Advocacy: The Conscience of the Government is at Stake

— by Katie O’Connell, PFAW Digital Communications Coordinator 

With three nominees stacked into one hearing today, it’s pretty clear that Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley doesn’t actually want us to know much if anything at all about the nominees for two lifetime court appointments and Eric Dreiband, who is being considered for Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights.

Because if we actually knew about what these nominees stand for, we wouldn’t want them in positions of power in the federal government.

Eric Dreiband has made a name for himself as the go-to lawyer for corporations accused of discrimination. But beyond that, he has devoted his personal time and energy to fighting against civil rights protections like fair pay for women and protections for older Americans challenging age discrimination in the workplace.

Simply put, Dreiband will actively work against the mission of the Civil Rights Division, which has been described as the conscience of the government.

The legacy of the Civil Rights Division must not be tarnished by a Trump/Sessions nominee who doesn’t believe in the mission of the job he was nominated for. This division has a truly remarkable history of seeking justice in the wake of violence and racism and protecting rights for vulnerable and marginalized communities.

Dreiband’s nomination to a division whose mission he has spent his career opposing isn’t an accident or oversight — it’s Trump’s STRATEGY to create an ineffective government that harms communities of color, women, LGBTQ persons, and other vulnerable communities.

Trump and the Republicans in Congress want to distract us with an onslaught of extreme nominees, damaging policy changes, and political drama. Let them know you’re paying attention and speak out!

Speak out and tell Nevada’s senators that they must oppose Dreiband for Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights.

Look Around: The Costs of Not Acting on Climate Are Adding Up Fast

From major hurricanes and flooding to droughts and fires, the refusal to accept the science of global warming is getting very expensive.

— by Common Dreams staff

The La Tuna fire that raged in Los Angeles over the weekend was the largest ever seen in the city. Wildfires in California have been tied to the effects of climate change. (Photo: @climatesignals/Twitter)

As Houston begins a recovery from Hurricane Harvey that is likely to last several years and cost many billions of dollars, the threat of extreme weather events around the country and the globe are illustrating the impact of climate change—and the damage being done by right-wing politicians including President Donald Trump who have refused to heed repeated warnings from scientists and other experts.

Author and 350.org co-founder Bill McKibben summed up the current state of affairs in a number of major U.S. cities, juxtaposed with Trump’s decision earlier this year to withdraw from the 2016 Paris agreement on climate change:

Texas Governor Greg Abbott has warned that the damage done to the country’s fourth-largest city could cost the government $180 billion—more than Hurricane Katrina cost in 2005. Aside from rebuilding costs, Houston-area residents may pay in other ways as well: as Common Dreams reported, the Center for Biological Diversity finds that “Oil refineries and chemical plants across the Texas Gulf coast released more than 1 million pounds of dangerous air pollutants in the week after Harvey struck.

On Monday morning, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said there is an “increasing chance” that the Florida Peninsula and the Florida Keys will see “some impacts” from the rapidly-approaching Hurricane Irma, and that “rough surf and dangerous marine conditions will begin to affect the southeastern U.S. coast by later this week.”

In Los Angeles, meanwhile, firefighters spent the weekend fighting what Mayor Eric Garcetti called “the largest fire in the history of” the city, covering about 7,000 acres and forcing hundreds of residents to evacuate. The wildfire, known as the La Tuna fire, broke out amid temperatures in the hundreds, and the Union of Concerned Scientists has noted that climate change is “fueling the frequency of wildfires” throughout the state in recent years.

As Andy Rowell, writing for Oil Change Internationalwrote in a column on Monday, Harvey’s damage in Houston and across the region “should also be a wake-up call to the climate-denying president that unless he acts on climate, there will be more Harveys.”

Rowell continues:

It is a wake-up call to the media to accurately report the disaster, including how climate change fuelled its intensity. It is also a wake-up call to the oil industry in so many, many ways.

