Minimum Wage Debate Intensifies As Election Nears, Ferguson Shooting Appears Black and White and Ku Klux Klan Finds a New Way to Recruit

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With re-elections and elections on the minds of many political hopefuls and political veterans, the minimum wage debate continues to heat up among incumbents and their would be opponents. As Jim Kuhnhenn reports, Obama: ‘Revving’ up economy calls for higher wages, President Obama on Monday renewed his push for a minimum wage increase from Congress delivering the speech on behalf of Democrats opening their fall campaigns for midterm congressional elections. He told a union crowd in Milwaukee: “America deserves a raise. By almost every measure the American economy and American workers are better off than when I took office. The engines are revving a little louder.” The purpose of his pep talk was to help Democrats facing tough races and draw campaign contrasts with Republicans who maintain an increase would hurt small business and slow hiring. Despite no federal increase, 13 states raised their minimum wages at the beginning of this year and adding jobs faster than those that did not. Obama gave his Labor Day speech in Wisconsin where the fight over collective bargaining rights of public employees has taken center stage. The Republican Governor, Scott Walker, recently stripped most public sector union members of their ability to collectively bargain and faces a tight re-election campaign with Democrat Mary Burke with election over two months away. The White House is encouraging Democrats to talk about the recovery as they head into November mid-term elections. The numbers for August included more than 200,000 jobs created per month for six consecutive months, a six-year high in auto sales, second-quarter economic growth that exceeded expectations and an expanding manufacturing sector, unemployment rate stands at 6.2 percent, dropping 1.1 points over the past year, and the stock market has nearly tripled in five years. According to the liberal Economic Policy Institute, there are significant weakness in the labor market including the long term unemployed, lower labor participation and real hourly wages fell from the first half of 2013 to the first half of 2014 for all income groups, except for a 2-cent increase for the lowest income level. A new survey by Rutgers University found that Americans are more anxious about the economy now than right after the recession ended. Meanwhile, Biden, speaking at the annual Labor Day parade in Detroit, said: “A job’s about a lot more than a paycheck. It’s about your dignity, it’s about your place in the community, it’s about who you are. It’s about being able to look your kid in the eye and say, ‘Honey, it’s going to be OK.’ That’s what a job is about. You can’t do that unless you get a fair wage. If the middle class is doing fine, everybody does fine,” he said. “The wealthy get very wealthy, and the poor have a way up. Middle class … means you get to own your home. It means you get to send your kid to a decent school, that if they do well and they want to go to college, you can afford to send them to college. It means being able to take care of your parents if they get sick. it means maybe being able to save enough so you hope your kids never have to take care of you. The American people have not stopped dreaming. The American people have not walked away from what they believe they are entitled to. Just give them a chance — no handout, just give them a chance,” Biden said. “Once you give Americans a chance, they have never, never, never, never ever let their country down.” While the president and vice president talk about the minimum wage issue to people who deal with it everyday, Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn has decided two months ahead of the midterm elections to live on Illinois’ minimum wage which is $8.25 an hour, according to AOL, Why Is Gov. Pat Quinn Living Off Minimum Wage For A Week? In addition, he said $79 is what someone living on minimum wage has left over after expenses such as taxes and housing. This is ahead of a November referendum to increase the state’s minimum wage to $10 per hour. ​The governor, who WFLD reports made $177,000 last year, has been supporting an increase in the minimum wage. Other Democrats who also support this cause include Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Vice President Joe Biden and President Obama. Many believe this is election motivated, according to the Chicago Sun Times, a recent poll found 38 percent of voters in Illinois support Quinn for re-election while nearly 51 percent of voters say they support his Republican challenger. Eleven percent of voters remain undecided. Gallup’s poll last year found 76 would vote for a hike. His Republican opponent, Bruce Rauner is also in favor of an increase with “pro-business reforms” that the Chicago Tribune reports would include tort reform, worker’s compensation reform and a cut in taxes for businesses.

