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

Striking Port Truck Drivers Against Wage Theft

Dan Braun , Capital and Main

As Capital & Main reported recently [1], drivers with one of the larger

English: Kenworth near Sears Boyle Heights , L...

English: Kenworth near Sears Boyle Heights , Los Angeles. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

trucking companies serving the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach went on strike just before dawn October 26th.  They struck XPO Logistics, a major international freight transportation company, while at the same time other drivers picketed Pacific 9 Transportation as they entered the 15th week of a strike against that company.

These drivers are on the front lines of a critical fight impacting the future of work in the United States. “Misclassification,” a condition in which companies wrongly treat their workers as “independent contractors” rather than as employees, is a growing problem that is receiving increasing attention. By misclassifying their workers, companies are able to claw back pay, duck standards like the minimum wage and overtime restrictions, and shift risk onto employees. This is wage theft, according to both labor advocates and the striking port truck drivers, as well as a growing list of rulings [2] from courts and regulatory agencies. Continue reading

Truck Drivers Strike – Port of Los Angeles

by Dan Braun,

As Capital & Main reported yesterday, drivers with one of the larger trucking companies serving the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach went on strike just before dawn Monday. They struck XPO Logistics, a major international freight transportation company, while at the same time other drivers picketed Pacific 9 Transportation as they entered the 15th week of a strike against that company.
These drivers are on the front lines of a critical fight impacting the future of work in the United States. “Misclassification,” a condition in which companies wrongly treat their workers as “independent contractors” rather than as employees, is a growing problem that is receiving increasing attention. By misclassifying their workers, companies are able to claw back pay, duck standards like the minimum wage and overtime restrictions, and shift risk onto employees. This is wage theft, according to both labor advocates and the striking port truck drivers, as well as a growing list of rulings from courts and regulatory agencies.
Drivers may owe their companies money if they don’t drive enough to cover vehicle expenses. Continue reading

Broad Plan : How To Take Over Public Schools in Los Angeles


Billionaire’s Secret Plan: A ‘Hostile Takeover’ of LA Public Schools

BroadDeirdre Fulton
September 23, 2015    Common Dreams

Last week the Los Angeles Times obtained a secret 44-page proposal drafted by the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation and other charter advocates, that according to one critic would “do away with democratically controlled, publicly accountable education in LA.” With the aid of a billionaires’ club of supporters, the plan is designed to charterize 50% of LA public schools.

More than 1,000 teachers, students, parents, and community members protested at the opening of the Broad museum in downtown Los Angeles Sunday. , Mayra Gomez/UTLA Facebook photo,

A California billionaire is enlisting other wealthy backers in a $490 million scheme to place half of the students in the Los Angeles Unified School District into charter schools over the next eight years—a plan at least one critic says would “do away with democratically controlled, publicly accountable education in LA.”
The Los Angeles Times obtained a confidential 44-page proposal, “The Great Public Schools Now Initiative,” drafted by the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation and other charter advocates.
“Los Angeles is uniquely positioned to create the largest, highest-performing charter sector in the nation,” the executive summary reads. “Such an exemplar would serve as a model for all large cities to follow.”

The document outlines the following three objectives that would serve to overthrow the current public system:
to create 260 new high-quality charter schools;
to generate 130,000 high-quality charter seats;
to reach 50 percent charter market share.
The initiative seeks to accomplish these ambitious goals between by 2023. As the LA Times reports:
Organizers of the effort have declined to publicly release details of the plan. But the memo lays out a strategy for moving forward, including how to raise money, recruit and train teachers, provide outreach to parents and navigate the political battle that will probably ensue. Continue reading

A Happy Labor Day—Really

dabor_lay

(Photo: AP/Lynne Sladky)
Protesters, part of the national Fight for 15 movement, applaud in support of raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour at a church in Miami in April.

Harold Meyerson. The American Prospect

Labor Day is upon us, marking an end to summertime, when the livin’ is easy and Americans take their well-earned vacations. Well, some Americans. About 56 percent of American workers took weeklong vacations last summer—a new low-point in a steady decline that began in early 1980s, when more than 80 percent took weeklong vacations.

That depressing bit of news is of a piece, alas, with everything else we know about the declining fortunes of American workers. As the Economic Policy Institute documented in report released Wednesday, productivity rose by 72.2 percent and median hourly compensation (that’s wages plus benefits) by just 8.7 percent between 1973 and 2014. As the National Employment Law Project reported in a study released the following day, real median hourly wages declined by 4 percent from 2009 to 2014. Continue reading

National Nurses United Endorse Bernie Sanders

OAKLAND, Calif. – National Nurses United, the nation’s largest organization of nurses, on Monday endorsed U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders for president.

“Bernie has a proven track record of uncompromised activism and advocacy for working people and a message that resonates with nurses and tens of thousands of people across the country,” said RoseAnn DeMoro, executive director of the organization. “We are proud to stand with him in his candidacy for president,” she added in remarks before delivering Sanders his first national labor union endorsement.

Flanked by nurses in red scrubs at the union’s Bay Area headquarters, Sanders thanked the 185,000-strong labor organization for providing high-quality health care to Americans. “I am humbled and enormously appreciative of you support,” Sanders said.

He called nurses “the backbone of our health care system” and added, “I want to thank each of you for the work that you do.”

