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Black Friday Protests Kick Off In Dozens Of Cities

Dozens of Black Friday Actions Take Place Outside Walmart Stores Nationwide OUR Walmart and Allies United in Call for $15/hour And Full-Time

Comes On The Heels Of A More Than Two Week Fast
By 1,400 Calling Out The Giant Retailer for the Hunger Crisis at Walmart

Black Friday Protests (Image by Mary Clinton Twitter)

Black Friday Protests (Image by Mary Clinton Twitter)

Friday, November 27, 2015 — Today, in cities across the county, Walmart workers and dozens of allied groups are joining together in a united call for “$15 and full-time” for the millions of hardworking associates who are struggling to put food on the table this holiday season on Walmart’s poverty pay and inconsistent hours. Today’s actions, outside a dozen Walmart stores across the nation, comes on the heels of a more than two-week fast by 1,400 people, including hundreds of Walmart workers, many of whom are working this holiday season, including Jasmine Dixon, a mother of two in Denver Colorado and Lisa Pietro, a grandmother in Winter Haven, Florida. This is the fourth year of Black Friday actions by OUR Walmart and the biggest coalition yet – with more than twenty-two different organizations partnering in the actions.

OUR Walmart Black Friday actions are taking place at hundreds of stores across the country today including large crowds expected in: New York City, Tampa, Washington, DC, Miami, Chicago, Minneapolis, Los Angeles, Oakland, Sacramento, Seattle, Portland and Detroit.  More than 200,000 have signed petitions calling on Walmart to change. You can follow along using the hashtag #Fastfor15 and learn more at: http://protests.blackfriday.

Their message is clear: while Walmart employees can barely put food on the table this Thanksgiving, Walmart continues to thrive as the largest supplier of groceries in the nation and line the pockets of the Walton family with corporate greed. Anything less than $15 and full-time is not enough for Walmart workers.

“This Black Friday, Walmart will not be able to ignore their employees who sacrifice time with their families—even on Thanksgiving, like me—to earn a paycheck that won’t even cover basic groceries,” said Pat Scott, a Walmart employee in Washington. “We’ve been fasting for $15 an hour and full-time work outside of stores and Walton estates across the country—they know we’re going hungry, that my co-workers and I skip meals and pick up our dinners at food banks on our way home. The question is whether Walmart will use any of last year’s $16 billion in profits to do anything about it.

“This Thanksgiving, I worked at Walmart for the third year in a row because I worry about becoming homeless again like I was when Walmart forced me to taken an early, unpaid maternity leave,” said Jasmine Dixon, a Walmart employee in Colorado. “But I deserve more than such a low wage that my family and I still have to rely on food stamps and donations. Walmart needs to learn to respect us as people who work hard every day and stop taking advantage of us.”

This week, OUR Walmart released company testimony to the public for the first time revealing Walmart’s surveillance of their workers fighting for $15 an hour and full-time work in the wake of Black Friday strikes in 2012 and the “Ride for Respect” in 2013. In addition to closely monitoring the lawful labor rights activism of its associates on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, as the company faced a wave of bad publicity and negative same store sales, Walmart enlisted military industrial giant Lockheed Martin to spy on its workers and the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force to gather intelligence on protests.  

In response to these acts by Walmart, OUR Walmart is launching a campaign focused on key members of the congress whose responsibility it is to oversee the FBI and its activities.  You can see the campaign here – https://actionnetwork.org/petitions/help-us-ensure-that-walmart-stops-collaborating-with-the-fbi-terrorism-taskforce.

Quick Facts:

●     The Walton heirs own half of Walmart, which raked in $16 billion in profits over the last year. Their wealth has been greater than the bottom 42 percent of all American families combined.

●     More Americans buy their groceries at Walmart than anywhere else — capturing about 25% of the grocery market in the U.S., and up from around 7% in 2002, yet workers can’t even afford to shop there.

●     Walmart is the largest company by revenue in the US — and their US retail sales exceed those of Kroger, Target and Costco combined.

●     37 million people shop at Walmart every day — that’s more than the entire population of Canada.

This Thanksgiving: How To Talk About The Economy Without Getting Into An Argument

man yelling with megaphone

Is your family one of those families… where Thanksgiving dinner always ends up in a political argument?

First thing to remember is that arguing won’t get you anywhere. Research shows that when the people you’re talking with hold strong beliefs, arguing with them only makes it harder for them to change those beliefs. And “when people’s confidence in their beliefs is shaken, they become stronger advocates for those beliefs. … when faced with doubt, people shout even louder.”

Political scientists call it the “backfire” effect – and if you’re an activist, you need to know about it (and remember it). Also remember that there are neurological differences between “Republican” and “Democratic” brains… and there are behavioral differences… although scientists are still trying to figure out exactly what those differences mean.

no_megaphoneSo what are you supposed to do? If you’re, say, sitting around the Thanksgiving table when Great Uncle Chester starts berating your college-graduate niece about the fact that she’s living at home rather than in her own apartment…?

