Rebecca Band is a Communications Specialist at IBEW 1245.
From its picturesque snow-covered vistas to its epic ski slopes, Lake Tahoe is the quintessential winter-time tourist destination.
IBEW 1245 member Nick Pepper was enjoying a day off from work when something serendipitous happened.
IBEW 1245 member Charles Rowe used to love waking up around sunrise every Sunday to listen to the wind blow through the trees and enjoy the peaceful, majestic scenery outside his home in Cobb, California.
A big, severe drought inevitably leads to a big, severe fire season. The Rocky Fire is the first, but probably not the last, massive fire to sweep through northern California this summer, which means it will be a busy season for the IBEW Local 1245 members at PG&E who work to restore and repair power poles and lines.
, IBEW 1245
IBEW 1245’s ground-breaking “Organizing Steward” program has only been in effect for 18 months, but it’s already making a remarkable difference in the culture of activism in the union.
Renowned union organizer and activist Fred Ross Sr was posthumously inducted into the California Hall of Fame on October 1. The Hall of Fame honors “legendary people who embody California’s innovative spirit and have made their mark on history.” Ross was just one of the many notable Californians inducted that evening, along with Kareem Abdul-Jabar, Charlotta Bass, Francis Ford Coppola, Joan Didion, Jimmy Iovine, Stephen Schneider, Mimi Silbert and Andre “Dr. Dre” Young.
Without them, we’d be sitting in the dark, freezing cold or unbearably hot. We wouldn’t be able to charge our cell phones, make our morning coffee, use our computers or watch our favorite sporting event on TV. When we’re safe in our homes amidst a big storm, they’re braving the weather to do their work. And when there’s an electrical emergency, they are the first responders who risk their own lives to serve our communities.
Former U.S. Secretary of Labor Robert Reich doesn’t mince words.
He lambasted President Obama’s recent public appearance at a Bay Area Walmart, calling whoever made the decision a “numbskull.” And at a leadership seminar this week with 56 IBEW 1245 activists and LA Labor leader Maria Elena Durazo, Reich declared that the US economy is “rigged” in favor of the rich.
IBEW 1245’s new organizing stewards reveal strong emotions when you ask them about their experiences in the field. These 28 member-organizers – some of whom have been organizing for years, and some of whom just started – are ready to build a brighter future for the middle class and keep their union strong and growing.
Most every day around noon, the McDonalds on Jackson St in downtown Oakland is filled with customers. Yesterday at noon, it was jam-packed as usual, but it wasn’t the usual crowd. Nearly 200 striking fast food workers and their supporters flooded into the restaurant with a simple demand: “Keep your burgers, keep your fries… we want our wages SUPERSIZED!”
Fast-food is one of the most profitable industries in our country, and yet the vast majority of fast-food workers earn poverty wages, and more than half are forced to enroll their families in public assistance programs just to afford basics like food and housing. Fast-food corporations are some of the biggest contributors to our nation’s growing income inequality, which is why thousands of fast-food workers went on strike in more than 100 cities yesterday.
Black Friday is known as one of the biggest shopping days of the year, a day when giant corporations boost their bottom lines in a frenzy of shopping deals and “doorbusters.” Problem is, mega-corporations like Walmart aren’t sharing those huge profits with workers. They’re paying poverty wages to the very workers who make these huge companies successful. But thanks to the bravery and dedication of the Walmart workers and supporters who came out to protests in their communities, Black Friday is no longer just a day for corporations like Walmart. It’s a day for the people.
“Thank you for your service.” It’s a line we hear a lot around Veteran’s Day, especially in California, home to more than 1.8 million veterans, more than in any other state.
But if we really want to show gratitude for our veterans, then we need to do more than utter a simple “thank you.” We need to help these brave heroes find a middle-class life when they return from serving our country.
According to the Department of Veterans Affairs annual survey of veterans, jobs are the biggest concern for our returning veterans, and for good reason — the unemployment rate for veterans of recent conflicts is an unacceptable 10 percent, and 1.5 million young veterans — many with families to support — currently live under the poverty line.
After more than five months of contentious negotiations, BART’s largest unions, SEIU 1021 and ATU 1555, announced last night that they’ve reached a tentative agreement with the transit agency and the four-day BART strike is officially over. Trains began running again this morning, and service is supposed to be fully operational by this afternoon.
The agreement is centered around a fair compromise on pension and healthcare costs. It also provides for reasonable wage increases, in addition to some work rule changes that allow for innovation and input from workers.
Below is a list of resources for workers who have been locked out of work or otherwise impacted by the GOP government shutdown. We will be updating this list as we receive more info in the coming days.
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.
Lazy. Out of touch. Greedy. Self-serving. Thuggish.
