The Return of Workplace Immigration Raids

San Francisco Press Conference Suppporting AB 450

SAN FRANCISCO, CA – David Huerta, President of United Service Workers West, SEIU, speaks at a meeting of San Francisco janitors and other workers supporting AB 450, a bill protecting workers during immigration raids and enforcement actions. 

David Bacon

At the end of February immigration agents descended on a handful of Japanese and Chinese restaurants in the suburbs of Jackson, Mississippi, and in nearby Meridian. Fifty-five immigrant cooks, dishwashers, servers and bussers were loaded into vans and taken to a detention center about 160 miles away in Jena, Louisiana.

Their arrests and subsequent treatment did more than provoke outrage among Jackson’s immigrant rights activists. Labor advocates in California also took note of the incident, fearing that it marked the beginning of a new wave of immigrant raids and enforcement actions in workplaces. In response, California legislators have written a bill providing legal protections for workers, to keep the Mississippi experience from being duplicated in the Golden State.

Once the Mississippi restaurant workers had been arrested, they essentially fell off the radar screen for several days. Jackson lawyer Jeremy Litton, who represented three Guatemalan workers picked up in the raid, could not get the government to schedule hearing dates for them.  He was unable to verify that the other detained immigrants were being held in the same center, or even who they were.  Continue reading

ALEC and the Minimum Wage

ALEC and the Minimum Wage
By Seth Sandronsky

The American Legislative Exchange Council is against raising the
minimum hourly wage. We turn to Missouri’s statehouse. Lawmakers there
passed bills barring every past and future law to hike the minimum
wage recently.

“By enacting legislation today to prohibit all past and future local
minimum wage laws in Missouri, the Missouri state legislature dealt a
blow to democracy and workers in the state,” said Christine Owens,
executive director at the National Employment Law Project.
“Legislators have stripped Missouri communities of their long-standing
rights and taken away all hope for cities like St. Louis of addressing
low wages that deny people the opportunity to support themselves
through work.”

Missouri’s anti-minimum wage legislation mirrors a bill that Iowa
state lawmakers passed. In Iowa, that bill reverses local minimum wage
hikes that counties approved, while prohibiting cities and counties
from changing the standards for wages and benefits.

What is going on, and why? According to the NELP, state legislatures
are responding to popular sentiments to increase minimum wage rates.
Over 40 cities and counties have enacted increased minimum wages.
However, 24 states have approved laws to roll back these minimum wage
increases. Continue reading

The Right to Strike

Will-Strike

For half a century, the loss of the right to strike has moved in lock step with the increase in income inequality. According to an International Monetary Fund study of twenty advanced economies, union decline accounted for about half of the increase in net income inequality from 1980 to 2012. The following is the start of a Boston Review discussion on US workers’ right to strike.

James Gray Pope, Ed Bruno, Peter Kellman

Boston Review

May 22, 2017

In December 2005 more than 30,000 New York City transit workers walked out over economic issues despite the state of New York’s Taylor Law, which prohibits all public sector strikes. Not only did the workers face the loss of two days’ pay for each day on strike, but a court ordered that the union be fined $1 million per day. Union president Roger Toussaint held firm, likening the strikers to Rosa Parks. “There is a higher calling than the law,” he declared. “That is justice and equality.”

The transit strike exemplified labor civil disobedience at its most effective. The workers were not staging a symbolic event; they brought the city’s transit system to a halt. They claimed their fundamental right to collective action despite a statute that outlawed it. For a precious moment, public attention was riveted on the drama of workers defying a draconian strike ban.

How did national labor leaders react?

AFL-CIO president John Sweeney issued a routine statement of support, while most others did nothing at all. To anybody watching the drama unfold, the message was clear: there is no right to strike, even in the House of Labor.