Start by finding common ground. There’s always something to agree on, if you just look hard enough. Even if it’s just a gentle restatement of what the other person said. “Yes, Uncle Chester, we all agree that college graduates should be able to find jobs that allow them to support themselves.”

Then, add a little reality in there. “But that doesn’t seem to be happening in the current economy. There are a whole lot of twenty-somethings who are still living at home.”

Try to use personal examples rather than just facts. “I remember what my neighbor’s son went through, when he graduated two years ago. It took him 18 months to find a job, and even then he earned barely enough for him to make his student loan payments.”

When you talk about facts, try to frame them as a question, not a statement. “Don’t you think that the economy has changed from when you graduated college? Remember how working in a bank used to be a highly-respected job? Did you know that, these days, almost one-third of bank tellers need food stamps?”

Don’t push too hard. With Uncle Chester, you might not be able to persuade him of anything other than that he should stop berating your niece. (And if you push any further, the conversation might get loud and become a “nobody’s going to win this” argument.)

But continue the conversation, if your audience seems receptive. “Did you know that, these days, banks are paying billions of dollars to stockholders, rather than paying their tellers a decent wage?”

— — — —

no_megaphoneDo you have a second cousin Mildred who insists that “cutting taxes for job creators” is the answer to everything?

Find something you both agree on. “Nobody likes paying taxes.”

Add a personal story. “I remember when we got President Bush’s ‘tax refund checks’ back in 2001 and 2008. It was nice to get the money, but I didn’t invest it. I don’t know anybody who invested it. Most people either kept the money in the bank or used it to pay down debt.”

Then, a little reality. “Did you know that Congress has been cutting taxes on ‘job creators’ since Ronald Reagan was President? Back then, they used to call it ‘supply side economics.’ But it didn’t fix the economy; all it did was create a huge budget deficit. So after a few years President Reagan gave up on the idea and increased taxes again.”

Is Mildred still listening? If she looks interested, rather than angry, give her a few more facts. “Did you know that corporations are spending literally trillions of dollars buying back their own stock? Rather than building new factories or hiring new employees, they’re buying back shares of their own stock in order to keep stock prices high.”

Is she still listening? “And corporations are even borrowing money – bonds they will be paying back for decades – in order to give money to their stockholders now. So I don’t think CEOs would really invest money from tax cuts in ‘job creation.’ Don’t you think they would just pay it out to stockholders?”

Is she still listening? “I wonder what would happen to our tax rates, if corporations were paying taxes at the same rate they used to, before the SEC started allowing companies to buy back their own stock. Don’t you think that we might be paying less in taxes?”

— — — —

no_megaphoneDo you have a brother-in-law who isn’t bothered by increasing inequality? Who thinks CEOs actually deserve to receive 373 times as much as their employees are paid?

Then you ought to read this Pacific-Standard magazine article about a recent International Monetary Fund report.

And you can start the conversation with something like, “We all agree that economic growth is a good thing.”

Then add a little reality. “Did you know that income inequality actually hurts our country’s economic growth?”

Add a story. “Gosh, I wonder if this is why Macy’s is having such a hard time. None of my friends are planning to do their Christmas shopping there.   It seems like everybody is shopping discount stores or making their gifts, this year.”

Use questions. “How can the economy recover, if ordinary people don’t have money to spend? Did you know that one in ten American jobs is in retail? What’s going to happen to that sector of the economy if wages stay stagnant?  What’s going to happen to the rest of the economy?”

Know your audience, and either stop (before things get loud) or keep going. “Did you know that increasing the income share to the bottom 20% – even just by a tiny bit – helps the whole economy grow?”  “Do you think that’s why the economy grew more, back when income was a bit more equal?”

— — — —

no_megaphoneAnd if the conversation turns to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) treaty… please be thoughtful and careful about what you say.

Personally, I’m tired of politicians pitting people against each other. And factory employees in Singapore are working to feed their families, just like we are.

The problem with the TPP isn’t overseas workers, it’s how much power the treaty would give to corporations. It’s how much power the treaty would give to big banks. It’s the idea of America giving up our right to enforce our laws, when those laws are inconvenient to multinational corporations. It’s the idea of turning over even more of our country’s sovereignty to international “investor-state dispute settlement” (ISDS) tribunals.  Read more about how the TPP empowers corporations on the Public Citizen website.

So please, if you’re opposing the TPP, don’t talk about how overseas workers are taking “our” jobs. The real problem is how much it will benefit corporations.

The real problem is that corporate profits are at all-time highs… while labor’s share of that bounty is pretty close to its all-time low.

And the TPP is likely to make that problem worse, not better.

But that’s not the fault of the migrant workers in a Malaysian electronics factory.

— — — —

Happy Thanksgiving! I hope the conversation around your dinner table is a peaceful one.

— — — —

no_fearBut if the conversation turns to Paris and Syrian refugees, please be especially careful. Fear is one of the most basic human emotions… it’s also one of the most destructive… and one of the easiest to manipulate.

