Trumka in Missouri: Racism Is Not Somebody Else’s Problem, It’s ‘Our Problem’

In a powerful speech given at the Missouri AFL-CIO Convention, national AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka took time to address the shooting of Ferguson teenager Michael Brown and the issues of race and class the shooting reignited in the national conversation. Trumka emphasized that racism is still a significant issue that we face not only as a country, but as a labor movement. He noted that both Darren Wilson, the police officer who shot Brown, and Lesley McSpadden, Brown’s mother, are union members.

Highlights of Trumka’s speech:

You see, the question of unity brings up a hard subject, a subject all of us know about but few want to acknowledge—race. I’m talking about race in America and what that means for our communities, our movement and our nation.

Because the reality is that while a young man named Michael Brown died just a short distance from us in Ferguson, from gunshot wounds from a police officer, other young men of color have died and will die in similar circumstances, in communities all across this country.

It happened here but it could have happened—and does happen—anywhere in America. Because the reality is we still have racism in America.

Now, some people might ask me why our labor movement should be involved in all that has happened since the tragic death of Michael Brown in Ferguson. And I want to answer that question directly. How can we not be involved?

Union members’ lives have been profoundly damaged in ways that cannot be fixed. Lesley McSpadden, Michael Brown’s mother who works in a grocery store, is our sister, an AFL-CIO union member, and Darren Wilson, the officer who killed Michael Brown, is a union member, too, and he is our brother. Our brother killed our sister’s son and we do not have to wait for the judgment of prosecutors or courts to tell us how terrible this is.

So I say again, how can we not be involved? This tragedy and all the complexities of race and racism are a big part of our very big family as they always have been. A union is like a home. And in any home, good and bad things happen. We have to deal with all of them, honestly.

But that’s a philosophy. We can’t leave it at that. We have to look at real life today. We cannot wash our hands of the issues raised by Michael Brown’s death. That does not mean we prejudge the specifics of Michael Brown’s death or deny Officer Darren Wilson—or any other officer—his or her rights on the job or in the courts.

But it does demand that we clearly and openly discuss the reality of racism in American life. We must take responsibility for the past. Racism is part of our inheritance as Americans. Every city, every state and every region of this country has its own deep history with racism. And so does the labor movement….

I have a son. He’s not so young anymore but he’s not so old. I don’t worry about him. I don’t know, but I have a suspicion that like many of you, and certainly like me at that age, he may not always obey the nation’s traffic laws. So I worry he might wrap himself around a tree. But I never worry when he goes for a cross-country road trip or a night on the town that he may be stopped, shot to death by a police officer.

But for millions of mothers and fathers of young African American men and boys, men just like my son and boys who were as young as me and my friend Tommy—kids with promising futures in America, it is a constant fear, a constant fear.

And if you don’t feel that fear yourself, I’d just ask you, for a moment, to think about that. Think about what it would be like to watch your kid walk out the door and wonder, with good reason, if it’s the last time you’ll see him alive. Because you know it happens. If you haven’t had a close call yourself, you know people who have: friends, family, neighbors and people you worship with….

This is not somebody else’s problem. This is the reality of life for millions of our brothers and sisters. And so it is our problem. That is what solidarity means….

And think about what it means to be a police officer in this country where violence is so often the norm—about walking up to cars anticipating the worst, over and over again. None of us can really know the toll this takes unless we have worn the uniform. This reality, this experience, must be part of any conversation about how we move forward from what has happened here in Ferguson….

So we’ve got to talk to each other, not past each other. We’ve got to talk about how to help our police officers serve our communities. We’ve got to talk about registering and educating voters about jobs and housing and raising wages for all, and we’ve got to talk about accountability—about making sure the public has confidence that the laws of our nation will be enforced and enforced equally. And we have to do more than talk; we have to listen and then we have to act.

I’m not saying this is easy. If I knew how to fix the hurt in our communities, I would tell you. But I know how to start and that’s by listening….

Read the full speech.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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ID Required: Use These Photo ID’s To Vote In North Carolina

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Starting in 2016, voters will be required to show a photo ID in order to cast their ballots in person.

Supporters of the law claim it will reduce voter fraud, yet voter fraud has been negligible. More likely is that they wish to suppress the votes of the many groups of people who may find the photo ID hurdle too much to overcome. These groups include blue collar laborers, minorities, students, youth, and the elderly.

