Time to Break the Class Ceiling – Elect Bernie Sanders

byRoseAnn DeMoro


Noting his issues “align with nurses from top to bottom,” National Nurses United, the nation’s largest organization of nurses, endorsed Senator Bernie Sanders for President in August, 2015. (Photo: NNU/flickr/cc)

Let’s make history. The 2016 election offers a rare moment to crack a barrier that can truly transform our nation – the opportunity to shatter the Class Ceiling.

As an organization of nurses, 90 percent of them women, we’d love to break the glass ceiling as well. But with declining social mobility, our children for the first time in history facing less opportunity and a lower standard of living than their parents, and a rapidly shrinking promise of the American dream, smashing the Class Ceiling is our most pressing priority.

Sen. Bernie Sanders presents our best opportunity to bust through that bar. He offers the most comprehensive solutions – and understands it will take all of us, a “political revolution,” to stand up to the power of Wall Street, big corporations and the billionaires who have corrupted our political and economic system.

Here’s a few reasons why lifting the Class Ceiling must be our first target.

The wealth and income gap. As Sen. Sanders notes, since 1985, the share of wealth owned by the bottom 90 percent in the U.S. has plummeted from 36 percent to 23 percent, a loss that equates to over $10 trillion, nearly all of it going to a tiny sliver of the wealthiest. Over the last 30 years, the top one-tenth of one percent have seen its share of our nation’s wealth more than double from 10 percent to 22 percent. Meanwhile real median family income is almost $5,000 less than in 1999. Wages have flat lined for many workers; since 1973, worker productivity has climbed 72 percent but hourly compensation increased just 9 percent.

Poverty. Today, 46.7 million Americans live in poverty, according to the Census Bureau. The U.S. has far greater childhood poverty than any major industrialized country. Nearly 50 million Americans live in food insecurity households. Some 11 million tenants spend half their income on rent and as many as 39 percent of households have housing insecurity.

Health care. Even with gains made under the Affordable Care Act, 33 million Americans remain without health coverage. Last year, 35 million Americans could not get their prescriptions filled because they could not afford it. A Commonwealth Fund study documented that the U.S. ranks last among 11 developed countries on the quality of our health system, including shorter life spans than comparable countries.

Education. Students who live in wealthier communities had lower-student teacher ratios, more up to date computer and science equipment, better libraries, more current textbooks, and more guidance counselors. A result, affluent students have higher high school graduation rates, higher test scores, and more job opportunities when out of school. College student debt totals more than $1.2 trillion leaving many in debt for much of their life.

Racial disparities. African-Americans and Latinos have higher rates of unemployment, infant mortality, chronic illnesses, shorter lifespans, and are far more likely to be turned down for home loans than whites. African-Americans and Latinos, one-fourth of the population, comprise 58 percent of those incarcerated, and the loss of life of unarmed African-Americans in police shootings and while in custody has become a national scandal.

Women’s equality. The gender gap bridges the economic and social landscape. Women earn less than men, and female-headed households experience a poverty rate 6.9 percentage points higher than men. The U.S. is among the very few industrialized countries that fails to offer paid maternity leave, spends far less on child care, and provides less sick time or flexible work schedules which affect women in greater numbers.

Pollution and climate change. Due in part to where power plants and refineries are placed, environmental pollution has more exposure in low-income communities and among people of color. One study found people of color breathe air with 38 percent more nitrogen dioxide, one reason for a growing asthma epidemic. The climate crisis in the form of droughts, which cut crop yields and add to hunger, and extreme weather events also have a more deadly impact on low income communities in the U.S. and globally.

Reversing these disastrous trends is a tall order, but Sen. Sanders’ program is a good place to start.

His agenda includes boosting the minimum wage to $15 an hour, pay equity for women, a $1 trillion jobs program to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure that would create millions of jobs, sweeping criminal justice reform, expanding Medicare to cover everyone, free tuition at public colleges and universities, and robust action on climate change. Needed revenue would come by putting people to work, improving health outcomes, making the wealthy pay their fair share, and taxing Wall Street speculation.

