Minnesota Lawmakers Meet With Minimum Wage Workers for a Reality Check

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Imagine what it’s like to be 6 months pregnant, relying on the bus to get you to and from your two minimum wage jobs. How would it feel to have nothing left over after you paid for food and rent?

Nationally, his is a familiar plight for many low-wage workers. For Minnesota-based Judith Nunez, Jim Parsons and Lucila Dominquez, this is reality.

Yesterday, two of the Minnesota legislators participating in our Working America Minimum Wage Challenge sat down with minimum wage workers for a “Reality Check” meeting. The conversation shed a powerful light on what it means to be a minimum wage worker.

Dominquez, whose wages give her enough for food and shelter only, revealed that tough times have led her to advocate for workers’ rights. “I am unable to do anything else [with my money], which is why I’ve gotten involved in organizing for raising our wages and working conditions,” she said.

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For Working America member Nunez, who is pregnant with her first child and often exhausted from her hectic work schedule and difficult commute, the fight for minimum wage is about equality and community. “We are all human beings and it shouldn’t be this hard for any of us to provide the basic needs we all share,” she says.

It shouldn’t be difficult, but the reality is that more than 200,000 Minnesotans are working for the minimum wage of $7.25, often for companies that post enormous profits. Among the 50 low-wage employers, 92 percent were profitable last year, and 63 percent are earning higher profits than they were before the recession. That’s the reality of minimum wage work in this country and this is what it looks like.

“I work at the Mall of America, where there are a huge number of people working for minimum wage. I see them work very hard and make a lot of money for the companies who employ them. It seems only right to me that their work should be valued at a higher level and all workers should be getting at least $9.50 (an) hour,” said Jim Parsons, a 53 year old father of three from South Minneapolis. Parsons, unable to find work in his field, works three part-time jobs to support himself and his three children.

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These people, like so many others, are the face of minimum wage workers in America. They are not the stereotype of teenagers making extra pocket money. They are adults, current or expecting parents, oftentimes the breadwinners of their household. They work diligently, make tough choices like skipping meals, and still have difficulty making ends meet; often they end up relying on taxpayer-funded services like Medicaid and SNAP just to get by while their employers continue to pocket record profits.

“We all work hard, we all get tired, we all struggle to get by and we all deserve better,” Dominquez said.

Send a message to the Minnesota legislature: tell them it’s time to raise the minimum wage.

 

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The Labor Movement Is a Lot Bigger Than You Think

While 11.3% of U.S. workers officially belong to unions, the labor movement is much larger. The movement isn’t limited to official union members and the last year showed that, as workers marched side by side, union members or not, to fight back against injustices championed by corporate interests that are out of touch with America’s working families. As AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said at the federation’s constitutional convention in Los Angeles, “Politicians and employers want to divide us; they try it every single day. They want to tell us who can be in our movement and who can’t, and we can’t let them.”

An article at The American Prospect describes the trend of new ways workers are standing up for their rights:

Those government union membership statistics, however, don’t capture an entire swath of new, exciting and emerging labor activists—’alt-labor’ activists—whom alarmed employers would like to see regulated by the same laws that apply to unions. Yet, before we regulate them as unions, shouldn’t we first count them as unions?

Who isn’t being counted in those official numbers? A lot of people:

  • Striking fast-food workers who are calling for a $15-an-hour wage.
  • Walmart workers who went on strike for Black Friday.
  • Day laborers who have joined one of hundreds of workers’ centers nationwide.
  • Restaurant workers, home health care workers, taxi drivers and domestic workers organizing for workplace power outside traditional unions.
  • Millions of members of Working America, the community affiliate of the AFL-CIO.

These numbers also don’t count people like the college athletes who are seeking to unionize and the many workers who are trying to form unions but are thwarted by employers or weakened labor law.

