LA educators today are standing together with the community to fight for smaller class sizes, more counselors and librarians, fair wages and a quality education for every student in LAUSD. Striking is always a last resort and it takes extraordinary courage to risk everything to do what’s right. That’s exactly what more than 30,000 United […]
Steve Smith is Director of Communications at the California Labor Federation. Follow him on Twitter @ssmith_calabor.
Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent Austin Beutner’s austerity agenda is wreaking havoc on students, parents and teachers. It’s time to take to the streets to fight back. UTLA is leading the March for Public Education on Dec. 15 in downtown LA to call for investment in public education that would give students what they […]
Imagine working side-by-side with others who have all the benefits of being an employee of a company including paid sick days, a minimum wage, workers’ comp, unemployment insurance and more. Now imagine you are doing similar work without any of those protections because your boss decided to call you an “independent contractor” instead of an […]
An army of union volunteers will fan out across California in the final four days of election 2018 to turn out voters for federal, state and local candidates who stand with working people on critical issues like health care, good jobs, infrastructure investment and resisting the toxic agenda of Donald Trump. The statewide get-out-the-vote (GOTV) […]
This week we take a closer look at another race where big money is coming in from business interests trying to buy a statewide office that’s important to working people: Insurance Commissioner. In the last week, Steve Poizner, the longtime Republican who is trying to fool voters by running as a No Party Preference (NPP) […]
With the millions of dollars being spent on ballot initiatives this fall, it’s sometimes hard to discern what’s really going on. That’s certainly the case with Prop 11, a cynical ploy by one very large corporation – American Medical Response – to undermine basic protections for first responders. Jeff Misner, an AFSCME member who worked […]
Few races this year feature a starker contrast than the race for Superintendent of Public Instruction. On one side, you have Tony Thurmond, a former school board member and current legislator with deep ties to our public schools. On the other side, you have candidate Marshall Tuck who’s a former Wall Street investment banker and […]
In California, picket lines are up at Marriott hotels in San Francisco, San Jose, San Diego and Oakland. Other locations included in the strike are Boston, Detroit and Hawaii. The strike comes after months of negotiations by UNITE HERE locals with the massive hotel chain. Contracts have expired, and the company refuses to make meaningful progress on a host of issues including providing jobs that pay a living wage, securing job protection around automation, and workplace safety.
As with many ballot initiatives, Prop 5 isn’t what it seems. Supporters are framing it as a measure to help with the housing crisis. Not even remotely true. What Prop 5 really is all about is lining the pocket of special interests at the expense of our schools, public safety and health care. One special […]
Prop 11 is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. While purporting to be about protecting public safety, it actually strips first responders of their right to meal and rest breaks, which makes their jobs more grueling and makes us all less safe. Thousands of California’s first responders are in jeopardy of losing their right to meal […]
In an overwhelming show of strength and solidarity, 98% of United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA) members voted to authorize a strike, should that action become necessary for teachers to get a fair deal from the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD). The union had a historic turnout for the vote, with more than 82% of the […]
Despite low-unemployment and a bullish stock market, working people are still losing their grasp on the American Dream. How can that be? It’s pretty simple. Corporate CEOs and the wealthy few are taking all the economic gains for themselves, while workers continue to lose ground. With a big election looming this fall, Labor Day takes […]
Voters are inundated with political noise. TV ads, mail, online solicitations, Facebook, to name a few. With control of the House of Representatives expected to be decided by a razor-thin margin, figuring out how to break through that noise is the key to winning in November. That’s what Uniting California, a project of the California […]
If you’re on dialysis – the process of cleaning the blood for those whose kidneys have failed – your life depends on receiving regular treatments. In California, 66,000 people need dialysis treatments to survive. But dialysis patient care is in crisis. Facilities – especially those accessible to low-income people – are in run-down strip malls […]
One of the most important issues voters will decide this fall is Prop 6, the repeal of SB 1. SB 1 provides significant funding for infrastructure throughout California, dramatically improving the safety of our state’s roads and bridges. California Labor Federation delegates unanimously approved a “No” on Prop 6 at our convention last month. What […]
Ron Dellums had an illustrious career in politics as a longtime congressman, former mayor of Oakland and lobbyist. For decades, he roamed the corridors of power in Washington, DC as an influential voice for those without one. Mr. Dellums, who died this week at age 82, never forgot where he came from or the people he left behind.
The California Labor Federation, representing 2.1 million union workers across the state, today announced endorsements in statewide constitutional, Assembly, Senate and congressional races and ballot measures for the November general election at California Labor’s Biennial Convention in Orange County, the epicenter of the fight for control of Congress this fall.
At its core, income inequality is simply about a lack of power among the masses and an abundance of it for a few at the top. Its real-world effects are wage stagnation, less access to health care and secure retirements and higher poverty. Throughout much of the 20th century, there was a powerful mechanism to keep inequality in check: Unions.
California’s blue wave is setting up. In recent weeks there’d been much speculation as to whether California’s nonsensical top-two primary system would throw a wrench into potential sweeping victories for candidates who support workers this fall.
Collective action is a worker’s best friend. When you stand together with your co-workers to tackle injustice on the job, you’ve got a fighting chance. Unfortunately, the Trump Administration and the conservative justices on the Supreme Court seem hell bent on taking that right away from as many workers as they can.
Carlson brought her cause to Sacramento yesterday, advocating for the passage of AB 3080 (Gonzalez Fletcher), a bill, sponsored by the California Labor Federation, that would put an end to forced arbitration in California.
Imagine going through the trauma of sexual harassment at work only to be told your story will never go public and that you must navigate a rigged system your employer controls if you want to complain.
Have you ever received an outrageously high medical bill that you wondered how you were going to pay? If you’re like most Californians, the answer is yes. What you likely don’t know is why the bill was so high to begin with.
Big corporations don’t like abiding by labor laws, like providing higher minimum wages, overtime, workplace safety or even protecting workers from racial discrimination and sexual harassment. The good news for them (and bad news for the rest of us) is that under a rigged system called forced arbitration, they don’t have to. That’s precisely why more and more corporations are turning to forced arbitration to silence their workers and skirt important worker protections that we all depend upon.
While the Trump Administration is hellbent on ripping worker protections to shreds at the federal level, the labor movement in California spent 2017 shoring up workers’ rights here and advancing a bold agenda to counter Trump’s rollbacks and make life better for millions of Californians.
We could write volumes about all the things to hate in the GOP tax bills. From ending a deduction to teachers who spend money on schools supplies, to reducing the mortgage interest deduction that many families rely upon to its huge giveaways for big corporations that they won’t use to create jobs, it’s clear that the GOP expects working people to give the wealthy few a major tax break at our expense.
Most of us will never have to stand patrol for hours in blistering desert sun and blinding sandstorms. Most of us will never know the burden of marching into the face of danger every day.
Tesla’s recent firing spree raises more serious questions about the company’s treatment of its workers. Today at the Tesla plant in Fremont, workers, elected officials, members of community groups and many more rallied inside the showroom of the facility to ask the company to reinstate every worker who was fired without just cause in the recent round of terminations.
The lack of affordable housing in California is a crisis that should be a top priority for the state legislature. In community after community, working people are being squeezed out by rapidly increasing housing costs. It’s a primary cause of poverty and homelessness, it increases carbon emissions by forcing workers into longer commutes and it forces firefighters, police and teachers to live outside of the cities they serve.
The New York Times published a chart this week that perfectly summarizes how the United States has gone from the having the healthiest middle class in the world to a land of increasing economic inequality that shuts off far too many families from the American Dream.
Today, two of California’s largest newspapers joined the growing chorus in support of SB 17 (Hernandez), a vital measure to provide transparency in prescription drug prices. The LA Times and Sacramento Bee both editorialized in favor of the bill, which would require drug companies to provide advance notice before they jack up prices, introducing a level of transparency that’s on par with every other part of the health care system.