While candidates worry about re-election, McDonald’s. Wendy’s and other fast food restaurants are expected to be targeted with acts of civil disobedience on Thursday as labor organizers escalate their campaign to unionize the industry’s workers, Candice Choi reports, Civil disobedience expected in fast-food pay fight. Kendall Fells, an organizing director for Fast Food Forward, said workers in a couple of dozen cities were trained to peacefully engage in civil disobedience ahead of this week’s planned protests. A spokesman for the Service Employees International Union, which has been spearheading the protests, said home health care aides will join the actions in some locations. The “Fight for $15” campaign has gained national attention at a time when growing income disparities have become a hot political issue with many workers only making $7.25 per hour equating to $15,000 a year for 40 hours a week. Catherine Fisk, a professor of labor law at the University of California in Irvine, said, “The goal is to persuade workers that it doesn’t have to be this way. The goal is to persuade consumers that it doesn’t have to be this way. This is about getting attention to the issue.” The National Restaurant Association, in a statement, said that the fast food protests are attempts by unions “to boost their dwindling membership.” The industry lobbying group said it hopes organizers will be respectful to customers and workers during the protests this week. Several lawsuits claiming wage theft by McDonald’s and its franchises have been filed in three states on behalf of workers. McDonald’s Corp. has said it would investigate the claims.

As the fight for fair wages continues, another fight for racial equality continues in the suburb of Ferguson as many do not see a gray area in the shooting of Michael Brown. Jesse Washington reports, No gray area: Beliefs shape view of Brown killing, many Americans see the Michael Brown killing in Ferguson as black and white with no gray area with many convinced there was no justification for Wilson to kill Brown because he was unarmed and others see it as justified because Brown threatened Wilson. In a CBS News and New York Times poll, 64 percent said they didn’t know enough to say if the shooting was justified and only half said they paid attention to the case. About 100 Wilson backers nearly all white gathered outside Barney’s Sports Pub in St. Louis late last month carrying signs like “Heroes Have A Right To Protect Themselves,” while a multiracial group of about a dozen Brown supporters stood across the street. Passing drivers honked in support of one side or the other, screamed obscenities, or raised middle fingers out of windows, Washington reports. Lou Manza, chair of the psychology department at Lebanon Valley College in Pennsylvania, said in an email: “If one were to view a police officer pointing a gun at someone, and they also view police negatively, they may very well ignore whatever events precipitated the officer drawing his/her weapon, even though that action may have been entirely justifiable. On the other side, if one has a favorable view of police, they’re going to ignore the alleged assailant’s behavior, and simply assume that the police officer is correct, despite the fact that the officer may very well be wrong and unjustified in their actions. Confirmation bias is a subtle but strong effect and once a belief is established, it can be VERY difficult to change it.” The same can be said for others cases filled with racial controversy such as O.J. Simpson, Rodney King and Trayvon Martin where people loked at the same information and came to different conclusions.

Meanwhile, one of the most infamous and oldest hate groups in the country, the Ku Klux Klan, appears to have stepped up its recruitment using the hot top of immigration as its platform, according to an AOL report, Ku Klux Klan steps up recruitment, focuses on immigration. Multiple CNN affiliated report the Ku Klux Klan spreads its new message using flyers and candy stuff ziploc bags to attract recruits in the past couple of month around the U.S. including the Hamptons in New York and neighborhoods in South Carolina, Texas and Orange County, California. According to KTLA, the flyers include “SAVE OUR LAND. JOIN THE KLAN.” According to WHNS, the KKK hotline recording say, “Be a man, join the Klan. Illegal immigration is the story of America. Always remember: if it ain’t white, it ain’t right. White power.” Robert Jones, head of one of New York’s KKK chapters told the New York Times: “A lot of Americans are fed up with immigration right now. … This immigration problem… is destroying this place. I have never seen the Klan expanding the way it is now.” Despite those claims, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) says since the 1970s, the historically violent group has been “weakened” due to internal problems, court cases and from the government stepping in.

