12 Recent Victories for Workers in Raising Wages and Collective Bargaining

While it certainly seems that far-right extremists are waging an all-out war on working families and their rights, workers aren’t just defending themselves; they are fighting to expand their rights and achieving some significant gains. Here are 12 recent victories we should celebrate while continuing to push for even more wins.

1. AFSCME Sets Organizing Goal, Almost Doubles It: AFSCME President Lee Saunders announced that the union has organized more than 90,000 workers this year, nearly doubling its 2014 goal of 50,000.

2. Tennessee Auto Workers to Create New Local Union at VW PlantAuto workers at Volkswagen’s plant in Chattanooga, Tenn., announced the formation of UAW Local 42, a new local that will give workers an increased voice in the operation of the German carmaker’s U.S. facility. UAW organizers continue to gain momentum, as the union has the support of nearly half of the plant’s 1,500 workers, which would make the union the facility’s exclusive collective bargaining agent.

3. California Casino Workers Organize: Workers at the new Graton Resort & Casino voted to join UNITE HERE Local 2850 of Oakland, providing job security for 600 gambling, maintenance, and food and beverage workers.

4. Virgin America Flight Attendants Vote to Join TWU: Flight attendants at Virgin America voted to join the Transport Workers, citing the success of TWU in bargaining fair contracts for Southwest Airlines flight attendants.

5. Maryland Cab Drivers Join National Taxi Workers Alliance: Cab drivers in Montgomery County, Md., announced their affiliation with the National Taxi Workers Alliance, citing low wages and unethical behavior by employers among their reasons to affiliate with the national union.

6. Retail and Restaurant Workers Win Big, Organize Small: Small groups of workers made big strides as over a dozen employees at a Subway restaurant in Bloomsbury, N.J., voted to join the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union. Meanwhile, cosmetics and fragrance workers at a Macy’s store in Massachusetts won an NLRB ruling that will allow them to vote on forming a union.

7. Minnesota Home Care Workers Take Key Step to Organize: Home health care workers in Minnesota presented a petition to state officials that would allow a vote on forming a union for more than 26,000 eligible workers.

8. New York Television Writers-Producers Join Writers Guild: Writers and producers from Original Media, a New York City-based production company, voted to join the Writers Guild of America, East, citing low wages, long work schedules and no health care.

9.  Fast-Food Workers Win in New NLRB Ruling: The National Labor Relations Board ruled that McDonald’s could be held jointly responsible with its franchisees for labor violations and wage disputes. The NLRB ruling makes it easier for workers to organize individual McDonald’s locations, and could result in better pay and conditions for workers.

10. Workers Increasingly Have Access to Paid Sick Leave: Cities such as San Diego and Eugene, Ore., have passed measures mandating paid sick leave, providing workers with needed flexibility and making workplaces safer for all.

11. Student-Athletes See Success, Improved Conditions: College athletic programs are strengtheningfinancial security measures for student-athletes in the wake of organizing efforts by Northwestern University football players. In addition, the future is bright as the majority of incoming college football players support forming a union.

12. San Diego Approves Minimum Wage Hike; Portland, Maine, Starts Process: Even as Congress has failed to raise the minimum wage, municipalities across the country have taken action. San Diego will raise the minimum wage to $11.50 an hour by 2017, and the Portland, Maine, Minimum Wage Advisory Committee will consider an increase that would take effect in 2015.

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Family Leave Turns 21, Now It’s Time for Paid Sick Leave

Photo via National Partnership for Women and Families

Since the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) took effect Aug. 5, 1993, the groundbreaking law has been used 100 million times and has helped 36 million workers keep their health insurance and jobs while taking care of a newborn child, themselves or a family member during a serious illness.

First introduced in Congress in 1984, it took nearly 10 years to overcome a well-funded campaign against the legislation by corporations and two successful vetoes by President George H.W. Bush before President Bill Clinton signed it into law.

