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Major Public Defense Nonprofit in New York Is Unionizing

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One of the nation’s most respected public defender nonprofits is unionizing, the latest in a surge of union drives at prominent nonprofits across the country.

The Bronx Defenders, a large nonprofit that defends low-income people in the Bronx, New York, told management today that they intend to unionize with the Association of Legal Aid Attorneys, an affiliate of the UAW. The proposed union will have about 270 members, covering virtually the entire non-management staff. Of those, about 100 are not attorneys, including everyone from social workers to paralegals to facilities workers.

Employees at the Bronx Defenders cited issues like pay, health care benefits, and equality of professional development and promotions as motivating factors for the union drive. But one factor stood out more than any other: the potential for burnout among public defenders and those who work alongside them.

“I’ve seen people who were hired with me who left already because of burnout,” says Imani Waweru, a staff attorney in the criminal defense practice who has been at the organization for less than two years. “What we do every day is advocate. Why not have a place we can advocate for ourselves?”

Naima Drecker-Waxman, an associate in the immigration practice, agrees that burnout is a real threat—and believes that improvements in working conditions for the Bronx Defenders staff will translate to better outcomes for the clients. “We need to ensure our workforce is treated with respect in order to serve our clients,” she says.

Discussions about unionizing began quietly a year ago, and the effort to collect union cards intensified in the past couple of months. (Union drives at nonprofits usually win voluntary recognition from management, thanks to the inherent pressure for the organization to live up to the ideals it espouses. Employees at the Bronx Defenders expect the same.) The culmination of the union campaign comes against the backdrop of the coronavirus crisis, which has hit both the Bronx and the incarcerated population of New York City with savage force. The employees of the Bronx Defenders see their union drive as part of a larger struggle to improve a justice system that often seems unable to keep up with the demands of the crisis. “We’re all sharing this burden of a court system that’s not responsive to our needs,” says Drecker-Waxman.

Alex Shalom, the union organizer at the ALAA, says his union has already won protective equipment and hazard pay in other places. “We’re seeing the tangible benefits of an organized workforce,” he says. “Our members are of no use to clients if they’re sick.”

This blog originally appeared at In These Times on May 29, 2020. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Hamilton Nolan is a labor reporter for In These Times. He has spent the past decade writing about labor and politics for Gawker, Splinter, The Guardian, and elsewhere. 


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How Will Workplaces Recover From COVID-19?

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As of May 25, 2020, there were over 1.6 million cases of COVID-19 in the US. At a survival rate of 98.6% (calculated for New York) most of these people will recover and live healthy lives again. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of businesses that were locked down to control the spread of the pandemic. Although there has been so much loss and devastation for businesses, many companies are trying to reopen and prepare for bringing employees back to work.

To put things into perspective, the largest quarterly GDP decline observed during the Great Recession of 2008 was 8.4%. According to the figures that are emerging, we’re already facing a GDP decline of 30% to 40% in the second quarter of 2020. 

The US lost 2.6 million jobs in 2008. The recession killed 170,000 small businesses between 2008 and 2010. It happened when the GDP dipped by less than 10 percent and there was no pandemic. We still haven’t recovered from COVID-19 and the crippling social distancing measures that it has necessitated; and we’re already sitting at 30%-40% decline in GDP. 

A Model for Economic Recovery

Is there a projection for the economic recovery? From the very optimistic Z-shaped recovery to the increasingly probable L-shaped recovery curves, the variants of recovery projections include V, U, W, and even a shape that resembles Nike’s swoosh. Here’s a brief look at each.

  • The Z: The economy will bounce back to the pre-pandemic levels, cross that level, and settle back on its previous growth path.
  • The V: The losses during the pandemic will be irrecoverable; however, the economy will bounce back quickly to regain its earlier growth rate.
  • The U and the Swoosh: The recovery will take a long time, but the economy will eventually regain its momentum and growth. 
  • The W: The initial recovery will be interrupted by a second surge in the pandemic before final recovery. How many such surges will be there after the eventual recovery is not known.
  • The L: In the worst case scenario, the economic activity will not return to its pre-pandemic level of growth for a long time to come. 

How Long Will the Economy Take to Recover?

In the Great Recession, the total number of jobs did not return to November 2007 levels until May 2014. That was when businesses were not required to adhere to the new norm of social distancing.  

This time around, businesses that are reemerging from the lockdown will have to curtail economic activity because of the social restrictions. Airlines will be flying fewer travelers, offices will be able to accommodate fewer people in the workspace, restaurants will have fewer full tables at a time, and mass gatherings such as sporting events and concerts will probably remain prohibited for several years.

Will Some Businesses Benefit From the Crises?

While the overall impact of COVID-19 upon the workplace and business appears disastrous, there are sectors that are slated for accelerated growth. Robotics, face recognition, Internet of Things, touchless access control systems, cloud computing, remote working aids and tools, 5G technology, personal protective equipment, and pharmaceuticals are some of the businesses that are likely to emerge as winners from this crisis.

What Actions Are Being Taken to Help the Economic Recovery?