The Immigration Issue, Americans Drowning in Debt and the McDonald’s Ruling

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While the immigration battle rages on between Congress and the White House, most Americans believe the wave of children crossing the border into the United States from Central America are refugees escaping the dangers at home and the United States should support those children while reviewing their cases and not deport them immediate, according to Cathy Lynn Grossmann, Most Americans Think U.S. Should Shelter Child Migrants Not Deport Them, Survey Says. A new survey released on Tuesday by the Public Religion Research Institute surveyed people from all points of view along the political and religious spectrum. The survey found that Democrats (80 percent), Independents (69 percent) and Republicans (57 percent) favor offering support to unaccompanied children while a process to review their cases gets underway, while most major religious groups say the same, including white evangelical Protestants (56 percent), white mainline Protestants (67 percent), minority Protestants (74 percent), Catholics (75 percent) and the religiously unaffiliated (75 percent). The survey sample, according to Grossmann, of 1,026 adults was not large enough to capture the views of smaller groups such as Jews, Muslims or Mormons. Robert P. Jones, CEO of PRRI, said: “It makes a difference that we are talking about children facing violence and harm. The value of keeping families together cuts across all party lines.” As a result, most Americans can make a “pretty clear distinction between the problem of the children arriving from Central America and the problem of illegal immigration in general.” While one in four Americans (27 percent) want the children to be deports due to illegal immigrant status, 69 percent feel they should be treated as refugees and along to remain in the United Stats if authorities determine it is not safe to return them to their homes. In addition, Grossmann reports, in the survey “the children are seen as fleeing violence and serious threats to their safety at home (45 percent), seeking better education and economic opportunities (34 percent) or both (14 percent).” Seven in 10 Americans (70 percent) believe the children should be given shelter and support while there’s “a process to determine whether they should be deported or allowed to stay.” Again while most (56 percent) say the families are “doing what they can to keep their children safe in very difficult circumstances,” 38 percent say those families are “taking advantage of American good will and are really seeking a back door to immigrate to our country” and 26 percent or one in four want the children to be deported now. The situation in general is viewed as a crisis by 36 percent and 43 percent call it “a serious problem but not a crisis.”

Grossmann reports that the PRRI, in addition, asked what should be done about the situation, the breakdown is as follows:
* Most surveyed (71 percent) said the U.S. should offer “refuge and protection” for those who come to the U.S. “when they are facing serious danger in their home country.”
* 71 percent also mostly agree that these Central American children waiting for their cases to be heard “should be released to the care of relatives, host families or churches rather than be detained by immigration authorities.” (Twenty-eight percent disagree.)
* However, only 39 percent would allow these children to stay for good while 59 percent don’t want them here long-term because it “will encourage others to ignore our laws and increase illegal immigration.”
In short, according to Grossmann, attitudes are becoming more polarized between those who see immigrants as an asset and those who see them as a burden. However, views on citizenship or permanent legal residency stay pretty much the same with 58 percent saying they would allow a path to citizenship, 17 percent would allow residency and 22 percent say “identify and deport them.” The overall survey happened via phone interviews with 1,026 adults, conducted in English and Spanish between July 23 and July 27. The margin of error is plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.

