Tag Archives: workers

Close of Legislative Session Brings Real Gains to California Workers

by Steve Smith, California Labor Federation

It’s easy to be pessimistic about the future these days. Tea Party extremists are threatening to push our federal government into default. Federal immigration reform is on the back burner until the shutdown and debt ceiling messes are sorted out. In a host of states, anti-worker governors are hell-bent on gutting workers’ rights while giving more power to corporate special interests.

But in California, a decidedly different story is playing out. The end of the legislative session here brought huge gains to workers and their families that boost our state’s economy and bolster the middle class.

With the federal minimum wage stuck at $7.25, Gov. Brown signed AB 10, taking California’s minimum wage to $10 per hour by January of 2016, a 25 percent wage increase for low-wage workers in the state. While immigration reform is stalled in DC, Gov. Brown signed a slew of bills to protect immigrants and ensure greater inclusion. We’ve tackled the underground economy. Promoted good jobs. Axed a boondoggle of a corporate tax break that wasted taxpayer dollars.

This all comes on the heels of the passage of Prop. 30 in 2012 (which funded our schools and stabilized our budget) and the election of Democratic super-majorities in both the State Assembly and State Senate, ensuring Tea Party extremists couldn’t hold California hostage like they’re doing with the shutdown and debt ceiling debacle in DC.

In short, California is accomplishing what few in Washington DC can even imagine these days: Progress for working people.

California Labor Federation Executive Secretary-Treasurer Art Pulaski:

Labor led the way this year in bringing real equality and progress to working people in California. We reformed tax breaks that cost jobs, we won rights for domestic workers and car wash workers, we brought greater equality to hard-working immigrants, and we began the essential work of rebuilding the state’s middle class. With these new laws, there’s no question that California is the national leader in supporting workers and their families.

Among the notable legislative victories this year were the following bills Gov. Brown signed into law:

• AB 10 (Alejo/Steinberg): Increased the minimum wage to $10 per hour by January of 2016.

• AB 60 (Alejo): Expanded drivers licenses to all Californians, with key protections for immigrant drivers.

• AB 93 (Assembly Budget Committee): Reformed the wasteful Enterprise Zone corporate tax breaks to reward employers who create good jobs.

• AB 241 (Ammiano): Granted daily and weekly overtime protection to domestic workers who have been excluded from most labor laws.

• AB 263 (Hernandez)/AB 524 (Mullin)/SB 666 (Steinberg): Enacted the strongest protections for immigrant workers in the country to stop retaliation when workers speak out about unfair wages or working conditions.

• AB 537 (Bonta): Improved process for public sector bargaining to resolve disputes more effectively.

• AB 1387 (Hernandez): Protected car wash workers by preserving the car wash registry and increasing the bond to crack down on the underground economy.

• SB 7 (Steinberg): Raised wages for construction workers by incentivizing compliance with prevailing wage laws.

• SB 168 (Monning): Helped protect workers working for farm labor contractors by providing successor liability to ensure wages are paid.

• SB 400 (Jackson): Helped domestic violence survivors keep their jobs and promotes a safer workplace by asking employers to work with survivors to identify and minimize the risk of workplace violence.

• SB 770 (Jackson): Expanded paid family leave to include time providing care for parents-in-law, siblings, grandparents and grandchildren.

Learn more about California Labor’s legislative victories in 2013

If America needs a path forward, it ought to be looking to California. Big things are happening here. And we’re just getting started.

LightSquared Provides Satellite Communications to Hurricane Irene Emergency Management Teams

During an otherwise sleepy August summer, the East Coast was jolted by a confluence of unlikely events: a historic earthquake and a hurricane within days of each other.

The fact that both events occurred near the 10-year anniversary of 9/11 serves as a reminder about how much progress this nation has made when it comes to preparing for disasters, both natural and man-made.

However, the nation’s cell phone network is still vulnerable to major disruptions – a fact demonstrated in stark reality in the hours succeeding last week’s earthquake, when millions of people from North Carolina to New York were unable to make calls.

Unfortunately – but perhaps surprising to some – such outages have an impact on the ability of emergency responders to communicate with each other during major events.

LightSquared is part of the solution, as public safety agencies have come increasingly to rely on our satellite devices and service during emergencies since 9/11.

