Today’s News & Commentary — February 4, 2019
As sex workers around the country had warned, sex trafficking has spiked since the federal government enacted SESTA/FOSTA last year. For instance, San Francisco police recorded a 170% increase in human trafficking reports in 2018. Under the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act/Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (SESTA/FOSTA), website publishers are now held legally responsible if third parties are “found to be posting ads for prostitution — including consensual sex work — on their platforms.” In response to this legislation, many websites closed down their “personals” sections, which had enabled sex workers to find and screen potential clients. As a result, many more sex workers are now seeking out clients “on the street,” which is much more dangerous. Pike Long, deputy director of a peer-based occupational health and safety clinic for sex workers, explained, “If you are a street-based sex worker, it’s much harder to negotiate your rates, to negotiate safer sex condom use, to make sure that this person who is picking you up in a car doesn’t have a knife or a gun.”
Several Massachusetts state legislators have introduced a bill that would eliminate the sub-minimum wage for tipped workers. Last year, Massachusetts enacted a minimum wage hike that will gradually raise minimum wages to $15/hour for most workers — but will only raise the minimum wage for tipped workers to $6.75/hour. One of the bill’s sponsors, Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier (D-Pittsfield), noted that even though employers are legally obligated to ensure that tipped workers make the full minimum wage once tips are added to their paychecks, “the restaurant industry has one of the highest incidences of wage theft.” The Restaurant Opportunities Center, a grassroots workers’ rights organization, is advocating for “One Fair Wage” for tipped and non-tipped workers in Massachusetts and around the country.
The Kenya Plantation Workers Union is suing several multinational corporations in UK Courts for workplace violations. The union is seeking compensation for workers who were injured on the job or developed health problems due to their work; it is also calling on the agricultural companies to implement court-ordered wage increases. Moreover, the union is also suing the corporations for firing employees who have gone on strike; according to union leaders, “more than 10,000 workers of the different multinational companies have been dismissed over the last three years for participating in legal industrial strikes.” Through their lawsuit, the union seeks to bring the multinational corporations to the negotiating table; these companies have historically been unwilling to sit down and negotiate with the union.
Former US Labor Secretary Robert Reich writes that the “US must return to industrial democracy to restore workers’ rights.” Reich highlights several of the Democratic presidential candidates’ plans to empower workers, such as Senator Warren’s plan to put workers on corporate boards and Senator Sanders’ proposal to encourage employee ownership of businesses. Reich writes, “American workers don’t only need better wages. They also need to be respected. And they must be heard.”