For our children and our future, there’s no time to waste.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License

RoseAnn DeMoro is executive director of the 185,000-member National Nurses United, the nation’s largest union and professional association of nurses, and a national vice president of the AFL-CIO. Follow Rose Ann DeMoro on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/NationalNurses

National Nurses Union Endorses Sanders

As the Executive Director of National Nurses United, the largest nurses union in our nation, I was there when we proudly endorsed Bernie Sanders for President.

In the moments leading up to our endorsement, I watched our nurses’ outpouring of love and respect for Bernie.


Bernie and NNU members

It was a magical moment of genuine hope for nurses who see people when they are at their most vulnerable and suffering, and who care for every person’s life in our country.

Nurses see the terrible social health consequences from:

Choosing between putting food on the table and getting the medications and treatment you need
Job loss
Severe depression from debt, especially student loan debt
Pollution, toxic spills, and climate change
Malnutrition and income inequality
With Bernie Sanders, we can turn our country around, and restore genuine hope for our families. Continue reading

Clocking In for Equality

by Seth Sandronsky

Clocking In is a new online tool from Race Forward, a New York-based group whose self-described goal “is to build awareness, solutions and leadership for racial justice.” Its analysis finds disturbing trends for people of color and women employed in the U.S. service industry. This virtual resource allows service employees to share their real-life job experiences with other workers, consumers, employers and policymakers 24/7.
90% of female tipped workers have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace. Continue reading

National Nurses United Grows in Troubled Times

Alana Semuels    The Atlantic

Oakland, California. This is the hub of one of the smallest, but most powerful unions in the country. Just 190,000 members strong, National Nurses United is growing while other unions across the country are shrinking. When the autoworkers were agreeing to have some members’ pay cut in half, the nurses fought Arnold Schwarzenegger on patient-to-staff ratios—and won. While public employee unions in states like Michigan and Wisconsin were getting decimated by laws restricting their collective-bargaining rights, the nurses were pushing bills in the California legislature that eventually became law.

National Nurses United may be proof that unions are not all on their way out: Some are very much alive, although they may look a little bit different than they used to.

“Nurses United is among the most innovative and bold of U.S. unions,” said Harley Shaiken, a labor expert at Berkeley. They’ve emerged as a powerful voice in defense of people who receive health care treatment. Continue reading

Ai-jen Poo National Domestic Workers Alliance wins McArthur Genius Award for 2014.

Ai-Jen Poo

Ai-jen Poo is a labor organizer whose compelling vision of the value of home-based care work is transforming the landscape of working conditions and labor standards for domestic or private-household workers. The estimated 1–2 million domestic workers—housekeepers, nannies, caregivers for the elderly or disabled—in the United States today are excluded from most federal and state labor laws, including collective bargaining; occupational safety and health protections; sick and vacation pay; and protection from discrimination and sexual harassment.

Combining a deep understanding of the complex tangle of human relations around domestic work with keen strategic skills, Poo has created a vibrant, worker-led labor movement and spearheaded successful legislative campaigns at the national and international levels. As lead organizer of the New York City–based Domestic Workers United (2000–2009), she spent countless hours in parks, buses, and other gathering places for domestic workers, creating opportunities for these largely isolated women to share their experiences, guiding mistreated workers to appropriate legal channels, articulating the vital economic role of domestic workers, and developing with workers a framework of legal standards for the industry. In 2010, New York enacted the Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights—which entitles workers to overtime pay, one day of rest per week, protection from discrimination, and three days paid leave per year—after a hard-fought seven-year legislative campaign led by Poo and a dedicated group of workers and advocates. The bill also drew support from an unlikely coalition of domestic workers, their employers, and other unions forged by Poo’s ability to leverage common interests across diverse groups. Continue reading

Triangle Shirtwaist and Rana Plaza- Same Struggle

 by Brian Finnegan



Protesters gathered today in front of the St. Regis Hotel in New York City to call on Ralph Lauren to sign onto the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh to improve workplace safety for garment workers. The protest preceded Ralph Lauren’s annual shareholders meeting where the AFL-CIO Reserve Fund (its investments) had a proposal on the ballot related to human rights reporting.