About a decade earlier in 1996, Stephen Lerner, fresh from a successful campaign to organize Los Angeles janitors, had warned in Boston Review that private sector unions faced an existential crisis: density could soon drop from 10.3 percent to 5 percent if unions did not expand their activity beyond the limits imposed by American law. He called for unions to develop broad organizing strategies—industry-wide and regional—and to engage in civil disobedience. Few embraced these radical strategies. Today private sector union density is about 6.5 percent, not quite as low as Lerner predicted, but down from a high of over 30 percent in the mid-1950s. Continue reading

Where We Are Going Politically – a Labor Perspective on Values

by Stan Sorscher

Labor Representative at SPEEA/IFPTE

  • Donald Trump’s first few disorienting months leave many people wondering what governing looks like any more. It’s time to look away from the political spectacle, and take a deep breath.

    Consider two opposing value statements.

    “We all do better” Value Statement

    • The purpose of our economy is to raise our standard of living. Here, “standard” applies to our community and our country.
    • We value opportunity and fairness, stronger communities, shared prosperity, and investment in the future.
    • All work has dignity.
    • We are each other’s co-workers, neighbors, friends, relatives, and customers. We all do better when we all do better. My well-being depends on your well-being.

    Under “we all do better” values, government plays a legitimate role – building social cohesion and promoting public interest.

    Markets are powerful and efficient, but markets fail. Climate change and inequality are the two defining challenges of our time, and arguably the two biggest market failures in human history. Appropriate public policies prevent or correct market failures. We should manage national policies and globalization to strengthen Democracy and well-being at home and abroad.

    “Greed is good” Value Statement

    • Investor/shareholder interests come first; public interests second. Money and influence capture gains from productivity and globalization for those at the top.
    • Self-interest is more important than common interest. Power and leverage are used to gain advantage for “us” over “them.”
    • Greed is good.
    • I can succeed at your expense. “Others” are a threat to my well-being. I can demonize or vanquish others to get a bigger piece of a smaller pie.

    Under “greed is good” values, power and influence distort public policies in favor of those who already have plenty of both. These values weaken social cohesion, and discredit institutions of civil society. We manage national policies and globalization to prioritize investor interests over public interests. Workers need to sacrifice our living standards “to compete in the global economy.”

    Lessons from history

    “Greed is good” values dominated America in the gilded age and the laissez faire period leading to the Great Depression and political instability.

    The New Deal period, from the 30’s through the mid-70’s, reflected “we all do better” values. Congress passed Social Security and Medicare; funded public investments in rural electrification, the interstate highway system, and basic research; set strong labor and environmental standards; and supported higher education. Wages rose proportionatelywith productivity.

    The New Deal era ended in the mid-70s’, when we shifted back to “greed is good” values. In the 90’s, Congressional hardliners delegitimized Democracy, shut down the government, took pride in disruption and dysfunction, and polarized our political system. Confidence in Congress dropped from 40% at the end of the New Deal era to 9% now. Donald Trump is the end-point of that transformation in values.

    Harvard economist Dani Rodrik points out that other countries have done well, maintaining a strong sense of shared national interest – China, Japan, and South Korea for example. Europe has a stronger tradition of social dialogue and more social cohesion than we do. Canada is closer to the European model. That said, social cohesion is unraveling generally. People everywhere see themselves being left behind.

    What Works?

    Decades of narrow and divisive values have eroded trust, deindustrialized our economy, and seriously wounded the middle class. This is not stable, politically or economically.

    Of course, it’s working brilliantly for the 1%.

    One message of the 2016 presidential campaign is that workers and communities mistrust establishment politicians. All the Republican establishment candidates were quickly swept aside. Few voters were inspired by Hillary Clinton’s economic message, which seemed to be “We’re OK. It’s not as bad as you think!”

    Dani Rodrik asks, is it too late to restore balance between those who have too much power and those with too little?

    Leaders lead. Franklin Roosevelt articulated positive unifying values responding to anxieties of voters. He confronted corporate power and influence, restructured power relationships, and shared new gains with those who had been left out.

