<< Back

Art Pulaski’s Remarks at the 2015 CLUW National Convention

CLUW National Convention

Theme: “Women…Right Now, Right Time”

Remarks by Art Pulaski

  • It is such an honor to be here today and to stand with such a strong group of advocates from around the country. It’s great to have you all here in Sacramento—California’s capitol city, and ground zero for so many landmark legislative victories for women.
  • In recent years, the California legislature has enacted many historic reforms that have dramatically improved the wages, benefits and working conditions of women across the state, but these achievements would not have been possible without the support, dedication and drive of union women.
  • From rank and file members to stewards to union officials, the tireless efforts of your members have forced a major shift in how legislators see and address the concerns of working women.
  • For one, I can tell you that issues affecting women now stand front and center in the legislative debate, and for that we have you to thank. Bills that raise wages or strengthen leave are now always framed in terms of how they help address inequalities affecting women, and that is a direct result of the work you all do, every day.
  • While we should celebrate the successes we’ve had, we’re constantly reminded of how much there still is to do.
  • Your campaigns remind us that we still suffer from a severe pay gap that pays women less for equal work.
  • We still fail to provide an adequate work family balance.
  • We still see women underrepresented in the legislature, and in positions of leadership in the public and private sectors.
  • At the Labor Federation, we are committed to using our legislative and political work to solve these problems and build power for workers. We also commit to combining our efforts with yours to keep the victories coming.

o   In 2014, we worked with a broad coalition to win three paid sick days for workers in California. This landmark achievement means workers can finally take time off to care for themselves or a sick relative when necessary, and they can do so without fear of employer retaliation. Employers are already looking for ways around this new standard, and so all of us will have to remain vigilant to make sure these protections last.


o   That same year we also raised the minimum wage from $8 to $10—benefiting us all but directly targeting low wage women workers who had languished too long without a raise. We not only successfully fought off new exemptions; we also beat back efforts to lower the minimum wage for tipped workers. And we now, that even that boost isn’t enough. We’re not going to stop fighting to all women – all workers – get a living wage for a hard day’s work!


o   We also expanded our paid family leave program, which allows workers up to six paid weeks off to bond with a new baby or care for a sick loved one. Now, and thanks to your efforts, workers can claim the leave to care for sick siblings, grandchildren, grandparents, and parents-in-law.


o   To improve access to paid family leave, we’ve also won new funding for outreach and education—allowing more workers to benefit from this critically important program.


o   We also took a big step towards controlling health care costs. The Governor signed SB 546 to bring more transparency to rising premiums. Why are we paying so much for health care? We want to know, and this bill will help answer that question.


o   We also supported the fair pay act that will in many ways help eliminate the California gender wage gap.


o   We have also fought together to kill all the attacks on working people. Bills that ban the right of some workers to strike, bills that would take away the 8-hour day and meal periods, bills that exclude some workers from overtime protection—all have failed thanks to our combined efforts.


o   What these victories tell us is that when working people – WORKING WOMEN – stand together, we win. The economy gets stronger. Inequality shrinks. Lives get better.


o    But we can’t rest on laurels. Not even for a second. In fact, it’s time to step on the gas. Anti-worker and anti-women forces remain alive and well in the Capitol, and only with the continued help of your members can we continue winning gains for women workers.


o   We are hearing a lot lately about the “new economy, or the on-demand, app-economy.” To those who would use technology not to improve lives but to create even more economic security, I have one thing to say: THERE’S NOTHING INNOVATIVE ABOUT EXPLOITING WORKERS.


o   There wasn’t anything innovative about during the industrial revolution and there’s nothing innovative about it in the technological revolution!


o   Corporations have been trying to move away from the basic employment relationship for years. They want to make money off your work but bear no responsibility for your welfare.

o   They have been replacing good full-time jobs with low-wage part-time jobs, using temps and subcontractors instead of direct hire. That way when workers get screwed they can claim to have no control over it.

o   They now use apps to summon workers classified as independent contractors to give you a ride, park your car, deliver food, and deliver packages – all denies basic labor protections.

o   Not only does this hurt workers, but it makes it impossible for good employers to compete.

o   The on-demand economy doesn’t only affect cab drivers and hotel workers, but all workers. It’s the Uber-ization of work. Soon, they’ll have an Uber for grocery shopping, so the rich will no longer have to go to grocery stores.

