Stacey Hendler Ross
In the working class East San Jose neighborhood where Cesar Chavez’s family first landed upon moving to San Jose when he was a child, a small but passionate group gathered. In front of the home of Cesar’s younger brother, Librado Chavez, a carpenter and member of Local 405 for 60 years, they chanted the motto that Cesar transformed from “Sal, si puede” (Get out if you can) to “Si se puede” (Yes you can).
After songs like “Picket Line”, harkening back to the days of demonstrations led by Cesar Chavez, Librado urged Americans to join the critical effort to push the U.S. Congress toward commonsense immigration reform.
Stacey Hendler Ross
Working families in Silicon Valley are celebrating a huge victory today, after former South Bay Labor Council Executive Officer Cindy Chavez was elected last night to fill a vacant spot on the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors in District 2. Chavez won more than 55% of the vote in the special election runoff against Santa Clara Valley Water District communications manager Teresa Alvarado, who brought in a little more than 44 percent of the vote.
“This election is another step toward addressing the critical unmet needs of working families in Silicon Valley,” said Ben Field, Executive Officer of the South Bay Labor Council. “Voters embraced Cindy’s vision of a County government that focuses on the safety and health of the community.”
Stacey Hendler Ross
SEIU United Service Workers West (USWW) held a noisy rally outside a meeting of Apple shareholders Wednesday. The union is working to organize over 2,500 security officers in Silicon Valley.
Inside the shareholders meeting at Apple's Cupertino headquarters, Labor Council Executive Officer Ben Field questioned Apple CEO Tim Cook about the deplorable conditions under which his company's security officers work. The officers are employed by Security Industry Specialists, Inc. (SIS.), which provides contract security services for Apple and other high tech giants in the Valley.
Stacey Hendler Ross
The South Bay AFL-CIO Labor Council announced the election of Ben Field as the organization’s new Executive Officer. Field will succeed Cindy Chavez, who led the labor organization starting in 2008. Chavez is leaving the position to focus on her duties as Executive Director of Working Partnerships USA, a non-profit public policy think-tank.
Serving as Chief of Staff for the past three and a half years, Field has been responsible for running the largest, most sophisticated, grassroots political campaign operation in the South Bay. He oversees political campaign work carried out by the Committee on Political Education (COPE) advocating for candidates and public policies that are good for working families.
On Tuesday, San Jose voters overwhelmingly approved a measure to increase the minimum wage in the city from $8 to $10 an hour. Measure D drew 58% of the vote in a race where opponents outspent supporters by more than 2 to 1. The San Jose Silicon Valley Chamber of Commerce pledged to raise more than a million dollars to keep businesses from having to pay their minimum wage workers $2 more an hour, but San Jose residents proved the increase was the right thing to do.
San Jose State sociology students, led by their professor, Scott Myers Lipton, came up with the idea and quickly drew the support of labor, non-profits and community leaders to bring the initiative to the ballot box.
Through hip-hop, 'spoken word' poetry and music, one strong message permeated a room full of worker advocates and supporters last night in San Jose: “It’s time for Ten!” they cheered, voicing their support for a November ballot measure that would increase the minimum wage in San Jose to $10/hour.
The event, held at IBEW Local 332, featured National AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Liz Shuler (herself an IBEW member) who flew in from Washington, D.C. to throw her support behind the minimum wage campaign, which was launched by a San Jose State University sociology class and has drawn the support of hundreds from community groups, businesses, elected officials and individuals. Secretary-Treasurer Shuler offered her unwavering endorsement of the increase as she lauded the group of young activists who launched the minimum wage effort.
At a public hearing that stretched late into the evening, hundreds of supporters urged the city council to adopt the wage increase immediately. Those outspoken supporters included the owner of a downtown institution, Emile’s Restaurant.
“This will do nothing but drive the economy here,” said Alexandra Dorian, owner of Emile’s who says she already pays her employees above the $10 minimum the new measure would establish.
Despite apparent efforts by the San Jose/Silicon Valley Chamber of Commerce to twist the potential effects of an increased minimum wage, the city-wide minimum wage measure is now one step closer to reality. The San Jose City Council voted yesterday to study the fiscal impact of the issue, and several council members voiced their support for adopting the ordinance outright, avoiding a public vote.
The Council directed city staff to include a memo from Council Member Donald Rocha to make sure council has a clear view of how the measure would affect workers and local businesses before they decide whether to adopt it or send it on to voters in November.
What started as a school project for a San Jose State University sociology class has turned into an organized campaign to change San Jose law regarding what lowest hourly wage workers must be paid.
A coalition of community organizations and social justice groups is supporting the campaign to raise the minimum wage in San Jose from $8 to $10 an hour. Supporters of the initiative were required to collect a little over 19,000 signatures to qualify the measure for the November 2012 ballot. They have collected more than 35,000, which were delivered to the San Jose City Clerk’s office for verification.
After more than 2 hours of angry public testimony and a contentious debate among council members, the San Jose City Council voted 8 to 3 to go forward with an illegal ballot measure on pension reform in the June 5 Primary Election.
Council members essentially ignored the pleas of dozens of city workers, community leaders and other San Jose residents to allow further negotiations with city workers and a state audit to establish clear future pension obligations, before bringing the issue to voters. The ballot measure would effectively kill collective bargaining rights for city workers.
What began as a class project has turned into a formal effort to get an initiative on the November ballot that would raise the minimum wage in San Jose by 25 percent, from $8 to $10 an hour. Students from a San Jose State University sociology class decided wages for working people in San Jose weren’t covering even the minimum needs, and they took the project into the real world.
Leila McCabe is a senior who was in Scott Myers-Lipton's Social Action class last semester and has worked several low-paying jobs. She told the San Jose Mercury News, “We're all struggling with paying rent and bills. To find out San Jose is behind in paying people better wages was a shock to us.”