Last updateMon, 27 Apr 2015 9pm

LOS ANGELES Tuesday, April 28th 2015 11:13
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  • Workers — Not Employers — Are the Real Wage Movers and Shakers

    Harold Meyerson
    LABOR POWER. “We’re too big and complicated a system to do anything in reaction to a particular group or something happening,” Karen King, who has the wonderful title of “chief people officer” at McDonald’s, said Wednesday, explaining her company’s decision to raise wages for some of its employees. If you believe that, don’t go near anyone purporting to sell you a bridge, even if it comes with fries on the side. McDonald’s announcement that it would raise the wages of workers at the restaurants it owns, but not at its franchises, to $1 above the local minimum wage just happened to come two weeks before fast-food workers’ scheduled demonstrations in 200 cities to call for an hourly living wage of $15. It also came two days after the first administrative law hearing began in New York to determine whether the company can be ruled a “joint employer” of the workers at its franchised outlets — a ruling McDonald’s is trying to prevent since, as a joint employer, it would be liable for things such as wage and hour violations and its workers would have a better shot at forming a union. The raise at McDonald’s, even though it applies only to a small fraction of the employees who work at the Golden Arches, is one of a series of remarkable, if incomplete, victories that low-wage U.S. workers have won in recent months. It follows announcements from Wal-Mart, Target and like establishments that they’re raising pay for their poverty-wage workers. It also follows minimum-wage hikes enacted by voters and elected officials in numerous cities and states. And it reflects the broad support in poll after poll for raising the federal minimum wage from its abysmal $7.25 an hour. Part of the workers’ success is due to the improving job market, which gives workers more leverage. Part of it is due to the domino effect of corporate raises: If a worker can make more at Wal-Mart than at Target, why work at Target? Part of it is due to the better performance that more highly paid workers turn in. “Motivated teams deliver better customer service,” McDonald’s chief executive, Steve Easterbrook, told the Wall Street Journal in explaining his decision to raise wages — by which logic, however, it would surely make sense for McDonald’s to mandate a raise, as it mandates so much else, at its franchises. But the prime mover behind these raises, whether company-specific or legislative, is the workers themselves. The campaigns of the fast-food workers, Wal-Mart employees and others have functioned as a kind of second act to the Occupy Wall Street movement, not just highlighting the enormous disparities of income and wealth in our society but also putting forth a concrete demand, as Occupy never did, to remedy some of inequality’s most remediable extremes. In a sense, what these workers have created is a form of collective bargaining by other means. With the ability to form unions effectively blocked by the weaknesses of the National Labor Relations Act, which employers can and do violate with impunity, workers have crafted other ways to advance their interests. Particularly crucial has been their growing political power in America’s cities, which, as never before, have become the nation’s liberal power base. It’s cities where immigrants have not only flocked but also organized and won political power, cities where left-leaning millennials have chosen to live, cities where African Americans have maximized their political clout, cities that have begun enacting municipal wage hikes and paid sick-day ordinances, and cities that use their purchasing and regulatory powers to compel private-sector employers to treat their workers decently. Today, 25 of the nation’s 30 largest cities, including many in red states, have Democratic mayors, and this partisan imbalance is in many places the consequence of the political organizing of low-wage workers thwarted by the NLRA’s weakness and employer opposition from organizing their workplaces. There are limits, however, to what this kind of organizing can achieve. A more egalitarian economy requires a more egalitarian balance of power — which is why the only time in U.S. economic history when a rising tide really did lift all boats was in the three decades following World War II, when unions were sufficiently large and powerful to compel even non-union employers to match their wage scales. States and cities can raise the minimum wage and the Wal-Marts and McDonald’s can hike their pay, but these moves, commendable though they be, don’t significantly alter the power imbalance hard-wired into our current economy. That still requires the legal ability to form unions — a goal that eludes workers in our plutocratic age. (Harold Meyerson is an Opinion writer for The Washington Post, where this article appeared on April 2, 2015. His weekly political column appears on Thursdays and he also contributes to the PostPartisan blog) Photo credit: (Seth Wenig/Associated Press) CityWatch Vol 13 Issue 35 April 28, 2015
  • LAWA’s Denial and Diversion Put Traveling Public at Risk

