Worker Wins Update: April Showers Bring Big Wins for Workers

Workers across the country have stood up in the past month to fight for better wages and working conditions.

Harvard Hotel Workers Make Smart Choice to Organize: Following a two year campaign, workers at the Soldiers Field Road DoubleTree Hotel, located in a building owned by Harvard, voted to organize with UNITE HERE Local 26. The workers will join Harvard dining hall workers as well as Boston-area hotel staff in the local union.

Next Stop for Double Decker Bus Tour Guides: A Union: Workers at a double-decker bus tour company in New York City have voted to join Transport Workers (TWU) Local 100, fighting back against poor working conditions and pay cuts. Local 100 currently represents some 40,000 transit workers throughout New York City.

Casino Workers Go ‘All-In’ on Union: The cards at the Horseshoe Baltimore Casino will be dealt by union members after workers voted to join the National Gaming Workers Coalition, which includes UNITE HERE, UAW and Operating Engineers (IUOE).

Toady’s Lesson at Detroit Charter Schools: Forming a Union: Teachers from three Detroit charter schools have come together to file petitions to be represented by the Michigan Alliance of Charter Teachers & Staff, a local union affiliated with the AFT.

Gawker Writers Submit Stories and Union Cards: Workers at Gawker Media announced that they will be forming a union with the Writers Guild of America, East, AFL-CIO in New York City. Gawker writers cited need for a fair salary and stated clearly that “every workplace could use a union.”

Alaska Nurses Find the Right Prescription, Affiliate with AFT: In a move to strengthen the voices of nurses in Alaska, the Alaska Nurses Association Labor Program agreed to affiliate with AFT Nurses and Health Professionals. With this affiliation, AFT now represents 113,000 health care professionals across the country.

Rutgers Faculty Win Big in Classroom and at Bargaining Table: Nearly 4,700 full-time faculty and graduate teaching assistants signed a new contract protecting members from salary freezes, health care rate hikes and promising a raise in wages throughout the life of the contract. The contract, fought for by members of the American Association of University Professors–AFT, also will provide protections for about 7,000 graduate teaching assistants.

Howard University Physicians On-Call for Better Pay, Benefits: Resident physicians at Howard University Hospital in Washington, D.C., have asked hospital officials to negotiate a new contract with their newly formed union after the National Labor Relations Board upheld the results of its January election last week.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Mark Begich Is the Right Choice for Alaska’s Working Families

In the U.S. Senate race in Alaska, there is a stark contrast between Sen. Mark Begich and Dan Sullivan. Which candidate is better for working families? Take a look at this handy chart from Working America and you’ll see it’s Begich.

1. Begich wants to continue growing the Alaska economy and create more good jobs by investing in infrastructure. Begich said, “My top priority is growing Alaska’s economy by creating good jobs right now for Alaskans and investing in critical infrastructure such as roads, bridges, ports and harbors to help create jobs. I secured more than $1 billion to build and fix Alaska’s infrastructure, to create new jobs and expand our economy.”

2. He voted to increase the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour. [S. 2223, Vote 117, 4/30/14]

3. He also voted for the Paycheck Fairness Act, a bill to ensure that working women receive equal pay for equal work. [S. 2199, Vote 103, 4/9/14]

4. He has consistently defended the rights of working families and earned a lifetime AFL-CIO voting record of 98% from his tenure in Congress.