With Hurricane Irene bearing down on the East Coast, LightSquared did its part to assist emergency responders in preparing and responding to the event, by ensuring that various agencies can communicate with each other as they respond to the needs of public.

Last Thursday, LightSquared’s Emergency Rapid Response Communications Team (ERRT) deployed, at the request of several state emergency management agencies, to locations in Virginia, Delaware and Maryland. The team provides on-call mobile satellite communications services, personnel and equipment for emergency support to first responders and public safety agencies. The teams also assist responders in employing use of our G2 satellite phones, which feature our critical Push-to-Talk (PTT) service. PTT allows groups of responders from different agencies to communicate simultaneously. Our team also assists in the creation of “talk groups” of public safety workers through our Satellite Mutual Aid Radio Talkgroup” (SMART) service.

And last Friday, we collaborated with Inmarsat to jointly coordinate our spectrum to ensure there is sufficient satellite capacity for our respective emergency management and first responder customers as they prepare – and respond to – Hurricane Irene.

LightSquared has been offering mobile satellite services for more than 20 years, having launched our two MSAT satellites in 1995 and 1996. Last November, we launched our next-generation satellite, SkyTerra 1, which has the world’s largest reflector (22 meters), enabling satellite services on handheld devices similar in size and shape to traditional cell phones.

Earlier this month, we announced that we had completed the successful transition of 50,000 public safety and enterprise customers from the MSAT satellites to SkyTerra 1.

This past week is not the first time LightSquared has responded to natural disasters. We have assisted emergency responders on Hurricanes Katrina and Ike, the earthquake in Haiti, the ice storm in Kentucky and this year’s tornado in Joplin, Mo., among other disasters.

In addition to providing essential communications services to public safety organizations, our services serve crucial functions in the private sector, including maritime, oil and gas, utilities, news and entertainment, telecom and other industries.

Not well known among the general public is that our overall satellite business service supports more than 300,000 customers.

LightSquared awaits a decision by the FCC that would clear our launch of the nation’s first wholesale-only integrated 4G-LTE wireless broadband and satellite network.

From a practical standpoint, what does this mean for consumers?

It means for the first time, millions of underserved people in rural America will be able to access wireless broadband service. It means a person driving through Yellowstone Park or a barren stretch of desert in Arizona will be still be able to talk on their cell phone. It means more competition for a marketplace that has come to be increasingly dominated by two key players. It means lower prices for consumers.

LightSquared has long been a game-changer for public safety officials. It will soon be a game-changer for the broader consumer market as well.

True 100 Years Ago, and Still True Today: Workers Need a Voice

One hundred years ago today, the garment workers of New York were galvanized into action by the gruesome and unnecessary deaths of 146 workers, mostly immigrant women, at the Triangle Shirtwaist factory. Many of the workers burned to death because doors were locked, while scores of others died trying to escape by leaping from the 8th, 9th and 10th floors. After the funerals, tens of thousands of working New Yorkers marched, and workers demanded change and a voice in the workplace.

Today, workers in America, especially immigrant workers, find ourselves again in need of a voice. Unionization rates are 6.9% in the private sector; disparities in wealth are greater than at any time since 1928, and corporate America has consolidated its capital and its political power.

The American Dream of the mid-20th Century was built on good jobs – on union jobs. But here in the 21st Century, more and more working people are slipping into poverty. The working poor are everywhere we turn, and Latino workers make up 59% of the working poor in California. Nearly 50% of the foreclosures in California hit hard-working Latino familiesand more than 1 in 4 of the Latino children in California are living in poverty, most of them in working families.

That’s unacceptable. Our communities need good jobs, not poverty jobs. That’s the only path to a shared and sustainable prosperity. That’s why tens of thousands of Angelenos will march together this Saturday. We will march for the kind of jobs that support families, that pay for college for our kids, that provide affordable, good healthcare and that enable families to put down roots. In short, we march to keep the American Dream alive…

…For grocery store workers at Ralph’s supermarket and other companies in Southern California. Workers are fighting to hold onto living wages in the face of a determined effort to keep pushing their wages and benefits down to Walmart, poverty levels, despite the healthy 9.2% increase in profits per share in 2010 for Ralph’s parent company, Kroger.

…For security officers, hotel workers, airport workers, and janitors who are fighting for living wages and to have a voice on the job.

