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Striking SoCal Port Clerical Workers Win Outsourcing Controls in Tentative Pact

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Some 450 office clerical workers—members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) Local 63—are back on the job this morning in the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, Calif., after the ILWU and port employers reached a tentative agreement Tuesday night that will prevent the outsourcing of jobs.

ILWU International President Robert McEllrath said the unity and solidarity of the workers, members, their families and thousands of community supporters played a major role in the workers’ win. When the workers struck Nov. 27, ILWU dockworkers and other port workers refused to cross the picket lines.

“This victory was accomplished because of support from the entire ILWU family of 10,000 members in the harbor community.”

The key elements in the tentative agreement are new protections that will help prevent jobs from being outsourced to Texas, Taiwan and beyond. Union spokesman Craig Merrilees said:

“Really, it was getting control on the outsourcing…ensuring that the jobs are here today, tomorrow and for the future.”

The port workers had been without contract for more than two years and employers were threatening to outsource jobs from the nation’s busiest port complex—some 40 percent of all containerized cargo is handled in the Los Angeles and Long Beach ports.

Details of the agreement that still must be ratified have not been released, but news reports say it is a six-year deal that is retroactive to June 30, 2010.

The workers don’t have ordinary clerk and secretarial jobs. The Los Angeles Times describes them as “logistics experts who process a massive flow of information on the content of ships’ cargo containers and their destinations….They are responsible for booking cargo, filing customs documentation and monitoring and tracking cargo movements.”

This post was originally posted on AFL-CIO NOW on November 6, 2012. Reprinted with Permission.

About the Author: Mike Hall is a a former West Virginia newspaper reporter, staff writer for the United Mine Workers Journal and managing editor of the Seafarers Log. He came to the AFL- CIO in 1989 and has written for several federation publications, focusing on legislation and politics, especially grassroots mobilization and workplace safety. When his collar was “still blue,” he carried union cards from the Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers, American Flint Glass Workers and Teamsters for jobs in a chemical plant, a mining equipment manufacturing plant and a warehouse.


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America Holding Walmart’s Feet to the Fire

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Finally, someone is holding Walmart directly accountable for the abuse of workers in its contracted warehouses. “Recent discovery has established that Walmart bears ultimate responsibility for the violations of state and federal law committed against plaintiff warehouse workers,” said a court document filed in Los Angeles.  

Walmart Targeted In Warehouse Worker Lawsuit – Huffington Post  

“Wal-Mart employs a network of contractors and subcontractors who have habitually broken the law to keep their labor costs low and profit margins high. We believe Wal-Mart knows exactly what is happening and is ultimately responsible for stealing millions of dollars from the low-wage warehouse workers who move Wal-Mart merchandise.”

Warehouse Workers Sue Wal-Mart for Back pay and Damages – ABC News/Univision 

Corporate Welfare: instead of taking a small partition of their record profits, or slightly cutting CEO pay to help out their workers, Walmart wants YOU, the taxpayer, to pay for its workers’ healthcare. Just one more reason Walmart workers, and the population at large, are standing up to Walmart. 

Walmart Wants Taxpayers to Pick Up Health Care Costs – Truth Dig

Walmart wants you to think its workers love the store and love their jobs. If that’s the case, why are there unprecedented protests against the mega retailer spanning the country? Why is the store facing a lawsuit from contracted warehouse workers? Since Walmart has given us no real evidence that its workers love the store, maybe we are just supposed to take Walmart’s word for it? 

Walmart Wants You To Know That Their Workers ‘Love Their Jobs’ – Huffington Post

This post was originally posted on Change to Win on Monday, December 3, 2012. Reprinted with Permission.

About the Author: J Lefkowitz: Change to Win is a Strategic Organizing Center which focuses on using its “strength in numbers to reclaim the American Dream.” It’s target is middle class and working class Americans to hold corporations  and other large entities in our modern society accountable. You can learn more about Change to Win here.


