State labor authorities levied nearly $10 million in fines Wednesday for wage violations at an Iowa meatpacking plant where nearly 400 illegal immigrant workers were arrested in a raid in May.
The fines against Agriprocessors Inc.,
one of the country’s largest kosher meatpackers, were the largest wage
violations penalties ever levied in Iowa, state officials said.
About $9.6 million of the fines were for illegal paycheck deductions
the company made for protective jackets and other uniforms that
packinghouse workers were required to wear. Iowa inspectors found
96,436 deductions for uniforms from the paychecks of 2,001 workers, and
brought fines of $100 per incident.
The workers’ wages had been reduced by $192,597, Iowa officials said.
“You cannot legally deduct for clothing required by the company,”
said Kerry Koonce, a spokeswoman for Iowa Workforce Development, the
state’s labor department.
We urge Iowa and other states to sign onto the plan so that by the next
presidential election, every vote will be counted, and every state will
matter in what we hope will be a truly nationwide campaign.
The federal government is fixated on raiding workplaces in search of
immigrant workers, but they have practically abandoned punishing
irresponsible employers violating wage, workplace safety and child
labor laws. Demonstrating a remarkable commitment to punishing the
victims, they've left it up to states to take action against the more
pervasive problem of sweatshop labor conditions.
Instead of allowing the right-wing to scapegoat undocumented immigrant
workers, Progressive States Network will be working with progressive
leaders across the country to introduce wage enforcement laws that
emphasize that native and immigrant workers both suffer under illegal
working conditions. See State Immigration Project: Policy Options for 2009 for the full range of immigration policies Progressive States Network is supporting in upcoming legislative sessions.
In a solid session of achievement, the Iowa legislature made
significant progress on expanding health care coverage, expanding
public school and pre-K funding, advancing clean energy proposals,
protecting veterans and students, taking on foreclosure abuses,
expanding workers' rights, and improving the integrity of state
ballots. However, the session was marked by a few significant
setbacks, including the governor's veto of a major labor rights bill.
Absent a national health care
policy, states have found ways to expand the reach of Medicaid by
covering more low-income, senior and disabled people and expanding the
list of covered services. Because of state action, 58 million
Americans now have health coverage they would not otherwise possess.
To push back on the states, the Bush Administration put forward several new Medicaid regulations
last year that, if implemented, will shift the burden and costs to
states. This will result in reduced benefits for millions of Americans
unless already cash-strapped states find some way to pick up the slack
- to the tune of $50 billion over five years.
Maintaining accurate voter rolls and ensuring that all eligible voters who register to vote actually make it onto voting rolls are two of the most important functions of election administration.If an eligible voter cannot vote because his name doesn't appear on the voter roll used in an election, the problem will not be addressed by the federal guarantee of a provisional ballot. Such a ballot cannot register a person to vote, it can only preserve a ballot in the case the voter rolls at the precinct are mistaken or the
As families in Iowa struggle to make ends meet, they are justified in feeling threatened when they see what were once good jobs turned into low-wage, sweatshop labor.
In industries across the country, workers are not receiving the wages owed them under minimum-wage and overtime laws. Earlier this decade, a U.S. Department of Labor report found that 60 percent of U.S. nursing homes routinely violated overtime, minimum-wage or child-labor laws. Other studies have found similar levels of violations in the garment and restaurant industries.
In Iowa, the minimum-wage and overtime laws have some of the weakest enforcement provisions of any state in the country. Penalties usually amount to no more than telling employers to pay what they originally owed their workers. Because legal action is so expensive and so likely to produce meager returns, few employees can afford to pursue claims. Because civil fines are so low, the state doesn't collect enough for strong, ongoing enforcement.
$287 billion -- that is how much the U.S. spent
on pharmaceuticals in 2007, representing a significant driver of health
care costs. While spending on hospital and physician care surpass
spending on prescriptions, drugs still account for 14% of all health care expenditures. Combine this with polls that show 70% of Americans believe the drug industry puts profits ahead of people, and it's no wonder that in 2008, at least 540 bills
and resolutions are being considered by states across the country to
reduce prescription drug prices, ensure the quality of medications
covered by public and private health plans, and reduce the undue
influence of pharmaceutical industry marketing - which itself tops out
at $30 billion each year.