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February 7, 2008

A huge explosion and fire at the Imperial Sugar refinery northwest of Savannah, Georgia, kills 14 and injures 38 people. The explosion was fueled by massive accumulations of combustible sugar dust throughout the packaging building. An investigation by the U.S. Chemical Safety Board stated that the explosion had been “entirely preventable,” noting that the sugar industry had been aware of the risk of dust explosions since 1926.

February 7, 2008

A huge explosion and fire at the Imperial Sugar refinery northwest of Savannah, Georgia, kills 14 and injures 38 people. The explosion was fueled by massive accumulations of combustible sugar dust throughout the packaging building. An investigation by the U.S. Chemical Safety Board stated that the explosion had been “entirely preventable,” noting that the sugar industry had been aware of the risk of dust explosions since 1926.

Days Ahead of Primary, Fight for $15 Spreads to New Hampshire

Fight For $15 - Rally and March - 04/15/15 Image by Barry Solow FLIKR CC

Fight For $15 – Rally and March – 04/15/15 Image by Barry Solow FLIKR CC

Fast-food cooks, cashiers in Granite State to wage first-ever strike for $15, union rights before GOP debate in Manchester

With 45% of N.H. workers paid less than $15/hour, underpaid workers to push candidates from both parties to back $15, union rights

Manchester, NH — Just days before the New Hampshire primary, cooks and cashiers from McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s, and other chains will walk off their jobs for the first time across the Granite State on Saturday to demand $15/hour and union rights. With voters in the state citing the economy as their top concern, fast-food workers also announced that they will protest with other underpaid workers outside the GOP debate in Manchester Saturday evening to stress that the 45% of workers in New Hampshire who are paid less than $15/hour are a voting bloc that cannot be ignored. 

The workers’ strike follows a wave of walkouts coinciding with presidential primary debates in Wisconsin, South Carolina, and Iowa, and comes as low-paying jobs are dragging down communities across New Hampshire: 45% of workers in the state, or some 281,000, are paid less than $15/hour, making the need to raise pay a major issue in the run-up to the primary.

“My three young kids are growing so quickly, and on $8 an hour I can’t even afford jackets for them in the winter,” said Megan Jensen, who is paid $8/hour at KFC in Manchester and who will be a first time voter in the New Hampshire primary. “I’ve never walked off the job before, but I can’t wait any longer for fair pay. Everyone deserves at least $15/hour and the right to a union, and candidates who are flying into New Hampshire this week need to know that we are taking this demand to the polls.” 

Fast-food workers started organizing in New Hampshire after seeing how workers in neighboring Massachusetts have won pay increases and made $15/hour a top-tier political issue by joining together and going on strike. Workers at a string of Boston-area hospitals including Boston Medical CenterTufts Medical Center, and Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital have won pay raises to $15/hour in recent months. In July 2015, 35,000 home care workers across Massachusetts won an unprecedented statewide $15/hour minimum wage through a contract negotiated with Gov. Charlie Baker. And in January, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh called for raising the city’s minimum wage to $15/hour during his State of the City address in January.  

Fast-food workers started organizing in New Hampshire after seeing how workers in neighboring Massachusetts have made $15/hour a top-tier political by joining together and going on strike. In January, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh called for raising the city’s minimum wage to $15/hour during his State of the City address. Workers at a string of Boston-area hospitals including Boston Medical Center, Tufts Medical Center, and Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital have won pay raises to $15/hour in recent months. And in July 2015, 35,000 home care workers across Massachusetts won an unprecedented statewide $15/hour minimum wage through a contract negotiated with Gov. Charlie Baker.

Saturday, Feb. 6: Schedule of New Hampshire Fight for $15 Strike Actions and Events

Ongoing Media Availability

Striking fast-food workers available throughout the day for interviews. Contact Jack or Anna above to arrange.

2:00pm ET Strike | Wendy’s 675 South Willow St., Manchester, NH 03103

Striking New Hampshire fast-food workers available for interviews. Strike to feature compelling visuals.

6:00pm ET Protest | Saint Anselm College, 100 Saint Anselm Drive, Manchester, NH 03102

Massive crowd of underpaid workers will march to St. Anselm College to protest at the GOP debate.

Striking fast-food workers will be joined by child care and other underpaid workers from across the state who are fighting for $15/hour and union rights: 

“Child care workers and parents are struggling to get by on low wages, and our children are paying the price,” said Jen Cole of Pittsfield, NH, who’s paid $13.25/hour after working in child care for nearly 20 years. “When I started in child care, my husband and I relied on food stamps and Medicaid to care for our three kids. Politicians talk a lot about protecting our kids’ future, but they’re not doing enough about it. In 2016, I’m looking for the candidates who support $15 and affordable care for all working people.”

Wherever 2016 candidates go this election season, fast-food and other underpaid workers are following to demand $15/hour and union rights. Days before the Iowa caucus, fast-food workers walked off the job for the first time in the state, drawing widespread attention hours before a GOP debate in Des Moines. Earlier this year, a walkout by hundreds of fast-food workers in Charleston prompted a statement of support by the Democratic National Committee and an impromptu visit from  Sen. Bernie Sanders, who grabbed a bullhorn and  praised the strikers just moments before he took the floor for that night’s Democratic debate. And in November, following a nationwide strike in 270 cities and an evening protest outside the GOP debate in Milwaukee, the first question directed at candidates that night asked them to respond to the demands of fast-food workers seeking $15 and union rights. 