On a national and international level it shows how our continuing dependence on fossil fuels will drive more extreme weather events. On a regional level it shows how ill-prepared the fossil fuel industry—and wider petrochemical industry—were to an event like this, despite decades of warnings.

Instead the fossil fuel industry’s complacency, malaise, self-regulation and capture of the political system are all to blame too. They have led to a system of peril.

Writing for Common Dreams on Monday, Randall Amster refers to it as the “new normal of destabilization”—a world in which climate-related disasters are happening more often and with escalating costs.

“In just the past week,” he writes, “we’ve seen record-breaking rainfall and wildfires plague parts of the United States. Globally, such extreme events appear to be increasing in frequency and magnitude. Droughts, floods, fires, and more can be seen as warning signs of impending ecosystem collapse at the planetary scale, with impacts felt in locales and regions around the world. While no single event may be able to draw a causal line directly from climate change, the cumulative correlation indicates escalating destabilization.”

Meanwhile, Trump and his cabinet remain reluctant to discuss the causes of disasters like Harvey as they strike. Environmental Protection Agency head Scott Pruitt declared it was “misplaced” to discuss the storm’s link to climate change last week.

But that view was specifically countered by journalist Naomi Klein who said that it is in the midst of these climate-related disasters when the conversation about global warming and its impacts is most important.

“Talking honestly about what is fueling this era of serial disasters—even while they’re playing out in real time—isn’t disrespectful to the people on the front lines,” argued Klein at The Intercept. “In fact, it is the only way to truly honor their losses, and our last hope for preventing a future littered with countless more victims.”


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DACA Under Siege by Trump and AG Jeff Sessions

Last week, Trump pardoned Arizona’s Sheriff Joe Arpaio, a notorious national symbol of racism who refused court orders to stop his racial profiling in his zealous multi-year campaign of persecution against Latino communities. Now, one week later, Trump is throwing MORE red meat to his anti-immigrant and white supremacist supporters by going after immigrant kids, once again undermining American values in order to feed the bigotry of his extreme base. 

This morning, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced to the world that we, as a nation, can no longer be trusted to keep its word, that our word is no longer our bond. You see, in a stunning act of cruelty even for Trump, he had Attorney General Jeff Sessions announce termination of key parts of President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program effective six months from now, upending the lives of 800,000+ young people. That 

DACA recipients – often referred to as DREAMers — were brought to the US as children and for many of them this is the only country they’ve ever really known. Under the DACA program, they registered with the government and passed background checks in exchange for being able to work, pay taxes, and feel secure in their homes without the fear of deportation.

Many on the anti-immigrant Right who have been fighting against DACA since Day One have focused their criticism on the way in which it was done – with an executive order by President Obama. They have claimed that the real problem was just that Congress didn’t pass the law – so now it’s up to Congress to call their bluff and pass the DREAM Act.

Congress needs to act now to protect our investment in their education and assimilation before Trump releases his hordes of ICE thugs to begin deportation of DREAMers as their 2-yr authorizations come up for  renewals. And we even have a head start, because the bill already has bipartisan support!

Congress can undo this outrage by passing the DREAM Act of 2017, which would provide a path to citizenship for DACA recipients and other young undocumented immigrants who graduate from US high schools and attend college, enter the workforce, or enlist in a military program.

In the Senate, the DREAM Act is sponsored by Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Jeff Flake (R-AZ), and Chuck Schumer (D-NY) … we need to demand that the Senate make this bipartisan bill a priority, to get relief to the DREAMers who need it.

Petition:  << Tell Congress to PASS the DREAM Act of 2017 without delay! >>

Or, better yet, take a moment from your day and call or write your members of Congress and ask them to expedite bringing the Dream Act of 2017 [ House bill#:  H.R.3440 / Senate bill#: S.1615 ] to the floor for a vote AND to vote for its passage:

Trump Set to Deport Dreamers to Appease His Supremacist Base

A Note from Senator Catherine Cortez Masto —

Last month, we celebrated the fifth anniversary of President Obama’s landmark Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. This program granted hundreds of thousands of young people the opportunity to come out of the shadows and pursue the American Dream.