Some of the extremists opposed to these groups want them limited in their ability to organize, while not wanting to count them in the official numbers, so labor looks weaker. As the Prospect notes:

However, in a 21st century economy in which collective bargaining has been so severely weakened by structural changes and the roll back in workers’ rights, these new labor activists represent an important frontier for people concerned about worker power and economic inequality writ large. You know that workers are on to something when employers start to get nervous. It turns out the low union membership statistics may not be as good a measure of labor’s future as employers would hope.

And the reality behind those official statistics, and the rise of alt-labor, should be heartening to supporters of working families.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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NLRB Files Formal Complaint Against Walmart, Internal Anti-Union Documents Also Leaked

The National Labor Relations Board filed an formal complaint yesterday against the retail behemoth Walmart, alleging that the company violated the rights of nearly 70 workers rallying over workplace conditions in 14 states.

The Los Angeles Times reports the complaint, the largest ever against Walmart, refers to charges made in November 2012 during the Black Friday actions by associates speaking out for respect on the job and for Walmart to publicly commit to provide regular hours and a living wage of $25,000 a year. The complaint alleges Walmart illegally fired and disciplined nearly 70 workers in 34 stores.

“Walmart thinks it can scare us with attacks to keep us from having a real conversation about the poverty wages we’re paid,” says Barbara Collins, a fired Walmart worker from Placerville, Calif., who is one of the workers named in the complaint. “But too much is at stake—the strength of our economy and the security of our families—to stay silent about why Walmart needs to improve jobs. Now the federal government is confirming what we already know: We have the right to speak out, and Walmart fired me and my co-workers illegally. With a new CEO taking over in a few weeks, we hope that Walmart will take a new direction in listening to associates and the country in the growing calls to improve jobs.”

Making Change at Walmart reported in a press release:

If Walmart is found liable, workers could be awarded back pay, reinstatement and the reversal of disciplinary actions through the decision; and Walmart could be required to inform and educate all employees of their legally protected rights. While historic, the complaint alone is not enough to stop Walmart from violating the law. Since the start of the year, Walmart has continued to retaliate against workers who speak out for better jobs.

In other news, the Internet group Anonymous leaked a set of Walmart PowerPoints for managers that included ways to discourage workers from joining a union and how to identify “early warning signs.”

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The PowerPoints also detailed legal ways an employer could discourage workers from organizing:

“Walmart’s aggressive anti-worker campaign is real, it is ugly and unnecessary,” says Dominic Ware of Leandro, Calif. (OUR Walmart member and former associate). “Instead of spending money on these misleading and false campaigns to intimidate workers and their rights, Walmart should be focused on publicly committing to improving jobs, raising wages and making sure that workers are able to raise their concerns without fear of illegal retaliation.”

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Walmart Workers Stand Up on Black Friday in More than 1500 Locations

Today, workers from Walmart stores across the country joined with allies to call upon the company with $17 billion in annual profits to pay its full-time workers a minimum of $25,000 a year and for the company to stop punishing workers who stand up for their rights.  Rallies were held at more than 1,500 Walmart locations.  Working families in nine major cities planned civil disobedience as part of the protests, and arrests were made in numerous cities, including Alexandria, Va.,  Dallas, Tex.,  California, and Illinois.  Learn more about the action and why its important to stand with Walmart workers at BlackFridayProtests.org.

Text BLACK to 235246 to support the Walmart associates speaking up for their rights. Standard data and message rates may apply.

Below are Twitter highlights from the actions.  The Walmart actions can be followed on Twitter at #WalmartStrikers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Will You Sponsor a Walmart Worker?

Walmart associates all over the United States are taking big risks for speaking up about their work environment and going on strike. Many have been fired, and while it is illegal to fire workers for asking for a voice on the job, sometimes these lawsuits can take years.

That’s why Making Change at Walmart is taking steps to empower the Walmart associates who were fired by training them to become organizers so they can continue to fight for change for their former co-workers. From Making Change:

Instead of the problem going away for Walmart when they fire a worker, what if that worker could become an organizer? What if instead of being unemployed, they could use all of their work hours talking to their co-workers about the importance of changing Walmart?

