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Labor's Edge: Views from the California Labor Movement

Labor's Edge Blog Articles


California Needs High Speed Rail Now

by Robbie Hunter

California urgently needs high speed rail now. The nay-sayers are still searching for reasons to delay this great public works project further, but they are out of  excuses. The delays need to stop. It is time to move forward and begin building. The transportation needs, the workers and the dollars are there to get started.

Governor Brown has made the sensible suggestion to use cap-and-trade dollars for some of the funding. That makes sense because the very purpose of cap-and-trade is to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels--one of the greatest benefits high-speed mass transit rail will bring to California. Without question, providing electrified mass transit for the people of California will reduce our use of fossil fuels.

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Help workers clean up the “hotbed of corruption” in Orange County

by Jennifer Muir

Last November, workers across California stood together to beat Prop. 32. But the same Orange County politicians who helped write that dangerous ballot measure have kept up their attacks. This time, they’re going after the workers in Orange County who have been standing up against entrenched career politicians and telling them their corrupt ways have to end.

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San Diego Immigrant Janitor Returns to Home after Attending the State of the Union Address

by Jacob Hay

Rosa Lopez, a San Diego janitor and immigrant success story will return home today after attending President Obama’s State of the Union Address as a guest of Congressman Juan Vargas. Rosa is active in her union, SEIU United Service Workers West.

Rosa was born on a small ranch in Oaxaca, Mexico where her parents farmed crops and raised animals to support their family. As a young girl, Rosa helped her parents planting chilies, beans and corn, but she dreamed of a better life.

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Pension Cutters Bet Against Prosperity

By Bill Raden a​nd Gary Cohn

Last week’s announcements about 2013 earnings by California’s largest public pension funds suggest the agencies may be making significant progress in shaking off the lingering after-effects of the 2008 stock market crash.

The California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) said it rode a 25 percent run-up in stock prices to post a 16.2 percent gain for its 2013 portfolio — its best showing in a decade. For its part, the California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS) reported an impressive 19.1 percent return on its 2013 investments, led by a 28 percent return on its stock holdings.

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Would You Like Fries With Your iPad?

David Lyell

Prior to the LAUSD vote January 13, 2014 to approve Phase II of the district's $1 billion iPad project, I shared the following remarks with school board members during the three minutes allotted each speaker during Public Comment:

"Good afternoon, board members, Superintendent, sorry about that [jumping the gun], I was looking for my iPad. Part of this discussion about iPads has been framed as -- I'm David Lyell, UTLA Secretary -- it's been framed as a debate about who should and should not have access to technology. No one is opposed to providing students with access to technology. This project really isn't about technology. This is about providing a vehicle for students to conveniently complete common core state standards testing."

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Dr. King: ‘No Work Is Insignificant’

By Jackie Tortora, AFL-CIO

Today, as we celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s legacy and working families all over the country are coming together in marches for civil and workplace rights, we ask you to join them in a simple pledge.

Wherever you are, you can commit to stand with us in the fight for equality and justice for all workers' civil rights in 2014.

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Victory! Sunoptics workers choose IBEW 1245

In a classic union representation election that pitted anti-union managers and consultants against an energetic organizing team, workers at Sacramento-based Sunoptics chose to be represented by IBEW Local 1245.

The vote, conducted under the supervision of the National Labor Relations Board on Jan. 10, was 48-29.

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Sacramento Bee Op-ed: Stemming Income Inequality Hinges on Investing in California’s Middle Class

By Steve Smith

There’s a new narrative emerging from right-wingers like Republican presidential hopeful Marco Rubio on the growing problem of income inequality. Rubio and California Republicans like Assemblymember Dan Logue are blaming inequality on taxes on the wealthy and government regulations that protect workers and the environment. Problem is, this new narrative is pure fantasy.

As California Labor Federation leader Art Pulaski and Jessica Bartholow of the Western Center on Law and Poverty wrote in Saturday’s Sacramento Bee, Rubio and company have entered the Twilight Zone when it comes to their phony posturing on poverty and income inequality.