Chances are you’ve heard a union member or leader called one of these things (and in all likelihood, more than once), and it made your blood boil. The unfortunate truth is that misconceptions, stereotypes and all-out lies seem to be dominating the public discussion and perception of labor unions, even among some progressives. We in the labor movement know that unions stand for the working class as the sole and vital counterbalance to corporate greed and excess…but no one else seems to have gotten the memo.
What turns young people into labor activists? How do we use their ideas and energy to transform our work? Why is it important to develop young leaders? What are the dos and don’ts when engaging young workers in organizing and political action? And how do we adapt our strategies, partnerships and attitudes to meet young people where they’re at?
Those were the questions posed at today’s “Young Workers Speak Up” action session at the AFL-CIO 2013 Convention. Sponsored by the AFL-CIO Young Workers Advisory Council and the Next UP Young Workers Program, this energetic session gave convention attendees of all ages a chance to hear from young activists and up-and-coming leaders who are brimming with success stories and ideas to engage more young people in and around the labor movement.
Every day, Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) workers safely transport nearly half a million commuters across the Bay Area. But not many BART riders realize these workers face exceptionally hazardous conditions. In fact, employee injuries have increased by 43% since 2009, which is precisely why BART workers and their allies have been fighting for safer conditions for themselves and the patrons they serve.
But the BART Board of Directors and their highly paid, out-of-state negotiator, Thomas Hock, are refusing to even discuss the workers’ safety requests, which include improved lighting and clean, accessible restrooms. Instead, BART management is committed to depicting the workers as “greedy” – even though these same workers took substantial wage and benefits cuts just a few years ago, when the economy was on the downswing.
You’ve probably heard it from a colleague, or maybe from a friend or family member:
“Kids these days… they’re just too ambivalent to care about labor unions or workers' rights.”
But as it turns out, that’s just not true. Young people are actually big fans of unions. Fully 61% of young people view labor unions favorably – and that’s more than 10 points higher than the national average, according to a new Pew poll. In fact, young people are the only age group that views unions more favorably than they view corporations. But despite the overwhelming support young people have for unions, they’re far less likely to belong to one.
The 8th annual Netroots Nation conference took place last week in San Jose, drawing more than 2,500 activists, leaders, field and online organizers to the Bay Area for the preeminent nationwide conference for cutting-edge progressives making a difference. In recent years, the conference has expanded far beyond its “Netroots” roots, and now it serves as an annual gathering of some of the most effective and notable progressive change-makers and leaders in the country.
The California Labor Federation was pleased to be a first-time sponsor of this year’s conference, where we welcomed attendees from all over the country to the Bay Area with some delicious, union-made chocolate from Ghirardelli, manufactured locally by members of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers (BCTGM) union.
Today’s historic Supreme Court rulings supporting marriage equality marked an important step forward for justice for all workers. Labor unions in California and across the nation have been strongly united for marriage equality for years. In fact, the California Labor Federation and 50 other labor organizations signed on to an amicus brief in support of marriage equality back when the challenges to Prop 8 first began nearly five years go.
Tim Paulson of the San Francisco Labor Council, which was one of the most vocal parties to the amicus brief, celebrated the announcement, which coincides with the 43rd annual San Francisco Pride celebration that kicks off this weekend.
There’s power in the picket line. And employers know it.
That’s why, in 2008, Ralphs Grocery Company sued to have union picketers removed from the front of one of its non-union stores. But California has explicit laws to protect labor-related speech, and the court denied the request by Ralphs.
But that hasn’t stopped the grocery chain from continuing its courtroom battle to silence workers – even though they’ve lost just about every case. Last December, California's Supreme Court upheld the ruling in favor of the picketers. And this week, California working families scored a huge and decisive victory when the U.S. Supreme Court refused to review the employer’s appeal on the constitutionality of labor-related speech on private property.
Not a lot of elections result in one candidate receiving 73% of the vote. In fact, 73% of voters can rarely agree on anything. But in the recent special election to fill the Assembly seat vacated by Ben Hueso when he moved over to the State Senate, San Diego-Imperial Central Labor Council leader Lorena Gonzalez received a staggering 73% of the vote, while her opponent, former City Councilman Steve Castaneda, garnered just 27%.
Despite San Diego’s reputation as a fairly conservative area of the state, Gonzalez didn’t take the traditional political tactic of “playing to the middle” in order to court more conservative voters. She unabashedly ran on her track record as a labor leader, workers’ rights activist and job creator — and it paid off on Election Day. Big time.
We all know that working for Walmart is no picnic. They pay low wages, they slash hours, they offer little or no job security, they exploit and intimidate workers and they use sweatshop labor. That’s why Walmart workers are on strike this week, to protest the corporation’s greedy behavior and shady business practices. Learn more about the strike here.
Many of these striking workers earn so little that they’re eligible for public assistance, like food stamps and Medicaid. And that’s no accident; it’s exactly the way Walmart likes it. We as taxpayers foot the bill for their workers, and the corporate head honchos get even richer.