The Fight for $15 strikes in key primary states shows the political power of underpaid workers who, just three years ago launched their movement for higher pay and union rights in New York City. By repeatedly going on strike and raising their voices, fast-food, home care, child care, and other underpaid workers have made income inequality a dominant theme in the 2016 presidential race. Entrance polls from Iowa revealed that inequality weighed heavily on voters’ minds, and candidates are responding: In June, presidential candidate Hillary Clinton told fast-food workers at a national convention in Detroit, “I want to be your champion,” and said that “what you’re doing to build the Fight for $15 movement is so important.” In recent months, Clinton has held round-table meetings with home care and child care workers fighting for $15/hour and union rights. Prominent elected officials including U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi, U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, and U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison have called for raising the minimum wage to $15/hour. And the Democratic National Committee voted in August to make $15/hour an official part of its 2016 platform. 

Workers will also continue to collect signatures on their Fight for $15 Voter Agenda, a five-point platform that launched late last year and calls for $15 and union rights, affordable child care, quality long-term care, racial justice and immigration reform—issues identified by underpaid workers as key factors in whether they will go to the polls for a candidate. They will put politicians on notice that, as a voting bloc, workers paid less than $15 could swing elections all across the country.

A recent poll of workers paid less than $15/hour commissioned by the National Employment Law Project showed that 69% of unregistered voters would register to vote if there were a candidate who supported $15/hour and a union; and that 65% of registered voters paid less than $15/hour would be more likely to vote if there were a candidate who supported $15/hour and a union. That’s 48 million potential voters paid less than $15 who could turn out if there were candidates who backed higher pay and union rights.

Deceptively Named Federal Employee Rights Act is “Venomous Attack” on Federal Workers, AFGE Says

AFGE David CoxAnti-labor bill would strip federal employees of their most fundamental workplace rights

WASHINGTON – Legislation introduced in the House would strip federal employees of their basic workplace rights and disempower the people who care for our veterans, inspect our food, and deliver our social security checks, American Federation of Government Employees National President J. David Cox Sr. today.

“This is yet another in a long line of systematic attacks on working-class and middle-class Americans at the local, state and federal levels,” Cox said. “The sole objective of these anti-labor actions is to make it as difficult as possible for working people to join unions and to diminish basic rights and protections that all employees deserve.”

H.R. 4461, the Federal Employee Rights Act, introduced by House Budget Committee Chairman Tom Price of Georgia, would substantially eliminate the federal worker voice and make it much harder for federal employees to join a union.

“This legislation has a very misleading title and is being introduced under the false premise that federal employees are forced to pay union dues. Only federal employees who choose to join the union pay union membership dues,” Cox said.

“This is just the latest in a string of venomous attacks targeting the federal workforce: stripping VA employees of their due process rights, removing civil service protections for DoD workers, doubling the period in which new employees can be fired without cause.

“When you take away an employee’s basic rights to representation and due process, you end up with a system in which employees are fearful of coming forward to expose waste, fraud and abuse at their worksites. These types of poisonous proposals will result in higher rates of employee turnover and make it that much harder for agencies to recruit the best and brightest employees to deliver critical programs and services that Americans rely on.” 

Bernie Sanders Vows To Kill The Job Killing TPP

“Trade is a good thing. But trade has got to be fair.
And the TPP is anything but fair,”

CONCORD, N.H. – As the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact was signed by the United States and 11 other countries, Bernie Sanders promised to “fundamentally rewrite our trade policies to benefit working families, not just the CEOs of large, multinational corporations.”

Sanders has opposed the Pacific trade deal, the North American Free Trade Agreement and permanent normal trade relations with China since day one. The North American Free Trade Agreement led to the loss of 700,000 jobs. The trade deal with China led to the loss of 3.2 million jobs. And since 2001, nearly 60,000 manufacturing plants have been shut down and 4.7 million jobs have been lost.

“Trade is a good thing. But trade has got to be fair. And the TPP is anything but fair,” Sanders said.

In addition to shipping thousands of jobs overseas, the Trans-Pacific Partnership would increase already skyrocketing drug prices and threaten American laws that protect the environment, workers and consumers.

“As your president, not only will I make sure that the TPP does not get implemented, I will not send any trade deal to Congress that will make it easier for corporations to outsource American jobs overseas,” Sanders said.

Today in labor history for the week of February 1, 2016

February 01
Led by 23-year-old Kate Mullaney, the Collar Laundry Union forms in Troy, N.Y., and raises earnings for female laundry workers from $2 to $14 a week - 1864
Bricklayers begin working 8-hour days - 1867
Some 25,000 Paterson, N.J., silk workers strike for 8-hour work day and improved working conditions. Eighteen hundred were arrested over the course of the six-month walkout, led by the Wobblies. They returned to work on their employers’ terms - 1913
(In this expanded edition of Strike! you can read about labor-management conflicts that have occurred over the past 140 years. Here you’ll learn much about workers’ struggle to win a degree of justice, from the workers’ point of view. The author also examines the ever-shifting roles and configurations of unions, from the Knights of Labor of the 1800s to the AFL-CIO of the 1990s. A new chapter, “Beyond One-Sided Class War,” looks at how modern protest movements, such as the Battle of Seattle and Occupy Wall Street, were ignited and considers the similarities between these challenges to authority and those of labor’s past.)

