Philadelphia Low Wage and Fast Food Workers Hungry for a $15 Minimum Wage

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Guest Column by Sean Kitchen of the Raging Chicken Press (PA)

The low-wage worker campaign that has swept across the country since November 2012 is primed to make its Philadelphia debut.  The Fight for 15 movement began in November 2012 when 200 fast food restaurant workers across New York City went on a one day strike for the living wage of fifteen an hour.  Since then, the movement has spread to hundreds of cities across the United Stateschanged the national conversation on increasing the minimum wage and had a number of political victories.  In Philadelphia, a coalition is forming between the Service International Employees Union and local grassroots organizations and the Socialist Alternative, who had a successful minimum wage campaign in Seattle, Washington.

I Support Fight for 15 The labor coalition met in Northeast Philadelphia on Friday February 21 to discuss strategy and tactics and to fight for reforms to the the Commonwealth’s minimum wage and tipped minimum wage laws and several other policies affecting low wage workers. One person in attendance was State Senator and 13th District candidate Daylin Leach.  In an email exchange with the House candidate, Leach described the minimum wage fights as “among our most noble fights” and that “every worker has a right to expect, and to fight for, a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work, and a wage that enables people who work hard full time not to live in poverty.”  Senator Leach believes that $10.10 is too low and supports a minimum wage of $12.00, pegged to inflation, because it “would lift people above the poverty level.”  One of the biggest issues Leach has is with the tipped minimum wage.  He stated:

The tipped minimum wage is one of the most evil policies on the books at either the state or federal level, and we must address it at any and every level we can. At the federal level, the $2.13 tipped minimum wage has not been raised in 23 years. Many workers make far less than minimum wage on average, but their employers report them at minimum wage so the poorest workers pay taxes on money they aren’t even seeing.
Plus, employers are allowed to use tipped workers for non-tippable purposes (for example, cleaning out the freezer) for 20% of the work day. In other words, they get to pay their workers $2.13 for work they will never see a tip for.

On Saturday, February 15, the Philadelphia branch of Socialist Alternativeheld a meeting with speakers from New York and Boston and over 40 low wage workers from the Philadelphia area.  This effort is part of a nationwide effort by Socialist Alternative.  The organization had  major victories in Seattle last fall with their 15 Now campaign by electing socialist candidate Kshama Sawant to city council and forcing the Seattle mayor to take action on the issue.  Since being sworn in, Sawant has taken a hardline stance on “McPoverty Wages.” Justin Harrison, a union worker and Socialist Alternative member, stated “Philadelphia is one of the poorest major American cities, but our society has the resources to easily provide every worker a decent living. In Seattle, $15/hr is not a marginal issue anymore; it’s central to the city’s political debates. Today we join workers across the country to bring that fight to Philadelphia.”  Their first Philadelphia actions will be held March 8th and May 1st.

In November 2012, a couple hundred fast food and low wage workers launched a movement that flies in the face of the conventional wisdom surrounding our minimum wage laws.  The Fight for $15 is probably one of the most radical ideas to come out of the labor movement in decades and it has already changed the minimum wage debate.  The Fight for $15 forced the president to support a $10.10 federal  minimum wage, while others in Congress want a higher minimum wage, and has had victories in states and cities across the country.  In an age of social media and instant gratification, the resurgence of the progressive movement since  the Wisconsin Uprising and the formation and dismantling of Occupy Wall Street has scored major victories over the past three years.  It came out in full force when its backs were up against the wall in Madison, it unmasked the 1% and sparked a debate on income inequality and now it has put paid sick leave on the agenda and completely changed the way we think about the minimum wage.  The only remaining question is what comes next?

Photo credit Rising Tide.

Solidarity; Multiple Unions Join USPS Unions To Picket Congressman Issa At NH GOP Event

Issa Poster 1

Over 150 union workers stood out in below zero degree wind chill Monday night to deliver a message to Congressman Issa. He was the key-note speaker at a NH Republican fundraising dinner. The message delivered to Issa was the US Postal Service is not for sale.

Issa wants to dismantle a highly effective postal service. NALC President Fred Rolando reacted to last weeks announcement that the Postal Service made a $765 million operating profit in the first quarter of 2014 by urging Congress not to dismantle the service. “In light of these results, lawmakers should strengthen the postal network while addressing the remaining problem: the congressional mandate to pre-fund future retiree benefits, required of no other public or private entity in the country. Degrading the network and reducing services to the public and businesses would jeopardize the postal turnaround.”