5. He has worked to bring jobs back home from overseas and to penalize businesses that outsource America’s jobs. [S. 3816, Vote 242, 9/23/10]

6. While many in Congress have called for cuts to programs like Social Security, Begich supports increasing benefits. “When you tell seniors, ‘We want to make sure your dollars rise as your costs do,’ there is automatic excitement because they recognize we understand what they’re going through….Are we for or against helping seniors have a dignified life in their later years? I’m for that.” [The Washington Post, 3/24/14]

7. As a member of both the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee and the Senate Appropriations Committee, he has pushed for increased funding for the Veterans Affairs (VA) and for innovative programs to provide better access to care and to attract more qualified individuals to work in VA health facilities across the nation. “There are few more important responsibilities we have as a nation than to give proper care to those who have sacrificed so much for us. Since day one in the Senate, I have been fighting to make sure Alaska’s veterans—especially those off the road system in rural villages—receive adequate health care. We have made incredible progress. But we are not done and we cannot ignore the devastating and unacceptable situation happening at VA centers in the rest of the country. Alaska’s first‐in‐the‐nation system is working and it should serve as a model for the rest of the country.” [Alaska Business Monthly, 5/29/14]

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In Alaska? Text AK to 30644 for important updates on the election. 

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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How to Vote Online in Alaska!

Alaska voters have a benefit that many Americans don’t—they have the option to vote online! This video walks people through the steps Alaskans need to take in order to vote online, so check it out and speak out for working families in 2014.

Live in Alaska? Text AK to 30644 for election updates. 

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Hey, Alaska, Here’s How You Can Make a Big Difference (Be the Bear)

The latest video from Alaska AFL-CIO President Vince Beltrami lays out the consequences of the November elections in the country’s northernmost state. He calls upon Alaskans to step up and help make sure that working family candidates win by knocking on doors, making phone calls and talking to their friends, neighbors and co-workers.

Alaska is not for sale (sorry, Koch brothers) and when working people unite, we’re the bear, not the salmon.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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7 Reasons Mark Begich Is a Candidate Who Cares About Working Families

Photo courtesy Bernard Pollack on Flickr

It’s an election year, and we are quickly approaching the time when working families will have the opportunity to go to the polls and vote for candidates who support policies that protect or expand our rights, raise wages and work for an economy that benefits everyone, not just the wealthy few. We’re going to focus our spotlight on some of the key candidates who care about working families, and one of those candidates is Mark Begich, who is running for U.S. Senate in Alaska.

1. Begich wants to continue growing the Alaska economy and create more good jobs by investing in infrastructure. Begich said, “My top priority is growing Alaska’s economy by creating good jobs right now for Alaskans and investing in critical infrastructure such as roads, bridges, ports and harbors to help create jobs. I secured more than $1 billion to build and fix Alaska’s infrastructure, to create new jobs and expand our economy.”

2. He voted to increase the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour. [S. 2223, Vote 117, 4/30/14]

3. He also voted for the Paycheck Fairness Act, a bill to ensure that working women receive equal pay for equal work. [S. 2199, Vote 103, 4/9/14]

4. He has consistently defended the rights of working families and earned a lifetime AFL-CIO voting record of 98% from his tenure in Congress.

5. He has worked to bring jobs back home from overseas and to penalize businesses that outsource America’s jobs. [S. 3816, Vote 242, 9/23/10]

6. While many in Congress have called for cuts to programs like Social Security, Begich supports increasing benefits. “When you tell seniors, ‘We want to make sure your dollars rise as your costs do,’ there is automatic excitement because they recognize we understand what they’re going through….Are we for or against helping seniors have a dignified life in their later years? I’m for that.” [The Washington Post, 3/24/14]

7. As a member of both the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee and the Senate Appropriations Committee, he has pushed for increased funding for the Veterans Affairs (VA) and for innovative programs to provide better access to care and to attract more qualified individuals to work in VA health facilities across the nation. “There are few more important responsibilities we have as a nation than to give proper care to those who have sacrificed so much for us. Since day one in the Senate, I have been fighting to make sure Alaska’s veterans—especially those off the road system in rural villages—receive adequate health care. We have made incredible progress. But we are not done and we cannot ignore the devastating and unacceptable situation happening at VA centers in the rest of the country. Alaska’s first‐in‐the‐nation system is working and it should serve as a model for the rest of the country.” [Alaska Business Monthly, 5/29/14]

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Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Working Families: Raise Alaska’s Minimum Wage!

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka joined with local labor leaders and working families to rally Alaska voters to support raising the state’s minimum wage. For several decades, Alaska had the nation’s highest minimum wage, but the wage has stayed stagnant in recent years, and Alaska’s working families are falling farther and farther behind.

Alaska’s Ballot Measure 3 would raise the state’s minimum wage from $7.75 per hour to $8.75 per hour as of Jan. 1, 2015. The bill would raise the minimum wage to $9.75 per hour as of Jan. 1, 2016, then it would adjust the minimum wage each year for inflation after 2016.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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If You Doubt That Raising The Minimum Wage Is A Bipartisan Issue, Check Out These Numbers

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For the first time since 2008, voters in Nebraska will vote on a statewide ballot initiative. And luckily, it’s one to raise the minimum wage.

A measure to raise the minimum wage to $9 over two years qualified for Nebraska’s ballot with about 90,000 signatures–9,000 more than needed. For comparison, that’s about 11 percent of Nebraska’a 2012 voting population.

When it comes to smaller states seeing huge responses to chance to raise the minimum wage, Nebraska isn’t alone. South Dakotans turned in 26,000 signatures to get the chance to raise their minimum wage to $8.50. And at the same time Mark Begich and Dan Sullivan go head-to-head in a tight contest for U.S. Senate, Alaskans will vote in November on a measure raising the minimum wage and indexing it to inflation.

If you need proof that raising the minimum wage is an issue that crosses party lines, look at these three states.

In Nebraska’s race for U.S. Senate, Republican Ben Sasse is consistently leading Democrat Dave Domina by 17 to 25 percent. But 55 percent of Nebraskans support raising the wage, according to a poll by Voices for Children.

Over in South Dakota, voters are split between three candidates for U.S. Senate, with Republican Governor Mike Rounds ahead. On raising the wage? SurveyUSA found 60 percent support the minimum wage ballot measure.

And finally, Alaska is the site of what many expect to be one of the year’s closest U.S. Senate races. However–you guessed it!–the minimum wage increase is crushing with 67 percent, according to Public Policy Polling.

Meanwhile, in Washington, D.C., Congress left for August recess with no action on wages. In the Senate, Mitch McConnell lead a knee-jerk filibuster against a bill raising the minimum wage to $10.10, and Speaker Boehner refuses to bring it before the House for a vote.

If Congress continues to be unresponsive to the key economic issue facing working families today, expect more cities and states to take it upon themselves to act. And expect candidates in 2014–mostly Republican, but some Democrats as well–to be in an awkward position while they stick with their default opposition to raising the minimum wage.

Photo by @BetterWagesNE on Twitter

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Alaskans Don’t Agree on Much, But They Agree on Raising the Minimum Wage

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Alaskans have a bitter election fight ahead of them this fall. A tight Senate race has already seen millions of dollars in ad spending, and the battle lines are being drawn on controversial ballot measures like tax breaks for oil companies and marijuana legalization.

But many Alaskans seem to agree that it’s time to raise the minimum wage.

A poll by Public Policy Polling released May 14 found that 67 percent of Alaskans support the ballot initiative to raise the minimum wage, versus 27 percent opposed and 6 percent undecided.

If passed in November, Alaska’s minimum wage would go up to $9.75 by 2016 and index to inflation thereafter.

The breakdown shows even more unanimity among Alaskans for a wage hike, even among traditionally conservative demographic groups:

Ideology

Moderate: 80 percent
Somewhat conservative: 52 percent
Very conservative: 30 percent

Party

Independent: 71 percent
Republican: 45 percent

Age

46-65: 67 percent
Older than 65: 68 percent

Full results here.

Last month, Republicans in the Alaska legislature tried to stop the minimum wage measure from appearing on the ballot (despite the nearly half of Alaska Republicans who support it). The House passed a minimum wage bill similar to the initiative, which would have taken it off the November ballot. The Senate, luckily, did not allow the bill to advance.

