As we reflect on the actions all over the country by Walmart associates on Black Friday and consider the fact that people are working harder than ever and are still losing economic ground, we’re reminded that the federal minimum wage is not enough.
In a joint Op-Ed for CNN, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka and National Employment Law Project Executive Director Christine Owens remind us that in the past 15 years, all wage increases have gone to the wealthiest 10%.
Trumka and Owens write:
If the minimum wage had just kept pace with inflation since 1968, it would be $10.77 an hour today instead of $7.25. For tipped workers, the rate’s been stuck at a scandalous $2.13 for 20 years.
Congress is considering a proposal, called the Fair Minimum Wage Act, from Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa and Rep. George Miller of California, supported by President Barack Obama. The act would raise the minimum wage over two years to $10.10 an hour and let it grow with inflation.
The Senate is expected to consider the proposal the week after Thanksgiving.
If the minimum wage had kept up with the growth of workers’ productivity, it would be $18.67. And if it had matched the wage growth of the wealthiest 1%, it would be more than $28.
Read the rest of $7.25 an Hour Is Not a Living Wage.
Click here to call your senators today, asking them to vote “Yes” on a motion to proceed on the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2013.
In case you missed it last week, The New York Times’ Steven Greenhouse covered the low-wage retail and service economy and the devastating effects on America’s working families.
Read: On Register’s Other Side, Little to Spend.
Watch the video above of fast-food workers in Greensboro, N.C., holding a surprise revival service at a Church’s Chicken to support the workers and the fight for a fair wage.
Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW
Tags: fast food, Jobs, minimum wage, North Carolina, restaurant
In the last three years, nine states have added new laws that prohibit local governments from passing paid sick leave ordinances. Seven of these laws were passed in 2013 alone and 14 states introduced such legislation in the last year, Think Progress reports. In every state where local preemption bills have passed on paid sick leave, members of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) were among the co-sponsors of the legislation. In most cases, corporate lobby groups such as the Chamber of Commerce, National Federation of Independent Business and the National Restaurant Association also have been involved heavily in passing the laws. It’s bad enough these groups oppose paid sick days for working families, but they don’t even want democratically elected officials deciding on policies—they want to prevent these policies from even coming up for a vote.
Corporate groups routinely argue that paid sick leave ordinances will harm businesses, but the evidence so far rejects those claims. Bryce Covert of Think Progress writes:
Business growth and job growth have been strong under Seattle’s law. Job growth also has been strong in San Francisco and its law enjoys strong business support. The policies in Washington, D.C., andConnecticut have come at little cost for businesses. In fact, expanding D.C.’s current law would net employers $2 million in savings even with potential costs factored in. On the other hand, the average employerloses $225 per worker each year, thanks to lost productivity when they get sick and can’t take paid leave.
Before 2010, Georgia was the only state to have such a pre-emption law, since then Arizona, Florida, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Tennessee and Wisconsin have added them. This push comes as a direct response to local governments showing real momentum in passing paid sick leave ordinances. Six cities and the state of Connecticut have passed paid sick days laws and other cities are considering joining them in protecting workers, customers and employers from the negative effects of sick employees.
Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW
Tags: ALEC, Arizona, connecticut, Corporate Accountability, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, kansas, louisiana, mississippi, North Carolina, Paid Sick Days, Tennessee, Wisconsin
Madison Kimrey of Burlington, North Carolina won’t be able to vote for another six years. But North Carolina’s new sweeping voter suppression laws, some of the most stringent restrictions on voting rights our country has seen since the Voting Rights Act of 1965, has drawn her ire all the same.
The new voting restrictions passed in July don’t just require specific photo identification to cast a ballot (no student ID, no public employee ID) that potentially disenfranchise 318,000 registered North Carolina voters. They also end the non-controversial practice of “pre-registering” 16- and 17-year-olds to vote at DMVs and high school civics classes. The policy officially kicked in on September 1.
The 12-year-old spoke at the first Moral Monday event held in Alamance County, about 60 miles west of where massive protests rocked the Raleigh this spring. Kimrey first spoke up in July, when Gov. McCrory dismissively gave out cookies and cake to protesters. She started an online petition asking Gov. McCrory to sit down and eat the baked goods with her so they could discuss his voter suppression bill and other policies. It attracted nearly 13,000 signatures.
Gov. McCrory called the request “ridiculous” and said Kimrey was a “prop for liberal groups.” Understandably, this surprised and insulted Ms. Kimrey.
“I am not a prop,” she told the crowd at the Alamance Country Moral Monday event, “I am part of the new generation of suffragettes and I will not stand silent while laws are passed to reduce the amount of voter turnout by young people in my home state.”
