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

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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

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

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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

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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

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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

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12 Ways the State Policy Network Could Assault the Rights of Working Families in 2014

new article from the Guardian reveals that the State Policy Network (SPN) is planning a significant assault on the rights of working families in 2014 state legislative sessions. Through the Searle Freedom Trust, a foundation it created in 2011, SPN plans to offer sizable grants to supposedly independent, non-partisan think tanks in the states. SPN collected 40 grant proposalsfrom these think tanks and will grant funding through Searle to 20 of them. The proposals are for numerous extreme right-wing policy options, very similar to those proposed by groups like the American Legislative Exchange Council, and the think tanks already receive funding from the typical extremist anti-working family funders like the Koch brothers.

While SPN claims tax-exempt status that limits their lobbying efforts and the group says that it and the groups it funds don’t engage in lobbying, those claims don’t quite pass a commonsense examination. As the Guardian notes:

Most of the “think tanks” involved in the proposals gathered by the State Policy Network are constituted as 501(c)(3) charities that are exempt from tax by the Internal Revenue Service. Though the groups are not involved in election campaigns, they are subject to strict restrictions on the amount of lobbying they are allowed to perform. Several of the grant bids contained in the Guardian documents propose the launch of “media campaigns” aimed at changing state laws and policies, or refer to “advancing model legislation” and “candidate briefings,” in ways that arguably cross the line into lobbying.

Depending on which 20 proposals it chooses to fund, here are 12 ways that SPN could assault the rights of working families in 2014:

1. Alabama Policy Institute: Requested $25,725 to fund the “spark plug” for eliminating the state income tax. Such a plan would lead to the cutting of services for working families. (Also requested for tax cuts or elimination: Advance Arkansas Institute, $35,000; Georgia Public Policy Foundation, $40,000; Nebraska’s Platte Institute for Economic Research, $25,000; New Mexico’s Rio Grande Foundation, $30,000; Ohio’s Buckeye Institute for Public Policy Solutions, $40,000; and Opportunity Ohio, $35,000).

2. Delaware’s Caesar Rodney Institute: Requested $36,000 to fund strategies to repeal the state’s prevailing wage law, which would lower wages for working families.

3. Florida’s James Madison Institute: Requested $40,000 to fund efforts to promote vouchers (which they call Education Savings Accounts), which would reduce funding for public schools. Lower public education funding would lead to worsening student performance and teacher layoffs. (Also requested on this topic: Oregon’s Cascade Policy Institute, $40,000.)

4. Georgia Center for Opportunity: Requested $65,000 to fund opposition to Medicaid expansion, which would mean fewer residents have health care. (Also requested on this same topic: North Carolina’s J.W. Pope Civitas Institute, $46,500; Texas Public Policy Foundation, $40,000; Utah’s Sutherland Institute, $50,000.)

5. Illinois Policy Institute: Requested $40,000 to fight to change Chicago’s public employee pension system to a defined-contribution plan, which would mean less retirement security for working families. (Also requested on cutting public employee pensions: Arizona’s Goldwater Institute for Public Policy, $40,000; Minnesota’s Center of the American Experiment, $40,000; Missouri’s Show-Me Institute, $25,000; Pennsylvania’s Commonwealth Foundation, $35,500.)

6. Maryland Public Policy Institute: Requested $40,000 to push for cuts in corporate tax rates, which would lead to the cutting of services for working families.

7. Maine Heritage Policy Center: Requested $35,000 to fund a campaign to eliminate state and local income taxes and institute “right to work” for less in one county as a model for future endeavors. If the campaign succeeds, working families will face service cuts and lower wages.

8. Mississippi Center for Public Policy: Requested $30,000 to oppose gas tax increases and privatize the state Department of Transportation, which would lead to weakened services for state residents and lower accountability on transportation issues. (Also requested on privatization: Massachusetts’ Pioneer Institute, $40,000).

9. Common Sense Institute of New Jersey: Requested $50,000 for a campaign to eliminate the compensation of public employees for unused sick leave, which would lower the overall compensation package for employees and encourage public employee absenteeism.

10. Nevada Policy Research Institute: Requested $35,000 to fund a campaign to get union members to leave their unions, which would weaken the collective bargaining rights of working families.

11. Empire Center for New York State Policy: Requested $36,500 to fund efforts to eliminate the estate tax, which would lead to service cuts for working families and shift the tax burden in the state from the wealthy toward working families.

