N.B.A. Players Had Larger, Unified Protests Planned

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A union representative for the National Basketball Players Association claims that a wide-spread player walkout would’ve occurred during Tuesday’s N.B.A. playoffs, had Commissioner Adam Silver not issued an appropriate punishment for Don Sterling’s racist remarks.

“I heard from our players and all of our players felt like boycotting the games tonight,” Mason said. “We’re talking about all NBA players. We’re talking about the playoff games tonight.”

The fact that there were plans to take greater action against Sterling’s disgusting comments, especially considering that he’s an employer, comes as great news.

Stephen Curry, point guard for the Golden State Warriors, echoed Mason’s statement, noting that the team had plans to walk off the court as soon as the toss-up occurred.

“It would have been our only chance to make a statement in front of the biggest audience that we weren’t going to accept anything but the maximum punishment,” Curry said. “We would deal with the consequences later but we were not going to play.”

According to the Washington Post, the protests would’ve affected games between the Bulls and the Wizards, the Grizzlies and the Thunder and of course, the Golden State Warriors and the Clippers.

Luckily, Commissioner Silver issued a heavy penalty to Sterling on Tuesday afternoon, just hours before the games began.

Photo courtesy of Mike Licht via Flickr.

Republicans Filibuster a Proposal to Raise the Wage to $10.10 an Hour

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Today, the Senate voted on a bill to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 and, surprise surprise, it was blocked by Republicans.

The bill fell short of the 60 votes it needed to advance, gleaning 54 instead. 42 Senators voted against the bill and only one Republican voted in favor of it.

Perhaps the most confusing thing about today’s vote is that most Americans are actually in favor of raising the minimum wage. According to a recent New York Times and CBS News poll 67 percent of Americans want to raise the wage to $10.10.

But despite popular opinion, and thanks to an archaic parliamentary trick that the Senate has repeatedly failed to comprehensively fix, 42 Senators were able to have the final word.

President Obama is expected to address the issue in a press conference later today. Update: View the live stream of the President’s remarks here.

Despite today’s disappointing news, Working America is still rallying to raise the wage on a state level. So far, workers have seen victories in Minnesota, Hawaii, New Mexico and Maryland.

And it looks like the minimum wage debate will come up again in the Senate. MSNBC reports that:

“Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., initially voted to move the bill forward, but switched his vote to “no” as part of a parliamentary maneuver which will allow him to bring the legislation back to the floor at a later date.”

Join the fight to raise the minimum wage in your state: Text RAISE to 30644.

Photo courtesy of Senate Democrats via Flickr.

New FLOC Campaign Brings Justice to N.C. Tobacco Farm Workers

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Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC) President Baldemar Velasquez’s appearance before British American Tobacco’s shareholders meeting in London on Wednesday kicks off a new intensive campaign to win justice and workers’ rights for thousands of farm workers in North Carolina.

Many farm workers who harvest and tend tobacco often live in labor camps with inadequate or nonfunctioning toilets and showers and other substandard conditions, suffer from illnesses resulting from nicotine poisoning and exposure to dangerous pesticides and work long hours for below-poverty wages.

Velasquez says the new initiative “will ensure Reynolds American takes real action to give American farm workers the voice they deserve.”

At the London meeting Velasquez and a number of allies, including the AFL-CIO and the global union movement, will urge British American Tobacco to use its influence as a 42% stakeholder in Reynolds American Inc. (and a major customer) to persuade Reynolds to respect and protect the human and workers’ rights of its migrant tobacco farm workers and to meet international labor standards, including the right to freedom of association and worker representation.

On May 8, several hundred FLOC members and supporters will march and rally outside the Reynolds American’s shareholder meeting in Raleigh, N.C. On that day, more than 50 FLOC supporters, including the NAACP and other civil rights and faith leaders will question Reynolds American CEO Daniel Delen about what FLOC says is his failure to guarantee freedom of association.

This summer, FLOC organizers and members will reach out to the estimated 5,000 North Carolina farm workers in the tobacco industry and help them gain a voice on the job. The “Respect, Recognition, Raise!” campaign will highlight farm worker demands for dignified working conditions and adequate housing, recognition of the right to join a union and negotiate with their employer for fair terms and the raising of wages to an equal and fair wage for all workers.

In late July, two of the 41 members of the British Parliament who have supported the fight for farm worker justice, will join Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio) and FLOC leaders in tour of the tobacco labor camps.