Congressman Issa has other ideas. His 2013 Postal Reform Act HR 2748  will end Saturday Delivery and leaves open the possibility of reducing it further in 2018. Issa’s bill also opens the floodgates to contracting out postal jobs and services at an amazing pace. These actions will clearly accelerate the death spiral. The worlds best Postal Service will be dismantled so its remains can be carved up to be sold off to the highest bidder.

APWU President Mark Dimondstein called Mr Issa “a pure enemy of the Postal Service”.  Clearly Issa has a different agenda than ensuring the long time survival of the world’s best Postal Service. Issa, a long time champion of union busting and privatization, likely envisions the vast amount of money that can made by privatizing its services.

Dimondstein also referred to Issa and his postal proposals as “cynical and diabolical”. Those are also adept adjectives regarding the way Congressman Issa has become the richest member of congress. As documented by The New Yorker Congressman Issa has a dubious past regarding money-making ventures, often staying one step ahead of the law. Issa is going to have a much more difficult time at profiting off the sale of the Postal Service as the whole country will be victims to that crime.

Dismantling the Postal Service and crushing their unions would be a dream come true for Issa. This would allow him and his pro business cohorts to have even more leverage in their never-ending war on workers. It is quite apparent that the wealthy in this country will never say they are rich enough. Our income inequality has reached almost uncharted levels.

The rally against Issa on this cold windy night in New Hampshire was not about just Issa.   It was not about just the Postal Service. It really was about the continuing attack on workers in both the public sector and private sector.

The solidarity shown by seeing  Carpenters , Teachers, Metal Workers , Firefighters, Air Traffic Controllers and many others as they joined Postal Unions demonstrating in the cold was  quite impressive. The union solidarity as well as the chanting and singing gave all attendees a feeling of warmth in this particularly brutal winter.

The message to Issa and his anti union friends was clear. You are going to have a hell of a fight if you expect to defeat us!!

 

SEIU President Mary Kay Henry On SOTU

Image by Chet Susslin 
From National Journal


“It should not fall only on the president and Congress to make sure workers earn a decent wage. Our business leaders have a responsibility to help close the growing income gap, especially in an era of record profits.” – Mary Kay Henry, President, Service Employees International Union (SEIU)

Image by Chet Susslin  From National Journal

Image by Chet Susslin
From National Journal

WASHINGTON, DC – After President Obama delivered his 2014 State of the Union address, Mary Kay Henry, President of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) issued the following statement:

“In his address tonight, President Obama made clear that he believes economic inequality to be the defining issue of our time. It threatens the state of our union and I applaud the president for beginning a broader discussion about how we achieve shared prosperity.

“One step forward is the president’s proposal to raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour. Bills exist in Congress that would raise the wage and we hope they are taken up and passed as soon as possible. We need to end the new ‘normal’ of workers stringing together low-wage jobs with no benefits that can’t support a family. As President Obama said tonight, ‘the best measure of opportunity is access to a good job.’

“In addition, requiring federal contractors to pay their workers $10.10 is another step forward and we are encouraged that the president will use his executive authority to make it happen. When American jobs and livelihoods depend on getting something done, the president shouldn’t have to wait for Congress.

“While raising these wages is a good start, it won’t solve the problem by itself. The best way for workers to thrive is by bargaining with their employers for better wages and a shot at a better future. However, it should not fall only on the president and Congress to make sure workers earn a decent wage. Our business leaders have a responsibility to help close the growing income gap, especially in an era of record profits.

“Simone Sonnier-Jang, a fast food worker from Los Angeles who sat in the House gallery tonight, is one of thousands of workers around the country calling attention to the crisis of low wages. Workers like her are making their voices heard and demanding $15 an hour and the right to form a union.

“Also of critical importance to achieving shared prosperity is action on commonsense immigration reform. The time is now – actually, it’s past due. Both sides need to come together to pass immigration reform with a pathway to citizenship and we urge the president to keep the pressure on lawmakers to pass real reform so that 11 million people can come out of the shadows and participate fully in our democracy.

