Raising Wages from the Bottom Up – part 2

By Harold Meyerson

$15DSAThree ways city and state governments can make the difference.

This article appears in the Spring 2015 issue of The American Prospect magazine.

THE FIRST STRATEGY, PIONEERED by the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy (LAANE) and copied in multiple cities, is to condition city approval of new projects seeking tax abatements, public funds, or other municipal assistance on those projects meeting labor criteria that benefit the city’s residents: the payment of living wages, the hiring of women and minorities, the adherence to environmental standards—and the ability of workers in the project to join unions.

No one has done more to foster unionization through such policies than Madeline Janis, LAANE ’s founding director and now the head of Jobs to Move America, which seeks to bring the manufacture of rail cars and buses—an industry almost entirely offshored in recent decades—back to the United States and back to unionized American workers. In 2008, Los Angeles voters levied a tax increase on themselves to fund the construction of an ambitious rail system. When L.A.’s transit authority began looking for a rail-car manufacturer, however, virtually all were overseas. Even more problematically, the federal Department of Transportation conditioned its considerable financial support for such transit projects on conventional lowest-bidder criteria. Janis managed to persuade the department to add a “best value” criterion that gives points to bidders who hire veterans and workers from neighborhoods with high poverty rates. Able to choose a bidder by those criteria, the L.A. agency selected a Japanese manufacturer that pledged to build a factory in L.A. County and, with further prodding from Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, not to oppose its workers’ efforts to unionize. Transit agencies in Chicago and Maryland have now adopted contract criteria similar to those in Los Angeles. Continue reading

Thousands Take Stand in Sacramento for Workers’ Rights in Wisconsin


By Steve Smith, California Labor Federation

When Wisconsin’s new right-wing Governor decided to make it his personal mission to eliminate the rights of teachers, nurses, bus drivers and other public servants, he probably thought it would be a cakewalk. After all, Gov. Scott Walker has a Republican-controlled legislature that is on board with his radical plan to eliminate collective bargaining for public sector workers. What he didn’t count on was the extraordinary resolve of working people to stop his assault on our values. For more than a week, tens of thousands have protested at the Wisconsin Capitol. The fight back spread to Ohio, Indiana and other states where politicians are attempting to strip workers of their voice. And it didn’t stop there. All over the country, workers are standing in solidarity to beat back these attacks.

Last night, the spirit of solidarity was tangible in Sacramento, as more than 3,000 workers – teachers, Teamsters, nurses, ironworkers, janitors and many others – descended on the State Capitol to send a message loud and clear across California and the country: An attack on one of us is an attack on all of us.

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