    Our political situation is confusing and frustrating. Tactically, the path of least resistance is “resistance” or full battle mode. However, resistance without vision goes nowhere.

    Here is a very simple positive first step. When we see others on the street, at work, in a shop, or elevator, think of them as a co-worker, neighbor, friend or relative, a customer, or someone who could become your customer. That is, we can stretch our personal boundaries between “self and other.” Make more people “us” and fewer people “them.” Every day.

    We can appreciate the value others bring. They are not a threat to our way of life. Their culture, their food, music, and stories enrich our lives. It’s true if we say it is true. We need to say it.

    Political leaders need to say it. At a recent Town Hall meeting, a House member shared a profound insight with angry constituents. He has two tools – his vote and his voice. His votes were not the issue. His constituents were expecting more from his voice.

    The neoliberal trickle-down approach is exhausted. Markets will not solve all our problems. Too often, what we are told is progress is really another distortion of power relationships to extract more gains from workers for the benefit of a few.

    All work has dignity. “We all do better” values justify a managed approach to globalization. Focused industrial strategies can create good jobs by investing in productive capacity. New policies can strengthen the employment relationship, restoring workers’ bargaining power.

    In globalization, we should prioritize labor rights, human rights and environmental protections, so workers and communities get a share of the gains they produce. Globalization could be an upward spiral instead of a race to the bottom.

    The corrupting power of money in politics must be reversed. People can lead with local efforts to raise minimum wages, provide paid sick leave and rebuild social cohesion.

    It’s time (again) to recognize our shared values and common interests. If people lead, eventually leaders will follow.

    Reposted from the Huffington Post with the permission of the author

Trump’s Assault on Workers

The first 100 daysPresident Trump’s top priorities include rolling back protections to workers’ wages, health, and safety

 In this report, we look closely at President Trump’s actions in his first 100 days in office and ask: Do these actions benefit or harm U.S. workers and our economy?

April 29, 2017, marks the 100th day of Donald Trump’s presidency. During his first 100 days in office, President Trump has talked often about improving the lives of people who “work hard and play by the rules.” But looking beyond the president’s rhetoric and examining his actions during this time reveals a different set of priorities. During his first 100 days, President Trump has rolled back worker protections and outlined a fiscal year 2018 budget that would dramatically cut funding for the agencies that safeguard workers’ rights, wages, and safety. He has also advanced nominees to key posts—even to the Supreme Court—who are hostile to policies that boost wages, enhance workers’ bargaining power, and protect worker safety. This report evaluates President Trump’s actions during his first 100 days and analyzes their impact on this nation’s workers and our economy.

Go to EPI.org

Can Labor Unite?

IN THE AGE OF TRUMP, CAN LABOR UNITE?

Donald Trump performed far better among union voters than previous Republican candidates, but since taking office has enacted disastrous anti-worker policies. Now, some unions are organizing their members around an explicitly progressive analysis, hoping to unlock the power of workers to help lead the resistance.

BY ALEXANDRA BRADBURY

YOU KNOW YOU’RE GETTING THE SHORT END OF THE STICK AS A WORKER, but you don’t really know why,” says Joe Tarulli, a Staten Island Verizon tech who’s put in 17 years with the company. “They make it seem like these rich people are just lucky they got the right chances, and these poor old working folks, nothing ever goes right for them. No! These corporations are doing it on purpose.”

Last spring, Tarulli and 39,000 Verizon workers were forced out on a 49-day strike to fend off outsourcing and other concessions demanded by the company, even as it raked in billions in profits. Democratic primary candidate Bernie Sanders walked the picket line with them to draw media attention to their battle against corporate greed. But in the general election, Tarulli says many of his coworkers went on to vote for Donald Trump, who spoke to the anger that had motivated them to strike in the first place. “Trump’s a great communicator,” says Tarulli. “For a long time people felt ignored, even by their own unions, because these companies take advantage of them so badly.”