…For public workers, who are coming under an intense and coordinated attack across the nation – including here in California. In Wisconsin, workers who devoted their lives to serving their neighbors saw their right to join together and have one voice at the table abrogated by a sham vote (now restrained by a judge) that we would expect from a totalitarian regime, not the nation that gave birth to modern democracy. Public workers face similar efforts to push them out of their seat at the table in Ohio, Florida, Tennessee, Indiana, and other states, including a bill proposed California. And public worker’s hard-earned retirement security plans have been blamed for causing local and state government’s fiscal crises, a blatant attempt to deflect blame from its proper target, the Wall Street insiders and bankers who crashed our economy and drove millions of Americans out of their homes and jobs.

…For home care workers, social workers, child care workers, and other caregivers who have been targeted in budget after budget, and whose ability to provide good care keeps getting whittled away.

These are the American Dreams we are marching to protect. But this isn’t our struggle alone.  That’s why we are asking all Angelenos to join us this Saturday, to send a signal to Wall Street and its political that working and middle-class families are not divided. We are united by our dreams, and we will never give up our fight to ensure that the American Dream extends to all.

By Eliseo Medina, Secretary-Treasurer, Service Employees International Union

Schwarzenegger vs. Whitman — Could the Future of California Be Even Worse Than the Present?

Governor Schwarzenegger leaves behind a legacy of devastating budget cuts and huge tax giveaways for corporations. In the last two years  alone, Schwarzenegger has slashed $32.5 billion from the state budget– and now our schools and roads are crumbling, public safety is at risk,  and vital state services have been decimated. And while state workers  have endured deep wage cuts, corporations have enjoyed massive new tax  breaks.

Now, Meg Whitman is on a mission to ratchet up the pain on  working people in California — above and beyond the misery that Governor Schwarzenegger has already imposed.

State Workers’ Jobs

In February, Schwarzenegger announced two-day-a-month furloughs for state workers, which  effectively reduced worker pay but did little to help our long-term  economic crisis. In fact, economists report that the furloughs will result in a loss of $503 million over the subsequent years. When asked at the time what she would do to balance the budget, Whitman said that she would double the furloughs to four days a week, even though the furloughs actually caused the state to lose money.

When Schwarzenegger increased  the furloughs to three days a month (resulting in a 12.8 percent pay cut and loss of an estimated $2.1 billion in wages and benefits for hundreds of thousands of state workers), Whitman went one step  further. She announced that she plans to fire 40,000 state workers because she believes the state is “over-staffed” (In fact, California ranks second to last in the number of state workers per capita, and the ratio of all government employees to population in California is 28 percent below the national average.) This mass layoff would cause unemployment in the state to spike a full percentage point.

Public Employee Pensions

Schwarzenegger  has made pension takeaways a major issue and has threatened to not sign a budget without reforms. But despite his rhetoric the Governor has been forced to negotiate directly with unions representing state workers to get agreement on any changes to current pension benefits and contributions.

Whitman supports Schwarzenegger’s proposals, which include raising the retirement age, increasing what workers pay into the pension and ending defined-benefit pensions for new hires and sticking them in risky 401(k)-style retirement plans. But she doesn’t stop there. She’s willing to circumvent collective bargaining, and the elected legislature, by putting a pension cuts initiative on the ballot, and using her personal fortune to fund the ballot measure.

Regulations and Worker Protections

Schwarzenegger has continually attempted to roll back vital workplace protections including daily overtime and meal breaks, and he recently vetoed a bill  that would give farm workers overtime rights. But Schwarzenegger did institute some regulations to protect outdoor workers’ health and  safety. In 2005, after four workers died from heat-related illness while  working outdoors, Schwarzenegger ordered emergency regulations  for workplace standards for heat-stress prevention and treatment, making California the first state in the nation to adopt such  regulations.

On the other hand, Whitman stated in an editorial board meeting, “On my first day in office, I want to put a moratorium on all new regulations.” That means that regulations to protect workers, consumers, the environment and governing almost all aspects of the state would be put on hold so that Whitman could make a political point. And she’s also expressed that she will continue to push for worker takeaways on meal  breaks and overtime pay.

High-Speed Rail

Schwarzenegger didn’t do much in terms of job creation during his time as Governor, and subsequently unemployment has shot up to Great Depression-era highs.  But Schwarzenegger has done one positive thing on jobs — he whole-heartedly supports  construction of California’s high-speed rail, which would create more than half a million new jobs, speed the movement of goods and people throughout the state, reduce pollution and lessen our dependence on foreign oil.

