How A Vote Saved California Schools

California 17,000 Teachers Laid  Off in 2009.

Four years ago California voters overwhelmingly passed Proposition 30, the emergency ballot measure that Governor Jerry Brown and state education leaders had argued was needed to rescue public schools and community colleges from the fiscal free-fall of the 2008 Great Recession.
The good news, according to the California school teachers and officials, parents, college professors, health-care advocates and economic researchers interviewed by Capital & Main for this series, is that the initiative not only performed as advertised, but it may be the most spectacularly successful ballot initiative in the state’s notoriously uneven history of direct democracy.
Proposition 30 averted thousands of new teacher layoffs during the Great Recession.

By raising income taxes on the wealthy and the sales tax on everyone, Prop. 30 dramatically stabilized school funding in the wake of the recession, averting thousands of new teacher layoffs while beginning the work of restoring the jobs and programs lost during the first years of the crisis. It was also instrumental in allowing the state legislature to balance its budget for the first time in years without slashing social programs.
About This Series

Together with a recovering economy, the temporary tax measure has to date reinvested more than $31.2 billion in preschool, K-12, and community colleges. By boosting per-pupil funding by more than 14 percent, Prop. 30 bumped the state’s Great Recession-battered national ranking from dead last in 2010-11 to 40th among all states at $10,493 per student in 2016-17. It’s still a far cry from California’s long-ago position as a top funder of public education, and a 2016 report estimates that merely moving California to the average funding level of the top 10 states would require roughly a doubling of current state funding under Prop. 30. Continue reading

Millions in U.S. Climb Out of Poverty

by Patricia Cohn,
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The availability of full-time jobs at a livable wage may be essential to move out of poverty but is not necessarily enough. Many poor people, saddled with a deficient education, inadequate health care and few marketable skills, find small setbacks can quickly set off a downward spiral. The lack of resources can prevent them from even reaching the starting gate: no computer to search job sites, no way to compensate for the bad impression a missing tooth can leave.
Many of those who made it had outsize determination, but also benefited from a government or nonprofit program that provided training, financial counseling, job hunting skills, safe havens and other services.
Cheyvonné Grayson, 29, grew up in South-Central Los Angeles, where he, at the age of 14, saw a friend gunned down. Since graduating from high school, Mr. Grayson has worked mostly as a day laborer. In 2014, he was paying $300 a month to sleep on someone’s couch and showing up at 6 a.m., morning after morning, at nonunion construction sites in the hopes of getting work.
Often the supervisors and workers spoke only Spanish, and it was hard to understand the orders and measurements. He remembered one foreman looking him up and down, skeptical that he could do the job.

“I had to prove this man wrong,” Mr. Grayson said.
At every site, he said he tried to pick up skills, carefully observing other workers, asking questions and later reinforcing the lessons by watching YouTube videos. Even so, the work was inconsistent and paid poorly, he said.
What made the difference, he said, was getting into the carpenters’ union — a feat he could not have achieved without the help of the Los Angeles Black Worker Center. “That was the door opener,” Mr. Grayson said.

He had to borrow a few hundred dollars for fees and tools, but his first apprenticeship as a carpenter started at $16.16 an hour. He quickly moved up to $20.20 an hour and is paid for his further training. He is now hanging doors for new dormitories at the University of Southern California.
For the first time in his life, he opened a bank account.

As a carpenter he started at $16.16 an hour. He quickly moved up to $20.20 an hour and is paid for his further training. He is now hanging doors for new dormitories at the University of Southern California.
For the first time in his life, he opened a bank account.
Read the entire piece. http://www.nytimes.com/2016/09/26/business/economy/millions-in-us-climb-out-of-poverty-at-long-last.html?_r=0

Labor Veteran Dolores Huerta on What’s at Stake in the 2016 Elections

huertaAlly Boguhn, Rewire

Since the founding along with Cesar Chaves and others of the United Farm Workers (UFW) union, through her current work in supporting union democracy, civic engagement and empowerment of women and youth in disadvantaged communities, Huerta’s influence has been profound. The creation of the UFW changed the nature of labor organizing in the Southwest and contributed significantly to the growth of Latino politics in the U.S. .

