- President Joe Biden signed an executive order Tuesday granting federal contractors a minimum wage of $15, starting next year.
- That wage will eventually increase alongside inflation and will also eliminate the “tipped minimum wage,” which allows federal employers to pay tipped workers as little as $7.65 an hour.
- Meanwhile, Biden is also pushing for an $80 billion boost to the IRS to better crack down on tax evasion from high-earners and large corporations.
- During a joint session of Congress on Wednesday, Biden will outline that investment, which he expects to raise a net $700 billion, as part of his “American Families Plan.”
Min. Wage Increase for Federal Contractors
President Joe Biden signed an executive order Tuesday that will boost the minimum wage for federal contractors to $15.
In 2014, former President Barack Obama signed a similar order that set the minimum wage for people working on federal contracts at $10.10. Under inflation, that minimum wage has increased to $10.95.
As with Obama’s order, Biden’s will require the minimum wage to rise with inflation; however, unlike the Obama order, Biden will eliminate the “tipped minimum wage.” That provision allows employers of federal contractors to pay tipped workers as little as $7.65 an hour as long as their tips end up meeting the current minimum wage threshold.
Under Biden’s order, federal agencies will have until March 30 of next year to implement the $15 pay bump, which will affect hundreds of thousands of workers, including cleaning and maintenance professionals, food service employees, and nursing assistants for veterans.
White House economists said they don’t believe the wage hike will result in significant job losses or that it will wind up costing taxpayers more money. Instead, they argue that this higher wage will lead to greater productivity and lower turnover.
Even though this order will only directly affect federal contractors, the White House said it believes the order will also have indirect effects on other contractors as employers seek to offer competitive wages.
Biden Will Seek $80B To Boost IRS Audits of High Earners
Biden will also reportedly ask Congress Wednesday to consider an $80 billion boost to the Internal Revenue Service as part of his “American Families Plan.”
That plan, the second of his three-part “Build Back Better” agenda, will likely include provisions for childcare, universal prekindergarten, paid family leave, and free community college.
Previously, it was reported that Biden is seeking to use long-term capital gains taxes on high earners to fund the program, but the administration is also reportedly hoping to generate extra revenue through a more robust investment in the IRS.
In fact, he believes the $80 billion investment could yield at least $780 billion in returns over the next 10 years.
Specifically, Biden wants the $80 billion to be directed into avenues that will allow the agency to better crack down on tax evasion from high-earners and large corporations.
Reportedly, that includes improving information technology so that the IRS can better target its audits. It also includes providing a dedicated funding stream to the agency so that officials can ramp up enforcement without fear of budget cuts, with Biden hoping that stream serves as a warning to tax evaders that the agency’s efforts won’t be stopped short because of such cuts.
Biden also plans to add new disclosure requirements for people who own businesses that aren’t classified as organizations, as well as for wealthy individuals who attempt to hide money offshore.
Some outside experts remain unconvinced that the IRS would be able to collect a net $700 billion from the investment. Likewise, the Congressional Budget Office will likely project a much more conservative estimate if it is granted the money.
That said, just a couple weeks ago, the commissioner of the IRS said tax cheats are costing the U.S. $1 trillion every year, so there is a pressing need within Congress to address the discrepancy.
Past administrations have also been trying to close the tax gap for decades now. In fact, speaking with The New York Times, a former IRS commissioner under President George H.W. Bush called Biden’s plan “transformative.”
“Information reporting, coupled with restoring enforcement efforts, is key to improve in compliance,” that former commissioner, Fred T. Goldberg Jr, said. “Audits alone will never do the trick.”
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (ABC News) (CNN)
Friendship Is on the Decline in America Compared to 30 Years Ago
While the COVID-19 pandemic is responsible for increased isolation Americans have experienced over the past year, other factors for the drop in friendships include political differences, couples marrying later, and parents spending more time with kids.
Americans Have Fewer Friends Today
A new study released by the Survey Center on American Life has essentially found that friends are in short supply in America — or rather, that “despite renewed interest in the topic of friendship in popular culture and the news media, signs suggest that the role of friends in American social life is experiencing a pronounced decline.”
Out of more than 2,019 respondents made up of U.S. adults, only 13% said they had more than 10 close friends. That’s a big drop compared to a 1990 Gallup poll, which reported that a third of U.S. adults said they had more than 10 close friends.