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Corporate Profits Hit Record High While Worker Wages Hit Record Low

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A constant conservative charge against President Obama is that he is inherently anti-business. However, businesses keep defying the storyline by making larger and larger profits, rebounding nicely out of the Great Recession.

In the third quarter of this year, “corporate earnings were $1.75 trillion, up 18.6% from a year ago.” Corporations are currently making more as a percentage of the economy than they ever have since such records were kept. But at the same time, wages as a percentage of the economy are at an all-time low, as this chart shows. (The red line is corporate profits; the blue line is private sector wages.):

 

Corporations made a record $824 billion in profits last year as well, while the stock market has had one of its best performances since 1900 while Obama has been in office.

Meanwhile, workers are getting the short end of the stick. As CNN Money explained, “a separate government reading shows that total wages have now fallen to a record low of 43.5% of GDP. Until 1975, wages almost always accounted for at least half of GDP, and had been as high as 49% as recently as early 2001.”

This post was originally posted on Think Progress on December 3, 2012. Reprinted with Permission.

About the Author: Pat Garofalo is the Economic Policy Editor for ThinkProgress.org at the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Pat’s work has also appeared in The Nation, U.S. News & World Report, The Guardian, the Washington Examiner, and In These Times. He has been a guest on MSNBC and Al-Jazeera television, as well as many radio shows. Pat graduated from Brandeis University, where he was the editor-in-chief of The Brandeis Hoot, Brandeis’ community newspaper, and worked for the International Center for Ethics, Justice, and Public Life.


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Workers Cheer Living Wage Victory in Austin

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Barbara DohertyConstruction workers and others in the Austin, Texas, area are celebrating a coalition victory this week after Travis County commissioners approved a first-ever economic development policy that includes a living wage requirement.

The policy requires contractors asking for tax incentives to move into the county to pay all employees at least $11 per hour. It’s a significant improvement over the prevailing construction hourly wage of $7.50.

On the same day the county provision passed, a subcommittee of the Austin City Council passed a similar policy, which will come to the full council in the coming months. As reported in the Austin American-Statesman, both the city and county have been criticized about generous tax incentives offered in recent years to major companies such as Apple and Marriott.

Along with faith-based and student organizations, the Texas Building and Construction Trades Council, the Laborers (LIUNA), the Electrical Workers (IBEW), AFSCME Local 1624, Education Austin (AFT) and Texas State Employees Union (TSEU)/CWA Local 6186 participated in the yearlong campaign spearheaded by the Austin-based Workers Defense Project (WDP). The 1,000-member WDP has worked for 10 years on wage theft and other workers’ rights issues.

Austin Interfaith and United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS) were among others that supported the campaign.

“Really, what this means is construction workers are starting to have a say in their working conditions and their pay,” WDP organizer Greg Casar told a celebratory crowd after the county commissioners voted.

This post was originally posted on November 30, 2012 at AFL-CIO NOW. Reprinted with Permission.

About the Author: Barbara Doherty: My dad drove a laundry delivery truck in San Francisco and I came to appreciate unions sitting in the waiting room at the Teamsters vision center there. More than 30 years ago, I joined the international SEIU publications staff (under the union’s legendary, feisty president, George Hardy). Living in California, Massachusetts and Washington, D.C., over the years, I have contributed countless news and feature articles, as well as editing, to the publications and websites of unions in the public and private sectors and the construction trades.


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“Wal-Mart is Not a Feudal Manor”

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The manager at the Southside Walmart in Paducah, Ky., might have figured he’d quashed the protest at his store.

After all, he made James Vetato and three other OUR Walmart picketers leave from near the front door.

The quartet retreated, but to regroup at the entrance road to the busy shopping center the Walmart store anchors.

They redeployed under a big blue and white Walmart sign and held up hand-lettered placards reading, “ON STRIKE FOR THE FREEDOM TO SPEAK OUT,” “RESPECT ASSOCIATES DON’T SILENCE ASSOCIATES,” “ULP [unfair labor practice] STRIKE” and “WALMART STOP BULLYING ASSOCIATES WHO SPEAK OUT.”

