09/2013 Labor's Edge Blog Articles
Looming Government Shutdown Will Wallop Federal Workers
“Will Work for Food.” How many times do we see these signs at most every street corner? For those of who are federal employees and who are so union representatives and officers, the time seems to be right for us to get out our Sharpies and make our own signs.
The last several years have seen my sisters and brothers in Social Security and other agencies continually being threatened with shutdowns and furloughs as a result of the lack of federal budgets or continuing resolutions, failure to raise the debt ceiling as well as the fiscal cliff. Now as of October 1, 2013 we are going to be shut down again.
More posts by Howard Egerman
San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed’s Secret Pension-Cutting Ballot Initiative Revealed
In a move to slash the retirement benefits of public employees in California, a group of mostly conservative policy advocates has been working behind the scenes on a possible 2014 ballot initiative. A copy of the still-secret draft initiative, which could dramatically impact the lives of hundreds of thousands of Californians and send a signal nationwide, has been obtained by Frying Pan News. (See the document’s text following this article or click here.)
If enacted, the proposed law would allow the state and local governments to cut back retirement benefits for current employees for the years of work they perform after the changes go into effect. Previous efforts to curb retirement benefits for public employees have largely focused on newly hired workers, but the initiative would shrink pensions for workers who are currently on the job.
More posts by Gary Cohn
New Report Blows the Lid Off Local Lore About Warehouse Wages
In a new report released today by USC’s Program for Environmental and Regional Equality, University of California professor and warehousing and logistics expert Juan D. de Lara reveals that the local warehousing industry is relying on low-paid, temporary workers at serious risk to the ongoing economic health of the region.
In Work: Path to the Middle Class or Road to Economic Insecurity?, De Lara takes a closer look at labor and census statistics to unpack actual warehouse worker wages. "It should be clear that most blue collar warehouse workers earn far less than the average logistics annual wage of $45,000. Any conversation about the future of the logistics industry as a key driver in the Inland Empire’s regional economy should begin with an honest assessment of blue-collar vs. white collar wages," he writes.
More posts by Elizabeth Brennan
Governor Brown Signs Historic Minimum Wage Increase into Law
Imagine having to choose between buying soap for yourself or diapers for your baby. Or being forced to walk miles to work because you chose breakfast over bus fare. Or being left with no choice but to go to the local food bank in order to feed your family. These are the harsh realities that millions of low-wage workers in California face every day. But fortunately for them (and for our state as a whole), their future just got a lot brighter. This morning, Governor Brown made history by signing AB 10 (Alejo), a sorely-needed and long-overdue wage increase for California’s lowest-wage workers that passed through the Legislature with strong support from the California Labor movement.
More posts by Rebecca Band
BART Management’s Refusal to Compromise Will Have Dire Consequences for Bay Area
Negotiating a fair contract is a complex process that involves hard work and commitment from both labor and management. When both sides bargain in good faith and share a goal of securing a deal, a deal eventually gets done. I’ve personally been involved in many tough negotiations that ended with a fair deal that both parties could live with. It takes patience and willingness from both sides to compromise.
In the BART negotiations, unfortunately that hasn’t been the case. BART management paid Thomas Hock, an out-of-state lawyer with a history of driving disputes to a strike, nearly $400,000 to lead negotiations. Hock and his company have been responsible for seven strikes, 47 unfair labor practice charges and nine discrimination lawsuits. Not exactly a history of committing to compromise in order to secure a deal.
More posts by Art Pulaski
Promise Breakers: How Pew Trust Is Helping to Gut Public Employee Pensions
When Kentucky’s legislature adopted a bill intended to transform the Bluegrass State’s troubled pension system last spring, state officials were ecstatic. Signing the bill into law on April 4, Democratic governor Steve Beshear hailed it as groundbreaking legislation that would “solve the most pressing financial problem facing our state – our monstrous unfunded pension liability and the financial instability of our pension fund.”