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Congress: Do the Right Thing, Renew Unemployment Insurance Benefits

By Jackie Tortora, AFL-CIO

Since the House GOP left 1.3 million people out in the cold this holiday season when it refused to extend emergency unemployment insurance (UI) benefits, working families advocates, including President Barack Obama, are continuing to urge Congress to do the right thing. 

Call your representative today and ask him or her to renew the emergency UI benefits: 877-318-0483.

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All We Are Saying…Is Give Students a Chance

David Lyell

No one wants an adult who abuses children in the classroom, and existing laws and policies work when adults actually enforce them. In fact, in the wake of several high profile cases in Los Angeles Unified School District, the Commission on Teacher Credentialing admonished District officials for failing to do just that—follow existing reporting guidelines.

Nowadays in LAUSD, when teachers assigned to “teacher jail” pending investigation of an accusation (any accusation—even a hearsay accusation without any evidence) have been cleared by police of wrongdoing, our School Board and superintendent frequently refuse to return these professionals to the classroom

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Fighting for Respect at Taylor Farms

Food Processing Workers, Teamsters and Community Take Action Against Workers’ Rights Violations and Call for the Reinstatement of Unjustly Fired Workers

By Doug Bloch

When workers express a desire to stand together to improve wages and job conditions, far too often the employer responds with a vicious retaliation campaign. That’s the case at Taylor Farms in Tracy, where the immigrant workforce is being subject to threats, harassment and even firings simply for standing up for their rights. Today, the workers are fighting back.

Teamster members and fired Taylor Farms workers were joined today by community allies, faith leaders and elected officials to launch a one-day Unfair Labor Practice strike to demand respect for workers and the reinstatement of those who were fired unjustly.

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The Antidote to Income Inequality? Workers Standing Together

Steve Smith

Earlier this month, President Obama called rising income inequality the "defining challenge of our time."  The gap between the rich and everyone else is now the largest since the Great Depression. But many people still view income inequality in the abstract, because it can be tough to put a finger on how it impacts our everyday lives.

In a new Associated Press report, leading economists spell it out clearly. The income gap hurts us all and poses a major threat to the United States economy: "A key source of the economists' concern: Higher pay and outsize stock market gains are flowing mainly to affluent Americans. Yet these households spend less of their money than do low- and middle-income consumers who make up most of the population but whose pay is barely rising."

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“Unfathomable”: Why Is One Commission Trying to Close California’s Largest Public College?

Gary Cohn

To appreciate the value of a community college education, consider the transformation of Shanell Williams. By the time she was a teenager, Williams was constantly getting into trouble on the streets of San Francisco’s Fillmore District. Her abuse of drugs and alcohol, along with a difficult family life, would lead her into the juvenile justice system, drug treatment centers and foster homes.

“I was a juvenile delinquent,” she admits.

Today Williams, now 29, hardly resembles that troubled youth. She is a hard-working student at City College of San Francisco, taking urban studies courses and hoping to transfer to Stanford University or the University of California at Berkeley. She has served as president of the student council at CCSF’s Ocean campus and was elected to be the student representative on CCSF’s Board of Trustees.

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Trucking Companies to California: Your Puny Laws Don’t Apply to Us

Jon Zerolnick

Several leading port trucking companies have taken a bold new position in the ongoing battle over whether or not they are misclassifying drivers as independent contractors. In recent filings with the U.S. District Court, they have attempted to position themselves as beyond the reach of California’s employee protection laws. In effect, they are saying that whether or not they are misclassifying drivers there is nothing the State of California can do about it.

Some background: Of the approximately 12,000 port truck drivers in Southern California – about 110,000 nationwide – the overwhelming majority are improperly classified as “independent contractors.” This has dramatic repercussions, as these low-income, mostly immigrant drivers are thereby denied basic workplace rights and protections: no minimum wage or overtime or OSHA protections, no disability or workers comp or unemployment insurance, no legal right to organize a union.

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