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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#ChangeZara Campaign Shows Results for New York Retail Workers

#ChangeZara Campaign Shows Results for New York Retail Workers

The #ChangeZara campaign began for workers at the retail clothing chain’s stores in New York City last May, with employees asking for more pay and for the company to treat them with dignity and respect. The efforts finally paid off when the company texted the workers that they would be receiving a wage increase this January. Zara also is increasing the number of full-time positions in its stores. For many employees, the raise is significant. Valery Jourdan, for instance, will see her salary increase by $2.50 an hour.

The campaign, sponsored by the Retail Action Project and Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU), was started by Zara employees, who began organizing because they said that too many of them were part-time and couldn’t afford to buy the clothes that they sold. They asked for more hours, better pay, advanced notification of schedules and opportunities for professional growth. Nearly a year later, their organizing efforts paid off.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Working Families See Big Wins in Tuesday’s Elections

Yesterday, working families saw major wins in the elections held in New York, Virginia, Boston, Ohio and New Jersey.

The impact of grassroots power was especially evident in the groundbreaking minimum wage increase in New Jersey.

In Boston, voters elected union member Marty Walsh (D) for mayor. In Virginia, a bellwether state, Terry McAuliffe (D) won the governorship. In Ohio, Cincinnati voters overwhelmingly–78% to 2%–defeated a city charter amendment that would have eliminated the defined benefit pension plan for newly hired city employees. And in New York City, voters elected Bill de Blasio, the first Democratic mayor in more than two decades.

Union City’s Chris Garlock spoke with Northern Virginia Area Labor Federation President Daniel Duncan who talked about the importance of working families turning out to vote, “We did our part in Northern Virginia and I’m just so proud of everyone who showed up and helped out.”

Garlock writes:

Union members, staff and leaders had crisscrossed the state yesterday in a final effort to turn out the labor vote for union-endorsed candidates. “No vote can be taken for granted,” said Roxie Mejia, director of Political Affairs for Painters and Allied Trades District Council 51. “Electing labor-friendly folks makes all the difference,” District Council 51 Business Agent Lynn Taylor said.

New Jersey State AFL-CIO President Charles Wowkanech reflects on the raise the wage campaign working families waged in New Jersey:

The New Jersey State AFL-CIO was proud to fight on the front lines of an epic battle to raise the state minimum wage, and did so as a founding partner of the statewide grassroots coalition Working Families United for New Jersey Inc., which united the efforts of 256 labor, community, religious, civil rights, student, progressive, women and retirees groups as part of the “Raise the Wage” campaign….Raising the minimum wage was an unequivocal victory for the labor movement that will give hardworking men and women a financial boost and raise the standard of living for all working families.

Read more from the New Jersey State AFL-CIO.

New York City Central Labor Council President Vincent Alvarez says:

Today, New York City’s labor movement took a stand against 12 years of austerity politics that have taken precedence over the needs of everyday New Yorkers. Together with our affiliates, we took to the streets to make our voices heard, and together, we voted against policies and deals designed to favor the wealthy, while ignoring the needs of our cities working families….Throughout the five boroughs, residents cast their votes for Mayor-Elect Bill de Blasio, a man who understands the severity of our city’s income equality problem, and who is ready to tackle that problem head-on.

In Washington State, another groundbreaking minimum wage increase ballot measure affecting more than 6,000 low-wage airport workers is currently leading, but votes are still being counted. The measure would increase the minimum wage for SeaTac workers to $15.00 an hour and would provide sick days and other benefits.

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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Bronx Carwasheros Latest to Win Union Voice

Workers at the WCA Car Wash in Soundview in South Central Bronx, N.Y, voted unanimously to join the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU). Their victory builds on the momentum that has seen workers at seven New York City carwashes vote for a voice at work and two recent successful contract ratifications as part of the WASH New York campaign.