Not everyone was convinced.
Critics, who include pension-fund experts, lawmakers and AARP Kentucky, claim the new law will hurt workers, taxpayers and retirees. What’s more, they say the law was largely crafted behind the scenes by an unusual alliance between two out-of-state organizations: the Pew Center on the States and the Laura and John Arnold Foundation.
More posts by Gary Cohn
California EMS Workers Deliver Petition to Protect Standards
Emergency medical service providers save lives every day—and right now they’re struggling to save their own livelihoods, so they can keep doing this crucial work.
Northern California EMS professionals at American Medical Response (AMR) have worked without a contract since the beginning of this month, and so far their efforts at the bargaining table were met with resistance by their employer. That’s why members are voting this week to give the bargaining unit strike authorization.
Monday morning, EMS professionals across Northern California marched to the AMR offices to tell management they won’t back down. They carried with them the signatures of 1,100 of their colleagues who stand with their bargaining team.
More posts by Olivia Sandbothe
A Dancer Speaks Out for Organizing
My name is Dana Wilson and I am a professional dancer. Whether I am performing with a major recording artist, or busting a move in television and film, it is my job to entertain and evoke emotion through movement. It is also my job to make it look easy.
The reality is, dancers train tirelessly, sacrifice our bodies and dedicate our lives to our work, and sometimes all we get in return is “the experience.” Most of us are young (twenty-somethings) and female. We are all are eager to work and it has taken a long time to gain respect as a work force.
More posts by Dana Wilson
A New Bracero Program Would Hurt Farm Workers
Most media coverage of immigration today accepts as fact claims by growers that they can't get enough workers to harvest crops. Agribusiness wants a new guest worker program, and complaints of a labor shortage are their justification for it. But a little investigation of the actual unemployment rate in farm worker communities leads to a different picture.
There are always local variations in crops, and the number of workers needed to pick them. But the labor shortage picture is largely a fiction. I've spent over a decade traveling through California valleys and I have yet to see fruit rotting because of a lack of labor to pick it. I have seen some pretty miserable conditions for workers, though.
More posts by David Bacon
AB 1373: Stopping the Death Clock
Over the course of a career, firefighters are relentlessly exposed to a hellish mix of toxins. These exposures put firefighters at a substantially greater risk of getting cancer -- a reality documented in more than 80 peer-reviewed medical studies.
Personally, I don't need the studies. In my three decades in the fire service, I’ve seen many succumb to job-caused cancer, including my best friend. Law enforcement officers – regularly exposed to toxins and often without breathing apparatus – pay a similarly heavy price.
To us, this sacrifice is every bit as noble as that of one who dies in a fiery instant.
More posts by Lou Paulson
Fighting for Affordable Health Care in a “House of Justice”
AFSCME Local 946 union members, who work at the nonprofit Bet Tzedek Legal Services agency near downtown Los Angeles, advocate in court on behalf of sweatshop workers and other exploited people on the margins. Bet Tzedek in Hebrew means a “House of Justice.”
But now they are fighting for a bit of justice for themselves. The staff are protesting their employer’s plans to price quality medical coverage completely out of their reach: Employees paying $30 per month for dependent health care, for example, would be forced to pay $683 per month under the new plan.
More posts by Erica Zeitlin
Home Care Workers Win Wage and Overtime Protection
Nearly 2 million home care workers—the vast majority of whom are women—take care of the elderly and people with disabilities, often working 12-hour days and 60 to 70 hours a week. Now, for the first time since 1975, most of these workers will have the wage and overtime protection of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) under a new rule issued today by the Obama administration’s Department of Labor.
Since they were exempted from the FLSA nearly four decades ago, home care workers seldom have been paid overtime and their net income is often less than the minimum wage, considering time spent in travel between the homes where they work in a single day and its cost. Unlike workers covered by federal labor laws, they have not been paid for all the hours they are on the clock.
More posts by Mike Hall
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