Remembering Cesar Chavez

The Napa I grew up in is probably not the place you'd come to spend a long weekend winetasting. Real Napa, as we call it, is not glamorous or exclusive. In the old days, my dad says, “it used to be a place where poor kids could grow up in the country.”  Today, even with the fancy restaurants and expensive tourist shops, Napa is still an agricultural town at heart, which means it is a farmworker community.

My mother-in-law, Emma, started working as a farmworker at the age of 19. The daughter of a bracero, she joined her father in Napa to work beside him in the fields. A few years in, everything changed. A young organizer named Cesar Chavez came to town. At first workers were scared but they were soon inspired to make a better life by joining the farmworkers union.  As longtime worker advocate Aurelio Hurtado recalls, “He had a simple message: we're people and are not afraid of anything when it comes to our future. We're here to work, not to beg.” 

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Family Caregivers Should be Thanked, Not Ridiculed

I am a small businessman from California, a retired Air Force Reserve member and a lifelong Republican. I am also a single dad and an In Home Supportive Services (IHSS) home care provider for my 29-year-old daughter Barbara. Our lives changed forever one dark night in 1996 when Barbara — then only 14 — was involved in a horrific accident caused by a drunk driver. While she survived, she had to have a portion of her brain removed. From that day on, she has been physically disabled and requires 24-hour constant care.

Fifteen years ago, my small business was booming. Today, I earn $10 an hour caring for my daughter. When I can find small jobs, I am able to earn some additional revenue to help pay the bills. I consider myself fortunate. For many caregivers, IHSS is their only source of income. Without these caregivers, thousands more people would be forced into nursing homes or other institutions. Since nursing home care costs at least five times more than IHSS home care, do the math! This program saves California taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars a year. Despite what opponents say, IHSS is a budget solution, not a budget problem.

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Tens of Thousands March in LA to Demand Good Jobs and Stand with Wisconsin Workers

by Caroline O'Connor

The people of Wisconsin ignited a fire inside working people and students across the U.S. and that fire has spread to Los Angeles.  On Saturday, March 26, more than 20,000 people took to the streets of downtown L.A. to demand good jobs and stand with workers in Wisconsin and other states who are fighting to protect collective bargaining. This was the largest action led by L.A. labor in recent history.

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Rants & Raves for the Week of March 21st

* Sen. Dutton proposes $1 billion in tax breaks for corporations * GOP governors attack unemployment benefits * Maine Gov. LePage tries to erase workers' legacy * House Republicans seek to deny food stamps to families of striking workers *

* Anthem Blue Cross cuts proposed rate hike in half * Helath care reform celebrates one-year anniversary * Senate Labor Committee rejects attacks on 8-hour day * Wisconsin Court of Appeals affirms Milwaukee's paid sick days ordinance * 

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California GOP Legislative Wish List Targets Workers’ Rights and Jobs

As Californians hold our collective breath hoping for a budget breakthrough, so far there's not a Republican vote to be found. GOP legislators won't support new revenue, they won't vote for the cuts they claim they want, and they won't close corporate tax breaks. Months of budget stalemate prompted Governor Brown to ask, “If they're not going to do anything, why even take a paycheck?”

Turns out, Republicans have had a few other things on their to-do list this month. The downside is that just about everything they want to do just makes life harder for working people in California. While they don't seem to care about a balanced budget, here are a few things that Republicans would like to do for the people of California…

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International Labor Leaders Join Working Families to March Through LA on ‘Solidarity Saturday’

Mark your calendars – March 26th will be a day that workers' voices are heard all around the globe!  “Solidarity Saturday” starts with a massive march through Los Angeles beginning at the Convention Center and ending at Pershing Square, featuring international labor leaders from across the United States and everyday working people who are fighting for a stronger middle class and good jobs. The same day, protests will be held in Wisconsin and Iowa, and even in the London, where workers are fighting drastic layoffs and students are rising up against crippling budget cuts to schools. These events are all leading up to the massive Nationwide Day of Action on April 4th.

Working families are coming together and standing strong to hold onto our most basic worker rights, and to protect the middle class way of life that has been created through collective bargaining.

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100 Year Later, Lessons from the Triangle Fire Still Ring True

Today marks the 100th anniversary of one of the worst preventable workplace tragedies in U.S. history- the Triangle shirtwaist factory fire. On March 25, 1911, some 146 workers — mostly immigrant women and girls as young as 14 — perished  when a fire broke out in the New York City sweatshop. Because managers had locked a  critical exit, many workers were trapped inside as they sought to flee the fire. Others jumped to their deaths as horrified onlookers watched.

This shameful event strengthened the garment workers union and galvanized social movements and reform. Many of the workplace standards and protections that we now take for granted rose from the ashes of that fire. These gains didn’t happen by themselves, and must continually be renewed. Today’s workers are under attack. Corporate interests and their  political allies are trying to roll back fundamental protections, from  the right of workers to take collective action to effective enforcement  of workplace standards. And in the meanwhile, too many preventable  worker deaths, illnesses, and injuries continue to occur.

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Time for a Reality Check in California’s Pension Talks

It is absolutely worthwhile to consider how to ensure that California's public pension systems remain on a sound footing and able to provide a secure retirement for public workers. But issues about the cost/benefit of public employee pensions have become a major point of contention in the heated debate on how to fix California's state budget problems. Pension-spiking poster children, manufactured data supposedly showing huge unfunded liabilities and false charges of labor intransigence have cast a dark cloud over public pensions.

For instance, a common claim is that pension costs will bankrupt state government. In fact, the entire costs of pensions for state workers in 2011 will be $3.5 billion, barely 4% out of an $85 billion budget. Add CalSTRS and the total is not even 6% of the budget. If we paid zero into public employee pensions and eliminated them altogether, we would not come close to solving the budget deficit.

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Happy Birthday Health Care Reform—Don’t Let Republicans Spoil the Party

Today is the first anniversary of the landmark Affordable Care Act that has already helped tens of millions of Americans acquire or receive better health care and that has reined in health insurance companies’ most abusive practices.

A recent report finds that the new health care reform law will mean thousands of dollars in health insurance premium savings and out-of-pocket health care costs for working families. For example, middle-class families purchasing private insurance in the new state-based Health Insurance Exchanges could save as much as $2,300 per year in 2014 and a family of four with an income of $33,525 could save as much as $14,900 per year since they also will qualify for tax credits and reduced cost sharing.

Yet congressional Republicans keep trying to repeal health care reform. What are they against?  Take a look at just some of the Affordable Care Act’s benefits repeal would destroy.

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Solidarity Abounds at Labor’s 2011 Joint Legislative Conference

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.”

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