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Mon, 31 Mar 1997 03:47:07 GMT


**The corporate hidden agenda behind workfare** [This couldn't be to strip worker-rights , could it?] ================ (Reprinted from the March 22, 1997 issue of the People's Weekly World. May be reprinted or reposted with PWW credit. For subscription information see below) Sender: a-infos-request@tao.ca Precedence: list Reply-To: a-infos-d@tao.ca

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By Tim Wheeler

WASHINGTON - Soon after President Clinton unveiled the plan to grant employers a $5,000 tax credit for each welfare recipient they hire, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce released a statement headlined "Legal Disincentives to Hiring Welfare Recipients." It listed virtually every federal statute that protects workers' rights.

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) has been circulating the statement with a warning that it reveals a hidden agenda: to use the new workfare law as the opening wedge in stripping workers of all federal protections.

"Because almost every applicant and employee can select from a long list of possible reasons to sue an employer, American businesses face huge disincentives to hiring even well-qualified welfare recipients," the Chamber of Commerce statement says. "With good reason, employers are unwilling to hire individuals who have been receiving something for nothing when they can continue that lifestyle merely by filing an all-expenses-paid lawsuit through which they can obtain a fortune."

Among the "legal disincentives" listed for elimination in the Chamber statement are the following:

* Fair Labor Standards Act: Requires payment of minimum wages and establishes a statutory 40-hour workweek, overtime pay and a ban on child labor.

* Davis-Bacon Act: Requires payment of prevailing union wages and benefits to all workers on federally funded construction projects.

* Family and Medical Leave Act: Entitles employees to take up to 12 weeks partially-paid leave for family or personal medical reasons.

* Civil Rights Acts of 1964 and 1991 (Title VII): Prohibits employment discrimination against employees on the basis of race, color, religion, gender or national origin.

Other "disincentives" listed are the Civil Rights Act of 1866 barring race discrimination in making contracts, Executive Order 11246 which requires affirmative action programs for corporations under federal contract, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, Americans With Disabilities Act, and the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970.

Significantly, the Chamber of Commerce statement does not mention simple federal enforcement of these statutes. It mentions only lawsuits by aggrieved workers against their employers who flout these laws.

The AFL-CIO approved a resolution at its February Executive Council meeting, warning, "The new federal law is silent on many of the workplace protections workfare participants had been entitled to under the old law, including minimum wage, health and safety coverage, the right to join a union and protection against discrimination."

The labor federation added, "All workers deserve the full protection of the law ... We in organized labor know that the establishment of a sub-class of workers without labor protections will bring down the wages and working conditions of all workers."

The resolution points out that the law "requires that states place up to a million welfare recipients in 'work activities' in 1997" but does not say "how enough jobs will be created to absorb this astounding number of people into the work force in such a short period of time." The AFL-CIO resolution does not mention HR-950, the $250 billion Martinez public works jobs bill, but it states, "Real jobs must be created that pay workers enough to raise a family and lift them out of poverty." ##30##

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