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Labor

Flagging In Meaning

1923664_21240999712_6212_n(Editor’s Note: These photos were published in early 2002 in the 911 issue of Hasta Cuando, a Spanish-English punk political magazine out of Pilsen, Chicago. They are by an extraordinary Chicago artist, teacher and musician, Rebecca Wolfram and reflect her response to the shallow and zealous patriotism after the destruction of the World Trade Center and bombing of the Pentagon.).

I usually loathe flags and symbols in general. Symbolic gestures are a lazy way to avoid substantial meaningful change. Focusing on symbolism is an intellectually dishonest way to ignore substantive argument. Not looking at a thing for what it is, but what it represents oppressively denies subjective experience.

And so, this 4th of July Holiday weekend, I’m sure most of us will have seen the store shelves and picnics festooned with US flag napkins, paper plates, table cloths, bikinis, beach towels, and parades lined in red, white and blue. People die for the flag, kill for the flag. But as Arund1923664_21240784712_2070_nhati Roy explained, “Flags are bits of colored cloth that governments use first to shrink-wrap people’s minds & then as ceremonial shrouds to bury the dead.”

But it’s been quite an eventful flag waving couple of weeks.

Rainbow Gay Pride Flags flutter in parades and across social media screens around the world after the Supreme Court’s marriage equality ruling.

1923664_21240994712_5799_nAfter the brutal racist murder of members of a prayer group at the Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, the Confederate Flag has now descended from atop flagpoles in front of National Monuments and State Legislatures. Even historic revisionists white folk are losing their ability to deny its violent, racists origins – people have the google to dispel their racist idiotic claims.

1923664_21240799712_2478_nFinally, the ISIS flag suffered a brilliant shaming at the Gay Pride Parade in London when artist Paul Coombs marched with his parody of the ISIS flag, substituting the caliphate propaganda with inscriptions of dildos and butt plugs. Coombs explained, “It [the ISIS flag] has become a potent symbol of brutality, fear and sexual oppression. If I wanted to try and stimulate a dialogue about the ridiculousness of this ideology, the flag was key.” Glaringly, Coombs flag was also key to exposing CNN’s shoddy journalism when it spread the panicky story that the flag was actually ISIS in the parade, rather than just a dildo afficianado making a political st1923664_21240989712_5131_natement.

These series of events reminds me of Peter Gabriel’s anti-war, anti-nationalist lyric from, Games without Frontiers, “Andre has a red flag, Chiang Ching’s is blue. They all have hills to fly them on except for Lin Tai Yu.” The lyric references extremist leaders prevailing in 20th Century, meanwhile peaceful democratic people remain sans patria…

1923664_21240774712_1698_nAnd as with all flags, ours are signifiers a very real raging fire that like the prairie fire’s smoldering, are signs of renewal as much as destruction.

And though the Gay Pride flag waves magnificently across parades 1923664_21240764712_1357_nand facebook statuses, it is a bittersweet victory. We can rightfully claim victory in the marriage equality ruling, yet it still remain legal in many states to fire someone for their sexual status. You can marry, but not work. You can marry, but you can’t shop in my store.

The Confederate Flag, long a symbol of white pride, of a hateful sublime oppression that remained to oppress African Americans in spite of and in backlash to the passage of the Civil Rights Act, is being taken down. As I write this, the seventh Black Church has been burned since the Mother Emanuel AME massacre.

As we w1923664_21240754712_1138_natch horrified at the carnage of ISIS, we remain un-elucidated about the murderous regimes that created this grassroots tyranny.

We are all subjected to this Treachery of Images.  Our work is to unravel the threads of all those flags, and use them to knit together a humanistic meaning and society.

 

Seafood For Thought

Wild Planet LogoThe silence on the story of human trafficking connected with slavery in the seafood industry is deafening.

Margie Mason of the Associated Press reported Tuesday that Indonesian police arrested seven suspects in an ongoing case.