The federal minimum wage increases to $1.60 per hour - 1968
Int’l Brotherhood of Firemen & Oilers merges with Service Employees Int’l Union - 1995
February 02
Three hundred newsboys organize to protest a cut in pay by the Minneapolis Tribune - 1917
Legal secretary Iris Rivera fired for refusing to make coffee; secretaries across Chicago protest - 1977
The 170-day lockout (although management called it a strike) of 22,000 steelworkers by USX Corp. ends with a pay cut but greater job security.  It was the longest work stoppage in the history of the U.S. steel industry - 1987
February 03
The U.S. Supreme Court rules the United Hatters Union violated the Sherman Antitrust Act by organizing a nationwide boycott of Danbury Hatters of Connecticut - 1908
U.S. Supreme Court upholds the Wages and Hours (later Fair Labor Standards) Act banning child labor and establishing the 40-hour work week - 1941

An explosion at a Thiokol chemical plant near Woodbine, Georgia kills 29 workers, seriously injures 50.  An investigation found that contributing factors to the explosion were mislabeled chemicals, poor storage procedures and insufficient fire protection - 1971
February 04
The Ohio legislature authorizes construction of the 249-mile Miami and Erie Canal, to connect Toledo to Cincinnati.  Local historians say "Irish immigrants, convicts and local farmers used picks, shovels and wheelbarrows," at 30 cents per day, to construct the 249-mile-long waterway - 1825
"Big Bill" Haywood born in Salt Lake City, Utah: Leader of Western Federation of Miners, Wobblies (IWW) founder - 1869
Rosa Parks, whose refusal to give up her bus seat to a White man launched the 1955 Montgomery, Ala., bus boycott and the birth of the civil rights movement, is born in Tuskeege, Ala. - 1913
Unemployment demonstrations take place in major U.S. cities - 1932
Thirty-seven thousand maritime workers on the West Coast strike for wage increases - 1937
President Barack Obama imposes $500,000 caps on senior executive pay for the most distressed financial institutions receiving federal bailout money, saying Americans are upset with "executives being rewarded for failure" - 2009
February 05
First daily labor newspaper, N.Y. Daily Sentinel, begins publication - 1830
(Making the News: A Guide for Nonprofits and Activists: Tired of the union being ignored by your local media? Fed up with the way your employer’s side of the story always gets told...while the union side gets barely a passing mention, usually negative? Want to start your own labor-side publication?! You’ll want this book. Making the News explains the basics of how to talk to reporters, how to do a news release, ways to “create” a news event, how to get invited to—and sound good during—radio and TV interviews... it’s a true A to Z of media smarts.)
The movie Modern Times premieres. The tale of the tramp (Charlie Chaplin) and his paramour (Paulette Goddard) mixed slapstick comedy and social satire, as the couple struggled to overcome the difficulties of the machine age including unemployment and nerve-wracking factory work, and get along in modern times - 1937
President Bill Clinton signs the Family and Medical Leave Act.  The law requires most employers of 50 or more workers to grant up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for a family or medical emergency - 1993
In what turns out to be a bad business decision, Circuit City fires 3,900 experienced sales people because they're making too much in commissions. Sales plummet. Six years later it declares bankruptcy - 2003
February 06
Ironworkers from six cities meet in Pittsburgh to form the Int’l Association of Bridge and Structural Iron Workers of America. Their pay in Pittsburgh at the time: $2.75 for a 9-hour day - 1896
Philadelphia shirtwaist makers vote to accept arbitration offer and end walkout as Triangle Shirtwaist strike winds down. One year later 146 workers, mostly young girls aged 13 to 23, were to die in a devastating fire at Triangle’s New York City sweatshop - 1910

Seattle General Strike begins. The city was run by a General Strike Committee for six days as tens of thousands of union members stopped work in support of 32,000 striking longshoremen - 1919
February 07
Union miners in Cripple Creek, Colo., begin what is to become a five-month strike that started when mine owners cut wages to $2.50 a day, from $3.  The state militia was called out in support of the strikers—the only time in U.S. history that a militia was directed to side with the workers.  The strike ended in victory for the union - 1894

It took 1,231 firefighters 30 hours to put down The Great Baltimore Fire, which started on this day and destroyed 1,500 buildings over an area of some 140 acres - 1904
Hockey players formed the NHL Players Association in New York City after owners refuse to release pension plan financial information.  The union was busted when owners transferred key activists, but it successfully re-formed ten years later – 1957

Thirteen workers are killed, 42 injured in a dust explosion at an Imperial Sugar refinery in Port Wentworth, Georgia.  Investigators found that the company had been aware of dangers for years but had not acted on them - 2008

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