Dreamers are our soldiers, engineers, teachers and the future of this great nation. They embody everything we stand for as a country. But right now, DACA is under grave threat, and Dreamers are anxious about their future. Anti-immigrant attorneys general are threatening to sue the Trump administration if he doesn’t end DACA – and recent reports suggest Trump is finally about to follow through with his disgraceful campaign pledge to end the program. Now, more than ever, we need to stand up and defend these inspiring young men and women!

More than 12,000 DACA recipients call Nevada home, and I have been fortunate enough to spend time with many of them. They are fighters. They never give up. These young people were brought to our country as children, and for many of them, America is the only place they’ve ever called home. But now, they face constant uncertainty about their futures. This is wrong. We should be helping them live up to their full potential.

Not only is rescinding this program un-American, it is economically unsound. Deporting nearly 800,000 DACA beneficiaries would cost our economy at least $433 billion over the next 10 years. That’s not an economic policy we should embrace.

Welcoming immigrants is an American tradition. We should not be tearing families apart and inciting fear and discrimination. Dreamers are our loved ones, our friends, our neighbors, and we must protect them.

Thank you for standing up for these extraordinary young people.

¡La lucha sigue! 
The fight continues!


Got a Twitter account?  Tweet your demands to respect and protect DACA to: @POTUS, @realDonaldTrump, @VP, @MarkAmodeiNV2, @SenDeanHeller

City Govts are Raising Standards for Working People—GOP State Legislators are Reversing Them

A new EPI report analyzes the recent wave of preemption laws passed by state legislatures to undercut local labor standards. EPI associate labor counsel Marni von Wilpert shows that preemption activity has increased dramatically since 2010, as Republican-controlled state legislatures have repeatedly struck down local government efforts to improve the working conditions of their residents. Just last week the minimum wage in St. Louis was lowered from $10 per hour back down to $7.70 per hour because of a preemption law passed in Missouri. Von Wilpert provides an overview of five areas affected by preemption—minimum wage, paid leave, fair work scheduling, prevailing wage, and project labor agreements—and details the impact of preemption throughout the United States.  Read the Full Report.

NV GOP Apparently Believes — When You Can’t Win, Stoop to Gutter Politics!

— An “ask” from Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto

What Nevada Republicans are doing right now is disgusting. Truly an all-time low.

The people of Nevada made their voices heard loud and clear last November. In fact, Nevada was one of the few bright spots on Election Day. Because of your hard work, you sent me to the U.S. Senate – which I am eternally grateful for – and you also flipped both chambers in the state legislature back to a Democratic majority, including winning key battleground districts.

But right now, Republicans in Nevada are so desperate to gain control back, they have stooped to an all-time low by completely disregarding the will of Nevada’s hardworking families. Republicans have filed recall petitions against three women in the Senate Democratic caucus: Joyce Woodhouse, Nicole Cannizzaro, and Patricia Farley – all in extremely competitive districts. And now, I need your help to fight back.

At this very moment, right-wing special interests are funneling incredible amounts of money into Nevada to pay folks to collect the petition signatures they need to get these recalls on the ballot.

Let me be clear: This recall effort is a scam. It is pathetic and it is wrong. The election was nearly 10 months ago, and the people of Nevada have spoken. They want a Democratic majority in the state legislature.

If Nevada Republicans get the number of signatures they need, Democrats will have a tiny window to challenge it in court. This is not good. And we’re running out of time. Please consider stepping up and giving $25 or more to the Nevada State Democratic Party right now so we can fight back against this Republican scam to roll back our Democratic majority?  If you can’t afford giving funds, consider calling NSDP headquarters (702-737-8683) and giving of your time to participate in phone-banking southern Nevada residents in the affected districts and asking them NOT to sign the GOP’s recall petitions.

