By Doug Cunningham
Hundreds of domestic workers in New York staged 24-hour vigils over the weekend at New York City Hall calling on legislators to pass the first domestic workers bill of rights. Sunday they conducted a “March For Respect” in Manhattan. Aijen Poo is with Domestic Workers United. She says getting the first domestic workers bill of rights passed by the New York state legislature would have national impact.
[Aijen Poo]: “Domestic workers are excluded from most of the major labor laws in this country. So this bill would reverse a long history of exclusion and discrimination against this workforce, and really have the workers be recognized as real workers for the first time.
By Doug Cunningham
In Milwaukee the group 9 To 5 Milwaukee plans to appeal a court decision that struck down the city’s mandatory sick leave ordinance. Sixty-eight percent of Milwaukee’s voters approved the measure, which would have required private sector employers in the city of Milwaukee to provide up to 9 days of paid sick leave to workers. A county circuit court judge ruled Friday that the new ordinance was unconstitutional. Nearly 60 million U.S. workers have no paid sick days. A bill to require paid sick days for workers has been introduced in Congress. Critics of legislation guaranteeing paid sick days claim it will lead to job loss. But the Center for Economic and Policy Research says using data from over 100 countries it found no relationship between the availability of paid sick leave and changes in unemployment or competitiveness.
On Eve Of New Talks At The Globe, The Boston Newspaper Guild Holds “Farewell To Fair Wages” Party – 06/15/09
By Doug Cunningham
The Boston Newspaper Guild is scheduled to resume talks with the Boston Globe Monday after the newspaper imposed a 23 percent pay cut on guild members beginning Sunday. Guild members Sunday held a “Farewell To Fair Wages” party Sunday in the name of camaraderie and solidarity. The union’s members narrowly rejected a concessions contract, which led the Boston Globe to declare negotiations were at an impasse. Boston Newspaper Guild President Dan Totten has told reporters in Boston the guild is prepared to bargain in good faith to resolve outstanding issues even as it faces an imposed pay cut of 23 percent. And Totten told Boston’s WBZ radio that The New York Times, owner of the Globe, isn’t meeting its responsibilities here.
The nation’s economic crisis presents an opportunity for those who believe in justice to create long-lasting, fundamental changes, says Kim Bobo, executive director of Interfaith Worker Justice (IWJ).
In her keynote address last night before hundreds of participants at IWJ’s 2009 Leadership Summit in New Orleans, Bobo used the biblical story of Jonah as an illustration of the difficulties coalitions of faith-based groups and unions face in trying to ensure that workers are paid a decent wage and treated fairly. Just as Jonah was called to help save the sinful city of Ninevah, we are called, Bobo says, to help save our nation.
The nation’s economy is in turmoil. No one believes Big Business has our best interest at heart. No one thinks trickle-down can work. No one will be fooled into putting Social Security into the stock market. No one trusts the bankers. Oh yes, it is a new day. Ninevah will never be the same.
As a nation, we are going through a period of mourning, grieving. It is an economic moment like none other in my lifetime. We have the opportunity to change Ninevah, to save Ninevah–and frankly, just in the nick of time.
During the June 13-15 summit, union members, ministers and worker center representatives are discussing strategies to increase their fundraising capacity in this economic downturn, develop plans for the next steps in preventing wage theft, reform the nation’s immigration system and devise actions to help pass the Employee Free Choice Act.
IWJ, a network of people of faith, calls upon our religious values to educate, organize and mobilize the religious community in the United States on issues and campaigns that will improve wages, benefits and conditions for workers, and give voice to workers, especially workers in low-wage jobs.
In the past year, IWJ has conducted a campaign against wage theft, which robs workers of wages they have earned and denies them overtime pay as well. Today, the summit will hear about plans for a new bill in Congress to combat wage theft.
One sign of how the times are changing is the appearance of Michael Kerr, assistant labor secretary, at today’s session, where he will affirm the commitment of the Obama administration to crack down on wage theft and health and safety violations in the workplace.
Preceding Kerr’s appearance, the summit will view a videotaped message from Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, whose appearance before the group marks a stark departure from the anti-worker Bush administration.
The change in administrations and some recent victories are cause for optimism, Bobo said. In the next few months, she predicts we will restore the rights of workers to organize unions by passing the Employee Free Choice Act. By the end of summer, we should have a bill that “makes a dent in the crazy quilt of health care.”
And surely we can create a path to citizenship and protection in the workplace for immigrant workers in the nation.
We can win some significant battles in the next few years. Don’t give up. Don’t sell yourself and the nation short. It can change. We’re going to change it.