03/2011 Labor's Edge Blog Articles
Remembering Cesar Chavez
by Caitlin Vega
The Napa I grew up in is probably not the place you'd come to spend a long weekend winetasting. Real Napa, as we call it, is not glamorous or exclusive. In the old days, my dad says, "it used to be a place where poor kids could grow up in the country." Today, even with the fancy restaurants and expensive tourist shops, Napa is still an agricultural town at heart, which means it is a farmworker community.
My mother-in-law, Emma, started working as a farmworker at the age of 19. The daughter of a bracero, she joined her father in Napa to work beside him in the fields. A few years in, everything changed. A young organizer named Cesar Chavez came to town. At first workers were scared but they were soon inspired to make a better life by joining the farmworkers union. As longtime worker advocate Aurelio Hurtado recalls, “He had a simple message: we're people and are not afraid of anything when it comes to our future. We're here to work, not to beg."
More posts by Caitlin Vega
Family Caregivers Should be Thanked, Not Ridiculed
by Kenneth Jones
I am a small businessman from California, a retired Air Force Reserve member and a lifelong Republican. I am also a single dad and an In Home Supportive Services (IHSS) home care provider for my 29-year-old daughter Barbara. Our lives changed forever one dark night in 1996 when Barbara -- then only 14 -- was involved in a horrific accident caused by a drunk driver. While she survived, she had to have a portion of her brain removed. From that day on, she has been physically disabled and requires 24-hour constant care.
Fifteen years ago, my small business was booming. Today, I earn $10 an hour caring for my daughter. When I can find small jobs, I am able to earn some additional revenue to help pay the bills. I consider myself fortunate. For many caregivers, IHSS is their only source of income. Without these caregivers, thousands more people would be forced into nursing homes or other institutions. Since nursing home care costs at least five times more than IHSS home care, do the math! This program saves California taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars a year. Despite what opponents say, IHSS is a budget solution, not a budget problem.
More posts by Kenneth Jones
Rants & Raves for the Week of March 21st
* Sen. Dutton proposes $1 billion in tax breaks for corporations * GOP governors attack unemployment benefits * Maine Gov. LePage tries to erase workers' legacy * House Republicans seek to deny food stamps to families of striking workers *
* Anthem Blue Cross cuts proposed rate hike in half * Helath care reform celebrates one-year anniversary * Senate Labor Committee rejects attacks on 8-hour day * Wisconsin Court of Appeals affirms Milwaukee's paid sick days ordinance *
International Labor Leaders Join Working Families to March Through LA on ‘Solidarity Saturday’
by Robin Swanson
Mark your calendars - March 26th will be a day that workers' voices are heard all around the globe! "Solidarity Saturday" starts with a massive march through Los Angeles beginning at the Convention Center and ending at Pershing Square, featuring international labor leaders from across the United States and everyday working people who are fighting for a stronger middle class and good jobs. The same day, protests will be held in Wisconsin and Iowa, and even in the London, where workers are fighting drastic layoffs and students are rising up against crippling budget cuts to schools. These events are all leading up to the massive Nationwide Day of Action on April 4th.
Working families are coming together and standing strong to hold onto our most basic worker rights, and to protect the middle class way of life that has been created through collective bargaining.
More posts by Robin Swanson
100 Year Later, Lessons from the Triangle Fire Still Ring True
by Joan Lichterman
Today marks the 100th anniversary of one of the worst preventable workplace tragedies in U.S. history- the Triangle shirtwaist factory fire. On March 25, 1911, some 146 workers — mostly immigrant women and girls as young as 14 — perished when a fire broke out in the New York City sweatshop. Because managers had locked a critical exit, many workers were trapped inside as they sought to flee the fire. Others jumped to their deaths as horrified onlookers watched.
This shameful event strengthened the garment workers union and galvanized social movements and reform. Many of the workplace standards and protections that we now take for granted rose from the ashes of that fire. These gains didn’t happen by themselves, and must continually be renewed. Today’s workers are under attack. Corporate interests and their political allies are trying to roll back fundamental protections, from the right of workers to take collective action to effective enforcement of workplace standards. And in the meanwhile, too many preventable worker deaths, illnesses, and injuries continue to occur.
More posts by Joan Lichterman
Time for a Reality Check in California’s Pension Talks
by Dave Low
It is absolutely worthwhile to consider how to ensure that California's public pension systems remain on a sound footing and able to provide a secure retirement for public workers. But issues about the cost/benefit of public employee pensions have become a major point of contention in the heated debate on how to fix California's state budget problems. Pension-spiking poster children, manufactured data supposedly showing huge unfunded liabilities and false charges of labor intransigence have cast a dark cloud over public pensions.
For instance, a common claim is that pension costs will bankrupt state government. In fact, the entire costs of pensions for state workers in 2011 will be $3.5 billion, barely 4% out of an $85 billion budget. Add CalSTRS and the total is not even 6% of the budget. If we paid zero into public employee pensions and eliminated them altogether, we would not come close to solving the budget deficit.