“It’s important to note how important affordable health care is for Americans’ economic security. That’s why protecting the Affordable Care Act should remain a priority for this Congress.”

Deportation, Physical Abuse, & Stolen Paperwork; What Will It Take For A Vote On Immigration?

Don't deport my mom

Don't deport my momEveryone is jumping up and down over the fact the House of Representative finally did something!  Yeah, they passed a bill!  The fact is that passing this budget is a big deal for a couple of reasons.

Passing this budget means that we will not be forced into another government shutdown.  The budget funds the government for the next two years.  This also means that Congress will not be jumping from crisis to crisis every three months.

Passing this budget also means that the house can actually put aside their ideologies and pass legislation is a bi-partisan way.  Speaker John Boehner did something nobody expected him to, and chastised the right-wing conservative groups for trying to block this budget.   The question is whether or not Speaker Boehner will continue this rebellion and start to actually pass a few bills in the house.

I know just where Boehner can start, comprehensive immigration reform.  You know the bill that already passed the Senate with strong bi-partisan support, and is just waiting for the House to pass it.  The Speaker has said on multiple occasions that passing immigration reform is a major part of the Republican agenda and it should be done.

Sadly the House of Representative closed up shop for the year. They went back home to their districts without even discussing immigration.  Now we must wait until early January until we see if John Boehner will bring the bill to the floor for a vote.

“Our immigration system desperately needs reform. Our broken system puts significant strain on our communities. It also hurts American workers and legal immigrants, not to mention illegal immigrants, whose families live on the margins of our society,” said Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter (D-NH).

That means we will have to wait about 25-30 days before the House reconvenes and a vote can be held.  In those 30 days over 30,000 aspiring citizens will be deported.  30,000 families ripped apart.  On average 1,100 aspiring  citizens are deported every day.

To add further insult to these people who are chasing their own version of the American Dream, the Immigration Policy Center reports that immigrants are being mistreated while in US custody.

“Overall, we find that the physical and verbal mistreatment of migrants is not a random, sporadic occurrence but, rather, a systematic practice. One indication of this is that 11% of deportees report some form of physical abuse and 23% report verbal mistreatment while in U.S. custody”. (Emphasis added)

If we put these figures into action that would mean that in the next 30 days while Congress is on vacation and not passing immigration reform, 3,000 immigrants will be physically abused during their deportation.

As if physically abusing immigrants already in custody is not enough, it is now being reported that over “one-third (1/3) of all immigrants taken into US custody had their belonging taken from them and not returned.”  Some items may be trivial, but not all of them. “Among deportees who were carrying Mexican identification cards, 1 out of every 4 had their card taken and not returned. The taking of possessions, particularly identity documents, can have serious consequences and is an expression of how dysfunctional the deportation system is.

The Immigration Policy Center continues:

 Our study finds that migrants processed through Operation Streamline, or held in detention for a week or longer, are most likely to have their possessions taken and not returned.”

How can this be happening?  Just because they are not American citizens does not mean that the US Government can trample their rights.  This is just another reason we need to pass immigration reform.  We must put an end to the daily deportation of these aspiring  Americans.

To bring attention to the need for real immigration reform advocates began a ‘Fast for Families’ on the National Mall.  Many of the faster’s are well known in the ongoing fight for immigration reform, including Eliseo Medina.  The Fast For Families includes bio’s of all of the faster’s, and this is what they said about Eliseo:

Eliseo Medina is described by the Los Angeles Times as “one of the most successful labor organizers in the country” and was named one of the “Top 50 Most Powerful Latino Leaders” in Poder Magazine. Medina served as the International Secretary-Treasurer of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) for 17 years (1996 – 2013)

They began their fast with a declaration.

What is our faith, our words and our history worth if not translated into action, sacrifice and redemption? The world has witnessed the beliefs and teachings of Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr. and Cesar Chavez translate in courageous acts of civil disobedience and nonviolent resistance to gain justice for a community of people who were underserved and discriminated against. We now humbly attempt to follow the examples of these great teachers and the teachings of Scripture to align our own hearts with the heart of God, who desires justice for immigrants and immediate justice for the 11 million undocumented immigrant brothers and sisters within our borders. Our faith requires nothing less. Today begins our vow to abstain from sustenance.”