Thank you for your support and for standing up for our hard-fought Democratic majorities. We will not let Nevada’s Republicans fool us.

¡La lucha sigue!
The fight continues!


Note: The citizens of Nevada are granted the authority to perform a recall election by Section 9 of Article II of the Nevada Constitution, which says:

“Every public officer in the State of Nevada is subject, as herein provided, to recall from office by the registered voters of the state, or of the county, district, or municipality which he represents.”

This broad right of recall in Nevada applies to all elective “State” officers (not Members of Congress, as they’re Federal officers) after the first six months of the term to which the incumbent was elected and does not require a “reason” in order to start a recall petition. For the GOP to get to a recall election, they need gather signatures from 25% of those people who actually voted in the election for that member of the legislature.

  • For Farley — Need to gather more than 7,100 signatures from people who voted in Nevada’s 8th Senate district in 2014 (a low turnout mid-term election) by Nov. 9.
  • For Woodhouse — Need to gather more than 13,000 signatures from people who voted last year in the Senate District 5 race by Oct. 31.
  • For Cannizzaro — Need to gather more than 14,975 of the people who voted in District 6 in 2016 by Nov. 14.

You should also note that GOP “conservatives” are attempting force the State to pay for a repeat election at taxpayer expense for “no stated good reason.” It is NOT “conservative” to force an election just because they don’t like the fact that the voters chose Democrats to represent them in the State Legislature.  Such actions consume vital tax dollars that should be spent on vital infrastructure, education, healthcare, etc.

Also worthy of noting is that should the GOP be successful in a recall, it would shake up the powerful Nevada Legislative Commission. That commission handles the Legislature’s business when it is not in session and when constituents have little input into decisions being made.

Trump’s Pardon of Joe Arpaio Is Deeply Disturbing

The president called a man who freely violated people’s constitutional rights a “patriot.” What does that make his victims?

By Ebony Slaughter-Johnson

ebony-slaughter-johnson

During a speech to a group of police officers in July, President Trump returned to one of his favorite themes of the campaign season: violence. “Please don’t be too nice” to the “thugs being thrown into the back of a paddy wagon,” Trump advised the officers. Be “rough.”

The president’s endorsement of police brutality was met with applause from the officers and shock from activists and pundits alike.

Sensing the brewing backlash, the White House insisted that the president was simply making a joke. Even Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the country’s top law enforcement official — a man with his own complicated history of encouraging the worst impulses of the police — attempted to distance himself from the controversy.

joe-arpaio-trump

(Photo: Flickr/Gage Skidmore)

Yet the president just proved that when it comes to endorsing police brutality, especially against communities of color, he’s dead serious.

For more than 20 years, Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County, Arizona terrorized Latino communities, harassed immigrants, and made life a living hell for prisoners in his care in order to build a reputation as “America’s toughest sheriff”.

These systematic violations of human and constitutional rights eventually landed Arpaio in legal trouble of his own. Then President Trump pardoned him.

Arpaio had been awaiting sentencing for a July conviction of criminal contempt.

Back in 2011, a federal judge ordered Arpaio to stop targeting and detaining Latinos just to inquire about their immigration status. Nevertheless, Arpaio persisted for another 18 months, insisting that his racial profiling was lawful. He emasculated inmates, forcing them to wear pink underwear, and attempted to starve them with food that was called inedible.

He tortured them, too: Beginning in the 1990s, Arpaio opened Tent City Jail, which forced inmates to live outside in the extreme Arizona heat. An untold number of inmates died.

To the law, Arpaio is a convicted criminal who built his career on denying the constitutional and human rights of the most vulnerable among us. To Trump, he’s “a patriot” who kept “Arizona safe.”

“Throughout his time as sheriff,” a White House statement bleated, “Arpaio continued his life’s work of protecting the public from the scourges of crime and illegal immigration.” In other words, the innocent immigrants who were harassed, and the prisoners who were tortured, were the real criminals.

