A class-action lawsuit has been filed against McDonald’s and the company’s franchisees in three states, alleging various forms of wage theft at restaurants in California, Michigan and New York, Salon’s Josh Eidelson reports. Among the accusations are stores not paying properly for overtime hours, workers being required to clean uniforms off the clock and employees being required to show up for work, but not allowed to clock in when business is slow.
Eidelson argues that one of the key aspects of the lawsuit is that it will shine a light on how heavy a role the corporation plays in the running of franchise restaurants it doesn’t own:
The most significant threat posed by the potential class actions—one apparent arm in a campaign of media, consumer, political, economic and workplace pressure on fast food giants—may be its potential to draw scrutiny and force disclosures about the relationship between the giant McDonald’s corporation, which netted over $5 billion in profit last year, and its smaller individual franchisees, which are the legal employers of most McDonald’s workers.
Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW
Tags: aflcio, California, fast food, mcdonalds, Michigan, New York, wage theft
In 2004, President George W. Bush, at the urging of business groups, used his executive powers to change overtime eligibility rules and allow businesses to deny overtime for millions of workers. Tomorrow, President Barack Obama is expected to announce that he will direct the U.S. Department of Labor to update overtime eligibility rules to restore overtime protection that workers have lost to inflation since 1975.
Under federal overtime regulations, workers who earn less than a certain salary level are generally entitled to overtime protection. For decades after enactment of the federal overtime law in 1938, this salary threshold was updated every few years as a routine matter. However, the last regular adjustment to the salary level was made by President Gerald R. Ford in 1975. No further adjustments were made for the next 29 years, and as a result, workers’ overtime protections have been steadily eroded by inflation.
Obama is expected to announce tomorrow that the Labor Department will update the salary threshold for overtime eligibility. Above this salary level, workers may be denied overtime protection if they are considered executive management, administrative management or professionals. Below this salary level, workers cannot be denied overtime protection for these reasons.
However, it is not clear how much the president will propose to increase the salary level. The Economic Policy Institute (EPI) has recommended an increase to $970 per week ($50,440 per year), which would restore all of the overtime protection lost to inflation since 1975.
New York and California already require companies to pay overtime to anyone earning less than $600 and $640 per week, respectively. Those salary levels are set to increase to $675 and $800 per week by 2016.
The current federal threshold of $455 per week—or $23,660 per year—is ridiculously low. It is barely above the federal poverty level for a family of four. A White House official explained that overtime protections have eroded to such an extent that millions of workers who should not be denied overtime protection are being left unprotected.
For example, a convenience store manager or a fast-food shift supervisor or an office worker may be expected to work 50 or 60 hours a week or more, making barely enough to keep a family out of poverty, and not receive a dime of overtime pay.
EPI Vice President Ross Eisenbrey says many of the workers who would benefit from restored overtime protection are insurance clerks, secretaries, low-level managers, social workers, bookkeepers, dispatchers, sales and marketing assistants and employees in scores of other occupations.
As the rules stand now, an assistant manager at a fast-food restaurant who spends 95 percent of his (or her) time cooking fries, running a cash register, sweeping floors and moving supplies into and out of the freezer can be denied any overtime pay and work 60 or 70 hours a week if his salary is at least $23,660 a year. Because he is exempt [from overtime protection], the hourly rate of his salary can fall below the minimum wage; “executives” are excluded from minimum wage protection, too.
Last December, President Obama called attention to growing economic inequality in America and declared that making sure the economy works for working people is the defining challenge of our time and drives everything he does as president. With Republicans blocking the legislative agenda he campaigned on in 2012, the president has vowed to act within his executive powers to make sure the economy workers for everyone. Today’s announcement follows on the heels of his January executive order requiring federal contractors on all new or renewed contracts to pay their workers at least $10.10 an hour.
Also Democrats in Congress and the president are attempting to raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 per hour. If you think workers deserve a raise, sign this petition.
Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW
Tags: aflcio, Barack Obama, California, George W. Bush, Jobs, minimum wage, New York, overtime, Rights At Work
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s (D) executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, Patrick Foye, sent a letter to the heads of American, JetBlue and United airlines, warning them that they could lose their slots in the new central terminal at LaGuardia Airport if they don’t improve pay and benefits to workers at LaGuardia and John F. Kennedy International airports. Nearly 6,000 contract workers for the three airlines are paid at near-minimum wage levels with no benefits. Meanwhile, Cuomo said that he wants to improve the airports to world-class status.