Journalist Naomi Klein is the author of “The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism.” She’s done a lot of research into how corporatists use disasters to push through political change. Read her work about the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina here.

“For more than three decades, [economist Milton] Friedman and his powerful followers had been perfecting this very strategy: waiting for a major crisis, then selling off pieces of the state to private players while citizens were still reeling from the shock, then quickly making the ‘reforms’ permanent. In one of his most influential essays, Friedman articulated contemporary capitalism’s core tactical nostrum, what I have come to understand as the shock doctrine. He observed that ‘only a crisis— actual or perceived—produces real change.’ ”

I think of her work every time someone mentions the Bush tax cuts. Back in 2001, the federal government had a budget surplus; and in the first few weeks of September, the Washington Post did a poll that found 57% of Americans wanted the Bush tax cuts reversed, in order to preserve that surplus. Then 9/11 happened. And a decade and a half later, we still haven’t gotten tax rates restored to Clinton-era levels… and the federal debt has increased by $12.4 trillion.  (And we’re being told we need to cut Social Security, rather than restore the tax rates that President Bush cut even further “while citizens were still reeling from the shock” of 9/11.)

The Paris attacks renewed the atmosphere of fear that I remember after 9/11… and we’ve already seen how some politicians want to use that fear to change government policies. The good news is: my Facebook feed is full of people pushing back against these proposals, questioning them and using historical analogies to say “This is not what America stands for.” The bad news is: Facebook feeds are determined by an algorithm that tends to reinforce what people already believe.

So… when the conversation turns to Paris, and ISIS, remember the advice above.  Arguing isn’t going to help. You need to find some way to help the people you’re talking with step away from their fear, and step into the reality that their fear allows them to be manipulated. Find something to say that you both agree on – most people agree that refugees should be vetted before being resettled – and work from there.

If You Are Doing Any Type Of Campaign Organizing Beth’s Trainings Are A Must


Beth Becker of Becker Digital Strategies

Over the past six years I have been working with different unions and advocacy groups to spread their message across the vast reaches of the Internet. In fact I started the NH Labor News with the sole intent of showing the people of New Hampshire that Right To Work was wrong, to stand up and take action against the “Bully” O’Brien legislature.

From those humble beginnings, full of grammatical mistakes and typos, the NH Labor News has grown to over 3,000 Facebook fans, 6,000 twitter followers and has had over 650,000 website views.

Do you want to know how I did it? Do you want to build your organization’s digital empire to spread your message better? Do you want to use digital tricks to become a better organizer offline?


Becker Digital Strategies

Do what I did; take a class from Beth Becker.

Beth is goddess in the digital world. I could tell you all the places she has worked but this server does not have enough space. Lets just say that she has worked for everyone from a union local to Congressmen and literally everything in between.

Now Beth is taking her show on the road. Her first training class will be in Phoenix in early January.

I know what your thinking, I don’t live anywhere near Phoenix. That’s okay she will be in a city near you soon. Click here to sign up and receive updates about upcoming training classes.

(For those in NH specifically, Beth is already talking about coming up here for a week)

Right now Beth is traveling around giving two, 2-day classes.

The first class is an Introduction to Digital Space:

“This training will introduce organizers who aren’t comfortable or familiar with digital organizing to some of the basic strategies and best practices for email, data, social media and more.”

The second class is Social Media Strategy:

“We’ll dive into the pillars of building a social media strategy, best practices and case studies for a variety of platforms, content strategy, social advertising and analytics.”

If you work for a campaign, whether it is organizing bank tellers, paid family leave, or any political campaign these classes are a must and there is nobody better at teaching them than Beth Becker.

Sign up now to get email updates on upcoming classes.

Iron Workers Endorse Hillary Clinton for President

 (image Keith Kissel FLIKR)

(image Keith Kissel FLIKR)

Washington, D.C. – The General Executive Council (GEC) of the International Association of Bridge, Structural, Ornamental and Reinforcing Iron Workers voted unanimously Friday, November 20 to endorse Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for President of the United States.

Clinton now has the support of nearly 11 million union members across 14 different national unions who have endorsed her campaign.

“As President, I will fight every day to protect and expand workers’ rights to organize and bargain collectively, to maintain prevailing wage and labor standards, and to retire with dignity after years of hard work. Because when workers are strong, families are strong—and when families are strong, America is strong,” said Secretary Hillary Clinton. 

The GEC reviewed the qualifications of each candidate for president while coming to its decision.  While the council felt that several other candidates align with ironworker values, none compare to Secretary Clinton when it comes to putting those beliefs into practice.  Clinton’s record of looking out for the jobs that union members rely on was the largest factor in the council’s decision.  Her support for workers’ rights, infrastructure investment and economic opportunity lines up with the union’s priorities for the next administration.  Secretary Clinton’s unmatched experience in government will enable her to deliver on her promises in ways the other candidates cannot.