“Five Thai boat captains and two Indonesian employees at Pusaka Benjina Resources, one of the largest fishing firms in eastern Indonesia, were taken into custody,” wrote Mason. “The arrests come after the AP reported on slave-caught seafood shipped from Benjina to Thailand, where it can be exported and enter the supply chains of some of America’s biggest food retailers.”

But for the investigative reporting by the Associated Press, these instances of slavery and human trafficking would have gone unnoticed, especially in the Western Hemisphere at the end of the global food supply chain.

American consumers don’t want to hear what goes on at the far end of the food supply chain. Using slave labor to fish is particularly egregious, and most people I meet don’t want to hear any of it. The focus is on the box, can, bag or piece of fruit or vegetable in front of them. Few want to dig very deep into where it comes from. We are the less as a society because of this prevalent American value.

I’m not a person who sees cause for alarm everywhere I look. I’ve been inside enough manufacturing and production operations during the last 40 years to know it requires oftentimes difficult work to make things we use every day. In most cases, there is a human impact with the means of production.

In the slow walk away from union representation since the Reagan era, much of what we learned about worker treatment has been abandoned by companies whose business model is to outsource or use subcontractors. That’s the immediate defense of Pusaka Benjina Resources: their subcontractors were responsible for any human trafficking and slavery. It is really no defense.

One should appreciate that the Associated Press is still willing to invest substantial resources in breaking stories like the slavery on Indonesian fishing vessels. Few others seem willing to do so as news organizations struggle to carve out a viable business niche, and as news and information gets blended into a vast soup of engaging, but largely irrelevant bits and packets transmitted with the speed of breaking news.

What’s a blogger to do? We begin like a fisher, setting sail on the sea of posts, articles, books, emails and letters that exist on electronic media. Waiting for what is relevant, what is news, and importantly, what matters. Not what matters to me, but what matters to all of us on this blue-green sphere.

What comes next is up to each of us.

(Editor’s Note: Read the first in this series about slavery in the seafood business here. Article includes links to brands whose tuna may be harvested by slaves).

There is still time to reach agreements to help all Iowans

All workers deserve a living wage

All workers deserve a living wage

Posted on May 4, 2015 by admin note this was written Monday. So good it needed to be posted
Tom Courtney, State Senator, Burlington

http://iowalabornews.com/?p=9679

It’s a sad day in Iowa when a lobbyist claiming to represent small businesses had these responses[“Small business dodged bad bills this session,” April 28] when modest reforms approved by the Iowa Senate are killed by the Iowa House:

* Dishonest employers are still able to cheat Iowa workers out of $600 million a year in wages? HOORAY!
* 181,000 Iowans were denied a modest increase in their rock bottom wages? YEAH!
* Iowa workers can still be forced to accept high-fee debit cards instead of a full paycheck for their work? YIPPEE!

This celebration of backroom efforts to keep Iowa wages so low that full-time workers need public assistance to survive is premature.

The session is not over and there is still time to reach agreements that will help all Iowans — workers, business owners and other taxpayers — recover from the national recession.

Editor’s note: A couple of my pet peeves: two other issues not addressed here under the labor banner that continue to fester year after year:

1) the plight of the contract worker. These are folks that work in a real limbo between “real” jobs and unemployment. Their work is sporadic, they work for a company in between them and the ultimate employer, most likely they do not qualify for any benefits and they get very low wages.

2) Restaurant workers, especially wait staff. I don’t know about you, but I see no reason why it should be up to me to pay the wait staff. Isn’t that their employers duty? Nor should the staff be subjected to some of the crap that is directed their way just to get a tip.

Book Review: The Devil Is Here In These Hills

mineworkersGiven Iowa’s early labor organizing among mineworkers, led by John L. Lewis, who went on to head the United Mine Workers and found the Congress of Industrial Organizations, this book review illustrates the struggles posed by this dangerous profession.