The poll also found that fewer Americans now say they have a “best” friend: 59% today compared to 75% in 1990.
Friendship Breakers: the Pandemic, Politics, and Work
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has very likely been the most direct cause of isolation over the past year.
As the poll also notes, women ages 18-29 appear to be the most affected demographic, with 43% having lost touch with at least a few friends and 16% indicating that they’re no longer in regular contact with most of their friends.
In addition to the pandemic, former President Donald Trump seems to be driving more broken friendships than perhaps most presidents. In fact, 22% of the respondents who said they ended a friendship cited Trump specifically.
According to the poll, 20% of Democrats and 10% of Republicans have ended friendships over political disagreements, with 28% of political liberals saying they would end a friendship over political differences as opposed to 10% of conservatives.
Other factors for Americans’ lost friendships include couples marrying later, parents spending more time with kids, as well as people working longer hours and being more geographically mobile.
It’s not all doom and gloom, though. While “best friends” are in shorter supply than in 1990, more than half of U.S. adults still say they have one. Another 46% of Americans have also reported making at least one new friend over the last year.
See what others are saying: (Insider) (Independent) (Axios)
NFL Says Teams Could Be Forced To Forfeit Games If Unvaccinated Players Cause COVID-19 Outbreaks
Neither team will be paid for any forfeited games, and the team that faces the outbreak must also cover all expenses for the opposing team.
NFL Issues Strong Warning to the Unvaccinated
The National Football League announced Thursday that if a game is canceled due to a COVID-19 outbreak among unvaccinated players on a certain team, that team will be forced to forfeit the match.
Additionally, the league said players on both teams will not be paid for any forfeited games, and the team that causes the game to be canceled will also be forced to cover all expenses for the opposing team. It could also face disciplinary action from the Commissioner’s Office.
As NFL.com writer Kevin Patra noted, this is “the clearest line the NFL has drawn to date and the most substantial incentive yet for owners, teams and coaches to pressure players to get vaccinated.”
While the league has not mandated that its players and staff get vaccinated, in its Thursday memo, it said that “nearly all clubs have vaccinated 100 percent of their Tier 1 and 2 staffs.” It also noted that 75% of players “are in the process of being vaccinated, and more than half the clubs have vaccination rates greater than 80 percent of their players.”
The NFL added that vaccinated players or staff who test positive and are asymptomatic will be allowed to return to work following two negative tests 24 hours apart. For unvaccinated players and staff who test positive, the NFL is deferring to its 2020 rules: 10-day isolation.
Rescheduling Vs. Canceling
Unvaccinated players — regardless of whether they test positive or not — will also be subject to more stringent protocols, including daily testing, mask-wearing, and travel restrictions.
That said, there is one potential loophole for teams that find themselves subject to outbreaks, though it could still be a longshot. The NFL will allow games to be rescheduled as long as they fit within the timeframe of its regular season.
“We do not anticipate adding a ‘19th week’ to accommodate games that cannot be rescheduled within the current 18 weeks of the regular season,” the NFL made clear in its memo.
Still, the NFL may not be as flexible as it was during 2020. For example, while it was able to reschedule all of its postponed games during that season, it did so by moving some to Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
What Players Are Saying
Currently-unvaccinated players were quick to speak out against the memo on Thursday.
“Never thought I would say this, But being put in a position to hurt my team because I don’t want to partake in the vaccine is making me question my future in the @NFL,” Arizona Cardinals wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins said in a now-deleted tweet.
Those advocating for players to get vaccinated have argued that not vaccinating yourself while engaging in a high-contact sport could still result in hurting teammates. In fact, several athletes have reported lingering effects following COVID-19 diagnoses, and some worry that long-term lung issues could cut their careers short.
Similar to Hopkins, Cincinnati Bengals defensive tackle DJ Reader tweeted, “Talk about getting your hand forced smh.”
Las Vegas Raiders running back even compared this year’s season to “playing in jail” in a now-deleted tweet, saying, “read the rules-know em like you know your plays.”
Meanwhile, Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay said he hopes his team is “headed toward 100%” vaccination following the memo.
California Sues Activision Blizzard Over “Frat Boy” Culture and Rampant Sexual Harassment
The lawsuit details how certain executives at the company assaulted and harassed female employees and how one woman ultimately committed suicide after having a nude photo of herself leaked around the office.