“I am honored to have earned the endorsement of the International Association of Bridge, Structural, Ornamental, and Reinforcing Ironworkers,” said Clinton

Secretary Clinton’s readiness to take on the global challenges, threats and opportunities faced by our country also played a role in the union’s decision.  The Secretary was tested as soon as she entered the U.S. Senate by the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.  Then-Senator Clinton sponsored legislation to provide for the ironworkers and others who sacrificed their health rescuing victims and clearing rubble on “the Pile” in New York and the Pentagon in Virginia.

Between her time in the Senate and her service as Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton has more post-9/11 defense and foreign policy experience than all other serious presidential candidates, Republican and Democratic, combined.

“The Ironworkers have helped build the mighty American middle class for decades—oftentimes literally, creating good-paying jobs and careers with every bridge and building they work on. They have stood strong against repeated attacks on workers’ rights, as Republicans and their allies have sought to roll back the hard-won progress we’ve achieved for workers and their families. And in our country’s hour of need, after the barbaric attacks of 9/11, they worked tirelessly on ‘the Pile,’ putting in overtime to dismantle tons of wreckage—and, later, to build the soaring Freedom Tower,” stated Clinton

“I have always stood with organized labor, and I will be proud to stand with the Ironworkers as President. As a Senator, I fought to secure critical health care benefits for the brave first and second responders at Ground Zero, and urge Congress to reauthorize the Zadroga Act without delay,” concluded Clinton.

With many jobs connected to the energy and manufacturing sectors, ironworkers are directly affected by new regulations on greenhouse gases and other environmental issues.  In the union’s assessment, other candidates for president have either unconstructively denied climate change or shown a cavalier attitude towards jobs lost due to environmental regulation.  The union expects Clinton to take a balanced approach, protecting the public from pollution while keeping Americans at work building the economy.

The GEC encourages all union ironworkers to register to vote and bring their families to the polls in 2016.  Besides the president, voters across the United States will choose 12 governors, 34 senators, and countless state and local officials.  With right to work legislation on the march in states throughout the country, 2016 is a vital year for ironworkers to make their voices heard.

In South Carolina, Sanders Makes Case for Family Leave, Social Security

ST. HELENA ISLAND, S.C. – Speaking to 600 people packed inside the Penn Center’s Darrah Hall, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders on Sunday called for paid family leave for new parents and expanded benefits for seniors who rely on Social Security.

Sanders is one of 19 Senate co-sponsors of the Family and Medical Leave Act introduced by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand. Rep. Rosa DeLauro is the chief sponsor of a companion bill with 112 co-sponsors in the House.

Under both measures, workers would be entitled to three months of paid leave to care for a newborn child. The legislation also calls for a small payroll tax totaling $1.38 a week for a typical worker.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton does not support Gillibrand’s bill, aides have said. Sanders urged all presidential candidates to join him in supporting the legislation.

The senator from Vermont also called on other White House hopefuls to join him in supporting a boost in benefits for retirees and the disabled.

With Social Security recipients facing a coming year with no cost-of-living adjustment for inflation, Sanders’ Social Security Expansion Act would make sure annual inflation adjustments are based on a formula that better measures seniors’ spending. Increasing medical costs and rising prices prescription drugs disproportionately impact seniors, Sanders told the audience here in South Carolina.

Legislation he introduced in the Senate also would increase Social Security benefits and scrap a cap on income subject to the payroll tax. Now, someone making millions of dollars a year pays no more than someone making $118,500 a year. Levying the same tax rate on annual income greater than $250,000 would only impact the top 1.5 percent of wage earners while boosting benefits for millions of retirees.

“I would hope that every Democratic candidate for president of the United States is prepared to lift the cap and expand benefits for millions of seniors in this country who desperately need to see those benefits expanded,” Sanders said.

According to published reports, Clinton has not categorically ruled out benefit cuts including an increase in the retirement age.

Sen. Sanders’ plan to expand and extend Social Security would boost the income of a typical senior making less than $16,000 a year by about $1,300 a year. It would also make sure that Social Security could pay every benefit owed to every eligible American for the next 50 years.

Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, The Case To Push Right To Work Nationally

Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association

Another day, another attack on working families.

The Supreme Court is about to hear a case, Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association that could overturn a nearly forty-year decision that allows unions to negotiate “fair-share” fees for non-union members who benefit from the union’s contract.

“We are disappointed that at a time when big corporations and the wealthy few are rewriting the rules in their favor, knocking American families and our entire economy off-balance, the Supreme Court has chosen to take a case that threatens the fundamental promise of America—that if you work hard and play by the rules you should be able to provide for your family and live a decent life,” wrote NEA President Lily Eskelsen García, AFT President Randi Weingarten, CTA President Eric C. Heins, AFSCME President Lee Saunders, and SEIU President Mary Kay Henry in joint statement.

For decades corporations have been trying to bust our unions in an effort to suppress workers and pocket more of the fruits of our labor. Twenty-five states have already passed, so-called Right To Work laws, that make it illegal for unions and employers to negotiate a fair share clause’s in their contracts.