Mike Matejka
Grand Prairie Union News

Book Review:

The Devil Is Here In These Hills: West Virginia Coal Miners and their Battle for Freedom, by James Green, Atlantic Monthly Press, ISBN 978-0-8021-2331-2 $28.00

Stereotypes abound about Appalachian people, “hillbillies” and “rednecks,” as rough clothed, rough fighting, straight shooting and inter-marrying tribal Americans, lost in deep eastern valleys.

Stereotypes are never fair and the determined labor battles that West Virginia coal miners fought receive their comprehensive due in James Green’s latest gift to labor history, The Devil Is Here In These Hills.

As the 20th century began, coal mining reached higher levels in West Virginia, Kentucky and Virginia, as deep seams of high quality fuel were exploited on an industrial scale. Not only were native Appalachians recruited to work the mines, so were Italian immigrants and African-Americans. Soon forging common bonds, these workers struggled from the 1900s until the 1930s to win union recognition and security.

Isolated in coal camps where the companies controlled the town, housing and stores, paying the workers often in company-issued currency, the miners soon found themselves in debt, their safety and dignity disregarded.

Again and again these workers rose up, only to face Baldwin-Felts detectives, court injunctions, state militias and federal troops. Blood ran freely and the miners quickly learned to arm themselves and fight back, though the odds were stacked against them.

Famous characters show up to rally the workers – the “Miners’ Angel,” Mary “Mother” Jones, with her characteristic salty language, boldly marched into company towns. Sid Hatfield, scion of the famous feuding families and sheriff of Matewan, West Virginia, became a miners’ hero after he faced off against Baldwin-Felts agents, only to be assassinated on the courthouse steps in Welch, West Virginia.

Green thoroughly details the culminating battles that Hatfield’s death helped trigger, the 1920-21 Mine Wars, including the Battle of Blair Mountain, where thousands of armed miners skirmished for three days with company guards and sheriffs. The U.S. Army Air Force had its first and only foray against American civilians during this episode and Federal troops finally disarmed the miners. To their dismay, the miners soon learned that only they were being disarmed, not the coal companies nor the Baldwin-Felts agents.

The term “redneck” is often linked to these battles, as the miners wore red kerchiefs and the company white, to distinguish their separate sides.

Beat down but never surrendering, when the 1930s Roosevelt Administration legalized union organization, West Virginia miners quickly joined the United Mine Workers and not only won better conditions, but democracy in their own communities, freed from the company store and company house.

Too often working people and their efforts for a voice and dignity get lost; particularly rural workers are stereotyped. Green breaks through this to show a multi-ethnic workers’ community, united in seeking democracy, not only in politics, but also on the job, and bravely willing to shed blood to win it.

Slaves Produce Seafood For U.S. Market

Wild Planet Foods Logo

Photo Credit Wild Planet Foods

While Iowans engaged in the NCAA Basketball Tournament another story was being written by Associated Press reporters Robin McDowell, Margie Mason and Martha Mendoza about food not far from televisions tuned into the games.

Following a year-long investigation, AP broke the story of slave labor being used to fish, sometimes illegally, in Indonesian waters for catch that finds its way to U.S. markets in stores like Walmart, Kroger, Albertsons and Safeway. You’ll find slave-caught seafood at the food service company SYSCO, and in restaurants. It is also used in popular pet foods such as Fancy Feast, Meow Mix and Iams according to AP.

During its investigation, AP interviewed 40 slaves on the Indonesian island of Benjina.

“The men the Associated Press spoke to on Benjina were mostly from Myanmar, also known as Burma, one of the poorest countries in the world,” the March 24 article said. “They were brought to Indonesia through Thailand and forced to fish. Their catch was shipped back to Thailand, and then entered the global commerce stream.”

The slaves interviewed by the AP described 20- to 22-hour shifts and unclean drinking water. Almost all said they were kicked, beaten or whipped with toxic stingray tails if they complained or tried to rest. They were paid little or nothing.

Runaway Hlaing Min said many died at sea, according to the AP.

“If Americans and Europeans are eating this fish, they should remember us. There must be a mountain of bones under the sea,” he said. “The bones of the people could be an island, it’s that many.”

