Budget Shocker: L.A. Shows $119 Million Surplus

Gary Cohn

For five years a chorus of voices has been predicting bankruptcy for Los Angeles, while often calling for deeper cuts to city employee pensions. Today, however, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa proposed a budget for Fiscal Year 2013-2014 that includes a one-time surplus of $119 million. While some of that surplus would rely on additional pay and benefit reductions for city workers, even without such cuts the city would have a projected surplus of close to $100 million.

“It’s better than seeing the light at the end of the tunnel – we’re almost out of the tunnel!” Matt Szabo, Mayor Villaraigosa’s deputy chief of staff, told Frying Pan News in an interview last week.

Read More

More Bang for the Tax Dollar: Building Schools and Careers in San Diego

Susan Duerksen

Inside a tangle of scaffolding that rises above the modest homes of a south-central San Diego neighborhood, a new energy-efficient school is taking shape.

On the second floor of the skeletal structure, a young man in a hardhat carefully measures and bends a metal conduit to a precise angle. Then he climbs a ladder and connects the thin pipe to an electrical switch box on the ceiling, where it eventually will hold wires over the heads of middle-school students.

The young worker is Artem Voloshanovskiy. A year ago, he was selling used cars and wondering where his life was headed. Now he's an apprentice with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW). At age 22, he's learning a trade and building a solid career while proudly helping build a state-of-the-art school.

Read More

Our Values @Work: IBEW 569 and San Diego Building Trades Support Affordable Housing

and the middle class is shrinking, Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 569 and the San Diego County Building and Construction Trades Council are doing their part to help working families not only survive, but thrive in the face of significant economic obstacles. The Southern California-based unions operate the National City Park Apartments, which support low- to moderate-income families by providing affordable housing in a nice, but expensive, neighborhood.

Read More

Pulaski in OC Register: “Enterprise Zone Boondoggle”

Steve Smith

What’s wrong with California’s enterprise zone (EZ) program? In today’s Orange County Register, California Labor Federation leader Art Pulaski lays it out. And it’s a long and ugly list.

In an op-ed titled “Enterprise Zone Boondoggle,” Pulaski blasts the EZ program as a “bloated mess of wasteful government spending” that’s costing taxpayers more than $700 million a year without creating new jobs. “Tax credits can make California more competitive, if done properly. But when a wasteful government program like enterprise zones picks winners and losers, takes money out of our schools, encourages low-wage hires over middle-class jobs and does nothing to provide incentive to create new jobs, we call that a boondoggle,” Pulaski wrote.

Read More

Workers Rally at State Capitol to End Corporate Gravy Train

Steve Smith

Hundreds of workers descended on the Capitol yesterday as part of the California Labor Federation’s legislative conference lobby day with a simple message for both Democrats and Republicans in office: “End the Corporate Gravy Train.” They were referring to the state’s wasteful enterprise zone program, which takes money away from schools, infrastructure and other valuable services to line the pockets of corporate CEOs at Walmart and other large, profitable corporations.

Read More

Hundreds of Union Leaders and Activists Descend on Sacramento to Support Labor’s Legislative Agenda

Rebecca Band

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.

Read More

Assemblymember Hernández Announces Investigation of Marquez Brothers After Worker Firing

Steve Smith

Marquez Brothers International, a cheese facility, is about as anti-worker as they come. The company has a repeatedly harassed its employees for standing up for basic rights like safe working conditions and fair pay.

The situation at Marquez Brothers got so bad that last month Assemblymember Roger Hernández, chair of the Labor and Employment, held an oversight hearing on the harassment of immigrant workers by unscrupulous employers like Marquez. Marquez responded to the scrutiny by doubling down on their anti-worker campaign. One of the Marquez Brothers workers who attended the hearing was fired earlier this week.

Read More

How Organizing for a Union Changed My Life

Orlando Ayala

I was recently accused of thinking with my heart and not with my head, of letting my passions and outrage get the best of me and guide my actions. At the time, this wasn’t a compliment. But these traits have served me well. If not for them, I may not have crossed multiple borders seeking a better life in the U.S., or been driven to action by the outrage I felt at seeing injustices suffered by the thousands of port truck drivers at the largest port in the country.

Doing away with those injustices — starting at my company, Toll — was something that I and dozens of my co-workers embarked on two years ago. We weren’t foolish enough to think that it was going to be easy, but we decided to organize and fight for improved working conditions, better wages and union recognition anyway.

Read More

Immigration Reform Alone Won’t End Workplace Wrongs

Victor Narro

The national discussion on immigration reform is heating up now that the “Gang of Eight” plans to release its detailed version of the Senate bill. As with similar efforts in past years to pass comprehensive immigration reform through Congress, the draft legislation to start the process will undergo massive changes as legislators debate the issue, especially as it moves into the House of Representatives. Yet one point has received considerably less attention in the national debate, but will probably make the most difference to most immigrants and the economy– the enforcement of workplace rights.

I have been involved in the debate on immigration reform now for more than 25 years, since the passage of the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA). I have seen the demographics of the country shift and have witnessed this debate in many stages and from many perspectives.

Read More

The San Diego Nine Walk in the Footsteps of Martin Luther King

Jim Miller

The San Diego Nine picked the perfect week for a hunger strike.  They may not have known it, but the ghosts of Memphis were haunting the Mission Valley Hilton.  What’s the connection?

Last week was the 45th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who was murdered in Memphis where he had gone to support striking sanitation workers.  As I noted in my column for Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday in January, the real MLK is frequently neglected in favor of a distorted picture of a vanilla saint who just wanted us all to get along.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

Read More