Kimrey also started NC Youth Rock to encourage young North Carolinians to vote and lobby representatives on behalf of young people.
“I’m going to do everything I can to get the opportunity for North Carolina teenagers to pre-register back by the time I turn 16 in four years,” Kimrey said, “but I can’t do this alone.”
Madison Kimrey is just one of the thousands of North Carolinians who are sick and tired of the attacks on voting rights, women’s rights, and workers’ rights in their state. If you’re in North Carolina and want to get involved with Working America, contact Catherine Medlock-Walton at email@example.com or (336) 292-4179.
Tags: North Carolina, Pat McCrory, voting rights, young workers, youth
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) released a report detailing the top states for “food security,” a term for the availability of food and one’s access to it.
The five states at the bottom of the list are North Carolina, Texas, Alabama, Arkansas, and Mississippi, all of which have so-called “right to work” laws on the books.
The correlation is not direct, but the effects of these laws on all workers, union and non-union alike, are well-documented. States with “right to work” laws, which make it more difficult for unions to operate and advocate on behalf of their members, have lower average wages, higher rates of poverty, spend less on education, and have more workplace injuries and fatalities than state without “right to work” laws.
In states where unions can operate without the law’s interference, workers are more able to advocate for their needs in the workplace without fear of retaliation: from their hourly pay to their safety on the job.
It’s not surprising that with the interference of “right to work” laws, workers in North Carolina, Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Texas are less likely to make enough money to adequately feed themselves and their families, and less likely to be able to change their situation through organizing.
Even with all the data, reckless politicians and their well-monied allies continue to push “right to work” laws. Missouri’s Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder told supporters he will continue to fight for a “right to work” law in his state, even though a Republican supermajority could not bring the measure to the floor this past year. Corporate-backed think tanks are pushing similar initiatives in Oregon and Washington.
As We Party Patriots notes:
While not every food related problem can be fixed by higher wages, policies that intentionally lower wages must be taken to task. They are a troubling, culpable piece of America’s deteriorated health puzzle.
We support the right of workers to have a voice on their job, and to make at least enough money so they don’t have to wonder where their next meal — or their child’s next meal — is coming from. We don’t think that’s a lot to ask.
Note: Because of the government shutdown, the USDA site hosting the report is offline.
Photo by USDAgov on Flickr
Tags: arkansas, mississippi, North Carolina, Right to Work, Rights At Work, Texas
At 10 a.m. on October 5, faith, labor and civil rights groups in Greensboro will join in marches and rallies in over 40 cities calling for Congress to pass immigration reform with a pathway to citizenship that promotes family unity and protects workers’ rights. Participants will hold a rally speaking out on the importance of commonsense reform, followed by a canvass where they will encourage others in their communities to continue putting pressure on lawmakers.
“We ask everyone to come out and join us as we take to the streets by knocking on doors and encouraging people to reach out to Rep. Coble,” said Working America State Director Carolyn Smith. “We cannot let the work of obstructionist lawmakers result in more families being torn apart by deportation and more worker exploitation by abusive employers. It’s time to raise our voices and makes sure Congress hears our call for dignity and respect.”
Working America has 30,000 members in Guilford County, with 7,500 in Rep. Coble’s district.
What: Rally and canvass for immigration reform
Who: Working America, North Carolina State AFL-CIO, Teamster Local 391, State Employees Association of NC, SEIU, Guilford County NAACP
When: Saturday, Oct. 5, 10–10:30 a.m. rally followed by 11 a.m.–2 p.m. door canvass, 11 a.m.–2 p.m. site canvass
Where: New Light Baptist Church, 1105 Willow Road, Greensboro, NC
For more details on how to get involved please contact Carolyn Smith at (336) 392-2129 or by email firstname.lastname@example.org
Tags: faith, greensboro, Howard Coble, immigration, North Carolina
I work for a staffing company, and I’m based in a manufacturing plant. The host company whose plant I work in is a global giant, and we “temps” are paid $10.00-$10.50 per hour, compared to the $13.00-$15.00 per hour the company’s regular employees are making. Temps only get three excused personal days per year, and one week’s paid vacation after one year of employment. No uniforms, no 401k, and no insurance besides a “mini plan,” whatever that is. Many of us were recently laid off, and the remaining workers on my shift are being asked to work two stations now, even as our pay remains the same. This place is in dire need of a labor union but, according to regular employees, the threat to close the plant if workers organize is real. How can organizing take place without putting the jobs of others at risk? This practice of hiring through staffing companies is terrible for workers.