Republican nominee Donald Trump launched his campaign for president in June 2015 with a speech notoriously claiming [1] Mexican immigrants to the United States “are bringing drugs, and bringing crime, and their rapists.”
Since then, both Trump’s campaign [2] and the Republican Party at large have continued to rely upon anti-immigrant [3] and anti-Latino rhetoric to drum up support. Take for example, this year’s Republican National Convention in Cleveland, where Sheriff Joe Arpaio—whose department came under fire [4] earlier this year for racially profiling Latinos—was invited to take the stage to push [5] Trump’s proposed 2,000-mile border wall. Arpaio told the Arizona Republic that Trump’s campaign had worked with the sheriff to finalize his speech.
This June, just a day shy of the anniversary of Trump’s entrance into the presidential race, People for the American Way and CASA in Action hosted an event highlighting what they deemed to be the presumptive Republican nominee’s “Year of Hate.”
Among the advocates speaking at the event was legendary civil rights leader Dolores Huerta, who worked alongside [6] César Chávez in the farm workers’ movement. Speaking by phone the next day with Rewire, Huerta—who has endorsed [7] Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton—detailed the importance of Latinos getting involved in the 2016 election, and what she sees as being at stake for the community.
The Trump campaign is “promoting a culture of violence,” Huerta told Rewire, adding that it “is not just limited to the rallies,” which have sometimes ended in violent incidents [8], “but when he is attacking Mexicans, and gays, and women, and making fun of disabled people.”

Huerta didn’t just see this kind of rhetoric as harmful to Latinos. When asked about its effect on the country at large, she suggested it affected not only those who already held racist beliefs, but also people living in the communities of color those people may then target. “For those people who are already racist, it sort of reinforces their racism,” she said. “I think people have their own frustrations in their lives and they take it out on immigrants, they take it out on women. And I think that it really endangers so many people of color.” Continue reading

U Mass Amherst Threatens to Close Labor Center

From Michael D. Yates:

UMass Labor Center

This letter is from Eve Weinbaum, Director of the Labor Center at UMass-Amherst. She writes about the abominable efforts of the university administration to get rid of the Labor Center and its despicable treatment of her. Eve is an outstanding champion of workers, at her own university and across the country. And the Labor Center is outstanding. Please consider writing to the persons she notes at the end of her letter, protesting what the university is doing. I taught in the Union Leadership and Administration Program part of the Center for many years.

Dear friends,
I hope you’re all well and enjoying the very end of summer. I wish I were writing with uplifting news about how well things are going at UMass Amherst, but unfortunately, as some of you have heard, the Labor Center has not had a good year.

As you probably know, the UMass Amherst administration has been cutting the Labor Center’s budget for many years, and on several occasions planned to eliminate the Labor Studies program. As Director, I have spent time building support among other UMass faculty, the labor movement, and legislators, to convince the administration of the importance of the Labor Center. We have had to fight for our survival many times over the past decade.

In July of 2015 I left for a sabbatical to do research in Medellin, Colombia. Immediately after my departure, the dean’s office and the chair of sociology informed my colleagues that they were cutting all funding for Labor Studies programs. They eliminated all funding for graduate students (including teaching and research assistantships) and all funding for part-time faculty who have taught the required curriculum for many years. They also cut the director position from a 12-month to a 9-month job, with a large cut in salary but no cut in responsibilities. They also reduced the course releases that have always been provided in exchange for the administrative work involved in running the Labor Center and its two graduate programs.

Administrators explained that they would only allow the Labor Studies Master’s degree program to continue to exist if it served as a “revenue generator” – to fund other parts of the University outside the Labor Center.

With these changes, the Labor Center can no longer welcome all students, labor leaders, and rank-and-file activists regardless of class, race, nationality, or ability to pay; and we cannot offer externships that provide valuable experience as well as tuition waivers. Instead, we have been told to recruit only students who can afford to pay full tuition, preferably out-of-state tuition, which is currently $31,733 each year for the full-time graduate program (not including room and board), or $63,466 for a two-year degree.
At the same time, we have been asked to shrink the curriculum, to cut electives and to eliminate some required courses — including Collective Bargaining and Contract Administration, Current Issues and Debates in Labor, and possibly Labor Law, among others — all in order to lay off faculty and cut costs.

For the time being, the ULA limited-residency program is safe because it is a net revenue-generator – it pays for itself through tuition and fees. But it is unclear how much longer it can survive without the dedicated staff and faculty support that ULA requires throughout the school year to recruit students and to keep the program running smoothly.