According to a new report released today by the California Works Foundation:”[Walmart] workers use 40% more public health care assistance than the retail average. The company’s use of public assistance costs California $86 million per year, including $32 million for health care.”
“Employers harass and intimidate immigrant workers at legislative hearing on employers who harass and intimidate immigrant workers”
Sounds like a headline from a satire website, but in fact, this is precisely what happened at a recent committee hearing on AB 263 (Hernandez). The bill, backed by the California Labor Federation and Teamsters Joint Council 7, would protect immigrant workers who speak up for fair wages and working conditions from abuse, retaliation and threats of deportation – a practice that’s become far too common in California. So common, in fact, that it was on full display inside the AB 263 hearing, where immigrant workers who came to testify about the harassment and retaliation they see and experience at work were intimidated by their employer’s high-priced lawyers.
The Affordable Care Act (aka “Obamacare”) is based on the concept of shared responsibility – individuals, employers and the government are all supposed to pay their fair share. But Walmart found a loophole in the ACA big enough to drive a truck through; by keep workers’ wages and hours so low that they quality for Medi-Cal, the employer can avoid their responsibility altogether, and we the taxpayers end up footing the bill. California Labor Federation Executive Secretary-Treasurer Art Pulaski detailed this “Walmart Loophole” in today’s Orange County Register.
While 400 workers at the Honda Center in Anaheim are trying to figure out how to make ends meet when they all lose their jobs at the end of next month, their employer is set to collect as much as $14.8 million in so-called “job creation” tax credits – and it’s all thanks to the flawed Enterprise Zone program.
According to Voice of OC: “The company, Anaheim Arena Management, can take advantage of the tax break because it is within the city's enterprise zone, a program designed to spur investment and job growth in economically depressed areas. Last week, the workers were given notice, effective June 30, that they will lose their jobs when the company ends its contract with Aramark, the Honda Center's longtime food service concessionaire. On Tuesday, the company announced it will hire 500 new workers for food jobs at the city-owned arena, which is home to the National Hockey League’s Anaheim Ducks.”
Gerrardo came here from Mexico nearly 20 years ago. He has three children (the oldest is 14, and the youngest is 2), and when he talks about his good union job painting homes and buildings in the Oakland area, he beams with pride. For Gerrardo, having a secure job where he can earn enough to take care of his family is what the American Dream is all about — and he wants other families to have those same opportunities as well.
Yesterday, as Gerrardo marched alongside thousands of other immigrant workers, students, advocates, supporters and families with small children at the May Day march in East Oakland, he described what motivated him to take to the streets:
After our huge political victories in 2012, the California Labor movement is setting its sights on a year of major legislative accomplishments in 2013. From corporate tax breaks to immigration reform to environmental protections and health care, we’re working with hundreds unions across the state to move one of our most aggressive legislative campaigns in California history.
Yesterday, more than 600 labor leaders and union activists gathered in Sacramento for California Labor’s annual Joint Legislative Conference, co-sponsored by the California Labor Federation and the State Building & Construction Trades Council. This action-packed two-day event is an intensive crash-course on all of the vital pieces of legislation that Labor is seeking to pass this year in California, and it also gives participants the chance to lobby their legislators directly in support of Labor’s legislative agenda.
Yesterday morning, State Senator Jerry Hill unveiled his new legislation to fix the enterprise zone system at a press conference outside the old VWR facility in Brisbane. The location held significant meaning for the laid-off workers in attendance, many of whom worked at that facility for several decades.
“The California Enterprise Zone program has cost the state over $4 billion dollars, and it has cost these workers their livelihood,” Sen Hill said. “We all stood here 2 years ago in effort to prevent VWR from relocating from Brisbane to Visalia. Since then, over 200 local VWR workers have lost their jobs. As taxpayers, these same workers helped fund the enterprise zone credit that helped pay for their replacements.”
There aren’t a whole lot of journalists who cover the “union beat;” writer Philip Dine is one of the rare few. He has reported on unions and organized labor for 25 years, covering events ranging from local labor-management issues to the largest strike by black workers in Mississippi’s history, the key role of aerospace workers in our civilian and military aviation industries, the rise of public-sector unionism, labor’s national political efforts, the little-known role of American labor in assisting the fledgling democratic unions in Eastern Europe before the Wall fell, and more. He just released a new edition of his eye-opening book, “State of the Unions,” which offers an incisive look at not just the evolution of the Labor Movement itself over the last few decades, but also at the widespread misconceptions that have surfaced about organized Labor, and what we can do to change the way the public perceives unions.
“Democracy cannot function unless all men and women, regardless of their skin color or where they were born, can participate meaningfully in the political process with full rights and equal protections.”