WCA Car Wash is owned by John Lage, who is by far the largest carwash owner in New York City, owning more than 20 carwashes in the metropolitan area. A recent report by RWDSU, New York Communities for Change (NYCC) and the Center for Popular Democracy (CPD) found that businesses owned by Lage and his associates could generate as much as $34 million a year in revenue, while paying workers minimum wage salaries or less.

Omar Pineda, a 35-year-old carwashero from El Salvador, said:

Just as we won our election, we are going to win a just contract. We hope that with the union contract we will win the respect we deserve and some benefits as well, like a better salary, job security and protection against the chemicals.

Recently, workers at Sunny Day Car Wash in the Bronx and Hi-Tek Car Wash and Lube in Queens won their first contracts after voting to join RWDSU.

RWDSU President Stuart Appelbaum said:

Across the city, carwash workers are standing up, speaking out and demanding that they be treated with dignity and respect. This is a building movement.

A recent WASH New York survey of 89 workers at 29 different carwashes found that more than 71% of the workers put in at least 60 hours a week—and some worked 105 hours a week. Despite the long hours, 75% of the workers didn’t get overtime pay for exceeding 40 hours. When workers did get overtime pay, it often was less than the legally mandated rate of time-and-a-half. Some 66% of the workers said they often received less than minimum wage. Only five workers said they were paid the difference to make minimum wage if their earnings with tips were less than the legal rate.

The New York victories follow wins at a trio of Southern California carwashes where workers have achieved union contracts with United Steelworkers Local 675. In addition, carwash workers throughout the Los Angeles area have benefited as local and state officials have cracked down on safety, health, wage and other violations, and workers have become more aware of their rights. The same spillover effect is expected in New York, where there are about 500 carwashes with some 5,000 mostly immigrant workers.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

Photo via @JesusGonzalezNY

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NY City Council Overrides Bloomberg Veto to Enact Paid Sick Days

On Thursday morning, the New York City Council overrode a veto by Mayor Michael Bloomberg (I) to pass a new paid sick days requirement for businesses with more than 15 employees. Employees at those businesses will earn five paid sick days each year. The law will be implemented in 2014 and initially it will apply to companies with 20 or more employees; after a year and a half it will apply to businesses with 15 or more workers. Smaller businesses will be required to provide their employees with five unpaid sick days.

The victory for both workers and consumers makes New York the fifth city and the largest with a paid sick days requirement. More than 1 million New York City workers will gain access to paid sick leave, joining workers in Portland, Ore., Seattle, San Francisco and Washington, D.C. The state of Connecticut also requires paid sick days.

Vincent Alvarez, president of the New York City Central Labor Council, said:

For far too long, the notion of taking a day off to care for a sick child or tend to personal health issues was financially unfeasible for many New Yorkers. In a time when so many are living paycheck to paycheck, the thought of losing a day’s pay, or the threat of being fired, was enough to make them go to work regardless of whether or not they were well enough to be there.

This legislation will help the sales associate who can now take a sick day, instead of helping customers while battling a long-term illness. This legislation will help the barista fighting the flu to stay home and recuperate, instead of showing up to work sick, for fear of losing wages.

A healthier workforce is a more productive workforce, and I commend the City Council for its decision to allow New Yorkers to protect public safety by protecting their health.

Opponents of the new law say it puts too large a burden upon businesses, but in places where the laws already exist, the opposite has proven to be true:

A recent audit of the paid sick leave law in Washington, D.C., foundno negative impact on businesses, while a study of San Francisco found little negative impact and strong support among businesses, and another of Connecticut found a small cost with big potential upsides. San Francisco’s law was found to have spurred job growth.

Despite the law’s passage, 40% of private-sector workers still do not have access to paid leave nationally. Eighty percent of low-income workers lack paid sick days.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

Photo by wilhelmja on Flickr

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New York City Council OK’s Paid Sick Leave for More Than 1 Million Workers

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

New York City workers will receive, starting next year, five paid sick days a year to care for themselves or an ill family member under a measure the New York City Council passed (45-3) this afternoon. The vote culminates a four-year effort by a powerful coalition of workers, unions and community groups.

