05/2011 Labor's Edge Blog Articles
Labor, Business and Government Agree: Building Workforce Partnerships is Key to Economic Recovery
by Rebecca Greenberg
When was the last time you saw a labor advocate, a government representative and a corporate CEO still down and hash out ways they can work together towards a common goal of renewing our workforce and reviving our economy? If you’re thinking, “that would never happen,” you’ve obviously never been to the California Labor Federation’s “Building Workforce Partnerships” conference.
Sponsored by the Workforce and Economic Development (WED) Program, this unique and groundbreaking conference has exploded in popularity in recent years, drawing the best and brightest economists, labor activists, environmentalists, workforce experts, business leaders, government representatives and others from all across the state and country. Even though the participants came from a wide variety of backgrounds, they all share a common goal – to renew our workforce and build a sustainable economy fueled by advanced manufacturing and renewable energy jobs.
More posts by Rebecca Band
Pension Truth Squad Sets the Record Straight in San Diego
by Steve Maviglio
Teachers, firefighters and other members of Californians for Retirement Security’s Pension Truth Squad visited San Diego Monday to share personal stories and set the record straight about the ongoing attacks on public workers across California. The right-wing agenda of tearing down retirement security for public workers is fueled by misinformation, distortions and outright lies.
The truth is, after years of public service, most public workers have a modest retirement that they have contributed a percentage of their income toward. California public employees’ contributions to their pensions have climbed from 5 percent to 7 to 10 percent, and the average public pension in California is $26,000. Many, including teachers, retirees do not receive Social Security benefits. The average public teacher’s retirement in California is $33,000 a year after an average 27 years of service.
More posts by Steve Maviglio
Getting “REgionAL” at the Building Workforce Partnerships Conference
by Rebecca Greenberg
Today, more than 400 workforce experts, layoff response coordinators, job training professionals, environmentalists, government officials, economists, labor activists and others are convening in San Jose for the annual Building Workforce Partnerships conference, sponsored by the California Labor Federation’s Workforce and Economic Development Program (WED). This unique conference gives attendees the opportunity to interact, brainstorm, learn from each and form valuable partnerships to improve the way our communities deal with job loss and workforce development.
The theme of this year's Building Workforce Partnerships conference is “Get REgionAL,” and the conference will focus on exploring the economics of equity and highlighting the best regional coalition work across the nation. It models the kind of labor-business-community alliances that are the heart of high road economic development, job creation, and shared prosperity.
More posts by Rebecca Band
Join the Fight to Support Project Labor Agreements at the California Municipal Labor Project
by Bob Balgenorth
A new website, the California Municipal Labor Project, is proving a valuable tool to proactively advocate for Project Labor Agreements (PLAs) and educate the public about their benefits to local communities, schools, and cities and counties. The website is a joint labor-management effort to counteract the attempts of extreme right-wing groups like the Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC), who are attacking PLAs across the country and throughout California, in hopes of profiting from public works projects without guarantees of quality or of decent pay and benefits for workers.
A PLA is a pre-hire agreement designed to facilitate construction projects. Each PLA is negotiated and designed individually – tailored to meet the needs of a specific project owner/manager, or community. By governing and establishing work rules, pay rates, and dispute resolution processes for every worker on the project, PLAs maximize project stability, efficiency and productivity.
More posts by Bob Balgenorth
California Fighting Back on Colombia Free Trade Act
by Tim Robertson
Since 2005, more than half the trade unionists murdered in the world have been killed in Colombia. That's more in Colombia alone than in the other 190+ countries combined. Just last year, 51 more trade unionists were murdered bringing the total since 1986 to over 2700. Unfortunately, President Obama is ignoring these facts to push for the long-stalled Colombia Free Trade Agreement, a relic of the Bush Administration, in a move that can only be seen as an affront to his union base.
Not only is Colombia the most dangerous place in the world for union activity, an implied complicity with Colombia's government, in particular the Department of Administrative Security (DAS), has led to an approximate 96% impunity rating. Could you imagine the U.S. response if over the course of 2010, there were one CEO murder per week in Colombia with little investigation and few convictions or punishments? It certainly wouldn't be to liberalize trade rules.
More posts by Tim Robertson
My View from the Steps of the Capitol: A Reflection on 15 Years of Immigrant Day in California
by Angie Wei
Fifteen years ago, on the first Immigrant Day in Sacramento, I remember standing on the Capitol steps. I stood there worried, what if no one showed up?
That fear melted away as I saw a group of Hmong immigrants approach the Capitol from one side. Then I turned to see Russian immigrants approaching from another side, Latinas from across the street, and so many other communities converging on the capitol. We were impressive.