Vetato, his wife, Trina, Rick Thompson and Amber Frazee were among many members of Organization United For Respect at Walmart — “OUR Walmart” for short — who struck and walked picket lines at stores in a reported 100 cities and towns in 46 states on Thanksgiving night and on Black Friday, the busiest shopping day of the year.

The group, which numbers thousands of current and past Walmart employees across the country, wanted to focus national attention on Walmart’s abuse of its workers, Vetato said.

The world’s richest retailer, Walmart is known for paying low wages to its employees, called “associates.” In addition, Walmart is fiercely anti-union.

Said Trina Vetato:

“People honked and waved to show their support, and they slowed down to read the signs. Some people stopped and told us they supported what we were doing.”

Vetato works at the Southside store. Her husband did, too, until he said management drove him to quit.

Frazee is employed at another Walmart in historic Paducah, where the Tennessee and Ohio rivers merge. She and Vetato expect retaliation from Walmart management.

“They said that there will be consequences,” Vetato said. “I’ll probably get fired or put on suspension or something. But it’s well worth it to me.”

Frazee agreed. “All we want is respect,” she said.

The Vetatos, Frazee and Thompson handed out leaflets explaining, “We are the life-blood of Walmart, yet we are not always treated with respect.”

Some of the literature outlined a “Declaration of Respect,” which nearly 100 OUR Walmart members, including James Vetato, delivered to Walmart’s top management at company headquarters in Bentonville, Ark.

The declaration calls on Wal-Mart management to

— Listen to associates.

— Respect associates and recognize their right to free association and free speech.

— Allow associates to challenge working conditions without fear of retribution.

— Pay a minimum of $13 an hour and make full-time jobs available for associates who want them.

— Create dependable and predictable work schedules.

— Provide affordable health care.

— Furnish each associate a policy manual that ensures “equal enforcement of policy and no discrimination” and affords every employee an “equal opportunity to succeed and advance in his or her career.”

The four Paducah protestors brought a cardboard box filled with OUR Walmart literature. They said management tried to keep it out of the store. Shoppers helped get it in.

“On Thanksgiving night, a community member took one of the fliers and taped it to the front of his shirt and walked through the store to get the word out to everybody,” Trina Vetato said.

Thompson, a Pittsburgh union activist, came to Paducah to join the picket line. When a member of management tried to stop him from handing out leaflets, another customer came to his aid.

Explained Thompson, a member of Vacaville, Calif.-based International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 1245:

“The manager started bullying me for peacefully disseminating information, which I had the right to do. When the customer saw the manager walk away, she said ‘Give me a stack of those. I’ll take them in for you and pass them out.'”

Thompson said OUR Walmart is not trying to drive Walmart out of business. “We are not asking a single customer to turn away. We are fighting to win respect and improve working conditions for all associates.

“We want employees to have a chance to form their own association and have their own concerted actions without retaliation and unfair treatment. Walmart is not a feudal manor. The associates are not serfs. Walmart does not own every aspect of their lives.”

This post was originally posted on November 24, 2012 at Union Review. Reprinted with Permission.

About the Author: Berry Craig is a recording secretary for the Paducah-based Western Kentucky AFL-CIO Area Council and a professor of history at West Kentucky Community and Technical College, is a former daily newspaper and Associated Press columnist and currently a member of AFT Local 1360. His articles can also be featured on AFL-CIO NOW.


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Mad at Obama, Papa John’s Will Cut Hours To Rob Employees of Healthcare

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Papa John’s CEO John Schnatter is angry about Obamacare, and he’s taking it out on his employees. The healthcare reform law mandates that, by 2014, employees who work more than 30 hours per week at companies with more than 50 workers must be covered by their employer’s health insurance plan. In light of Obama’s re-election, the pizza magnate announced that he will cut workers’ hours in order to create a part-time workforce and dodge the cost of providing healthcare coverage.

