AFL-CIO and Working Families Lead Efforts Across the Country to Raise the Minimum Wage

Photo via All-Nite Images/Flickr

While Republicans in Washington, D.C., are doing their best to stop a federal increase to the minimum wage, working families and their allies across the country are fighting to increase the minimum wage at the state and local level. America’s working families consistently support a minimum wage increase, supporting the idea that jobs should lift workers out of poverty, conservatives continue to rely upon disproven criticisms of increasing the wage. But Americans aren’t buying the conservative lies and are demanding that Congress and the president raise the wage for millions of workers, including tipped workers. And many of them aren’t waiting for Washington to get the job done, they’re taking action across the country. The federal minimum wage has remained $7.25 an hour since 2009 and wages for tipped workers have been frozen at $2.13 an hour since 1991. Here’s the latest news on the push for a higher minimum wage across the nation:

Alaska: More than 43,000 signatures were collected in favor of an August ballot initiative that would raise the wage to $9.75 over two years, with an annual increase for inflation.

Arkansas: Labor and community groups are pushing for a ballot measure that would raise the the state minimum wage to $8.50 over the next three years.

Connecticut: Gov. Dannel P. Malloy (D) proposed increasing the wage to $10.10 an hour. The legislature is now considering the bill.

Idaho: Labor and community groups are working on legislation that would increase the wage in the state that has the highest percentage of minimum wage employees in the nation.

Iowa: With the rallying cry “We can’t survive on $7.25!” working families in Iowa are pushing for a bill that would raise the state’s minimum wage to $10.10.

Los Angeles: The Raise L.A. campaign is working on raising the minimum salaries of hotel workers to $15 an hour while the L.A. County Federation invited Pope Francis to visit the city to help champion economic equality for low-wage workers.

Maryland: Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) has joined with Raise Maryland in calling for the state’s wage to be raised to $10.10 an hour. They also are calling for tipped workers to earn at least 70% of the minimum wage.

Massachusetts: The Raise-Up Massachusetts campaign is collecting signatures to put a minimum wage increase on the ballot and is organizing a low-wage worker listening tour.

Minnesota: Working families and their allies are pushing to raise the state minimum wage to $9.50 an hour by 2015, with future increases tied to inflation.

Missouri: Low-wage and tipped workers organized and testified at a critical committee hearing for a bill to increase the minimum wage to $10 an hour. The bill is active in the state Senate.

Nebraska: The legislature is considering a package of bills backed by local labor groups that would raise the minimum wage to $9.00 an hour and require employers to provide paid sick days.

New Hampshire: The state’s labor movement and community allies have made raising the minimum wage to $9.00 an hour one of their top priorities for 2014.

Pennsylvania: A community coalition launched a campaign to raise Pennsylvania’s minimum wage to $10.10 an hour.

Seattle: Working families in Seattle are trying to recreate the success of allies in SeaTac in an effort to raise the local minimum wage to $15 an hour.

South Dakota: The South Dakota AFL-CIO and allies successfully placed a minimum wage increase on the ballot that will be voted on in November, raising the state’s wage to $8.50 with an annual cost-of-living increase.

West Virginia: The legislature passed a bill championed by the West Virginia AFL-CIO that would raise the minimum wage to $8.75 and would increase the minimum wage for tipped workers.

Do you think America needs a raise? Sign the petition

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Union Members Play Big Part in Super Bowl Game Plan

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: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

SeaTac Minimum Wage Hike Goes into Effect, Yet Many Are Left Out

Yesterday, workers at large hotels and car services outside the SeaTac International Airport, just south of Seattle, became eligible for a wage increase to $15 an hour after a groundbreaking ballot initiative to significantly raise the minimum wage passed last November.

A judge in the King County Superior Court last week suspended the part of the law that would cover 4,700 people who work within the airport itself, saying that the airport is technically a separate jurisdiction belonging to the Port of Seattle, even though those workers were major proponents of the measure. As it stands now, the law covers 1,600 people who work at hotels and car services outside the airport.