The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) has been tasked to provide the technical lead in the efforts for global socioeconomic recovery. UN teams covering 162 countries and territories will roll out this recovery plan in the next 12 to 18 months. The five pillars of the socioeconomic recovery strategy include:

  • Protecting health services and systems
  • Social protection and basic services
  • Protecting jobs and small- and medium-sized enterprises, and the most vulnerable productive actors
  • Macroeconomic response and multilateral collaboration 
  • Social cohesion and community resilience

Political and business leaders everywhere are stressing the need for a bold and ambitious recovery plan. In Europe, MEPs demanded a E2 trillion package last week to support people and businesses. António Guterres, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, has estimated the cost of a large-scale, coordinated and comprehensive multilateral response to be at least 10 percent of global GDP.

The US government has been quick to respond and has already taken many actions, such as the grant of $660 billion in forgivable loans to small businesses, $300 billion in recovery rebate checks to households, and $268 billion in increased and expanded unemployment insurance. 

Most of these measures are temporary, however. For example, the $1,200 checks to adults were one time. The unemployment insurance cover runs out in July and the forgivable loans cover eight weeks of payroll. A lot needs to be done a lot faster to keep a U shaped recovery from degenerating into an L.

This blog was originally produced by Swiftlane. Printed with permission.

About the Author: Imran Anwar is working as a content developer and future trends analyst at Swiftlane, a company providing facial recognition based touchless access control solutions to public and private organizations. Imran is a business graduate with vast experience of writing about future tech, business, and marketing. He can be reached at [email protected].


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Common Workplace Issues And Employee Rights To Remember

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It is practically impossible to not experience conflicts of one sort or the other in the workplace. This is why there are laws that protect employees in their workplaces, irrespective of the personal dispositions of said employees.

Common Workplace Issues

1. Workplace Politics

A pointer of workplace politics is favoritism. You might notice some favoritism going on. Some employees could never do wrong, and others never seem to get it right.

When you are caught in this web, try to understand the unspoken rules of the workplace. Try to see who wields what power, and how they go about exercising that power. This way, you know how to work your way around their traps.

2. Bullies At The Workplace

Bullies are not only found in schools. If you look closely, you would find them in the workplace as well. 

Bullies may intentionally try to exclude you from team events. Unfair criticism is a form of bullying too. Name-calling coated in jokes isn’t left out either. 

When you find that you are being bullied at work, document such actions and report to the higher-ups.

Finally, as far as workplace troubles go, you may have some issues with your dress sense. In such a case like this, you would probably need to switch up your style. 

Get some stylish and up-to-date clothes as well as top-notch accessories to go with it. There’s no law against looking classy at the office after all. 

3. Inconsiderate Bosses

It is possible that you encounter inconsiderate bosses that never seem to recognize how hard you’re working. Instead, they criticize everything you do and make you feel you’re not well equipped to do your job. 

To handle such situations, make sure that the criticisms from your boss are wrong. Up your own efforts and communication skills. 

Learn to anticipate problems and present solutions. Sometimes, it may not be about you, it could just be a very inconsiderate boss. 

Your Rights As An Employee

It is essential for you to know that there are laws that protect you and your interests at your place of work. 

Lacking knowledge of these rights may land you in positions you could have completely avoided if you were privy to your rights. 

Labor Rights cover you irrespective of your race, gender, ethnicity, or religion. 

Some of these essential rights include the right to:

Here are some other rights you need to constantly remember:

1. Your Right To Complain About Working Conditions

If you find out that there is a workplace condition you’re not comfortable with, you have the right to notify your employer about the conditions that may be harmful to you and your coworkers.

However, you might not get a quick response or even any response at all if the complaint is for your own personal reasons. 

This law doesn’t even protect you in such a situation. Make sure that whatever you are complaining about is something that affects you and your coworkers.

2. Your Right To Refuse Work

When you work in a place that you believe could harm you, you may refuse to work in such a situation. 

However, you must have informed your employer before you pull this card. 

After you have informed the appropriate authorities and they still do not put any measures in place to mitigate or alleviate any hazards, you can then trigger your right to refuse work. 

3. Your Right to Have A Copy Of Your Signed Agreements

You probably signed a folder-full of agreement papers before you started at your job. 

But what you don’t know is that you might have unknowingly given up some important rights in those papers.  

It is possible you agreed never to work for a competitor or that you relinquished the claim to your intellectual property while working with them without knowing it. 

You can request copies of all the agreements you signed. Your employer may be reluctant to give them to you, but it is your right to have them, at least in many states. 

Be sure this law protects you in your state when you want to request these copies. 

When you have the copies, go through them and know what you have signed up for. This way, you can avoid lawsuit troubles should you have a falling out with your employer.

About the Author: Norma Spencer fully enjoys her editor career living an RV life with her family. She’s a devoted tech and finance writer with a Ph.D. in Business Administration (Management). In the moment of writing this bio, Norma is in Germany, planning to spend at least a few more years in Europe in the coming years.


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Arranging Your Warehouse To Increase Productivity

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Your company’s warehouse is one of the primary factors in its success. Like any other machine, all of the components need to work together smoothly to achieve the best results. If an axle is bent ever so slightly out of alignment, it can have catastrophic consequences for the entire system. Likewise, if your warehousing practices and layout are not optimized, you will experience an elevated risk of mistakes and delays. 

Perhaps even more troubling is how a problematic arrangement introduces the potential for serious injuries. With so many moving parts in the form of employees and material-handling equipment, there’s always a chance that they will intersect at the wrong time or interfere with each other. 

This is why it is crucial to ensure that the facility is laid out for maximum productivity and safety. Without a layout that best utilizes the space, a warehouse is less a well-oiled machine and more of an accident waiting to happen. 

