13,000 Las Vegas Casino/Hotel Workers Ratify New Pact

The members of Culinary Workers Local 226 and Bartenders Local 165(both UNITE HERE locals) voted Tuesday to ratify a five-year contract with Caesars Entertainment covering the 13,000 members of both locals. The deal, which replaces the previous contract that expired in June, was approved by 97% of the voters.

The workers are employed a seven Caesars’ properties in the food and beverage, housekeeping, cocktails and the bell departments. Geoconda Arguello-Kline, secretary-treasurer of Local 226, said:

Through negotiations, Caesars and the unions have worked together to reach an agreement that gives workers the opportunity to provide for their families. It is clear Caesars Entertainment is committed to the future of Las Vegas. The overwhelming support for the new contract shows members want a secure future with good jobs and strong benefits.

Elmer Portillo, a food server at Planet Hollywood, said, “This is a good contract for members because benefits and jobs are secured. I’m especially thankful to know my health care is protected for the next five years, that’s very important.”

The unions say the economic package, agreed to by both parties, mirrors exactly what has been agreed to by the unions and other employers. Workers will keep their high-quality health insurance. Changes were negotiated for food and beverage operations to allow for flexibility in closed and distressed venues with the goals of reopening shops and bringing workers back to their jobs. New housekeeping language will increase job safety by creating measures designed to deal with hazardous work conditions. Finally, a new program in the cocktails department will create jobs and maximize customer service.

Read more here.

The seven properties are Caesars Palace, Paris Las Vegas, Planet Hollywood, Bally’s, Harrah’s, Rio and Flamingo. In November, the 21,000 workers at MGM Resorts International ratified a similar five-year contract. The employees work at Aria, Bellagio, Circus Circus, Slots A Fun, Excalibur, Luxor, Mandalay Bay, The Mirage, Monte Carlo and the New York-New York Hotel.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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12 Ways the State Policy Network Could Assault the Rights of Working Families in 2014

new article from the Guardian reveals that the State Policy Network (SPN) is planning a significant assault on the rights of working families in 2014 state legislative sessions. Through the Searle Freedom Trust, a foundation it created in 2011, SPN plans to offer sizable grants to supposedly independent, non-partisan think tanks in the states. SPN collected 40 grant proposalsfrom these think tanks and will grant funding through Searle to 20 of them. The proposals are for numerous extreme right-wing policy options, very similar to those proposed by groups like the American Legislative Exchange Council, and the think tanks already receive funding from the typical extremist anti-working family funders like the Koch brothers.

While SPN claims tax-exempt status that limits their lobbying efforts and the group says that it and the groups it funds don’t engage in lobbying, those claims don’t quite pass a commonsense examination. As the Guardian notes:

Most of the “think tanks” involved in the proposals gathered by the State Policy Network are constituted as 501(c)(3) charities that are exempt from tax by the Internal Revenue Service. Though the groups are not involved in election campaigns, they are subject to strict restrictions on the amount of lobbying they are allowed to perform. Several of the grant bids contained in the Guardian documents propose the launch of “media campaigns” aimed at changing state laws and policies, or refer to “advancing model legislation” and “candidate briefings,” in ways that arguably cross the line into lobbying.

Depending on which 20 proposals it chooses to fund, here are 12 ways that SPN could assault the rights of working families in 2014:

1. Alabama Policy Institute: Requested $25,725 to fund the “spark plug” for eliminating the state income tax. Such a plan would lead to the cutting of services for working families. (Also requested for tax cuts or elimination: Advance Arkansas Institute, $35,000; Georgia Public Policy Foundation, $40,000; Nebraska’s Platte Institute for Economic Research, $25,000; New Mexico’s Rio Grande Foundation, $30,000; Ohio’s Buckeye Institute for Public Policy Solutions, $40,000; and Opportunity Ohio, $35,000).

2. Delaware’s Caesar Rodney Institute: Requested $36,000 to fund strategies to repeal the state’s prevailing wage law, which would lower wages for working families.

3. Florida’s James Madison Institute: Requested $40,000 to fund efforts to promote vouchers (which they call Education Savings Accounts), which would reduce funding for public schools. Lower public education funding would lead to worsening student performance and teacher layoffs. (Also requested on this topic: Oregon’s Cascade Policy Institute, $40,000.)

4. Georgia Center for Opportunity: Requested $65,000 to fund opposition to Medicaid expansion, which would mean fewer residents have health care. (Also requested on this same topic: North Carolina’s J.W. Pope Civitas Institute, $46,500; Texas Public Policy Foundation, $40,000; Utah’s Sutherland Institute, $50,000.)