Trump’s win highlighted a rank and file that feels alienated from politics as usual. While most major unions backed Hillary Clinton, 43 percent of voters in union households cast their ballots for Trump. The swing in votes was less a bump for Trump (who outperformed Mitt Romney by 3 points in union households) than a shortfall for Clinton (7 points below Obama in 2012)—and that’s not counting those who simply stayed home.

“I did believe in him trying to get more jobs back to the United States,” says Trump voter Jack Findley of Chattanooga, Tenn. Findley worked for four years on a Volkswagen assembly line, backing the unsuccessful union drive at the plant in 2014 before an injury put him out of commission. He has two kids, ages 4 and 7, and worries as he watches power companies and retailers in his area shut down. “When my kids get old enough, I don’t know where they’re going to be working,” he says.

It’s difficult to fathom that workers who risked their livelihoods to take on a corporate behemoth like Verizon, or back a long-shot union campaign at Volkswagen, went on to vote for a poster child of corporate greed. But after decades of bipartisan fervor for privatization, budget cuts and so-called free trade deals, many workers are disillusioned with both parties. Continue reading

May Day Message – Richard Trumka

Richard Trumka; AFL-CIO

Throughout North America and globally, May 1 is a day to remember and respect workers’ rights as human rights. As working people take to the streets in communities around the world, a quieter but equally important movement of workers on both sides of the United States–Mexico border has been growing.

Whatever language we speak and wherever we call home, working people are building power, supporting labor rights and fighting corruption—and we’re doing it together.

Our agenda is simple. We oppose efforts to divide and disempower working people, and we oppose border walls and xenophobia anywhere and everywhere. We want trade laws that benefit working people, not corporations. And we want economic rules that raise wages, broaden opportunity and hold corporations accountable.

Nearly 20 years ago, many independent and democratic Mexican unions began an alliance with the AFL-CIO.

We’ve developed a good working relationship. We’ve engaged in important dialogue and identified shared priorities. Now we are ready to take our solidarity to the next level, turning words into deeds and plans into action.

You see, we believe no fundamental difference exists between us. We share common values rooted in social justice and a common vision of the challenges before us.

The corporate elite in the United States and Mexico have been running roughshod over working people for too long. Corporate-written trade and immigration policies have hurt workers on both sides of the border.  We each have experienced the devastation caused by economic rules written by and for the superrich.

 

Those of us in the United States can see how unfair economic policies have destroyed Mexico’s small farms and pushed many Mexicans to make the perilous trek north or settle in dangerous cities. Many in Mexico are worried about their own families, some of whom might be immigrants in the United States today. Workers in the United States share their concern, especially as anti-immigrant sentiment has become disturbingly mainstream.

The truth is more and more politicians are exploiting the insecurity and pain caused by corporate economic rules for political gain by stoking hatred and scapegoating Mexicans and other Latin American immigrants.

We will not be divided like this. Workers north and south of the border find the idea of a border wall to be offensive and stand against the criminalization of immigrant workers. We need real immigration reform that keeps families together, raises labor standards and gives a voice to all workers.

Instead of erecting walls, American and Mexican leaders should focus on rewriting the economic rules so working people can get ahead and have a voice in the workplace. One of our top priorities is to transform trade deals like the North American Free Trade Agreement into a tool for raising wages and strengthening communities in both countries.

We’re outraged by the kidnapping and murder of the 43 students from the Ayotzinapa Rural Teachers’ College, as well as too many other atrocities to list.

America’s unions are democratic in nature and independent of both business and government, but that’s mostly not true in Mexico. A key step in ending violence and impunity in Mexico and raising wages and standards on both sides of the border is to protect union rights and the freedom of association in Mexico.

We’re united. We’re resolute. We are ready to win dignity and justice for all workers.

Posted on the AFL-CIO website.

Continue reading