Nearly forty years ago the right for unions to charge a fair share fee was challenged in the Supreme Court. In the case, Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, the court upheld the union’s right to negotiate a fee from non-members who benefit from the contract.

For generations unions have protected workers and help to counterbalance the corporate race to the bottom. In free-bargaining states, workers on average, make $1553 dollars more annually.

“It’s abundantly clear that right to work laws are negatively correlated with workers’ wages,” said Elise Gould, Senior Economist with the Economic Policy Institute.

This case, Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, is just another example of the extreme right wing pushing their anti-worker agenda on all workers. The case has been pushed by the Center for Individual Rights with strong support from wealthy businessmen and ultra-libertarians Charles and David Koch.

“The list of foundations and donor-advised funds supporting the Center for Individual Rights reads like a who’s who of the right’s organized opposition to labor,” wrote Adele M. Stan in the American Prospect.

The Center for Individual Rights (CIR) is also known for taking cases to the Supreme Court to overturn rulings on Immigration, Affirmative Action, and the Voting Rights Act. CIR quickly gained support from anti-worker groups including “the Cato Institute, the National Right to Work Legal Defense Fund, and the Mackinac Center, a major force behind the 2012 anti-union legislation enacted in Michigan,” who filed amicus briefs to the Supreme Court on behalf of the plaintiff, Friedrichs.

The AFL-CIO and AFSCME also filed amicus briefs opposing this corporate funded attack on workers rights. Along with the AFL-CIO and AFSCME more than 70, civil and human rights groups, including the NAACP, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, the National Women’s Law Center, and GLAD, filed their own amicus brief opposing this attack on workers.

“For nearly 40 years, unions have bargained to further opportunity for women, people of color, and LGBT workers,” said Wade Henderson, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. “At a time of increasing inequality, and when the odds are increasingly in favor of the wealthy and against the American worker, we urge the Court to adhere to its own precedent and reaffirm Abood so that unions representing all public sector workers, both members and non-members, may continue to effectively bargain for vital workplace benefits and protections.”

When workers stand together, we win. These attacks on our rights and freedoms have not gone unnoticed and will not stop us from continuing to organize to make the lives of working people better.

Labor Continues Fight for Justice for all Immigrant Working Families

(Photo by Bill Burke, Page One Photography)

(Photo by Bill Burke, Page One Photography)

A year after the executive action on immigration,
AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka issued the following statement:

Today should have been a day of celebration for working families across the nation. Instead, thanks to partisan legal obstructionism of the DAPA and expanded DACA policies, millions of people continue to live and work in fear in our country. Nonetheless, we continue to press forward.

This year working people have been standing together to fight for just wages and fair treatment in communities across the country. Millions of workers of all immigration statuses have been negotiating with a collective voice for a better life; and we have seen how labor unions have embraced the Adelante! We Rise! campaign by opening their halls to empower immigrant working families.  Our movement, including community allies and worker centers, is more energized than ever.

Right now, the Texas AFL-CIO and the Workers Defense Project are holding a three day pilgrimage to Austin to remind the nation that in Texas immigrant families are a vibrant part of the community and that they refuse to remain in the shadows. Our movement has been at the forefront of a wide range of issues related to bettering conditions for workers and their families. Last week the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement, the National Day Labor Organizing Network and community groups gathered outside Los Angeles’ downtown immigrant detention center to honor all the families that have suffered unnecessary separations as a result of our nation’s broken immigration system. 

The AFL-CIO was pleased to see the Administration file a formal request today for the Supreme Court to hear the case on DAPA and expanded DACA.  We remain deeply committed to ensuring that the promise of these programs to improve the lives of millions of working people is realized, and we intend to make our support clear in the streets, at the polls, and to the Court directly.

Meanwhile, we will press forward in the struggle for equal rights for all working people. Roadblocks test our determination, but we will not rest until families can remain united and all working people are treated with respect and dignity.

Culinary Union Celebrates 80 Years of Fighting for the Middle Class in Nevada

Las Vegas, NV – The Culinary Union was chartered on November 1, 1935 and this year marks the 80th anniversary of the organization that has improved the lives of hundreds of thousands of Nevada hospitality workers and their families with union wages and benefits. In eight decades, the Culinary Union has become an essential economic institution and a strong political force in the Battle Born State. 

Culinary Union 226The Culinary Union has won a middle-class standard of living for over 753,000 hospitality workers in the union’s 80 years through rank-and-file organizing and mass actions. Its membership has risen from 18,000 in 1987 to approximately 55,000 members today.

“We are incredibly proud of our members, whose hard work and sacrifices over the years has made Las Vegas a strong union town,” said Geoconda Arguello-Kline, Secretary-Treasurer for the Culinary Union. “Nevada is a place where working men and women have a real opportunity to provide for their families and achieve the American Dream. When the workers who make Las Vegas run have good jobs with fair wages, job security, and good health benefits, the entire community benefits.”