More posts by Dave Low
Happy Birthday Health Care Reform–Don’t Let Republicans Spoil the Party
by Mike Hall
Today is the first anniversary of the landmark Affordable Care Act that has already helped tens of millions of Americans acquire or receive better health care and that has reined in health insurance companies’ most abusive practices.
A recent report finds that the new health care reform law will mean thousands of dollars in health insurance premium savings and out-of-pocket health care costs for working families. For example, middle-class families purchasing private insurance in the new state-based Health Insurance Exchanges could save as much as $2,300 per year in 2014 and a family of four with an income of $33,525 could save as much as $14,900 per year since they also will qualify for tax credits and reduced cost sharing.
Yet congressional Republicans keep trying to repeal health care reform. What are they against? Take a look at just some of the Affordable Care Act’s benefits repeal would destroy.
More posts by Mike Hall
Solidarity Abounds at Labor’s 2011 Joint Legislative Conference
by Rebecca Greenberg
Although the official theme of this year’s California Labor Joint Legislative Conference was “Jobs-Justice-Prosperity,” the conference also took on an unofficial theme, “We Are One.” From Wisconsin to Tunisia to Costa Mesa, California, the notion of national and international solidarity with workers under attack quickly surfaced as the leading issue of the conference.
Bryan Kennedy, president of American Federation of Teachers-Wisconsin, joined the about 700 conference attendees in Sacramento to share inspiring words from the front lines in the fight for workers’ rights. "When Gov. Walker attacks collective bargaining, he's not just attacking the people- he's attacking our state's history and values, Kennedy said. "Remember that when you make a fist and hold it up in solidarity, it's in the shape of the state of Wisconsin."
More posts by Rebecca Band
Rants & Raves for the Week of March 14th
* California GOP legislators refuse to allow public to vote on tax extension * Rep. Bachus claims Wall Street reform is a 'job killer' * House Republicans vote to eliminate high-speed rail funding * Costa Mesa City Council lays off 50% of city workers *
* Wisconsin judge blocks union-stripping law * 100,000 Wisconsin workers rally for justice * Blue Shield rescinds excessive rate increase * Vice President Biden and Labor Secretary Solis step up to support workers' rights *
Biden, Solis Tell Workers: ‘We Need Collective Bargaining’
by James Parks
Tens of thousands of working people under attack from Republican governors in 12 states received some high-level support and encouragement yesterday. In a virtual town hall meeting sponsored by the unions of the AFL-CIO, SEIU, the National Education Association (NEA), Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) and the Teamsters.Vice President Joe Biden and U.S. Labor Secretary Hilda Solis told the workers the Obama administration will stand with them and will stay with them to make sure their rights are protected.
Joined by AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka in the call, the Vice President opened with a quote from President Obama saying that “We can’t have a strong middle class without unions.” Then Vice President Biden added, "You built the middle class. This fight is not about wages or benefits; it’s about trying to break unions. We absolutely, positively need collective bargaining."
More posts by James Parks
Michigan Workers Set to Rally Against Gov. Snyder’s Attack on Democracy
by Mike Hall
Thousands of Michigan union, community, student, faith and other activists are on their way to Lansing today for a massive rally to protest Gov. Rick Snyder’s (R) blatant assault on democracy with his “financial martial law” bill that won final legislative approval yesterday. The so-called emergency managers bill would allow Snyder to declare a “financial emergency” in a city or school district and appoint a manager with broad powers, including the ability to fire local elected officials, break teachers’ and public workers’ contracts, seize and sell assets, eliminate services—and even eliminate whole cities or school districts without any public input.
Like Republican Govs. Scott Walker (Wis.) and John Kasich (Ohio) and others who have mounted an unprecedented and coordinated assault on workers’ rights and middle-class jobs, Snyder claims the new law is simply a tool to address the state’s budget woes. But his own policies—including an 86 percent cut in corporate taxes accompanied by tax increases on working families and cuts to school budgets—strip away the claim’s veneer.
More posts by Mike Hall
Blue Shield Puts Profits Before People
by Sara Flocks
I have a friend, Patty, who worked as a waitress to pay her way through college. She worked hard and studied hard, so when she got sick and couldn’t get better, she just chalked it up to stress. For two years, Patty was chronically ill with mysterious and debilitating symptoms. She knew she should go to the doctor, but she didn’t have health insurance through work, and she couldn’t afford to buy insurance and pay for rent and tuition at the same time. Eventually, Patty ended up in the hospital, where she was diagnosed with a thyroid problem. Since she had not gotten care for so long she had to immediately have surgery, which left her with $10,000 in medical debt.
Patty is just one of the 8.4 million Californians who lack health insurance. Californians who don’t have job-based insurance are left to purchase coverage on their own in the individual market—a maze of complicated and overwhelming options hawked by giant health insurance corporations that know how to make a profit.
More posts by Sara Flocks
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