Higher pay requirements for contract workers will be included in the lease provisions for the airlines, according to the New York Daily News. An aide to the governor said the administration isn’t concerned that the airlines will leave the city because the traffic to the nation’s biggest city is too high and too valuable to the companies.
Foye’s letter said the airlines should act quickly and that he was adamant the workers be assisted as soon as possible:
Providing an improved wage and benefits package to the thousands of hardworking men and women who make our airport system the largest in the country is something that cannot wait. The Port Authority is prepared to use every tool at its disposal to achieve these goals. By taking this action, we will together treat these workers justly, reduce turnover, enhance service levels and place all airlines at the NYC Port Authority airports on a level taxiway so to speak.
Previously, Foye demanded that the three airlines, as well as Delta, increase wages for those contract workers making under $9 by at least $1 per hour and that the airlines make Martin Luther King Jr. Day a paid holiday. Delta agreed to the request, the other airlines did not.
Hector Figueroa, president SEIU Local 32BJ, praised Cuomo and the Port Authority for their efforts: “It shows the a difference that leadership makes. Gov. Cuomo is standing firm behind the Port Authority and the Port Authority is using its power to really do the right thing.”
“The Port Authority is using its leverage to bring about positive change. It is not only the right thing to do, it is also now a requirement for doing business in New York City. We feel everything is aligned to make a difference for New York airport workers,” Figueroa said. “We, of course, need to complete the process of lifting this group of New Yorkers out of poverty and put them on a path to the middle class by agreeing on comprehensive wage and benefit reforms at all our airports. This must include Newark airport workers.”
Prince Jackson, who works for Delta Air Lines contractor Air Serv providing security at Terminal 2 at JFK, said he was happy to hear the good news.
“Even though it’s only a dollar raise to start,” Jackson said, “it’ll make a difference. That’s $40 a week. I’ll be able to pay more of my bills.”
Photo by Phillip Capper on Flickr
Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW
Tags: airports, Andrew Cuomo, minimum wage, New Jersey, New York, SEIU
Peacock Productions workers are heading to NBC’s headquarters, “30 Rock,” on Thursday to deliver petitions to MSNBC hosts, including Rachel Maddow, Ed Schultz, the Rev. Al Sharpton and Lawrence O’Donnell, asking them to meet with the workers and stand with the workers who are seeking union representation on the job.
As we’ve reported before, NBC production workers have been trying to form a union for a more than a year with the Writers Guild of America, East (WGAE). But Peacock Productions, a subsidiary of NBC, has not acted in good faith in negotiations. Chris Hayes met with the workers in December but no other MSNBC host has done the same.
Salon’s Josh Eidelson writes:
“Frankly,” said Writers Guild of America–East Organizing Director Justin Molito, “if we don’t have people overcoming their personal fears and speaking out that are in such high-profile positions as MSNBC hosts, what does that say about the climate of fear at NBC?”
Peacock Productions workers and fellow WGA-E activists plan to show up at 30 Rock on Thursday with petitions addressed to five MSNBC anchors: Rachel Maddow, Lawrence O’Donnell, Al Sharpton, Ed Schultz and Chris Hayes. Molito told Salon the activists will ask for the hosts to be paged to come downstairs and personally receive the letter, which was backed by the AFL-CIO and hosted by MoveOn, and now boasts 10,000-some supporters.
Maddow, O’Donnell, Sharpton, Schultz, Hayes and NBC did not respond to Friday inquiries, or to past requests for comment on the Peacock Productions dispute.
Support the NBC production workers by helping them get to 15,000 signatures on their petition here.
Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW
Tags: aflcio, Al Sharpton, Chris Hayes, Ed Schultz, Lawrence O'Donnell, NBC, New York, Rachel Maddow, WGAE
Sunday is the first outdoor, cold weather site Super Bowl in the game’s 48-year history. The frigid weather in the weeks leading up to the game and expected temps in the 20s and 30s won’t stop the thousands of union members who are bringing you the game. On the scene at MetLife Stadium in the New Jersey Meadowlands or behind the scenes at many facilities in the Metro New York-New Jersey area, union members are making the nation’s national party day possible.
So, as a preview before you sit back, open a beverage and eat far too many snacks that are far from healthy, we introduce Sunday’s starting union lineup.