(Read the full Fast for Citizenship: The Moral Obligation to Pass Immigration Reform)

These brave men and women have been fasting for over 35 days now.  They have received visits from many supporters including President and Mrs Obama, Rep John Lewis (D-MS), Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL), Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL), and many more.  To bring more attention to their fast, members sent multiple letters to Speaker Boehner asking him to bring the bill up for a vote.

After 30 days of surviving on nothing but water, the fasters have handed the torch over to a new group of fasters.  Congressional Representatives and union leaders quickly stepped up to fast for immigration reform. Every day since, members of Congress and immigration advocates have come forward to fast on the National Mall in their place.

How many families will have to be ripped apart by deportation before Speaker John Boehner will bring an immigration bill to the floor of the house?

How many people will be physically abused, and have their property and identification cards stolen from them before Speaker Boehner will bring an immigration bill to the floor?

What does it take to convince the Speaker that we need immigration reform now!

The SEIU Pushes For Immigration Reform With Targeted TV Ads

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Have you seen this?  The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) has been pushing new immigration advertisements in key districts across the country.

Earlier this year the Senate passed a comprehensive immigration bill with bi-partisan, support yet the Speaker of the House John Boehner, wants nothing to do with it.  This has prompted new personalized advertisements from the SEIU and the AFL-CIO. (Click here for post on AFL-CIO immigration ads.)

“Our message to these House Republicans is clear,” said SEIU Executive Vice President Rocio Saenz. “Enough talk – it is time for action. If Republican members support commonsense immigration reform, they must tell Speaker Boehner that that time is now to bring a bill to the floor for a vote that includes a pathway to citizenship.”

SEIU immigration rally _1The SEIU is calling out Congressional Representatives by names that are obstructing the pathway to citizenship for 11 million aspiring Americans.   The cable and broadcast television ads which started running last week in the districts of GOP Representatives Gary Miller (CA-31), Joe Heck (NV-3), Mike Coffman (CO-6), Rodney Davis (IL-13), David Joyce (OH-14), John Kline (MN-2) and Michael Grimm (NY-11). In addition, an ad directed at Speaker Boehner (OH-8) will run in the Washington, DC market.

The SEIU is not holding anything back in their drive to pass immigration reform.  The ad buy, in excess of $500,000, is in addition to the $2.5 million SEIU has already dedicated this year to paid media in a multi-pronged field and legislative campaign to pass commonsense immigration reform with a pathway to citizenship.

Immigration reform is not an issue that Republicans in swing districts can ignore. Recent polling of eight Republican congressional districts, commissioned by SEIU, shows that voters in swing districts are angry with their House members about the government shutdown. Further alienating their constituents is their inaction on immigration reform, something that is extremely popular across party lines. Polling also found that voters are more inclined to vote for their representatives in 2014 if they vote for commonsense immigration reform.

One year out from the mid-term elections, Speaker Boehner is putting members of his caucus at risk. Commonsense immigration reform is smart politics, good policy and the right thing to do,” said Saenz

The time for acting on immigration reform is now, and the labor movement has decided to throw down in a big way to make it happen,” said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka.  “Every day, over 1,000 people are deported, while House Republicans refuse to act on immigration reform with a roadmap to citizenship and workers’ rights.  We won’t stop until the deportation crisis ends and aspiring Americans have the roadmap to citizenship they deserve.”

When will the obstructionism in the House end? Will this do-nothing Congress get off their asses and pass immigration reforms that are supported by the majority of Americans?

About 71 percent of voters surveyed nationwide said they would back an immigration bill that contains the following provisions: border security, an expanded visa program for high-skilled workers and agricultural workers, an employment verification system, a pathway to citizenship for undocumented children and legal status for immigrants in the United States illegally.” (Politico)

Only time will tell if the House Republicans will do what is good for our country and our economy, or just do what they are good at — absolutely nothing.

 

(View all of the SEIU Immigration ad here)

NH State Employees’ Association (SEIU 1984) Help North Country Residents Get Healthcare

SEIU 1984 Logo

Berlin, New Hampshire,– Last Saturday, approximately 50 North Country residents took steps to get quality, affordable health insurance, some for the very first time. They attended the most recent of a series of Affordable Care Act (ACA) market place enrollment fairs sponsored by the State Employee’s Association (SEA). The event took place at White Mountains Community College in Berlin, an area of the state that has been especially hard hit since the great recession.

