Rants & Raves for the Week of May 10th, 2010
Today, Governor Schwarzenegger released his May revision to the state budget. Just as he promised earlier this week, the revise includes “terrible cuts” to many vital state services that the most vulnerable and neediest Californians depend on to get by. His plan would completely eliminate California’s welfare-to-work program, which would affect 1.3 million people, including 1 million children. The budget revise also seeks to eliminate child care assistance for the working poor, freeze education funding, gut IHSS, devastate mental health programs and slash workers’ pay (again). “At a time when joblessness and recession continue to batter California families, the devastating cuts the Governor proposes would choke off any hope of economic recovery,” said California Labor Federation Executive Secretary-Treasurer Art Pulaski.
Adding insult to injury (and injured workers), Schwarzenegger is once again ignoring the plight of permanently disabled workers. It’s been five years since the Governor slashed benefits for permanently disabled workers over 70%, and the law requires Schwarzenegger to review these regulations and make any needed adjustments after five years. However, his representatives have completely ignored the law and, in fact, even said so on the record at this week's Senate Labor and Industrial Relations information hearing. Yet another reason why we can’t wait to get rid of Arnold.
While working Californians face another round of devastating budget cuts, corporations claim $14.5 billion in tax breaks annually, and the state loses millions more in tax revenue due to loopholes in the tax code. This week, the Revenue and Taxation Committees of both houses of the Legislature approved two measures to close these loopholes and make corporations more accountable. AB 2492 (Ammiano) would close loopholes that allow corporations to avoid reassessment, and therefore higher taxes, on commercial property. SB 1391 (Yee) would require corporations that receive tax credits to pay that money back to the state if they experience a decrease in employment over a three-year period. These two bills, along with the rest of our corporate accountability package, are vital steps towards holding wealthy businesses more accountable for the money they receive.
Locked-out workers at the Rio Tinto mine in Boron won a tremendous victory today when they reached a tentative settlement with their employer that preserves good jobs. Over 500 workers at the borax mine were locked out on January 31, 2010, after unanimously rejecting the company’s proposal to eliminate full-time jobs, seniority and job security. The workers stood tall and stayed unified. They received an outpouring of support from their community, as well as from the Los Angeles, statewide, and global Labor Movement. The new agreement preserves full time jobs, protects against discrimination and favoritism, and ensure decent wage increase sand retirement security.
It's not often that workers can proclaim victory over Wal-Mart, but this week, after a four-year court battle, the fiercely anti-union retail giant settled a class action lawsuit with 232,000 California Wal-Mart workers who were collectively denied over $86 million in overtime, vacation pay and other wages mandated California law. The settlement is separate from the 2008 $640 million agreement to settle 63 federal and state class-action lawsuits claiming similar illegal wage violations. Wal-Mart was involved in at least 73 wage-and-hour class action lawsuits in just 2009 alone. Every lawsuit filed against Wal-Mart over workers’ rights violations highlights the sad truth that the company’s executives continue to prioritize profits over the quality of life for the workers who directly contribute to the company’s success.