Silicon Valley’s inequality is well documented. While the region’s technology sector is booming, many working people have been left behind. But there’s a growing movement to change that, spurred by labor unions and the Silicon Valley Rising coalition. This week cafeteria workers at Facebook voted to stand together in a union, joining tech company shuttle bus drivers, janitors, security officers and others who have unionized in the last few years.
There’s been a lot of discussion leading up to today’s expected vote in the California Legislature on the extension of the state’s cap-and-trade program. While it’s important to have thoughtful debate about big issues affecting the lives of Californians, it’s apparent that now is the time for action from our elected representatives.
Many Americans working long hours with modest pay currently don’t receive overtime pay do to an outdated formula that cheats workers. In 2016, President Obama attempted to remedy that inequity with an updated formula that raised the overtime threshold so that more workers received the pay they deserved.
There’s nothing more important on the job than safety. No one should go to work putting themselves at risk of serious injury unnecessarily. Yet, at the Tesla factory in Fremont, that’s exactly what’s happening every day.
No one should live in fear for simply going to work. Yet, for many immigrants, this is the harsh reality under President Trump’s increasingly aggressive deportation actions, which threaten California immigrant workers, employers and our state’s economy. Today the California Labor Federation, SEIU California and SEIU-USWW joined Assemblymember David Chiu and immigrant workers in San Francisco to unveil the Immigrant Worker Protection Act (AB 450), a new bill that provides protections to immigrant workers from aggressive workplace raids that violate basic rights.
Controversial Iowa Rep. Steve King is once again in hot water for espousing racist, white nationalist views, tweeting that “we can’t restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies.” He doubled down on his bigoted words over the weekend telling CNN that “I meant exactly what I said.”
Eduardo Porter of the New York Times penned an interesting column this week that posits that President Trump is missing the mark with his economic focus on the return of manufacturing instead of addressing the scourge of big corporations outsourcing full-time in-house employment to subcontractors who make those jobs low-wage and temporary by nature.
Despite the hysterical rhetoric from Republicans and corporate CEOs, California’s minimum wage increase isn’t costing our state jobs. In fact, jobs are growing and workers’ lives are improving because of the minimum wage hike according to a new report by UC Berkeley economists.
The season of giving is in full swing and California’s unions are at the forefront of the effort to help those in need. All across California, unions are working with community partners to spearhead food and toy drives and many other activities to bring holiday cheer to those who are less fortunate.
As someone who has been in the public eye for decades, Clinton has been subjected to repeated, sustained politically motivated attacks that have altered her public image. Trump and Pence have attacked her relentlessly over the last year, further clouding Clinton’s public image and leaving some voters to question who she is and what she stands for. As a result of time I spent with Secretary Clinton, then Senator Clinton, back in 2007, it’s not something I question, even for a moment.
California’s comeback from the brink of financial ruin during the Great Recession is one of the greatest success stories in a generation. While states like Kansas and Wisconsin responded to budgetary uncertainty by cutting education funding with disastrous results, California voters took a different approach, enacting Prop 30 in 2012 to boost school funding to shrink class sizes, hire teachers, bolster community colleges and fund children’s health care.
Conservatives are downright bitter about California’s jobs success since Gov. Jerry Brown took office. That success includes the creation of 2 million jobs and the state’s unemployment rate being cut in half. It includes California leading the nation in job growth, accounting for one in every six jobs created nationally during the recovery. California accomplished this comeback while passing some of the strongest bills in the country to protect working people, and increasing taxes on the very wealthy to fund our schools and invest in the future.
Today is the 23rd anniversary of the day the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) took effect and a new report shows what many of us who live and work in California already know: When it comes to supporting new and expecting families, California is the place to be.
By Steve Smith
Every year around election time, a media outlet writes about organizations asking candidates to fill out questionnaires, insinuating that there’s something unethical – if not downright sleazy – about the practice. The stories are full of loaded language calling questionnaires things like “covenants” hammered out in “secret backroom deals.”
The “chicken little” crowd of corporate CEOs and their lobbyists keeps saying anything California does to boost working people is a “job killer.” Unfortunately for them, the facts tell a very different story. Look no further than the latest unemployment figures, showing yet another drop to 5.3 percent, the lowest level since 2007.
California is the most pro-worker state in the country. We just raised the minimum wage to $15 per hour. We’re combatting against wage theft. We support stronger unions. We tackle retirement security head on. We protect immigrant workers from exploitation. The Chamber of Commerce’s nightmare is for everyone else the California Dream.
By Steve Smith
Just when you think former CEO and known job-killer Carly Fiorina has retreated from public life for good, she somehow ends up back in the spotlight.
History was made today. Gov. Brown joined legislative leaders, workers and unions to announce a deal on proposed legislation to make California the first state in America to raise its minimum wage to $15 an hour. This day was a long time in the making. Worker led movements like the Fight for 15, labor unions and community groups have been gathering momentum for several years on this issue.
by Steve Smith
This morning in Los Angeles, civil rights icon Dolores Huerta joined teachers and parents to appeal the flawed ruling in the Vergara case that would undercut public education to the detriment of the state’s 6 million students.
By Steve Smith
On Monday, West Sacramento Mayor Christopher Cabaldon, representing a fake astroturf group called the “Progressive Coalition for American Jobs,” penned a misleading op-ed in the Sacramento Bee in support of the job-killing Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Cabaldon used a study from the Peterson Institute to help make his case that the TPP is good for jobs. Unfortunately for Cabaldon, he must not have actually read the study he cited because it actually says the flawed deal wouldn’t create any jobs AND it would lead to fewer good-paying manufacturing jobs.
Today, California Labor Federation Executive Secretary-Treasurer Art Pulaski set the record straight with his own op-ed in the Bee, pointing out the many harmful effects of the deal.
By Steve Smith
The faculty members on the campuses of the California State University system give their all each and every day to teach and mentor California’s future job force. All they ask in return is a fair wage and decent benefits.
When it comes to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the operative question for Americans to ask is “Where are the Jobs?” According to two new independent analyses, they’re nonexistent.
The Obama administration, as part of its full-throated defense of the deal, is touting a new report from the Peterson Institute that claims the TPP will increase exports and raise wages. More on that specious claim in a minute. But the kicker in this report is that the TPP won’t add jobs, despite job creation being central to the Obama administration’s and big business supporters’ argument in support of the deal. In fact, the report states it will lead to “job churning” from manufacturing to service sector jobs.
By Steve Smith
There’s been a good amount of hullabaloo in recent days about a Supreme Court case that threatens to undermine the ability of working people to stand together to negotiate a fair wage and decent benefits. Oral arguments in the case, Friedrichs v CTA, were presented before the Court yesterday. The case involves the Court re-examining a 40-year precedent that allows unions to charge fair-share fees for representing those who choose not to join the union but still benefit from the contracts it negotiates.
Thousands of underpaid workers across California mobilized Tuesday in a historic show of solidarity for higher wages, social justice and equality in cities from San Diego to Sacramento.
Striking workers from McDonald’s, Burger King, and Wendy’s joined home care, child care, and other low-wage workers at a massive afternoon rallies at City Halls Tuesday afternoon – part of 500 protests nationwide to demand that elected leaders everywhere stand up for $15 an hour and union rights.
This week the Congressional Democrats released a report showing how states stack up on a range of workplace issues from minimum wage and paid sick day laws to nondiscrimination protections for LGBT workers and accommodations for pregnant workers. California made the grade, with a perfect score on the issues the report graded.
What would you do if your boss told you that either you sign away your rights or you won’t get your holiday bonus? That was the dilemma facing Steve Hamil, who worked as a machinist at a Southern California surgical device company.