The FMLA’s unpaid leave with job protections was a good first step. But today, there are millions of workers who can’t afford to take time off for their own or a loved one’s illnesses. Forty percent all private-sector workers don’t have any paid sick days and that doubles to 80% for low-wage workers.

That’s why there is a growing move across the nation, from Congress to statehouses to city halls, to pass paid family leave–sick days legislation.

Just last week, city councils in San Diego and Eugene, Ore., passed paid sick days measures. Overall nine cities and the state of Connecticut now have paid sick leave laws, and efforts are underway in a number of other cities and states. It was a major topic of conversation at the recent White House Summit on Working Families.

On the federal level last year, 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.

Find out more about paid sick leave efforts from Family Values at Work.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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300,000 More People Just Got Paid Sick Days

Photo courtesy Allan Ferguson on Flickr

Yesterday, the United States became a little bit better place to be a sick worker, as two more cities joined the growing wave of localities that have passed paid sick days laws. The city councils in San Diego and Eugene, Ore., each voted to require employers to make sure that workers don’t have to choose between working sick and losing pay. Nine cities and the state of Connecticut now have paid sick leave laws.

The San Diego City Council passed their measure 6–3 and it heads to Mayor Kevin Faulconer, who has said he would veto it. The council has the votes to override the veto, however. The law would provide full-time workers up to five earned sick days annually, with part-time workers getting a portion of that. In Eugene, the vote was 5–3. The bill would provide one hour of paid sick leave for 30 hours worked, up to 40 hours a year.

Ellen Bravo, executive director of Family Values @ Work, said the day was historic:

Campaigns for paid sick days in Eugene and San Diego involved months of organizing by local workers, small business owners and many partner organizations. Yesterday, their work paid off: No longer will workers in Eugene and San Diego be forced to choose between the job they need and the family who needs them.

Biviana Lagunas, a San Diego State University student and part-time low-wage worker in San Diego, said the new law will be a life-changer:

The passing of this measure means my mother will no longer have to choose between a day’s wages and caring for my little brother when he’s sick. Right now, I work to pay for school and make sure my family can keep up with the rent. Now, my sister and I can use more of our time to study instead of stressing about how our family will get by.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Massachusetts Will Raise Its Minimum Wage, But Here Are 2 Reasons Why The Fight Isn’t Over

On Thursday, Governor Deval Patrick (D-MA) signed into law a bill that wouldraise the Massachusetts minimum wage from $8 to $11 by 2017. That would make it the highest minimum wage of any state.

The bill also raises the tipped minimum wage from $2.63 to $3.75 over the same 3 year period.

This is a huge victory benefiting close to 800,000 workers in Massachusetts,57 percent of whom are women and 85 percent of whom are older than 20 (600,000 low wage workers and 200,000 tipped workers). Labor, faith, and community groups like Raise up Massachusetts pushed hard against business groups like the Retailers Association of Massachusettes to get wary Democratic state legislators to accept the relatively high wage.

But here are two big reasons why the work in Massachusetts, like across the country, is far from over:

The minimum wage won’t be indexed to inflation. Massachusetts bill doesn’t peg future minimum wage increases to inflation. Unless something changes, the wage will rise to $11 in three years and stop, while the cost of living keeps increasing.

The proposed ballot initiative from Raise Up Massachusetts, now withdrawn, had included indexing. Gov. Patrick and others pushed for indexing in the legislature, but it was a sticking point for many legislators under pressure from business groups.

This is a pattern we’ve seen in other states. The Maryland legislature passed a minimum wage increase to $10.10, but failed to attach indexing. In Minnesota, the entire minimum wage bill stalled for weeks while the DFL caucus negotiated indexing, which was ultimately included in the final bill.

Earned sick time needs to win the vote in November. Originally, organizers collected a combined 285,000 signatures to put both a minimum wage increase and a statewide earned paid sick days law on the November 2014 ballot.

