Labor Day is a celebration of working people, brought to you by American unions. It’s a day we can appreciate each other, and all the gains we’ve made for working people. But everything we’ve won by standing together, Prop 32 threatens to take away.
LA Times columnist Michael Hiltzik calls Prop 32 “the fraud to end all frauds.” The billionaire backers of this fraud are trying to eliminate the labor movement so they can strip away everything we’ve fought generations for: overtime pay, workplace safety, quality public education, prevailing wage, retirement security and middle class jobs.
This weekend, Labor 411 is asking shoppers to buy union-made products like Miller beer, Cheetos, Chips Ahoy cookies, or our All-American Golden Mojito (recipe below) while shopping for their Labor Day celebrations.
"This Labor Day, give your money the muscle to help rebuild America’s middle class," says Cherri Senders, Founder of Labor 411, the nation’s largest and most comprehensive online directory of union-made goods and services. "Labor 411 has a simple premise: money is power. How you spend yours can make a difference for our country, our communities, our families and our friends. By purchasing goods and services made by companies that provide fair wages, safe working conditions and access to health care, you are helping protect and grow America’s middle class and joining the ethical consumer movement."
On Friday, August 24th, the California Labor Federation was awarded more than half a million dollars for a pilot project to begin funding apprentice training programs across California. The new project will train workers for new high-road green jobs, and it will also help participating unions maintain and develop more of those quality jobs.
This is the 3rd CLF construction trades project funded by the California Employment Training Panel (ETP). Unlike the previous ETP programs, the focus of the current program is support for the smaller Joint Apprenticeship Training Committee (JATC) centers located in communities throughout the state
For hundreds of warehouse workers like Daniel Lopez of Riverside, working in unsafe conditions for up to 16 hours a day for months at a time is not uncommon. Asking for safe and clean working conditions or a reasonable work schedule could mean losing his job. Last week, Daniel and I, along with other workers, went to Sacramento to urge the California Senate to pass AB 1855. They did, and if signed by Gov. Jerry Brown, AB 1855, sponsored by Assemblymember Norma Torres and Sen. Juan Vargas, will extend basic protections to tens of thousands of warehouse workers.
The person who’s flipping burgers and making sure there are enough hot dogs to go around at your Labor Day barbecue deserves a little extra thanks, don’t you think? Unions and working families will honor the holiday that celebrates the hard work that has made America strong by doing something special this year: recognizing people for their work.
Surprised that the workers’ compensation attorneys, who are normally seen as natural allies of Labor, are saying that the bill on workers’ comp reform the California Labor Federation is co-sponsoring is bad for injured workers? You shouldn’t be. They have historically opposed virtually every effort by Labor and management to negotiate a more rational workers’ compensation system in California, which would provide injured workers with higher, more certain benefits while getting rid of some features in the system which, while not really helping injured workers, add major unnecessary costs for employers.
A little history might be useful here. During his previous Governorship, Jerry Brown’s Director of Industrial Relations, Don Vial, proposed to create a more efficient workers’ compensation system by creating a pool of state doctors to evaluate permanent disability claims. At that time, Labor and the applicants’ attorneys joined together to defeat this effort. Then, just before he left office in 1982, Brown signed a benefit increase bill that was the product of a deal between Labor, the insurance industry and the applicants’ attorneys.
The nature of employment is changing. Employees are increasingly seen as liabilities rather than assets, and so workers are kept at arm's length from the companies they ultimately serve. Middle-class long-term jobs are shifting to precarious, low-wage work. These contingent relationships include temporary and subcontracted workers, whose ranks have been growing over the past two decades.
In California almost one-quarter of a million people worked in the temporary help services industry in 2010; another 37,000 people worked for employee leasing firms totaling 282,000 workers in these two industries. This accounted for approximately 2.0 percent of all non-farm employment in California in 2010, approximately the same ratio as for the U.S. as whole.
Arnold Schwarzenegger rode into the Governor’s office in 2003 on the campaign promise to “fix” the workers’ compensation system. Every day in 2004, the media hammered home Schwarzenegger’s talking points that California’s highest-in-the-nation workers’ compensation costs were driving employers, and jobs, out of the state.