But unlike Schwarzenegger, Whitman has voiced her unequivocal opposition  to the high-speed rail system in California, which was approved by  California voters in 2008. She claims that California “can’t afford” the high-speed rail project, even though the costs for the project wouldn’t come out of the state’s budget, and any delays could jeopardize over $2.2 billion in federal stimulus money.

While high-speed rail would seem like a no-brainer for a candidate for Governor, a closer look at Whitman’s opposition to the project reveals a potential ulterior motive. Whitman lives in a multi-million dollar home in the  wealthy enclave of Atherton, which has led the charge  against the planned high-speed rail project. Along with other wealthy  cities, Atherton has even filed suit to halt the project, despite the  clear economic benefits and broad support, simply because they don’t  want train tracks in their ritzy town.

Capital Gains Tax

Schwarzenegger pushed some very unpopular changes to California’s tax code in the last year. His tax commission recommended a plan that would flatten the personal income tax  and give the wealthiest Californians a massive tax cut while shifting a  larger share of taxes onto the middle class. The commission’s recommendations were largely opposed by labor, business and most  legislators, though he has tried to resurrect the idea of extending the  sales tax to services and reducing personal income taxes.

None of Schwarzenegger’s proposals, however, have been as blatantly self-serving as those that Whitman is proposing. She wants to completely eliminate the tax on capital gains,  which is money that wealthy investors rake in on things like stock  dividends, bonuses or property sales (as opposed to the payroll income tax that the rest of us pay).

The Los Angeles Times called  Whitman’s capital gains tax proposal “a pure handout, and a costly one, to the wealthy, a group that includes the billionaire Whitman herself”, concluding the Whitman plan would do little, if anything, to create jobs,” (and) is “just offering a menu of handouts to favored industries and  the rich.

According to the Franchise Tax Board, 82% of the $56  billion in capital gains earned by California residents were reported by  the top 1% of income earners (those making about $500,000 or more) in  2008. George W. Bush pushed through a similar tax cut, which went into  effect in 2003, that didn’t create jobs or save the economy from  collapsing in 2008. Whitman’s proposal would mean that she and her wealthy friends would get a massive tax break that would cost the state $10.8 billion.

Whitman  repeats the false Republican claim that cutting taxes for the wealthy  will increase investment in new jobs, but according to a broad coalition of economists and academics, that just isn’t true. In an open letter to Californians, economist Michael Reich wrote:

Eliminating  the state capital gains tax would do very little to spur investment in  the state. Most California investors’ portfolios are diversified  nationally and internationally. Consequently, the vast majority of  private income retained by investors would be spent on stock purchases  of companies outside the state.

We’ve seen what Schwarzenegger’s polices have done to our state. Once the envy of the  nation for our schools, infrastructure, world-class universities and  booming economy, California now is at the bottom of many measures of  quality of life, as public funding for the most basic services are  slashed and more tax breaks are given to multi-national corporations.  Whitman would take the pain to a whole new level by eliminating taxes on the very rich, halting regulations to protect workers, slashing jobs and pensions.

The future of California is in our hands this November 2. Don’t forget to  vote, and be sure to remind everyone you know what’s at stake in this  election.

Is California Really “Bleeding Jobs” to Other States?

Meg Whitman keeps reciting the same misinformation about job loss resulting from California’s bad business climate, claiming that businesses are leaving California because of “over-regulation”. But the truth is, we have lost fewer jobs than neighboring states that have fewer worker protections and lower taxes on corporations and the wealthy. Arizona, Nevada and Oregon had over 6.5% job loss, while California had 4%.

As KQED’s John Myers points out-

The “bleeding of jobs” — the notion that a large number of jobs are businesses are fleeing California — is a familiar talking point in state politics these days, especially among Republicans. But in the only broad, longitudinal nonpartisan study out there, the numbers don’t match the rhetoric.

According to the non-partisan Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC), California loses very few jobs to other states, and businesses rarely move either out of or into California.  A recent report found that

The annual net employment change in California due to relocation — a loss of about 9,000 jobs — represents only 0.05% of California’s 18 million jobs.