Click here and sign a petition from the International Union of Food Workers (IUF) to British American Tobacco Chairman Richard Burrows asking him to urge Reynolds to guarantee the human right to freedom of association and worker representation on its contract farms by signing an agreement with FLOC.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Senate Will Vote On Minimum Wage Increase, But The Real Action Is In The States: Punching In

Senate to vote on minimum wage increase

Senate Majority Leader Reid schedules minimum wage vote for Wednesday.

But it likely won’t get 60 votes.

And thanks to Senator Mitch McConnell, you need 60 votes to do anything.

Michigan restaurant worker: What a higher minimum wage would mean for me.

Meanwhile: Nation’s largest city considers $15 minimum wage

Detroit reaches agreement with unions

City reaches 5-year agreement with 14 of its unions on retiree pensions, input on city bankruptcy.

Seriously, Mr. Speaker?

Speaker Boehner’s giving lots of excuses on why he won’t put immigration reform to a vote.

Meanwhile: Two more House Republicans endorse the Senate immigration bill.

Uber-rich mega-donors and you

How to beat the Kochs: a case study from New York.

Meet Rex Sinquefield, the Koch-equivalent of Missouri.

Finally: Pennsylvania’s budget problem

Under Gov. Corbett, Pennsylvania is state least prepared for a recession, says Standard & Poor’s.

Hawaii Set to Join the $10.10 Club

Hawaii looks to become the third state to pass a $10.10 per hour minimum wage, following in the steps of Connecticut and Maryland. Legislators reached a deal on Friday on a bill that would phase in the higher wage by 2018. A final vote on the bill should come Tuesday, and Gov. Neil Abercrombie (D) has expressed support for the bill. While the U.S. Senate is set to vote on a minimum wage increase as soon as this week, prospects remain less likely that a bill will even be voted on in the Republican-controlled U.S. House.

Christine Owens, executive director of the National Employment Law Project, commented on the growing trend of states increasing their minimum wage:

There’s one reason why Hawaii, Connecticut, Maryland and other states throughout the country are raising the minimum wage to $10.10—because Congress hasn’t. The fact that a groundswell of states and cities are now taking action to boost pay for low-wage workers underscores the urgent need for Congress to follow suit and pass a long-overdue increase in the federal minimum wage.

Hawaii looks to become the third state to pass a $10.10 per hour minimum wage, following in the steps of Connecticut and Maryland. Legislators reached a deal on Friday on a bill that would phase in the higher wage by 2018. A final vote on the bill should come Tuesday, and Gov. Neil Abercrombie (D) has expressed support for the bill. While the U.S. Senate is set to vote on a minimum wage increase as soon as this week, prospects remain less likely that a bill will even be voted on in the Republican-controlled U.S. House.

Christine Owens, executive director of the National Employment Law Project, commented on the growing trend of states increasing their minimum wage:

There’s one reason why Hawaii, Connecticut, Maryland and other states throughout the country are raising the minimum wage to $10.10—because Congress hasn’t. The fact that a groundswell of states and cities are now taking action to boost pay for low-wage workers underscores the urgent need for Congress to follow suit and pass a long-overdue increase in the federal minimum wage.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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FLOC Takes Fight for U.S. Tobacco Workers’ Rights to England

Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC) President Baldemar Velasquez will be in London, England, on Wednesday to urge British American Tobacco (BAT) to use its influence as a 42% stakeholder in Reynolds American Inc. (and a major customer) to persuade the company to respect and protect the human and workers’ rights of its migrant tobacco farm workers.

You can add your voice to the chorus of those urging BAT to take responsibility for ensuring the rights of workers in its supply chain. Click here and sign a petition from the International Union of Food Workers (IUF) to BAT CEO Richard Burrows asking him to urge Reynolds to guarantee the human right to freedom of association and worker representation on its contract farms by signing an agreement with FLOC.

A 2011 report by Oxfam America and FLOC, A State of Fear: Human Rights Abuses in North Carolina’s Tobacco Industry, showed that many farm workers often live in labor camps with inadequate or non-functioning toilets and showers and other substandard conditions, suffer from illnesses resulting from nicotine poisoning and exposure to dangerous pesticides and work long hours for below poverty wages.

At the annual BAT stockholders meeting Velasquez, along with a number of union allies, including the AFL-CIO, will challenge British American Tobacco on its labor practices in the supply chain and the need to implement concrete measures to ensure that farm workers can exercise their fundamental rights in accordance with international labor standards.

The living and working conditions on tobacco farms are often deplorable. Reynolds American claims that it ensures acceptable conditions on its supplier farms, but Velasquez said that independent worker representation is the only way to sustain real improvements and full respect for workers’ rights.