Of course, on the field, the Seattle Seahawks and Denver Broncos players are members of the NFL Players Association (NFLPA), and the men in the striped shirts are members of the NFL Referees Association.
The announcers, camera operators, technicians, field workers and other hardworking folks bringing the game to your flat-screened football cave or favorite Broncos or Seahawks bar include members of SAG-AFTRA, Broadcast Employees and Technicians-CWA (NABET-CWA), Electrical Workers (IBEW) and Laborers (LIUNA).
The annual over-the-top halftime show is a down-to-the-second, choreographed, on-the-field, off-the-field 12-minute extravaganza made possible by the skills of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) and the American Federation of Musicians of the United States and Canada (AFM) and other performing artists. Anyone who takes in a show in the city likely will enjoy the talents of Actors’ Equity (AEA).
For the fans who head for the concessions, their hot dogs will be served and their beer will be drawn by men and women from UNITE HERE Local 100.
Away from the stadium, union members are making an impact, too. Folks taking the area’s huge mass transit system are being safely delivered to their destinations by members of the Transport Workers (TWU), Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) and United Transportation Union (UTU).
A large number of the area’s hotels are staffed by members of unions of the New York Hotel Trades Council. Many of the firefighters, emergency medical personnel and other public service workers who are ensuring a safe and efficient Super Bowl week are members of the Fire Fighters (IAFF) and AFSCME.
Of course, the fans who flew in for the big game got there safely, thanks to aviation workers from the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA), Air Line Pilots (ALPA), Association of Flight Attendants-CWA (AFA-CWA), Transport Workers (TWU) and Machinists (IAM).
Also, a big thanks to AFT and NFLPA for raising awareness about human trafficking during large sports events such as the Super Bowl.
Image via @northjerseybrk on Twitter
Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW
Tags: AFA-CWA, AFM, afscme, ALPA, Colorado, Denver, iaff, IAM, IATSE, ibew, liuna, NABET-CWA, New Jersey, New York, NFLPA, SAG-AFTRA, seattle, teamsters, TWU, unite here, washington
A 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
Tags: Alabama, ALEC, Corporate Accountability, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Maine, maryland, mississippi, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, State Policy Network, washington
A disproportionate number of Latinos and immigrants are disproportionately killed in fall accidents in New York, according to a new study by the Center for Popular Democracy, because they work in construction in relatively high numbers; are concentrated in smaller, nonunion firms; and are over-represented in the contingent labor pool.
According to Fatal Inequality: Workplace Safety Eludes Construction Workers of Color in New York State:
- In the state of New York, Latinos and immigrants suffered 60% of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)-investigated fatal falls from elevation fatalities.
- In New York City, 74% of victims of fatal falls were Latinos and immigrants.
- 86% of Latinos and immigrants killed in falls from an elevation in the state were working for nonunion employers.
Latino construction workers said they feared retaliation from their employers if they raised concerns about safety conditions. The report also points to an underfunded and understaffed OSHA and penalties for safety violations that are “so small that employers can see them as just an incidental cost of doing business.”
The report warns that matters could get worse because the construction and insurance industries are proposing an amendment to weaken the state’s Scaffold Law, which requires owners and contractors to provide appropriate and necessary equipment, such as safe hoists, ladders and scaffolds. The law holds owners and contractors fully liable if their failure to follow the law causes a worker to be injured or killed. It would shift responsibility for workplace safety from owners and contractors, who control site safety, to workers, who do not.
You can read an executive summary of the report here or download the entire report here.
Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW
Tags: aflcio, construction, Latino, New York, Rights At Work, safety
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.”
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
Tags: elections, marty walsh, Massachusetts, minimum wage, New Jersey, New York, New York City, seatac, Virginia, washington
Johnny Zuagar just wants to go back to work. It’s been 72 hours since he’s been locked out of his job at the U.S. Census Bureau in Suitland, Md., and he’s scared.
“I don’t know what bills to pay,” says Zuagar, who has two young children. “I’m afraid I might lose my house. I don’t know how it got to this.”
Zuagar and 800,000 federal workers all over the United States are locked out of their jobs because of the House Republican government shutdown. While most people think that the shutdown is focused on Washington, D.C., the reality is that about 85% of federal workers don’t work in the Washington area. In fact, the D.C. metro area is only the fourth largest concentration of federal workers (see a map of where federal workers are). Here are 12 examples of workers, some of whom are still working, are going without paychecks because of the irresponsible House Republican shutdown.
