California Labor’s Top Moments of 2010

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:

Health Care Reform Becomes Law!
In an unprecedented show of support, thousands of working families across the state reached out to their legislators, and that steadfast commitment is the reason why every Democratic member of Congress from California voted in favor of the landmark health care reform bill.

California Assembly Votes to Oppose Colombia Free Trade Deal!
Thanks to pressure from the local and international labor movements, our lawmakers took a stand against the injustice, the violence and the murder of thousands of union workers in Colombia who have been targeted simply for exercising their right to organize into unions and bargain collectively.

The March for California’s Future!
A small but dedicated group of teachers and civil servants marched through the Central Valley for 48 days and 250 miles, giving up all comfort and camping on the road in a landmark effort to draw attention to the plight of our public school system and renew the call for a fair government and economy that works for all.

California Wal-Mart Workers Win Historic Wage Settlement! It's not often that workers can proclaim victory over Wal-Mart, but this spring, hundreds of thousands of exploited Wal-Mart workers finally came out on top when the fiercely anti-union retail giant agreed to settle a class action lawsuit with 232,000 California Wal-Mart workers who were collectively denied over $86 million in overtime, vacation pay and other wages they had earned and deserved under the law.

Carwash Owners Jailed For Sweatshop Conditions! Two of Los Angeles’ worst carwash owners –brothers Benny and Nissan Pirian—were each sentenced to one year in jail over the summer, due to their abhorrent treatment of their workers. The arrests would not have happened if not for the non-stop efforts and complaints filed by the Carwasheros and the CLEAN Car Wash campaign.

The “Good Jobs Express” Tour! Unemployed iron workers Robert Escalera and Larry Greenhagen led the three-day whirlwind tour from Anaheim to Sacramento in support of California’s high-speed rail project and the hundreds of thousands of jobs it would bring to our state, as well as the candidates – like Jerry Brown and Barbara Boxer — who are firmly committed to making the rail a reality.

Billions Secured to Build California’s High-Speed Rail! Speaking of high-speed rail, this year California secured more funding for this vital job-creating transportation project than any other state in the nation. In January, California secured $2.25 billion in federal high-speed rail funds; in October, the state received another $1 billion in federal funding for rail projects; and last month, another $624 million in federal rail funds was diverted to California from Wisconsin and Ohio — all in addition to the nearly $10 billion that California voters approved for the rail project on the November 2008 ballot. Jobs are on the way!

Workers Defeat Meg “Wall Street” Whitman! All across California, workers came together like never before to fight the hostile corporate takeover of our state. Unions played a critical role in the effort to defeat Meg from the California Nurses Association’s “Queen Meg” character — which dogged Whitman throughout the campaign — to union-led efforts to engage Latinos like never before to the massive GOTV program Labor carried out. In the end, Whitman’s hundreds of millions of dollars were no match for the creativity and grassroots energy of California’s workers.

The “Clean Sweep” 2010 Election! The celebration doesn’t end with Jerry Brown’s landslide victory over Meg Whitman. Every single one of Labor’s other endorsed candidates for statewide office came out on top this November, shutting down the “red tide” that swept the nation at California’s borders.

Thanks to the hard work and dedication of California’s working families, our state is in far better shape now than we were at this time last year. We want to express our deepest gratitude to the working people who have fought to make our state the greatest in the nation.

 We’d also like to give a shout-out to just a few of the workers who in 2010 have fought for justice and fairness in the face of greedy and hostile employers:

  • Rite Aid Warehouse Workers in Lancaster (ILWU)
  • San Francisco Hotel Workers (UNITE HERE 2)
  • LA Carwash Workers (USW/CWOC)
  • Airport Transportation Security Officers (AFGE)
  • Blue Cross Administrative Workers (OPEIU 29)
  • UC Post-Doctoral Researchers (UAW/PRO)
  • Boron Mine Workers (ILWU)
  • State Workers (SEIU 1000, AFSCME, CSEA, CFT and others)
  • KGTV Channel 10 Workers in San Diego (NABET-CWA 59054)
  • Castlewood Country Club Workers in Pleasanton (UNITE HERE 2)
  • Crew members of 'The Biggest Loser' (IATSE)
  • Nurses in Watsonville and Oakland (CNA)

Your dedication and strength are an inspiration to us all.

Now, on to an ever brighter new year — With Schwarzenegger on the way out and Jerry Brown on the way in, things are already looking up!