    Marshall McClain
    UNIONS AND PUBLIC SAFETY-When LAAPOA testified before the House Security Subcommittee on Transportation Security on May 29, we used the most recent and reliable statistics about the current number of LAXPD personnel, described the day-to-day reality of officers using outdated equipment, and presented the challenges of coordinating with the TSA onsite. We thought it was all pretty straightforward. 
  • Reversal of Misfortune: Caregivers Win Overtime

    Capital and Main Staff
    LABOR-If proof is needed that good things happen to people who don’t just wait but act, look no further than Governor Jerry Brown’s agreement, this past week, to allow in-home caregivers to receive overtime pay. Last year his administration had claimed that such overtime, which the federal government had mandated for in-home caregivers, would pose a prohibitive financial burden for California. Then, in January, the governor unveiled a 2014-15 budget that explicitly capped caregivers’ hours at 40 per week for the program, which is administered by the state’s Department of In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS).
  • Memo to Anti-Union Crowd: Not In California!

    Deborah Burger, RN
    LABOR-In a low turnout primary election earlier this month, California political analysts had to scurry to find messages from the voters. Here’s one that some missed. We’re not ready to turn into the latest cookie-cutter anti-union state. What would you call California if we lost our vital labor movement? A state that looks a lot like what has happened in Wisconsin, Michigan and Indiana, all of which recently enacted laws intended to decimate labor unions. 
  • Domestic Workers Caring for the American Future

    Vivian Rothstein
    LABOR VUE-You can find us through Craigslist or fliers at the Laundromat. We live in your homes and prepare your meals. You leave beloved family members in our care. We come from around the globe, often leaving our children behind. But we’re invisible to most Americans. Who are we? 
  • 'Just the Tip of the Iceberg' - Wall Street Charging Los Angeles $200 Million Yearly, Report Reveals

    Huffington Post
    Fix LA Coalition Calls for Action to Cut Fees and Fund Neighborhood Services LOS ANGELES, CA- At a lively downtown rally in front of the Bank of NY Mellon in Los Angeles, the Fix LA Coalition unveiled a groundbreaking research report, entitled "No Small Fees: LA Spends More on Wall Street than Our Streets," revealing that Wall Street charges the City of Los Angeles more than $200 million in fees. Coalition members called for action to reduce the high fees and put that money back into neighborhood services. After the rally, Fix LA Coalition members delivered the report to elected officials in City Hall. 
  • Raise LA Campaign Targets Hospitality Industry’s Low Wages

    Joe Rihn
    CAPITAL AND MAIN-In an economy where constant, unpredictable change is a given, wages are one of the few things that have remained reliably stagnant. However, a growing national movement to address this increasingly visible issue is taking shape. Locally, Raise LA, a coalition of labor and community groups organized by the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy (LAANE), is part of a push to bring wages up to speed by advocating for better jobs in L.A.’s massive hospitality industry. 
  • LA County Workers Take a Stand for Their Communities

    Ian Thompson-Roshin Mathew
    55,000 County Workers Begin Voting on Actions, Possibly a Strike LOS ANGELES- More than 55,000 LA County workers—nurses, librarians, social workers, clerical staff, probation workers, lifeguards, park rangers and many others— are voting to back their union’s bargaining team with more actions—including possibly a strike. Initial internal phone banking by SEIU Local 721 indicates that 93% of members support authorizing a strike. 
  • Newspaper Workers Denied Benefits

    David Macaray
    With a daily circulation of approximately 17,000, the traditionally right-wing Antelope Valley Press has proudly served the Palmdale, high desert community (about 60 miles northeast of Los Angeles) since its founding, way back in 1915. The AVP is the largest selling daily newspaper in the Valley. But on August 1, AVP management informed its copy desk employees that their workload would be reduced to a maximum of 39 hours a week, thus making them ineligible for benefits. Alas, only full-time, 40-hour a week employees would continue to qualify for benefits (Sorry, folks... somehow you fell one hour short!).

    Todd Stenhouse
    In response to the news that Homeland Security Secretary and former Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano will become the new President of the University of California system, Kathryn Lybarger, President of the university's largest union--AFSCME 3299--has issued the following statement: