Unions Are a Woman’s Best Friend

With National Women’s History Month behind us now, it’s still important to celebrate the great strides women have made over the past decades. It is equally important to remember how many women workers still don’t have the basic necessities they need to support themselves and their families. The labor movement views the struggle for women’s equality as a shared fight, especially considering women are the sole or primary breadwinners for 40% of families in the United States. Women of color, in particular, have a hard time getting good pay and benefits, and they make up a disproportionate share of low-wage workers.

Nearly 7 million women have a voice on the job due to their union membership, and women in unions are more likely than their nonunion peers to have access to paid sick leave and family leave. Collective bargaining through unions also narrows the pay gap between men and women significantly. A typical woman union member earns $222 a week more than a nonunion woman and is far more likely to have health and retirement security. This puts upward pressure on wages and benefits throughout industries that are predominately female, many of which traditionally pay low wages. Every worker deserves to have protections on the job, and it is the goal of the labor movement to ensure that happens.

Recently I was in Chicago for the AFL-CIO Next Up Young Worker Summit, and I was inspired by how many young women I saw around me. Hundreds of young women came from across the country eager to learn and grow as leaders in the labor movement and to stand up for the rights of all workers. They were facilitating workshops, speaking on panels and leading their union brothers and sisters at demonstrations around the city in solidarity with local workers. Erica Clemons, a young worker with the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), provided a snapshot into why it is so important for labor to be active in the fight for women’s rights. She said, “I’m a young organizer. A person of color. A mother. These identities matter to me. It’s important for the labor movement to understand unique struggles.”

Erica started out as a cashier at her local Kroger grocery store in Atlanta. After becoming a member of UFCW, she advanced through hard work and determination from cashier to a spot in the selective UFCW Gold Internship Program in Ohio, an intensive organizer training. Erica excelled in the program, and the organizing director of UFCW Local 881 took notice and offered her a job on the local’s organizing team. Now Erica works to help workers organize in grocery stores just like the one where she started out. She helped organize and lead hundreds of Next Up participants in the demonstration at a Food 4 Less grocery store last week in Chicago, advocating for higher wages. And in her spare time, she serves on the AFL-CIO’s National Young Worker Advisory Council.

The work that Erica and thousands of other union women are doing across the country offers a good reminder that if we work and stand together, achieving gender equality is possible for women all across the United States.

This is a cross-post from MomsRising.org.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Chicago to Raise Minimum Wage to $13 Per Hour


In the wake of federal and state inaction, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel (D) recently proposed raising the minimum wage within the city limits to $13 per hour. A key City Council committee advanced the measure on a 16–3 vote Monday and the broader council passed it 44–5 Tuesday. The current wage of $8.25 will move to $10 early next year and will rise in increments until it reaches the full $13 in 2019.

The increase could affect more than 400,000 workers in the city. Emanuel fast-tracked the higher wage out of fears that the legislature and governor might pre-empt local increases. A bill to raise the statewide minimum wage recently stalled.

Emanuel said:

A higher minimum wage ensures that nobody who works in the city of Chicago will ever struggle to reach the middle class or be forced to raise their child in poverty. Today, Chicago has shown that our city is behind a fair working wage.

Action Now, a local working families organization that championed the measure, applauded the measure and noted that it included domestic workers, unlike previous laws:

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Your Inspiration for Today: 11-Year-Old Asean Johnson

You may have seen a video of him before, but if 11-year-old Asean Johnson can stand up to Rahm Emanuel and school “reformers” like he does in this video from the AFT convention, you can stand up and fight the important battles in your community.

At the Los Angeles convention, he thanked his teachers, his family and his Chicago community for joining together not only to safeguard his schooling and opportunities in life, but also to win access for all students to art, music, libraries and vital school professionals like counselors and nurses. To the cheers of delegates, Asean said:

Now, we must take that fight to every city in America. If we come together, we will win. Let’s march together; let’s fight together; let’s work together. Let’s reclaim the promise of America’s schools together!

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Under Pressure, Chicago Task Force Recommends $13 Minimum Wage


The task force assembled by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel to study raising the city’s minimum wage reached a final recommendation Monday: $13 an hour by 2018. Chicago’s minimum wage is currently $8.25.

The group also recommended raising raising the tipped minimum wage to $5.95 over two years, and pegging both wages to inflation. More importantly, they suggested the Chicago City Council not take any action before November, when Illinois voters will consider an advisory referendum raising the wage statewide to $10.

The Minimum Wage Working Group passed the plan 13-3, with representatives from the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce, Chicago Retail Merchants Association, and the Illinois Restaurant Association dissenting.

The broad Fight for 15 coalition has been pushing Chicago elected officials to establish a $15 an hour living wage and right to organize without retaliation. “[Mayor Emanuel says] America is due for a pay raise” they tweeted, “absolutely. We need $15 now, not $13 in 2018.”

Photo by Fightfor15 on Instagram

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“If They Raised the Minimum Wage, I Wouldn’t Have to Ask Anyone Else for Help”


Robert Lee a father of four living in Chicago, isn’t asking for a lot. “I get paid $8.25 an hour,” he says in a new video from Raise Illinois Action. “I was struggling with the light bill last month. Somebody helped me out to pay it…but if they raised the minimum wage, I wouldn’t have to ask anyone else for help.”

Robert is one of 400,000 Illinois workers to earn that state’s minimum wage of $8.25. The Illinois legislature is considering a bill that would raise the wage to $10.65 by July 2016. In addition, voters in the city of Chicago approved a non-binding referendum in the March primary to raise the city minimum wage to $15 an hour.

Like approximately 27 percent of low-wage workers, Robert is a parent. “They look at me as a giant,” he says of his two daughters, “but when I go in my room at night I feel small because I really can’t afford to take care of my family.”

Watch and share Robert’s video, and text RAISE to 30644 to join the fight to raise the minimum wage in your state.

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10 Lessons Every Government Official Should Learn Before Considering Privatization


Privatization of services has long been a favorite “solution” of right-wing extremists looking to profit off of taxpayer funds. In attempts to sell the government service provision to private companies, many promises are made about the cost-effectiveness and superior quality product that can be offered by the private sector. But most of those promised benefits fail to materialize. Here are 10 lessons that government officials should learn before considering the privatization of services based on the experience of Chicago’s privatized parking meters (and other examples), as outlined in a recent Atlantic article:

1. It could cost you more than you think: Chicago residents saw parking meter rates rise as much as fourfold after meters were leased to a private company.

2. Things that worked before might stop working right: New electronic meters were installed in Chicago, but many of them didn’t give receipts or failed to work.

3. You could lose current benefits: Free parking on Sundays in the city was eliminated.

4. Constituents could get really upset: Once the parking meter system in Chicago began experiencing problems, the people began having protests and threatened a boycott of the lease.

5. You may not be able to change things back: The lease for the Chicago parking meters was 75 years long in exchange for $1.2 billion in up front revenue. Getting out of that lease could be very costly.

6. Revenue could be depressed: An inspector general found that the city of Chicago should’ve gotten nearly $1 billion more than it did from the private company.

7. Even if things get better, costs could go up: Hidden clauses in the Chicago contract require the city to reimburse the company for lost revenue, and the city was on the hook for a host of other costs, including construction, distribution of parking permits for people with disabilities and other possibilities.

8. Lowered costs could mean undercutting public workers: John D. Donahue, a privatization expert at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, says that cost savings are often achieved by undercutting public-sector wages and pensions.

9. Private companies often don’t take into account the same moral arguments that government does: Privatized prisons are the perfect example here, where the profit motive drives companies to demand that governments lock more citizens up.

10. Oversight, accountability and transparency are weakened or eliminated: While government activity is covered by laws that open up much of what an agency does to public scrutiny, most privatization contracts don’t include such measures and it becomes more difficult to know what companies are doing with taxpayer money and hold them accountable when they fail to produce adequate results.

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Northwestern Football Players Win Big Labor Case


In a decision that could vastly improve the treatment of collegiate athletes, National Labor Relations Board just ruled in favor of the Northwestern University football team starting a union.

Just last week the case was deemed as an unlikely win for the athletes, and the decision will likely go through multiple appeals, but as of right now the team is considered a group of laborers which means that they’re eligible to unionize.

If the decision is upheld it would only apply to private institutions, and doesn’t include walk on athletes.

Photo courtesy of Jim Longstreet on Flickr. 

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Marty Walsh Finishes First In Crowded Field in Boston, But the Real Work is Just Beginning

Great news for Boston! Marty Walsh took first place out of twelve candidates in last night’s preliminary election for Boston mayor.

Walsh will face City Councilor John Connolly in the general election on November 5.

This isn’t just a victory for a candidate. It’s a victory for working people all across Boston, who are one step closer to having a mayor who will put their needs first. In every neighborhood in Boston, you’ll hear the same thing: voters want a mayor who will put job creation, affordable housing and great public schools first. Last night’s result shows that Marty Walsh has the record and the values we can trust on those issues.

We have all too many examples of what happens when mayor cities elect the wrong mayor. Michael Nutter in Philadelphia vetoed a paid sick days bill and made deep cuts to schools and city services, and Rahm Emanuel in Chicago has become the poster boy for school closings and corporate-backed education privatization. After 30 years of Mayor Thomas Menino, Boston is at an historic crossroads, and November will determine what path the city takes.

Marty Walsh is committed to tackling Boston’s number one problem: growing inequality. If you have friends or family in Boston, please share with them why Marty is the best choice for Boston’s working families.

Paid for by Working America, 815 16th Street NW, Washington DC. www.workingamerica.org.

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40 Years Later, ALEC is Finally Being Exposed

Nearly 3,000 protesters took to the Chicago streets yesterday outside the 40th anniversary meeting of the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC.

A quick primer: ALEC is an organization that fosters relationships between state legislators, conservative think tanks, and large corporations. ALEC says they are just allowing lawmakers to exchange ideas, but they are also drafting legislation, called “model bills” – with a great deal of input from the corporations themselves – to distribute and pass in the various states.

ALEC has succeeded for decades in part by operating under the radar. The last 18 months, however, have been different.

Several high profile and widely-criticized pieces of legislation have been traced back to their original source. Arizona’s SB 1070, the controversial “papers please” immigration law, had its birth in an ALEC committee. The recent union-busting bills in Wisconsin pushed by Gov. Scott Walker are also ALEC-inspired, and Walker himself was an ALEC member.

Most significantly, the Stand Your Ground/Shoot First laws, which gave legal protection to George Zimmerman when he shot and killed Trayvon Martin, were concocted by National Rifle Association lobbyists and ratified by an ALEC committee.

In the wake of the controversy around these and other laws, the public became increasingly aware of ALEC and the dramatic influence corporations have in the writing of our state laws.

Has ALEC now been exposed? This week definitely showed they are on the ropes. Jay Riestenberg of the AFL-CIO compiled a collection of press clips from the last few days on ALEC and the Chicago protest.

ALEC might not yet be a household name, but their nefarious corporate-driven travesty of lawmaking is finally seeing some sunlight.

Associated Press, Conservative conference draws lawmakers, picketers

Free Speech Radio News, Records show ALEC used secretive fund to finance junkets for legislators

The Huffington Post, How the ALEC Agenda Forced Chicago’s School Closings

The Nation, ALEC Convention Met With Protests in Chicago

The Nation, ALEC’s Illegal Past?