Maximize Floor Space

One of the most important steps to get the most out of your square footage is to reduce as much wasted floor space as possible. Although making aisles narrower is the obvious method for this, you may want to look at installing mezzanines to provide an additional level for foot traffic. Another idea that works well for streamlining your entire operation is reducing your inventory levels. Freeing up room on the floor reduces the number of accidents and improves efficiency. 

Go Vertical

Warehouses are three-dimensional spaces, so anything that helps you make better use of every axis will be helpful. For instance, you can install higher racks or optimize storage unit configurations. Eliminating pallets can also make a huge difference because without them you may be able to stack more units on top of one another. 

Optimize Your Traffic Patterns 

When plotting out the footprint of your facility, think about workflow and how to improve it. One of the best ways to make a positive impact is to increase the number of cross aisles. This provides more opportunities for workers and equipment to find alternate routes where they won’t be in the way of others. Investing time and resources into improving your picking system and inventory organization will prevent waste and create the most effective processes. Introducing automation such as robotic systems and bar feeders also decreases the risk of human error. 

When it comes to safety, an optimal arrangement of resources literally can be a lifesaver. However, you can take other simple steps to go above and beyond for the well-being of everyone in the warehouse. These include building a culture that promotes accountability at every level and emphasizes safe behavior. Regular inspections of your machinery and hardware also help by detecting issues before they have a chance to cause breakdowns that can hurt employees. 

When properly maintained, an engine can be counted on to operate successfully and safely every time. Likewise, a warehouse built from the ground up with best practices in mind can drive the growth of your business. For these and many other tips to increase warehouse productivity, see the accompanying infographic. 

This blog was originally produced by IEMCA. Printed with permission.

About the Author: IEMCA designs and produces automatic bar feeders since 1961 and today it is the worldwide leader for every type of application for lathes, machining centers, grindings, gear cutters, and other types of machine tools.


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Another 2.1 million seek new jobless benefits. Pandemic Recession will stick it to millennials

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The Department of Labor reported Thursday that yet another2.1 million Americans, on a seasonally adjusted basis, applied for initial state benefits in the week that ended May 23.

Counting these new applications makes for a total of 40.5 million workers who have filed for initial benefits over the past 10 weeks. Add in the millions of Americans who are receiving benefits under the federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance that covers gig workers, the self-employed, people who were working part time, and some other categories not eligible for regular unemployment, and the total out of work could be 47 million. Unprecedentedly gigantic as that number is, even it could be undercounting.

But if the total who have applied for benefits in both state and federal programs were comprised solely of those 47million, the official U3 unemployment rate—the one that gets the most headlines every month—would be about 30.2% based on April’s non-farm labor force of 156 million. That may seem outrageously high, but it is also the figure James Bullard, president of St. Louis Federal Reserve Bank said in March we might reach in the second quarter. (Note that the Bureau of Labor Statistics does not calculate the unemployment rate using benefit claims, but with a monthly survey. Its May report will be released next Friday.)

The labor market is clearly devastated. We just don’t know the full extent of the wreckage yet, and we won’t for another couple of months at least. Likewise, we won’t know how many of the negative effects will be temporary and how many longer lasting. 

One thing we do know. Under all economic conditions, different demographics are affected differentially. Prosperity doesn’t lift all boats, much less all boats equally. Recessions damage certain groups more than others, in great part because they have pre-existing economic conditions that make them more vulnerable—their age, their gender, their race. Deeper damage obviously lasts longer.

Vast numbers of the populace will be hurt by the Pandemic Recession. But millennials—born 1981-1996, by most definitions—are really going to get it in the wallet, with demographic groups within the millennial generation getting it worse than others, the less educated being vulnerable to far less severe economic perturbations.

Andrew Van Dam at The Washington Post wrote in detail about this Wednesday in a piece calling millennials the “unluckiest generation in U.S. history” under a subhead of Millennials have faced the worst economic odds, and many will never recover. Grimly he begins, “After accounting for the present crisis, the average millennial has experienced slower economic growth since entering the workforce than any other generation in U.S. history.” 

The research data he cited shows just how right had been those analysts who warned more than a decade ago that the graduating classes of the Great Recession would suffer long-term financial consequences from that disaster. “The average millennial has experienced slower economic growth since entering the workforce than any other generation in U.S. history.”

Gray Kimbrough, an economist with American University who we’ve previously and accurately branded a serial millennial myth debunker, points out the oldest millennials, such as himself, lived through the 9/11 terrorist attacks and entered the labor market in the recession that hit around the same time. They spent their early years struggling to find work during a jobless recovery, only to be hit by the Great Recession and another jobless recovery. And, of course, yet another recession.

“The story here is not just that it’s a bad recession, and that it’s hitting young people more, but that it’s hitting people who have already been hit,” Kimbrough said.