If this had been successful, not only would voters not be able to vote on the issue, but the legislature would have been able to cancel the minimum wage increase the following year. It sounds convoluted, but they pulled this exact trick in 2002.

Unless something drastic changes, the minimum wage initiative will appear before voters in November, and at this point it looks pretty hard to beat.

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

Photo by Alaskan Dude on Flickr

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Just Two Weeks After New Jersey and SeaTac Minimum Wage Elections, Big Milestone Reached in Massachusetts

Just two weeks after voters in New Jersey and SeaTac, Washington voted to raise the minimum wage, a Massachusetts coalition to enact a similar ballot measure announced a major milestone.

Raise Up Massachusetts announced Monday that over 10 weeks, they have collected approximately 269,059 signatures to get a statewide minimum wage increase and an earned sick time on the 2014 ballot.

Only 68,911 verified signatures are required.

“The numbers show just how many Massachuetts voters stand with families who need a higher minimum wage and earned sick time,” said SEIU Local 509 President Susan Sousignant.

Kim Rivera, an activist from Springfield, has collected 853 signatures toward the goal. “When I explain that the minimum wage is only $8 an hour and almost one million workers in Massachusetts can’t earn a single day of sick time, people were eager to sign.”

If passed, the measures would do three things: a.) increase the minimum wage to $10.50 an hour over two years; b.) index future increases to inflation; and c.) allow all workers to earn one hour of paid sick time for every 30 hours worked, up to 40 hours a year.

Similar efforts are underway in Idaho, Alaska, and South Dakota.

Raising the minimum wage isn’t just good policy, it could also be good politics. The Ballot Initiative Strategy Center found that overall voter turnout is 7 to 9 percent higher in midterm elections when wage initiatives are on the ballot.

These initiatives also often cross party lines. In New Jersey two weeks ago, voters voted overwhelmingly to raise the minimum wage even while many also voted to reelect Gov. Chris Christie, who himself vetoed a minimum wage increase earlier this year.

In SeaTac, Washington, a proposition to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour is leading by only 46 votes.

Photo by Raise Up Massachusetts on Facebook

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Here’s Why Governor Sean Parnell Is Wrong To Leave 40,000 Alaskans Without Affordable Coverage

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Alaska’s Republican Governor Sean Parnell announced Friday that he would be refusing federal funds to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.

Like Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and others who have made a similar decision, Gov. Parnell described his decision in vague terms:

Parnell said the Affordable Care Act involved a combination of parts.

“Many of those pieces are failing,” Parnell said. “Can states trust the federal government to not cut and run on its share?”

He described Medicaid as already one of the state’s most costly programs.

That’s why the federal government is paying for 100 percent of Medicaid expansion until 2020, at which point they’ll pay for 90 percent. Gov. Parnell is refusing a policy that will come at no cost to his state for years.

As for the “pieces” of the Affordable Care Act that Gov. Parnell says are “failing,” it’s certain that Medicaid expansion is working quite well.

The number of people lacking health insurance in Oregon, for instance, was halved in just two weeks, with more than 60,000 people signing up.

Kentucky has one of the most successful health insurance exchanges in the country, with more than 5,000 enrollees in the first month. But even there, five times as many people have successfully joined the Medicaid rolls.

While the private insurance-based Health Insurance Marketplace has had an uneasy rollout, the public, single payer-esque Medicaid expansion has worked phenomenally. If Gov. Parnell was serious about implementing parts of the law with a proven record, he would accept Medicaid expansion in a heartbeat.

But like Govs. Walker, Perry, McCrory and others, Parnell is less interested in giving his constituents access to affordable health insurance than he is in making a political statement. And as a result, insurance premiums are higher for everyone, and thousands remain unable to access the care they need.

Photo by wonderlane on Flickr

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