There is plenty to provoke outrage among American consumers. Reactions to this story may include a boycott, begging the question who do we boycott? Better yet would be pressuring companies with our pocketbook by making better choices if we consume seafood. The Environmental Defense Fund provides a seafood selector site here; Greenpeace provides a shopping guide for tuna and there are other rating sites on the web. Slave labor is not the only issue with consuming seafood.

It is important to note this story about slave labor buried in the U.S. food supply chain would have remained hidden if not for the resources of the Associated Press and the work of McDowell, Mason and Mendoza.

Sometimes corporate media does their job, and Associated Press deserves a hat tip on this one.

Read the article “Are Slaves Catching the Fish you Buy” here.

Below is a link to a video version of the same story.

St. Patrick And Mother Jones

Irish signHappy St. Patrick’s Day!  This article reminds us of the history of Irish immigrants and their important role in the labor movement.

ibew.org/articles/irishroots

Often overlooked, one of Ireland’s most important contributions to the United States and Canada is the labor movement. Millions of Irish immigrants settled in the growing industrial areas of North America following the great famine in the 1840s.

Predominantly unskilled blue collar workers, the earliest Irish settlers faced dangerous working conditions, low pay and on-the-job discrimination.

As journalist Harold Meyerson wrote in 2009:

When the Irish began arriving en masse in the 1840s, they were met with savage hostility by America’s largely Protestant native-born population and shunted into ghettos … In their occupational ghettos, laying railroad track and working on construction crews, they became America’s first distinct paid ethnic working class.

Some of those immigrant workers starting organizing, helping to form the first labor unions.

mother jonesMother Jones

For nearly a half-of-a-century one name was nearly synonymous with unions in the public’s mind: Mary Harris “Mother” Jones. Born in Cork, Ireland in 1837, she emigrated to the U.S. at the age of five. Losing her entire family to yellow fever in 1867, she devoted her life to the labor movement, helping to organize coal miners for more than 30 years.

Known for the saying, “pray for the dead and fight like hell for the living,” she continued to fight for working people and for the end to child labor up until her death in 1930 at the age of 93.  more

stpatricktheorganizer

“As we celebrate St. Patrick’s Day this week, let us not forget all the hate, violence and discrimination Irish immigrants faced. The progress we made as an American people and a Labor Movement, we owe to the sacrifices and struggles of all immigrants. So this St. Patrick’s Day, let us toast all those who immigrate to our great country, be mindful of the hate and violence they currently face, and lend them our moral support – so that they too can work hard to achieve their American Dream – just as the Irish did.” 

 

Iowa Workers Demand Apology From Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker

iowa afl-cioAs Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker makes his first appearance in Iowa after making comments at CPAC comparing union members protesting his policies to ISIS, Iowa workers are speaking up and demanding an apology. Union Members and workers from all over Iowa are planning to hold a press conference in Dubuque to address Walker’s unpatriotic remarks in front of the Hotel Julien, at 6 pm on Saturday March 7.

Bruce Clark, President of the Dubuque Federation of Labor will be the main speaker. Other officials have been invited to speak at this Press Conference.

WHO: Veterans, Nurses, Schoolteachers, Parents, and other Iowa workers
WHAT: Press Conference with Iowa workers demanding an apology from Wisconsin Governor Walker.
WHERE: In front of the Hotel Julien, 200 Main Street, Dubuque, IA 52001

WHEN: Saturday, March 7, 2015, at 6PM

Tracy Leone
Organizer – Iowa Federation of Labor

www.iowaaflcio.org
www.iowalabornews.com
https://www.facebook.com/IowaAFLCIO
http://www.youtube.com/AFLCIOIowa

Here’s more:

On Saturday, Governor Walker of Wisconsin will be in Dubuque at the Hotel Julien for a fundraiser for newly-elected IA 1st District Congressman Rod Blum. The fundraiser is part of a day-long trip by Walker to Iowa who will speak earlier in the day at the Ag Summit in Des Moines – an event that profiles would-be presidential contenders.

