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Labor's Edge: Views from the California Labor Movement

05/2011 Labor's Edge Blog Articles


Fighting for Fair Treatment for Farmworkers

by Mitch Seaman

Three years ago this Monday, María Isabel Vásquez Jiménez collapsed and died after spending 9 hours pruning grapevines in Farmington. She was 17 years old, engaged and two months pregnant. This tragic loss, however, was far from accidental.

As the temperature soared to 95 degrees that day, Maria Isabel’s employer ignored California’s outdoor heat regulations requiring adequate drinking water, shade and rest. When she collapsed, Merced Farm Labor company bosses still denied her both shade and even medical treatment, and following a failed attempt to revive her—by draping an alcohol-soaked cloth over her face—released her to fiancee Florentino Bautista. Florentino, who had been working alongside her that day, recalls supervisors “grumbling” at workers who tried to drink water. Maria Isabel died two days later at Lodi Memorial Hospital.

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Educators, All Workers Honored on ‘Day of the Teacher’

by Steve Smith

Today is ‘Day of the Teacher,’ an annual celebration of the role teachers play in shaping the lives of our kids and strengthening our communities. Because of the hard work and dedicated commitment of educators in preparing our children for the future, they play a foundational role in a healthy society.

At the Capitol this afternoon, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson and many others turned out to recognize the amazing work teachers do every day. But the event turned into much more than recognition of teachers – educators also showed their appreciation to other workers who provide the services that keep our economy moving and support all California families.

Under the theme “We Are One,” teachers recognized workers in the public and private sector, and called on the legislature to pass the tax extensions necessary to prevent further devastating cuts to schools, public safety, services that impact the poor and vulnerable, and jobs.

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GOP Needs to Offer More to Budget Crisis Than “No”

by Angie Wei

Assembly Republican leader Connie Conway has an answer to just about any question directly relating to our budget crisis. “No.” No revenues. No vote of the people. No Republican budget proposal. No closing corporate tax loopholes. No spending cuts. No, No, No, No, No.

Conway explained her caucus’ flurry on “No’s” to the LA Times recently: "The reality of it is, if we put up a ‘budget’ of our own it will get picked apart, criticized."

That may be a good answer for a politician. But it’s the last thing we need to hear from a public servant.

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Listen to the First All-Union Radio Station!

By Caroline O'Connor

Los Angeles’ Professional Musicians Local 47 launches internet radio station, promotes union musicians.

The Professional Musicians Local 47 has launched the very first all-union radio station with internet Pro Music 47 Radio. The Los Angeles local of the American Federation of Musicians is the first to feature programming geared solely to promoting union musicians.

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CEO State Rankings Latest in Deceptive Campaign on California Biz Climate

By Steve Smith
A recent survey of CEOs commissioned by Chief Executive Magazine – yes, there really is such a thing and fortunately it doesn’t feature a centerfold of Rupert Murdoch -- ranked California dead last in business climate.

Now, on its face, that might be cause for alarm. But when you scratch the surface, this survey is little more than corporate honchos throwing around their weight to try to further strip working people of important protections that improve lives.

So why would a CEO rank California low on the list of so-called business-friendly states? Easy. We have some strong laws and regulations in place that protect workers from abusive conditions and our environment from being polluted. In fact, most of the regulations you hear business whine about – the eight-hour day, meal breaks, CEQA and our anti-global warming law – have the strong support of Californians. That’s because they are an overwhelming positive for our state. They make California a better place to live, work and raise a family. But according to America’s CEOs, what’s good for workers and the environment doesn’t really matter.

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Corporate Profits Soar 81 Percent but Few Jobs Created

by Tula Connell

On the eve of tomorrow’s unemployment report for April, we get this news from Fortune:

Profits of the 500 largest U.S. corporations soar by 81 percent ($318 billion), the third largest percentage gain in list history…Wal-Mart holds the number one spot for the second year in a row…Exxon Mobil leads profits with $30 billion, for the eighth year in row.

The stunning leap in profits is so excessive even Fortune writers are writhing in their leather chairs:

We’ve rarely seen such a stark gulf between the fortunes of the 500 and those of ordinary Americans….The profits derived partly from productivity gains, including workforce reductions. And many 500 companies are growing faster overseas than in the U.S.

Here’s the full list of the top moneymakers:

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Fresno Farmers and Business Owners Get It: Get California Working

by Mary Gutierrez

The giant tractor parked in front of Senator Tom Berryhill’s Fresno office said it all.

That’s where the statewide Stand up for California tour stopped on Thursday, where local farmers, a yoga studio owner, a financial analyst and small business owners asked the Senator to get California working again by supporting a fair and balanced state budget that includes maintaing existing revenues.

Local farmer Emin Dhaliwal called on Berryhill to break through political lines. "Valley farmers know that the prosperity of our business is closely tied to the prosperity of our community, our ability to fund police for safe communities, and our investment in our children’s education," Dhaliwal said. "That’s why it is imperative that California straighten out its current budget mess and protect core functions like education and public safety."

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After Five Years, Rite Aid Distribution Center Workers Finally Get Their Union

by Craig Merrilees

500 Rite Aid workers at the company’s massive Southwest Distribution Center in Lancaster declared victory on Sunday, May 1 in their five-year effort to form a union and improve working conditions. Workers signed a 3-year tentative agreement with management – subject to a May 12 ratification vote – that will improve conditions at the million-square-foot facility in California’s high desert.

“We’re excited about winning this victory, even if it took longer than it should have,” said Carlos “Chico” Rubio, a 10-year warehouse worker who helped negotiate the union contract with eight of his co-workers.  Employees decided to form their union in March of 2006 after contacting the ILWU. Within months, Local 26 President Luisa Gratz was helping workers address problems with indoor heat and production standards. Unfortunately, Rite Aid began aggressively interfering with the workers’ freedom to organize.

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San Diego: Turn Off 10News!

by Dennis Csillag

After watching the attacks on workers taking place across the country, it is time to stand up to the union-busters in California. McGraw-Hill-owned KGTV Channel 10 in San Diego refuses to negotiate a fair contract with employees for the fifth year. They have actively engaged in union-busting campaigns and employee intimation.

The San Diego & Imperial Counties Labor Council and the California Labor Federation have held an advertising and consumer boycott of KGTV Channel 10 News for several years. Despite their drop in ratings and millions in lost ad revenue, KGTV has launched further attacks against the workers, represented by NABET-CWA Local 54. While the boycott has been extremely successful, it is time to advance the campaign and take it to the next level.

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