The impacts:

  • A report on ongoing research last year noted that in tracking 4.1 million people over a dozen years, it was found that millennial employment recovered over the period but millennial earnings did not. The average millennial lost about 13% of their earnings between 2005 and 2017, Gen X lost 9%, and baby boomers lost 7%. 
  • Millennials were forced by the Great Recession to choose worse jobs at the beginning of their work life, which suppressed their lifetime earnings. They also found themselves competing after a few years for entry-level jobs in their field against new graduates. Ana Kent, a policy analyst at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, told Van Dam, “If people enter the labor force during a recession, and they get into lower-paying jobs, that carries forward for much of their lifelong working careers. That’s going to have impacts on not only their income but their wealth and also their ability to save for a down payment and their ability to meet other lifetime goals.”
  • Millennials had lesser financial cushions when the Great Recession struck, and since they haven’t as a group recovered their full earnings, they have even smaller cushions now in the Pandemic Recession.
  • Millennials with a college degree aren’t too far behind in terms of wealth compared with previous generations when they were the same age. Their less-educated peers, however, have half the wealth that would be expected at this stage.
  • A National Bureau of Economic Research found that even after controlling for differences in age, education, marital states, and income, the wealth gap among millennials between African Americans and white Americans continues to grow.
  • Millennial Latinos, African Americans, and women are more likely than white male millennials to be economically pinched. They also are so far more likely to be unemployed during the Pandemic Recession. 

When considering statistics based on a defining characteristic like age, it’s easy to forget that a group’s overall trajectory is not the trajectory of all individuals within it. Some portion of millennials will no doubt make out just fine. It should also be obvious given our experience with the Great Recession that it’s only a small portion of the population in every age demographic that escapes the negative impacts in a downturn. Based on what we’ve seen in the past two and a half months, there is no reason to believe the Pandemic Recession will be any different in that regard.

This blog originally appeared at Daily Kos on May 28, 2020. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Timothy Lange is a member of the Daily Kos staff.


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2.1 million new unemployment claims filed last week, as workers still struggle to get benefits

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The ten-week total for claims reached 40.8 million, suggesting about a quarter of the workforce has lost jobs during the coronavirus pandemic.

Workers filed 2.1 million new unemployment claims last week, the Department of Labor reported, suggesting about a quarter of the workforce is seeking jobless aid to weather the economic crisis caused by the coronavirus. 

The latest figure indicates that the pandemic has pushed 40.8 million Americans out of work in just 10 weeks.

DOL also reported that another 1.2 million people applied for benefits under the new temporary Pandemic Unemployment Assistance programcreated for individuals who are typically ineligible for unemployment insurance, such as self-employed workers.

With those people added, the number of claims filed last week could be as high as 3.1 million, though there could be some overlap between the new program and traditional unemployment benefits.

“The pace of flooding has declined, but the labor market is still underwater,” Nick Bunker, Indeed Hiring Lab’s director of economic research, said in reaction to the numbers. He said the raw unadjusted number of new claims reported last week is still 15 times higher than pre-coronavirus levels.

California saw the highest number of new claims last week, reporting an estimated 212,343 new applications filed. New York followed with an estimated 192,193 new claims. 

Roughly half of those who applied for benefits since the beginning of the pandemic are now receiving them, according to Andrew Stettner, senior fellow at The Century Foundation. But legal advocates and worker groups complain that workers in many states are still facing long waits, glitches and little assistance in accessing the aid from state agencies, leading applicants in some cases, to give up. 

Three Uber and Lyft drivers, along with the New York Taxi Workers Alliance, filed a federal complaint this week against the state of New York, alleging the length of time it’s taking the state to process their claims compared to other workers has been “devastating.”

Behnaz Mansouri, an attorney at the Unemployment Law Project in Washington state, said roughly 60,000 people who’ve filed claims there are still waiting to receive benefits. She said self-employed workers are facing the greatest hurdles in getting jobless aid from the new federal program.

“They’re not only getting requests for more information they’re getting conflicting requests” for employment information, Mansouri said. “And these claimants don’t know what to do.” 

In Florida, where the state inspector general has launched a probe into its error-ridden unemployment assistance system, the state says about 83 percentof the 1.9 million claims its verified have been processed, an improvement from the less than 6 percent it reported mid-April

But Laurie Yadoff, an attorney at Coast to Coast Legal Aid of South Florida, said her clients complain their applications are still “pending” and are still unable to get through to state unemployment offices for assistance. 

“It’s been a tremendous struggle and a couple of my clients I have to keep calling them and telling them to hang in there,” Yadoff said. “They just keep saying, ‘What’s the point?’”

And not every state has implemented the new unemployment programs provided under the massive coronavirus relief package signed into law in March. 

According to DOL, so far, only 32 states have begun paying out the 13-week extension of unemployment benefits included in the CARES Act. Most states provide an average of 26 weeks of jobless benefits. 

While the number of Americans seeking jobless benefits has slowly declined over the past several weeks, economists forecast that the share of the workforce out of a job will remain high throughout the summer. 

“Although initial claims are declining, the pace may only be plateauing,” Glassdoor Senior Economist Daniel Zhao said in a statement. “If UI claims remain in the millions for the next few weeks, it may signal that relaxed state-mandated restrictions alone aren’t enough to staunch the flow of unemployed Americans.”

Kevin Hassett, senior economic adviser to President Donald Trump predicted the unemployment rate could potentially shoot north of 20 percent in the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ May jobs report out June 5. He expects the jobless rate will continue to climb in June, “but then after that it should start to trend down,” he told CNN on Sunday.

Despite warnings from economists that unemployment could remain high into the end of next year, Republicans in Congress have made clear that they won’t support expanding the enhanced unemployment insurance benefits provided under one of the coronavirus rescue bills.