However, when Walker arrives in Dubuque, he will be greeted by Iowans who are deeply offended and shocked by his recent comments at a CPAC conference that compared union members to ISIS terrorists. Saying, “If I can take on 100,000 protestors, I can do the same across the world,” Walker suggested that his experience in 2011 pushing through a bill that gutted public sector bargaining rights, is similar to the skills needed to handle global threats such as ISIS.

This absurd analogy prompted AFL-CIO president Trumka to tweet, “@GovWalker stmt comparing workers & terrorists is revolting. It’s clear his judgment is impaired & he’s not qualified for the Presidency.”

Senator Elizabeth Warren added, tweeting, “If Scott Walker sees 100,000 teachers & firefighters as his enemies, maybe it’s time we take a closer look at his friends.”

Walker was asked by labor groups to apologize for this comment but has since resisted. He did extrapolate on his remarks on FOX News, explaining, “The leadership we provided under extremely difficult circumstances, arguably the most difficult of any governor in the country, maybe in recent times. To me, I apply that to say, if I were to run and if I were to win and be commander-in-chief, I believe that kind of leadership is what’s necessary to take on radical Islamic terrorism.”

Again, Walker’s response is not only woefully inaccurate, but it is very concerning. The reality of dealing with peaceful public protest against anti-worker legislation is a very different reality than dealing with the magnitude of warfare. For Walker to act like his experience with one qualifies him to deal with the other both underrates the very serious contemplation of war, it alternately conflates peaceful protests with armed conflict.

Whenever I hear some dismiss these comments as “stupid” or by an “idiot,” I pause, because this type of thinking, even as it appears stupid, is actually quite dangerous. Analogies grow on people. What is first just a thought, a suggestion, after repetition becomes conventional wisdom. The lines get blurred between what is our just, lawful, right to protest, use civil disobedience (and to do so while standing up for the rights of workers to collectively organize and bargain), and terrorism.

It is also absurd to think about what on earth would Scott Walker do to deter ISIS, based on his behavior as Wisconsin Governor? Will he tell them he’s going to defund secular education? Will Walker threaten ISIS by saying he will reduce access to the polls and voting? That he will go after women’s reproductive rights and limit access to family planning? That he will implement economic policies that result in Wisconsin being below the national average in job and wage growth? I think ISIS might actually agree with him on a lot of those policies.

Join good people of Iowa this Saturday in Dubuque at 6PM to make sure that this story does not die off as the conservative press would like it to do.

Iowa Law Makers: “We Have No Money This Year”

Iowa State Capitol

Iowa State Capitol

Posted on Iowa Labor News,  an electronic newsletter for the Labor Movement, specifically in Iowa, sponsored by the Iowa Federation of Labor AFL-CIO

By Charlie Wishman
Secretary/Treasurer Iowa Federation of Labor

All over the capitol, you’ll hear the same refrain from legislators from both parties. “We have no money this year.” It’s amazing what short memories they have, since many of them helped to cause this situation. We warned them two years ago that if they passed the “Largest Tax Cut In Iowa History,” (which was a massive property tax cut for corporate Iowa) we’d be in trouble in a short amount of time. It hasn’t taken long, and the effects are starting to show.

The Governor and his party have made some dangerous choices in reaction to the situation. One example is that they have proposed closing the mental health institutes in Clarinda and in Mount Pleasant. Not only on the worker side is this problematic as they plan to close two of the larger (union) employers in these communities, just as with other short sided decisions like closing the Iowa Juvenile Home they don’t seem to have a workable plan as to what to do with the residents of the facilities.

Another example of bad budgeting is the Governor and his party proposing to seriously short change our education system, proposing a 1.25% increase in funding next year followed by a 2.45% increase the second year. These proposals fall far short of the 6% recommended by our friends at the Iowa State Education Association and lower than the Iowa Senate’s plan that includes a 4% increase.