At today’s shareholder meeting, Nazma Akter, president of the Sommilito Garments Sramik Federation, representing 70,000 workers, spoke to the protesters and called on Ralph Lauren join with more than 180 brands that have agreed to participate in the Accord.  The Accord is a binding and enforceable agreement that represents a new model in supply chain accountability and risk management. Other programs to audit and monitor for workers’ safety follow the same model that has failed the hundreds of workers who have died in preventable garment factory fires and building collapses over the past 20 years.

Akter spoke in the name of “women like me, who produce goods for Ralph Lauren in Bangladesh.”  Young women are 80% of the garment workforce in Bangladesh. Most of the more than 3,600 workers killed and seriously injured in the April 2013 Rana Plaza factory collapse were young women. Hundreds of children were orphaned when their parents were killed in the collapse.  But Rana is only the most notorious of recent deadly workplace disasters in factories along the global supply chains of major U.S. and European brands and retailers.

Rana Plaza reminded many of the Triangle factory fire in New York more than 100 years ago that killed more than 100 workers yet eventually led to improved workplace safety laws and enforcement and innovative collective bargaining agreements. The changes after the Triangle factory fire helped make what was once sweatshop labor into good jobs and a way into the middle class.

Following the protest, Akter participated in the Ralph Lauren shareholders meeting where she presented the AFL-CIO Reserve Fund’s shareholder proposal, urging the company to report to stockholders about how it assesses human rights risks. The AFL-CIO Reserve Fund submitted the proposal after the company failed to acknowledge or respond to written requests to sign onto the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh.

Ralph Lauren has bought thousands of tons of goods from at least 15 locations in Bangladesh since 2007.

At the shareholders meeting, Akter asked: “So why has a company that has always stood for the highest quality not joined the accord?” She also pointed out that workers in factories that have signed the accord are in a better position to exercise other workers’ rights. “There are over 4,000 garment factories in Bangladesh. So far, 1,600 are covered by the accord and workers in these are better protected. Workers have a union at only 160 of those thousands of factories. Workers at factories covered by the Accord and those who have a union could have refused to enter Rana Plaza when they saw cracks. Workers must have Freedom of Association to protect themselves and claim their full human rights.” Unfortunately, workers who organize unions in Bangladesh are often fired, harassed or violently attacked.

Rana Plaza should help major corporations realize that the current model of cheap goods at any price through vast and unaccountable global supply chains is often inhumane and unsustainable.  Brands that want to act responsibly must take concrete measures to improve respect for human rights in the workplace.

This has been reposted from the AFL-CIO Now Blog, an indispensable source of information for worker activists.

Why Harris and Hobby Lobby Spell Disaster for Working Women

by Sarah Jaffe

The Supreme Court ruled in favor of Hobby Lobby Monday, allowing "closely held" businesses to claim religious rights and avoid federal healthcare regulations that require employers to include birth control in insurance plans.   (Nate Grigg / Flickr / Creative Commons)

The Supreme Court ruled in favor of Hobby Lobby Monday, allowing “closely held” businesses to claim religious rights and avoid federal healthcare regulations that require employers to include birth control in insurance plans. (Nate Grigg / Flickr / Creative Commons)

Retail sales and home healthcare work are two of the three fastest-growing jobs in this country. That’s an important consideration when looking at the decisions the Supreme Court handed down today in Harris v. Quinn and Burwell, Secretary of Health and Human Services v. Hobby Lobby Stores: If you are not affected by these rulings yet, you well could be in the future.

Both 5 – 4 decisions were written by Justice Samuel Alito, a conservative Catholic from New Jersey appointed by George W. Bush, and both rested on narrowly tailored legal arguments that just happen to cut wide enough to impact groups of workers who are almost exclusively female. Harris creates the special designation of “partial public employees” for publicly-funded home healthcare aides who work both for the client and for the state—who are 90 percent female, most of them poor, immigrants, and of color. Hobby Lobby, meanwhile, in deciding whether an employer with religious beliefs can be required to provide health insurance that covers contraception, singles out women by targeting its arguments towards workers who use birth control—but not any other form of healthcare.

As Sheila Bapat, author of Part of the Family? Nannies, Housekeepers, Caregivers and the Battle for Domestic Workers’ Rights, tweeted, “These decisions speak squarely to the value of women’s labor.”

Continue reading


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