12/2010 Labor's Edge Blog Articles
Goodbye—And Good Riddance—to Governor Schwarzenegger
by Caitlin Vega
As this year draws to a close, so too does Arnold Schwarzenegger's term as California governor. Skimming the many articles that reflected on his tenure as Governor, one word was used over and over: "moderate."
So what does it mean to be a "moderate?" Sure, Schwarzenegger did not embrace the socially conservative agenda pushed by much of the Republican Party, but he has shown a deep disregard for the working people who built this state and who make it run. Every time he had to choose a side, he stood with big business, big banks, and big campaign contributors.
More posts by Caitlin Vega
California Labor’s Top Moments of 2010
by Rebecca Greenberg
It’s been a tough year on a lot of fronts. Economic recovery has been slow, and job growth has been even slower. Furloughs, layoffs and wage freezes have become all too common. Working families are being forced to do more with less, and Schwarzenegger’s devastating budget cuts have made a bad situation even worse.
But despite these hurdles, California’s unions and workers are out there every day, fighting to make our state a better place to live, work and raise a family, and we’ve accomplished some truly remarkable things over the last 12 months. As 2010 comes to close, let’s take a look back at some of our favorite moments from the last year.
More posts by Rebecca Band
Open On Christmas
by Caitlin Vega
As I sit on the floor wrapping presents with a newborn on my lap and an excited 4-year-old bouncing around me, I see the commercials on tv promise "We are open on Christmas!" Wal-Mart reassures shoppers they will be open all day. Starbucks posts a sign: "Open on Christmas, stop by and tell us how you are celebrating."
Well this is all very convenient... Unless of course you are a worker at one of these places. For these workers, Christmas Day won't be spent baking cookies, watching their kids open presents, or catching up with relatives. Instead, they will be ringing up frantic shoppers or making frappacinos while customers describe their own holiday plans.
More posts by Caitlin Vega
In a Sinking Economy—How To Stay Focused
by John August
What I love about the work we are doing in the Kaiser Permenente Labor Management Partnership, with nearly 100,000 unionized frontline workers and our management and physician counterparts, is that we are engaged in making a tangible contribution to the fiscal crisis in health care. The skyrocketing cost of health care is one of the forces driving deficits in the nation.
If 17 percent of GDP is spent on health care, that is $2.5 trillion. If 80 percent of those dollars are spent on chronic and preventable conditions that means that there is $2 trillion where health care spending could be substantially reduced. If that 80 percent of health care spending was reduced by just 10 percent, $200 billion would be taken out of the cost of health care. We are showing a path for improved services and ways to contain cost. That’s exactly what people are asking for!
More posts by John August
An Open Letter to Jerry Brown
by Willie Pelote
As Sacramento prepares to inaugurate Governor-elect Jerry Brown next month, much of the focus has been on the state’s looming budget deficit and how the legislature and Brown plan to bridge that gap.
For years now, Californians have been told that we must choose between cutting public services and public service employees or budget armageddon. However, this is a false choice that has been driven more by political rhetoric than economic reality, as the Wall Street Journal has observed. What we must bear in mind, instead, is that there is a direct relationship between California’s quality of life and the quality of its public services and the people who provide those services.
More posts by Willie Pelote
Blackstone: The Grinch Stealing Recovery from San Francisco Hotel Workers
by Riddhi Mehta-Neugebauer
Last week, over 650 hotel workers and supporters marched in solidarity at the Hilton Union Square in downtown San Francisco. More than 16 months after union hotel contracts expired, the Blackstone Group, which owns the hotel, has yet to propose a contract that the hotel workers, who earn an average of $30,000 a year, can afford.
Industry analysts and Blackstone itself expect very jolly holiday seasons for years to come. San Francisco hotel workers continue to demand an explanation as to why Blackstone is seeking to lay off workers, freeze pensions, shift the burden of rising health care costs onto hotel workers and lock working families into a permanent recession.
More posts by Riddhi Mehta-Neugebauer
IBEW Promotes Green Jobs in Hard-Hit Imperial County
by Alexander Hogan
California’s Imperial County has historically been one of the state’s most economically distressed regions, suffering from decades of underinvestment, unemployment and poverty. And the Great Recession has only added to the desert county’s woes, with unemployment running near 30 percent – a number not seen since the 1930s.