Not only is Whitman wrong on the big picture, the specifics she cites aren’t credible either. She continually points to aerospace giant Northrop Grumman’s relocation from Long Beach to Virginia as evidence of businesses fleeing the state. Which would make sense… except that Northrop Grumman didn’t actually leave California. They moved their corporate headquarters, which amounts to just 1 percent of their workforce, while over 30,000 employees remain here in California.

This isn’t the first time Whitman has twisted the facts to support her corporate agenda. One of her favorite examples of how California regulations stifle business is that it took eBay subsidiary PayPal over two years to break ground on a building in San Jose. The truth, as the San Jose Mercury News reported, is that that the city processed eBay’s development application in record time, and the delay was actually caused by eBay.

So why does Whitman keep making this stuff up? Because in the face of record unemployment, Meg Whitman has no real solutions. The centerpiece of Whitman’s economic plan, eliminating the capital gains tax, would do little to create jobs, but would be a boon for millionaires and billionaires.

Economists and experts agree that Whitman’s proposals would do far more harm than good. According to the LA Times:

Many policy experts say such plans will do little in the short term to create the 2 million new jobs Whitman promises: The state’s bleak economy is primarily the result of its deep investment in the real estate boom. The resulting mortgage crisis and credit crunch led to hundreds of thousands of construction-related workers being laid off in an industry that is unlikely to rebound anytime soon.

It’s no surprise Whitman doesn’t want to talk about the foreclosure crisis and subsequent job loss – after all, she sat on the board of Goldman Sachs, which has been the subject of several federal investigations for its role in the subprime lending collapse. And she’s continued to avoid answering questions about the mortgage-backed securities that made her rich while working-class families lost their homes and life savings.

There’s been a lot of talk lately about whether Abel Maldonado, Schwarzenegger’s appointed Lieutenant Governor, has been exploiting the tragedy of the San Bruno gas fire for political gain. But what about Meg Whitman’s shameless exploitation of the economic hardship workers in California are enduring?

Whitman has already spent over $119 million dollars trying to convince voters that she understands our pain. But in reality, she’s exploiting the economic downturn to help her corporate cronies get even richer by doling out huge tax breaks to millionaires while rolling back the workplace rights and protections that make California a great place to live and work. Learn more about Whitman’s jobs plan at http://www.WallStreetWhitman.com.

VIDEO: “Wall Street” Whitman’s Job-Slashing History

It’s no secret that Meg Whitman is wealthy beyond most of our wildest dreams. But few know the true cost of Whitman’s wealth. Today, the California Labor Federation launched a new online video and video game that highlights Whitman’s job-slashing corporate history.

Labor Federation Executive Secretary-Treasurer Art Pulaski:

Meg Whitman has made a game of downsizing workers and outsourcing their jobs, and walking away with a very real fortune for herself in the process. The record shows that Whitman is a one-person weapon of mass job destruction. By attempting to buy the California Governor’s Office, Whitman wants to take her game to the next level, but we can’t forget there are real lives at stake with every jobs she cuts, outsources or downsizes.

While Whitman touts her business savvy as her primary qualification to become governor, a closer look at Whitman’s corporate background reveals a troubling portrait of someone who got rich at the expense of her own employees. Whitman is a career corporate executive who built a personal fortune by eliminating and outsourcing jobs and slashing workers’ benefits. Everywhere she’s been, she’s made out with lucrative bonuses, stock options and other compensation. And workers have suffered hardships as a result.

EDIT by Brian: Check out the flip for more…

Whitman’s pattern of mass job destruction is clear:

   * While Whitman served as an executive at Stride Rite from 1992-1995, the company closed two manufacturing plants in Massachusetts and fired 450 workers — and Whitman collected $568,000 in compensation and stock options. The Wall Street Journal reported that during and prior to Whitman’s tenure, the company closed 15 US plants, moving manufacturing to “low-cost Asian countries.” During Whitman’s time at Stride Rite, the company cut its unionized workforce by half.

   * While Whitman served as president and CEO of Florist Transworld Delivery (FTD) from 1995-1997, the company eliminated 475 jobs and gutted retirement benefits for workers — and Whitman collected $1.2 million in compensation and stock options.

   * While Whitman served as an executive at Hasbro from 1997-1998, the company cut the workforce by 23%, laid off 500 U.S. workers and sent manufacturing jobs to Mexico.