Raise Up Massachusetts now turns its attention towards ensuring that Massachusetts workers have access to #earnedsicktime #mapoli

— Raise Up MA (@RaiseUpMA) June 26, 2014

The sick time initiative calls for all employers with 11 or more employees to allow workers to earn paid sick days, a maximum of 40 hours each year, and only after 90 days of employment. Workers who take sick time or time off to care for a sick child or relative are protected from being fired.

Now that the minimum wage increase is law, Raise Up Massachusetts has withdrawn the wage ballot question. Minimum wage and sick time are decoupled, with only the sick time initiative going to voters.

Will it make a difference in November?

“The earned sick time ballot question is a lot more difficult for people to understand, and it doesn’t incite the same amount of passion as raising the minimum wage,” political strategist Tony Cignoli told MassLive.com. “The proponents have really got to make it clear what’s in it for the average regular voter out there.”

Raise Up Massachusetts spokesman Steve Crawford disagrees. “We find that support for earned sick time is even stronger than support for increasing the minimum wage,” he said. “Folks can understand it on a personal level. We’ve all been sick. We’ve all had to stay home from work. All of us have not worked a minimum wage job.”

We’ve seen an incredible victory in the Bay State: the highest minimum wage in the country and raises for nearly a million people. Working America will be informing our members in Massachusetts about the crucial issues on the November ballot.

Text RAISE to 30644 to join the fight for fair wages no matter where you live.

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Shocker! Workers Don’t Actually Abuse Paid Sick Days

Shocker! Workers Don't Actually Abuse Paid Sick Days

When you hear a conservative argument as to why we can’t pass a policy that helps working families, you are pretty safe in assuming that it won’t stand up to closer examination. In today’s example, the topic is paid sick days. Extremist pro-business groups that oppose requiring that paid sick days be offered to employees often make the cynical argument that if paid sick days are offered, workers will exploit and abuse them and that will hurt businesses. The real-world evidence, not surprisingly, says otherwise.

The largest real-world sample of data we have on paid sick days is the state of Connecticut, which required businesses to provide paid sick days in 2011. A recent examination of what has happened in the state since then shatters numerous right-wing myths about paid sick leave, particularly the claim that the policy will be abused by workers. The new policy in Connecticut made the number of available paid sick days for the average worker rise from 6.9 days to 7.7 days. Of those workers who have taken paid sick leave, the average worker has used only four of those days. And about one-third of workers used no paid sick days at all.

As Alan Barber of the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) concludes:

[The evidence] stands in direct opposition to the idea that workers would abuse the policy and take as many days off as possible, even when not sick. This suggests that employees view paid sick days as a form of insurance, to be used only as needed. Even when additional days are available to them, employees, in reality, only take the time off from work that they require when they are ill or need to care for a family member.

Once again, real-world evidence rejects a conservative claim used to oppose a policy to help working families. This has happened so many times now, it’d be safe for us to assume these extremist arguments are faulty, at best, and just go ahead and help workers instead.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Paid Sick Days Sata Give Another Example of Gross Inequality

As the polar vortex rages on, showing no signs of letting up anytime soon, the occasional cold or flu is indeed expected.

But could you imagine being sick with the flu and not being able to take a paid sick day? It’s a luxury that many take for granted but according to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR), access to paid sick days is unequally distributed amongst Americans based on occupation, race and class.

“Less than a quarter (24 percent) of employees in Food Preparation and Serving Related occupations, and less than  a third (31 percent) of workers in Personal Care and Service occupations have access to sick days with pay.”

This is a sharp contrast to the 61% of private sector employees with the benefit. Additionally, only 47% of Hispanic workers got paid sick days, compared to 64% of white workers, IWPR notes.

As with most injustices in this country, it seems that paid sick days are another example of the rampant inequality that plagues the have-nots. While this is surely a monetary issue for many employers, all hardworking Americans deserve to rest their fatigued bodies without worrying about having enough money to go grocery shopping the following week, regardless of their place on the workplace totem pole.