The Lawsuit’s Disturbing Harassment Details
The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) has lobbed a massive gender discrimination lawsuit against video game developer Blizzard Entertainment and its parent company Activision Blizzard, accusing the two of creating a culture of “constant sexual harassment.”
The details of the suit, which was launched Wednesday following two years of investigations, are disturbing. In some instances, it describes not just allegations of sexual harassment but also of sexual assault.
For example, DFEH claims Blizzard’s workplaces are seeped in “frat boy” culture and said female employees have been “subjected to numerous sexual comments and advances, groping and unwanted physical touching, and other forms of harassment.”
The suit cites specific instances of harassment through the accounts of female employees, including one who said random male employees would approach her at her worksite and comment on her breasts.
Other female employees working on the World of Warcraft team alleged that male employees and even supervisors would hit on them and make derogatory comments about rape.
In the most tragic outcome cited in the lawsuit, DFEH said one female employee committed suicide on a company trip after having a sexual relationship with a male supervisor who had brought along a butt plug and lubricant. According to the suit, she had also faced harassment at a holiday party when male co-workers began passing around a photo of her vagina.
DFEH Names Involved Executives
The allegations go straight to the top of Blizzard Entertainment’s chain of command.
In fact, the suit claims President J. Allen Brack both knew about this behavior and enabled it.
On top of that, an unnamed former Chief Technology Officer was allegedly seen “groping inebriated female employees at company events.”
The suit also specifically names Alex Afrasiabi, World of Warcraft’s senior creative director, saying he was “permitted to engage in blatant sexual harassment with little to no repercussions.”
“Afrasiabi was so known to engage in harassment of females that his suite” during company events “was nicknamed the “[Cosby] Suite” after alleged rapist Bill [Cosby],” the suit claims.
Female Employees Face Retaliation and Gender Discrimination
It’s not just that nothing was being done when female employees reported these instances, according to the DFEH. The agency also said those women faced retaliation, including being deprived of work, unwillingly transferred to other departments, and even being laid off at higher rates than male employees.
Separately, another employee alleged she was told she couldn’t be promoted as a manager because “she might get pregnant and like being a mom too much,” even though she had already assumed some of the responsibilities of a manager.
Other employees who had actually gotten pregnant said they were given negative evaluations while on maternity leave.
In 2019, it was reported by multiple outlets that Blizzard was offering third-party fertility and pregnancy tracking services to employees but was also receiving that anonymized data back.
Blizzard Denounces Lawsuit
In response, Blizzard has called California’s lawsuit “irresponsible” and from “unaccountable State bureaucrats that are driving many of the State’s best businesses out of California.”
Blizzard has also defended its workplace, saying, “Over the past several years and continuing since the initial investigation started, we’ve made significant changes to address company culture and reflect more diversity within our leadership teams.”
Others Speak Up
Since this lawsuit came out, at least five former employees have publicly corroborated several of its details.
That includes one woman who wrote on Twitter, “I left Blizzard after my boss gaslit me so badly my hair started falling out. My profit sharing, which I relied on to make ends meet, was docked due to “underperforming”, and when I went to HR to fight it with proof against his claims, I was told “maybe you are underperforming.”
“The fucked up part? I HATED leaving. Blizzard was my dream job and I loved the work I did there.”
Others, such as gamer Alanah Pearce, have recounted their own experiences working in gaming as a result of the allegations.
“It’s jarring to me to see so many people on Twitter, who are around the industry, who are like gaming fans who don’t work in the industry, and go ‘Oh my, God, this is horrific.’ When my reaction is, ‘Oh, so it’s normal…” Pearce said in a Twitch stream uploaded to YouTube Thursday.
“Even when I worked in Tech before, the stories that I fucking have — just the shit that they did to me… Iike I was repeatedly grabbed and groped at work functions, and I would complain — like to their faces — I’d be like, ‘Don’t fucking touch me,’ and then, they would be like, ‘Haha, of course. I’m so sorry. I don’t know what I was thinking,’ and then they would do it again because me reacting negatively to it was what made it funny to them.”
Pearce went on to recount other very disturbing details about her time at that job, saying she eventually decided one day to not go back altogether.
“But if you see this shit, and you see ‘bros being bros’ and being like, ‘Who can fuck this girl first?’ Just please fucking say something. It’s so much harder for women to say something,” she added.