Another study release on Tuesday by the Urban Institute found that more than 35 percent of Americans have debts and unpaid bills that have been reports to collection agencies, Josh Boak reports Study: 35 percent in US facing debt collectors. Senior fellow at the Washington think tank, Caroline Ratcliffe said that consumers to fall behind on credit cards, hospital bills, mortgages, auto loans, student debt, past-due gym membership fees or cellphone contracts can end up with a collection agency and potentially hurt credit scores and job prospects. Laying it all out, Ratcliffe explains: “Roughly, every third person you pass on the street is going to have debt in collections. It can tip employers’ hiring decisions, or whether or not you get that apartment.” The study found 35.1 percent of people with credit records have been reported to collections for an average debt of $5,178 based on September 2013 records. Boak comments that even while the country has reduced the size of its credit card debt, the share of Americans in collections has remained constant since the official end of the Great Recession in mid-2009. According to the American Bankers Association, credit card debt is at its lowest level in more than a decade as people increasingly pay off balances each month, while 2.44 percent of accounts are overdue 30 days or more versus the 15 year average of 3.82 percent. However the same percentage is still being reported for unpaid bills as reported by the Urban Institute study performed in conjunction with researchers from the Consumer Credit Research Institute. In all, this has reshaped the economy as the collections industry employs 140,000 workers who recover $50 billion each year as reported in a study published this year by the Federal Reserve’s Philadelphia bank branch. Boak notes the delinquent debt seems to be concentrated in Southern and Western states with Texas cities having a large share of their populations being reported to collections agencies: Dallas (44.3 percent); El Paso (44.4 percent), Houston (43.7 percent), McAllen (51.7 percent) and San Antonio (44.5 percent). In addition, the study says, “Almost half of Las Vegas residents- many of whom bore the brunt of the housing bust that sparked the recession- have debt in collections. Other Southern cities have a disproportionate number of their people facing debt collectors, including Orlando and Jacksonville, Florida; Memphis, Tennessee; Columbia, South Carolina; and Jackson, Mississippi.” Only about 20 percent of Americans with credit records have debt at all, but high debt levels aren’t always delinquent with the large portion of the debt coming from mortgages. Unfortunately, stagnate incomes has led to why some parts of the country struggle with repaying debt, according to the Urban Institute’s Ratcliffe. Labor Department figures show that wages have barely kept up with inflation during the five year recovery and Wells Fargo figures show that after tax income fell for the bottom 20 percent of earners during the same period.

While the American continue to struggle to make ends meet, Carol Kopp reports, McDonald’s In The Frying Pan, the ruling by the New York regional office of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) could change the lives of million of low wage Americans and open the way for complaints blaming McDonald’s for low pay and poor working conditions in its restaurants. The ruling says the McDonald’s hamburger chain shares responsibility for workers’ wages and working conditions with the operators of its franchise restaurants allowing for 113 unfair labor practices complaints filed by franchise workers across the nation to include the chain, according to Micah Wissinger, an attorney for Levy Ratner which is the law firm representing New York City fast food workers. The “joint employer” designation could give future legal actions taken by workers more clout when seeking higher wages, better working conditions or protesting firing decisions. Mark Barenberg, a law professor at Columbia Law School says, “The determination from the NLRB’s General Counsel has the potential to upend the fast-food industry’s decades-long strategy of ‘out-sourcing’ legal responsibility to franchisees when it comes to securing workers’ rights. Companies like McDonald’s insert an intermediary between themselves and workers, even though they’re manifestly in control of the franchisees’ employment decisions.” In addition, other hamburger chains like Burger King and other fast food brands like KFC, Taco Bell and Pizza Hut can also be affected by this decision since all of these chains are owned by Yum! brand but operated by franchises. Richard Eiker has worked for McDonald’s in Kansas City for 30 years and says the company constantly monitors its franchises by tracking software, on-site inspections and visits from secret shoppers to monitor the operations. A spokeswoman for McDonald’s USA told the Associated Press the company will appeal the decision. David French, senior vice president with the National Retail Federation, told the New York Times the decision is “outrageous” saying, “It is just further evidence that the N.L.R.B. has lost all credibility as a government agency established to protect workers and is now just a government agency that serves as an adjunct for organized labor, which has fought for this decision for a number of years as a means to more easily unionize entire companies and industries.” The issue came to the forefront by labor organizers backed by the United Service Employees International Union, which has staged nationwide protests in favor of higher wages and more stable work hours for fast-food employees, Kopp explains.