Plus, despite Right-wing arguments, paid sick days provide employers a host of positive effects.

Photo courtesy of William Brawley.

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Minnesotans Understand That Raising the Minimum Wage Is A “Women’s Issue”

Last year, the Minnesota legislature came very close to raising their state minimum wage, which is one of the lowest in the country. The House passed a strong bill, H.F. 92, which would’ve raised the minimum wage to $9.50 and indexed it to inflation. Unfortunately, it stalled in the Senate.

Luckily, Minnesota’s two-year legislative cycle gives workers another chance at a raise. As soon as the session starts in February, the Senate could pass H.F. 92 and send it to Governor Mark Dayton for his signature.

But some DFL legislators are considering another route: combining the minimum wage increase with a package of other workplace reforms under the banner of the Women’s Economic Security Act of 2014.

“Minnesota’s economy is headed in the right direction, but not everyone is sharing in the gains. And when you dig underneath the first layer of economic challenges facing Minnesotans, we find that the people struggling to stay or step-in to the middle class are disproportionately women,” said Speaker of the House Paul Thissen (DFL-Minneapolis), “The Women’s Economic Security Act aims to break down barriers to economic progress so that women–and all Minnesotans–have a fair opportunity to succeed.”

The Act combines a number of other provisions aimed at helping working women:

Private companies contracted by the state would be required to report on pay equity among their workers. The state’s Parental Leave Act, which guarantees workers six unpaid weeks off for the arrival of a new child, would be expanded. It would encourage women to enter non-traditional, high-wage occupations and boost small businesses owned by women. And it would bolster existing protections for victims of domestic violence.

Legislators in Nebraska and New York are also taking the route of a comprehensive package rather than a standalone minimum wage increase.

Conventional wisdom has held that men care about “pocketbook” issues like wages and taxes, while women are primarily motivated by so-called “women’s issues” like reproductive health and schools. But given the wide gender gaps in wages, salary, and overall workplace treatment, even as the number of female breadwinners increases, that approach is fading.

64 percent of minimum wage workers are women, and American women overall earn 77 cents for every dollar a man makes. 40 percent of all private sector workers, particularly in the female-heavy service industry, can’t take a single paid sick day. Working women caring for children face unique challenges like the rising cost of private childcare, and the percentage of women who are primary or co-breadwinners in their household is at an all-time high.

In Minnesota, whatever tactic is used to increase wages, the current stumbling block appears to be Senate Majority Leader Thomas Bakk (DFL-Cook). Sen. Bakk lead Senators to pass a bill increasing the minimum wage to a meager $7.75 last year, and his statements indicate a hesitance around a higher increase.

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Oops, So Much for the Right-Wing Arguments Against Paid Sick Leave

In 2011, Connecticut became the first state to require employers to provide paid sick days for workers, including part-time employees. At the time, extreme pro-business interests in the state ran through the common, yet tired, arguments about paid sick leave in efforts to stop the law from passing. After 18 months of the law being in effect, researchers Eileen Appelbaum, of the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR), and Ruth Milkman, a professor at CUNY, surveyed more than 250 employers in the state to determine the effects of the law. The results of the study pretty soundly reject the conservative arguments against paid sick leave.

CEPR’s Teresa Kroeger said of the study:

The authors found that the law had minimal effects on businesses. A large majority of employers reported that the law did not affect business operations and that they had no or only small increases in costs. Businesses most frequently covered absent workers by assigning the work to other employees, a solution which has little effect on costs. Just 10% of employers reported that the law caused their costs to increase by 3% or more.