Papa John’s is the third-largest pizza chain in the nation with about 16,500 employees, but the company currently only provides healthcare coverage to one third of its workers. Schnatter claims he wishes all of his employees could be on the company’s healthcare plan, but that rising health insurance costs are prohibitive. He tells ABC Action News, “The good news is 100 percent of the population is going to have health insurance. We’re all going to pay for it.”

Schnatter, who was a supporter of Mitt Romney and helped raise funds for the Republican presidential candidate, started voicing his opposition to the Affordable Care Act in the months leading up to the election. In August, he complained that the reform would cost his company 11-14 cents per pizza or 15-20 cents per order (though Forbes calculates the actual cost would be 3.4-4.6 cents per pizza) and that Papa John’s would pass those costs onto customers by raising pizza prices.

To many, raising pizza prices seems like a more reasonable approach to offsetting some of the costs of healthcare reform than cutting employees’ hours. The public response has been largely, “I’d pay an extra 14 cents per pizza for your employees to have healthcare.” Many have proposed boycotting the company, such as Reddit user goforReaper:

I haven’t had a Papa John’s pizza in months since he first claimed that Obamacare would cause him to raise prices—and I assure you, all of my cheap pizza needs have been fulfilled by other, equally shitty establishments. Reddit, let’s send him a message and stop buying his pizza. His employees deserve decent wages and access to healthcare, and if he doesn’t think so, he can sit with the rest of the Romney camp and circle jerk about how tough their lives are!

It seems Papa John’s is likely to lose more money from the negative public response than from the healthcare reform—Forbes reports that that the company’s shares have dropped 4.2% between Thursday and Monday. But such boycotting risks further harming these workers it aims to defend, as Mediaite points out:

The problem with boycotting Papa John’s (aside from the fact that it’s hard to refuse to buy pizza from a chain you already don’t buy pizza from) is that it actually hurts the employees on whose behalf we’re all outraged. A far better solution would be to send a check for $0.14 to John Schnatter every time you buy a pizza. Concerned citizens could also organize a Tipcott™, wherein they order the cheapest thing on the Papa John’s menu, then give the driver, like, a 100% tip.

On the other end of the spectrum, some have declared strong support for Papa John’s and are trying to use the issue to spark a movement in opposition of the healthcare reform law. In fact, @Reboot_USA started a Facebook campaign declaring Nov. 16 National Papa John’s Appreciation Day, on which Papa John’s supporters visit their local Papa John’s and order a pizza to stand against the “fiscal nightmare” that is Obamacare.

This article was originally posted on Working in These Times on November 16, 2012. Reprinted with Permission.

About the Author: Sarah Cobarrubias is a freelance writer and editor at Chicagoista. She lives in Pilsen, IL.


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Walmart’s Black Thursday Hits Paducah

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James Vetato planned to spend Black Friday wearing out shoe leather on a picket line at the Southside Walmart in Paducah, Ky.

“Now I’ll be there Thanksgiving night, too,” Vetato said. “Walmart has announced it will be open at 8 p.m. Thanksgiving night, which will prevent a lot of the associates from spending the holiday with their families.”

Vetato, 47, is an organizer with OUR Walmart—Organization United for Respect at Walmart—a national association of current and former Walmart employees, several thousand strong, who will be walking picket lines and striking at dozens of Walmart stores across the country on Turkey Day and Black Friday.

OUR Walmart wants to shine a national spotlight on Walmart’s abuse of its workers, Vetato said. The organization chose the day after Thanksgiving because it is the busiest shopping day of the year.

We are fighting to win respect and improve working conditions for all associates.

Vetato, who worked at the store he will be picketing, hopes OUR Walmart will become a union.

Before I worked at Walmart I wasn’t that big on unions. I didn’t think a union was a bad thing. I just didn’t know anything about unions. Now I think every workplace should be unionized.

According to Vetato, OUR Walmart has about 15 members in historic Paducah, where the Tennessee and Ohio rivers merge. “We’re relatively new so we’re not that big. But our numbers are growing.”