That’s the message that the San Francisco Labor Council proclaimed last month when they passed a resolution in support of a “Roadmap to Citizenship” for aspiring Americans. Now, the 100,000 working families that the San Francisco Labor Council represents are joining that commitment to equality by working with community partners—including civil rights, human rights and immigrant rights organizations—to promote citizenship for 11 million immigrant aspiring citizens.
This time last year, hundreds of California families were losing their homes to foreclosure every day. 700,000 families were on the brink of foreclosure, and one-third were underwater in their mortgages, due in large part to shady lending practices that Big Banks employed to rob families of their homes.
But a lot can change in a year, and a new report released this week has found the number of foreclosures in California has dropped dramatically.
According to the Los Angeles Times, “On Tuesday, the real estate website ForeclosureRadar.com reported a 60.5% decline in the number of default notices issued in California in January compared with December. The number of default notices – the first formal step in the state's foreclosure process – that were issued fell 77.7% from January 2012. A total of 4,500 such filings were logged last month, the lowest number since at least September 2006, when the website's records begin.”
Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid (which we call Medi-Cal in CA) are literally a lifeline to our nation’s seniors, those with disabilities and low-income workers. Yet, Republicans in Congress are now threatening these vital programs by proposing devastating, unnecessary cuts as part of a manufactured “debt crisis.”
We all have someone in our lives who relies on some aspect of the social safety net to survive. Maybe it’s a grandparent who worked tirelessly for decades to support your family and is now able retire thanks to Social Security. Maybe it’s the sick child of a low-income family friend who wouldn’t be able to afford medical treatment without Medi-Cal. Maybe it’s a disabled neighbor who needs Medicare to pay for life-saving medications. Maybe it’s your spouse, or your child, or your parent… or you.
Legendary musician, union activist, Emmy-winning producer, skilled soccer player and social justice hero Jon Fromer passed away on January 2nd at his Mill Valley home after a long battle with cancer. He was 66 years old. Jon leaves behind his dedicated trade-union and social activist wife, Mary Fromer, who stood side by side with Jon throughout his career, and was a life partner who did everything in her power to defeat the cancer that took her husband. In addition, their son Mark and other family members who surrounded Jon with love in his struggle are mourning the loss of the hero who brought joy to all their lives.
We may not find out who’s really behind the Americans for Responsible Leadership's money in time for Tuesday’s election, but it’s safe to assume these dark-money mystery donors from out of state simply do not have California’s best interest at heart. They don’t understand what it’s like to see your kid’s school close before your very eyes. They’ve never struggled to make a tuition payment that’s ballooned 100% or more. And in all likelihood, their children will probably never even set foot inside a California classroom.
This isn’t their election. These aren’t their schools. And they can’t prevail if we harness the grassroots power of millions of working women and men.
When the Koch Brothers tried to undo California's landmark global warming law with Prop 23, Labor united with environmental advocates, scientists and academics to stop them, because we all share the same vision for California’s clean and green economic future. Now, two years later, those same clean-energy advocates are once again uniting with California’s working families to stop the Kochs – this time by defeating Prop 32.
Not surprisingly, the deceptively named “Stop Special Interest Money” Act is now being funded by an equally deceptively named front group, the Small Business Action Committee (SBAC), which has dropped millions into Prop 32, the ballot measure that leading newspapers call “a fraud,” “a cynical ploy” and “a deceptive sham” because it would silence the voices of workers while giving corporate special interests even more power and influence.
The average voter might very well assume SBAC is actually made up of small businesses. But if you visit their website, you’ll be hard-pressed to find any reference to a single real-life small business. If you read their “Small Business Heroes” section, you’ll find a laundry list of Republican political flacks and right-wing ideologues – but you won’t find a single local business owner or mom-and-pop shop. In fact, there’s no mention of any actual small businesses anywhere on their website.
California’s teachers have witnessed firsthand the impact of what $20 billion in cuts to our educational system looks like, and it isn’t pretty. Overcrowded classrooms. Outdated textbooks. 30,000 less teachers. Fewer school days. These are the current-day realities of what was once a world-class education system.
This morning, the California Labor Federation announced its official endorsement of Prop 39 at a press conference with Prop 39 Chairman Tom Steyer in Los Angeles.
It’s no secret that union membership is on the decline. It’s also crystal clear that there is a direct correlative relationship between the decline of unions and the decline of the middle class.
In a Labor Day editorial, the Sacramento Bee raised the vital issue of the future of unions. For that we thank them. But unfortunately, the Bee did what media outlets do far too often today: perpetuate a narrow view of unions and offer prescriptions for labor’s decline that don’t reflect the real-world challenges we face. Yesterday, California Labor Federation Executive Secretary-Treasurer Art Pulaski set the record straight in a new op-ed that appeared in yesterday’s Bee.
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.