The key findings of the study include:

  • Employee turnover was reduced 3.3%.
  • Sick employees coming to work sick was reduced 18.8%.
  • Illness was spread 14.8% less often than before the law.
  • Productivity increased 14.9%.
  • Morale, motivation and loyalty increased among employees (according to their employers).
  • Payroll costs increased by 3% or more for only 10% of employers.
  • Only 10.6% of employers reported reducing employee hours because of the law.
  • Only 15.6% of employers reported increasing prices because of the law.
  • Only 3.4% of employers reported reducing operating hours because of the law.
  • Only 1.3% of employers reported reduced quality of service because of the law.
  • Only 1.0% of employers reported reducing wages because of the law.
  • A strong majority of employers were “very supportive” (39.5%) or “somewhat supportive” (37.0%) of the law a year-and-a-half after it went into effect.
  • The law covers about 400,000 workers
  • The law had minimal impact on employers that already offered paid sick days.
  • Little abuse of the system has been reported by employers.
  • Paid sick day coverage increased from 88.5% of employers to 93.7% that offer five or more paid sick days annually.
  • The number of paid sick days offered to all employees rose from an average of 6.9 days to 7.7 days.
  • About two-thirds of eligible workers used paid sick days, with an average of four days used per year.
  • Unionized employers were half as likely to report cost increases because of the law (compared to nonunion employers).

Photo via CT Working Families Party on Facebook

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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How The “Right to Work” Movement Fell Flat On Its Face in 2013

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A year ago, in one of the most shocking reversals in the state’s history, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder signed a “right to work” bill into law behind closed doors as more than 12,000 protesters raged outside.

Right wing groups crowed, saying union restrictions in the home of the auto industry meant the labor movement was on its last legs. They talked about which states would go next.

And then, nothing.

Well, not nothing. But what anti-worker pundits said would be a domino effect was more like a cricket effect. In 2013, no state passed a “right to work” law.

Incorrectly-named “right to work” laws put restrictions on contracts union workers can make with employers. They ban fair share clauses which require that workers pay dues to have the protection of the union. Unions are left in the position of providing services without being able to fund those services, and they starve.

“Right to work” laws have nothing to do with freedom. They are simply a tactic to defund unions and weaken the ability of workers to advocate for themselves. And it shows: states with “right to work” laws have lower wages, higher poverty rates, and more workplace injuries and fatalities than free bargaining states.

In 2013, workers didn’t stand for it.

In Missouri, where Republicans controlled supermajorities in both the state House and Senate, some legislators pursued a “paycheck deception” bill, which restricts unions’ ability to make political contributions. Missouri House Speaker Tim Jones (R-Eureka) called it a step toward a “right to work law.” Based heavily on an ALEC model bill, paycheck deception moved swiftly through Republican-lead committees.

But workers, union and non-union (including hundreds of Working America members), made their voices heard. Emails, letters, and phone calls flooded legislative offices in Jefferson City. The bill passed the Senate after an 8-hour Democratic filibuster, but House legislators were getting skittish. Bill proponents were having a hard time answering simple questions about why additional restrictions on union dues were needed. Support for the bill dwindled with each test vote.

“Paycheck deception” passed the House by a narrower than expected margin, and Speaker Jones prepared to move on to “right to work.” But Gov. Jay Nixon vetoed paycheck deception, calling it unnecessary. By the September veto session, too many moderate Republicans had abandoned the effort, and the bill died outright.

Did Republicans get the message? Absolutely not. In December special session centered around tax incentives for Boeing, a small group tried and failed to insert “right to work” language. ALEC member Rep. Eric Burlison (R-Springfield) called it “a good opportunity to begin that fight” ahead of 2014.

In Ohio, the anti-union effort has centered around gathering petitions to get “right to work” on the 2014 ballot. As we know, you need to get a certain number of signatures to get an issue on the ballot. For Ohio, that number is 385,000, and you always want extra signatures in case some are validated.

The Tea Party group Ohioans for Workplace Freedom started circulating petitions in February 2012. After 20 months, they announced they have collected 100,000 signatures.

At this rate, as Ohio bloggers at Plunderbund noted, the anti-union group would need 40 m0re months to put “right to work” on the ballot. And since they’ve already burned through $118,000 in paid petition gatherers, chances are they’d run out of money first.