FLOC has a serious proposal to address rights and conditions on tobacco farms and he said BAT should play its role in making sure Reynolds and other tobacco companies engage with us about the workers’ concerns.

Photo by Farm Labor Organizing Committee on Facebook

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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What These Workers Need to Decide at the End of Every Week

Should they buy gas? Should they pay their bills? Buy groceries? Listen to minimum wage workers explain why they can’t survive on $7.25.

Hat tip to the U.S. Department of Labor for this video.

Do you agree that America’s working people need a raise? Sign the petition.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW.

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Taxes, Wages and the Wealth Gap: Punching In

Raise the wage hopes to make progress this week

Harry Reid has set up a minimum wage vote that’s scheduled to happen on Wednesday. Republicans are united in their opposition.

Hawaii is raising its wage to $10.10 an hour!

China’s income gap is larger than ours.

Here are some ridiculous arguments in favor of lowering the minimum wage. Side eye.

Midterm elections outlook

It looks pretty grim for the youth; voting interest has dropped amongst young voters.

Think about where all of that money could go

A new merger could allow Pharm giant Pfizer to avoid paying a billion a year in U.S. taxes. Must be nice.

Are your taxes subsidizing CEO pay?

Give it up already

Five million people have been denied health insurance due conservative states still fighting Obamacare.

Sad news

A gunman opened fire and injured six people in a FedEx facility today.

L.A. Clippers Ban Together Before Playoff Game, But Was it Enough?

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Amid the intense scrutiny surrounding Donald Sterling’s racist audio tapes, an important question permeated almost all talks: “How will the players respond?” Would they forfeit a game? Speak out in protest?

On Sunday night, the basketball players that make up the L.A. Clippers answered by giving a silent display of subtle solidarity. They turned their warm-up jerseys inside out and wore black wristbands and socks.

And that was it.

The New York Times aptly noted that instead of taking a stand, the team offered a gesture.

“What if the Clippers players had remained seated and refused to take the court? The N.B.A., whose corporate leaders and owners have known of Sterling’s racial and sexual grotesqueries for decades, and of the federal lawsuit that charged he would not rent apartments to blacks, would face a moment of truth.”

The players’ gesture begs the question, was there simply too much at stake to make a bigger statement?

Many employees, rich and poor, avoid speaking out against unjust practices for fear of retaliation; it could be said that the players’ reactions, or lack thereof, are just another example of big money usurping the power of workers.

In reality, there’s power in numbers. Especially in the N.B.A. where there are a little over 30 principal owners, compared to hundreds of active players.

Instead, through a silent protest, the players may have perpetuated a sick part of a culture that already gives those with money and power too much leeway.

New York magazine writer Ben Greenman noted on Twitter that “It’s not just Donald Sterling’s ignorance that’s the problem. It’s the decades that ignorance has been tolerated because of wealth.”

This whole debacle is yet another reason why we’ve got to change the way we let wealth and big business dictate our work, expectations and lives.

Photo courtesy of Alberto Cabello via Flickr.

The Policy That Would Make Life Better For A Million Veterans

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Raising the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour would benefit roughly 1 million American veterans, according to an analysis by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI).

“We ask a lot of our armed forces. They serve our country in some of the most dangerous environments and difficult situations faced by any American,” writes EPI’s David Cooper, “Yet having endured those experiences, too many veterans returning to civilian jobs find themselves in work that barely pays enough to live on.”

Raising the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour and indexing it to inflation, as proposed by the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2013 (also known as the “Harkin-Miller” bill) would raise wages for about 27.8 million working Americans, about one million of whom have served in the armed forces.

As the EPI analysis shows, 40 percent of veterans working at jobs making $10.10 an hour or less are 55 or older, and 60 percent have some college experience. They are also 50 percent more likely to be married and more likely to work full-time than the overall population affected by a minimum wage increase.

“No one should be paid wages so low that working full-time can still leave them below the poverty line, fighting just to get by,” concludes Cooper, “But the fact that so many of America’s veterans—despite being older and having more education than the typical affected worker—are facing this reality shows just how far we’ve let the wage floor fall.”

These numbers are yet another puncture in the myth–promoted by corporate-backed politicians, among others–that low- and minimum wage workers are primarily teenagers working for extra cash. 88 percent of workers who would see a raise under Harkin-Miller are older than 20, 56 percent are women, 55 percent work full-time, and 44 percent have at least some college experience.

Tell your Senator it’s time to raise the minimum wage.

Photo via nycmarines on Flickr

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