Vetato said the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) union is providing financial backing and other valuable help to OUR Walmart, some of whose members, including Vetato, have demonstrated at Walmart corporate headquarters in Bentonville, Ark.

AFL-CIO-affiliated unions support Vetato’s group, too. “We stand in solidarity with the Walmart workers and will be glad to help them in any way we can,” said United Steelworkers (USW) Local 9447 President Jeff Wiggins, who is also president of the Paducah-based Western Kentucky AFL-CIO Area Council.

Vetato said fear is keeping more Walmart workers from joining OUR Walmart.

There aren’t that many jobs around here. But Walmart has pushed people so hard, they have decided enough is enough and they are not going to take it anymore.

Vetato said management drove him to quit the Southside store after two years.

It all started after I was speaking with an associate in the back room who was complaining about the way things were. I said things would be better if everybody stood together and took our problems to management.

A manager overheard the conversation, according to Vetato. “He said he was sick of my kind coming into the store and undermining what he was doing. He doubled my workload and cut my hours.”

But what really made me say ‘enough is enough’ was when he made some inappropriate comments about my 15-year-old daughter. I complained to the store manager and he told me he didn’t have time to micromanage the store.
James Vetato and son.

Vetato has worked at odd jobs since he left Walmart in October 2011. “When I apply some place and say I worked at Walmart and they call Walmart, I suspect Walmart won’t give me a good recommendation,” he said.

Meanwhile, the OUR Walmart actions began in October in Southern California when, for the first time ever, employees went on a one-day strike. Said Vetato:

Across the country, Walmart employees have filed many, many unfair labor practice charges against the company because of the way the company is treating them. Walmart refuses to address our concerns, even those that would help the company. If you speak out, you face retaliation.

Walmart, which is fiercely anti-union, has put out training videos aimed at discrediting OUR Walmart, according to Vetato. “They say all we are trying to do is take your money and get your personal information and cause trouble.”

Vetato said Walmart’s current business model includes canceling profit sharing for associates, increasing their health care costs by 36% and reducing their hours.

They are really trying to push full-time and older employees out the door and replace them with younger and part-time people.

This article was originally posted on AFL-CIO NOW on November 21, 2012. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Berry Craig is a recording secretary for the Paducah-based Western Kentucky AFL-CIO Area Council and a professor of history at West Kentucky Community and Technical College, is a former daily newspaper and Associated Press columnist and currently a member of AFT Local 1360.


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Affirmative Action Ban in State Constitution Violates US Constitution (8-7)

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Michigan voters adopted a state constitutional amendment that prohibits “all sex- and race-based preferences in public education, public employment, and public contracting.”

The 6th Circuit (8-7) held this provision – as it relates to education – violates the 14th amendment’s equal protection clause.

Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action v. Univ of Michigan (6th Cir 11/15/2012)

(Plaintiffs limited their challenge to racial discrimination in public education.)

The court said that a black applicant could seek adoption of a constitutionally permissible race-conscious admissions policy only through the “lengthy, expensive, and arduous process” of amending the state constitution. On the other hand, someone wishing to change any other aspect of a university’s admissions policy has four options – lobby the admissions committee, petition the leadership of the university, seek to influence the school’s governing board, or initiate a statewide campaign to alter the state’s constitution.

“The existence of such a comparative structural burden undermines the Equal Protection Clause’s guarantee that all citizens ought to have equal access to the tools of political change.”

Seven judges wrote five DISSENTING opinions. Six said that the majority relied on two US Supreme Court cases that “have no application here,” and one said that the majority relied on “an extreme extension” of those cases. The cases are Hunter v. Erickson, 393 US 385 (1969), and Washington v. Seattle Sch Dist, 458 US 457 (1982).

This post was originally posted on Law Memo on November 16, 2012. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Ross Runkel is Professor of Law Emeritus at Willamette University College of Law. He has spent 35 years specializing in employment law, employment discrimination, labor law, and arbitration.


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Intellectual Imperialism

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In order to think about ways to align labor rights and human rights and create the changes needed to eliminate the poverty and oppression caused by those ignoring the basic rights that all people should reasonably expect to enjoy; we must address the concept of Intellectual Imperialism.

