he was tired of waiting for them to get their legislative acts together and said he plans to use his Executive authority to address these problems. “America does not stand still,” He said, “and neither will I.”

The President called for action on the immigration issue, where a bipartisan bill died on arrival in the GOP-controlled House of Representatives. He also resurrected the idea of retirement accounts (in the form of a government bond) that has appeared in a number of budget requests but has never been acted on by the legislature.

With respect to the economy there is very little a President can do—yet still the narratives on both sides insist that it lives and dies by White House policy—and President Obama relied on tried-and-true aspirations that rarely manifest in reality. He called for more high-tech jobs and called for revisions to the tax code that are generally accepted by both parties (specifically an expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit). Although his proposal to raise the minimum wage to over $10 has met with resistance from both sides.

Responding to his critics, President Obama also suggested that the U.S. reduce its surveillance programs and limit the use of drones. The speech ended with an emotional acknowledgement of Army Ranger Cory Remsburg who had lost vision in one eye as a result of the war in Afghanistan. Yet, the President doubled-down on his desire to leave “a small force of Americans” in Afghanistan for training and “counter-terrorism operations to pursue any remnants of al Qaeda.” Conspicuous by its absence was any reference to the controversy surrounding the cutting of military pensions.

The speech itself was a success; of course it is almost impossible for it to not have been. What bears watching is the President’s use of Executive power to address these issues. The expansion of White House powers has continued for at least the past 30 years, but rarely has a President faced such a hostile and unproductive Congress. Perhaps his threat of acting alone will spark action in the legislature, but with the mid-term elections upon us this seems unlikely. 


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