Trump promised to be the “law and order candidate” during his campaign. He codified this promise once he became president in the “Standing Up For Our Law Enforcement Community” section of the White House website. “The Trump administration will be a law and order administration,” it echoed.

For the president, it seems, “standing up” for law enforcement includes allowing officers to subvert the rule of law to commit acts of brutality with impunity. Empowering law enforcement to “keep our streets free of crime and violence” means supporting racial profiling. And “law and order” only applies to some, namely those that support the president.

With Trump’s pardon of Arpaio, a message has been sent: When it comes to police brutality of the kind Arpaio perpetuated for decades, the Trump administration won’t simply be complicit in it. It will promote it.

And that’s nothing to joke about.


Ebony Slaughter-Johnson is a freelance writer whose work covers history, race, and the criminalization of poverty. Distributed by OtherWords.org

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.

Related Posts:

Trump to Generals —> US Should Plunder Afghan Minerals

The president also compared military strategy to renovating a restaurant
— by Jake Johnson, staff writer

President Donald Trump holds a meeting with members of his cabinet.

President Donald Trump holds a meeting with members of his cabinet. (Photo: Michael Reynolds-Pool/Getty Images)

In a recent situation room meeting with generals and top national security advisors, President Donald Trump reportedly compared war policy to renovating a restaurant and complained that the U.S. isn’t doing enough to exploit Afghanistan’s mineral wealth.

This is according to senior administration officials who leaked details of the “tense” meeting to NBC News.

Trump also complained that the U.S. is “losing” the war in Afghanistan—which is approaching its 16th year—and said he was contemplating firing Gen. John Nicholson, the commander of American forces in the country, who he has not met.

Here’s how NBC summarized the conversation:

Over nearly two hours in the situation room, according to the officials, Trump complained about NATO allies, inquired about the United States getting a piece of Afghanistan’s mineral wealth, and repeatedly said the top U.S. general there should be fired. He also startled the room with a story that seemed to compare their advice to that of a paid consultant who cost a tony New York restaurateur profits by offering bad advice.

As Common Dreams reported last week, Trump has long been enticed by the prospect of plundering Afghanistan’s untapped mineral reserves. In the meeting with his national security advisors, NBC noted, Trump reiterated his wishes and fumed that China is “making money off of Afghanistan’s estimated $1 trillion in rare minerals while American troops are fighting the war.”

Trump also “expressed frustration that his advisers tasked with figuring out how the U.S. can help American businesses get rights to those minerals were moving too slowly,” NBCreported.

Commentators have in the past argued that Trump’s desire to exploit a war-torn country’s mineral reserves amounts to a longing for “colonialism.”

The response to leaked details of Trump’s meeting with military officials was of a similar tone.


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Democrats Introduce Bill to Stop Wage Theft & Boost Workers’ Financial Security

The Wage Theft Prevention and Wage Recovery Act would crack down on employers who steal wages from their workers — Employers steal more than $15 billion from workers every year, particularly from workers in low-wage industries

On Tuesday, August 1, Senators Patty Murray (D-WA), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), and Al Franken (D-MN), along with Representatives Rosa DeLauro (D-CN) and Bobby Scott (D-VA), introduced the Wage Theft Prevention and Wage Recovery Act, to crack down on employers who unfairly withhold wages from their employees. This bill would give workers the right to receive full compensation for all of the work they perform, as well as the right to receive regular pay stubs and final paychecks in a timely manner. It would also provide workers with improved tools to recover their stolen wages in court and make assistance available to build community partnerships that enhance the enforcement of and improve compliance with wage and hour laws.

“It is simply wrong that employers are able to take advantage of their workers and cheat them out of their hard-earned pay, and all too often women, immigrants and workers of color are those who have to pay the price,” said Senator Murray. “While President Trump continues to break campaign promises and roll back worker protections, I’m going to keep fighting so every worker is treated fairly and paid what they’ve earned. I’m proud to introduce this bill as another step towards building an economy that works for all, not just those at the top.”