   * While Whitman served on the board of directors at Gap Inc from 2003-2006, the company closed down a distribution facility in Maryland, outsourced dozens of merchandising jobs and fired 100 tech workers in California.

   * While Whitman was CEO of eBay(1998-2007), the number of overseas workers at the company increased by 666%. By 2007, nearly 40% of eBay’s jobs were outsourced. Whitman also ordered layoffs during her tenure, claiming that the company had “fat that could be trimmed.” By 2008, the company had laid off more than 10% of its workforce. Under Whitman, while laying off workers, eBay repeatedly lobbied for increasing H-1B visas to foreign workers, who are often paid less and have fewer rights than workers hired in America. During her time at eBay, Whitman received about $500 million in compensation and stock options and charged the company and its shareholders nearly $3.2 million for the use of a company jet.

   * While serving on the board of directors at Goldman Sachs (2001-2002), where she was on the executive compensation committee, she doled out $79 million in executive bonuses and participated in decision-making on a range of issues relating to the firm. Goldman is now under investigation by the US Department of Justice for its role in the mortgage crisis that led to millions of home foreclosures. While at Goldman, she received more than a half a million dollars in compensation, along with insider access to new hot stocks worth millions, a practice called “spinning,” which is now illegal.

At no point in Whitman’s extensive corporate career did she prove that she could create and sustain good jobs here in the U.S. With a track record like this, we’re left wondering what exactly Whitman has to gain by becoming Governor… and we don’t have to look too far to find the answer. Whitman’s proposal to eliminate the capital gains tax would benefit millionaires and billionaires – taking money away from schools, public safety and programs for the elderly and people with disabilities. And that’s just one in a laundry list of tax breaks, giveaways and sweetheart deals she has in store for California’s biggest companies and wealthiest individuals, without regard for how that loss of revenue would affect our already cash-strapped state.

When you connect the dots of her corporate career, it’s crystal clear her priority has always been profits, at any cost, above people. Based on her proposals for California – like cutting 40,000 state jobs, opposing the job-creating high-speed rail project and scaling back workers’ overtime pay and meal breaks – it’s evident that she would bring the same corporate agenda she’s advocated throughout her career to the governor’s office. That spells disaster for California.

Whitman’s corporate mentality would lead to higher unemployment, lower wages and fewer benefits for workers – in both the public and private sector. In fact, the only group that would benefit from a Whitman governorship is the exclusive club of large corporations and millionaires and billionaires from which she comes.

We cannot afford to let Whitman and her Wall Street agenda run the show in Sacramento. It’s up to us to fight her attempt at a hostile corporate takeover of our state. Learn more, play the game and get involved at www.WallStreetWhitman.com.

Paid for by the California Labor Federation. Not authorized by a candidate or committee controlled by a candidate.

California Labor Federation Launches Campaign to Expose Meg Whitman’s Wall Street Agenda

Meg Whitman spent last week crisscrossing California with her Wall Street pal Mitt Romney, pumping up her already overflowing campaign coffers with even more corporate cash. Her campaign strategy is clear: write big checks and avoid a real conversation with voters about her background, her policies, and her plans for the state.

But California’s workers aren’t going to let Meg and her Wall Street agenda take the express jet to the Governor’s office. While Meg and Mitt were rubbing elbows with the corporate elite, an army of nurses, educators, construction trades workers, and others who would be directly impacted by Meg’s anti-worker agenda were putting the final touches on our campaign to expose her plans to do Wall Street’s bidding and what her Governorship would mean for California’s families.

Today, the California Labor Federation launched a massive grassroots campaign massive grassroots campaign that will deploy an army of volunteers to expose the truth about Meg Whitman’s Wall Street agenda and her history on the board at Goldman Sachs. The campaign will counter Whitman’s avalanche of TV ads and estimated $150 war chest with online tools as well as and person-to-person contact, which is proven to be the best way to reach voters.

The brand-new website www.WallStreetWhitman.com will bring the pieces of the grassroots campaign together online. Serving as a one-stop information hub that exposes the truth of Whitman’s Wall Street agenda for California, www.WallStreetWhitman.com will also enable worker activists to engage others in the campaign through extensive use of email and social networking tools like Facebook and Twitter.