When we think about professional performers, we generally assume they’re living the glamorous life, all day, every day. But that’s not always the case. Indeed, the life of an actor, broadcaster or recording artist can be glamorous. But it can also be incredibly difficult for working performers when it comes to the everyday things, like purchasing health care insurance, or taking a rest break during a 20-hour shoot… even something as basic as removing the elaborate body paint we see so often in music videos these days can be a serious challenge.
That’s why, for decades, performers have been coming together in unions to bargain for fair protections and decent working conditions. And this year, actors and performers took their collective voice to the next level by voting overwhelmingly to merge the two biggest entertainment and media industry unions – Screen Actors Guild (SAG) and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA) — into one big union, SAG-AFTRA.
The people, united, will never be defeated! This age-old saying is more than just a union chant. It’s the core philosophy of the labor movement. . And that was on full display this week at California Labor’s 2012 Biennial Convention.
In one of our biggest conventions in recent history, upwards of 700 union delegates and leaders convened in San Francisco to learn, plan, vote and strategize on the November 2012 election and defeating Prop 32, the Special Exemptions Act.
The convention was packed with notable leaders, each one emphasizing the absolute necessity of defeating Prop 32 — not just for union members, but for the whole working class. National labor leaders from CWA, UFCW and SEIU, as well as Governor Jerry Brown and California Democratic Party Chair John Burton all addressed the convention to educate and motivate the delegates about this incredibly deceptive ballot measure.
This week, nearly 700 representatives from hundreds of unions around the state will gather in San Francisco for the all-important Biennial Convention, where they will be participating in intensive campaign planning, message training and hands-on workshops to prepare for the fight to stop Prop 32. They will also be voting on Labor’s official endorsements for the November 2012 election, in addition to hearing from special guest speakers including U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis. The convention delegates will also participate in a rally in Union Square in support of the Bring Jobs Home Act and other companion bills aimed at curbing outsourcing and bringing jobs back to the U.S.
One BILLION Dollars. That’s how much California gives away every year to big corporations, thanks to a wasteful tax loophole that actually incentivizes companies to close up shop in California and move those jobs elsewhere.
According to LA Times columnist George Skelton, “You might think a tax law that rewards companies for killing California jobs and resurrecting them in another state would be dumped. Very quickly. Especially if it also rewards them for selling off property here and rebuilding elsewhere. Or, put another way, if the law provides a tax incentive not to hire or invest in California in the first place. You'd repeal it. A no-brainer.”
Not a lot of people know how union endorsements happen, but it’s perhaps one of the most democratic processes left in the United States. Before every primary and general election, rank-and-file workers engage in the endorsement process in multiple ways, including town hall meetings and other gatherings. Workers, through their unions and central labor councils, engage in months of leg work to discern which candidates and ballot measures would protect the middle class. Unions carefully consider each candidate’s proposals for the future, and they invite every candidate to meet with workers directly, through round table discussions, candidate interviews and public forums.
It’s not often that union leaders, representatives and activists from all over the state come together to plan and execute a shared agenda for the good of all working families. That’s what makes Labor’s annual Joint Legislative Conference, sponsored by the California Labor Federation and State Building and Construction Trades Council, so special. And this year’s conference has been no exception.
More than 500 union advocates from hundreds of different unions joined together at the Sheraton Grand Hotel in Sacramento yesterday to learn about and advocate for labor’s legislative priorities for 2012. In true conference tradition, the morning plenary session kicked off with four brave workers sharing their personal stories about the exploitation and hostility they (and hundreds of thousands of other warehouse workers) face every day working at Walmart-subcontracted warehouses in the Inland Empire.
Today, more than 500 leaders and activists from hundreds of California unions are coming together in Sacramento for Labor’s 2012 Joint Legislative Conference, hosted by the California Labor Federation and the State Building and Construction Trades Council. The annual conference gives union activists from all across the state the chance to get involved in Labor’s policy-making endeavors by learning about and weighing in on our 2012 legislative agenda, hearing from key elected officials and engaging directly with legislators at the Capitol.
The hit TV series ‘1000 Ways to Die’ depicts vivid re-enactments of fatal catastrophes. But there’s a real catastrophe going on behind the scenes, as the hard-working crew of ‘1000 Ways to Die’ fights for fairness and a voice at work.
After four years of working in difficult conditions without union protections, the television crew at Spike TV's hit show decided to take a stand. Last Thursday, the crew voted unanimously to support the IATSE so they can finally secure affordable health care, safe working conditions and a fair union contract. But the employer, Original Productions, which also produces other hit reality shows such as 'Ice Road Truckers' and 'Deadliest Catch', refused to recognize the IATSE as the bargaining unit, and promptly fired more than 25 crew members.
“The labor movement was the principal force that transformed misery and despair into hope and progress. Out of its bold struggles, economic and social reform gave birth to unemployme¬nt insurance, old-age pensions, government relief for the destitute and, above all, new wage levels that meant not mere survival but a tolerable life. The captains of industry did not lead this transforma-tion; they resisted it until they were overcome.”