 “The biggest economic challenge facing our country is that too many people are in jobs that do not pay them enough to live on. Across the country, some workers are putting in long hours and working for an honest day’s pay, only to have their employers cheat them out of their hard-earned wages. Wage theft is inexcusable and unconscionable, and our federal laws should hold employers who violate their employee’s right accountable,” said Congresswoman DeLauro. “The Wage Theft Prevention and Wage Recovery Act is comprehensive legislation that will strengthen current federal law and empower employees to recover their lost wages. Whether it is compensation for a day’s work, or overtime, employees should be paid what they earn. This legislation not only protects workers, but it will help our economy grow.”

 “Wage theft is just one of the reasons why Ohioans are working hard but have too little to show for it,” said Senator Brown. “We need to crack down on employers who don’t pay workers their full wages to restore the value of work and strengthen our economy.”

In May, the Economic Policy Institute published a new report finding that employers steal more than an estimated $15 billion from workers each year, with workers in low-wage industries at the greatest risk. A National Employment Law Project 2008 survey of 4,387 low-wage workers in New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago found that low-wage workers experienced a range of wage and hour violations, with women, immigrants and minorities being disproportionately affected. Common examples of wage theft include forcing workers to work off the clock, refusing to pay the minimum wage, denying overtime pay to workers even after they work more than 40 hours a week, stealing workers’ tips, or knowingly misclassifying workers to avoid paying fair wages.

“Americans are spending more hours working, but all too often, because of wage theft, they don’t get the pay they’ve earned—and as a result working families suffer,” said Senator Franken. “While a majority of employers are playing by the rules, wage theft is a real problem. Our bill will combat this crooked practice by giving each worker the tools to make sure that employers aren’t shortchanging workers’ hours or overtime pay. Every worker in Minnesota and across our country should be paid for every hour they work and no less.”

 “When workers are not taking home the entirety of the pay they’ve earned because of wage theft, families suffer,” said Congressman Scott.“Unfortunately, wage theft is a persistent problem for low wage workers. A recent study from the Economic Policy Institute sampling the 10 most populous states found that 2.4 million workers lost $8 billion annually to minimum wage violations. The Wage Theft Prevention and Wage Recovery Act will give hardworking Americans the tools they need to fight back against unscrupulous employers and protect their hard-earned paychecks. In addition to raising the federal minimum wage and strengthening collective bargaining, combating wage theft is a critical part in boosting the wages of low wage working people and remedying income inequality.”

In addition to Senators Murray, Brown and Franken, other original cosponsors in the Senate include Durbin (D-IL), Markey (D-MA), Merkley (D-OR), Murphy (D-CT), Warren (D-MA), Blumenthal (D-CT), Gillibrand (D-NY), Harris (D-CA), Baldwin (D-WI), Leahy (D-VT), Booker (D-NJ), Sanders (I-VT), Hirono (D-HI), Van Hollen (D-MD), Casey (D-PA), Wyden (D-OR), and Stabenow (D-MI).

In addition to Representatives DeLauro and Scott, other original cosponsors in the House of Representatives include Boyle (D-PA), Clark, (D-MA), Clarke (D-NY), Conyers (D-MI), DeSaulnier (D-CA), Ellison (D-MN), Green (D-TX), Langevin (D-RI), Lewis (D-GA), Matsui (D-CA), McCollum (D-MN), Nadler (D-NY), Holmes Norton (D-DC), Pascrell (D-NJ), Pocan (D-WI), Roybal-Allard (D-CA), Schakowsky (D-IL), Serrano (D-NY), Slaughter (D-NY), and Velazquez (D-NY).