— Fed Up Temp, NC
This is definitely a growing problem for our economy. According to recent studies, temp work has grown immensely in the past few years—rising to “nearly 17 million people who have only tenuous ties to the companies that pay them—about 12 percent of everyone with a job.” This saves the companies money and makes them less connected to any particular worker, with consequences for pay and benefits like the ones you’re seeing. When you’re not connected to the company at which you’re working, you have less power to fight things like increased workloads. So what can you do?
It’s a complicated situation. Under National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) case law, true temporary workers are not eligible to participate in union elections. Of course, not everyone who is called a temporary worker by his or her employer is in fact a temporary worker, and the definition of “temporary worker” used by the NLRB is narrower than what we commonly think of when we think of a “temp.” For the purpose of union elections, a temporary worker is one who is employed for one job only, or for a set duration, or who is notified that he or she has no substantial expectation of continued employment. An employee whose tenure is indefinite is not considered temporary. The NLRB looks to the facts of each situation to determine whether someone is genuinely a temporary worker, regardless of what the employer chooses to call that worker.
A related question is whether workers provided by a staffing agency are considered to be employed by the staffing agency, by the “user” employer (the employer for whom they actually perform work), or jointly by the staffing agency and the user employer. Again, this is a case-by-case answer that depends on the control that the user employer exercises over the labor relations of the staffing agency. Even if the user employer is considered to be a joint employer with the staffing agency, the employees supplied by the staffing agency are not eligible to be included in the same bargaining unit and vote in elections along with the user employer’s direct employees—unless both the user employer and the staffing agency agree (good luck with that one!).
Another legal issue in your case is about the threats to close the plant if workers vote for a union. The Supreme Court has ruled that an employer can only tell employees that it will close a plant if workers unionize if “the eventuality of closing is capable of proof,” a circumstance the Court recognized as being “most improbable.” Therefore, in most cases it is a violation of workers’ right to organize for an employer to state or imply that a plant will close if the workers vote to form a union.
One important note is that even if someone is a true temporary employee and not eligible to vote in a union election, he or she is still protected by the NLRA, meaning that the employer cannot retaliate against that worker for engaging in protected concerted activity.
There are, however, some ways you can move toward fairer conditions. You could try to find a few people you trust on both the staffing agency side and the regular employee side. Together, you could compare notes about pay, hours and working conditions, and if you can identify some big issues you have in common, you can confront your employer about it directly. You could also try taking your case to your community, to create public pressure for your employer to raise standards.
Don’t be discouraged—you’re not alone in facing this problem, and talking to your co-workers about it is the first step.
Got more questions? Email our organizer Sherry Wright at email@example.com
Tags: Dear David, North Carolina, organizing, Rights At Work
Sure, to some people #LaborDayIs about barbecues and fashion rules. But #LaborDayIs also about, you know, labor. Today, workers across the country are struggling for decent wages, safe workplaces, affordable healthcare, and even basic civil rights.
North Carolina’s Moral Monday
Gov. Pat McCrory (R-NC) and the North Carolina legislature have passed huge cuts to state unemployment insurance, an overhaul of the state tax code, big education cuts and the nation’s strictest voting restrictions. Lead by the NC NAACP’s Rev. William Barber, North Carolinans of all stripes have gathered by the thousands to for huge weekly “Moral Monday” protests to stand up to Gov. McCrory’s agenda.
Learn more about Moral Monday and check out some sweet protest photos.
Oh and thanks to @sherierb for the thumbnail photo.
The Wisconsin Solidarity Singers
After the huge protests in 2011 against Wisconsin’s new collective bargaining restrictions, Gov. Scott Walker and his allies changed the rules at the state Capitol Building in Madison, requiring protesters to have permits. His reasoning? Um, none.
The Wisconsin Solidarity Singers had been gathering in the Capitol every day to protest the Walker agenda through song, and suddenly their gatherings were illegal. Singers started getting arrested. In response, hundreds of Wisconsinites joined their singing brethren to stand up to the ridiculousness of the arrests and the broader anti-worker Walker agenda.
Learn more about the Solidarity Singalong and read more intrepid reporting on the protests from John Nichols.
The fast food strikers
On August 29, fast food workers in 58 (!!!) cities went on strike for better wages and a voice at the workplace. Learn more from Josh Eidelson and check out some awesome strike photos on our Tumblr.
Walmart associates seeking respect
Walmart, the nation’s largest employer, pays low wages, inconsistent schedules, and little to-no health benefits. But across the country, Walmart workers are organizing primarily for respect at the workplace.
Learn more at ForRespect.org.