I have been a vocal opponent of the administration’s plans to demolish the Labor Center, and I am proud to have fought off many attacks over the past decade. This past spring, I filed grievances when two of the proposed cuts violated our faculty union contract. As we were discussing possible settlements with the provost’s office, however, I was told that the administration would only settle the grievances if I stepped down as Director immediately, so that they could appoint someone more open to “compromise” (in their words). Before I had time to formulate a response, the chair of the Sociology Department sent out an email to the entire faculty of Labor Studies and Sociology, falsely declaring that I had “resigned” as Director, and announcing that she was accepting nominations for a new Labor Center Director. As you may imagine, this came as a shock to myself and my colleagues. As things currently stand, I have been dismissed as Director as of September 1, and the status of the Labor Center is unclear; as of today we have no director but the Sociology Chair will be appointing one soon, with no input from Labor Studies. I am hoping to remain as director of the ULA program, but the administration has not been willing to make that commitment.

The UMass graduate program in Labor Studies is the premier graduate program in the country for union activists, leaders, staff, and those interested in potential careers in the labor movement to study the history, theory, legal framework and best practices in this field in an academically rigorous manner. Almost one thousand Labor Center alumni have gone on to serve as organizers, representatives, labor academics and educators, industrial relations experts, strategic researchers, arbitrators and elected leaders in universities, unions and community organizations throughout the country. Working with our students and alumni has been my greatest joy and a source of immense satisfaction as Labor Center Director.

I don’t know if it is possible to reverse the plans of UMass administrators, but I know we have to try. If you want to weigh in, please contact these administrators:

Sociology Department Chair Michelle Budig: budig@umass.edu
Dean John Hird: jhird@umass.edu
Provost Katherine Newman: ksnewman@umass.edu
And please send a copy to me: weinbaum@umass.edu

We are asking administrators to reverse the cuts to Labor Studies; to restore our graduate student funding and externships; to maintain our full curriculum; to honor the Labor Studies faculty’s autonomy to make programmatic decisions and to designate a Director; and to commit that the Labor Center is an integral part of the University’s educational mission, not just a profit center to subsidize other programs.

As always, we are so grateful for your support. We wouldn’t fight to continue doing this work if we didn’t know how valuable it has been to our students, our alumni, and our friends in the labor movement all around the world. Thank you for everything you do, and please stay in touch.

In gratitude and solidarity,
Eve

 

Secrets of a Successful Organizer

 

by Jen Johnson

successful organizer

As a public high school history teacher for 10 years, I organized lesson plans and materials and the arrangement of my classroom. I facilitated thousands of discussions about history with classes of teenagers. I designed projects and guided the students to achieve our goals and get excited about learning and putting in the work.

Yet, somehow, if you asked me if I was an “organizer,” I probably would have said that I wasn’t. “Organizers are the professionals. I’m not a professional organizer!”

Thankfully, my union, the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU), has tried to change that wrong-headed perception. The CTU works hard to train our members to understand that organizing is grassroots rank-and-file work. There are leaders everywhere if you’re looking for them. Improving our workplaces and the lives of our communities are collective tasks. We can all be organizers, but there is an art and science to learning to practice good labor organizing skills.

Secrets of a Successful Organizer—a new book from Labor Notes, by Alexandra Bradbury, Mark Brenner, and Jane Slaughter—is a perfect primer on the basics of good organizing. Distilled into digestible bites, the book lays out eight main lessons—from how an organizer thinks, to how an organizer maps a work site and designs, carries out and assesses a campaign. (It even includes a brief summary of labor law and related resources.)

Unlike many wordy and inaccessible how-to manuals, Secrets of a Successful Organizer reads more like a conversation with an experienced and patient organizer, guiding you and reassuring you along the way.

You’re encouraged to see that even reading the book can be a collective activity.

“You could read this book alone, but you’ll learn more if you talk each lesson over with a buddy—or better yet, a group of co-workers,” it reads.

The book is designed to make this possible through its organization and content.

Each chapter builds on the previous one to paint a coherent picture of how to build better organizers and organizations, and have successful campaigns. The book’s eight lessons are divided into 47 shorter tips, and nearly each one includes downloadable handouts, specific organizing stories and exercises you can do with co-workers or in trainings.

The perfectionist in me loves the chart handouts. One explains “How the Boss Keeps Us Disorganized.” Another shows how to track tasks during an organizing campaign, along with who is responsible and the deadline for each task. While you’re reading, you might think things like, “Easier said than done!” but no sooner than you have, the book anticipates your concerns and, like a good organizer, inoculates you—giving you reason to hope and telling you a real story to prove the point.

For example, the book profiles Joe Uehlein, an organizer in a Georgia meatpacking plant. He and his colleagues used the escalating tactics of singing, whistling and humming at work to call out a union-busting official every time he walked on the plant floor. Each escalation was a response to the boss trying to shut down an organizing drive with ridiculous new rules. The actions scared the bosses and gave workers confidence in a short period of time, which ultimately allowed them to win a union. Tip #34, “Don’t Let the Boss Trip You Up,” then lays out the main tactics that bosses use (fear, hopelessness, confusion and division) to stop organizing.