There has been positive movement in the House Labor committee by holding several sub-committee hearings on the issue of payment to employees with pay cards (HSB94). More and more Iowans are being paid on a card of some kind, sometimes without knowing what charges the cards have when trying to use the money they earned. Is this bankers and employers working together to rip off workers? No matter what anyone’s motives are, this has led to a unique form of wage theft that needs to stop, and rules need to be in place so workers and employers both know what expectations the state has. There are many issues that need addressed about these cards because currently this form of wage payment is not addressed in the Iowa Code.

The fight for a livable wage took a bad turn this week, with Senate Democrats signaling they would settle for a much lower minimum wage than the $10.10 we and many other of our partners have advocated for. SSB1151 would only raise the minimum wage to $8.75 by 2016, which is still not enough for a family to live on. We should do better as a state, and Iowa Senate Democrats should be leaders on this issue.

Contact your state Representatives and Senators and let them know that working families need a higher minimum wage than $8.75, and that we need a budget that looks out for all Iowans – not just corporate interests.

If you don’t know them or how to contact them, you can find that here: https://www.legis.iowa.gov/legislators

Say Hello To ALEC’s Little Brother, ACCE

just in case legislators forget what to do

just in case legislators forget what to do

Maybe you missed it because there was no birth announcement. The lack of a birth announcement is probably due to the fact that the parents, Charles and David Koch and their corporate concubines don’t want anyone to know. Just like ACCE’s bigger brother, ALEC, ACCE works best behind closed doors and under a rock. ACCE stands for “American City County Exchange.” This will allow the Koch to – shall we say – get involved in your local city councils and county government.

If the Kochs and their lackey congress critters can’t turn the government over to business at the national level, they will work to do so at the state level through their lackey legislatures. And now if they can’t turn government into their personal servant at the national or state level, they now have a new surreptitious organization to corrupt at the local level. If you feel that government is becoming responsive only to those with money, you are right. This is just what the Kochs want. After all they have the money and lots of friends with money.

ALEC and ACCE just completed a session meeting behind closed doors with corporate biggies rubbing elbows with legislators and now supervisors and councillors. Playing kind of a reverse Santa Claus where Santa sits on the knee of the legislators asking for presents. Later there will be campaign donations in a world where campaigns are conducted mostly on the expensive media.

While ALEC seldom announces their want list, we can make some informed guesses. However, the ALEC watchdog group at the Center for Media and Democracy’s (CMD) PR Watch published what they believed to be on this year’s wish list. So from the the CMD, here is an educated forecast for what we may soon see popping up as “model legislation” for legislatures around the country:

Blocking Local Minimum Wage Increases
Citizens in red states like Alaska, Arkansas, Nebraska and South Dakota voted overwhelmingly in favor of raising their state’s minimum wage on November 4, as did Republican and Democratic voters in states like Wisconsin, where twenty communities supported advisory referendums in favor of raising the wage.

With such a clear divide between the policies that voters support and those that ALEC corporate interests like the National Restaurant Association (which has been fighting for a $2.13 sub-minimum wage) want legislators to implement, the Commerce, Insurance, and Economic Development Task Force will feature a presentation on “Minimum Wage Preemption Policies.”

ALEC has long pushed bills like the “Living Wage Preemption Act” to block city, county, or local governments from enacting progressive economic initiatives like a higher minimum wage. In light of the renewed grassroots push for fair wage laws, this bill to crush a local government’s ability to increase wages in their community will likely be a top ALEC priority in 2015. (ALEC legislators have also been active in banning local paid sick day efforts, passing 10 laws after Wisconsin’s paid sick days preemption bill was shared at ALEC’s August 2011 meeting).

Local Right to Work

The ACCE meeting will also feature a presentation titled “Local Right to Work: Protect my Paycheck.” ALEC has long pushed anti-union “Right to Work” laws, which allow non-union members to free-ride on union representation, reaping the benefits of union negotiations for wages and benefits but without paying the costs. Michigan’s right to work law, for example, was a word-for-word copy of ALEC’s model legislation and sponsored by ALEC members.