The Culinary Union is Nevada’s largest immigrant organization with members who come from 167 countries and speak over 40 different languages. Its diverse membership — approximately 55% women and 56% Latino / 19% White / 15% Asian / 10% Black  — consists of guest room attendants, cocktail and food servers, porters, bellmen, cooks, and kitchen workers.

Video Link

Highlights from the Culinary Union’s 80 Years:

1960s: The Culinary Health Fund, founded in the 1960s, provides health care benefits to over 130,000 participants in Las Vegas. Culinary Union members don’t pay a monthly premium for family coverage.

1971: The Culinary & Bartenders Pension Plan has provided over $1.6 billion in pension payments to members and their families since it was founded in 1971, so that workers can retire with dignity.

1990: Hattie Canty became the first African-American woman to be elected to be president of the Culinary Union. Canty, a strong leader and former hotel housekeeper from the Maxim Hotel and Casino on the Las Vegas Strip, was instrumental in creating the Culinary Academy of Las Vegas.

1993: The Culinary Academy of Las Vegas, founded in 1993, is a nationally recognized model of labor and management cooperation and is a partnership between the Culinary and Bartenders Unions and 28 properties on the Las Vegas Strip. The Culinary Academy has trained over 40,000 workers in free high-quality programs which facilitate entry into the hospitality industry and improve workers’ ability to move up in their careers.

1997: The Culinary Health Fund was the first health plan in Nevada to recognize and provide benefits to same-sex domestic partners, 17 years before gay marriage was legal in the state. The Culinary Health Fund also covers medications and counselling services associated with HIV/AIDS.

1998: The longest successful strike in the history of the United States, the Frontier Strike, ends after 6 years, 4 months, and 10 days on February 1, 1998. Over 550 workers maintained a 24/7 picket line and not one striker ever crossed the line. At the end of the strike, all the strikers returned to work.

1998: Culinary Union members played an instrumental role in Senator Harry Reid’s re-election by 401 votes in 1998.

2001: The Culinary Union’s Citizenship Project, created in 2001, has helped over 11,000 workers through the entire process (application and preparation for the exam) to become U.S. citizens for free since it was founded.

2001: The Culinary Pharmacy, founded in 2001, has become the busiest pharmacy in Nevada and all prescriptions dispensed there are completely free to Culinary Union members and their families. 

2002: Over 25,000 union members voted on May 16, 2002, to approve a strike with major employers on the Strip and Downtown. The next day, contracts were settled and included new language to ensure that over 11,000 housekeepers had safer workloads and better working conditions.

2007: The Culinary Union’s Tip Earners Defense Fund was created in 2007 to assist tip workers who have had issues with IRS audits due to tipped income or inappropriate IRS allocation amounts. The Tip Fund also holds education seminars to inform workers on how to properly keep tip records.

2008: Over 920 families have bought their first homes with down payment assistance help from the Culinary and Bartenders Housing Partnership, founded in 2008. The program has provided approximately $6 million in down payment assistance and closing costs.

2008: UNITE HERE, the parent organization of the Culinary Union, became the first labor union in the country to endorse then Senator Barack Obama, and Culinary Union members won Nevada for Obama on Election Day.

2012: Geoconda Arguello-Kline, a Nicaraguan immigrant, and a former housekeeper at the Fitzgerald’s Casino in Downtown Las Vegas, is elected as the first Latina leader of the Culinary Union. Arguello-Kline serves as Vice President of UNITE HERE and is a board member of the Culinary Academy, the Citizenship Project, and the Culinary and Bartenders’ Pension Fund. 

2012: 110 union workers took a leave-of-absence from their jobs in 2012 to work with the Culinary Union’s Political Team to register and turn out members and their families to vote – approximately 70,000 voters across Clark County are credited to the Culinary Union’s massive get-out-the-vote effort and delivered Nevada for President Obama again.

2012: The Culinary Union endorsed and helped to elect Steven Horsford to Congress. Congressman Horsford was the former CEO of the Culinary Academy of Las Vegas and Nevada’s first African-American state senate Majority Leader.

2014: The Culinary Union partnered with UNLV’s Public History Program and University Libraries to present an historical exhibit, “Line in the Sand: The People, Power, and Progress of the Culinary Union” to the community. Exhibit details: www.UNLVPublicHistory.com/Culinary.

2015: The Culinary Union’s Grievance Department has worked on over 23,000 cases and won $5.4 million in wages and back pay for workers who have been fired or suspended unfairly since 2010.

2015: The Culinary Union donated a historical photo collection of an estimated 10,000 images, film negatives, and slides to the UNLV University Libraries. This extensive collection will be curated, digitized, and preserved. A wide selection of images from the collection will be made available online for community members, students, and researchers around the world.

The Culinary Union has not made endorsements in any of the 2016 political races, and is unlikely to do so until presidential candidates take real action on repealing the 40% tax on Union member’s health benefits. The 40% tax that goes into effect in 2018 and would devastate the fully sustainable health plan for over 130,000 Nevadans.