Hamil’s story was detailed in Sunday’s Orange County Register…
California has long been committed to ensuring that anyone employed on a public works construction project earns a living wage. That just means the wages paid to women and men who build the public structures we all use aren’t driven into poverty. The wages are set by region based on cost of living and other factors to ensure that both workers and taxpayers are protected. It’s this kind of stability and fairness that ensures these important projects are completed on time by skilled professionals who do the job right.
Whenever we start a new job, we expect to have a stack of paperwork to fill out, with documents to sign. But what we don’t expect is for the boss to demand that we sign a document that basically nullifies our rights. Under the latest scheme to cheat workers, that’s exactly what’s happening. Just ask car wash worker Yoel Matute.
I’ll be honest…I’m not a fan of most tax breaks for businesses. More often than not, they add up to a massive giveaway to corporate CEOs that does little to nothing to create jobs or help workers. For evidence, look no further than Scott Walker’s Wisconsin.
Next week, corporate lobbyists, right-wing millionaires and a host of one-percenters will descend upon San Diego for American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) annual meeting, a national gathering in which these special interests wine and dine conservative lawmakers and plot strategies to screw working people out of things like a decent wage, health care and retirement security.
When you start a new job, you expect to fill out a pile of paperwork relating to your employment. What you don't expect is for your boss to slip in a document that effectively nullifies your rights as a worker and demand that you sign it as a condition of employment. It's called forced arbitration, and it's an underhanded practice that's on the rise.
The extraordinary campaign to raise wages for low-income Californians scored one of its biggest victories to date yesterday when the Los Angeles City Council approved a plan to hike the minimum wage for Angelenos to $15 per hour by 2020. The union-led coalition LA Raise the Wage has been building support for months to secure yesterday’s historic 14-1 council vote in favor of the wage hike.
In a victory for workers, health and safety, the environment and democracy, a motion to bring Trade Promotion Authority to the Senate floor failed to garner the necessary votes, halting the effort to fast track the secretive, job-killing Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal….for now.
The San Francisco Board of Supervisors last night joined the growing chorus to stop fast track for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) by unanimously passing a resolution opposing Trade Promotion Authority for the TPP. San Francisco joins another major West Coast port city – Seattle — in opposing a fast-tracked TPP that would have broad and potentially devastating consequences to California’s economy, environment and public health.
There’s been a lot of attention lately on California’s turnaround. As it turns out, that nonsense about all our jobs moving to Texas was a just Texas-sized whopper. Last year California created about 500,000 jobs to lead the nation in job growth, outpacing the conservative darling Texas.
There’s an undeniable link between workers’ rights and environmental protections. It’s pretty difficult to work safely if environmental standards don’t exist to prevent the pollution of air and water in our communities. That’s why unions steadfastly support California’s landmark environmental climate change law, AB 32. In an op-ed in the San Bernardino Sun last week, Laura Reynolds of the Communications Workers of America and Fernando Losada of the California Nurses Association write about the importance of safeguarding and expanding AB 32 so we can all live and work in safe, healthy communities in the future.
Budgeting is a matter of priorities. Just ask any family who budgets monthly. The necessities always take priority. In that sense, state budgeting is no different. Education, infrastructure, health care, public safety and the safety net, among other essential services, should all be paramount. And the workers who deliver those services ought to be able to count on a living wage and decent benefits.
Nearly 48,000 workers in Oakland got a raise today. No, this wasn’t a gift by altruistic corporate CEOs (now there’s an oxymoron). Today’s raise is courtesy of Measure FF, which voters passed in November due to the strong support of Bay Area labor unions and community groups. And not only do workers get a bump in pay to $12.25 an hour beginning today, the measure also provides for paid sick days, which will impact more than 56,000 workers in Oakland. The minimum wage is indexed to inflation, ensuring it will rise as the cost of living does.
About 1/3 of all the bridges and overpasses in our state are showing signs of deterioration (i.e. crumbling). Seventy percent of our urban roads and highways are congested. California has the second-highest share of roads in “poor condition” in the nation.
Today California Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) announced a long-overdue proposal to rebuild our run-down roads and bridges, ease traffic congestion and create a lot of good, middle-class jobs doing it.
, California Labor Federation
Chicken little is alive and well. Those who seek to undercut the retirement security of hard-working public servants are once again trying to whip up mass hysteria about pensions, cherry-picking data from a website recently created by State Controller John Chiang in an effort to fool the public. As usual, the fact-challenged pension-busters — and a number of media outlets — totally missed the mark in their shallow analysis of pension data, which Dave Low of Californians for Retirement Security notes in a San Diego Union-Tribune op-ed.
Walmart heirs. An oil tycoon. An Texas-based Enron trader. Venture Capitalists. It’s not surprising that this motley group is using their millions to try to influence our elections. What is surprising to some is where they’re putting their avalanche of campaign cash this fall. They’re pouring millions into the State Superintendent of Public Instruction race.
Just six days to go. We’ve heard a lot about the low-turnout projections. But in this final week, labor unions are out in force doing what we do best: talking to workers face to face and on the phone about the importance of exercising our fundamental right to vote. Voting gives a voice. It gives us a seat at the table. It’s the great equalizer to money and power.
Mass incarceration isn’t a topic most of us are comfortable discussing. But it’s a problem that affects every Californian on many levels. When non-violent, low-level offenses are treated as felonies resulting in extensive prison time, it wastes taxpayer money that could be going to schools and services. It fuels the cycle of poverty and imprisonment. It siphons resources from fighting dangerous crime. It’s an affront to justice.
As Vice President Joe Biden might say, this is a BFD. Last night Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law AB 1897, a landmark bill to curb abuses against temporary workers.
The new law simply requires that companies securing workers through labor contractors or temp agencies must take responsibility to ensure that workers are getting paid, that they have a safe work environment, and that the contractor is paying state and federal taxes. Given the recent explosion of temp work, this law provides a measure of protection to workers that often are vulnerable to exploitation.
For generations, film and television production has been a driving force of California’s economy. This iconic industry not only entertains millions around the world every year, it provides hundreds of thousands of good middle-class jobs for California workers.
It’s a historic day for California workers. This morning in Los Angeles, Governor Jerry Brown signed AB 1522, a landmark bill to allow more than 6.5 million workers to earn paid sick days on the job.
As we get closer to the end of the California legislative session, you see a lot more corporate types in fancy suits roaming in and around the Capitol. The goal? Stamp out worker-friendly bills. Near the top of their hit list this year is AB 1522, an effort authored by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez to allow all California workers to earn a few desperately needed paid sick days on the job.
Union democracy really is an awesome thing to behold. This week, the California Labor Federation held its biennial convention in San Diego, with union delegates setting the course for Labor this year and beyond. The theme: building power by standing together. At its core, that’s what the labor movement is all about. Building economic power by giving workers the opportunity to stand together to bargain for fair wages and decent benefits and building political power by mobilizing in force to elect worker-friendly candidates to office.
In the run-up to the 2012 general election, the anti-Prop 30 fear mongering was reaching a fevered pitch. The sky would fall, said groups like the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association (HJTA) and the corporate-backed National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) if Prop 30 passed. According to these groups, demanding the ultra-rich pay their fair share to protect California schools from devastating cuts would lead to economic catastrophe.
Since he entered the workforce 10 years ago, Jose Gonzalez has been designated “temporary.” Companies like Taylor Farms, the salad processing giant, use labor contractors or agencies to hire workers like Jose to do the work that makes the company profitable. Instead of making Jose a permanent worker with rights and benefits, these big corporations suspend workers in a state of insecurity. And when rights are violated, the companies absolve themselves of responsibility, pointing the finger at a subcontractor. In Jose’s case at Taylor Farms in Tracy, it’s damaging his future and robbing him of the American Dream. And millions of workers nationwide are in the same sinking boat.
The results are in. While workers are celebrating some huge victories this morning, the corporate crowd is wondering what went wrong in some key races. Last night’s California primary election presented some very clear choices to voters that are critical to the direction of our state.