12. Washington Policy Center: Requested $35,000 to launch a campaign to require local governments to have a super-majority to raise taxes, which would cripple local governments and lead to cuts in services for working families.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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7 Ways SeaTac’s New Worker-Friendly Law Will Change People’s Lives

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On Nov. 5, the voters of SeaTac, a small suburban community near Seattle and Tacoma, Wash., voted to provide workers for the town’s larger airport-related businesses a minimum wage of $15 per hour, 63% higher than the state’s current minimum wage of $9.19. (Although the measure passed, there may be a recount.)  Here are seven ways the new measure would change the lives of the workers detailed in the Kitsap Peninsula Business Journal:

1. Allow employees to live closer to where they work and cut down on commute times. “I wouldn’t have to take a two-hour commute,” said Eric Frank, a baggage handler who lives an hour away. With the pay increase, workers would be able to afford housing closer to the job.

2. Give employees with families more time with their loved ones. The raise would allow some workers, like Chris Smith, to take care of their families on one salary and not have to work two jobs, freeing up their schedules so they can spend more time with family.

3. Allow some employees who don’t get much time off to actually have weekends. “My weekend is like a sale at the Bon Marché—one day only,” Smith said.

4. Decrease working families’ reliance on community food banks to provide for their families. The Rev. Jan Bolerjack, pastor at Riverton Park United Methodist Church, said she regularly sees airport workers in uniform using her church’s food banks. “They get off of work and then have to come wait in the rain or cold or worse…just so they can put food on the table,” she said.

5. Give part-time workers the opportunity to get more hours. The law requires businesses to offer more hours to part-time workers before bringing in new part-time workers when more shifts become available.

6. Allow sick workers to stay home without fear of losing their jobs. The law requires the businesses to provide up to 6.5 days a year of paid sick leave to employees who work full-time.

7. Protect airport travelers from illnesses by allowing sick workers to stay home.

Profitable companies such as Alaska Airlines are supporting a lawsuit to overturn the law and the will of the people and are seeking a recount on the measure, which passed by 77 votes.

Photo by Yes! For SeaTac on Facebook

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Votes Are Still Being Counted In This Crucial Minimum Wage Race

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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

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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

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The Big Koch Brothers’ Loss You Didn’t Hear About

SeaTac, Washington. Have you heard of it? Unless you’re from the area, you probably only know the town from its most well-known business: the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, also known as Sea-Tac.

But on Tuesday, the working class suburb of SeaTac put its name on the map in a big way. By a narrow margin, they sent a proposition to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour on track to victory.

For the more than 6,500 full- and part-time employees at the Sea-Tac Airport, this is welcome news. From servers and cooks at airport restaurants to the baggage handlers and other airline employees, many Sea-Tac workers are forced by necessity to work two low-wage jobs, and very few can afford to take off work when they get sick.

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And they aren’t earning low wages because they aren’t doing their jobs — quite the opposite. 33 million travelers spent a whopping $180 million at the airport last year. Alaska Airlines, headquartered at Sea-Tac, has posted record profits. The Anthony’s restaurant at Sea-Tac is the top-grossing airport restaurant in North America. They have more than earned a raise.

It’s worth noting too that minimum wage increases have not hampered business in other airport cities like Albuquerque, Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Jose, or Santa Fe.

Yet, this was a heated, expensive battle. In the town of 25,000 people, spending on both sides equaled approximately $300 per likely voter. The National Restaurant Association threw in $50,000 opposing the measure, on top of $60,000 spent by its Washington affiliate. Two of the biggest forces involved in the race will come as no surprise: ALEC and the Koch Brothers.

If you want a good indication of how much is truly riding on SeaTac’s $15 an hour minimum wage initiative, you need look no further than who is fighting it: The ultra-conservative billionaire Koch brothers and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)…Two of our nation’s most powerful right-wing political forces are joining together to fight and kill the $15 an hour minimum wage movement in tiny SeaTac before it has an opportunity to take root.

The Kochs and their allies understand that when the town of SeaTac experiences an economic boom from this wage increase, which Puget Sound Sage estimates at $54 million, it will only invigorate efforts to raise the wage in other cities and towns, or even nationally.

The Chamber of Commerce, National Restaurant Association, right-wing think tanks, and the billionaires that make up the so-called business community that opposes wage increases, sick days ordinances, and improvements for workers at every turn, is running out of excuses to keep saying “No.” The SeaTac vote is another chink their well-funded armor.

Photo by Yes! For SeaTac on Facebook

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