“The turnout was fantastic,” said Joe Cicirelli, a certified application counselor and SEA employee. “Many families enrolled in plans and everyone left with something tangible. From establishing a Healthcare.gov account to receiving an eligibility determination, all attendees moved forward in the process. The SEA is proud to have a role in making the ACA successful in NH.”

Almost unbelievably, a number of individuals were unable to obtain coverage because they earn too little to qualify for subsidies for ACA Marketplace plans. “Unfortunately, because the New Hampshire Senate Republicans refused to compromise and expand Medicaid, we were forced to tell our neighbors who were below the poverty line, that there were no affordable coverage options available to them.”

Last week, during a special session of the Legislature, the state Senate did not deliver a deal for expanding Medicaid to an additional 50,000 low-income adults, despite leaders on both sides of the political aisle saying they remain willing and eager to reach a compromise.

The Republican-controlled Senate voted on three amendments to its original bill, ultimately approving one, 13-11 along party lines, before tabling the bill in the early afternoon. Many expect the issue will come up again during the next legislative session that will begin in January 2014.

The State Employees’ Association of NH (SEA), working with community partners, has been hosting Affordable Care Act enrollment fairs around the state. The fairs are designed to help educate SEA members and the general public about how to access the new health care options. SEA members are moving forward and having worker-to-worker conversations, hosting events, and helping working people access the information about what their new options are. Attendees may receive assistance completing the application process.

While the rollout of the Affordable Care Act has clearly not gone as smoothly as one would like, the SEA remains dedicated to its plan to make sure all Granite Staters have access to quality, affordable health care. While most SEA members have insurance through their employers, thousands of part-time state workers and adjunct professors must purchase their own.

To learn more about enrollment, contact Chris Porter at cporter@seiu1984.org. For information about upcoming enrollment fairs open to the public, contact Brian Hawkins at bhawkins@seiu1984.org.

Old McDonald’s, Pay Fair Wages, EIEIO — Community Show Support For Striking Workers

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Maine Fast Food Strike Support

Photo Credit Arnie Alpert

COMMUNITY RALLY FOR FAIR PAY

ELLSWORTH, MAINE — On the outskirts of Ellsworth, Maine, just after we turned off Route 1 in pursuit of a more scenic route home, we heard a notice on WERU, an Orland-based community radio station, announcing that a rally in support of fast food workers had just begun.  Having been on vacation, we had been unaware that August 29 had been designated a day for fast food workers and their allies to strike and rally for a hike in wages to $15 an hour until Jan mentioned it to us the previous day.

Assuming we would find the rally on the strip we had sought to avoid, we did a u-turn, re-traced our path, took a right, and soon found a small group of sign-holding protestors in front of McDonalds.

Maine Fast Food Strike Support 2

Photo Credit Arnie Alpert

For the next hour we joined them, with chants of “Low Pay, Not Okay,” and conversations about their other activities.  Standing under the sign reading “Looking for a job?  We are looking for you,” we waved at passers by, many of whom gave us friendly waves in return.

The activist group, made up of local retirees, began its life as Occupy Ellsworth and continues to meet regularly for social and educational events plus occasional actions.  The call themselves “Community Union,” and are already planning a Black Friday protest at a local retail store.

The nationwide protest, backed by the SEIU, called attention to the low pay rates typical of work in fast food establishments and also to the fact that the federal minimum wage – stuck at $7.25 an hour – is far from enough for workers to support themselves, let alone their families.  In fact, members of the Ellsworth group pointed out that the wages earned by fast food and many retail workers are so low that they are eligible for public assistance.  That means taxpayers are subsidizing the operations of highly profitable corporations like McDonalds.

The protest drew attention from Maine Public Radio Network and two local TV stations.  My hope is that workers will be emboldened to demand better pay, that state and federal lawmakers will raise the minimum wage, and that even giant corporations will be forced to give in.

Originally posted in InZane Times.

SIEU President Mary Kay Henry Goes On The Colbert Report

Mary Kay Henry on Colbert

The Internet is a wonderful place.  If you miss something your friends will definitely let you know.  To prove my point, I must have seen this clip from the Colbert Report go by on Facebook, Twitter, and every other social media I monitor at least a dozen times before I finally clicked on it.