Acceptable IDs include:

  • a NC driver’s license,
  • a NC identification card,
  • a US passport,
  • a  US military ID or Veterans ID card,
  • or a tribal enrollment card from a federally or NC recognized tribe.

Please note: No student IDs will be accepted, not even ones from North Carolina state colleges and universities.

Due to perfectly reasonable circumstances, not everyone has a photo ID. For some residents, obtaining one is a difficult task.

As a Quaker, I know many folks at the Quaker-run retirement homes in Greensboro. Many of them are elderly and obtaining a photo ID may prove difficult. Many have been too unhealthy to drive for years and therefore they don’t have valid driver’s licenses. As well, because they do not drive, transportation to a DMV office is difficult. Some often do not have relatives or friends nearby to rely on to drive them to get a photo ID. One woman I know there was permanently injured in an automobile accident years ago.  She has no reliable transportation anywhere. Additionally, finding the documents required for such an ID (such as a birth certificate or marriage license) can also be an obstacle.

Everyone should be able to cast a ballot unhindered. Demanding a photo ID creates nothing but a problem for people who have been voting without incident for years. Especially because it was passed to solve nonexistent fraud. We must elect people who will erase the photo ID requirement.

Photo courtesy of Theresa Thompson via Flickr.

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Punching In Later: The Minimum Wage Debate Rolls On

Raise the wage!

When it comes to minimum wage, the strategy is in the states

Democrats stand their ground on a $10.10 national minimum wage

Massachusetts House approves a $10.10 minimum wage increase over the next two years

A Republican senator tries to compromise on minimum wage

Obama seeks to reach young voters with minimum wage push

ACA

A lesson in subsidies, and it’s not as bad as you think

November elections

Between the ACA and Paul Ryan’s budget, Democrats have more than a few things to be optimistic about

UAW scandal

Senator Corker’s chief of staff linked to anti-union efforts

Supreme Court fail

An overview of the McCutcheon v. FEC ruling that’s sure to make life easier for the super-rich and their campaign contribution dollars

Workers on the Move at Las Vegas Casinos, NCAA Football Fields, Community Colleges: Punching In

11 ways to raise Americans wages.

Key Quote: “The labor movement has tried during each of the past four Democratic presidencies—those of Johnson, Carter, Clinton, and Obama—to strengthen protections for workers in organizing campaigns. Each time, however, the unions failed to surmount the Senate’s supermajority threshold. Until they can, the most direct way to raise workers’ wages will remain a dead letter.”

Down with wage theft: fast food workers in 30 cities protest for overtime pay.

He used to love H.E.R., but now Common is standing with Nissan workers in Mississippi!

Las Vegas casino workers considering massive strike.

Republicans in House and Senate argue over unemployment insurance extension.

Chicago voters overwhelmingly support $15 minimum wage in non-binding referendum.

The latest on the NCAA unionization effort at Northwestern.

Will politicians needlessly blocking Medicaid finally be held accountable?

How President Obama helped women by fixing the overtime gap.

Finally: Organizing victory at Seattle Community College!

Projected Deficits Have Massively Shrunk. Has It Created Jobs? Punching In

Projected deficits have shrunk nearly $5 trillion since 2010. Has it helped spur job growth?

A Republican and a Democrat team up to crack down on Swiss bankers.

In Illinois primary elections, an exciting win for the Chicago Teachers Union.

If you’re ready to feel super nauseous, watch Target’s new anti-union training video.

Pennsylvanians are done with the Corbett agenda, so they’re fighting to raise the minimum wage.

Former Republican State Senator Dale Schultz on Wisconsin GOP: “I’m not willing to defend them any more.”

Key Quote: “It’s just sad when a political party has so lost faith in its ideas that it’s pouring all of its energy into election mechanics. We should be pitching as political parties our ideas for improving things in the future rather than mucking around in the mechanics and making it more confrontational at the voting sites and trying to suppress the vote.”

Related: Wisconsin legislature might not act on voting restrictions this year.

How public sector layoffs add to the racial income gap.

Finally: The defunding of public education will create a permanent underclass, says Julia Meszaros.