Over 200,000 California veterans live in poverty. More than a quarter of the nation’s homeless veterans are right here in our state. We see them on the street. Their injuries – both physical and emotional – are evident. Yet, far too little is being done to help the heroes who fought for our country find a roof over their heads at night. That’s simply shameful.
We can do better. We must do better.
Every day, the State Capitol is full of paid lobbyists pushing bills on behalf of clients. So when workers come to Sacramento to support a bill, folks take notice. Today, dozens of workers from around the state made the journey to the Capitol to advocate for AB 1897, critical legislation that would curb abuses of temporary and subcontracted workers, a portion of the workforce that is growing and especially vulnerable to exploitation.
The California Labor Federation and State Building and Construction Trades Council will kick off the annual joint legislative conference on Monday at the Sheraton Grand in Sacramento, with hundreds of union activists coming to the Capital city to make their voices heard on important issues for working people.
There’s a new narrative emerging from right-wingers like Republican presidential hopeful Marco Rubio on the growing problem of income inequality. Rubio and California Republicans like Assemblymember Dan Logue are blaming inequality on taxes on the wealthy and government regulations that protect workers and the environment. Problem is, this new narrative is pure fantasy.
As California Labor Federation leader Art Pulaski and Jessica Bartholow of the Western Center on Law and Poverty wrote in Saturday’s Sacramento Bee, Rubio and company have entered the Twilight Zone when it comes to their phony posturing on poverty and income inequality.
Earlier this month, President Obama called rising income inequality the “defining challenge of our time.” The gap between the rich and everyone else is now the largest since the Great Depression. But many people still view income inequality in the abstract, because it can be tough to put a finger on how it impacts our everyday lives.
In a new Associated Press report, leading economists spell it out clearly. The income gap hurts us all and poses a major threat to the United States economy: “A key source of the economists' concern: Higher pay and outsize stock market gains are flowing mainly to affluent Americans. Yet these households spend less of their money than do low- and middle-income consumers who make up most of the population but whose pay is barely rising.”
A week of union-led volunteer service projects to our nation’s veterans culminated yesterday with an inspiring event in Orange County, honoring our nation’s heroes. I was fortunate enough to join about 3,000 working families and vets at this special event, sponsored by the Orange County Employees Association and OC unions, which was part of the statewide Veterans and Labor – Partners in Service project.
It was truly an amazing day.
The day featured kids making holiday cards to send to ailing vets. The Teamsters Horseman rode Harley Davidsons in solidarity with veterans. There was a food and donation drive. Building and Construction Trades unions offered veterans information on apprenticeship programs. Rep. Loretta Sanchez, along with union leaders, local elected officials and veterans groups, unveiled the new commemorative World War II Medal of Honor postage stamp.
My grandfather, a member of what Tom Brokaw coined the “greatest generation,” was a chief petty officer in the US Navy during World War II, fighting along so many others for nothing less than freedom itself. He made it back. Many of those he served with did not.
Upon returning home, he needed a job. While looking for work is never easy, he found meaningful employment first as a police officer in Washington state and then later at Caltrans in the San Joaquin Valley. Back then, putting veterans to work was a priority. Government partnered with labor unions and employers to create a pathway to careers for veterans who bravely served our country, defending the freedoms many take for granted today.
California’s Fair Political Practices Commission today sent a strong message to shadowy out-of-state corporate special-interest groups and donors trying to influence our state’s elections by levying record fines for contributions to committees that supported Prop 32 and opposed Prop 30.
According to the Sacramento Bee, “In a campaign finance case watched around the country, California's political watchdog has levied a $1 million fine against two non-profit groups for inappropriately laundering money during last year's ballot initiative wars … The commission also sent letters to two California committees demanding they pay the state general fund more than $15 million they received from groups that didn't properly report the source of their funds.”
After months of negotiating in bad faith, Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) management last night left BART workers no other option but to go on strike. What a shame. It didn’t have to come to this.
With all the misinformation swirling about on the BART strike, there are a few things to clear up.
Here are the three things you need to know about the BART strike (h/t to Pete Castelli of SEIU 1021).
It’s official. San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed, a career politician with backing from a Texas billionaire and former Enron trader, has filed a ballot measure to strip away retirement security from current teachers, firefighters, sanitation workers and other public servants.
According to the Sacramento Bee: “The Pension Reform Act of 2014 would alter California's constitution to allow state and local government employers to cut pensions for current workers.” Essentially, this means politicians would have the power to unilaterally slash the retirement of current workers, breaking a promise made to those workers when they were hired.
It’s easy to be pessimistic about the future these days. Tea Party extremists are threatening to push our federal government into default. Federal immigration reform is on the back burner until the shutdown and debt ceiling messes are sorted out. In a host of states, anti-worker governors are hell-bent on gutting workers’ rights while giving more power to corporate special interests.
But in California, a decidedly different story is playing out. The end of the legislative session here brought huge gains to workers and their families that boost our state’s economy and bolster the middle class.
California made history last night. With the support of California’s unions, the Legislature voted to raise the state’s minimum wage to $10, the highest minimum wage in the country. The wage will be implemented in two steps: an increase to $9 per hour in July of next year, followed by another one-dollar increase to $10 in January of 2016. Gov. Brown has agreed to sign the bill, AB 10, authored by Assemblymember Luis Alejo.
The wage increase will affect more than 2.3 million California workers, according the Economic Policy Institute. It means that single moms will have a little extra to support their families. It means seniors who’ve been forced to re-enter the workforce will have a little more to help pay for prescription drugs. And it means that all low-wage workers have received validation that their work is worthy of dignity and respect.
When immigrant workers speak up to protect their rights and the rights of their co-workers, all too often employers respond by retaliating against – even firing – those workers. Under several new laws, immigrant workers would have important protections in place to stop this exploitation. This week, the California State legislature has passed new protections designed to stop unscrupulous employers from retaliating against immigrant workers who stand up for their rights. The bills await signature by Governor Jerry Brown.
It appears that the nightmare scenario of two of the country’s most influential newspapers falling under the control of right-wing extremists David and Charles Koch won’t become reality. The Daily Caller today reported that sources are saying the brothers are no longer in negotiations to buy the papers.
If this report turns out to be true, it’s great news for defenders of journalistic integrity. No doubt that the Kochs sought to use the Tribune Co. as a megaphone for their anti-worker, anti-environment agenda. The effect of such an acquisition by the Kochs would have been devastating.
I’ve seen some pretty outrageous anti-worker opinion pieces written about the contract negotiations at Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) over the last two months. But nothing I’ve read is as infuriating as today’s San Francisco Chronicle op-ed from Chuck and Barbara McFadden.
In short, the McFaddens assert that workers like those at BART are not deserving of the middle-class wage their unions negotiate. To make their point, they use an argument that’s all too common today — private sector workers are suffering so public sector workers should too. What’s so absurd about this logic is that the very reason so many private sector workers are struggling is because most don’t have the ability to bargain with their employer for a decent wage in return for a hard day’s work.
At a ceremony this morning in San Diego, the Governor signed AB 93 and SB 90, bills that formally reform the enterprise zone program and redirect taxpayer dollars to programs that incentivize good jobs.
When AB 880 comes up for a vote this week in the California Assembly, lawmakers will be given a rare (and dare we say golden) opportunity. California has the chance to lead the nation in ensuring that large corporations like Walmart pay their fair share of health care costs under the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
Because of what’s known as the “Walmart Loophole,” large corporations are able to skirt their responsibility by pushing workers onto taxpayer-funded Medicaid (Medi-Cal in California). Walmart’s army of accountants knows exactly how to reduce the company’s costs by violating the spirit of the ACA: just cut workers' hours and wages low enough, and taxpayers pick up the tab for health care — while Walmart gets off scot-free.
California’s newspaper editorial pages rarely agree on anything, but when it comes to the state’s broken enterprise zone program, the consensus is clear: it’s time to scrap it and re-direct taxpayer dollars to real job creation programs.