Employees of airport contractors are appealing the county judge’s decision and filed a “petition for discretionary review” with the Washington State Supreme Court on Dec. 31.

The Yes for SeaTac coalition reports that while Alaska Airlines operates hundreds of flights at those other airports that pay living wages, such as the Los Angeles International Airport, Alaska Airlines is the main plaintiff in the lawsuit to take away living wages and paid sick days from the 4,700 SeaTac workers. Alaska Airlines recently reported its best quarter ever and the airline’s 18th consecutive quarterly profit, with $157 million in profits in just three months.

Answers to frequently asked SeaTac questions are available on this new website.

Photo by Yes for SeaTac on Facebook

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

Tags: , , , ,

Could Amazon’s Jeff Bezos Survive One of His Company’s Own Warehouses for a Week?

 photo blog_bezos.png

That’s the question Nancy Becker, an American employed by Amazon in Germany since 2001, asked as she trekked to Seattle this week to stand up for the rights of workers in the online retailer’s “fulfillment centers.” The centers—little more than warehouses where workers are faced with near-impossible workloads for minimal pay—are the subject of rallies in Seattle and Germany on Monday. Becker traveled from her workplace in Germany, “I’m coming to Seattle to dare Jeff Bezos to try working as a picker for a single week. I’m sure he would not survive.”

In recent months, workers at Amazon’s warehouses in Bad Hersfeld, Leipzig and Graben in Germany have engaged in a series of rolling strikes. They are hoping to increase pressure on Amazon by sending protesters to the company’s Seattle headquarters, where they were joined by American workers also opposed to the low wages and harsh work conditions that the company’s American warehouses share.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said:

We welcome the German Amazon workers and their union, ver.di, to the United States. Just as German workers have stood in support of U.S. workers employed by global corporations, we join your fight for fairness at one of the largest corporate retailers in the world. It’s time that Amazon make good on its obligations to its workers, not just its shareholders and executives, and we will be there in Seattle to make our voices heard.

The complaints about Amazon are pretty similar in both countries: “The Amazon system is characterized by low wages, permanent performance pressure and short-term contracts,” said Stefanie Nutzenberger, a board member of ver.di, the union representing the German Amazon workers. Instead of classifying fulfillment center workers as retail employees, the company calls them “logistics” workers and then pays them lower rates than they would have to pay retail workers. This misclassification allows the company to claim that it’s paying workers a higher wage for their field than other companies, when the reality is they would have significantly higher wages if correctly classified as retail workers. And despite claims that Amazon has made about safety being a top priority, “Last month, an investigation by the BBC’s “Panorama” program into a U.K.-based Amazon warehouse found conditions a stress expert said could cause ‘mental and physical illness.’”

Workers categorized the conditions similarly:

“The workers are treated more as robots than human,” Markus Hoffmann-Achenbach, an organizer for Ver.di at the Amazon warehouse in the city of Werne, said by email. He was on his way to Seattle to participate in the demonstration.

“As a worldwide company,” Mr. Hoffmann-Achenbach added, “Amazon should treat their workers fairly and with respect in every country. The solidarity of American unions and ver.di, the united services union of Germany, is a sign that social movements are not bounded by national borders and that in times of globalization, the workers worldwide stand together as one.”

Amazon officials seemed to have little sympathy for their own workers:

But Amazon’s German country head Ralf Kleber said the company had no intention of bowing to pressure from striking workers and was more worried about bad weather hurting Christmas deliveries, he told Reuters in an interview last month.

You can almost hear Kleber ending the sentence with a “bah” or a “humbug.”

Photo by jurvetson on Flickr

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

What Happens When a Job Won’t Lift You Out of Poverty?

We’re seeing it happen all over the country. Walmart associates are speaking out against erratic hours and low wages, fast-food workers are striking for a living wage, and in states and cities all over the United States, workers are taking action to raise the minimum wage.