In the face of a relentless media campaign and the threat of an extreme workers’ comp reform ballot measure, the Legislature passed SB 899 in 2004—a draconian bill that gutted the workers’ compensation system and created more pain and suffering for injured workers. Since SB 899, permanently disabled workers have seen their benefits slashed to the bone. Medical treatment is delayed and denied by insurance companies, sometimes for over a year. As a result, injured workers are stuck at home battling insurance companies for the medical care they need, with no ability to return to work.
Let’s be frank: The labor movement is changing fast. In the next 5-10 years, almost half of all union members -- roughly 5-7 million workers -- will retire. And who is stepping in to keep the movement going? What does the future of Labor look like?
After decades of aggressive anti-union tactics by employers small and large and few signs of reprieve, young workers face serious barriers to unionization, and the future of the movement is anything but certain. If we want our movement to still be around in 10 or 20 or 50 years, we need to broaden our reach to young people, and we need to start training the leaders of tomorrow today.
That was the primary focus of last weekend’s Young Worker Leadership Institute (YWLI), a follow-up to last year’s Next Up Summit. The three-day workshop was organized by the AFL-CIO’s new Young Worker Advisory Council, and brought together young worker activists and aspiring leaders from Alaska to Florida to communicate, collaborate, inspire one another and hash out a strategic plan that will put us on the path to a stronger labor movement for the next generation.
The San Jose/Silicon Valley Chamber of Commerce has a goal of raising “$1.5 million to fund multi-language television, direct mail and outreach to businesses” to defeat the ballot measure to give low wage workers a raise, according to an online business newsletter.
While the Chamber of Commerce has told its members it expects to have a tough fight on the ballot measure, they believe they can defeat the $2 an hour raise if they throw enough money at trying to deceive voters into thinking it will hurt business in San Jose.
A few weeks ago an agonized fundraising appeal went out from three right wing millionaires on behalf of the so-called “Californians for Reforms and Jobs, Not Taxes” campaign against Proposition 30.
Apparently business executives Floyd Kvamme, David Marquardt, and Mark Stevens had learned that Prop 30, also known as the “Protect Schools and Local Public Safety Act,” would cause the wealthiest Californians to have to part with 1 to 3% more of their enormous incomes to support public education and public safety programs. Faced with the unnerving prospect that millions of school children might have smaller class sizes, and neighborhoods across the state might become safer places to live and work, they sprang into action.
A question that is being asked by talking heads on the right-wing yak shows lately is, “Where are all the green jobs?” Well, there is a simple answer: Those jobs are here in the Southwest, my little conservative Debbie Downers. All over Southern California, Nevada, New Mexico and Arizona you will find massive solar projects with thousands of construction workers getting their first paychecks in months or, in some cases, years. There are so many solar-energy jobs helping us climb out of the absolute depression in the electrical industry that you can’t swing a Birkenstock and not hit one.
That’s right, despite their efforts to kill every single meaningful jobs bill in the House and Senate for the last four years, conservatives have failed to stop the sprouts and shoots of the new green economy.
Over the weekend, the LA Times' Michael Hiltzik wrote a column about Prop 32, and he did not pull any punches. After he described how LBJ would not appreciate the "Rich Persons and Corporations Empowerment Act of 2012," he detailed some of the many deceptive points of this measure. But before going through that, he stops to put Prop 32 in its place in history:
"In this state, we've come to expect ballot initiatives sponsored by business interests to be, essentially, frauds. But it's hard to conceive how one could be more fraudulent than Proposition 32. If there was any doubt left that the initiative process has been totally corrupted by big business and the wealthy, this should put it to rest for all time." (LA Times)
Legislators are often criticized for delayed reactions to inevitable crises. Those legislators would likely counter that only hindsight is 20/20, but sometimes it’s crystal clear that everyone should have seen a disaster coming.
For example, all involved in the California workers’ compensation debate agree that our beleaguered system is unsustainable, and employer costs will someday increase so dramatically that major, sudden reform will be necessary. (Experts estimate that workers comp costs will grow 18% in 2012 alone). As workers, we’ve seen this movie before, and we’re painfully aware that such a rushed fix will put our benefits on the chopping block. Rather than sit around and wait for that inevitable reckoning, though, legislators this year should seize a rare opportunity to prevent such a crisis.