As the state legislature prepares to vote this week on the governor’s plan to flip enterprise zones into good jobs that help build the middle class, here’s what leading newspapers are saying.
To some politicians, economic development means giving hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars to strip clubs, fast food joints and retail giants like Walmart. Gov. Brown, thankfully, has a better idea. Today, the Governor announced a broad coalition of labor, business and others in support of his good jobs plan that will flip the broken enterprise zone program into real incentives for creating quality, middle-class jobs.
“California’s 30-year-old Enterprise Zone program is not enterprising, it’s wasteful,” Gov. Brown said. “It’s inefficient and not giving taxpayers the biggest bang for their buck. There’s a better way and it will help encourage manufacturing in California.”
You’ve probably seen the stories by now: Enterprise zone tax breaks, which are supposed to provide incentives for good jobs, are instead going to strip clubs and low-wage mega corporations like Walmart.
The current enterprise zone program is shrouded in secrecy, with virtually no accountability or transparency. Study after study shows the program is a massive failure, wasting $750 million a year without doing much of anything to create new jobs.
But momentum is building for much-need reform. Last week, Gov. Brown detailed his proposal to flip this broken system into a real job creation program that will help build our middle class.
At a press conference today in front of Déjà Vu Showgirls in Rancho Cordova, Republican State Sen. Anthony Cannella and Democratic State Sen. Jerry Hill joined California Labor Federation's Sara Flocks to call on the Legislature to pass significant reforms this year to the program that’s gone horribly awry.
According to the KCRA report: “Tax credits are available to businesses in 40 enterprise zones across California. But despite the money coming from taxpayer dollars, the state won’t reveal online who receives it. In California’s fragile economy, every dollar counts. But a KCRA 3 investigation has revealed that hundreds of thousands of tax dollars are supporting strip clubs.”
We've known for years that the state’s enterprise zone (EZ) program is a mess of wasteful spending that does nothing to create new jobs. But even I was surprised when we uncovered through a recent Public Records Act request that the EZ tax breaks are going into the pockets of strip club owners.
A stunning investigative report by KCRA News last night revealed that a Sacramento-area strip club has raked in tens of thousands in EZ tax credits.
“Don’t sell out to the Koch brothers / Don’t let the brothers in the door/ We don’t want them taking over / That is what we’re marching for.”
That was the message, as sung by acclaimed musician Ry Cooder, carried by hundreds of Los Angeles residents who marched and rallied today to urge Oaktree Capital Management not to sell the respected Los Angeles Times to right-wing extremists David and Charles Koch. The “No Koch Hate in LA” rally was sponsored by the LA County Federation of Labor and community allies.
The brothers have expressed interest in buying the Times and other media holdings of the Tribune Co., threatening the journalistic integrity of some of the nation’s most venerable media outlets and providing an unprecedented megaphone to the Kochs to push their radical agenda.
Today’s Budget Revise proposes a major overhaul of the EZ program that would likely do away with some of the worst abuses that are costing the state hundreds of millions without producing jobs in return.
According to the May Revise, “Created over 25 years ago, the Enterprise Zone program should be reshaped to meet the needs of the current economy. In its current form it fails to encourage the creation of new jobs and instead rewards moving jobs from one place to another within the state.”
About 30 demonstrators launched a statewide tour today aimed at educating shoppers and the media about Walmart’s practice of paying its workers so little that they are pushed into taxpayer-funded programs like Medi-Cal. The group also handed out information about AB 880 (Gomez), which would mandate that the state’s largest and most profitable companies pay their fair share when their workers end up on taxpayer-funded Medi-Cal.
For taxpayers, that’s a pretty tough pill to swallow. In 2011, Walmart made $477 billion in profits. The company’s CEO raked in nearly $21 million last year. And yet, Walmart and other large companies don’t think twice about cutting workers’ hours and wages to such a low level that workers have to get health care through taxpayer-funded Medi-Cal.
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.
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.
In today’s Atlanta Journal Constitution, California Labor Federation’s Art Pulaski warns Georgia not to repeat the same mistakes California’s made with our failed enterprise zone program. In an op-ed titled “Tax credit program fails California,” Pulaski highlights the myriad problem with the California enterprise zone program, which has morphed into a $700 million annual drain on taxpayers, taking resources away from much-needed investments in infrastructure, education and health care while doing little to create new jobs.
Wealthy developers and corporate special interests have attacked CEQA as a hindrance to job creation, and are pushing to “reform” (i.e. gut) the law. But the facts just don’t support their claims. At an event on the steps of the Capitol this morning, the Labor Management Cooperation Trust released a report that finds that since CEQA became law in 1970, California’s manufacturing output, construction activity, per capita GDP and housing (relative to population) all grew as fast or faster than the other 49 states.
The abuse and exploitation of immigrant workers must stop. Today, the California Labor Federation joined Assemblymember Roger Hernandez, other elected officials and immigrant rights advocates at the Capitol to announce legislative action to stop unscrupulous employers from retaliating against immigrant workers who stand up for themselves.
“Immigrant workers are often fired, there wages are stolen, they are threatened and they even suffer sexual abuse because unscrupulous employers know they can get away with it,” said California Labor Federation Executive Secretary-Treasurer Art Pulaski “If they speak up, the threat is they will be deported and separated from their families.”
It’s been a good start to the year for California. We lead the nation in job creation. Our budget is balanced. Unemployment is dropping. Prop 30 stopped devastating cuts to our schools. While we still have a lot of work to dig out from the recession caused by Wall St. greed and excess, there’s no question that California is enjoying a major comeback.
But the California comeback could be short-lived if Republicans in Washington, D.C. continue this insane game they are playing with the so-called “sequestration” cuts. These automatic spending cuts would sap $500 million in federal funding from California putting priorities like education, health care and public safety at risk. The cuts could cost California 225,000 jobs.
There are few experiences in life as traumatic as losing a job. Often the only thing standing between workers who have lost a job through no fault of their own and complete financial ruin is an unemployment insurance check. But, as a new report details, the unemployment insurance lifeline for California workers is threatened by structural flaws that have forced the system billions of dollars into the red.
The California Labor Federation report, “Unemployment Insurance: Underfunded and Undervalued,” calls for immediate action to put the Unemployment Insurance (UI) Fund on a path to solvency that ensures families experiencing sudden unemployment will continue to be able to count on unemployment insurance benefits.
Environmental protection laws are fundamental to California’s communities. California, through the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), is a national leader in safeguarding our environment and promoting smart and sustainable development.
But now, there’s an effort by some corporate special interests to weaken CEQA, which would put our environment and the health of our communities at risk. In response, California’s labor movement united recently to reject any efforts to eliminate the important protections this provides. At a recent meeting of its Executive Council, the California Labor Federation passed a resolution calling for the preservation of CEQA.
Last week’s annual national union membership numbers were eye-opening, and well, pretty depressing. The relentless attacks on unions nationwide have caused overall union density to drop to a startlingly low 11.3%. The share of union members as part of the workforce is the lowest it’s been in 97 years. That’s not just bad news for unions, that’s really bad news for everyone.
But despite last week’s bad news on a national level, there were silver linings. Not the least of which is the trend here in California.
Unions in California are growing. That’s right, growing. Last year, California union membership grew by more than 110,000 members and actually increased overall density to 17.2%. And that all happened whilw California's economy, which now leads the nation in job growth, has been expanding.
Our nation’s veterans risk their lives to preserve our freedoms and democracy. Yet, upon returning from military service, many veterans face extraordinary challenges – economic, social and emotional. This Veteran’s Day holiday, members of UFCW Local 1428 decided to show their appreciation to veterans by giving back through a day of service that will hopefully make life a little better for those who have sacrificed so much for our country.
I was honored to join more than 150 members of Local 1428 bright and early Monday morning at St. Trinity church in Pomona to embark on a day of appreciation to veterans through community service.
