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,
19poverty2-master675
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

No Justice, No Peeps!

from David Durkee

  • peepsonstrike_jwj
  • Four hundred union workers who make iconic candies and treats in Bethlehem, Pa., are taking a brave stand to earn a fair return on their work. For decades, Local 6 members have dedicated their working lives producing Peeps, Teenee Beanee jelly beans, Hot Tamales, and Mike and Ike candies. And despite $230 million in sales and soaring profits, Just Born Inc. wants to eliminate the workers’ pension plan and increase workers’ share of health care costs, while offering substandard market wage increases .

    The striking employees of Just Born are drawing a line in the sand over corporate greed. Will you join them? Add your name to this Jobs with Justice petition to say you’ll stand with Local 6 workers for as long as it takes.

    No one wants to go on strike. It puts an immense amount of financial stress on working families. The folks who bring us Peeps want to be back at work, bringing their skills and dedication to their jobs. But Just Born isn’t playing fair—and is refusing to listen to employee proposals that would save the company money. To help pressure Just Born to negotiate a fair contract, unite with Local 6 workers on strike in their mission to defend good jobs for their families and those that follow.

    Make sure Just Born knows the public stands with the brave union members on strike in Bethlehem. Tell Just Born: No justice, no Peeps – Negotiate fairly NOW!

    Thank you so much for your support!

    In Solidarity,

     

    David B. Durkee

    International President, BCTGM International Union

Why Labor and the Movement for Racial Justice Should Work Together

by Maurice Weeks and Marilyn Sneiderman

fixla

Labor should work alongside the Movement for Black Lives, a coalition with more than 50 organizations, to usher in a radically new economic and social order. The path won’t be easy. But recent history has shown that one of the ways to get at this new reality is through union bargaining.  

It is exciting to imagine potential bargaining demands major unions could undertake alongside racial justice organizations.

The Movement for Black Lives (M4BL) has made tremendous strides in exposing and challenging racial injustice, and has won real policy victories. The policies, while often imperfect, are a testament to the strength of the organizing and activism of the moment. Not coincidentally, this uprising comes at a time when income and wealth inequality are at peak levels and the economy for most black people looks markedly different than the economy for their white counterparts.

Just as we are in a critical moment in the movement for racial justice, we are in a critical moment for the right to unionize. Unions, which have been a major force for economic justice for people of color in the past 50 years, have been decimated to historically low levels.

Labor should work alongside the Movement for Black Lives, a coalition with more than 50 organizations, to usher in a radically new economic and social order. The path won’t be easy. But recent history has shown that one of the ways to get at this new reality is through union bargaining. Consider the example of Fix L.A.

Fix L.A. is a community-labor partnership that fought to fund city services and jobs alike, using city workers’ bargaining as a flashpoint to bring common good demands to the table. The coalition started after government leaders in Los Angeles drastically cut back on public services and infrastructure maintenance during the Great Recession. The city slashed nearly 5,000 jobs, a large portion of which had been held by black and Latino workers. Not only did these cuts create infrastructure problems—like overgrown and dangerous trees and flooding—but they also cost thousands of black and Latino families their livelihoods.

Fix L.A. asked why the city was spending more on bank fees than on street services, and demanded that it renegotiate those fees and invest the savings in underserved communities.

What was the result of this groundbreaking campaign?

The creation of 5,000 jobs, with a commitment to increase access to those jobs for black and Latino workers, the defeat of proposed concessions for city workers and a commitment from the city to review why it was prioritizing payment of bank fees over funding for critical services in the first place!

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

 

Labor History for Labor Day: How the UAW Learned Racism Was the Bosses’ Tool

by Carl Proper

river rouge image

By 1941, the United Auto Workers Union / UAW had already won historic first contracts at General Motors and Chrysler Corporation. But Ford Motors, where old man Henry Ford still presided, was holding out.  He was damned if he’d ever allow a union in his company.

The U.A.W. chose the huge, 75, 00-employee River Rouge complex in Dearborn, Michigan, as its strike target.  River Rouge was also the site of Henry Ford’s office.  The strike began with a series of brutal confrontations between union members and company toughs, including a “Battle of the Overpass” where both sides gave and suffered beatings.  The union held its ground, and the plant ground to a halt – with a significant exception.

Since this story is well told in “A History of the American Worker, 1933-1941: Turbulent Years,” by Irving Bernstein[i], I’ll use his words (and the language of 1970), with a few clarifications:

“[T]he problem that worried the union most” concerned the Negroes.  A group of colored workers, variously estimated as between 800 and 2,500, many recent imports from the South, did not walk out [on strike, with the white, pro-union workers]. Inside the plant [Ford manager Harry] Bennett preyed upon their fears.  On the outside [union organizers] Marshall and [UAW President] Homer Martin [finally] did what they had to do.  They went into Detroit’s Negro sections to urge [an end to] the [black workers’] back-to-work movement…The union…mobilized a group of Negro leaders headed by Walter F White, secretary of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and including local pastors, editors, teachers, and social workers, who urged the Negro community to support the strike. The back-to-work movement [promoted by Ford management] collapsed.” …. 

…“By April 3…it was plain that the UAW strike was totally effective and that the Ford Motor Company would be compelled to deal with it alone”

.Henry Ford still refused to deal with the union.  Instead he finally retired, and his second-in-command signed the contract

But what was happening here?  Why were African-American workers helping to break the strike?

Well, reason enough. Up to the time of the strike, the UAW and some other unions had not accepted black members.  Many blacks had instead found jobs in anti-union industries, or as strikebreakers.

So, for the UAW and labor movement, River Rouge was a double victory.

Ford, and the auto industry were now organized. And, the UAW and labor movement were greatly strengthened by this belated step to bringing the “races” together.

For the  union, and the labor movement, the opening to African Americans was a firmly rooted strategic decision.  Here are the memes (the oldest memes in labor history):

UNITED WE STAND is how we win.

DIVIDE AND CONQUER is the boss’s game.  For organized workers, or workers seeking to organize, racism is especially dumb and self-defeating.

[i] “A HISTORY OF THE AMERICAN WORKER, 1933-1941: THE TURBULENT YEARS”, Irving Bernstein, Houghton Mifflin Co., Boston, 1970; pp 734-751