Democrats want to extend that weekly $600 boost to unemployment insurance payments through the end of January. It is currently due to expire at the end of July.

Instead, National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow said Tuesday the Trump administration “may well” support including a bonus to get workers back on the job in the next coronavirus aid package. He argues the enhanced unemployment payments are so high that they act as a “major disincentive to go back to work.”

This blog originally appeared at Politico on May 28, 2020. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Rebecca Rainey is an employment and immigration reporter with POLITICO Pro and the author of the Morning Shift newsletter. Prior to joining POLITICO in August 2018, Rainey covered the Occupational Safety and Health administration and regulatory reform on Capitol Hill. Her work has been published by The Washington Post and the Associated Press, among other outlets.


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We need strong policy now to avert a depression, this week in the war on workers

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We know that unemployment is sky-high, but that’s not the end of the story. The Economic Policy Institute’s Heidi Shierholz sounds a warning that, if lawmakers don’t act, we’re looking at a depression.

“If the federal government provides sufficient aid during this crisis so that people’s income doesn’t drop dramatically (even if they have been unable to work), so that businesses stay afloat (even if they have been totally or significantly shuttered), and so that state and local governments whose tax revenues are plummeting are not forced to make drastic cuts that will hamstring the economy, then those furloughed workers could get back to their prior jobs and the recovery could be rapid because confidence and demand would be relatively high,” she writes. “But if the federal government doesn’t act, then those furloughs will turn into permanent layoffs and the country will face an extended period of high unemployment that will do sweeping and unrelenting damage to the economy—and the people and businesses in it.”

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities’ Michael Leachman sounds a similar note with an eye to state budgets, writing “Federal aid that policymakers provided in earlier COVID-19 packages isn’t nearly enough. Only about $65 billion is readily available to narrow state budget shortfalls. Treasury Department guidance now says that states may use some of the aid in the CARES Act of March to cover payroll costs for public safety and public health workers, but it’s unclear how much of state shortfalls that might cover; existing aid likely won’t cover much more than $100 billion of state shortfalls, leaving nearly $665 billion unaddressed. States hold $75 billion in their rainy day funds, a historically high amount but far too little to meet the unprecedented challenge they face. And, even if states use all of it to cover their shortfalls, that still leaves them about $600 billion short.”

This blog originally appeared at Daily Kos on May 23, 2020. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Laura Clawson has been a Daily Kos contributing editor since December 2006. Full-time staff since 2011, currently assistant managing editor.


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America’s economic pain arrives on K Street

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Layoffs are happening, and a survey of trade groups shows revenue is down sharply at many of them.

Restaurants, hotels and tourism businesses are getting socked. Now their Washington lobbyists are, too.

K Street is in cutback mode: The International Franchise Association, the U.S. Travel Association and the National Rifle Association have all laid off staffers since the pandemic hit. Several law-and-lobbying firms have cut pay across the board and at least one well-connected Washington communications firm has applied for a small business relief loan.

A recent survey conducted by the American Society of Association Executives — essentially a trade group for people who lead trade groups — found that 35 percent of trade groups estimated they would lose at least a quarter of their revenue because of canceled events and conferences.

Even the massive U.S. Chamber of Commerce — which recently doled out millions in bonuses to executives and was feeling so flush in December that it seriously considered purchasing a Super Bowl ad — is slashing expenses.

The cuts have hit trade groups even as many of their lobbyists have been busier than ever, hustling to secure a piece of the trillions of dollars in coronavirus aid for their members. Doug Pinkham, president of the Public Affairs Council, said the pandemic had been “financially devastating” for many trade groups.

“Many of them rely very heavily on events for revenue, and that has just dried up,” he said.

Not every trade group that’s seen its revenue collapse has resorted to layoffs; many are weathering the pandemic relatively well. But the cuts show that Washington’s influence industry is not immune to the economic pain afflicting much of the rest of the country. While much of K Street has experienced a boom as companies have rushed to hire lobbyists to help them secure relief loans, others are hurting.

The International Franchise Association laid off a dozen people — about a third of its total staff — and stopped publishing its magazine as advertising revenue evaporated. While the trade group has had some success getting members to register for its digital events, it’s tougher to get sponsors for them.

“Franchise businesses were among the first to close and will in many cases, because of government mandated reopening schedules, be among the last to reopen,” Robert Cresanti, the trade group’s president and chief executive, said in a statement. “While the names on the front doors are well-known brands, these locally-owned small businesses often run on very tight margins and until customers can return, IFA’s revenues will likely see a similar decline.”

The U.S. Travel Association, which has lobbied aggressively for more federal funding for tourism bureaus and travel industry businesses, laid off some staffers and cut pay across the board after being forced to cancel its Las Vegas trade show, according to Tori Barnes, the trade group’s top lobbyist. And the NRA — which had been enduring a New York state investigation and internal power struggles before the pandemic hit — has laid off more than 60 people.

Some trade groups that haven’t resorted to layoffs are cutting costs elsewhere. In March, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce slashed some outside consultants, including ones assigned to CEO Tom Donohue. The consultants are on hold indefinitely. The leading business lobby also asked staffers to find ways to cut their divisions’ budgets by 20 percent, according to three people familiar with the matter.

It’s a jarring reversal from December, when the Chamber interviewed major New York ad agencies about airing a Super Bowl ad before dropping the idea, according to two people familiar with the matter. During a board meeting in Florida in early March, the Chamber also approved and later handed out several million dollars in bonuses to senior management right as the pandemic was heating up, according to the people. 