Philadelphia teachers, students, and parents
First, Gov. Tom Corbett cut over a billion dollars from public education in Pennsylvania. Then Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter and school officials demanded $133 million in concessions from school employees. Philadelphia teachers, students, and parents are marching, striking, and even fasting to call attention to their city’s school crisis.
Houston wage-earners fighting against theft
Houston workers are fed up with employers committing wage theft – not giving a last paycheck, making employees work after punching out, etc. – and are pushing the Houston City Council to pass a wage theft ordinance.
Learn more from the Down With Wage Theft campaign.
Washington, D.C. retail workers
The D.C. City Council passed the Large Retailer Accountability Act (LRAA) in July, which raised the minimum wage for big box retail workers to $12.50/hour. Walmart responded by freaking out and threatening to cancel construction of their D.C. stores. Mayor Vincent Gray has still not made up his mind about whether to cave to Walmart’s wishes or stand up for D.C. retail workers at stores like Walmart, Best Buy, Macy’s, and Target.
Learn more about the LRAA and D.C. retail workers.
Albuquerque minimum wage workers
In the 2012 election, Albuquerque voters passed a minimum wage increase with 66 percent of the vote. But in 2013, Albuquerque’s Republican Mayor Richard Berry and members of his city council refused to enforce the new law.
No joke, they are actually telling workers who make as little as $4 or $5 an hour to hire private lawyers to sue their employers. That’s their solution.
Needless to say, Albuquerque workers aren’t taking this lying down. Working America and allies have launched a “Got Your Raise?” campaign to pressure city officials and educate workers about their rights. Learn more about the situation in Albuquerque or click here if you prefer your news in “Breaking Bad” form.
Concert tour dancers and choreographers
Last year, music video performers won a groundbreaking union contract after, establishing workplace standards for the industry after decades of advocacy.
Now, the Dancers’ Alliance and SAG-AFTRA are launching #theUNIONIZEtour to ensure that performers on concert tours have workplace protections, access to affordable health care, and a fair shot at gigs.
Watch the video above and learn more here.
LGBT workers in 29 states
Thanks to the activists who came before us, we have federal laws saying that you can’t be fired for being old, female, pregnant, or disabled (yay!). Unfortunately, in 29 states, there are no such protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender workers. That’s why workers’ rights and LGBT groups are organizing to pass a strong Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA).
Learn more from Pride at Work.
Transgender workers in 33 states
Add Maryland, Delaware, New Hampshire, New York to the map above. Pride at Work has great information on this too.
Millions of domestic workers, mostly women, are employed by households and businesses across the country. Most of them have little to no worker protections – no minimum wage, overtime pay no nothing.
State by state, domestic workers and allies have worked to pass “Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights” to establish basic protections. Ai-Jen Poo, founder and director of theNational Domestic Workers Alliance (and Working America board member #plug) toldThe Nation that President Obama might soon bring domestic workers under the protections of the Federal Labor Standards Act (FLSA), which would be “one of the most significant victories for low-wage workers of this administration.”
Learn more about the Ai-Jen and the NDWA.
Mississippi auto workers
Auto workers at Nissan in Mississippi have been trying to exercise their basic right to form a union, but are getting blocked by the company. Lethal Weapon/workers’ rights star Danny Glover has been active in calling attention to the situation. Not only that, but Nissan workers in Brazil, France, and South Africa have expressed solidarity. Learn more at DoBetterNissan.org.
Danny Glover: He’s not too old for this. #LethalWeaponJoke
Solidarity in Brazil.
No big deal, it’s just Common. (!!!)
Finally: 11 million undocumented workers and their families
Establishing a path to citizenship isn’t just about immigration. It’s about bringing millions of undocumented workers out of the shadows, where they are currently vulnerable to every employer abuse imaginable.
Learn more about the connection between workers’ rights and immigrant rights here.
What did we leave out?
There’s a lot more going on that we didn’t cover. Feel free to keep the list going in the comments below, and visit WorkingAmerica.org for more information on how you can get involved.
Respoted from BuzzFeed
Tags: Albuquerque, auto workers, dancers' alliance, Education, fast food, Health Care, houston, Jobs, Labor Day, lgbt, Michael Nutter, minimum wage, mississippi, New Mexico, North Carolina, Pat McCrory, Philadelphia, Rights At Work, Scott Walker, Texas, Tom Corbett, wage theft, Walmart, Wisconsin
Emergency medical workers, massage therapists, bus mechanics and home health care workers are among the latest workers to choose a voice on the job with AFL-CIO unions.
In California and Arizona, some 240 emergency medical services professionals voted recently to join United EMS Workers-AFSCME.