As the election results came in late Tuesday night, it became abundantly clear that the handful of billionaires and CEOs who sought to silence our voice were in for a rude awakening. Their deceptive measure, Prop 32, didn’t just fail, it tanked — by a 12-point margin.
But our victories didn’t stop there. Labor’s ground game also played a huge role in Prop 30, the sorely-needed school funding measure, much to the chagrin of the anti-worker billionaires who thought shifting our attention to Prop 32 would be bad news for Prop 30. And that strong pro-worker turnout had ripple effects all the way down the ballot, particularly in state races.
But now, there’s only one number that matters: 35,000. That’s the number of union volunteers fanning out across the state, in communities big and small, to fight the big money interests behind the attacks on Prop 30 and the fraudulent ads backing Prop 32. The California labor movement has mounted its largest Get Out the Vote effort in history this year, contacting millions of voters one-on-one about the stakes in this election.
With California’s unemployment rate still over 10%, we should be using all available resources to strengthen our economy and create jobs. That’s why it’s so frustrating to see a wasteful corporate tax loophole draining resources that ought to be putting people back to work. But Prop 39 aims to change that, and anyone who truly cares about creating jobs in California should sprint to the polls on Nov. 6 to pass this commonsense measure.
Yesterday in San Francisco leaders from California’s labor, business and environmental communities stood together to close the loophole that’s costing tens of thousands of jobs and slowing our economic recovery.
AFL-CIO President Rich Trumka wasn’t about to let a little airplane mechanical trouble stop him from getting out the vote in California. Despite being delayed in Chicago for several hours, Trumka arrived in Sacramento Thursday afternoon fired up and ready to hit the doors with union volunteers.
Trumka, who is currently barnstorming across the country to get out the vote for President Obama and working family candidates, made stops yesterday and this morning in Sacramento, Modesto, Alameda and San Francisco to participate in California Labor’s largest member mobilization in history to defeat Prop 32, pass Prop 30 and elect candidates who will stand up for working people.
So, to some, it may seem counterintuitive that a front group with ties to the Kochs just dropped millions of dollars into the effort to pass Prop 32, which its backers describe as a measure to “stop special interests.” Wait, why would the Kochs back a measure that is allegedly about “stopping special interests” when they’re among the most notorious special interests in the country? Because Prop 32 isn’t what it seems. In fact, it’s been described as a “fraud,” “phony” and a “sham.” It benefits secretive corporate Super PACs like the Kochs and Karl Rove run, while eliminating the voices of teachers, firefighters and other workers.
Make no mistake: It’s no coincidence that the hired gun for the California Organization of Police and Sheriffs (COPS), Kelly Moran, is actively trying to kill a great piece of campaign reform legislation — SB 488. This bill prohibits the unauthorized use of public safety logos, insignias and other identifiers on political mail pieces.
COPS rakes in MILLIONS each election cycle through the use of fake public safety badges in its political “voter guides”, which gets sent to voters in the hopes of swaying their decisions on candidates and issues.
Many ballot propositions are deliberately written to be confusing. There’s usually a hidden agenda. Case in point: Prop 32.
Its backers say it’s about “stopping special interests.” That sounds nice, right? But, as usual, the devil’s in the details. When you take a closer look, it’s clear that Prop 32 isn’t what it seems. While it eliminates the collective voice of union members in politics, it’s riddled with exemptions for corporate CEOs, billionaires and corporate special interests.
To understand what’s really going on, you have to pull back the curtain to see who these billionaires are and what they really stand for.
Today, the California Labor Federation launched new website to highlight the devastating impact that budget-killing corporate tax breaks are having on our state. ZombieLoopholes.com brings a number of wasteful corporate tax breaks that are bleeding our state of billions each year out of the shadows so the public is aware that they’re contributing to deep budget cuts to school funding, services for seniors and public safety.
In all the absurdity that is budget politics, there’s a particularly maddening reality that stands out: Corporate tax breaks are costing the state billions each year, providing little to no benefit to our economy, lack transparency and are completely unaccountable to taxpayers.
Enough is enough. Before cutting any more services, these wasteful giveaways need to be thoroughly reviewed. If they’re not serving their intended purpose, get rid of ‘em. And we’re not talking about nickels and dimes here. This is big money that’s likely going to waste at taxpayers’ expense.
A new report released yesterday by the California Tax Reform Association identified more than $6 billion in wasteful corporate tax loopholes and dodges that are bleeding the state of much-needed revenue that should be used to help close the budget deficit and prevent cuts to vital services.
We all know the wealthy and well-connected are accustomed to playing by their own set of rules. Their high-powered lawyers and lobbyists write special exemptions for them the rest of us would never be able to get.
This unfortunate reality is on full display with a November ballot measure its wealthy backers say is about getting “special interests” out of politics. Who wouldn’t want to curb the growing influence of Super PACs, anonymous donors and corporate front groups? In a post-Citizens United world, these big-money interests are consolidating political power with frightening efficiency.
Problem is, the so-called “Stop Special Interest Money Now Act” isn’t what it seems. It does absolutely nothing to stem the flow of money into politics from these wealthy interests. In fact, it exempts all of them (and many more corporate interests like real estate investors, insurance companies and billionaire businessmen) while silencing the voice of unions and workers.
Under Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) federal budget plan, each millionaire would receive a tax cut of about $187,000. And when it comes to Ryan and his GOP cronies in Congress like Rep. Dan Lungren, that fat tax giveaway to the wealthy comes at a cost. Unfortunately, Ryan and Lungren want our nation’s seniors to absorb that cost through draconian cuts to Medicare.
Today in Sacramento, seniors and workers affiliated with the Sacramento Central Labor Council had an unlikely ally in their fight for tax fairness and against the Ryan budget: millionaire David Watson. Watson, who’s a member of the group Patriotic Millionaires for Fiscal Strength, stood with seniors on Tax Day to denounce the Ryan budget plan and the unfair tax system we currently have which rewards the wealthy and well-connected at the expense of the middle class.
Under Gov. Brown’s direction, the California High-Speed Rail Authority has made key improvements to previous plans, bringing us one step closer to making the vision of high-speed rail – and all its benefits to our economy and environment – a reality.
The new business plan addresses two of the biggest challenges for high-speed rail head on: cost and viability. Through the use of existing commuter lines and other cost-saving measures, the new plan shaves a whopping $30 billion off the overall cost of the project. In addition, the new plan connects the Central Valley with the Los Angeles basin in the first phase of the project, which will increase ridership early on.
It’s not surprising, then, that he’s become something of a shill for the campaign to silence workers’ political voice through this fall’s corporate power grab initiative. According to the Pacifica Institute, Mansoor vocally supports the measure, which proponents deceptively call the “Stop Special Interest Money Now Act,” arguing that it will limit “the influence of special interest money.” (Of course nothing could be further from the truth. It’s nothing other than a muzzle on workers that will make our system even more corrupt, but more on that later.)
Mitt Romney’s “Multi-millionaire Express” is coming to Redwood City tonight for a high-dollar fundraiser with the likes of failed gubernatorial candidate Meg “Wall Street” Whitman. But it may not be all champagne wishes and caviar dreams for Mitt and his rich buddies tonight as the controversy involving one of his campaign’s key advisors continues to grow.
The Inspector General issued a report Friday finding that National Labor Relations Board member Terence Flynn improperly leaked confidential material on board deliberations. The report details numerous instances of then-chief counsel Flynn funneling confidential information about the labor board’s activities and deliberations to two former NLRB members who have been actively engaged in a relentless campaign to undermine and discredit the NLRB through legal and rhetorical challenges to the agency’s activities. One of those former board members is Romney advisor Peter Schaumber.
Score one for REAL campaign finance reform.
Today the California State Assembly, with support from the California Labor Federation, Common Cause and many other labor and good government groups, joined the growing chorus nationwide to overturn the Citizens United decision.