Meanwhile, In the States of the Union…Punching In

With “right to work” and paycheck deception on the horizon, is Pennsylvania the “new Wisconsin?”

Based on the thousands who packed Harrisburg yesterday, it sure looks like it.

Union-busting abounds at a local Queens, NY supermarket.

Restaurant workers push to get a minimum wage increase on the Michigan ballot.

The Republican case for raising the minimum wage.

Gov. Corbett will continue to waste Pennsylvania’s money on voter suppression.

Op-ed: “Right to work” won’t make Missouri kids’ lives better.

Tackling mass incarceration starts with divesting from private prisons.

The organizing battle at a VW plant in Chattanooga is reaching epic proportions.

Finally: Pete Seeger, who passed away Monday at age 94, had a profound effect on the labor movement.

The Impact of Higher Wages on Latino Living

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The following is a guest post from Working America member Israel Chavez from Albuquerque, New Mexico.

One in five Latinos is paid the minimum wage, and nationally 33 percent of Latinos live in poverty, the second highest racial/ethnic group.  This means an increase in the federal minimum wage would directly affect the quality of life for Latinos families across the country and especially in poor states like New Mexico.

Raising the minimum wage to a level that would allow families to adequately provide would alleviate strains these families experience under the current wage.

What we need is a wage that allows people to live decently and is tied to the cost of living.

In Albuquerque, 66 percent of voters supported a raised minimum wage that is indexed to inflation, meaning it will automatically increase as the cost of living goes up. This is often interpreted as an automatic “raise” but that is just false. Indexing wages simply means that as the prices of necessary goods increases, like milk, gasoline, and clothing, minimum wage will be able to keep up.

All too frequently, those who oppose raising the minimum wage have never had support a family on it.  It is a matter of dignity and fair pay for work that is performed. Wages are not a handout but hard earned money by deserving people. Policies that allow families to adequately support themselves impacts the whole community positively.

Today, those who would oppose increasing the minimum wage claim that it would devastate the economy, stating that it would increase prices of goods and hurt workers even more. However, studies show that as the value of minimum wage decreases, inflation continues to increase.

All the while, gross domestic product of the United States, with minor exception of the recession, has continued to rise. As the buying power of low wage workers decreases, year after year corporations lobby to keep the minimum wage low in order to continually grow profits on the backs of America’s lowest paid employees.

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A lot of people claim it’s only young people that make the minimum wage. Only about 12 percent of minimum wage workers are younger than 20 years old. But claiming only young people make minimum wage just reinforces the argument that Latinos need this increase. In the U.S., Hispanics are younger than the rest of the population, with a median age of 27 years, significantly younger than the rest of the population which is 37 years. In truth, raising the minimum wage will provide a boost to all Latino workers, young and old alike.

The New Mexico House and Senate passed an increase in the minimum wage, but Gov. Susanna Martinez vetoed the bill. In Albuquerque, Mayor Richard Berry and members of the City Council have tried various maneuvers to slow or weaken implementation of the new minimum wage. But Working America is fighting to raise the minimum wage: it’s good for Latino workers, it’s good for small businesses, and above all, it’s the right thing to do.

Photo via @OleNewMexico on Twitter

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The Big Koch Brothers’ Loss You Didn’t Hear About

SeaTac, Washington. Have you heard of it? Unless you’re from the area, you probably only know the town from its most well-known business: the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, also known as Sea-Tac.

But on Tuesday, the working class suburb of SeaTac put its name on the map in a big way. By a narrow margin, they sent a proposition to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour on track to victory.

For the more than 6,500 full- and part-time employees at the Sea-Tac Airport, this is welcome news. From servers and cooks at airport restaurants to the baggage handlers and other airline employees, many Sea-Tac workers are forced by necessity to work two low-wage jobs, and very few can afford to take off work when they get sick.

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And they aren’t earning low wages because they aren’t doing their jobs — quite the opposite. 33 million travelers spent a whopping $180 million at the airport last year. Alaska Airlines, headquartered at Sea-Tac, has posted record profits. The Anthony’s restaurant at Sea-Tac is the top-grossing airport restaurant in North America. They have more than earned a raise.

It’s worth noting too that minimum wage increases have not hampered business in other airport cities like Albuquerque, Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Jose, or Santa Fe.