1. Washington, D.C., Capitol Police: The officers who responded to the tragic incidentnear the U.S. Capitol on Thursday are currently working without pay. Whenever the shutdown ends, they’ll receive pay for time worked, but they don’t know when their next check will arrive.
2. Wyoming Nuclear Missile Support Staff: More than 1,000 support staff at a base that houses Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missiles were furloughed. While people who directly work in national security-related jobs stayed working, others, like map technician Thomas Sweeney, were sent home. The absence of Sweeney and others isn’t as benign as some members of Congress would have you believe: “As for civilians who work for the (Defense Department) and support our national security, furloughs and pay freezes are equally serious and threatening to our national security, especially at a time of war,” American Legion National Commander Daniel M. Dellinger said.
3. Florida Air Safety: Jennifer Martin is a member of the Professional Aviation Safety Specialists (PASS) and computer specialist with the Federal Aviation Administration in Melbourne, Fla. Martin develops and maintains software applications to monitor equipment like air-to-ground and ground-to-ground communications and surveillance. She and her co-workers, who include aviation safety inspectors, are dedicated federal employees who want to return to their jobs where they can “serve the nation, and provide for our families.” Martin says while they are locked out of their jobs, the safety of flying public may be at risk.
4. Missouri Mortgage Assistance for Rural Homeowners: Nicole Starr, a single mother of three, was locked out from her job helping low-income rural homeowners pay their mortgages. She says she’s very proud of the job she has helping people. “Now I’m in the same position as the people I help,” she says. “I feel like I am watching our community fall apart.”
5. New York Toxic Waste Cleanup: The Environmental Protection Agency was scheduled to begin the process of helping residents near the Eighteen Mile Creek Superfund site move to homes that are uncontaminated with asbestos, PCBs, lead and chromium—hazards they currently live with—but the shutdown has stopped the process. The local community involvement coordinator Mike Basile says he doesn’t know when things will move forward. “I don’t know. I can’t find out because it’s so chaotic today.”
6. Montana Native American Programs: Leaders of the Crow Tribe laid off hundreds of workers who perform home health care for the elderly and people with disabilities, bus service for rural areas and other projects. “It’s going to get hard,” says Shar Simpson, who leads the Crow’s home health care program. “We’re already taking calls from people saying, ‘Who’s going to take care of my mom? Who’s going to take care of my dad?’”
7. Illinois Women, Infants and Children (WIC) Agencies: The state’s Department of Human Services has enough money to fund WIC for about two weeks, after that, it won’t be able to afford to buy baby formula that it provides to more than 600 single mothers.
8. Idaho Missing Woman Search: Jo Elliott-Blakeslee, 63, was missing at Craters of the Moon National Monument and the search was temporarily called off after furloughs set in. Law prohibits federal government employees from volunteering for the search, since it would be unfunded work, so the remaining monument staff are trying to recruit capable volunteers from outside their office.
9. National Labor Relations Board: Lynn Rhinehart, general counsel of the AFL-CIO, says the NLRB, the government agency that helps protect workers’ rights, cannot process unfair labor practice charges or hold elections. There are no hearings taking place when employers violate workers’ rights. And workers who were scheduled to vote in elections about getting a union on the job are having those elections pushed off. “Basically,” says Rhinehart, “there is no labor law right now.”
10. South Dakota National Guard: The majority of the National Guard employees in South Dakota have been laid off, which spokesman Maj. Anthony Deiss says will hurt their ability to maintain vehicles, aircraft, and other equipment, and could impact training for regular guard members.
11. California air disaster investigations: The National Transportation Safety Board suspended its investigation into the crash of a private jet in Santa Monica that killed four people.
12. Minnesota Social Security Offices: Offices are closed and residents like Jeff Williams can’t get new or replacement Social Security cards or proof of income letters. “I can’t shut down and not take care of this little one,” he says, referring to his daughter. “I mean, they’re the government. They’re supposed to be taking care of us.”
Listen to a rally today from outside the U.S. Capitol, where locked-out workers tell Congress they want to get back to work, and AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka addresses House Republican irresponsibility:
Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW
Tags: aflcio, California, DC, Florida, idaho, Illinois, Jobs, Missouri, montana, New York, NLRB, Richard Trumka, shutdown, South Dakota
City Council candidate Carlos Menchaca
Local and municipal elections matter.
