President Trump’s recent executive orders regarding unemployment insurance and payroll taxation have had little impact so far, The Washington Post reports. Among all fifty states, only Arizona has begun distributing the additional $300 per week unemployment insurance benefit provided for in those orders in replacement of the expired $600 per week. Thirteen other states have been approved, some of which have also decided to pitch in a further $100 per week contemplated by the order. Other states are still applying or deciding whether to apply, while South Dakota has refused the benefits entirely. Meanwhile, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which manages the disaster relief fund from which the new benefits are to come, has suggested that the money may run out after only three weeks. Dozens of major employers have indicated that Trump’s payroll tax order, which defers tax obligations through the end of the year but does not cancel them, is logistically and technically “unworkable,” suggesting that they will not stop deducting the taxes from workers’ paychecks regardless of the order. There has been little progress toward another piece of federal COVID-19 relief legislation since Trump issued these orders two weeks ago.
Average CEO pay reached its highest level in seven years in 2019 at $21.9 million, for a ratio to average worker pay of 320-to-1, according to an Economic Policy Institute study discussed in The Washington Post. Since 1978, inflation-adjusted CEO compensation rose 1,167 percent, compared to 13.7 percent for the typical worker. The report used a “realized” approach to calculating executive compensation that values stock awards when they become vested and options when they are cashed rather than as of the date each is granted to the CEO. Report author Larry Mishel suggested that the latter approach often leads to undervaluation of CEO compensation, of which stocks typically comprise a larger share than cash. While some companies have touted modest cuts to CEO’S base salaries in response to COVID-19, a strong stock market may counteract these decreases, leading to a further overall increase in CEO compensation in 2020.
Five big tech companies—Alphabet (Google’s parent), Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Microsoft—now comprise fully twenty percent of the stock market’s total value, The New York Times details. These companies were already thriving, but the COVID-19 pandemic has only brought them to new heights as online retail and advertisement traffic have boomed. Some competition experts maintain that this concentration of power in a few companies is even greater than that of the late 1800’s that led to the first antitrust laws. In 1929, Sears and A & P accounted for 3% of all retail sales, while today Walmart and Amazon jointly account for 15%. High concentration in the tech sector may also depress wages and increase income inequality.
Brooklyn Friends School, a Quaker school in Brooklyn, New York, is attempting to bust a recently-formed teachers union by taking advantage of a new National Labor Relations Board ruling, New York One recounts. Trump’s NLRB has held that it does not have jurisdiction over religious institutions, overturning an Obama-era precedent, but the relevance of that ruling to BFS is still unclear. The school argues that union representation is inconsistent with its ability to practice its Quaker values and honor “the individual’s inner light.” The teachers, represented by UAW Local 2110, are opposing BFS’s petition to the NLRB, while outraged parents have begun a letter-writing campaign in support of the union.
Sanitation workers in Virginia Beach, Virginia say they will “stand down” until they receive hazard pay. The workers say they have not received hazard pay in spite of their designation as first responders and approval by the city council. The city manager says hazard pay is on the way. The stand-down has led to cancellation of previously planned curbside trash pick-ups, but recycling is still available. As one worker put it, “I want them to know that trash is what we do, it’s not who we are.”
COVID-19 continues to spread in Mississippi poultry plants as union leaders decry the risks of processing line speed-ups, according to the Mississippi Center for Investigative Reporting. The Tyson Foods and Wayne Farms poultry-processing plants in Forest and Laurel, Mississippi have received special waivers to increase speeds during the pandemic in spite of a history of injuries, OSHA violations, and COVID-19 outbreaks. High absenteeism has only compounded the risks posed to remaining workers by the heightened speeds. Last year, a wave of ICE raids rolled through Mississippi poultry-processing plants, devastating local communities while also leaving fewer workers available in its wake. Poultry workers in non-citizen or mixed-status households, many of whom lack health insurance, have been particularly hard-hit by COVID-19. Although the plants now provide basic PPE after weeks of failing to do so, social distancing remains impractical on the line.