Some of the stories are complementary and help organizers not only see the tips come alive, but point out that the workplace context will often dictate what kind of tactics are best.

The section around Tip #25, “Choose an Issue That Builds the Union,” includes the story of Los Angeles hospital workers who organized a campaign after management changed policy to mandate that workers provide a doctor’s note even for a one-day absence. A subset of workers demanded a meeting with management and, when it was held, workers took their 15-minute breaks in rotating fashion to attend the meeting. One set of workers started the meeting, then as workers had to leave when their breaks were over, new sets of workers joined. They were able to keep the meeting going as long as possible and testify as to why the change was bad.

That story contrasts well with that of the Pennsylvania social workers who organized a powerful 15-minute strike by using the flexibility in their work rules to have all social workers take their regular 15-minute breaks at the same time.

This story, contained within Tip #31, “Keep the Boss Off Balance,” is simple and inspiring, but the similarities and differences between it and the story about Los Angeles hospital workers help organizers draw on universal advice and apply it to their unique setting.

Additionally, each of the stories includes reflections, quotes and honest assessments of mistakes and accomplishments from organizers and workers on the ground.

For me, maybe the biggest lesson the book helped to hammer home is that we are often reactive in organizing, but it’s important not only to respond to crises. To be our best possible organizers, we have to proactively and strategically select organizing issues that are the most urgent and important to the broadest set of members.

Whether you’re a labor leader wanting to increase worker or member engagement, a veteran organizer in need of a refresher or a new steward wanting an orientation to best practices,Secrets of a Successful Organizer is a must read.

Buy the book for $15 + shipping here.

Jen Johnson was a high school history teacher for 10 years in Chicago, where she was also a union delegate. She is currently a Chicago Teachers Union facilitator for teacher evaluation.

 

 

Several Large NY Unions Stop Funding Working Families Party

Big N.Y. Unions Stop Funding Working Families Party — a Backer of Bernie Sanders

http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/lovett-big-n-y-unions-stop-funding-working-families-party-article-1.2604723
Kenneth Lovett, Daily News

The Working Families Party, which is supporting Bernie Sanders for president, has lost the financial backing of several of the state’s biggest unions.

The rifts mostly began in 2014 over disagreements regarding Gov. Cuomo’s reelection and have continued through this year’s presidential primaries. Most of the state’s big unions are supporting Hillary Clinton.

“There were breaks that happened in the relationship between the unions and the WFP that still have not been repaired,” said one Democratic activist.

Many of the unions kept their disinvestment from the Working Families Party quiet for more than a year.

The powerful Service Employees International Union Local 1199 withdrew its funding and membership in late 2014. Continue reading

How Workers Lose in Negotiations: The ABCs of Corporate Rip-Offs

by Carl Finamore

runaway inequality (3)

Unlike the ninety percent of American workers who have only their own personal voice to influence their wages, benefits and working conditions, union employees use their collective organization to establish guarantees.

And, union workers come to negotiations very well prepared with lots of economic data, with each contract proposal “costed out,” and with the whole team backed up by a professional staff of legal and industry analysts. So, then, how is it that we still get hammered

In real dollars, wages and benefits have not risen since the middle 1970s. We know this, but it still doesn’t make any sense. Why haven’t things improved for most of us and how has the seemingly impossible happened with 95% of all new income since the 2008 “recovery” going to the top 1%?

To answer these questions properly, we have to go beyond just blaming offshoring and contracting out and dig deeper, right down into the heart of how finance capital operates today.

Aside from the fact that unions seldom use their most powerful weapon, the strike, and aside from the fact that even fewer unions ever mobilize and organize their biggest asset, the members, our biggest problem in bargaining is that labor’s financial analysis of corporations only touches the surface. It misses the vast bulk of corporate hidden wealth.

As it stands now, the Top 500 corporations come to the negotiating table after already having played most of their big money cards elsewhere, in the stock market – thus, earning the well-deserved moniker of “casino capitalism.”

In essence, CEOs try to squeeze every dollar they can from offshoring, contracting out, terminating pensions, keeping wages low and reducing the workforce, just so they can push more cash into funding their ultimate prize – buying back stocks and paying dividends. This is where the real money is for investors.

Labor economist Les Leopold explains it in his new book: Continue reading