5. Illinois Policy Institute: Requested $40,000 to fight to change Chicago’s public employee pension system to a defined-contribution plan, which would mean less retirement security for working families. (Also requested on cutting public employee pensions: Arizona’s Goldwater Institute for Public Policy, $40,000; Minnesota’s Center of the American Experiment, $40,000; Missouri’s Show-Me Institute, $25,000; Pennsylvania’s Commonwealth Foundation, $35,500.)

6. Maryland Public Policy Institute: Requested $40,000 to push for cuts in corporate tax rates, which would lead to the cutting of services for working families.

7. Maine Heritage Policy Center: Requested $35,000 to fund a campaign to eliminate state and local income taxes and institute “right to work” for less in one county as a model for future endeavors. If the campaign succeeds, working families will face service cuts and lower wages.

8. Mississippi Center for Public Policy: Requested $30,000 to oppose gas tax increases and privatize the state Department of Transportation, which would lead to weakened services for state residents and lower accountability on transportation issues. (Also requested on privatization: Massachusetts’ Pioneer Institute, $40,000).

9. Common Sense Institute of New Jersey: Requested $50,000 for a campaign to eliminate the compensation of public employees for unused sick leave, which would lower the overall compensation package for employees and encourage public employee absenteeism.

10. Nevada Policy Research Institute: Requested $35,000 to fund a campaign to get union members to leave their unions, which would weaken the collective bargaining rights of working families.

11. Empire Center for New York State Policy: Requested $36,500 to fund efforts to eliminate the estate tax, which would lead to service cuts for working families and shift the tax burden in the state from the wealthy toward working families.

12. Washington Policy Center: Requested $35,000 to launch a campaign to require local governments to have a super-majority to raise taxes, which would cripple local governments and lead to cuts in services for working families.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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10 Ways Working Families Are ‘Kicking Ass’ for the Middle Class

Sure, working families have been under attack for years, but people across the country are rolling up their sleeves and fighting back to protect workers’ rights and raise living standards for everyone. Here are 10 ways they’re doing it:

1. Increasing the Minimum Wage

Four states (California, Connecticut, New York and Rhode Island) have increased their state minimum wage in 2013, and on Nov. 5, New Jersey voters will vote on a ballot measure to increase their minimum wage.

2. Passing “Buy America” Laws

Three states (Colorado, Maryland and Texas) passed laws in 2013 to ensure that the goods procured with public funding are made in the United States.

3. Ensuring Paid Sick Days

Portland, Ore., Jersey City, N.J., and New York City became the latest three cities to adopt standards for paid sick days in 2013.

4. Protecting Immigrant Workers

In 2013, six states (California, Colorado, Indiana, Maryland, Oregon and Vermont) have enacted protections for immigrant workers, including access to driver’s licenses and education.

5. Cracking Down on Businesses That Cheat Workers

Texas passed legislation in 2013 to crack down on businesses that cheat employees by treating them as “independent contractors” who lack worker protections (such as minimum wage and overtime protection, and eligibility for unemployment benefits and workers’ compensation).

6. Giving Workers the Right to a Voice on the Job

In 2013, some 15,000 home care workers in Minnesota won collective bargaining rights through state legislation, as did 10,000 in Illinois and 7,000 in Vermont. Thousands of other workers around the country have enjoyed organizing wins, too: 7,000 electrical workers, more than 5,000 Texas public school teachers, taxi drivers in New York and other cities, telecom workers, college and university faculty, EMS drivers, hotel and casino workers and domestic workers, to name a few.

7. Protecting Your Privacy on Social Media

Nine states (Arizona, Colorado, Illinois, New Jersey, New Mexico, Nevada, Oregon, Utah and Washington) have passed legislation in 2013 to prohibit employers from requiring access to your social media passwords or information as a condition of employment.

8. Fighting for LGBTQ Equality

Five states (Colorado, Delaware, Minnesota, Rhode Island and Vermont) have passed legislation banning workplace discrimination or recognizing marriage equality.

9. Protecting the Rights of Domestic Workers

Two states (California and Hawaii) have passed legislation in 2013 to protect the rights of domestic workers. California’s Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights will benefit about 200,000 domestic workers, and Hawaii’s will benefit some 20,000 domestic workers.