Yet, this was a heated, expensive battle. In the town of 25,000 people, spending on both sides equaled approximately $300 per likely voter. The National Restaurant Association threw in $50,000 opposing the measure, on top of $60,000 spent by its Washington affiliate. Two of the biggest forces involved in the race will come as no surprise: ALEC and the Koch Brothers.

If you want a good indication of how much is truly riding on SeaTac’s $15 an hour minimum wage initiative, you need look no further than who is fighting it: The ultra-conservative billionaire Koch brothers and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)…Two of our nation’s most powerful right-wing political forces are joining together to fight and kill the $15 an hour minimum wage movement in tiny SeaTac before it has an opportunity to take root.

The Kochs and their allies understand that when the town of SeaTac experiences an economic boom from this wage increase, which Puget Sound Sage estimates at $54 million, it will only invigorate efforts to raise the wage in other cities and towns, or even nationally.

The Chamber of Commerce, National Restaurant Association, right-wing think tanks, and the billionaires that make up the so-called business community that opposes wage increases, sick days ordinances, and improvements for workers at every turn, is running out of excuses to keep saying “No.” The SeaTac vote is another chink their well-funded armor.

Photo by Yes! For SeaTac on Facebook

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How “Voter ID” Laws Disenfranchise Women: Punching In

How so-called “voter ID” laws make it hard (or impossible) for women to vote.

Hundreds of federal workers are joining a lawsuit against the federal government.

Key Quote: “It is fundamentally unfair for us to work without pay, because we have bills, we have families, and we need to put food on the table.”

Median wage is at its lowest level since 1998.

Put another way: 40 percent of American workers made less than $20,000 last year.

News from abroad: Bangladesh government proposes 77 cent wage increase for garment workers.

Appeals court ruling blocks key provisions of Scott Walker’s union-busting bill.

Finally: Vote! Vote! Vote! Elections today across the country in Virginia, New Jersey, Massachusetts, New York, Ohio, Washington, Georgia, Michigan, New Hampshire, Mississippi, North Carolina, Florida, Minnesota, Maine, California, Colorado, Texas, and more.

14 Worker Struggles To Pay Attention To This Labor Day

Sure, to some people #LaborDayIs about barbecues and fashion rules. But #LaborDayIs also about, you know, labor. Today, workers across the country are struggling for decent wages, safe workplaces, affordable healthcare, and even basic civil rights.

North Carolina’s Moral Monday

North Carolina's Moral Monday

Gov. Pat McCrory (R-NC) and the North Carolina legislature have passed huge cuts to state unemployment insurance, an overhaul of the state tax code, big education cuts and the nation’s strictest voting restrictions. Lead by the NC NAACP’s Rev. William Barber, North Carolinans of all stripes have gathered by the thousands to for huge weekly “Moral Monday” protests to stand up to Gov. McCrory’s agenda.

Learn more about Moral Monday and check out some sweet protest photos.

Oh and thanks to @sherierb for the thumbnail photo.

The Wisconsin Solidarity Singers


The Wisconsin Solidarity Singers
After the huge protests in 2011 against Wisconsin’s new collective bargaining restrictions, Gov. Scott Walker and his allies changed the rules at the state Capitol Building in Madison, requiring protesters to have permits. His reasoning? Um, none.

The Wisconsin Solidarity Singers had been gathering in the Capitol every day to protest the Walker agenda through song, and suddenly their gatherings were illegal. Singers started getting arrested. In response, hundreds of Wisconsinites joined their singing brethren to stand up to the ridiculousness of the arrests and the broader anti-worker Walker agenda.

Learn more about the Solidarity Singalong and read more intrepid reporting on the protests from John Nichols.

The fast food strikers

The fast food strikers

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On August 29, fast food workers in 58 (!!!) cities went on strike for better wages and a voice at the workplace. Learn more from Josh Eidelson and check out some awesome strike photos on our Tumblr.

Walmart associates seeking respect

Walmart associates seeking respect

Walmart, the nation’s largest employer, pays low wages, inconsistent schedules, and little to-no health benefits. But across the country, Walmart workers are organizing primarily for respect at the workplace.

Learn more at ForRespect.org.

