By Doug Cunningham
California workers being paid the minimum wage are getting a raise today – from $7.50 an hour to $8 an hour. About one and a half million workers in California are affected. The minimum wage increase bill was sponsored by the California Labor Federation in 2006. The labor federation says that while this increase is a step in the right direction, it doesn’t deal with the bigger problem – that inflation is outstripping the minimum wage. In California, a worker needs more than $13 an hour just to meet basic living expenses according to the California Budget Project. Labor wants to see the minimum wage indexed to inflation.
By Doug Cunningham
At the dawn of a new, highly-politically charged year organized labor is poised to be a bigger player than ever before at the ballot box. AFL-CIO President John Sweeney says labor’s political clout is stronger than ever.
[Sweeney]: “You can rest assured that we will have more people involved in the campaign at the grassroots level than we have ever had. One out of every four voters was a union member or from a union household. And we will be undertaking that kind of campaign, stronger than ever, with more resources than we’ve ever put into a campaign. And I anticipate that, with a little help from God, we will be successful.”
From a new Congress taking the reins on Capitol Hill in January to the AFL-CIO’s first-ever global organizing conference in December, working families have seen significant victories, unfortunate setbacks and a lot of unfinished business this year. We take a look back at 2007 in a series of posts, continuing today with a quick glance at the top items from July through September. Click here to read Part 1 and Part 2.
* Tens of thousands of public employees in New Hampshire, Oregon and Massachusetts won a voice at work with unions in 2007. The victories came after union members in 2006 elected pro-working family candidates to governors’ offices and state legislatures, where lawmakers passed majority sign-up legislation. Under majority sign-up—which is a key part of the Employee Free Choice Act—workers form unions by signing cards authorizing union representation.
The Starbucks Workers Union plans to step up for Martin Luther King in 2008. The New York City based union is asking the international chain to pay employees the holiday premium on January 21 – Martin Luther King Day.
The National Labor Relations Board handed down a major blow to union organizing during the Christmas break. The board ruled 3-2 that an employer could have a policy prohibiting employees from using the company’s email network for union activities. A company had punished an employee for sending union related emails via the company’s network. The NLRB found that while the company had allowed for some other non-work related emails in the past it had never allowed email use to solicit for groups or organizations. Two of the three emails sent by the employee were viewed as solicitation by the board so they violated company policy.
FedEx learned two weeks ago that misclassifying workers as independent contractors is illegal. The Internal Revenue Service hit the package delivery company with a $319 million fine when it determined that FedEx ground workers were employees. In a statement Teamsters President Jim Hoffa said “It’s game over for FedEx’s independent contract scam.”
New York City nearly started the New Year with 26,000 workers on the picket lines around the city. A tentative four year contract reached with more than 1000 city office buildings by the Service Employees International Union Local 32bj averted a strike that was set to go down at midnight on Tuesday. The SEIU had been seeking a pay increase higher than the inflation rate – that goal was achieved when the building owners agreed to a basic wage that would increase over four years from $19.15 per hour to $22.65.
Regardless of the writer’s strike most of the late night talk show hosts will be returning to the air in early January, however, David Letterman will have one thing the rest won’t – writers. The host of Late Night has negotiated a separate contract with the Writer’s Guild of America via his production company Worldwide Pants. Letterman has been off the air since November 5, but will return to broadcasting on January 2. The new contract negotiated between the Guild and Worldwide Pants offers provisions that will pay writers for work distributed via emerging media distribution technologies such as the Internet.