By a vote of 48-22 the Assembly passed AJR 22, co-authored by Bob Wieckowski (D-Fremont) and Michael Allen (D-Sonoma County), which calls on Congress to overturn the outrageous Citizens United decision. Citizens United is fueling an unprecedented growth of corporate money in politics that, if allowed to continue, threatens the fabric of our democracy.
California was built with a vision that prioritized investments in our future. From creating a world-class infrastructure to seeding innovation through our schools and universities, investments fueled the economic miracle that once was our state. But as those investments dried up in recent years, we’ve risked tearing the very fabric of California.
It’s time to chart a different course.
Today, the California Labor Federation and the State Building and Construction Trades Council unveiled Labor’s new “Invest in California” jobs plan, which focuses on renewing the state’s commitment to innovation and investments that built an economy of broadly shared prosperity.
Among the big political news this week was the release of the Legislative Peer Review Group’s report on the California high-speed rail project. The report recommends that the state freezes the project “at this time” until further assessment is done on its long-term feasibility. Problem is, the report was completed with minimal consultation with the California High-Speed Rail Authority, and ignored many of the details on feasibility included in the Authority’s recent business plan.
Opponents seized on the erroneous report to further their campaign to derail the project. While it might make good politics for some conservatives to oppose a signature program of the Obama White House, it certainly doesn’t make for good policy.
A new report released today by the AFL-CIO shows that more than 305,000 Californians will lose their unemployment benefits on December 31 if Congress fails to act to extend unemployment insurance. .
In California as well as across the country, jobless workers and their communities will be holding actions Thursday to call attention to the ongoing jobs crisis and to urge Congress to take immediate action to extend unemployment benefits. In Sacramento, hundreds of jobless workers will march to Rep. Dan Lungren’s office to call him to support an extension of benefits.
There’s no question that it’s been a difficult path forward for California’s high-speed rail project. Given how ambitious the plan is, even the project’s strongest supporters would tell you that the promise of high-speed rail wouldn’t come easy. For months, critics have – often unfairly – assailed the project for being unrealistic and lacking transparency. Today, those critics were silenced with the release of a realistic business plan that lay bare the challenges and costs moving forward, but also underscored the critical importance of the project to our state’s future.
Like many college students, Tanya Reyes is doing what she can to try to build a better future for herself. Every weekday, she makes the 1 ½ hour drive from her home to Cosumnes River College to pursue a college education. But over the last year, the class offerings have become slimmer. Educators have been let go. The economic outlook has become even gloomier, making her wonder what opportunities await her after college.
She, like hundreds of others at an “America Wants to Work” rally at the college last week, is becoming increasingly frustrated with the GOP obstructionism on the President’s jobs plan. The American Jobs Act could put hundreds of thousands of people to work right away, alleviate the devastating cuts to her college and so many others, and spur economic growth so that she could look at the future with a sense of optimism.
At the close of the 2011 legislative session, Gov. Jerry Brown signed a number of bills relating to worker health and safety, good jobs and wage protection that put the state on a path to a stronger economy. No legislative session is perfect — and this was no exception — but it’s clear the state has come a long way under Brown’s leadership to tackling the pressing problems we face. Still, our economic problems demand even bolder solutions moving forward.
Here's a sampling of bills Brown signed — on issues ranging from tackling the underground economy to preserving public libraries to creating jobs — that will immediately give a boost to workers and their families upon going into effect on January 1st.
You’d think the priority of the Chair of the Assembly Committee on Jobs, Economic Development and the Economy would be creating and protecting jobs. You’d never know it after a committee vote today on AB 1278. By voting against AB 1278, Committee Chair V. Manuel Perez stalled important legislation that would have prevented companies from laying off workers to claim big tax breaks as part of the flawed Enterprise Zone program.
The bill, authored by Assemblymember Jerry Hill (D-San Mateo), sought to protect jobs in today’s harsh economic environment while helping end the practice of rewarding companies that lay off workers with taxpayer subsidies. The bill failed to get out of the committee on a 3-3 vote. Perez joined the two Republicans on the committee in voting against the bill.
Between the wall-to-wall coverage on the cable news networks of the Casey Anthony trial and the latest exploits of the Kardashian sisters, it’s unlikely that a new study showing that we have a wageless recovery under way will ever see the light of day. And that’s really too bad, because it happens to be one of the most important stories of the year.
The report, by economists at Northeastern University, found that while national income rose by $528 billion between mid-2009 and the end of 2010, 88% of that growth went to corporate profits and only 1% went to workers’ wages. What’s more, the share of income growth going to wages was far lower than in previous recoveries.
Today is ‘Day of the Teacher,’ an annual celebration of the role teachers play in shaping the lives of our kids and strengthening our communities. Because of the hard work and dedicated commitment of educators in preparing our children for the future, they play a foundational role in a healthy society.
At the Capitol this afternoon, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson and many others turned out to recognize the amazing work teachers do every day. But the event turned into much more than recognition of teachers – educators also showed their appreciation to other workers who provide the services that keep our economy moving and support all California families.
Under the theme “We Are One,” teachers recognized workers in the public and private sector, and called on the legislature to pass the tax extensions necessary to prevent further devastating cuts to schools, public safety, services that impact the poor and vulnerable, and jobs.
Now, on its face, that might be cause for alarm. But when you scratch the surface, this survey is little more than corporate honchos throwing around their weight to try to further strip working people of important protections that improve lives.
So why would a CEO rank California low on the list of so-called business-friendly states? Easy. We have some strong laws and regulations in place that protect workers from abusive conditions and our environment from being polluted. In fact, most of the regulations you hear business whine about – the eight-hour day, meal breaks, CEQA and our anti-global warming law – have the strong support of Californians. That’s because they are an overwhelming positive for our state. They make California a better place to live, work and raise a family. But according to America’s CEOs, what’s good for workers and the environment doesn’t really matter.
It’s been clear for months that Republicans in the legislature aren’t interested in meaningful solutions to California’s budget crisis. They’ve blocked a vote of the people on extending existing taxes to prevent disastrous cuts to schools, public safety and programs that are a lifeline for seniors, people with disabilities and the poor. They’ve refused to offer any proposals to bridge the remaining $15 billion shortfall facing our state. They’re taking their marching orders from out-of-state ideologues and radio shock jocks while their own constituents suffer the consequences of their inaction.
Now, with our state on the brink of disaster, they’ve finally decided to do something… they’re leading a junket to Texas for what they call a “fact-finding” trip. That’s right, Texas. The same Texas that’s dealing with its own budget crisis. The same Texas that has seen its unemployment double in recent years. Instead of dealing with our budget crisis, Republicans are flying off to Texas for a few days of hobnobbing with officials for what’s sure to be a back-slapping, good ole-fashioned Texas good time.
For more than a week, tens of thousands have protested at the Wisconsin Capitol. The fight back spread to Ohio, Indiana and other states where politicians are attempting to strip workers of their voice.
And it didn’t stop there. All over the country, workers are standing in solidarity to beat back these attacks. Last night, the spirit of solidarity was tangible in Sacramento, as more than 3,000 workers descended on the State Capitol to send a message loud and clear across California and the country: An attack on one of us is an attack on all of us.
High-speed rail would create as many as a half million jobs in California. And the economic benefits wouldn’t stop there. It would also boost small businesses and infuse cash into struggling communities. California has been the national leader on high-speed rail since Day One. And that commitment is the very reason we’re further along in the project than any other state.
As soon as Jerry Brown’s State of the State was finished, like clockwork, the Republican responses deploring Brown’s call for voters to have a voice on whether we extend existing taxes or cripple public education and other vital services started pouring in. The temerity of this governor, suggesting voters should have a say in how we solve the state budget crisis! they said. Voters told us in past elections what they wanted so we don’t have to ask again, they reasoned. It’s all the unions’ fault! they cried.