Employees of First Responder EMS in Sacramento, Calif., won their election with 76% of the vote. EMTs at River Medical Ambulance-AMR in Lake Havasu City, Ariz., voted 90% in favor of AFSCME.
Crystal Forschen, a paramedic at First Responder EMS, says:
We’re standing together because we want EMS to be seen as a real profession, not just a stepping stone. The way we get it done is by having a strong, democratic and accountable union.
More than 3,000 workers in Northern California and New England joined United EMS Workers last year.
In Seattle, licensed massage practitioners at Massage Bar Inc. voted to join Office and Professional Employees (OPEIU) Local 8. The 40 employees work at Sea-Tac Airport and the Washington Convention Center. Tom Tanouye, a 17-year employee, says:
We lack the basic benefits many health professionals enjoy, like access to affordable health care or paid sick leave. We hope to work in partnership with management to make improvements that will benefit employees and the company.
Earlier this year, Massage Bar employees at Sacramento International Airport voted to join OPEIU.
Workers at Reliable Home Health Care Services in Greensboro, N.C., joined Communications Workers of America (CWA) Local 3607. The 37 certified nursing assistants and home health care workers won their union after they and Local 3607 President Chris Myrick negotiated a majority sign-up agreement with the employer.
More than two dozen diesel bus mechanics at the Delaware Transit Corp. voted to join Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 2270. The workers reached out to the union after one of their longtime workers was unfairly fired.
Steve Rockafellow, IBEW regional organizing coordinator, says, “All of a sudden, the guys said, ‘Maybe we aren’t as secure as we thought we were.’”
Read a detailed account of the victory here.
Resposted from AFL-CIO NOW
Tags: aflcio, California, Delaware, North Carolina, organizing, Public Safety, washington
The radical policies of North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory and his legislative allies is having the opposite effect they said it would.
North Carolina’s unemployment rate rose to 8.9 percent in July, higher than the national average of 7.4 percent. That makes it the fifth highest in the nation.
Moreover, the sectors that grew are those that have the lowest wages:
Over the past 12 months, the leisure and hospitality sector has added 21,500 jobs, more than any other sector.
[N.C. Justice Center public policy analyst Allan] Freyer said that U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data shows that those jobs pay an average of $8.30 an hour.
“That says the state’s growth opportunities are in ultra-low-wage jobs,” Freyer said. “That’s not the direction we want to be going.”
In recent months, Gov. McCrory and his allies enacted enormous cuts to unemployment insurance, which Bill Rowe of the N.C. Justice Center called “one of the most radical, is not the most radical proposals in the country.” They also passed a tax plan that lowers income tax and corporate while slicing the earned income tax credit for struggling families.
Gov. McCrory claimed both measures would help “job creation.” The same refrain was used by Gov. Scott Walker for his actions in Wisconsin to strip collective bargaining rights from public workers and his own tax plan that ended the state earned income tax credit. Wisconsin is also experiencing economic woes, also falling behind the rest of the country on employment.
What both governors are ignoring is that we know the path to prosperity: higher wages, public investment in infrastructure and education, and a tax plan that asks the rich to pay their fair share. Not the exact opposite.
But as McCrory’s recent voter suppression law shows, he’s not really interested in what the people think. He’s more interested in following the Walker model of ALEC-inspired, pro-corporate, anti-worker governance. In both North Carolina and Wisconsin, hundreds have gone to jail in recent weeks for protesting the state’s leadership.
If you’re in North Carolina, join our fight for working families by emailing Catherine at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tags: Jobs, moral monday, North Carolina, Pat McCrory, Scott Walker, taxes, unemployment, unemployment insurance, voting rights, Wisconsin
Yesterday, Working America members in Greensboro, North Carolina came out to deliver a strong message on immigration.
Along with allies from the labor, faith and civil rights communities, Working America members rallied outside the office of their congressman, Rep. Howard Coble. They demanded he support a path to citizenship so that undocumented people can come out of the shadows and get the treatment they deserve.
Erin West, a former ESL teacher, spoke out about how immigration reform matters to everyone:
These are our students, our citizens, these are our neighbors. These are our friends, and for many of us, these are our family members. We all deserve equal protection under the law…we can’t afford not to fix this problem and level the playing field for all workers.
The U.S. Senate passed an immigration reform bill in June, but the House has yet to act. Immigration reform matters a lot to the families who would have the chance to become citizens, but it matters to everyone else, too—it would create thousands of jobs and raise standards for all workers.
Working America members will continue to pressure Coble to do the right thing.
Tags: Congress, immigration, immigration reform, Jobs, North Carolina