At a press conference before the historic vote, Vincent Alvarez, president of the New York City Central Labor Council, said:

This vote marks a big step in the right direction toward providing paid sick time to workers in our city. I commend the many advocates who have fought so hard to improve the lives of workers and their families through this bill. As this legislation is voted upon, we reaffirm our commitment to protecting and improving the basic rights of all workers here in New York City.

The issue had been stalled in the City Council, but in late March the New York City Campaign for Paid Sick Days, a broad coalition of low-wage workers, women’s rights advocates, health care providers, small business owners, labor unions and community organizations, reached an agreement with Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn to bring the paid sick leave measure to a vote.

After the vote, MomsRising Executive Director Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner said:

It’s been a long fight, but today the New York City Council heeded the call of New York families and passed a bill that would allow more than a million New Yorkers to earn paid time off to use when they are sick or to take care of a sick child, spouse or parent.

She challenged Mayor Michael Bloomberg to “stand up to corporate lobbyists, listen to the people who elected him and sign this important bill.”

Bloomberg has said he will veto the legislation. But the bill passed with a veto-proof margin.

The new paid sick leave bill requires firms with 20 or more workers to provide five paid sick days beginning in 2014 and, 18 months later, it would cover companies with 15 or more workers. About 1 million New York City workers currently have no paid sick leave.

According to the Center for Economic and Policy Research, more than 40 million people in America work in jobs where they have no access to paid sick days. In addition to the potential loss of wages and jobs for working families, the lack of paid sick days forces many people to go to work when they are contagious and get co-workers and customers sick. No paid sick time also decreases productivity for workers who show up unable to perform to their normal level of ability. Paid time is especially important for low-wage workers who cannot afford basic necessities when they miss work because they don’t have paid sick leave.

In March, Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) introduced the Healthy Families Act, which would give workers the opportunity to earn paid sick leave they could use for personal illnesses or to take care of sick family members, among other uses.

Portland, Ore., San Francisco, Seattle and Washington, D.C., have implemented paid sick leave requirements, and campaigns or legislative initiatives are under way in Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Miami, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Orange County (Fla.), Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Vermont, Washington State and Wisconsin.

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Mayor Nutter Has Less Than Three Days To Show His True Colors

All the April Fools jokes in the world can’t change the fact that April 4, 2013 is coming. That’s the deadline for Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter to either sign or veto the earned paid sick days bill that the City Council passed by a nearly 2-to-1 margin last month. He can also do nothing (“return it unsigned”) and it will still become law.

Mayor Nutter had this same chance in 2011, but decided to side with the business lobbyists (lead by Comcast and the over $108,400 spent on lobbying against sick leave) instead of the nearly 200,000 Philly workers who can’t take a day off without risking their employment, health, or basic economic survival.

However, times have changed quickly since that last veto, and Nutter is running out of excuses. This past week in nearby New York City, after three years of delay, Council Speaker (and Mayoral hopeful) Christine Quinn finally compromised to allow a vote on a sick day measure – which 80 percent of New Yorkers and a majority of her fellow City Councilmembers support.

Mayor Nutter is also running out of excuses on the business front. Like many sick leave ordinances, the Philadelphia bill is a compromise, with over 23 amendments “thanks to feedback from small-business owners,” writes bill sponsor Councilmember Bill Greenlee. The measure exempts businesses with 5 employees or less, and requires employees to earn every hour of sick leave – 1 hour of leave for every 40 hours worked. That’s “personal responsibility” if we ever saw it.

Furthermore, every single report or study on this issue has shown that sick leave ordinances are good for businesses. It’s common sense: the sooner workers can get better, the sooner they can return to work at full strength. Productivity goes up, and turnover goes down.

Oh, and we almost forgot – it’ll allow the people who cook our food, serve our drinks, teach our kids, and care for our grandparents to stay home instead of infecting us and the people we love with whatever germ cocktail they are carrying around.

Take action now: and tell Mayor Nutter to sign the common sense, job-creating, life-improving, right-thing-to-do earned sick days bill. The clock is ticking.

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