Sanders has worked for years with the California-based national nurses’ group to strengthen Medicare, address the nation’s nursing shortage and ensure collective-bargaining rights and decent wages and benefits. He praised the critical role National Nurses United has played in improving the health care system, working to prevent medical errors and reducing costs.

He also welcomed the nurses’ backing for Medicare-for-all legislation that he will soon introduce to provide better care for more people at less cost. “The time has come for us to end the international embarrassment of the United States being the only major country on earth that does not guarantee health care to all people as a right.”

A leading champion for health care reform, the union also stresses social and economic justice issues as a key part of its mission. Continue reading

SEIU Members for Bernie

U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont

U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The undersigned SEIU leaders, members, retirees and staff urge the International Executive Board not to make an early endorsement in the presidential primary campaign. We are supporters of Senator Sanders and believe his voice deserves to be heard. His campaign is drawing thousands into a movement around the very issues we support in our day-to-day organizing. To make an early endorsement of Hillary Clinton would put our union in direct opposition to this growing movement.

Senator Sanders has an outstanding track record and is building a strong base of working people. Working against Sanders in the primaries will only alienate and confuse many SEIU members who are actively engaged in various movements, including the Fight for $15, immigration and higher education reform, Black Lives Matter, and many more progressive causes. Continue reading

Immigrant workers and Justice for Janitors

We posted a fine piece on Justice for Janitors (below) by Peter Olney and Rand Wilson with suggested lessons for organizing.  Here is a well informed supplement by labor journalist and activist David Bacon.

David Bacon,

jforjr-1This article makes some excellent points, and shows the importance of the way the existing base of membership was used to reorganize building services and start Justice for Janitors. Its point about the market triggers was very interesting – I hadn’t really heard this discussed before, and it does show that putting this in the contract gave workers a concrete reason to support reorganizing the non-union buildings. As it says, ” it was not a ‘blank slate’ campaign disconnected from the sources of SEIU’s membership and contract power.”

Many of the janitors and leaders who fought in Century City were the Central American immigrants coming into LA from the wars. Their experience in their home countries was very important in their willingness to fight, and the use of the tactics of mass demonstrations and even CD in the street. They’re one of the best examples of the way migration, for all the pain it causes migrants, has benefited our labor movement enormously and given us leaders from Rocio Saenz to Ana Martinez to Yanira Merino. This is a big reason why there was an upsurge of organizing in general in LA in the 90s. Without this wave of migration I don’t think the best of strategies would have produced the results we saw. The article credits Gus Bevona with a role in getting the contract in Century City, but by comparison, this seems less important to me, and more like the mechanism than what actually forced the contractors to settle. Continue reading

LA Advances Toward $15 Minimum Wage

by Bobbi Murray

raisewagecityhall4Fair wage advocates won a big victory Tuesday, when the Los Angeles City Council voted 14-1 to advance a measure that would gradually boost the base pay in the City of Los Angeles to $15 an hour by 2020. City Attorney Mike Feuer will now be asked to draft a minimum-wage ordinance that the council will vote upon to make the measure law.
The legislation begins by raising the current wage of $9 an hour to $10.50 in July of 2016—after that the hourly wage would go up each year by one dollar. The vote could lead to making Los Angeles the largest city in the nation to set a minimum wage standard above the federal level, one that will benefit some 600,000 employees in the city—some 40 percent of L.A.’s workforce. The decision also adds heft and momentum to efforts nationally to raise the minimum wage for the nation’s lowest-paid workers.
“That will be fantastic,” says Dan Flaming, president of Los Angeles’ Economic Roundtable, a nonprofit policy research group. “Our cost of living is 37 percent higher than the national average. We’re a low-wage city with a high cost of living.” The United States, with an hourly federal minimum of $7.25, ranks 11th out of the 27 countries in the developed world that set a minimum wage standard. The U.S. minimum wage makes for an hourly take-home pay of $6.25. Continue reading

Cesar Chavez, the UFW, and Why Unions are Needed

by Duane E. Campbell

On March 31, 2015, Eleven states and numerous cities will hold holidays celebrating labor and Latino leader Cesar Chavez. ChavezConferences, marches and celebrations will occur in numerous cities and particularly in rural areas of the nation. A recent film Cesar Chavez: An American Hero, starring Michael Peña as Cesar Chavez and Rosario Dawson as Dolores Huerta presents important parts of this union story.

The current UFW leadership, as well as former UFW leaders and current DSA Honorary Chairs Eliseo Medina and Dolores Huerta are recognized leaders in the ongoing efforts to achieve comprehensive immigration reform in the nation.

ArturoUFW President Arturo Rodriquez says, “We urge Republicans to abandon their political games that hurt millions of hard-working, taxpaying immigrants and their families, and help us finish the job by passing legislation such as the comprehensive reform bill that was approved by the Senate on a bipartisan vote in June 2013,” Rodriguez said.  Similar compromise proposals, negotiated by the UFW and the nation’s major agricultural employer associations, have passed the U.S. Senate multiple times over the last decade. The same proposal has won majority support in the House of Representatives, even though House GOP leaders have refused to permit a vote on the measure. “The UFW will not rest until the President’s deferred relief is enacted and a permanent immigration reform, including a path to citizenship for all 11 million undocumented immigrants, is signed into law.” www.UFW.org Continue reading