Union voters represent about 1 out of every 5 voters who will go to the polls on Election Day, and many millions more share the same concerns about what Meg Whitman’s agenda will mean for their families. Our plans to reach millions of member voters and deploy tens of thousands of volunteers to speak to their like-minded friends, neighbors, and co-workers will be critical to defeating Meg Whitman’s agenda, which includes plans to fire 40,000 public employees, roll back critical consumer protections that protect our healthcare, and take away worker’s rights, to name a few.

Meg Whitman’s wants to corporatize and downsize the California economy, which will be disastrous for everyone who works hard for a living in California – whether they are union members or not, whether they work in the public sector or the private sector. While Meg’s campaign is fueled by her allegiance to Goldman Sachs and the Wall Street culture that destroyed our economy, our campaign is powered with the passion of tens of thousands of workers who are determined to build better lives for themselves and their children.

We’re ready to spend from today through Election Day getting out the truth about Whitman’s record and letting voters know exactly where she stands on the issues they care about, including jobs, health care, education, and workers’ rights. Join us at www.WallStreetWhitman.com.

Steve Smith is communications director at the California Labor Federation, which represents 2.1 million workers in 1,200 AFL-CIO and Change to Win unions across the state.

Paid for by the California Labor Federation. Not authorized by a candidate or committee controlled by a candidate.

Will Walmart live up to their PR on Health Care this time?

There has been a lot of talk this week about the surprising move by Walmart to publically support President Obama’s health care reform plan, supposedly positioning themselves as a leader in the fight to bring health care to all Americans. As we mentioned in a post on our blog yesterday, this might be easier to swallow if Walmart had any history of leading by example. Instead, they usually do just the opposite.

Given Walmart’s long record of trying to build a positive reputation on ineffective work-arounds to health care coverage for employee, the recent revelations about sacrificing quality for cheap perescription drugs, and their deceptive PR campaign that severely overstated their workers’ health care coverage, it’s not hard to understand our skepticism. [get the details in the extended entry]

Despite all of their feel-good rhetoric, the reality is that nearly half of Walmart’s 675,000 employees – not to mention hundreds of thousands of children of these employees – remain without health care. The situation is not much better for the employees who are covered by Walmart’s plan, as highlighted by a Baltimore doctor in a letter to the editor in the Baltimore Sun. The submission details just how bad that coverage is for patients and doctors. Here is a short excerpt:

“I have several Wal-Mart employees as my patients. I can in all honesty declare that Wal-Mart, a wealthy corporation, for years got away with providing its employees no health care coverage at all or the type of coverage from which doctors could barely eke out payments.

Out of pocket expenses for patients are outrageous with this coverage. Hand me a Wal-Mart health insurance card, and I will let out a spontaneous sigh of exasperation because I know from experience what lies ahead is a runaround for meager compensation after I have delivered all the services.”


While we would love to think that Walmart has seen the light and is onboard to help every American attain the health care they deserve, we tend to agree with this fed up doc that “Wal-Mart is an image conscious opportunist.”

Stay up to date with the campaign against Walmart’s destructive policies at www.wakeupwalmart.com

This Water is for Display Only

(The California EFCA would provide easier access to unions for farmworkers. It will pass out of the legislature, the question is whether Arnold will sign it. He should. – promoted by Brian Leubitz)

Another Reason for the California Employee Free Choice Act

Supposedly we have the water available, we have the shade available, we have bathrooms available but dare not use them for fear of being fired. It was as if we had none at all.

— Rigoberto Ramirez, Blueberry worker

We’ve shared stories with you about farm workers who’ve had no water to drink. Now we want to tell you about workers who do have water, but don’t have the opportunity to drink it because of the pressure put on them by the companies they work for. Please read their stories and then take action to help them by sending Gov. Schwarzenegger and your legislators an e-mail today.


The following is from a May 26th complaint the UFW filed on behalf of workers at Munger Farms, where 3 farm labor contractors employ more than 40 crews and 1,000 workers to harvest blueberries. Pickers are working hourly, but have a huge quota of 5 boxes a day–which forces them to work through their breaks, not drink water or go to the bathroom for fear of losing their jobs. This is not an imaginary fear. It happened to about 60 workers on May 26. The workers were promised 3 days of work. They were fired after one day before they even had the chance to acclimatize themselves to the brutal pace demanded. Here is the story of an experienced blueberry picker, Guillermo Cruz:

