Labor Day and Farm Workers


Arturo Rodriguez,
This Labor Day the American worker has reason to be optimistic.

While a few short years ago a $15 minimum wage seemed like a moonshot, today municipalities and states across the country are standing with workers and adopting a minimum wage that will ultimately lift 35 million hard-working American families out of poverty.

Earlier this year, the Obama Administration expanded overtime pay protections to more than 4 million working Americans.

And in California we are on the cusp on progress that builds on what the President has accomplished and paves the way for reforms that have the potential to put millions of working Americans on a pathway to the middle class.

Last week, California lawmakers passed first-of-its-kind legislation that allows farm workers to get paid overtime like all other workers.

Right now – in 2016 – a Jim Crow-era federal law excludes professions like farm workers, maids and domestic workers from overtime. Professions almost exclusively held by people of color. The fact that 78 years later that law is still on the books, prohibiting farm workers from earning a fair day’s wage for a fair day’s work, is reprehensible.

In 1938, it was passed to discriminate against people of color and all these years later it still discriminates, now predominately against Latino farm workers.

While we haven’t been able to change that law on the federal level due to Congressional inaction, states have the right to expand benefits. After decades of fighting to correct this injustice, we are close to righting an historic wrong.

The bill sponsored by California Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez that recently passed would gradually raise overtime pay for farm workers, requiring time-and-a-half for more than 8 hours worked in a day or 40 hours worked in a week. Farm workers who work more than 12 hours a day would get double pay.

It means a hard working mother or father who rises before dawn in the summer heat or on a freezing winter’s day and gets home well after the kids are asleep will finally get the pay they deserve but have been denied.

This isn’t controversial – it’s just fair.

The legislation didn’t pass on its own. Hillary Clinton was the first national leader to advocate for the change, Obama Administration officials, including Labor Secretary Tom Perez and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, have stood with us, as has Senator Dianne Feinstein and a diverse coalition of labor, immigrant, civil rights and social organizations.

Now the only remaining hurdle we have to clear to level the playing field for farm workers is Governor Jerry Brown’s signature. Ed. note; Governor Brown signed the bill on September 12.

If we can do it in California – the largest agriculture producer in the nation and the state that produces more than half of our nation’s fruits, vegetables, and nuts- it would be the latest example of the Golden State leading the nation in workers’ rights. It will yet again be a model for other states to follow.

Today, I’m proud to see our efforts bear fruit. As we celebrate Labor Day, farm workers in California rejoice the passing of this historic legislation. We’re almost there.

Together, we will continue to fight alongside our brothers and sisters as we work to open up a path to the middle class for farm workers and their families.

Follow Arturo S. Rodríguez on Twitter:
President, UFW.

Stand Up To Verizon

standuptoverizon_email-headerWe’re heading into month two of the Verizon Strike and we need your help. Please join us for a National Mobilization Call on Tuesday, May 10 at 1pm to find out more about what you and your organization can do in the coming weeks to help.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, CWA President Chris Shelton, and Martha Pultar, Director of the Telecommunications Department at IBEW will join us to give an update and tell you how you can join the fight.

The Details:

WHAT: National Verizon Strike Mobilization Call
WHEN: May 10th at 1pm ET
CALL IN NUMBER: 888-636-3807
CODE: 9555514

Please let us know if you can join us. RSVP here.

This fight is about protecting good, union jobs and your help is essential if we want to win. Please join us on Tuesday.

In solidarity,
Bob Master
Communications Workers of America

Verizon and Sanders: Bernie’s Remarks

iowa-berniesander_600x400Bernie Sanders for President
Yesterday the CEO of Verizon said that I was “contemptible.” He doesn’t like that yesterday I walked the picket line with striking Verizon workers, or that I think Verizon needs to pay its fair share in taxes.

Verizon’s attack reminded me of what President Franklin Delano Roosevelt said in New York City in 1936:

“We had to struggle with the old enemies of peace — business and financial monopoly, speculation, reckless banking, class antagonism, sectionalism, war profiteering.
“They had begun to consider the Government of the United States as a mere appendage to their own affairs. We know now that Government by organized money is just as dangerous as Government by organized mob.
“Never before in all our history have these forces been so united against one candidate as they stand today. They are unanimous in their hate for me — and I welcome their hatred.”

Like FDR, I welcome the contempt of Verizon’s CEO. I welcome the hatred and contempt of every Wall Street banker, hedge fund manager, pharmaceutical lobbyist and fracking executive trying to stop our campaign.

Why Freelancers Need To Get Together

DBAConBy David Bacon

As freelancers, we know we do the work. And while the way we work is what defines us, it’s also the root of many of our problems.

We provide the content, but because we don’t have a traditional employer-employee relationship with the publications that run our articles or photos, we don’t get regular paychecks.

Some of us used to be staff writers or photographers or graphic artists. Maybe we took a buyout, or got downsized and laid off. Others of us are just beginning our careers as digital natives, and never had the chance to work on staff.