Relief for the VA, Paul Ryan Rants, Saving Chicago, DC Gun Laws and Fast Food Worker’s Rights

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After six weeks of negotiations, House and Senate negotiators have agreed to a compromise to fix a veterans health program scandalized by long patient wait times and falsified records covering up delays and deaths. Matthew Daly reports, After 6 weeks, finally a deal on VA health care, the chairman of the House and Senate Veterans Affairs committees will hold a news conference on Monday afternoon to unveil a plan to authorize billions in emergency spending to lease 27 new clinics, hire more doctors and nurses and make it easier for veterans who can’t get prompt appointments with VA doctors to get outside care. An agreement Sunday by Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Fla.), chairman of the House panel, and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), the Senate veterans panel chair, was reached after many private meetings, no shows and public spats with only days left until Congress goes on a five week recess. A partisan impasse loomed which both sides hoped to avoid what Miller called the “sort of bickering and name-calling for which Washington has become infamous.” Three days later, via telephone from Florida and Vermont, Miller and Sanders were on the same page. The tentative deal requires a vote by a conference committee of House and Senate negotiators and a full vote in the House and Senate. The plan announced Monday, according to Miller and Sanders, is intended to “make VA more accountable and to help the department recruit more doctors, nurses and other health care professionals.” Luis Celli, legislative director for the American Legion, the nation’s largest veterans group, said on Sunday: “There is an emergency need to get veterans off the waiting lists. That’s what this is all about.” Tom Tarantino, chief policy officer of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, said: “It’s about time they’re doing their jobs. You don’t get a medal for doing your job.” An updated audit by the VA this month shows 10 percent of veterans seeking medical care at VA hospitals and clinics still wait 30 days for an appointment with 46,000 veterans waiting at least three months for an initial appointment and an additional 7,00 veterans who asked for appointments over the past decade that never got them. The Senate and House are set to adjourn at the end of the week until September and lawmakers from both parties see the VA bill as a top priority. Meanwhile, the Senate is also expected to vote this week to confirm former Procter Gamble CEO Robert McDonald as the new VA secretary, replacing Gibson.

While one problem may potentially be resolved this week, on Sunday, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) condemned the federal government’s approach to poverty reduction claiming the Obama administration is responsible for the system that “perpetuates poverty” in America, according to Ashley Alman’s article Paul Ryan Accuses Obama Administration Of System That ‘Perpetuates Poverty.’ On NBC’s “Meet the Press” Ryan came to discuss his new poverty proposal involving consolidating 11 federal anti-poverty programs including food stamps and housing vouchers into one program coordinated by each state. Host David Gregory commented that Ryan sounded like he had little “sympathy” for impoverished Americans. Ryan responded by saying: “We don’t want to have a poverty management system that simply perpetuates poverty. The federal government’s approach has ended up maintaining poverty, managing poverty, in many ways it has disincentivized people from going to work. Able-bodied people should go to work, and we should have a system that helps them do that so that they can realize their potential.” Ryan announced his poverty proposal Thursday saying it is an opportunity for reform that would be “budget neutral.” However, Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) disagrees: “The core idea of the Ryan proposal is not a new idea at all: it’s nothing more than a block grant gussied up with some bells and whistles. If you look at the block grant proposal in the context of the Ryan-Republican budget, it would dramatically slash the resources available to help struggling families.”

