We Need to Fight for Equality–NAACP and Labor Together

by William Spriggs

naacpLast week, I had the great honor to receive the Benjamin L. Hooks “Keeper of the Flame” Award from the Labor Committee of the NAACP’s Board of Directors.  Both the new president, Cornell Brooks, and Lorraine Miller, who served as interim president before him, were present. I felt humbled by the honor.

This is the 105th anniversary of the NAACP. The conference was a constant reminder of the legacy of those who cut a long path in the fight for equality—not just racial equality—in America.  But last year, this year and next also mark important 50-year anniversaries of the civil rights movement. Last year was the March for Jobs and Justice, this year was the Civil Rights Act and next year is the Voting Rights Act. But we should not forget that we also are marking the anniversaries of human sacrifice to justice. Last year, it was the assassination of Medgar Evers and four young girls, Addie Mae Collins, Denise McNair, Carole Robertson and Cynthia Wesley, who were murdered when the 16th Street Baptist church was bombed in Birmingham, Ala., during church services. This year, it was James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner, murdered for registering African American voters in Philadelphia, Miss. Next year, it will be to remember the campaign to register voters in Alabama, the Bloody Sunday attack on marchers crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge and Viola Liuzzo, who was murdered driving marchers for the march from Selma to Montgomery, Ala.

It is important to note these events occurred when the NAACP was already more than 40 years in the struggle for justice. A solid reminder that this is a long struggle, and it is marked with the blood and sacrifice of many.

The labor luncheon at the NAACP convention is to rededicate the cooperation of two movements with one goal. The labor movement has a long history of struggle as well, fighting for equality and human dignity. Dignity for many begins with dignity at work.

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The truth about how tipped workers get paid

Economic Policy Institute analyst and former tipped worker David Cooper explains how tipped workers get paid. The minimum wage for most tipped workers is only $2.13 an hour. That means the customer is on the hook for paying the bulk of these workers’ wages.

For other videos, from the Economic Policy Institute on tipped wages here and here.

Why the Democrats Need to Take Sides in America’s Class–an excerpt

Harold Meyerson has an informative and insightful long-form essay up on The American Prospect.  It is, we think, an important analysis which should be widely read. The theme is “Straddling class divisions so last century. There’s a new base in town, and it includes a lot of people who used to be middle-class but aren’t anymore.” It is too long for a Talking Union post, so we present this excerpt.–Talking Union

by Harold Meyerson

Harold Meyerson

Harold Meyerson

This spring, a prominent Democratic pollster sent a memo to party leaders and Democratic elected officials advising them to speak and think differently. The nation’s economy had deteriorated so drastically, he cautioned, that they needed to abandon their references to the “middle class,” substituting for those hallowed words the phrase “working people.” “In today’s harsh economic reality,” he wrote, “many voters no longer identify as middle class.”

How many voters? In 2008, a Pew poll asked Americans to identify themselves by class. Fifty-three percent said they were middle-class; 25 percent said lower-class. When Pew asked the same question this January, it found that the number who’d called themselves middle-class had shrunk to 44 percent, while those who said they were of the lower class had grown from 25 percent to 40 percent.

Americans’ assessment of their place in the nation’s new economic order is depressingly accurate. Though most of the jobs lost in the 2007–2009 recession were in middle-income industries, the lion’s share of the jobs created in the half-decade since have been in such low-paying sectors as retail and restaurants. Median household income has declined in every year of the recovery. The share of the nation’s income going to wages and salaries, which for decades held steady at two-thirds, has in recent years descended to 58 percent—the lowest level since the government began its measurements. Continue reading

McDonald’s is responsible for working conditions in franchise restaurants, labor board says

by Laura Clawson

(Photo: Wikipedia)

(Photo: Wikipedia)

In a move that could have far-reaching implications for franchised businesses and low-wage workers, the National Labor Relations Board’s general counsel said Tuesday that McDonald’s would be treated as a joint employer along with franchisees in 43 unfair labor practices cases. Setting this precedent would make it harder for the company to deny responsibility for wage theft and other abuses—like the cases that raised this question in the first place, with workers alleging they were fired in retaliation for participating in legally protected strikes. McDonald’s, like other franchise businesses, has traditionally claimed that it has nothing to do with labor practices in its restaurants, but the tight control the company exerts over every aspect of management of its franchisee-owned restaurants points to a different conclusion:

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Eli Friedman’s Insurgency Trap: A Review

 by Paul Garver

Insuregency Trap cover image

Eli Friedman’s Insurgency Trap: Labor Politics in Postsocialist China is indispensable for anyone trying to understand what is happening with hundreds of millions of internal migrant workers in China today. Postsocialist China has become the world’s largest manufacturing center and exporter to the rest of the world, and the future of Chinese society and of the global economy hinges on whether the new Chinese working class remains excluded from its social and political system.

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Atlantic City Workers Stunned As Casino Economy Begins to Crash

by Bruce Vail

Facing stiff competition from other states who have legalized gambling, Atlantic City casinos such as Trump Plaza (pictured) plan to close, laying off thousands of workers.   Doug Kerr / / Creative Commons

Facing stiff competition from other states who have legalized gambling, Atlantic City casinos such as Trump Plaza (pictured) plan to close, laying off thousands of workers. Doug Kerr / / Creative Commons

More than 1,000 workers at Atlantic City’s Trump Plaza received notices July 14 that the hotel-casino planned to close its doors in just 65 days, eliminating all of their jobs. The news was not unexpected, though that fact doesn’t make it any easier to handle for the workers whose livelihoods depend on a local gambling economy in danger of an historic crash.

“It’s not surprising. A lot of people knew that eventually a shakeout would come,” says James Karmel, an author, college professor and consultant who has studied Atlantic City closely. The city’s gambling industry “is just not sustainable in its current form,” he says, mainly because newer casinos in Pennsylvania, New York, Maryland and elsewhere are luring New Jersey’s gambling customers away. Total annual gaming revenue has crashed, Karmel says, from an all-time peak of $5.2 billion in 2006 to $2.9 billion last year.

Indeed, the Trump Plaza is not the first local casino to close due to the crash, nor is it expected to be the last. Early this year, the Atlantic Club Casino Hotel closed, resulting in the loss of 1,600 jobs. Caesars Entertainment Corporation-owned Showboat Atlantic City has already announced that it expects to close Aug. 31, eliminating the jobs of another 2,100 workers. And the Revel Casino Hotel, currently employing about 3,000 workers, is currently in bankruptcy court, and is said to be in danger of closing before the end of the year.

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UAW Playing the Long Game, Ready for the Short Game at VW in Chattanooga

by Wade Rathke

workscouncilChairman of Volkswagen announced in Germany with the Tennessee Governor and US Senator Bob Coker from Tennessee hanging on every word, that the company will add 2000 workers, spend $600 million adding a new SUV line at the Chattanooga plant, and collect $166 million from the State of Tennessee in tax and other subsidies as well as $12 million in lagniappe to throw at job training for the new workers. On this score everyone can agree, but after that confusion reigns.

Senator Coker, speaking for the red-meat, union haters in the local and statewide business community, when asked for his reaction to both the plant expansion and news recently that the UAW had opened an office, chartered a local, and was hunkering down in its ongoing effort to unionize the plant, snarled through an office statement, “Any union can rent space in any city and open an office.” Well, that’s good to know, Senator? The Governor seemed more rooted in the emerging reality and praised the workers and the fact that the VW decision was a vote of confidence in them.

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