Zombie Loopholes Are Eating California’s Budget Alive

Zombies are everywhere these days. They’re on popular TV shows. They’re in the movies. They’re in our nightmares. But what many Californians don’t know is that zombies are a primary reason of our ongoing budget crisis.

Yes, that’s right. We call them Zombie Loopholes, and they’re devouring our state’s budget.

Today, the California Labor Federation launched new website to highlight the devastating impact that budget-killing corporate tax breaks are having on our state. ZombieLoopholes.com brings a number of wasteful corporate tax breaks that are bleeding our state of billions each year out of the shadows so the public is aware that they’re contributing to deep budget cuts to school funding, services for seniors and public safety.

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Safe Cosmetics Program Protects Workers & Consumers from Cancer-Causing Hair Smoothing Products

between California’s Attorney General and manufacturers of Brazilian Blowout hair smoothing products that contain a cancer-causing chemical will help protect salon workers and consumers, according to the California Department of Public Health’s Occupational Health Branch.

The settlement with the manufacturer of Brazilian Blowout products requires the company to warn consumers and hair stylists that two of its hair smoothing products emit formaldehyde gas, which is known to cause cancer in humans.  The company must also cease deceptive advertising; pay $600,000 in fees, penalties and costs; and report the presence of formaldehyde in its products to California Safe Cosmetics Program (CSCP).  The warning requirements are the maximum penalty that could be achieved under state law.

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‘Unemployed’ Doesn’t Mean ‘Unemployable’

In any recession, from any era, unemployed workers face challenges that are unique to the time but consistent across history. Finding new work is never easy, but during a recession the search can prove almost impossible, as greater numbers of unemployed workers fight over fewer available jobs. For example, at the peak of the current downturn, around seven unemployed workers existed for every open position. Though this 7-1 ratio has since improved to 4-1, the outlook remains bleak and the unemployed still struggle.

Making matters worse, the severity and structural nature of the current downturn means many jobs are gone for good, and idled workers need all the help they can get when finding new work. Some employers, however, disagree, and have even begun refusing to consider the unemployed for open positions. We believe this insidious new policy stands out as a particularly inexplicable and inexcusable form of discrimination, and legislators should act immediately to stop the practice in its tracks.

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Retirement: Where Corporate Executives Make the Real Big Bucks

while executives are actively working, an even more important aspect of executive compensation has been overlooked. What a top corporate executive makes when he or she retires from a publicly traded corporation is an ongoing expense to the company every year for the rest of their lives, as opposed to their yearly pay, which is a one-time payment.

Many people don’t realize that over the course of the last few decades, corporations have essentially spiked their top management’s retirement pay as they exit, adding bonuses, stock options, perks and other incentive compensation to their retirement benefit calculations, exponentially increasing the total amount of money they will receive once they are no longer providing any services to the company. This has occurred at the very same time these corporations have restructured and eliminated pension benefits for average workers, and as public pensions are decried as exorbitant and unsustainable.

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‘Bad Actor’ Company Cited for Health and Safety Violations

Another step towards justice in the waste industry has been won. On Tuesday, Cal/OSHA cited American Reclamation, Inc., a solid waste facility in Los Angeles, for multiple health and safety violations along with its subsidiary, South Coast Fibers, Inc., and its staffing agency, Steno Employment Services, Inc. In total, the agency cited 36 violations with penalties amounting to almost $40,000. These citations were spurred by a formal complaint filed in November 2011 by eight American Reclamation employees. “We are not garbage!” has been the catchphrase among the workers who are courageously standing up for safe, dignified jobs. In this largely invisible workforce, the exploitation and mistreatment of workers is much more likely to go unnoticed.

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San Jose Voters Will Decide on Minimum Wage Hike

A unanimous San Jose City Council agreed to let the voters decide on the measure that would increase the pay of the city’s lowest wage workers by $2 an hour. The current state minimum wage stands at $8. San Jose would be only the 5th city in the country to establish a more livable citywide minimum wage.

At a public hearing that stretched late into the evening, hundreds of supporters urged the city council to adopt the wage increase immediately. Those outspoken supporters included the owner of a downtown institution, Emile’s Restaurant.

“This will do nothing but drive the economy here,” said Alexandra Dorian, owner of Emile’s who says she already pays her employees above the $10 minimum the new measure would establish.

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Time to End the Corporate Tax Break Gravy Train

In all the absurdity that is budget politics, there’s a particularly maddening reality that stands out: Corporate tax breaks are costing the state billions each year, providing little to no benefit to our economy, lack transparency and are completely unaccountable to taxpayers. 

Enough is enough. Before cutting any more services, these wasteful giveaways need to be thoroughly reviewed. If they’re not serving their intended purpose, get rid of ‘em. And we’re not talking about nickels and dimes here. This is big money that’s likely going to waste at taxpayers’ expense.

A new report released yesterday by the California Tax Reform Association identified more than $6 billion in wasteful corporate tax loopholes and dodges that are bleeding the state of much-needed revenue that should be used to help close the budget deficit and prevent cuts to vital services.

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Simpson Launches Tirade Against California Seniors

A vicious rant against seniors by Alan Simpson, co-author of the 2010 federal commission on the deficit report that calls for raising the Social Security retirement age, should give pause to those embracing the so-called Simpson-Bowles plan—especially Democrats. It’s time for them to not only repudiate Simpson’s most recent tirade against seniors, but they also should reject his even more devastating attack on seniors—and their children and grandchildren—by pledging not to cut Social Security.

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OSHA Saves Lives and Jobs

by Dr. David Michaels

“OSHA doesn’t kill jobs; it helps prevent jobs from killing workers.”

I have been promoting that message since I became head of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration almost three years ago. It is supported by empirical evidence—and now—it’s been confirmed by a peer-reviewed study published in Science, one of the world’s top scientific journals. Not only that, the new study, conducted by professors at the University of California and Harvard Business School, shows that OSHA inspections save billions of dollars for employers through reduced workers compensation costs.

The study, “Randomized Government Safety Inspections Reduce Worker Injuries with no Detectable Job Loss,” found that workplace injury claims dropped 9.4% at randomly chosen businesses in the four years following an inspection by the California OSHA program, compared with employers not inspected.

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Stop the Special Exemptions Act: It’s Not What it Seems

We all know the wealthy and well-connected are accustomed to playing by their own set of rules. Their high-powered lawyers and lobbyists write special exemptions for them the rest of us would never be able to get.

This unfortunate reality is on full display with a November ballot measure its wealthy backers say is about getting “special interests” out of politics. Who wouldn’t want to curb the growing influence of Super PACs, anonymous donors and corporate front groups? In a post-Citizens United world, these big-money interests are consolidating political power with frightening efficiency.

Problem is, the so-called “Stop Special Interest Money Now Act” isn’t what it seems. It does absolutely nothing to stem the flow of money into politics from these wealthy interests. In fact, it exempts all of them (and many more corporate interests like real estate investors, insurance companies and billionaire businessmen) while silencing the voice of unions and workers.

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