San Francisco Workers Aim High Nation’s Top Minimum Wage

by Carl Finamore

On the steps of City Hall (photo: Carl Finamore)

On the steps of City Hall (photo: Carl Finamore)

In a very unusual political combination seldom seen nowadays, San Francisco’s mayor, city officials, business, community and labor leaders have jointly agreed to place a proposition on the November ballot that will give a big raise to virtually all low-wage full time, part time, sub contract and temporary workers of big and small businesses alike.

San Francisco already has the country’s highest minimum wage which currently stands at $10.74.

But, if this proposal gets approved this Fall as expected, an estimated 100,000 workers will get an extra boost after six months to $12.25 an hour with additional annual increases until the minimum wage finally jumps to $15 an hour in July 2018.
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Building A Labor Base For Third Party Campaigning

Union Member Recruitment by Vermont Progressives

by Steve EarlySocial Policy, Summer, 2014 

“We will stand by our friends and administer a stinging rebuke to men or parties who are either indifferent, negligent, or hostile, and, wherever opportunity affords, to secure the election of intelligent, honest, earnest trade unionists, with clear, unblemished, paid-up union cards in their possession.” —Samuel Gompers2

VPPLike much labor rhetoric, past and present, Samuel Gompers’s warning to the Democrats and Republicans contained more bark than bite. When progressive labor activists tried to break with the two-party system in the early 1900s, the American Federation of Labor president rarely backed them, no matter how “unblemished” their union record, if they campaigned under the banner of the Socialist Party. He preferred, instead, to stick with mainstream politicians, often in need of “a stinging rebuke,” but rarely receiving one because of labor’s still strong tendency to embrace the “lesser evil” on any ballot.

In 2012–14, deepening labor disillusionment with the performance of Democratic office holders led “intelligent, honest, earnest trade unionists” around the country to enter the political arena themselves, as candidates for municipal office.2 Rather than being ignored as the work of marginal “spoilers,” some of these insurgent campaigns by shop stewards, local union officers, and rank-and-file activists actually won substantial union backing, while generating valuable publicity for key labor causes.

As labor-backed independent electoral efforts proliferate, more activists in other states are looking to the example of the Vermont Progressive Party (VPP). More than any other third-party formation in the country, the VPP has campaigned successfully for state legislative seats and municipal office, “while building support for reform and nudging the Democrats left.” Continue reading

Virginia Is for Compliers: Easier to Fight Misclassification, Subcontracting Violators

 by Chaz Bolte

Chaz Bolte

Chaz Bolte

Virginia’s penalties for misclassifying workers in order to avoid paying insurance costs got a boost this month thanks to a new law.  The Virginia Workers Compensation Act made it easier for the state to take action against violators, according to Virginia Workplace Law:

The civil penalty is now up to $250 per day for each day of noncompliance, subject to a maximum penalty of $50,000, plus collection costs.”  The VWCA requires every business owner with more than two employees (a part-time worker is counted as one employee) to have coverage for such worker.

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Real people pushed out of TPP talks

by Dave Anderson

Sen Elizabeth Warren and Congressman Jared Polis

Sen Elizabeth Warren and Congressman Jared Polis

Who are you going to believe — Senator Elizabeth Warren or Congressman Jared Polis?

At Public Citizen’s annual gala in May, Warren launched an attack on backroom trade deals such as the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) currently being negotiated: “From what I hear, Wall Street, pharmaceuticals, telecom, big polluters and outsourcers are all salivating at the chance to rig the deal in the upcoming trade talks. So the question is, Why are the trade talks secret? You’ll love this answer. Boy, the things you learn on Capitol Hill,” Warren said. “I actually have had supporters of the deal say to me ‘They have to be secret, because if the American people knew what was actually in them, they would be opposed.’ /

“Think about that. Real people, people whose jobs are at stake, small-business owners who don’t want to compete with overseas companies that dump their waste in rivers and hire workers for a dollar a day — those people, people without an army of lobbyists — they would be opposed. I believe if people across this country would be opposed to a particular trade agreement, then maybe that trade agreement should not happen.”

By contrast, Congressman Polis has straddled the fence on both fast track authority and the TPP. He is “troubled by the lack of transparency in the U.S. TPP negotiations” and says he won’t support a deal which undermines protections for the environment, consumers and workers.

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The Louisville Labor Bait-and-Switch

by Wiiliam “Alec” Hudson

 

hudson_greg_fischer_2014

Union leaders claim that Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer’s administration has failed to meet the high expectations his campaign inspired. (Cameron Miquelon/ Flickr / Creative Commons)

Angelina Justice has been working as a youth services librarian assistant at the Free Public Library (LFPL) in Louisville, Kentucky since 2004. Though she says she loves helping the children who visit the library, she and other unionized city workers have faced a series of cutbacks and declining work conditions since Mayor Greg Fischer took office in 2011.

Like her co-workers at LFPL, Justice is a member of AFSCME Local 3425—and she says the Fischer administration’s current contract with the union makes it almost impossible for her and her family to survive.

“If my household didn’t have a second income, we wouldn’t make it as a family of five,” she tells In These Times.