You can stand in solidarity with these workers by donating to sponsor one of them today, so they can keep organizing for good jobs at Walmart.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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22 Things We’re Thankful for This Thanksgiving

We have a lot to be thankful for this year, including (in no particular order):

  • Union members who have volunteered their services to strengthen their communities (read more here).
  • All the activists—including those in Congress—working for a road map to citizenship for 11 million aspiring Americans.
  • Connecticut and the four localities (Portland, Ore.; New York City; Jersey City, N.J.; and SeaTac, Wash.) that now require paid sick days.
  • The five states and two localities that have raised the minimum wage this year (California, Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Montgomery County, Md., [measure passed yesterday, county executive confirms he will sign into law], Prince George’s County, Md., [pending county executive signature] and SeaTac, Wash. [where there may be a recount]).
  • The 10 states that have expanded access to the ballot (California, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Maryland, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Oregon, Virginia and West Virginia).
  • The domestic workershome care providerscarwasheros and taxi workers who have defied the odds to come together to win rights and a voice on the job.
  • Walmartfast food and retail workers who are standing together for living wages.
  • Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid for “going nuclear” on the filibuster.
  • Sen. Elizabeth Warren…for being Sen. Elizabeth Warren (and, of course, for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau she pushed to create).
  • The U.S. senators who passed ENDA and the Supreme Court justices who overturned the Defense of Marriage Act.
  • House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and House Democrats for their Economic Agenda for Women and Families (now let’s pass it!).
  • Social Security, for keeping more than 22 million people a year out of poverty.
  • The organizations and media outlets that have exposed dark money and state legislative attacks on workers flowing from ALEC and the Koch brothers.
  • Companies that have signed the Bangladesh Fire Safety Accord (missing from the list are the big U.S. retailers like Walmart).
  • Companies like Costco that buck the trends, pay a living wage and support workers’ rights.
  • Building trades unions’ apprenticeship programs for preparing workers for solid, middle-class careers (read more here).
  • Nurses and teachers, who fight every day for patient safety and great schools for all our kids.
  • Manufacturing workers, who are creating reasons to bring jobs back to America.
  • Writers and dancers, who are bringing justice on the job to their professions.
  • Young workers and students, who are demanding a break from crushing student debt and an economy that will work for their generation.
  • Collective bargaining agreements and all the benefits of being a union member.
  • All the working people, unemployed workers and their families who are the reason for and center of our movement for social and economic justice.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Take Action: Join the Thunderclap in Support of Walmart Workers

Walmart workers around the country are tired of low wages, insufficient hours and on-the-job intimidation when they stand up for their rights. More and more of them are risking their jobs and their livelihood to demand that Walmart pay them a minimum of $25,000 a year, an amount the company with $17 billion in profits last year can easily afford. Show your support for their Black Friday protests with just a few clicks by participating in a Thunderclap.

A Thunderclap is like an online flash mob via Twitter, Facebook and/or Tumblr. When you go to the Thunderclap page, just click on the button of the social network you want to donate a tweet or post to for the campaign. When the Thunderclap launches on Friday at noon, everyone who has signed up will post automatically on whatever social network they decided to share it on.

Click here to support the Walmart workers who are asking for a living wage of $25,000 a year.

You can also text BLACK to 235246 to find out more ways you can support the Walmart associates. Standard data and message rates may apply.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Walmart CEO Steps Down After Embarrassing Week for Company. What’s Next?

Something had to give.

Amid one of the most turbulent periods in Walmart’s history and ahead of thousands of Black Friday protests against the company’s treatment of workers, CEO Mike Duke has stepped down.

“Walmart has been heading in the wrong direction, and it’s a testament to the pressure the company is feeling that they’re changing leadership at this moment,” said OUR Walmart member Tiffany Beroid, an associate at Walmart #1985 in Laurel, Maryland.

This move comes after an enormously embarrassing week for Walmart.