10. Protecting Voting Rights

Twelve states (California, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Maryland, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Virginia and West Virginia) have passed legislation protecting voting rights in 2013, while voting rights legislation was vetoed by the governors of Nevada and New Jersey.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Where Does Nationals Player Bryce Harper Get His Work Ethic? His Ironworker Dad, That’s Where

Washington Nationals wunderkind outfielder Bryce Harper works hard.

Where does he get that work ethic? His father, a union ironworker from Las Vegas, who installs rebar on construction sites in sometimes extreme conditions.

Check out this clip from ESPN’s “Bryce Begins.” The entire special aired Tuesday night.

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Mobile Food Pantries Helping Rural Nevada

Food banks in Nevada are trying to reach small communities in rural areas by setting up mobile food pantries. A truck comes in, volunteers unload, and begin to distribute the food. By the time they finish, nothing is left.
From the Las Vegas Sun:

The mobile pantries differ from traditional pantries because they’re scheduled, mass-distribution events that can quickly serve thousands of people, said John Livingston, Three Square’s chief operating officer.

and

As the Sandy Valley operation proved successful, Three Square officials scouted other locations that would benefit based on factors such as access to grocery stores, nutritious food availability and existing agencies’ capacity to feed those in need, Livingston said.

Without having to rely on a fixed location, the trucks can travel to the areas that have the greatest need.

Grace Immanuel sits in ZIP code 89106, where 27 percent of residents may go hungry despite food stamps and other services already provided in the area, according to a Feeding America report using 2010 data. It’s the same situation in neighboring ZIP codes.

Other mobile pantries began in surrounding rural areas known as “food deserts”: Pahrump, Mesquite and, earlier this month, Laughlin, Livingston said. A Caliente location will begin in February, he added.

Given that Nevada consistently has the highest unemployment rates in the US, it’s good to see organizations working together to provide assistance to folks in small communities that are often underserved. This is truly a creative solution.

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How Seven Elected Officials Are Standing Up to the Banks

“You have really been fantastic!” wrote William from Bearsville, New York, “Rarely have I been able to write that someone I voted for has actually acted as I would act…truly representative government! I love it!”

Congress is at record low approval, and distrust of government is at record highs. Occupy protesters have taken to the streets across the country to voice their anger at the current political system. In this day and age, what would possess William from Bearsville to gush over an elected official?

Turns out William was writing to Eric Schneiderman, the Attorney General of New York state. Schneiderman, elected in 2010, is one of a handful of state officials resisting a proposed “50 state settlement” with big banks that would amount to a slap on the wrist for years of unethical and sometimes illegal foreclosure practices.

The first reaction we all have to a politician doing anything we even remotely approve of is: What’s their game? What do they have to gain from this? Given what we’ve seen the last few years, it’s a fair question. Matt Stoller, a fellow at the Roosevelt Institute, gave his answer in an August blog post:

I’ve known Schneiderman for a few years, back when he was a state Senator working to reform the Rockefeller drug laws. And my answer to this question is pretty simple. He wants to. That’s it. Eric Schneiderman is investigating the banks because he thinks it’s the right thing to do. So he’s doing it. This guy has thought about his politics. He wrote an article about how he sees politics in 2008 in the Nation, and in his inaugural speech as NY AG he talked about the need to restore faith in both public and private institutions. Free will still counts for something, apparently.

But the New Yorker isn’t the only one stepping up to the plate. Joining Schneiderman are Martha Coakley of Massachusetts, Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada, Jack Conway of Kentucky, Beau Biden of Delaware, Kamala Harris of California, and Lori Swanson of Minnesota. “Thank goodness Lori Swanson is standing up for homeowners and holding financial companies accountable,” wrote Elizabeth from Fergus Falls, Minnesota.

It’s true that these seven AG’s happen to be Democrats. But foreclosure fraud is not – or at least it should not be – a partisan issue. Even our most conservative, rabid anti-Obama friends and relatives would probably agree that those who used dirty tactics to make a killing while millions of families lost their homes should be brought to justice.

The biggest reason that there are seven AG’s standing up to the banks instead of 50 is that the price for messing around with those large financial institutions – literally trying to extract more restitution and deny blanket legal immunity – can be very high. A bunch of these guys are up for reelection, and some of them have ambitions for higher office. In an age of Citizens United, tangling with the likes of Bank of America and Citigroup can put a huge pair of crosshairs on your political career; the banks don’t care whether there is a D or an R next to your name if you vote their way.

That’s why it’s even more important to laud these seven for standing up to the banks. Take action here and send a message to your state Attorney General that an investigation into fraud isn’t just good for our economic future – it’s the right thing to do.

Photo of New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman from the Office of New York Attorney General.

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