In celebration of its 80th year anniversary, the Culinary Union is releasing a new video highlighting current organizing campaigns: “Changing Lives in Las Vegas (http://bit.ly/culinary80).”

Long-time members who have been through historic fights like the 1984 Strike, the Frontier Strike, the Horseshoe Strike, and the Immigrant Freedom Workers Ride, and workers who are part of current organizing campaigns at Station Casinos, Trump Hotel Las Vegas, and the Palms will be available for interviews. To schedule interviews with workers, please contact Bethany Khan at bkhan@culinaryunion226.org.


The Economic Policy Institute Unveils Their ‘Women’s Economic Agenda’

New ‘Women’s Economic Agenda’ focuses on closing the wage gap between men and woman while lifting the wages of all workers 


We need an economy that works for everyone not just a select few. Research shows that we are putting working women, specifically women of color, at a severe disadvantage.

We already know that women on average only earn $.70 cents on the dollar compared to men in the same job. The wage gap harms a woman’s chance of economic prosperity and slows economic growth.

The wage gap is closing, however this is not all good news. From 1980 to the present the wage gap has gone from 62% to 82% of men’s wages. On the surface this would appear to be great news, except that 40% of the gains, made by women to close the wage gap, actually came from the fact that men’s wages are falling. The average wage for men dropped from $20.13 in 1980 to $18.35 today.

Ensuring that all workers are paid equally for equal work is important, but that should not be due to the fact that men’s wages are falling. We need to lift all the wages of all workers together.

Today, the Economic Policy Institute released its Women’s Economic Agenda, a set of 12 bold yet achievable proposals that push the discussion about women’s economic security beyond closing the gender wage gap. While closing the gap between men and women’s wages is essential to bring genuine economic security to women and their families, policymakers must do more. Policies in the agenda include raising the minimum wage, ending discriminatory practices that contribute to gender inequality, providing paid family leave, and increasing access to high-quality child care. If implemented, these policies could raise women’s wages by as much as 70 percent.

“Raising wages and boosting economic security for women is an essential part of growing and strengthening America’s middle class,” said Senator Elizabeth Warren, who spoke at the agenda’s unveiling. “The proposals in EPI’s Women’s Economic Agenda would be powerful steps forward in the fight to level the playing field for women and families across the country.”

“The gender wage gap is only one way the economy shortchanges women,” said Alyssa Davis research assistant for the Economic Policy Institute. “Only when we take a holistic approach to women’s wages and seek to eliminate both the gender wage gap and the economic inequality gap will women reach their potential in the economy.”

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The full complement of policies in the Women’s Economic Agenda is:

  1. Raise the minimum wage—raising the federal minimum wage to $12 by 2020 would boost wages for one-fourth of the workforce, or 35 million working people—56 percent of whom are women.
  2. Eliminate the tipped minimum wage—two-thirds of tipped workers are women, yet they still make less than their male counterparts. At the median, women tipped workers make $10.07 per hour, while men make $10.63 (including tips).
  3. Strengthen collective bargaining rights—women in unions are more likely to be paid higher wages and have access to benefits such as paid sick days and pensions.
  4. End discriminatory practices that contribute to race and gender inequalities—black women earn 65.4 percent and Hispanic women earn 56.5 percent of white men’s hourly earnings.
  5. Provide paid family leave—only 12 percent of private-sector employees have access to paid family leave. Without paid family leave policies, workers (particularly women) have difficulty balancing the demands of work and family.
  6. Provide paid sick leave—ensuring that working women can earn paid sick time would let them meet their responsibilities at work and at home without compromising their family’s economic security.
  7. Require fair scheduling practices—over one-third of women hourly workers in their prime childrearing years receive their work schedules with advance notice of one week or less.
  8. Provide accessible, affordable, high-quality child care and early childhood education—accessible child care would ensure that parents do not need to choose between leaving the labor force and affording quality child care
  9. Protect and expand Social Security—the average female retiree receives over $300 less per Social Security check than her male counterpart.
  10. Provide undocumented workers a path to citizenship—women are concentrated in many occupations likely to be held by undocumented workers.
  11. Support strong enforcement of labor standards—women are more likely than men to be victims of wage theft, and are a majority of workers who would benefit from expanded overtime protections.
  12. Prioritize wage growth and very low unemployment when making monetary policy—better wage growth is crucial to ensuring that gender and racial wage gaps close for the right reasons, with wages rising for all groups but more rapidly for groups currently disadvantaged in labor markets.

Big Banks: Paying Billions (of Borrowed Money) to Stockholders

NASDAQ Watch Photo by Kowloonese used under CreativeCommons license via Wikimedia Commons

Photo by Kowloonese; used by CreativeCommons license via Wikimedia Commons

The “new economy” in a nutshell:
full-time employees need government assistance because their wages are so low. Businesses are shrinking, not growing. And corporations are borrowing money to pay it out to stockholders… because, well, that’s what the system is designed to reward.

The more I look, the more I see it. The same pattern, almost everywhere. It’s not limited to just a few rogue companies. It’s not limited to just a few industries.