Text of the Wage Theft Prevention and Wage Recovery Act can be found HERE.
Fact sheet on the Wage Theft Prevention and Wage Recovery Act can be found HERE and below:

The Wage Theft Prevention and Wage Recovery Act

Today, across the country, many people are putting in long hours on the job and working hard for an honest day’s pay, only to have their employers cheat them out of their wages. While the vast majority of employers do the right thing and treat workers fairly, too many others force their workers to work off the clock, refuse to pay workers the minimum wage, deny workers overtime pay even after they work more than 40 hours a week, steal workers’ tips, or knowingly misclassify workers to avoid paying fair wages.

The Wage Theft Prevention and Wage Recovery Act is comprehensive legislation to combat wage theft in America. This bill will strengthen fundamental protections to allow workers to get the money they have earned through hard work and it will crack down on the corporations that subject workers to these abuses. Taking these steps will help ensure our country can work for all Americans, not just the wealthiest few, so our economy grows from the middle out, not the top down.

The bill would achieve the following:

  1. Require employers to pay all wages owed to an employee. Currently, workers can only recover wages at the minimum wage or, for overtime hours, 1.5 times their regular wage; for example, an employee may be hired at $9.00 per hour, but would only have the right to recover $7.25 of every $9.00 she was owed. This bill would help workers recoup the full compensation that employers have taken from them.
  2. Require employers to provide initial disclosures of the terms of their employment and regular pay stubs to all employees and create a civil fine for noncompliance of $50 for the first violation and $100 for each subsequent violation.
  3. Require employers to pay final paychecks within 14 days of separation or by the payday for the pay period, whichever is earlier; the employer will owe the employee in question her daily wage for each day beyond this period that the paycheck goes unpaid, for a maximum of 30 days.
  4. Create a civil penalty of $2,000 when employers violate minimum wage and overtime protections under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), and—for the first time—the protection guaranteeing workers their full compensation. The Act would also increase the existing civil penalty for willful or repeat violations to $10,000. Currently, the Department of Labor (DOL) does not have the authority to assess civil penalties for violations of the FLSA’s minimum wage or overtime requirements unless the employer is guilty of repeat or willful violations; even then, the penalty is set at just $1,100 per violation.
  5. Increase the damages that employees who are victims of wage theft are entitled to. The amount currently provided for by the FLSA is twice the owed wages. This bill would raise that amount to triple the owed wages amount, plus interest assessed on the original owed wages.
  6. Strengthen protections for employees who are illegally fired by their employer as retaliation for filing a complaint concerning wage theft or cooperating with a DOL investigation. This bill would increase the damages to which workers are entitled to quadruple the owed wages amount, plus interest assessed on the original owed wages.
  7. Strengthen the FLSA’s recordkeeping provision by creating a civil penalty of $1,000 for an employer’s first violation of the provision and $5,000 for each subsequent violation. Additionally, the legislation would give employees a right to inspect their employer’s records by requesting a copy of those records. Finally, if an employer violates the recordkeeping provision, the bill would allow an employee’s reasonable evidence regarding their hours worked to be used to create a rebuttable presumption that the employer engaged in wage theft, and to establish the exact amount of that wage theft. Under this bill, the employer would be allowed to rebut this presumption only with clear and convincing evidence.
  8. Increase the time that employees have to bring a claim for owed wages from two years to four years (and from three years to five years for willful violations) from the date of the violation and temporarily suspend this time limit during any DOL investigation.
  9. Make it easier for employees to take collective action to recover their stolen wages. The bill would remove the current requirement that employees affirmatively “opt-in” to engage in a collective action under the FLSA. This will enable employees to pursue collective action cases in a manner similar to most class action cases, in which members of the “class” must affirmatively “opt-out” of the case in order to not be involved.
  10. Direct DOL to refer to the Department of Justice for criminal prosecution those employers who comprehensively engage in wage theft by willfully stealing employees’ wages, falsifying records to hide the truth, and retaliating against employees when they try to speak up for themselves or cooperate with a DOL investigation.
  11. Create a grant program at DOL to assist DOL in its education, trainings, and enforcement of this Act through partnerships with organizations on the ground that fight wage theft.