We’ve always had to sell what we produce, article by article, photo by photo, drawing by drawing. And at some publications, we have to ask to use our own words or images because we’re forced to surrender all copyright claims in order to work.

Many of us are also living without a parachute. Continue reading

Why Virginia’s Open Shop Referendum Should Matter to U.S. Labor Movement

The most important election in Virginia this year has no candidates on the ballot.
Douglas Williams
On February 2nd, the Republican-dominated General Assembly passed the two-session threshold needed to put the open shop before the Commonwealth’s voters in November. You might be asking yourself, “Wait. I thought that Virginia was already an open-shop state?” Your inclinations would be correct: legislation barring union membership as a condition of employment was signed into law by Gov. William Tuck (a later adherent to Massive Resistance in response to Brown v. Board of Educationas a member of Congress) in 1947. As a result, Section 40.1-58 of the Code of Virginia reads:

It is hereby declared to be the public policy of Virginia that the right of persons to work shall not be denied or abridged on account of membership or nonmembership in any labor union or labor organization.

So why do this? The easy answer is that Virginia Republicans are fearful that, should the open shop meet a legal challenge in state court, Democratic Attorney General Mark Herring would not seek to defend it. The sponsor of the bill and defeated 2013 nominee for Attorney General, State Sen. Mark Obenshain (R-Harrisonburg), stated as much in the deliberations on the bill. In addition, should the Assembly find itself in pro-labor hands in the future, they could overturn the open shop with a simple majority vote. Never mind that the extreme amounts of gerrymandering in the Assembly (particularly in the House of Delegates) makes a unified Democratic state government unlikely for decades to come.

The vote this November will be the first popular referendum on the open shop since 54 percent of Oklahoma voters approved State Question 695 on September 25, 2001. In this, an opportunity presents itself to the labor movement in this country, and it is one that labor unions must take. Continue reading

Buy Oreos Made in the USA

by Paul Garver

The Bakery, Confectionery and Tobacco and Grain Millers Union (BCTGM) produced this video to promote its campaign to save the jobs of 600 workers at the Nabisco plant in Chicago.

The global food conglomerate Mondelez International, which now operates five Nabisco factories in the USA. has a history of relocating production of its bakery products from the USA and Europe to lower-wage countries.

Mondelez is opposed by a global coalition of unions cooperating through the International Union of Food Workers (IUF), which includes the BCTGM.   Last year the international union network issued a consensus statement demanding that Mondelez stop outsourcing production as part of a Screamdelez campaign demanding justice for Mondelez workers.


Normally international union coalitions have difficulty in supporting appeals to Buy American, which might pit workers in one country against those in another. But there are special circumstances in this case.  Production from the two Nabisco Mexican factories in Salinas and Monterey  is dedicated entirely to the North American market. The Mexican Nabisco plants have no autonomous union to represent the workers. Moreover Mondelez has used blackmail tactics against the BCTGM Chicago local demanding concessions that would amount to  60% pay cut as the condition of not shifting several production lines from Chicago to Salinas.  .

The BCTGM’s campaign is being supported by prominent Mexican-American Chicago politician Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, and by a rally addressed by former CWA president Larry Cohen, now a leader of Labor for Bernie. However only vocal and continued consumer support for the campaign might put enough pressure on Mondelez to save several hundred crucial industrial jobs in Chicago.




When Scalia Died, So Did Friedrichs’

Marvit_Scalia_Death_Friedrichs_Anti-Union_850_566And, An Even Grander Scheme to Destroy Unions
Conservatives had a great plan in motion to decimate unions. If Justice Antonin Scalia hadn’t died in his sleep, they almost certainly would have pulled it off.

First they got the Court to rule their way in 2014’s Harris v. Quinn, which targeted home healthcare unions. Like “right to work” laws, the case sought to gut unions’ funding and diminish solidarity by saying that union members can’t be required to pay dues. The Court agreed, holding that the First Amendment does not allow the collection of fair share fees from home healthcare workers. The decision, written by Justice Alito and signed by the Court’s four other conservatives, also not-so-subtly invited further attacks on the funding and membership of unions.

Next came Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, which sought to expand Harris to impose right-to-work on all public sector employees. The conservative Center for Individual Rights (CIR) rushed Friedrichs to the Supreme Court by essentially conceding at every lower court that under current law, it should lose. Friedrichs could only win if the Supreme Court overturned 39 years of precedent that date back to the 1977 Abood v. Detroit Board of Education decision.

When the Court accepted Friedrichs, there was some hope that Justice Scalia might provide the critical vote to save public-sector unions. This was not because Scalia had any great love for labor—he did not—but because he understood the basic economic theory of free riders: Just like any other enterprise, it can be difficult for a union to get its members to pay dues when they can get all the benefits of the contract for free. Scalia had said as much in a 1991 concurrence-dissent, and many were hoping that he would exercise consistency with Friedrichs. Continue reading