We started working at 8 am and we were asked to pick 5 boxes of blueberries for the day which is a total of 65 pounds of blueberries. I did everything that I could to meet the quota. Company supervisors were constantly on top of us and yelling at us if we dropped any blueberries on the ground which made us very nervous and confused on what to do. Workers could not afford to go to drink water or even go to the restroom because of the tremendous fear of losing their jobs. Some workers even worked through their lunch breaks to try to meet the quota. The company would not even allow us to take our third break. Many workers were running and going as fast as they could to try to meet the goal. I was one of the few that was able to make 4 boxes and could not understand why I would be fired if I had done everything in my power to meet the quota. The time we worked we saw crews of 60 workers going and coming because of the tremendous pressure to meet the quota and the company was firing workers every day.

Some of the workers are still waiting for their pay checks.

KERO Ch 23, 6/1/2009 UFW Prepared To Press Charges – UFW Representatives May File Against Munger Farms

DELANO, Calif. — Last week, dozens of blueberry pickers were protesting against unfair working conditions in Delano. Monday night the United Farm Workers Union said that they are ready to press charges against the berry farmers. Dozens of field workers said they were fired and never paid. MORE

This is not the only incident. On May 26, the UFW filed charges on behalf of Giumarra vineyard worker Francisco Farfan. Francisco was suspended and sent home for the day after the foreman said Francisco had gone too many times to drink water. He was keeping up with the workload demanded. It was hotter than 100 degrees that day. Francisco believes he was suspended for taking safety measures that did not impede his work performance and to which he is legally entitled.

Two days later the UFW also filed charges on behalf of vineyard workers at Sunrise Agriculture. Again, the about 100 workers there did have water. The problem was they were not allowed to drink the water unless they were on an official break–10 minutes every 4 hrs–or at lunch. These workers also did not have shade to protect them from the sun and were not trained in heat safety as required by law.

Such incidents show that workers need the ability to speak up without being afraid of losing their jobs. It’s why SB789 CA Employee Free Choice Act for Farm Workers is so vital. This bill will make it easier for farm workers to organize, speak up to improve working conditions and help enforce the laws that CA’s government cannot enforce. SB789 passed the CA state senate and will next be heard in the assembly and then go to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Please take action today and tell them to pass SB789, a bill that will give farm workers the power to protect themselves.

Farm workers can not wait. Violations occur every day and little is done. Complaints regarding lack of drinking water, shade and work breaks to make use of these simple but lifesaving measures are an everyday occurrence for farm workers (worker stories). Last year six farm workers died of heat-related causes. Fifteen farm workers have died of heat-related complications since July 2004.

If you get time, this short documentary made late last summer is worth watching.  It’s 20 minutes long.  California’s Harvest of Shame is narrated by Speaker Emeritus Nunez, himself the son of a migrant farm worker, and includes a prologue and epilogue by actor and activist Martin Sheen.




Immigration Reform for Farm Workers, the Most Practical Solution for America

Now more than ever a comprehensive U.S. immigration reform is key in helping rebuild our country and giving back American working families the prosperity and equality they deserve. When we allow a group of people to be exploited and discriminated against, it negatively impacts American workers by driving down wages, benefits and working conditions.

President Obama recently announced he will pursue immigration reform that would allow the millions of undocumented workers already living in the country now to “come out of the shadows.” For that to happen, they need to be able to speak up and report abuses, organize and come to the bargaining table without fearing deportation. The reality is that most of these millions of workers have already established families in their communities and are part of our society as much as any U.S.-born American.

According to the federal government, more than 50 percent of U.S. farm workers laboring are undocumented. If we were to deport all undocumented farm workers, it would mean the collapse of the agricultural industry as we know it. That’s why the UFW has worked together with the agricultural industry for the last 10 years to craft a bipartisan approach that would ensure a legal work force for U.S. agriculture.

This compromise resulted in the AgJobs bill that would give undocumented farm workers presently here the right to earn legal status by continuing to work in agriculture. AgJobs is the practical and equitable solution in addressing grower concerns about labor shortages and the insecurity that makes farm workers so vulnerable to abuse.

Undocumented farm workers possess essential skills needed to maintain the viability of the agricultural industry. By allowing them to work here without molestation, we can ensure growers have a legal and available work force, and prevent unscrupulous employers from abusing the workers.

Blog by UFW President Arturo S. Rodriguez, cross-posted from The Hill