Just ask a service worker in Philadelphia who can’t afford to take a sick day because the city council was one vote short of overriding Mayor Michael Nutter’s veto of a paid sick days ordinance.
Or ask a retail worker in Washington, D.C., where the City Council is currently one vote short of a veto-proof majority in favor the Large Retail Accountability Act (LRAA), which would establish a living wage for big box retail workers.
You can also ask anyone who sends their child to public school in Chicago, where Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration has closed dozens of public schools, and where the city’s students are being moved around like chess pieces to make room for a pro-corporate education “reform” agenda.
Yes, city leaders of both parties have been too willing lately to kowtow to corporate interests over the needs of their constituents. But in last night’s New York City primary, there were some signs of hope for working families.
1.) Voters approved of plan to raise taxes on super-rich to pay for schools. To succeed Mayor Michael Bloomberg, one of the richest people on the planet and a staunch defender of rich people’s interests, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio ran on a plan to raise taxes on New Yorkers making $500,000 or more and using the revenue to establish universal Pre-K. The plan was derided by Bloomberg and much of the the city’s wealthy elite.
But yesterday, de Blasio took 40 percent in a crowded primary, a sign that some of the folks in NYC making less than $500,000 a year (roughly, shall we say, 99 percent?) favor balancing out our tax system to bolster basic services.
2.) Opposition to earned paid sick days was a liability. The longtime expected frontrunner, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, saw her support recede and then evaporate over the summer. Partly, because she was seen as the main obstacle to a paid sick days ordinance for New York City. The ordinance was introduced in 2010 but Quinn refused to bring it to a vote, saying that it would put “undue burden” on NYC businesses, according to the New York Times.
It took three years of pushing from a broad coalition, including the Working Families Party and well-known activist Gloria Steinem, to finally get Quinn to compromise on a sick days ordinance, which sailed through with overwhelming support. Yet her long-held intransigence, which she never truly explained, hurt her in the race, particularly with woman voters.
“We were pleased the bill finally passed,” says Donna Dolan, Executive Director of the New York Paid Leave Coalition, “But all I could think about when I was at the press conference was the number of people I met who had been fired in the past three-and-a-half years.” Voters apparently agreed, giving the once-frontrunner Quinn a third place finish.
3.) The real estate lobby spent big money to beat a local labor leader, but he won anyway. In a crowded primary for the Queens-based 27th council district, I. Daneek Miller came out on top last night. Miller is president of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1056 and a supporter of affordable housing, so naturally the city’s powerful real-estate lobby was determined to stop him. A real-estate backed PAC spent $261,533 backing up one of Miller’s opponents, but Miller prevailed: the current count gives him a lead of 396 votes.
“There have been tough times for labor and working families,” Miller said last night, “The consensus is: we need a voice. Now we have that voice we set out to represent.”
4.) This 32 year-old won a huge upset in Brooklyn to become council’s first Mexican-American. Sara Gonzalez sat in Brooklyn’s 38th council district for decade, and regularly was a no-show at council meetings and public events. She may have expected a smooth reelection this time around. But Carlos Menchaca, a 32 year-old openly gay Latino community activist, unseated her last night by a 16-point margin. (“Men-shocka!” was the headline in The Brooklyn Paper.)
Menchaca will be the first openly gay elected official to represent Brooklyn and the first Mexican-American on the New York City Council. He was active with the Office of Emergency Management after Hurricane Sandy, especially in badly-damaged Red Hook.
“I’m going to be present. I’m going to be visible and vocal,” Menchaca told supporters last night, “I’m going to be someone that’s on the streets talking directly to the people of Sunset Park about your needs.”
5.) Pro-worker candidates won across the board. The New York Central Labor Council endorsed 43 candidates for City Council in run up to yesterday’s election. 39 of those candidates won outright last night, with two races (Kirsten John Foy in District 36 and Austin Shafran in District 5) still too close to call.
After 12 years of a Bloomberg Administration that was cold to outright hostile to New York’s labor community, it’s heartening to see advocates of working families have such a good night at the local level.
Bonus.) Dante de Blasio’s hair wins mayor’s race, observers say.
Check out this actual headline from USA Today. And this Twitter account. And this cartoon. We can’t remember the last time one person’s haircut played such a decisive role in an election.
What did you think of last night’s election? Let us know in the comments.
Photo of Carlos Menchaca by @lingene_1 on Twitter
Tags: Education, elections, inequality, New York, Rights At Work, taxes, transportation