A Chamber spokesman said executive compensation is “heavily weighted toward non-guaranteed bonuses, which are paid in March and based on prior year performance.”

“Of course, we have been reviewing and reducing outside expenditures,” the spokesman said in a statement. “As the world’s largest organization representing the interests of businesses, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is marshaling all of its resources to help as many businesses, families and industries as possible endure the financial hardships caused by the pandemic and return to work in a safe and sustainable way.”

Even some trade groups that are doing well are playing it safe.

The National Association of Realtors recast its annual Washington fly-in, which had been scheduled for last week, as a virtual event and drew nearly 30,000 participants — about three times the number who typically show up in person. The event was so successful that the trade group plans to switch to a hybrid in-person and virtual fly-in in the future once restrictions have lifted, said Bob Goldberg, the trade group’s chief executive.

Still, the trade group has frozen hiring and is slowing down renovations of its Washington office to save money.

The uncertainty has led at least one Washington firm, Precision Strategies, to apply for a Paycheck Protection Program loan, according to Tom Reno, its chief operating officer. The firm was started by three alumni of President Barack Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign, including Jen O’Malley Dillon, who’s now Joe Biden’s campaign manager. (O’Malley Dillon no longer works at the firm.)

Another consulting firm, Purple Strategies, is considering applying for one of the loans as well.

“We’re absolutely committed to keeping our employees on payroll and if a PPP loan is what it takes to do that, then we’re absolutely committed to pursuing one,” said Steve McMahon, one of the firm’s co-founders. Purple Strategies recently cut half a dozen positions but also plans to hire several people for Washington-based communications roles, according to someone familiar with the matter.

Neither trade groups nor firms primarily engaged in politics or lobbying are eligible to apply for Paycheck Protection Program loans, though some of them are fighting for the right to do so. The American Association of Political Consultants lost a lawsuit against the Small Business Administration last month alleging the program unfairly discriminated against such consulting firms. The group is appealing.

House Democrats voted last week to change the rules to allow trade groups to apply for the loans after the U.S. Travel Association and others lobbied them to do so. (U.S. Travel has argued the change would allow destination marketing groups — think Visit Idaho or Visit Baltimore — to receive badly needed aid.)

Still, many trade groups insist they don’t plan to apply for the loans even if they’re allowed to do so. It’s “is NOT something we would consider under any circumstances,” American Petroleum Institute spokeswoman Bethany Aronhalt wrote in an email.

Some trade groups are getting by fine so far. The National Association of Chain Drug Stores — which represents CVS, Walgreens and other pharmacies — hasn’t seen its finances deteriorate or laid off anyone, said Steve Anderson, its president and chief executive. 

But he fears for small groups with shallower pockets, including state-level trade groups. “I am greatly concerned about the financial health of trade associations moving forward,” Anderson said.

This blog originally appeared at Politico on May 23, 2020. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Daniel Lippman is a reporter covering the White House and Washington for POLITICO. He was previously a co-author of POLITICO’s Playbook and still writes Playbook’s “Great Weekend Reads” section on Saturdays and Sundays and the “Social Data” section of POLITICO New York Playbook.

About the Author: Theodoric Meyer covers lobbying for POLITICO and writes the POLITICO Influence newsletter. He previously covered the 2016 campaign for POLITICO and worked as a reporting fellow for ProPublica in New York. He was a lead reporter on ProPublica’s “After the Flood” series on the federal government’s troubled flood insurance program, which won the Deadline Club Award for Local Reporting. He’s a graduate of McGill University and Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism.


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Trump expected to broaden foreign worker bans

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The president has already barred many foreign workers during the coronavirus pandemic, but he is facing pressure from conservatives to go further.

President Donald Trump is expected to extend and expand restrictions on foreign workers coming into the United States during the coronavirus pandemic, aiming to appease a frustrated political base as Americans try to return to work.

Immigration hardliners have been lobbying Trump to take the step, which would broaden an April executive order that barred several categories of foreign workers from entering the country for a temporary period. They argue that the directive didn’t go far enough, given the skyrocketing unemployment rate and an election only months away.

But the expected expansion risks angering business leaders who insist foreign workers are still needed, even with so many Americans out of work, to keep vital industries staffed.

To try and balance the two sides, the administration is considering limiting the number of immigrants who come to the United States for cultural exchanges — generally those hired for summer jobs at amusement parks, camps and resorts — as well as students attending U.S. colleges hired for temporary employment, according to four people, including an administration official and Republican Capitol Hill staffer involved with the discussions. It is also looking at cutting visas for skilled workers in specialty occupations and seasonal workers who work in industries that include landscaping, housekeeping and construction industries, they say.

Together, more than a 1 million immigrants annually collectively receive those visas — about 70 percent of all guest workers in the United States, according to the Economic Policy Institute.

Trump is still weighing even broader restrictions, though, that would bar all categories of guest workers except those who work on farms, according to a senior DHS official. But a White House official said all decisions, including immigration, are being viewed through the lens of reopening the country, making it extremely unlikely Trump take such a sweeping step and anger business leaders.

“They’re worrying about the wrong political fallout,” complained Mark Krikorian, who serves as executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies and favors the broadest restrictions.