Over 400 news outlets reported on a photo of food drive bins set out for associates to donate to other associates. The revelation sparked criticism from all quarters, including actor and businessman Ashton Kutcher, who tweeted his barbs to more than 15 million followers. Late night talk shows like Stephen Colbert lampooned the store’s actions: “Anyone can afford food at Walmart, except people who work at Walmart.”

In addition, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), fully staffed after years of Republican-lead obstruction, announced a decision to prosecute Walmart for illegal firings and threats against striking workers. More than 117 Walmart associates were unfairly fired or disciplined after multi-city strikes last June, according to OUR Walmart.

To top it off, Walmart associates and allies are building momentum toward nationwide protests of the company’s low pay and disrespect toward workers on November 29, Black Friday. In the past month, workers have walked off the job in Chicago, Dallas, Tampa Bay, Miami, Cincinnati, and Seattle, Los Angeles, and Sacramento. Port drivers at trucking companies that are part of Walmart’s supply chain also went on strike last week.

CEO Mike Duke will be fine, however. In 2012, he was paid $23.2 million, or about 1,034 times more than the company’s average worker.

Duke’s successor will be Michael McMillon who was previously CEO of Walmart International. McMillon ran the company’s international division during a period the New York Times reported that Walmart was making illegal bribes to Mexican officials.

Tiffany Beroid issued a challenge to the incoming CEO: “We sincerely hope that Mr. McMillon will answer the country’s calls for Walmart to publicly commit to paying $25,000 a year, providing full-time work and ending its illegal retaliation against its own employees.”

Let’s keep up the pressure. Join us and stand up for Walmart workers at a Black Friday event near you.

Photo by @unitehere on Twitter

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You’re Going to Want to Share this Video with Your Conservative Uncle Before Thanksgiving

It might strike you as odd that a company that rakes in billions of dollars each year, instead of paying its workers a living wage, is asking them to instead pitch in and donate food to each other so they can afford a holiday meal.

Check out this new AFL-CIO Walmart video, and don’t forget to find a Walmart Black Friday action near you.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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That Time Stephen Colbert Created A Public Relations Nightmare for Walmart

On Tuesday night, Stephen Colbert helped turn Walmart’s food drive fiasco into a full-blown PR nightmare.

Earlier this week, a Walmart associate shared a photo from a Canton, Ohio store showing empty bins with a sign that read “Please donate food items so associates in need can enjoy Thanksgiving dinner.”

Not only is Walmart not taking responsibility for their low wages and unfair scheduling practices that put many of their employees “in need.” They are placing the burden on their fellow associates to help them out.

“Some critics out there are saying Walmart isn’t doing enough, but they’re wrong because Walmart isn’t doing anything,” Colbert told his audience. “These bins are for employees to donate to other employees. And where can Walmart low-wage employees find cheap food to donate? Walmart.”

“Anyone can afford food there,” he continued, “except people who work at Walmart.”

This is just another way Walmart, despite huge profits and exorbitant executive pay, places its financial burdens on others. Because of Walmart’s low wages, erratic scheduling, and lack of health benefits for more employees, each Walmart Supercenter costs taxpayers approximately $900,000 in Medicaid, SNAP, and other public assistance.

Walmart claims they pay an average hourly wage of $12.78, but independent analyses peg that number closer to $9 an hour. A Walmart executive boasted at a Goldman Sachs conference in September that 475,000 of the company’s U.S. associates make more than $25,000 a year, implying that the vast majority of Walmart’s 1.4 million American employees make less than that.

This business model is a choice, not a necessity. A Demos report showed how Walmart could double hourly wages just by not repurchasing billions of dollars its own stock. An analysis from Fortune magazine’s senior editor Stephen Gandel — hardly a left-winger — demonstrates that Walmart could give its employees a 50 percent raise and still deliver on its promises to shareholders.

Thus far, Walmart is refusing to listen to shareholders, independent business analysts, or its own workers. That’s why we’re standing up on Black Friday – stand with us by finding an event near you.

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