And it’s not getting any better.

Here’s the view, from the financial sector.

Remember that study showing that almost one-third of bank tellers receive food stamps, Medicaid or other public assistance? The authors calculated that taxpayers pick up the tab for almost $900 million in government aid – just to bank tellers – each year. That study didn’t break those costs out by particular employer, but…

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Bank Teller Counting Money for Customer --- Image by © Duncan Smith/Corbis via Flickr

© Duncan Smith/Corbis via Flickr. Used under CreativeCommons license.

According to Glassdoor, Bank of America tellers receive an average wage of $12 per hour – or, just about poverty-line wages for a hypothetical full-time employee supporting a family of four.

And the corporation just announced another set of layoffs, bringing the total to

  • about 14,300 jobs eliminated in the past year
  • about 69,000 jobs eliminated in the past five years.

But owners of the bank’s common stock are doing OK. So far this year, the corporation has distributed $3.1 billion to shareholders, through dividends and stock buybacks. And there will be even more money going to stockholders in December.

Can’t help noticing, though… Bank of America has issued a lot of bonds this year – more than $25 billion. Which means the corporation now has more than $270 billion in long-term debt that it has to pay off between now and 2047.

Yes, Bank of America is borrowing money at the same time it’s paying money out to stockholders.

(Which, yes, is sort of like running up your credit card to buy Christmas presents for people who already have everything.)

Wondering how stock prices are affected by the amount of money paid to shareholders?  Last year, Bank of America announced it would increase dividends and start buybacks – but then discovered an accounting mistake and had to withdraw those plans. And stock prices fell by 6.3%.

Want to know why corporate executives care so very much about short-term stock prices?  Look at the way Bank of America compensates its CEO. On the 13th of every month, Brian Moynihan receives the cash equivalent of 17,747 shares of common stock. In August, the per-share price was $17.62; for 17,747 shares, that works out to a payment of $312,702. In September, the per-share price was $16.04; that works out to $284,662. In October, the per-share price was only $15.52; that works out to $275,433. Don’t you think CEO Moynihan notices, when his monthly payment drops by ten or twenty thousand dollars?

But there’s good news for him: this month – after that latest set of layoffs was announced – the per-share price is back up above $17.  (Even though the Bank is $270 billion in debt and its credit ratings are, ahem, less-than-stellar… and it borrowed almost another $3 billion since CEO Moynihan’s October payment.)

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bankerAccording to Glassdoor, J.P. Morgan bank tellers also receive an average wage of $12 per hour… which is still, yes, about the poverty line for a hypothetical full-time employee trying to support a family of four.

And the corporation is, ahem, “cutting costs” by eliminating another 5,000 jobs. (Last year, they cut 7,900 jobs.)

But… stockholders are doing OK. The corporation just raised its dividend and is buying back $6.4 billion worth of its own stock. (That’s in addition to almost $18 billion in buybacks between 2010 and 2013.)

And CEO Jamie Dimon just got tagged as “the Best Big Bank CEO, Measured by Shareholder Returns.” Between buybacks and stock dividends, Dimon has “generated a total shareholder return of 119.5%” in the last decade.

Even though… can’t help noticing… J.P. Morgan had, at last report, $434.4 billion in long-term debt (which was an increase of $8.3 billion from the previous quarter). And it will be paying off debt through 2049.

I’m sure somebody at JP Morgan can explain why it makes sense to pay billions out to stockholders at the same time the corporation is borrowing billions. (And I’m sure somebody at the Federal Reserve Bank can explain why regulators approved this plan.)

And yes, folks high up the corporate ladder are doing OK, too. Their compensation includes mechanisms like restricted stock units and stock appreciation rights, which ensure they’re paying attention to share prices.  For instance, Managing Director Mary Erdoes just received stock appreciation rights equal to 200,000 shares of JP Morgan stock… on a day when the stock closed at $67.39 a share.   (Yep, some people get paid according to how high the stock price goes.)

Meanwhile… 5,000 JP Morgan employees will be looking for new jobs… and employees who still have their jobs get poverty wages and need government benefits to make ends meet.

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US states by poverty rate

States by 2013 poverty rate

And I’m betting that if I looked, most of the other Big Banks would show this same paying-low-wages-to-employees while cutting-rather-than-expanding-the-business while borrowing-against-future-revenues so they can pay-more-money-to-stockholders pattern.

It’s not just a few employers.

It’s not just a few industries.

Borrowing money in order to pay it to shareholders is the same basic thing Bain Capital was doing, back before journalists started writing about it, when Mitt Romney ran for President.

Only, this is on a bigger scale.

These are corporations that employ hundreds of thousands of people. And they’re borrowing against future revenue, in order to pay stockholders today.

While their executives rake in millions in compensation.

And their employees need government assistance just to get by.

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Read my last post, “McDonalds: Paying Billions (of Borrowed Money) to Stockholders” here.

Read my series about Verizon as a case study of what’s wrong with the economy, starting here.


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