OK, I certainly understand the Republicans relying on hysterical rhetoric in an effort to distract from their indefensible position that voters should have no say in decisions that will affect each and every one of us. Brown says we need to make tough choices to get our fiscal house in order so that we can focus on the future. Schwarzenegger, despite all his macho blustering, wasn’t tough enough to do it. Brown is. And, unlike his predecessor, Brown is making his case to the public instead of brokering backroom deals.
California's working people had an extra-nice Thanksgiving after receiving the news that Kamala Harris will be our state's next Attorney General. Harris is a forceful advocate for working people and a dynamic progressive leader. See Federation Executive Secretary-Treasurer Art Pulaski's statement on this historic win.
The California Labor Federation played an instrumental role in Harris’ victory. Over the last 10 days of the campaign, the Federation launched a broadcast and online media blitz reaching millions of voters with special emphasis on Los Angeles County. To view the Federation’s ad in support of Harris, click here.
In recent days, Meg Whitman’s campaign has been trying to convince anyone who will listen that the polls are wrong because she has used her unlimited resources to buy a superior get out the vote operation that’s going to shock the prognosticators. Just one problem with that…there’s already a massive, sophisticated GOTV operation under way to defeat her.
That operation is powered by the energy of tens of thousands of union volunteers who are embarking on restless days and sleepless nights through Election Day to get the word out to millions of voters. If Whitman's ace in the hole is to beat Jerry Brown with a ground operation, she might consider a Plan B.
After three days and 400 miles of barnstorming up the state to support high-speed rail and Jerry Brown, the Good Jobs Express Tour wrapped up in Sacramento Thursday. Exhausted yet energized, the two unemployed iron workers who embarked on the tour — Robert Escalera and Larry Greenhagen — had one final stop before heading home: Meg Whitman’s high-dollar fundraiser at the Sheraton Grand Hotel in Sacramento.
Today in Anaheim, unemployed ironworkers Larry Greenhagen and Robert Escalera will kick off the 400-mile “Good Jobs Express,” a five-city tour up the heart of California to rally support for high-speed rail and the half million jobs it would create. Over the next few days, workers, elected officials, union leaders, environmentalists and community allies in five cities along the high-speed rail route will rally for jobs and gubernatorial candidate Jerry Brown, who has promised to make building high-speed rail and putting people back to work his priority as Governor.
Rather than come clean with the public about her mistreatment of her former housekeeper, Meg Whitman lied to cover it up. She has never admitted any wrongdoing or taken any responsibility for her own actions, and has failed miserably to live up to the standards by which we should hold anyone running for elected office.
Today in front of Whitman’s East LA office, domestic workers joined elected officials to call on Whitman to open tomorrow night’s debate with an apology to Nicky and the people of California for the mistreatment and hurtful allegations she directed at Nicky, and the lies she told in an attempt to cover up the scandal.
Of course, there’s nothing unusual about candidates holding fundraisers, even billionaires like Whitman. But there’s more to meets the eye with this particular fundraiser considering the host’s background. And there’s some serious questions that need to be raised about whom exactly would have Whitman’s ear if she were to be elected governor.
Every once in a while you have one of those weeks where it seems like nothing goes right. For Meg Whitman, it’s been one of those weeks.
Workers and community allies have been out in force protesting at a number of her recent appearances, she continues to get slammed from both the left and the right for her hypocrisy on immigration and other issues, top economists shredded her economic plan and polls show she’s continuing to lose support, even though she’s up on the air with wall-to-wall TV ads.
It’s no secret that Meg Whitman is wealthy beyond most of our wildest dreams. But few know the true cost of Whitman’s wealth. This week the California Labor Federation launched a new online video and video game that highlights Whitman’s job-slashing corporate history. Check out both the video and video game at http://www.WallStreetWhitman.com
So let’s get this straight… the state can’t afford to create hundreds of thousands of good jobs with a project that’s already received significant federal funding and voter approval? This appears to be another example – a particularly egregious one – of Whitman showing her true colors on job creation.
Looks like desperation is beginning to set in over at Team Whitman headquarters. Monday in Roseville, Meg Whitman told a small audience that she would appoint a grand jury to root out the more than $7.5 billion in fraud she claims occurs annually in programs for the poor, seniors and people with disabilities. Tough talk. Just one problem, those numbers have absolutely no basis in reality.
California schools, colleges and universities have been ravaged in recent years by deep budget cuts that threaten to destroy public education in our state. Over the last two years alone, Governor Schwarzenegger has slashed more than $17 billion from our state’s schools, which are already drastically underfunded. And with the release of his May Revise of the state budget last week, the Governor proposed additional cuts to education that would jeopardize the futures of millions of students statewide.
In an increasingly impersonal political campaign environment saturated with slick TV ads and radio spots, many working families have difficulty discerning the truth from campaign spin… unless they’re union members.
Yesterday in Sacramento, union members with the Communications Workers of America Local 9421 passed out flyers and engaged their fellow workers at AT&T in discussion about this year’s elections during lunchtime as workers filed in and out of the busy AT&T building.
But California's workers aren't going to let Meg and her Wall Street agenda take the express jet to the Governor's office. Today, the California Labor Federation launched a massive grassroots campaign that will deploy an army of volunteers to expose the truth about Meg Whitman’s Wall Street agenda and her history on the board at Goldman Sachs.
* Toyota stops manufacturing at NUMMI * Schwarzenegger vetoes more worker-friendly bills * Sen. Coburn blocks jobless benefits for unemployed workers *
* Historic health care reform bill signed into law * Judge rules Governor's special-fund furloughs are illegal * Essential unemployment insurance bill moves forward * Legislative recess begins today *
* Schwarzenegger protects tax cheats instead of providing tax relief to working families * Census data proves Meg Whitman wrong on public employees * Toyota NUMMI severence agreement includes gag order *
* CBO finds health care reform bill would cut deficit by more than a trillion dollars * Assemblymember Sandre Swanson regains Labor Committee chairmanship * Retirees honor advocate Bill Powers *
If you tune in to tonight’s first Republican gubernatorial debate between Meg “Megabucks” Whitman and Steve “We-don’t-bother-coming-up-with-nicknames-for-candidates-who-poll-under-20 percent” Poizner, you can bet you’ll be treated to overheated, misleading and flat-out false rhetoric about state government, unions, taxes, regulations and a host of other red-meat topics for the GOP conservative base.
* Meg Whitman chases the press out of her own press conference * State Sen. Tom Harman tries a backhanded attempt to weaken worker protections * Republican Senators try to block union organizing rights for FexEx truck drivers * The chair of the Cal/OSHA Appeals Board passes the buck on worksite safety *
* Hundreds converge at Labor's Legislative Conference * Attorney General Jerry Brown cracks down on bad employers who exploit workers * Senate and Assembly pass legislation to scale back furloughs *
With California facing budget deficits as far as the eye can see, California Labor Federation Executive Secretary-Treasurer told a packed room of more than 700 union members and leaders at Labor’s Joint Legislative Conference in Sacramento that the state’s fiscal deficit doesn’t match the moral deficit of greedy corporations that have cut and run on California families.
The focus of Labor’s Joint Legislative Conference this year can be summed up in three words: jobs, jobs, jobs. Today, more than 600 California union members and leaders from across the state gather in Sacramento to discuss the California labor movement’s legislative agenda for the year, which will be focused heavily on stemming California’s ongoing jobs crisis.
Each week we’ll post, from our humble perspective, some of the best and, yes, the worst items of the week for your reading pleasure.
by Steve Smith
California has been devastated by record unemployment of more than 12 percent, leaving more than 2 million workers out of jobs. Nearly 35 percent of California’s unemployed have been looking for work for six months or more. To make matters worse, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has shown no leadership on job creation and his budget cuts have shredded the state’s safety net at a time when workers need it the most.