As we prepared our advocates for the first-ever Immigrant Day, I recall working with my fellow leaders and deciding to scrap our formal talking points and encourage our allies instead to speak from their heart–to share their stories. The legislative response was overwhelmingly positive and we’ve tried to take that approach ever since. When we talk about the real immigrant experience and share ways to make California a better place for everyone, we win.
More posts by Angie Wei
Rants & Raves for the Week of May 16th
* Assemblymember Logue launches website to draft Texas Governor to run for president * SoCal supermarket giants go after workers' healthcare * Report finds Massey Energy's reckless negligence caused mine explosion * Wisconsin 'Voter ID' bill would disenfranchise tens of thousands of voters *
*Federal judge orders California company to stop union-busting and reinstate fired workers * Puerto Rico reinstates collective bargaining rights for public sector workers * Classified School Employees Week draws attention to thier important role in education * US Dept of Labor grants millions to San Diego Labor Council job training program *
Educating and Empowering Workers on Paid Family Leave
by Jenya Cassidy
A good shop steward knows that after bargaining a contract, the union’s work has just begun. Stewards and leaders must now educate and empower members in order to enforce newly-negotiated language like overtime pay, shift differentials and time off for family events. The same is true when we pass a worker-friendly law like California’s Paid Family Leave (PFL). PFL allows California workers to get some wage replacement when taking leave to bond with a new child or to care for a sick family member. But research shows that low income, immigrant and Latino workers are least likely to know about the law even when they need to take leave.
Union and work family activists are learning that passing the law was just the first step – we still have to educate and empower the workers who need it most. On May 5th and 6th, the Labor Project for Working Families hosted panel discussions in Los Angeles and Berkeley on California’s Paid Family Leave program.
More posts by Jenya Cassidy
KPFA Union Workers Fight Management… By Raising More Money for KPFA
by KPFA Worker
Union activists everywhere know that the surest way to win a campaign to hit the boss where it hurts -- in the pocketbook. But not at noncommercial broadcaster KPFA, where CWA-affiliated workers are involved in a protracted struggle with the management of their corporate parent, Pacifica.
In November 2010, Pacifica, which usually stays out of station programming decisions, took the unusual step of canceling KPFA's "The Morning Show" -- the station's most popular locally-produced program, also its biggest fundraiser, and home to KPFA's only regular labor-themed segment.
"Pacifica's already used financial hardship as a pretext for retaliatory layoffs at KPFA," said program host and union steward Sasha Lilley. "Because of the disastrous changes they made to the station's morning lineup, KPFA is on track to finish its Spring fund drive over $150,000 behind goal. So, as workers, we have to do everything we can to turn that around."
More posts by KPFA Worker
The Social Security/Medicare “Crisis” Is Really a Choice - Between the Middle Class and the Wealthy
by RJ Eskow
The word for today is "choice," not "crisis."
It's time to stop saying the country "can't afford" Medicare, Social Security, or other programs that benefit the middle class. If I told my mother that I "can't mow the lawn" or "I can't do all that homework" when I was a kid, she'd say: "Don't say you can't. Say you don't want to." (The outcome of these exchanges was inevitable. Hello, lawnmower ...)
Now we're told there's a "crisis" and we can no longer afford the middle-class American dream. The truth is the opposite: Our long-term problems aren't caused by the middle class, but by politicians who choose to sacrifice the middle class for wealthy interests.
All this talk about a "debt crisis" is a way for politicians to avoid telling the truth: They'd rather say they "have to" sacrifice the middle class than admit they're making a choice.
More posts by Richard (RJ) Eskow
Labor Department App Helps Workers Track Wages, Hours
by James Parks
Want to make sure you’re getting paid what you’re due? Now there’s an app for that. The U.S. Labor Department announced last week its first application for smartphones: a time sheet to help employees independently track the hours they work and determine the wages they are owed.
Available in English and Spanish, workers can use the application to conveniently track regular work hours, break time and any overtime hours for one or more employers. Contact information and materials about wage laws are easily accessible through links to the webpages of the department’s Wage and Hour Division.
Rather than relying on their employers’ records, workers now can keep their own.
More posts by James Parks
Rants & Raves for the Week of May 9th, 2011
* Assembly GOP budget proposal more of the same failed gimmicks * CEOs claim California has bad business climate * House Republican budget plan would kick 44 million low-income families off thier health plans * Wisconsin Gov. Walker repeals paid sick days legislation * States fail to enforce labor laws *
* Rite Aid warehouse workers win five-year union organizing campaign * 'Dining With Justice Guide' highlights worker-friendly eateries * 'State of Emergency' rallies call for fair budget solutions * Assembly Banking Committee votes to regulate payroll paycards * Senate Democrats seek to repeal tax breaks for oil companies *
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