o   The on-demand economy is a threat to all the work we have done to build strong unions and create worker protections.


o   This year we also took on the issue of forced arbitration. In forced arbitration, employers require workers to give up their right to sue or to go to the Labor Commissioner when their employer breaks the law.

o   This isn’t the good kind of arbitration that we have in our contracts, this takes away our rights.

o   Employers love arbitration clauses because it means workers cannot get outside help when the employer steals their wages, denies overtime pay or breaks the law in any way.

o   The employer gets to pick the arbitrator and hold secret, internal hearings. Workers can’t go to court and they can’t go to the Labor Commissioner.

o   What good are all the laws we pass in California to protect workers’ rights if employers deny workers’ right to a day in court? What good are the laws if we can’t go to the agency that enforces them?

o   Who do you think wins if the employer controls the arbitration? The employer, right?

o   We ran a bill to fight this practice and all hell broke loose. This was the Number 1 Priority Kill of every business in the state. Because they know that arbitration is their way to get around the law.

o   We didn’t get the bill signed this year, but this fight is only just beginning. We cannot protect or expand workers’ rights if we can’t enforce the law.

o   We look forward to working with you all on bills to stop forced arbitration next year.


o   You all know about the new practice of “just in time” scheduling, where workers don’t get any notice of when they will work and can be called in at any time. Workers can never plan ahead, can’t schedule childcare or family time, because they are always on call. We are leading the fight to end this practice.


o   We will also continue the fight to improve the California Family Rights Act, which gives workers up to 12 weeks of job-protected leave to bond with a new baby or care for a sick family members. We worked to expand the program to apply to more workers and align the definition of “family member” with the broader one found in the Paid Family Leave law, but Governor Brown vetoed this bill.


o   Efforts to strengthen Paid Family Leave benefits will also continue after legislation to do so stalled late in the session.


o   We will keep up our campaign to close the “Walmart Loophole” and to level the playing field between employers that provide health benefits and those that dump workers onto taxpayer-funded programs through a penalty on those bad employers.


o   The health and safety of women workers will also be a priority as we work to enact a new workplace violence prevention standard for health care workers, a new hotel housekeeper injury prevention standard, and an improved regulation to prevent the devastating effects of lead exposure in the workplace.


o   We will most likely have to fight back attacks on the 8-hour day, meal and rest breaks and other protections.


o   We will continue our fight against the misclassification of independent contractors and the increase in contingent work.


o   And we will be involved in the fight against the Affordable Care Act’s 40 percent tax on our health plans. The Excise Tax, or the 40% tax as we’re calling it, is a tax that starts in 2018 on the health benefits we fought and sacrificed for. This tax is unacceptable and we will be leading the fight in California to defeat it at the federal level.

o   We will also continue to enforce the laws that we have already passed, such as protections against employer retaliation against immigrant workers who organize and joint liability laws that protect temporary workers.


o   We will also be preparing the California Labor Movement for a bad decision from a case called Friedrichs. We expect the US Supreme Court may use this decision to make all public sector jobs “right to work.”


o   All of Labor needs to be ready for this attack and we need to stand together so that instead of it making us weaker, it makes us stronger, more unified, and more connected to our members.


  • So, as you can see, next year we have a lot planned in the legislature to build worker and union power in California.
  • It’s also an election year with lots of opportunities and possible threats on the ballot.
  • We expect a minimum wage increase on the ballot, raising the wage to $15 an hour and indexing it to inflation so we no longer have to fight for an increase.
  • We also expect that we’ll have to fight back attacks on public sector pensions. This affects all workers because if they come for public sector pensions, it makes it even harder to protect private sector retirement security.
  • But we will take on these fights because if history is any guide, workers standing together will prevail. We will never stop using our political and legislative muscle to increase organizing, grow the labor movement and build worker power. Workers Standing Together, Union Strong and Union Proud, is the most powerful weapon we have against the forces of inequality and greed.
  • The Labor Federation is proud to stand together with you and with your union. Together we can win. We can win for workers. We can win for women. We can continue to blaze a new path here in California and around the country that cuts off inequality at the knees. By standing together, WE WILL WIN!
  • Thank you for all your hard work!


<< Back