Philadelphia teachers, students, and parents

Philadelphia teachers, students, and parents

First, Gov. Tom Corbett cut over a billion dollars from public education in Pennsylvania. Then Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter and school officials demanded $133 million in concessions from school employees. Philadelphia teachers, students, and parents are marching, striking, and even fasting to call attention to their city’s school crisis.

Houston wage-earners fighting against theft

Houston wage-earners fighting against theft

Houston workers are fed up with employers committing wage theft – not giving a last paycheck, making employees work after punching out, etc. – and are pushing the Houston City Council to pass a wage theft ordinance.

Learn more from the Down With Wage Theft campaign.

Washington, D.C. retail workers

Washington, D.C. retail workers

The D.C. City Council passed the Large Retailer Accountability Act (LRAA) in July, which raised the minimum wage for big box retail workers to $12.50/hour. Walmart responded by freaking out and threatening to cancel construction of their D.C. stores. Mayor Vincent Gray has still not made up his mind about whether to cave to Walmart’s wishes or stand up for D.C. retail workers at stores like Walmart, Best Buy, Macy’s, and Target.

Learn more about the LRAA and D.C. retail workers.

Albuquerque minimum wage workers

Albuquerque minimum wage workers

In the 2012 election, Albuquerque voters passed a minimum wage increase with 66 percent of the vote. But in 2013, Albuquerque’s Republican Mayor Richard Berry and members of his city council refused to enforce the new law.

No joke, they are actually telling workers who make as little as $4 or $5 an hour to hire private lawyers to sue their employers. That’s their solution.

Needless to say, Albuquerque workers aren’t taking this lying down. Working America and allies have launched a “Got Your Raise?” campaign to pressure city officials and educate workers about their rights. Learn more about the situation in Albuquerque or click here if you prefer your news in “Breaking Bad” form.

Concert tour dancers and choreographers

Last year, music video performers won a groundbreaking union contract after, establishing workplace standards for the industry after decades of advocacy.

Now, the Dancers’ Alliance and SAG-AFTRA are launching #theUNIONIZEtour to ensure that performers on concert tours have workplace protections, access to affordable health care, and a fair shot at gigs.

Watch the video above and learn more here.

LGBT workers in 29 states

LGBT workers in 29 states

Thanks to the activists who came before us, we have federal laws saying that you can’t be fired for being old, female, pregnant, or disabled (yay!). Unfortunately, in 29 states, there are no such protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender workers. That’s why workers’ rights and LGBT groups are organizing to pass a strong Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA).

Learn more from Pride at Work.

Transgender workers in 33 states

Transgender workers in 33 states

Add Maryland, Delaware, New Hampshire, New York to the map above. Pride at Work has great information on this too.

Domestic workers

Domestic workers

Millions of domestic workers, mostly women, are employed by households and businesses across the country. Most of them have little to no worker protections – no minimum wage, overtime pay no nothing.

State by state, domestic workers and allies have worked to pass “Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights” to establish basic protections. Ai-Jen Poo, founder and director of theNational Domestic Workers Alliance (and Working America board member #plug) toldThe Nation that President Obama might soon bring domestic workers under the protections of the Federal Labor Standards Act (FLSA), which would be “one of the most significant victories for low-wage workers of this administration.”

Learn more about the Ai-Jen and the NDWA.

Mississippi auto workers

Mississippi auto workers

Auto workers at Nissan in Mississippi have been trying to exercise their basic right to form a union, but are getting blocked by the company. Lethal Weapon/workers’ rights star Danny Glover has been active in calling attention to the situation. Not only that, but Nissan workers in Brazil, France, and South Africa have expressed solidarity. Learn more at DoBetterNissan.org.

Danny Glover: He’s not too old for this. #LethalWeaponJoke

Solidarity in Brazil.

No big deal, it’s just Common. (!!!)

Finally: 11 million undocumented workers and their families

Finally: 11 million undocumented workers and their families

Establishing a path to citizenship isn’t just about immigration. It’s about bringing millions of undocumented workers out of the shadows, where they are currently vulnerable to every employer abuse imaginable.

Learn more about the connection between workers’ rights and immigrant rights here.

What did we leave out?

What did we leave out?

There’s a lot more going on that we didn’t cover. Feel free to keep the list going in the comments below, and visit WorkingAmerica.org for more information on how you can get involved.

Respoted from BuzzFeed

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