Winter 2015

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58 CINEMONTAGE / WINTER 2015 WORKING POOR FACE 'PERVASIVE' WAGE THEFT Between 3.5 percent and 6.5 percent of workers in California and New York — and between 11 percent and 12 percent of low-wage workers — are victims of wage theft when employers violate minimum wage laws, a new report from the Department of Labor says, writes Martha White for NBC News. Service industry workers fare the worst, and the report calls the problem "pervasive." The report estimates that violations cost workers in these two states between $20 million and $29 million in lost weekly pay. This missing money is a significant hit to the finances of these workers, pushing 15,000 families below the poverty line. These findings come on the heels of a study conducted by the left- leaning Economic Policy Institute, which found that lawyers and regulators recovered nearly $1 billion that workers never received because of wage and hour violations in 2012. American taxpayers also pay the price, since unpaid wages don't contribute to tax revenues, and cheated workers rely more heavily on public assistance like food stamps. The report comes as union-backed protesters staged strikes and rallies in 190 cities to advocate for a $15 hourly wage for fast food workers. LABOR REPORTER LEAVES NEW YORK TIMES The New York Times' labor reporter Steven Greenhouse announced in early December that he has accepted a voluntary buyout from the newspaper, after covering labor for 19 years. His move sparked a new wave of anxiety about the future of labor reporting, writes Greenhouse himself in The Atlantic. Fortunately, reports Greenhouse, there's a lot more labor coverage now than just a few years ago. For a while, The Washington Post had no labor reporter, but now "Lydia DePillis is doing an impressive job covering labor over there." The Wall Street Journal, The Chicago Tribune and The Boston Globe have increased their coverage. The New York Times has Rachel Swarns and Tom Edsall writing regular columns about workers, while Harold Meyerson (The Washington Post), Juan Gonzalez (New York Daily News) and Michael Hiltzik (The Los Angeles Times) aptly cover labor matters. Politico, Bloomberg and The Huffington Post too have increased their coverage, and BuzzFeed is adding a labor reporter. BLANKENSHIP INDICTED IN COAL MINE DISASTER The former chief executive of a company involved in the nation's worst coal mine disaster in 40 years, in which 29 men died in 2010, was charged in mid-November with violations of safety rules and deceiving federal inspectors, writes Trip Dariel in The New York Times. Donald Blankenship, who ran Massey Energy, was indicted on four criminal counts by a federal grand jury in the Upper Big Branch disaster near Montcoal, West Virginia. Blankenship was accused of ignoring hundreds of safety violations "in order to produce more coal, avoid the costs of following safety laws, and make more money." The 43-page indictment read in Charleston, West Virginia, details how laws about ventilating coal dust and methane gas at the mine were ignored, staffing and tasks needed to improve safety were slashed, and officials responded to surprise visits by safety inspectors by tipping off miners underground using code words. Blankenship faces two counts of conspiracy based on his role in a pattern of widespread mine safety and health violations, and two counts of securities fraud based on public statements by the company following the explosion, writes Eric Fink in In These Times. If convicted, Blankenship could face up to 31 years in prison: six years for worker deaths, and up to 25 for deceiving investors. MINES KEEP OPERATING DESPITE MILLIONS IN FINES A joint investigation by National Public Radio and Mine Safety and Health News found that thousands of mine operators fail to pay safety penalties, even as they continue to manage dangerous — and in some cases deadly — mining operations, write Howard Berkes, Anna Boiko- Weyrauch and Robert Benincasa for NPR in mid-November. Most unpaid penalties are between two and 10 LABOR MAT TERS Former New York Times labor reporter Steven Greenhouse. Photo by Michael Lisi. Courtesy of United University Professions

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