Trump is expected to sign his second order this week, according to the four people. But they caution that Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, could help lead a push to scale back the directive. It was Kushner who convinced the president in an Oval Office meeting in April to carve out business-friendly exceptions for the hundreds of thousands of temporary workers, according to two people familiar with the meeting. 

Any new order would continue to exempt health care professionals; those entering for law enforcement or national security reasons; Iraqi and Afghan nationals who work for the U.S. government; and members of the U.S. military, the DHS official said.

Trump could accomplish increased restrictions in two ways: by either suspending a visa category or by implementing incentives for companies to hire American workers, including requiring them to pay higher wages to foreign workers and to try to hire Americans first, which is not a factor for all visas.

DHS, which is advocating for the changes, and the Labor Department sent their recommendations to the White House Friday.

Leon Fresco, an immigration attorney who handled immigration issues at the Department of Justice under President Barack Obama, spent Friday wrapping up his guest worker cases in anticipation of the changes next week.

Fresco said suspending the cultural exchange visa known as the J-1 would have more of a political effect than a practical one. The vast majority of J-1 visas are given to those who come to the U.S. for summer employment, which will be significantly reduced because of the coronavirus.

The administration is expected to continue to review the changes regularly, likely every 30 to 60 days, said a Republican Capitol Hill staffer familiar with the discussions. The measures could extend into the fall or even until the labor market has fully recovered or a vaccine is developed.

Stephen Miller, a senior policy adviser who plays an outsized role on immigration policy, told representatives from conservative groups on an April call that Trump’s initial action will lead to more permanent limits because it cuts down on the ability of immigrants to sponsor extended family members, according to a person familiar with the call. But others say Miller and acting deputy DHS secretary Ken Cuccinelli were just trying to reassure those frustrated with Trump’s executive order.

The expected actions make it likely Trump will try to make immigration a focus of his reelection campaign, just like in 2016, when Trump promised to build a wall on the southern border and deport millions of migrants who arrived in the country illegally. In his inaugural address, Trump promised to build with American labor. “We will follow two simple rules: buy American and hire American,” he said.

The White House and DHS did not respond to requests for comment.

In a Fox News radio interview after Trump signed the first order, acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf acknowledged the administration would be targeting temporary workers, including students from China — where the virus originated — studying in the United States. 

“We’re certainly very concerned about the number of visa programs that Chinese students can use to come into the country and study and stay, and eventually work,” Wolf told Brian Kilmeade. “We see some of these programs have been potentially abused in the past.”

The largest share of international students in the U.S. — 34 percent — come from China, according to the Institute of International Education’s annual Open Doors report, a survey the State Department sponsors.

Some higher education institutions are bracing for cuts. Arizona State University’s president sent a letter to 200 CEOs urging them to contact their congressional delegations to support the visas. Two education industry groups developed a new set of talking points around the issue.

The issue has been on Miller’s agenda for years. As a Capitol Hill staffer, he helped draft a bill that targeted the visas for students and cultural exchange workers, which according to the Economic Policy Institute statistics, now equal about 450,000 people, or 27 percent of the total number of guest workers each year.

As the coronavirus outbreak initially spread, the Trump administration quietly continued to allow foreign workers to enter the country, even easing requirements for immigrants to get certain jobs — allowing electronic signatures, waiving the physical inspection of documents and extending deadlines.

Then Trump abruptly tweeted he would stop all immigration into the United States as the unemployment rate soared to nearly 15 percent. But the next day he agreed to scale it back.

Trump signed the order, blocking most people for 60 days from receiving a permanent residency visa, or green card, though he continues to process visas for hundreds of thousands of temporary employees — the largest source of immigration. He also exempted wealthy investors and spouses and minor children of U.S. citizens.

Prior to that move, Trump had already restricted foreign visitors from China, Europe, Canada and Mexico and paused most routine visa processing and refugee cases — which means the actions may not have been necessary. On Sunday, Trump also barred travelers from Brazil.

Conservatives urged Trump to do more. Four senators — Tom Cotton of Arkansas, Ted Cruz of Texas, Charles Grassley of Iowa and Josh Hawley of Missouri — sent a letter to him asking for a pause guest worker visas for 60 days to a year, “or until unemployment has returned to normal levels.” Six House members, including House Freedom Caucus Chairman Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.), followed with their own letter.

Hardline groups lobbied, too. NumbersUSA, which supports immigration restrictions, has been using the hashtag #expandtheban to alert supporters, specifically calling out Wolf, who once lobbied for an association that wanted to keep a visa program for foreign workers.

“With growing unemployment numbers totaling over 30 million, it is unconscionable that the Federal government continues to allow guest workers to flow in, taking jobs that would otherwise go to Americans,” wrote Dan Stein, president of Federation of American Immigration Reform May 4.

Those seeking immigration restrictions say Americans are on their side. Recent polls show a majority support a temporary pause on immigration during coronavirus.

At the same time, the business community, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, have been pushing for temporary slots for immigrants coming to the U.S., saying companies were struggling to fill jobs as unemployment has fallen. 

About 1.6 million jobs were filled by temporary labor migrants in the United States in 2017, accounting for just more than 1 percent of the labor force, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

While there is no cap for the total number of temporary workers, there are annual limits on several individual visa categories. 

This blog originally appeared at Politico on May 25, 2020. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Anita Kumar serves as White House correspondent and associate editor, covering President Donald Trump and helping organize and guide coverage for POLITICO’s White House team.