But with a third of the state’s energy supply required to come from green sources by 2020, labor, community and business leaders are hoping that the sun-drenched county can become the Golden State’s leading center for alternative energy and good-paying green jobs.
IBEW Local 569 opened the first union apprentice training facility in Imperial County last year. With its emphasis on green technology, the Imperial County Electric Training Center is expected to graduate its first class next spring.
More posts by Alexander Hogan
On Human Rights Day, Workers Ask, “What’s Gone Wrong At Chase?”
In solidarity with International Human Rights Day (Dec 10), the Alameda Labor Council, Contra Costa Labor Council, LA County Federation of Labor, Sacramento Central Labor Council, and San Mateo Central Labor Council organized handbill actions highlighting Chase bank’s bad practices and banking relationship with Reynolds Tobacco.
Union members and community partners educated Chase bank patrons and passersby with a flyer that said “Chase Bank: What’s Gone Wrong?”, which outlines the bank's role in the foreclosure crisis and its relationship with Reynolds Tobacco.
More posts by Katie Gjertson
Queen Meg’s Crown Jewels and Other Items Up for Auction
by Mike Hall
You can own a piece of royal history, or even better, give a little something from the Queen herself as a holiday gift. Slow down, we’re not talking about some stuffy old English monarchial memorabilia. We’re talking about the one and only U.S.-born Queen Meg, the California Nurses Association’s satirical imperial parody of free-spending billionaire Meg Whitman and her failed bid to buy California’s governorship.
The good queen has graciously donated some of her most prized possessions for a Royal Holiday Auction to benefit the Nicky Diaz Legal Defense Fund. eBay is hosting the auction, sponsored by the CNA. Find the auction here.
More posts by Mike Hall
Fresno City Council Moves Toward Privatization of Public Services
by John Veen
On December 9, a divided Fresno City Council voted in favor of privatizing Commercial Solid Waste. Now, 100 drivers represented by IUOE Stationary Local 39 are facing layoffs. These are some of the best drivers in the nation who year in, year out win top awards for safety.
By "franchising" the service to two private companies, the city hopes to skim over two million dollars from the solid waste operation every year and put it into the general fund. Bottom line: it's a hidden tax on local businesses. Now local restaurants, hair salons and apartment owners will be paying for miscellaneous city services twice, once through normal taxes, and again through their trash bills. It's a rip-off for them, it's a disaster for our members, and it's another bad city council decision that will have consequences far into the future.
More posts by John Veen
California Receives Wisconsin and Ohio’s High-Speed Rail Money
by Robert Cruickshank
Last month, voters in Wisconsin and Ohio elected Republican governors who pledged to stop their state's high speed rail projects, even though they had won $1.2 billion in federal stimulus grants to begin the projects. On the same day, California voters overwhelmingly elected pro-HSR candidate Jerry Brown, who backed a bullet train proposal from LA to SD in the early 1980s, over the anti-HSR Meg Whitman.
Republicans in WI and OH wanted to redirect the federal stimulus funds to road projects, which is moronic - we need to fund 21st century infrastructure that liberates us from oil, rather than deepening our dependence on it. Jerry Brown and California voters - who themselves approved $10 billion in funds for HSR in 2008 - understand that we cannot have 21st century prosperity without it.
More posts by Robert Cruickshank
National Day of Action Targets Rite Aid Execs for Disrespecting Employees
by Craig Merrilees
During the past few years, Rite Aid executives made bad business decisions that caused serious financial problems at the country’s third-largest drugstore chain. But instead of working with employees to move forward together in challenging times, Rite Aid execs are trying to make the company's loyal and hard-working employees pay for management's mistakes.
With support from the AFL-CIO, United Students Against Sweatshops and Jobs with Justice, Rite Aid workers are calling on union supporters to join with community and student allies to participate in a National Day of Action on December 15th.
More posts by Craig Merrilees
Republicans Pull the Plug, Jobless Help Dies
by Mike Hall
At the stroke of midnight last night, some 800,000 workers who have been looking for jobs for more than six months lost their unemployment insurance (UI)—2 million will be without help by the end of December. Why? Because congressional Republicans have chosen to side with the nation’s millionaires instead of the jobless.
They chose to extend the Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthy as their top priority this lame-duck session and essentially have told workers struggling to find work in an economy with five job hunters for every opening: “Tough luck. Happy holidays.”
More posts by Mike Hall