When Mayor Fischer ran in 2010, he had the city’s many public-sector unions on his side. His first campaign promised a plan for an “open, honest and transparent metro government,” which called upon local businesses to ally with labor to create jobs for Louisville residents. Though Fischer’s pro-labor rhetoric was often vague, workers viewed his statements as a heartening sign for the largest city in Kentucky, one of the last states in the South with no notorious “right-to-work” laws.

“It was labor that got him elected,” says John Stovall, president of Teamsters Local 783, which represents around 1,000 public workers, including Emergency Medical Services responders, mechanics, carpenters and street cleaners. “It wasn’t the [mostly white and affluent] East End, it wasn’t the rich people; it was labor. All of labor came behind him, supported him and endorsed him.”

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How the Working Families Party Could Disrupt Philly’s Political Machine

by Stuart Elliott

Jake Blumgart’s interesting article on the potential of the Working Families Party in Philadelphia appears even more relevant after the recent success of the WPF in Maryland. Blumagart writes

This time next year Philadelphia could be home to yet another political machine. That may sound like the last thing this city’s fractious electoral drama needs. But Pennsylvania Working Families could potentially give voice, and coherence, to some of those currently underrepresented in Philly’s politics, including the progressive wing of the labor movement and the liberal and left activists who find little to like in local clannish machine operations or the business-side reformers who typically challenge them.

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Working Families Party Makes Promising Debut in Maryland Elections

by Bruce Vail

Vail_WFP_Maryland_Primary_Democrat

Seven of 10 candidates endorsed by Maryland’s Working Families Party won Democratic Party nominations in their districts on Tuesday. (Courtesy of Working Families Parties)

The union-friendly Working Families Party is reporting good results in its first foray into Maryland electoral politics,  as a statewide Democratic Party primary election drew about 400,000 voters to the polls on June 24..

The WFP—a budding alliance of labor unions and traditionally progressive groups that is now firmly established in New York, Connecticut and Oregon—began its first direct electioneering effort in Maryland this year with purposefully modest goals, says Executive Director Charly Carter. The party endorsed 10 candidates for the state legislature and concentrated on grassroots tactics to get them elected, she says, forgoing involvement in the higher-profile races for governor and state attorney general. Of those 10, seven were successful in winning the Democratic Party nominations in their districts on Tuesday, victories that are considered tantamount to final election in the heavily Democratic areas of Baltimore and suburban Washington, D.C.

As far as influencing state electoral politics is concerned, Carter tells In These Times, “We’re happy. We think we’ve made a good start.” One campaign proved victorious for a union organizer who used tactics he learned in his four decades of activism to rally support; another led to the election of a high school teacher who relied heavily on his former students to staff his campaign.

These are the kinds of people, Carter says, that Maryland needs in the legislature: “People who understand the issues of working people, and are not afraid to fight” a system of entrenched power.
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Bending the Arc of History

by Stan Sorscher

Many economists and policy-makers struggle to explain growing inequality and the erosion of the middle class.

Nobel laureate economist Paul Krugman has a simple explanation, “…corporations use their growing monopoly power to raise prices without passing the gains on to their employees.”

The top 1% take 93% of all new gains created in our economy.

They divide gains that way – because they can!

2014-06-18-Powertodividegains-thumb

 

Years ago, manufacturing workers had relatively strong bargaining power, which created a wage floor for all workers in the economy. Not anymore.

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Education Unions Fight Back in Kansas

by Jeremy Wade

Photo: KNEA

Photo: KNEA

At both the K-12 and post-secondary levels, public education in Kansas has come under attack in the past year. This should come as no surprise; Kansas is the home of Koch Industries, whose owners fund neoliberal projects across the country, and the state has long been stumbling down an increasingly conservative path. The reaction to these attacks, however, have been both surprising and inspiring, and the fact that they have occurred in Kansas should give hope that a democratic movement to build a better future for all is possible.

At the K-12 level, conservatives in the state legislature attached several policy amendments to a school funding bill  that only made it through the legislative process by the use of strong-arm tactics, such as delaying votes until 3 AM, and secretive, possibly illegal meetings. Among these policies was a tax credit given to corporations providing scholarships for private schools to at-risk children, and the end of a 57 year-old, state-wide due process policy for terminating a K-12 educator, by restricting the legal definition of “teacher” to an educator at a technical or community college. As a result of this legislation, a K-12 educator can be fired for no reason whatsoever, unless the contract negotiated at the local school board level includes a due process clause. This state-wide due process has saved quality educators from being terminated for refusing to “hand out” satisfactory grades to athletes , and one need not use too much imagination to see how terminating the employment of experienced educators and replacing them with new graduates fits into the neoliberal policy of reducing government spending. Continue reading

The Origins of Inequality: Grassroots Economics Training for Understanding and Power

If-us-land-mass-were-distributed-like-us-wealthDevelop your own skills to argue against inequality through small group discussions and group development of an inequality rap. in a workshop led by Steve Max, Training Director of the renowned Midwest Academy and a vice-chair of Democratic Socialists of America. Training will provide a multimedia overview of the American economy and growth of the rampant inequality that plagues our society today. We will close with a short overview of low-wage justice movements in New York City.

 

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