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Why Rebuilding America’s Manufacturing Muscle Is Essential

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As Goodyear began phasing out a tire plant in Alabama and shifting operations to a cheaper facility in Mexico a few years ago, Jeremy Hughes worried about the loss of his livelihood and the impact on his hometown.

Hughes also worried about the future of America. Sooner or later, he realized, the decline of U.S. manufacturing would put the entire nation at risk.

With the COVID-19 pandemic, that day has come.

Failed U.S. trade policies incentivized corporations to offshore family-sustaining manufacturing jobs, like the one Hughes lost, and left America dangerously dependent on other countries for consumer goods, industrial products and even the medical supplies critically needed to fight COVID-19.

America imports much of the personal protective equipment (PPE), including masksgowns and gloves, used by health care workers.

When the pandemic struck, America lacked the production capacity to meet the surging demand for PPE. It couldn’t import sufficient quantities from China, a major global supplier, either.

The loss of Goodyear jobs in Gadsden, Alabama, and China’s control of PPE supplies are two symptoms of America’s other pandemic—manufacturing decay.

Right now, the U.S.—once the world’s most powerful manufacturer—cannot produce on its own soil the items it most needs.

It has no vision for the future of manufacturing, no plan for leveraging the nation’s industrial capacity in emergencies.

If America fails to rebuild its manufacturing base, it will be just as vulnerable in the next crisis, whether that is a disease, war or natural disaster.

“We have to start buying American-made products. I can’t stress that enough,” said Hughes, the treasurer of United Steelworkers (USW) Local 12L. “The union has been preaching this for years.”

For decades, the USW and other labor unions warned that America’s economy and security depended on a strong manufacturing sector.

In the early 1990s, unions vehemently opposed the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), arguing that greedy corporations would relocate U.S. manufacturing operations to Mexico so they could exploit cheap labor, the lack of worker protections and lax environmental regulation.

That’s exactly what happened. NAFTA cost the U.S. 1 million jobs.

And it left America a frail version of its once-mighty self.

Manufacturers of carsheavy equipment partstextiles, clothing, rubber products, furniturevalvesbearingsbrake calipers and appliances, among many other items, moved operations from the U.S. to Mexico under NAFTA.

But America still needs all of those items, just as it does PPE for health care workers. It needs refrigerators for food safety; tires, like the ones Hughes made at Goodyear, to keep cars and pickups on the road; oil pumps to keep heavy equipment operating; and valves and bearings to ensure all kinds of machines, including military equipment, remain in working condition.

If America cannot make these products, it must buy them from other countries. That kind of feeble dependence threatens the nation’s safety and security.

And it isn’t just the cars, tires and refrigerators themselves. America needs everything that goes into producing them—the factories, equipment and skilled workers, all of which can be pressed into service during a national emergency.

Manufacturing capacity is raw strength. It made America a superpower. But American policymakers let U.S. manufacturing muscle turn to flab.

As if that weren’t bad enough, they also allowed China and other countries to dump unfairly traded steelpaperglasstires and other goods into U.S. markets, undercutting the dwindling number of manufacturers that remained here.

China subsidizes its manufacturers with cash, materials and land, then lets them flood global markets. This cheating killed U.S. companies and cost 3.7 million American jobs over the past two decades.

Today, China monopolizes the production and distribution of many consumer products, like toys and electronics, as well as supplies of ventilators, PPE, medicines and other critical items. Last year, the U.S. ran an Advanced Technology Products trade deficit with China of more than $100 billion.

Decades of industrial decline left America unprepared for the pandemic. COVID-19 simply caught America flat-footed.

“We don’t have stockpiles of protective equipment,” observed Valery Robinson, president of USW Local 7600, which represents nurses, phlebotomists and other workers at Kaiser Permanente facilities in California.

In the mad scramble to conserve supplies, she said, the health system shut down nonessential facilities. Workers offered to find and bring in their own PPE.

The nation not only lacked the capacity to manufacture these essential items, but U.S. leaders had no clear strategy for marshaling scarce resources, ramping up production and putting industry on a war footing.

Unions demanded that the Trump administration invoke the Defense Production Act, a 1950s law that enables the federal government to direct American factories to produce goods essential to the nation’s security.

Trump dithered. So manufacturers, many of them relying on the dedication and skills of USW members, began making masks, hand sanitizer and other products on their own.

That’s a starting point for rebuilding America’s manufacturing strength.

But ad hoc efforts to battle the pandemic must evolve into a comprehensive strategy for bringing back an essential economic sector.

That means including “Buy American” provisions in government contracts that incentivize corporations to make products here instead of chasing the cheap deal overseas.

It means investing in domestic manufacturing opportunities. The government took a step in the right direction on May 19 by awarding a $354 million contract to a Virginia drugmaker for production of generic medicines and pharmaceutical ingredients now made in China, India and other foreign countries.

To ensure the lessons of the pandemic remain at the forefront of the nation’s consciousness, Congress must establish a domestic manufacturing commission to plan, oversee and report on production growth.

Never again can America flounder in a crisis or ask front-line workers to battle a pandemic without basic supplies.

It might cost a little more to make that equipment domestically.

“But at the end of the day,” Robinson said, “it’s right here.”

This article was produced by the Independent Media Institute. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Tom Conway is the international president of the United Steelworkers Union (USW).


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