Intellectual Imperialism is the exploitation of intellectual capital by focusing our best and brightest scientific and engineering minds on developing innovations in labor saving, rather than life saving, technology. The mindset that only by reducing the number, and cost, of workers can a mature industry remain profitable, is a perception in dire need of change if international labor and human rights standards are to be effectively implemented and enforced.

We invest our government and corporate research funding capital, and the efforts of our best people, creating new and improved ways to have fewer and fewer people able to run our industrial plants, rather than focusing that same set of limited resources on discovering innovative ways of employing the same number of people to create more, better quality, more useful products, whose production would create even higher levels of employment.

Better products increase demand, greater demand increases industrial employment to meet that demand, higher employment increases disposable income, more disposable income creates more consumer spending, and all contribute to higher profits, and therefore a stronger economy.

This is not to say that progress and innovation, geared towards increasing profit, is any way a bad thing. The profit motive has served to create the funding for all manner of innovations.

From early civilizations prior to the first time an ancient Greek, Phoenician, or Norse sea captain asked their kings and queens to sponsor exploration to find new trade routes, products, and treasure, profit has driven innovation.

Scientific and engineering advances have improved the quality of life worldwide, at all economic levels. We must continue to innovate, but we must also change the focus of our innovative efforts such that innovation creates, rather than eliminates, employment, increasing, rather than reducing, industry’s ability to generate profits for the benefit of their stakeholders.

The reallocation of capital and human resources to maximize education and employment opportunities is vital to the health and prosperity of our nation and the international community.

A greater percentage of corporate and public research and development funds must be used to improve training and education. This is essential to properly prepare our young people for their place in the future work force.  Keeping the skills of today’s work force vital and current, so their skill set can continue to evolve, is key to keeping them prepared for the constant work place change that is the hallmark of the 21st century global economy.

Corporate funding to permanently endow innovative elementary and secondary school programs; corporate and union funded endowment of professorships, teaching assistant-ships, and research staffs at universities; government, corporate, and labor partnerships in the endowment of international educational exchange programs will create a permanent environment for ongoing educational innovation.

In order to foster the cultural and core value changes required, it is imperative that governments, multinational corporations, organized labor, human rights organizations, academia, and community activists begin the dialogue necessary to form the consensus needed to implement meaningful, lasting, change.

A key element is the agreement and commitment by all International Labor Organization (ILO) member nations to implement changes in their domestic labor laws and trade policies to create the ability for workers everywhere to have the protection of, and means to enforce, the four conventions comprising the ILO’s Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work.[1]

The commitment to enforce the right to freedom of association and the right to engage in collective bargaining; elimination of all forms of compulsory or forced labor; abolition of child labor; and finally, elimination of discrimination in employment and occupation with serious penalties universally imposed on violators is essential.[2]

Further, enforceable legislation needs to be passed guaranteeing that workers employed by international corporations anywhere in the world should be paid a wage that creates a standard of living equivalent to that enjoyed by that company’s workers with the best pay, benefits, and conditions employed in similar jobs. This is the only way to bring the race to the bottom to a halt and put an end to social dumping.

An international coalition of government, industry, and labor must come together to create a plan to design and implement a worldwide program of green infrastructure construction projects to replace outdated, crumbling, bridges, roads, railroads, water treatment, and power delivery systems in developed countries, and bring renewable, green, transportation, water and power delivery systems to developing nations.

This will create new business opportunities for capital investment as well as millions of management, administrative, technical, skilled, and unskilled jobs around the world. The investment in education will create the innovations needed to create this green transportation and utility infrastructure, which will create opportunities for capital investment in green mining, agricultural, industrial, and service industries, resulting in more employment, more corporate profits, and a higher standard of living for people everywhere.