As families to continue to struggle to keep their heads above water, cities are not only struggling to keep people working, but keep gun violence to a minimum. Glenn Minnis reports, Can Noah’s Arc save streets of Chicago?, Joakim Noah, an NBA All Star Center, on Friday spoke to a room full of teens and adolescents at a Major Adams Community Center room about gun and gang violence culture so out of control it has brought his hometown of Chicago to its knees. Noah spoke of his motivation to start his “Stand up Chicago” campaign: “It’s very important that we understand that this is not just a problem that’s going on on the South Side, the violence is not a problem that’s going on on the West Side. This is a Chicago problem.” Noah also enlisted the help of teammate and Chi-town native Derrick Rose who appeared on a 60 second PSA for his initiative. Join by rapper and Chicago native Common, he states in the PSA: “I stand for my city.” In a statement on his Noah’s Arc Foundation site, Noah and his mom, Cecilia Rodhe, called on all Chicagoans to “take a stand against violence and become ambassadors for peace and positivity.” Over the first seven months of the year, 207 homicides have taken place in Chicago with the most recent incident on July 4 weekend where the L.A. Times reported at least 16 people killed and 82 injured over three and half days. In response, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms has added seven more ATF agents to its former roster of 45 in hopes of somehow of corralling all the madness, according to Minnis. Noah summed up the goal of his organization by saying: “As somebody who plays for the Bulls, I feel like I’m somebody who represents the city, and I think that helping our youth is important. The summer months bring a lot of violence, and we felt it was urgent to get a public service announcement out now in order to bring some hope, change and support to the community. We have to find a way together, whether you’re rich, poor, black, white, whatever you are, to come together and solve this together. To me personally, this is just as important as winning a championship.”

Meanwhile, gun advocates in Washington, D.C. this weekend celebrate following a federal judge ruling that struck down the city’s ban on handguns in public, the AOL article, D.C.’s gun laws take another hit in handgun carry ruling, explains. District Judge Frederick Scullin reached the conclusion many other district courts reached in similar cases: “The Second Amendment secures an individual right … to carry a common weapon outside the home for self-defense.” The ruling prevents D.C. officials from enforcing public gun bans until licensing regulations are put in place. In 2008 a Supreme Court decision, District of Columbia v. Heller, overturned the city’s total ban on handguns ruling the Second Amendment guarantees the right to own weapons for self-defense, AOL reports. The latest decision comes from an Aug. 2009 lawsuit that, according to SCOTUSblog notes, got tangled up in the D.C. district’s legal red tape for five years frustrating the plaintiffs. “The challengers to the D.C. law tried repeatedly to get a ruling, even asking a federal appeals court to step in to command that the case be decided.” In addition, Congress is challenging gun control in D.C. House Republicans approved an amendment to the district’s funding bill that would prevent D.C. from enforcing their gun laws. However, it will still be illegal to bring to a gun into a federal building. D.C. officials have yet to announce plans to appeal the ruling, but a spokesman told reporters the city is looking into options.

As the gun fight rages on, on Saturday, fast food workers across the nation voted to escalate efforts for $15 an hour pay and union membership using nonviolent civil disobedience. More than 1,300 workers came together at a convention center in Chicago to discuss the future of a campaign to spread to dozens of cities in less than two years, Tammy Webber reports, Fast Food Workers Vow Civil Disobedience. The Service Employee International Union provides financial and organizational support to fast food protests. They began in 2012 in New York City including daylong strikes and peaceful demonstrations outside this year’s McDonald’s Corp. shareholder meeting where 130 protestors were arrested for stepping onto company property. Saturday’s convention in Villa Park, Illinois, included session on civil disobedience and leadership training. Rev.William Barber II, head of the North Carolina NAACP, said: “People should not work and be willing to work and then be denied living wages and be denied health care because of greed. This movement is saying that America is less than she promises to be, morally and constitutionally, by denying living wages. If you raise wages for workers, you buoy the whole economy.” The movement comes as President Barack Obama and many other Democrats try to make a campaign issue out of their call to increase the federal and state minimum wage which stands at $7.25 an hour for federal wages or about $15,000 per year for40 hours a week. Obama and others want to increase it to $10.10. The restaurant industry argues that a $15 hourly wage would lead to business closing and job cuts. According to Webber: “The National Restaurant Association said last week that increasing wages to $15 will not solve income inequality and that the campaign was an attempt by unions to boost dwindling membership.” Scott DeFife, the association;s executive vice president of policy and government affairs, said protesters are “demonizing” an industry that employs all ages, backgrounds and skill levels instead of focusing on policies to increase education and job training. Unfortunately, many workers say that people stay in these jobs for years because they are the only ones available. Barber believes that “this movement is intensifying and it is going to shake the moral consciousness of this country.”