The Nation (blog), An Exposed ALEC Faces Mass Protests and Calls for Scrutiny

Salon, ALEC convention protests: Labor vs. lobbyists

In These Times, Labor and Civil Rights Groups Descend on ALEC Conference

Examiner.com, ALEC holds its 40th Conference in Chicago under clouds of secrecy

Truth Out, Protesters Condemn ALEC’s Push to Privatize Public Education

Progress Illinois, Hundreds Protest ALEC’s Conservative Agenda In Chicago: ‘Get Out Of Our City’ (VIDEO)

Public News Service, ALEC’s 40th Birthday Draws Protests

St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Legislators head to Chicago for ALEC retreat

Cleveland Plain Dealer, Ohio AFL-CIO head said he will protest at Chicago meeting of group that sought to limit unions

News & Observer, Few ALEC bills passed NC legislature, watch dog group finds

Capital Times, Morning briefing: ALEC takes beating

Mint Press News, Do Lavish Trips Funded By ALEC Count As ‘Lobbying’ — Or Bribery?

Media Matters, WSJ’s Defense Of ALEC Lacks Disclosure That News Corp. Is A Member

Chicagoist, Protesters Stage Die-In At Palmer House During ALEC Conference

Riverfront Times (blog), Stand Your Ground: Dick Durbin Pressures Anheuser-Busch, Corporate Backers of ALEC

Wisconsin Gazette, ‘Die-in’ staged at ALEC conference to protest Stand Your Ground laws

Lawyers.com, ALEC Helps Big Business Invade Local Lawmaking State By State

Wall Street Journal, Durbin Wants a List

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ALEC Pursuing Radical Corporate Agenda While Working Families Protest

The Center for Media and Democracy today released a new report on the American Legislative Exchange Council, examining the extreme conservative organization’s powerful and growing influence in the states. The report identifies more than 450 bills introduced by state legislators that copied ALEC’s model bills, with West Virginia and Missouri leading the way with the most bills. Across the nation, 84 of these proposed laws passed.

Key findings about ALEC bills passing in states across the country:

  • 117 bills to enact “right to work” for less laws, pre-empt local living or minimum wage ordinances, privatize public services, eliminate defined-benefit pension plans, or undermine the rights of workers to collectively bargain. Fourteen of these passed.
  • 11 states introduced bills to prevent or eliminate local paid sick leave ordinances.
  • 52 bills to create or tighten voter ID laws that reduce voter participation. Five of these passed.
  • 139 bills to weaken public education by transferring taxpayer money to for-profit private schools and other methods. Thirty-one of these passed.
  • 71 bills to make it harder for citizens to hold corporations responsible when their products or services injure or kill consumers. Fourteen of these passed.
  • 77 bills that weaken environmental protections or lower state investments in renewable energy. Seventeen of these passed.
  • 10 “stand your ground” bills that allow gun owners more latitude in using guns if they feel threatened. Two of these passed.

CMD Director of Research Nick Surgey spoke about the importance of exposing ALEC:

When ALEC was born, Richard Nixon was president. Gasoline was 40 cents a gallon and the minimum wage was $1.60 an hour. Forty years later, ALEC legislators seem to be hankering for this bygone era, pursuing an agenda to roll back renewables, expand the use of fossil fuels, and suppress wages and benefits for even the lowest-paid American workers.

Meanwhile, America’s working families are standing up and fighting back against ALEC’s extreme agenda. Thousands protested ALEC-inspired “stand your ground” laws with a “die-in” outside ALEC’s 40th anniversary meeting in Chicago today, while working family advocates such as Tim Burga of the Ohio AFL-CIO traveled to Illinois to protest ALEC’s broader agenda:

“Ohioans have seen firsthand what happens when shady corporate interest groups write the laws,” he said in a news release. “We saw an unprecedented attack on workers’ rights in SB 5 and an egregious attack on voting rights in HB 194. They both had ALEC’s fingerprints on them.”

Jorge Ramirez, president of the Chicago Federation of Labor, added:

Working men and women turned out in massive numbers not just from Chicago but from Ohio, Wisconsin, Indiana and elsewhere, joining faith and community leaders to push back against ALEC’s anti-worker, anti-democracy agenda. Our hope is that this is yet another step forward in exposing this shadow organization and the extent to which their work harms families and communities across our country.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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