The clip is of Service Employees International Union (SEIU) President Mary Kay Henry discussing why the SEIU is helping the fast-food workers strike for better wages and benefits.

Even though we all know Steven Colbert is a political ‘lefty’ his show presents it from the hardcore right perspective.  The interview begins with the most common myth about fast food workers. He asked why are “low wage workers striking, they are just teenagers.”
This is the same statement that every opponent to a living wage uses.  That may have been the case 30 years ago when America was full of good middle class jobs.  That is not the case anymore.  Mary Kay Henry said  “28 years old.”  That’s right the average age of a low-wage restaurant worker in 28 years old.

Here are some of the other notable moments from the interview:
We are proud to stand with the fast food workers who are asking corporation making record profits to pay them a living wage.” – Mary Kay Henry

$5.5 Billion dollars in profits at McDonalds just this past year, workers are working hard and cannot make ends meet.” – Mary Kay Henry

We cannot have a strong economic recovery if workers do not have money in their pockets so they can buy goods and services so that those companies can hire more people and we can have an economy that works for everyone in this company not just the corporations.” – Mary Kay Henry

However my favorite line of the interview comes from Steven Colbert.  Every word is just dripping with snark and sarcasm.

“You have heard Fast Food called a guilty pleasure.  Part of the guilt I feel is because I know they are being treated so poorly.”

Mary Kay Henry summed it all up perfectly when she closed with:

“People should be able to work hard, get by, and get ahead. That is the promise we made to every worker in this country”

The Colbert Report

SEIU Says: Senators Make Their Mark on the Pages of American History

SEIU Logo

Strong bipartisan immigration bill stands the test of scrutiny, debates and amendments

SEIU LogoWASHINGTON, DC – Today, the U.S. Senate overwhelmingly voted to pass S.744 immigration bill (68-32), fulfilling the call and dreams of American and immigrant communities across the country. After more than a decade of fighting for commonsense immigration reform, Eliseo Medina, the Secretary-Treasurer of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), commended the passage of the bipartisan legislation:

“All throughout the corners of America, we celebrate this monumental step the Senate has taken to finally pass historic immigration reform. Senators who voted for this legislation have made their mark on the pages of American history. And we thank them.

“What lies ahead will not be easy or pretty, but what stands before the House is a model of compromise that stood the test of scrutiny, heated debate and challenging amendments. The bill is an agreement between two political parties that found common ground in upholding a roadmap to citizenship unfettered by burdensome barriers, protecting future and current working families and strengthening the unity of families.

“No one can truly claim that this legislation is entirely perfect. The excessive and costly resources to secure our border are concerning, while we must still remain vigilant of the length and difficulty of the legalization process for aspiring Americans. Again, this is a compromise, made up of gains and losses.

“What we can undoubtedly affirm is that this bill will set a new precedent and will mend much of our broken immigration system. It will allow millions of our friends, colleagues, families and neighbors to enter the threshold into American society, democracy and our economy. The lives of all families will be impacted for the better as will our economy that will stand to flourish.

“Here lies an opportunity for Speaker Boehner and the Republican majority to respond in a responsible way and pass true immigration reform and not fragmented legislation that will continue to weave obsolete, anti-immigrant ideologies. They can choose to stand on the right side of history or remain mired in the past, fighting yesterday’s battles and prove that they are a partisan and ineffective chamber.

“They would be wise to recognize that immigration reform commands the broadest bipartisan support and is the top issue for Latino and Asian Pacific Islander voters. We will continue to mobilize and remain vigilant of the debate and the actions of the House Republicans.

“The Senate has truly done a service to the strong majority of Americans who want the President to sign sensible and smart immigration reform into law. They have injected more energy, more momentum into a movement that will face members of the House head on. Those who have said that the Senate bill is dead on arrival have clearly not met the drive and dedication of the American consensus that demands commonsense immigration reform.”

With This Decision I Thee Wed: Labor Celebrates The Death Of DOMA

Prideatwork

Discrimination comes in many forms. Some are discriminated based on their skin color, others are discriminated on the basis of their sex.  We all agree that discrimination is wrong.  Today our nation took a giant leap forward against the discrimination of the LBGT community.

“As the Supreme Court has clearly decided, DOMA was an unconstitutional law that discriminated against a group of Americans for no other reason than their sexual orientation, denying them basic rights and protections that so many of us take for granted,” AFGE General Counsel David Borer said.