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr spoke these awe-inspiring words at the Illinois AFL-CIO Convention almost 50 years ago, yet his message about hope, progress and ‘bold struggles’ still rings true today — perhaps truer than ever, as we face increasingly aggressive attacks on our rights from the ‘captains of industry’ and their undue influence on our government.
The Occupy Oakland Day of Action wasn’t your typical Occupy event. As many as 10,000 people or more participated in what is reported to have been the biggest protest in the East Bay since the Vietnam War. It was peaceful, it was inspiring, it was inclusive, it was dynamic, it was diverse, and it was historic. And we’re proud to have been a part of it.
by Rebecca Greenberg Band
The face of the labor movement is changing. Gone are the mostly male unions that were so prevalent just a generation ago. Nowadays, fully 45% of all union members are women, and by 2020 women will make up the majority of the unionized workforce. Union women are powerful activists, and have begun stepping into leadership positions like never before.
This year’s “Women of Labor” conference, sponsored by the California Labor Federation and UFCW Women’s Network, brought union women from around the state together to foster solidarity and leadership for a new kind of workforce – and a new kind of labor movement. The second annual conference, which took place this week in Sacramento, drew more than 200 union women (and some men too) from right here in California and as far away as Egypt, Tunisia and Hungary.
by Rebecca Greenberg Band
Two weeks ago, the construction site of the new air traffic control tower at Oakland Airport was bustling with activity. Now, it lays completely dormant. Construction equipment sits unused. Workers wait around, hoping that today will be the day that they can go back to work. But they can’t – all because Congressional Republicans are playing politics with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reauthorization. And now, it looks like Congress won’t be acting on the FAA until they return from recess in late September.
Reauthorizing the FAA is generally a standard procedure. In fact, Congress has extended FAA funding 20 separate times without controversy. But the new wave of House Republicans have decided to hold it hostage – despite the fact that the partial shutdown of the FAA would result in $1.2 billion in lost revenue, not to mention the 90,000 workers (mostly private-sector construction workers) who will be left jobless, including as many as 5,000 here in California.
by Rebecca Greenberg Band
It’s tough to decipher political rhetoric from reality, especially when it comes to the Medicare debate. But for seniors who rely on Medicare as a lifeline, the concerns about GOP proposals to drastically reduce or eliminate the program are crystal clear.
“Will I be able to find health insurance? I’m 71 years old!”
“How can Medicare be considered an ‘entitlement’ when I paid into it all my working career?”
“Will my wife and I receive a refund of the money we have put into Medicare?”
These are just a few of the tough questions voiced by Sacramento-area seniors at today’s community town hall in Rancho Cordova, in Republican Rep. Dan Lungren’s district. For these and countless other seniors who rely on Medicare for their life-saving medical treatments, the GOP’s plot to essentially do away with the Medicare program isn’t just a political ploy — it’s a life-or-death situation.
by Rebecca Greenberg
Let’s face it – in this day and age, progress is more tech-driven than ever before. More and more forward-thinking advocates and activists are enhancing their work and broadening their campaigns through new media, blogs, email, mobile and online tools in order to reach out to new supporters and spread their message to a broader audience.
That’s the impetus for the annual Netroots Nation conference, a broad gathering of progressive bloggers and activists from across the nation, most of whom have dedicated their lives to finding new ways to use technology to support progressive causes and campaigns. This year’s Netroots Nation conference drew upwards of 2,400 participants (including this blogger) to the Minneapolis Convention Center on last week, where we spent three intense days participating in panel discussions, workshops, trainings, rallies and brainstorming sessions, and interacting with some of the most inspiring progressive leaders of our time.
by Rebecca Greenberg
In today’s political environment where “cash is king”, how can progressives stand up against the CEOs and big corporate interests with such overwhelmingly deep pockets?
The answer? Using sophisticated, cutting-edge technology to engage swing voters in innovative ways.
One of the key reasons for Meg Whitman's defeat in 2010 was labor’s sophisticated microtargeting program to identify swing voters and communicate with them on the issues they care about using a convergence of online, field, direct mail and traditional media.
Building off President Obama’s successful use of microtargeting in 2008, the Labor Federation took that technology one step further and combined it with a number of complementary tactics that played a large role in Brown’s overwhelmingly victory.
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.
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.
by Rebecca Greenberg
Most of us are familiar with the popular bumper sticker, “Labor Unions – The folks who brought you the weekend.” And yes, unions did play a pivotal role in the creation of the five-day work week. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Over the last 170 years, labor unions have done a whole lot more than just establishing the weekend. We’ve effectively served as the first line of defense against the corporations and politicians that seek to exploit working class families. We’ve fought tirelessly for better treatment for workers from all walks of life. And we’ve won some major victories along the way on issues that affect working families every day.