If we do not, if we continue to ignore the ever-increasing hunger, squalor, sickness, ignorance, and worldwide economic and ecological damage, caused by the unregulated greed and shortsightedness of so many in political, industrial, labor, and social leadership, if we continue to march, with flags waving and bands playing, obliviously backward into the dark ages, the legacy we leave our children and grandchildren will be a millennium of darkness and despair.

YOU must choose, WE must choose, choose  between sitting by while our civilization spins into chaos, or standing up, helping our family, friends, and neighbors to stand up, then standing together, work in solidarity to make this world a cleaner, greener, healthier, more innovative and profitable place. A place where there is opportunity for all. 

About the Author: Robert Daraio is a Local Representative of The Newspaper Guild of New York, CWA Local 31003; the Recording Secretary of the New York Broadcast Trades Council; moderator of theBroadcast Union News website; and a 2011 graduate of the MALS program at the CUNY Murphy Institute for Worker Education and Labor Studies.

[1] The ILO is the international organization responsible for drawing up and overseeing international labor standards. It is the only ‘tripartite’ United Nations agency that brings together representatives of governments, employers and workers to jointly shape policies and programs promoting Decent Work for all. This unique arrangement gives the ILO an edge in incorporating ‘real world’ knowledge about employment and work. http://www.ilo.org/global/about-the-ilo/lang–en/index.htm
 
[2] Adopted in 1998, the Declaration commits Member States to respect and promote principles and rights in four categories, whether or not they have ratified the relevant Conventions. These categories are: freedom of association and the effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining, the elimination of forced or compulsory labor, the abolition of child labor and the elimination of discrimination in respect of employment and occupation.http://www.ilo.org/declaration/thedeclaration/lang–en/index.htm 
 
This post was originally published by Broadcast Union News on November 9, 2012. Reprinted with permission.
 

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Broward Is Second Florida County to Address Wage Theft

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Kenneth Quinnell

This week, Broward County—one of the most populous counties in South Florida—became the second county in the state to pass a local wage theft ordinance, joining Miami-Dade County. In a 7-2 vote, the Board of County Commissioners voted to create the new law to deal with a significant and growing problem in Florida. Wage theft occurs when workers are not paid overtime, not paid at least the minimum wage, are forced to work off the clock or are not paid at all for work they have completed.

“I was at the meeting yesterday asking commissioners to vote yes for the ordinance, speaking on behalf of my close friends who are victims of wage theft in our county and haven’t been able to recover their wages after months of effort,” says Maria Isabel Fernandez, a resident of Dania Beach in Broward County. “I was thrilled when the ordinance passed! It may be too late for my friends, but it will help other people like them in the future who will now have the possibility of recovering the salaries they earned through their work without having to hire a lawyer and wait months without any income.”

Florida is considered one of the worst states in the country for wage theft, and Broward County is the third worst county in the state. Nearly 5,000 wage theft cases have been reported in Broward in the past three years, totaling more than $2 million in back wages. More than $28 million in unpaid wages have been recovered in Florida. Miami-Dade created a similar ordinance in 2010 and has recovered more than half a million dollars in unpaid wages in that county alone.

Several factors contribute to the problem. Florida does not have a state-level Department of Labor, has a high percentage of workers who are not covered by federal wage and hour laws and has a legislature that is openly hostile to wage theft laws, so much so that it recently tried to ban such laws at the local level.

Cynthia Hernandez of the Research Institute on Social and Economic Policy at Florida International University says:

Policymakers need to consider the ramifications of Florida becoming a glaring example of a state that tolerates and even encourages wage violations. Broward County and Miami-Dade’s wage theft ordinances are examples of good government policy addressing this growing issue. These ordinances are critical to maintaining a fairly competitive business environment so critical to Florida’s economy.

Alachua County, where Gainesville and the University of Florida reside, is considering becoming the third county to pass a wage theft ordinance. For more information or to report wage theft in Florida, contact the Florida Wage Theft Task Force.

This post was originally posted on AFL-CIO NOW on Monday, October 29, 2012. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Kenneth Quinnell is is senior writer for AFL-CIO. He is originally from Florida and is the father of three sons. He can be reached at [email protected]


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