AFT President Randi Wiengarten highlighted the role that labor played her statement.

“We are a nation built on the belief of equality for all—that all Americans are entitled to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The court affirmed these basic values and recognized that laws such as DOMA deny gay and lesbian Americans these fundamental rights and betray our values as a nation.

“The AFT and the rest of the labor movement have a proud history of standing up for equality and justice and fighting discrimination in every part of our society—from the workplace to the ballot box to the individual rights and freedoms we cherish as a nation. We were proud to be a part of the amicus briefs filed challenging the constitutionality of both DOMA and Prop 8.”

Mary Kay Henry, President of the SEIU highlighted the benefits of defeating DOMA in her statement.

“The Supreme Court’s historic 5-4 decision finding DOMA unconstitutional is a huge cause for celebration for gay and lesbian couples and for all Americans who care about equal justice under the law. This ruling means that gay and lesbian couples will have access to federal benefits and protections that they have been denied for too long, such as the right to access healthcare, pension and Social Security survivor benefits.”

Todays Supreme Court decision struck down the Defense of Marriage Act that prohibited the federal Government from recognizing the legal marriages of millions of gay couples.  This means that while some states are still trying to fight against the equal rights movement, the federal government will now except them with open arms.

Since the equal rights movement began members of the LBGT community have been fight at the state level to win the right to be married.  They have made great advances in these fights. Now nearly one-quarter our great country gives LBGT couple the freedom to marry.  Until today, the federal government rejected their marriage.  They could not file joint taxes, costing them thousands in extra taxes.  More importantly they could not receive the same benefits from their employers, as heterosexual couples.

Federal employees who are married to a spouse of the same sex have been directly harmed by DOMA, said Leisha Self, AFGE Legal Rights Attorney for the 14th District. In addition to disparate treatment with regard to federal taxes, federal employees have been barred from adding their same-sex spouses to their benefits, often forcing them to pay higher costs or receive less coverage for health insurance, vision and dental insurance and flexible spending accounts.

“Now that the Supreme Court has declared DOMA unconstitutional, we expect the federal government to move swiftly in changing its rules and regulations to ensure that all federal employees are afforded the same rights and benefits, regardless of whom they choose to marry,” Self said.

Joe Hansen, International President of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) showed his strong support for the LGBT community in this statement after the verdict was announced.

“The UFCW strongly supports full equality for the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) community. That means equal rights in employment, immigration, and yes—marriage. The momentum for marriage equality is growing every day. The Supreme Court today restored it in California, Minnesota recently became the 12th state to recognize same-sex unions, and more are on the way. It is not a matter of if but when all Americans will have the freedom to marry. The UFCW looks forward to that day.”

Today’s verdict was also an enormous win for the state of California.   Richard Trumka, President of the AFL-CIO recognized how important this decision is for workers in California and throughout the country.

“The Defense of Marriage Act and California’s Proposition 8 were radical and divisive laws that never should have been. Now, we can begin to fully clear the dark legal cloud that has hung over our nation. While justices ruled on the right side of history today, there is far more work to be done in the pursuit of equality. As a nation, we must continue to stand for what is right not only in freedom to marry for all loving and committed couples, but address other major issues for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender workers such as employment discrimination, health care access and more. We rejoice in today’s victory and are ready and willing to take on the challenges that still exist.”

Mary Kay Henry, President of the SEIU comments on the impact of the SCOTUS rejecting Prop 8 in California.

“The Court’s decision to dismiss California’s Proposition 8 for lack of standing is another major victory for gay and lesbian couples and for equal rights. By affirming the lower court’s ruling that Proposition 8 is unconstitutional, now all Californians will have the right to marry whomever they choose.

“Despite this historic day for LGBT rights, we must remember that there is more work to do to ensure equality for all Americans. In 29 states a person can still be fired simply because of who he or she loves. Passing the Employment Non-Discrimination Act is the next fight we must take on if we are truly going to ensure equality on the job for all Americans and we look forward to joining with our allies to end discrimination in the workplace.”

President Henry is correct, the fight is not over.  With only twelves states legally recognizing the freedom to marry, we have much work to do.  As usual, labor will be there to help push for equality for all workers, regardless of their sexual orientation.