Let’s compare that with 2011, when Gov. John Kasich and Republicans in the legislative rammed through the union-busting Senate Bill 5. The bill passed on March 30. On June 29, after only 3 months, We Are Ohio delivered 1.3 million signatures to the Secretary of State to get a repeal of SB 5 on the ballot. In November, SB 5 was repealed by 60 percent of voters.

What’s going on here? What the Tea Party and the anti-union forces in Ohio don’t get is that once you get past a small group of billionaires and right-wing ideologues, there is no desire to restrict collective bargaining in Ohio. None. People are looking for good jobs, affordable health care, and decent schools to send their kids.

Meanwhile, the 2011 battle over Senate Bill 5, largely ignored by the national media, still reverberates throughout the Buckeye State. Treasurer Josh Mandel, a Republican supporter of SB 5, lost a Senate bid despite more than $19 million in outside aide. Mitt Romney haplessly flip-flopped on SB 5 and consistently delivered an anti-union message, lost in Ohio in part because of union members of all political stripes voting for his opponent. And in 2013, SB 5 supporter Toledo Mayor Mike Bell was ousted, while a Tea Party-backed pension-cutting amendment was rejected in Cincinnati by a 57-point margin.

In Oregon, the story is even shorter.  An Portland attorney named Jill Gibson Odell is sponsoring a “right to work” initiative in her state. Odell is excited about the “national money to be had” to assist her campaign, so she’s not even pretending “right to work” is something Oregonians themselves want. In 2013, little to no progress was made on getting the issue on the ballot, and popular Gov. John Kitzhaber said he will publicly oppose it. Meanwhile, workers in Portland got paid sick days, and a statewide sick leave ordinance is expected to pass in 2014.

What to expect in 2014? Well, as the AP reports, the main targets for “right to work” proponents are Missouri, Ohio, and Oregon, showing that these folks have learned nothing from the past year. While their efforts stall, Americans of all political persuasions are starting to support minimum wage increases, sick leave, wage theft protections, and progressive tax codes in increasing numbers.

Working America will be vigilant to mobilize against any “right to work” measure, wherever it crops up. But make no mistake: Michigan wasn’t the start of a domino effect. It was a wake up call. And outside the right-wing think tank bubble, American workers are fully awake.

Photo by detroitfreepress on Instagram

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In Newark, You Can Be Fired for Taking A Sick Day. In 2014, That Will Change.

The paid sick days movement rolls on, right into 2014.

On January 8, Newark, NJ’s City Council will vote on a paid sick days proposal. The measure is expected to pass.

The bill would allow workers to earn an hour of paid sick leave for every 30 they worked, requiring employers to provide up to five paid sick days a year for their employees, who could use the time for their own illnesses or that of their family members.

Advocates estimate that 38,000 Newark workers don’t have access to a single paid sick day. That’s a lot of potential people who are, for instance, preparing or serving food while sick, simply because they had no other option.

Newark is following the lead of Jersey City, whose mayor Steve Fulop signed a paid sick time ordinance into law in October.

In the past year, New York City and Portland, Oregon have also enacted paid sick days laws. Massachusetts is likely to send a paid sick days measure to the 2014 ballot. Legislatures in Oregon and Vermont expect to take up the issue in earnest when they return early next year.

Of course, there are so-called “pro-business” groups who oppose these laws. But they voices of workers like Derick Swaby, a cabin cleaner at Newark Airport, cut through the noise:

“For me and for all the workers, we need paid sick days,” said Swaby, 55, of Newark. “You need days to recover when you’re sick without having to worry about losing money. Right now, I’m compelled to go to work when I’m sick, because if I don’t go, I don’t get no pay.”

A Newark victory early in 2014 would lend momentum to efforts in Massachusetts, Vermont, Oregon, and nationwide.

Photo by New Jersey Working Families on Facebook

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