Most of Labor’s major accomplishments have become so engrained in our daily lives that it’s hard to imagine a time without them. In honor of May Day, which is celebrated around the world as International Workers’ Day, here are just a few of the hard-fought victories of the labor movement that we often take for granted…
by Rebecca Greenberg
“Let us rise up tonight with a greater readiness. Let us stand with a greater determination. And let us move on in these powerful days, these days of challenge to make America what it ought to be.”
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. shared these inspiring words in Memphis on April 3rd, 1968, while standing in support of striking sanitations workers — workers who were fighting for the same basic rights that are under attack in Wisconsin, Ohio, Michigan and dozens of other states across the nation. The next day, April 4th, 1968, Dr. King was shot and killed.
Although Dr. King is gone, his dream for fairness and justice for all workers lives on. In honor of the principles he fought and died for, yesterday, on the 43rd anniversary of MLK’s death, working people came out en masse at more than 1,000 events across the nation, to honor the legacy of MLK by standing up for workers’ rights and speaking out against the right-wing attacks on the middle class.
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.”
by Rebecca Greenberg
Each and every California state legislator received a very special Valentine personally delivered by a Teamster yesterday – a box of chocolates with an important message: Stop the Sweetheart Enterprise Zone deals!
The Teamsters know firsthand the negative effects of the wasteful and failed Enterprise Zone program. VWR (a medical distribution company in Brisbane), was recently bought by a private equity firm that told union workers at the company that it was closing the Brisbane operation and moving to Visalia, which is in a Targeted Tax Area, part of the Enterprise Zone program. VWR refused to allow workers to relocate and offered little severance. The new jobs in Visalia are low-wage with few benefits. The economic impact on Brisbane and the workers employed at VWR is devastating. And because of the Enterprise Zone tax credit, California taxpayers are on the hook to pay for the move and resulting job loss.
by Rebecca Greenberg
On Monday at precisely 11:19 a.m., Governor Schwarzenegger’s seemingly endless term finally came to a close as Jerry Brown was officially sworn in as our once and current Governor. And right away, it became clear that Governor Brown is about to usher in into a whole new era of California politics.
Unlike Schwarzenegger — who spent his inaugurals hobnobbing with corporate lobbyists and courting wealthy donors — Governor Brown instead chose to head straight to the People’s Inauguration Party on the Capitol lawn, sponsored by the Orange County Employees Association, where he munched on a free hot dog alongside thousands of working Californians who came out to celebrate the occasion. Later in the afternoon, Governor Brown made a surprise appearance at the California Labor Federation’s own inauguration celebration, where he warmly greeted and mingled with the union activists and leaders who were instrumental in the 2010 campaign.
by Rebecca Greenberg
It’s been a tough year on a lot of fronts. Economic recovery has been slow, and job growth has been even slower. Furloughs, layoffs and wage freezes have become all too common. Working families are being forced to do more with less, and Schwarzenegger’s devastating budget cuts have made a bad situation even worse.
But despite these hurdles, California’s unions and workers are out there every day, fighting to make our state a better place to live, work and raise a family, and we’ve accomplished some truly remarkable things over the last 12 months. As 2010 comes to close, let’s take a look back at some of our favorite moments from the last year.
By Rebecca Greenberg
This year, unions stepped up like never before to beat back Meg Whitman's corporate takeover of California. Over the course of the campaign, Labor engaged more than 2 million California union members with broad grassroots efforts that included 30,000 volunteers making millions of contacts — on the phone, at the door and at the worksite — to expose Whitman's Wall Street agenda. As a result of a massive program by the California Labor Federation, Central Labor Councils and affiliated unions, union members had a key impact on Tuesday’s election results.
by Rebecca Greenberg
There’s no amount of money that can compete with real, grassroots enthusiasm and mobilization, and never has that been more apparent than it is today. Thanks to the commitment and activism of California’s working families, Main Street candidate JERRY BROWN triumphed over failed CEO Meg “Wall Street” Whitman by 13 points, despite Whitman’s record-breaking $180 million campaign. And Senator BARBARA BOXER’s victory over HP ex-CEO and notorious job killer Corporate Carly Fiorina ensured the continuation of a Democratic majority in the Senate.
by Rebecca Greenberg
We come from all walks of life. Some of us are students, some are workers, and some are jobless. Some of us are laden with student debt. Some of us work to support our children, some work to support our parents. Some of us have had to postpone starting a family, and some of us have had to move back in with our parents just to make ends meet. But we all have one thing in common — we are the young voters of California. And it’s time for us to flex our muscle at the polls, take control of California’s future and fight off the right wing’s attempt at a hostile corporate takeover of our state.