With ACCE, ALEC is now trying to promote this anti-union legislation at the local level.

In September, the Washington Examiner reported that “Conservatives are starting to push the idea that city and county governments can pass union-restricting right-to-work laws, even though it may not be legal and has been tried only a handful of times in the last 70 years.” It is unclear whether local governments have the authority to pass right to work under the Taft-Hartley National Labor Relations Act, but in August the Heritage Foundation issued a report arguing that they do. Heritage hosted a panel discussion on local right to work in August featuring representatives of ACCE, Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform, and the National Right to Work Legal Foundation, and highlighted what they viewed as opportunities for local ordinances in Kentucky, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.

Those are the two top wishes, but of course business asks for a big package which will also include:

Depriving Low-Wage Workers of Health Insurance

Electronic cigarettes – stopping legislation on vaping nicotine

Protesting “Global Taxes” on Tobacco

Regulating Ride-Share Companies – exempting Uber and Lyft from common carrier laws

Industry-Friendly Dental Bills – moving dental services to less trained “practitioners”

Rigging the Game for Insurers – pretty self explanatory

Free Trade! – again self-explanatory

School Privatization – one of ALEC’s perennials, but once more carving out new areas for business to control. From the article: As one ALEC member told an ALEC education subcommittee earlier this year, “we need to stamp out local control.”

Please go to the link and read the sickening details of how the Kochs and their compadres plan to subvert our government for their business interests.

Labor Secretary Finalizes Minimum Wage Rules

Photo Credit San Francisco Sentinel

Home Care Worker: Photo Credit San Francisco Sentinel

WASHINGTON, D.C.— On Wednesday, Oct. 1, Labor Secretary Thomas Perez issued a final rule raising the minimum wage for federal contractors to $10.10 per hour, effective Jan. 1, 2015. According to the Associated Press, the change will impact more than 200,000 workers.

The top ten federal government contractors in 2012 were Lockheed Martin, Northrup Grumman, Boeing, SAIC, Raytheon, General Dynamics, Hewlett Packard, Booz Allen Hamilton, Computer Sciences Corporation, and DynCorp International. They will feel the minimum wage hike a bit, but for the vast majority of Americans, especially the working class, the changes by the Labor Department will pass unnoticed.

The Labor Department also announced that effective Jan. 1, 2015, most direct care workers will be entitled to receive federal minimum wage and overtime pay protections. Direct care workers are workers who provide home care services, such as certified nursing assistants, home health aides, personal care aides, caregivers, and companions.

This is how change happens: bit by bit, incrementally, and job by job.

While many hoped for big changes when President Obama was sworn into office, expectations were set so high, he had an impossible task to meet them. While some small companies may complain about the new federal minimum wage rules, it is a basic tenant of living in our country that companies that secure a federal contract should pay a reasonable wage. Likewise, the notion that home care is real work, and that when a person runs a business that provides home care, they should be subject to paying the federal minimum wage with overtime is obvious. The rules set by the secretary create a floor, one that has been needed for a long time.

People who operate businesses want to make a profit, and that’s no crime. Running a profitable business is something basic and needed in our society. The political debate has been about the amount of government regulation and subsidy, and the dynamic of our bicameral legislature has been to create an environment that favors large, corporate businesses in the post-World War II era. Businesses like the top federal contractors.

At the same time, there is an economy of low wage workers, like those that provide home care. Someone knows a friend or relative who needs care, and an agreement is reached for compensation. The amount of compensation may not be as important as providing the service, especially when people can’t afford professional care. Personal relationships enter into the picture. Often this work is done off the books.

My point is this. Between the publicized, formal programs of the Labor Department and the reality of daily life there is and always will be a gap. That’s where many of us live our lives. We should appreciate the work of the Obama administration to fix known problems like those related to federal contractor wages and home care workers. In the working class, we may view that as nice, but less relevant to our lives than all of the brouhaha suggests.

It is something that we even noticed President Obama did what he said he would with regard to setting the minimum wage for federal contractors. But then that’s what blogs are for.