Check out this video below by MSNBC’s Krystal Ball, who discusses recent victories like the SeaTac minimum wage raise to $15 (which has been challenged in court) and covers a quick labor history lesson on the importance of having a voice on the job:

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

Tags: , , ,

Will Seattle Join SeaTac With a $15 Minimum Wage?

As previously reported, SeaTac, a small town outside of Seattle, voted to raise its minimum wage to $15 per hour on Nov. 5. The victory was confirmed Tuesday after a recount and will go into effect after a corporate-backed lawsuit over the wage is resolved. Now working family activists in Washington State are hoping to ride the success of the SeaTac vote to Seattle, and they’ve found support from the mayor and the majority of City Council members.

“We’re carrying the $15 victory from SeaTac to the destination of our next victory,” said Working Washington spokeswoman Sage Wilson.

The council set aside $100,000 for a study, to be completed by June, of a $15 wage. Mayor-elect Ed Murray (D) said he will bring labor and business groups into the discussion about the increase, which he said should be phased in over time to give employers time to adjust. Socialist council member-elect Kshama Sawant said she wants the process to happen more quickly and suggested she would pursue a ballot initiative on the $15 wage in 2014.

Photo via @SeaTimesPhoto on Twitter

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

Tags: , , , ,

Votes Are Still Being Counted In This Crucial Minimum Wage Race

blog_seatacwindo

Election Night 2013 has come and gone, but the outcomes of some very important races have yet to be determined.

In the Seattle-area city of SeaTac, home of the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, a measure to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour and allow workers to earn paid sick days looked victorious on Election Night with roughly 54 percent. But with Washington’s vote-by-mail system, votes are still trickling in, and the result is far from over.

After the totals were updated on Wednesday night, the “Yes on Proposition 1” vote to raise the wage lead by only 19 votes out of roughly 6,000 cast, about 0.3 percent. On Thursday night, the “Yes” lead climbed to 53 votes — still an outrageously slim margin.

As the Slog reports, there are about 300 ballots left to count “but since these could come from anywhere, they defy prediction.”

The vote SeaTac has big implications. More immediately, it could influence the chances of a similar brewing $15 minimum wage proposal in nearby Seattle. But it could also serve as a model for other small municipalities, particularly those with airports or other large low-wage institutions, to launch their own pro-worker SeaTac-esque campaigns.

The Koch Brothers, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and the National Restaurant Association are all well-aware of this. That’s why even in his small city of 25,000 people, spending on the Proposition 1 race equaled roughly $300 per voter.

The remaining 300 ballots will be counted in the next few days, after which the measure will certainly go to court. But the no amount of money can change this: idea has been planted.

Photo by Yes for SeaTac on Facebook

Tags: , , , ,

Seattle Walmart Workers Latest to Join Strike Wave

Walmart workers in Seattle-area stores will strike this morning, just days afterSouthern California Walmart workers walked off the job calling for a living wage and an end to retaliation against workers who are seeking change at the retail behemoth.

Washington State Walmart employee Mary Watkines told Salon’s Josh Eidelson in a pre-strike interview that workers have to endure management “intimidation and humiliation,” and added:

I want people to be able to live better, you know, like the commercial says….Nobody lives better except for the Waltons now.

In the Los Angeles strike, more than 50 Walmart workers and community, faith and union supporters were arrested after sitting down in an intersection outside a Chinatown Walmart to protest Walmart’s low wages and alleged retaliation against workers speaking out for change.

The recent actions by Walmart workers are a preview for a nationwide “Black Friday” day of action when Walmart and other low-wage retail workers plan demonstrations on what is traditionally the busiest holiday season shopping day.

Learn more about the Black Friday actions and search for a day-after-Thanksgiving event in your area. Also be sure to visit Our Walmart and Making Change at Walmart for more information.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

Tags: , , ,