Those figures come as no surprise. Throughout the course of the debate, Brown was warm, thoughtful, intelligent and even funny at times, while Whitman was cold, scripted and over-rehearsed, and her attempted jokes flopped with the audience. But more notably, Brown laid out a clear and executable game plan to create jobs and get California back on track, while Whitman completely failed to offer any real insight as to how she would implement all of her unrealistic policy proposals.
Much like her CEO pal Meg “Wall Street” Whitman, GOP Senate candidate “Corporate” Carly Fiorina has been pretending to be a friend to Latinos as of late, in a cynical ploy to garner votes.
But the more Latinos learn about the real Carly, the less they like. The fact is, Fiorina’s positions on the issues that Latinos care most about, like immigration, jobs, education and health care, put her in direct opposition to Latino values and California values.
by Rebecca Greenberg
Over the last 20 years, at least 2,754 union workers in Colombia have been murdered, simply for exercising their right to organize, bargain collectively and, if necessary, strike. In 2009, 48 Colombian union workers were killed, and 29 have already been murdered this year.
Today, California state legislators took action to block former President Geroge's W. Bush's trade agreement with Colombia by voting to approve Assembly Joint Resolution 27, sponsored by Assemblymember Alberto Torrico (D-Fremont), which urges the U.S. Congress to oppose the Colombia Free Trade agreement.
by Rebecca Greenberg
Where does Meg Whitman stand on immigration? Well, that all depends on when she’s being asked, where she’s being asked, and who is doing the asking.
By our count, Whitman has changed her position on immigration at least five times since announcing her candidacy. And in her cynical ploy to mask her true positions, Whitman managed to alienate both the left and the right… and certainly isn’t making a case to Latinos. A recent poll shows that Jerry Brown still has a commanding lead among Latinos — 42 percent for Brown compared to just 18 percent for Whitman.
This worksite outreach effort is one of hundreds happening around the state. More than 250,000 flyers are being distributed at union worksites throughout California this week, and hundreds of thousands more will be distributed by Election Day. Our goal is to reach out to a million union members at work between now and November. We may be outspent, but we will never be out-organized.
The idea of Big Oil and Wall Street coming together in an effort to wage a hostile corporate takeover of our state was too unnerving for some South Bay workers, who protested outside the fundraiser in Los Gatos with signs and chants, saying “Sam and Meg, you shall fail – California is not for sale!”
by Rebecca Greenberg
Imagine labor, business and government representatives all working together towards a common goal — to develop a sustainable, clean energy economy that will create quality green jobs while simultaneously alleviating our dependence of fossil fuels. If this sounds unlikely to you, then you’ve obviously never been to our ‘Building Workforce Partnerships’ conference.
Imagine a new project that would create hundreds of thousands of new jobs, curb greenhouse gas emissions and reduce traffic, all at the same time. Imagine getting from San Francisco to LA in just 2.5 hours, without the hassle of sitting traffic or dealing with airport security. Now stop imagining, because all that is about to become reality in California, as we begin development of the all-new high-speed rail.
by Rebecca Greenberg
Despite being on the job as Speaker of the Assembly for just a week, John A. Pérez isn’t wasting any time tackling the huge challenges California faces. Last night at Labor’s Joint Legislative Conference in Sacramento, Pérez detailed his plan to fix the broken budget process and deal with California’s jobs crisis.
A pragmatic optimist, Pérez has a strategic but hopeful vision for California’s future, and that vision includes a statewide, grassroots effort to make sure all Californians have a chance to make their voices heard on the issues that matter most to them.
by Rebecca Greenberg
From health care to job creation, workers’ rights to corporate accountability, Senator Barbara Boxer has steadfastly remained 100% committed to the issues that matter most to California’s working families. And that was never more clear than it was today at Labor’s Joint Legislative Conference.
More than 700 California workers rose to their feet as Sen. Boxer outlined a vision for long-term economic recovery and job creation. Sen. Boxer, a longtime labor warrior, highlighted her partnership with the labor movement in passing important worker protections and economically progressive policies.
by Rebecca Greenberg
Twenty-five thousand jobs and $2.3 billion dollars. That’s what California stands to lose if Toyota follows through with its plan to shut down the New United Motor Manufacturing, Inc. (NUMMI), plant in Fremont at the end of the month, according to a study released today by a Blue Ribbon Commission. The Commission, appointed by State Treasurer Bill Lockyer, was tasked with assessing the economic, social, and environmental costs of Toyota’s planned closure of the state’s only auto assembly plant.
by Rebecca Greenberg
For more than 25 years, thousands of workers in northern California have committed their lives to producing high-quality Toyotas at the Bay Area’s New United Motor Manufacturing Inc (NUMMI) auto plant, and hundreds of thousands of car-buying Californians have made Toyota the #1 car company in the state. So when Toyota announced last year that it plans to close down the NUMMI plant on April 1, 2010, the company dealt an undeserved punch in the gut to California’s workers and consumers, not to mention our state’s already faltering economy.