OP-ED: WHY WE NEED $15 AN HOUR MINIMUM WAGE IN NEW JERSEY NOW, NOT LATER

This op-ed by Daniel Ulloa, President of AWA, originally appeared in NJ Spotlight.com.

http://www.njspotlight.com/stories/18/08/06/op-ed-why-we-need-15-an-hour-minimum-wage-in-new-jersey-now-not-later/

As living costs continue to rise in this expensive state, people are working longer hours for less money just to get by

We need a $15 an hour minimum wage. Too many people are struggling to make ends meet in New Jersey.

Between the costs of housing, child care, transportation, and healthcare more and more people are working longer hours for less money just to get by, much less thrive. And despite the state’s low unemployment, the fact that wages have remained stagnant makes poverty a pressing issue here.

New Jersey is one of the most expensive states in the country to live in. It was recently ranked among the top 10 most unequal state in the nation. Those who are wealthy can enjoy its benefits far more than struggling workers. And while some of those who are currently struggling can go on to achieve prosperity, they unfortunately are more often the exception to the rule. There is no reason thousands should be made to toil for slave wages simply because it’s possible to find a better job.

Raising the minimum wage is always a popular action. In 2013, when Gov. Chris Christie was re-elected, a ballot measure to increase the minimum wage slightly was approved as well, thus showing such a move has bipartisan support.

Some conservatives object because they feel it would be an onerous burden on companies to pay individuals so much money. But if their customers are also making more money, they’re likely to shop more.

$15 minimum would benefit 1.2M workers in NJ

Furthermore, higher wages mean employees won’t be as likely to leave blue-collar jobs — which in turn means businesses won’t have to spend as much time training new staff. In addition, a more satisfied staff is likely to lead to an increase in productivity.

For those who feel that blue-collar workers shouldn’t make the same money as white-collar workers, remember a rising tide lifts all boats.

According to New Jersey Policy Perspective, raising the minimum wage to $15 would raise wages for 1.2 million workers in the state and inject $4.5 billion into the state’s economy.

There has been some talk of watering down the minimum-wage bill to pay youth workers less than $15 an hour. Most are seen as teenagers from middle-classes families who take the jobs merely for spending money. But youth workers need that money. Contrary to the beliefs of some, they have no desire to be a burden but rather would like to contribute and ease their family expenses. This is especially true in the homes of Hispanic families where their paychecks often go in part to sustaining the family. Youth workers must not be treated as second-class citizens.

Discrimination against older workers

Such an exemption from a $15 minimum would also likely lead to massive discrimination against older workers by employers seeking to bypass the law.

There has also been talk of excluding farmworkers. Farmworkers who perform the most arduous duties also must receive a higher wage. Why should they be left out? Many work long hours for little pay in jobs that few would willingly do. Leaving out a class of workers made up overwhelmingly by people of color is an act of blatant racism.

How are we to call ourselves the Garden State if we do not fairly compensate those who make it so?

There has been a great delay now in anticipation of the bill while living expenses continue to increase due to natural inflation. Delaying an increase for too long would erode the effect of raising the minimum wage.

In 2016, a bill to put $15 on the ballot as a referendum passed both legislative chambers easily but was vetoed by Christie and, unfortunately, the political will wasn’t there to override his veto.

Gov. Phil Murphy ran on raising the minimum wage to $15 and made it one of the central planks of his campaign. However, we have been waiting half a year for the bill to be passed. Working men and women cannot afford to wait. They have been waiting long enough while they are exploited, and deals are made to benefit those who don’t need extra protection.

The Legislature must send a bill raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour to the governor now.

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Janus and the Future

The Supreme Court dealt a major blow to public sector unions today in the case of Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees by forcing them to service members who do not have to pay their fair share of fees for the services they receive.

Hi,

My thoughts below on today’s Supreme Court ruling:
The Supreme Court dealt a major blow to public sector unions today in the case of Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees by forcing them to service members who do not have to pay their fair share of fees for the services they receive.

The decision has been expected for two years. In 2016, when a similar decision was expected, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia died and it seemed President Obama had an opportunity to shift the court to the left. However, his Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland, who had a good labor record, was not even given a hearing by the Republican-controlled Senate.

While some will say eliminating the cost of public sector workers is necessary to not cut other programs nor make taxes excessively high, the tax structure should not be designed to overly burden the working and middle class while the upper class can afford new taxes.

Janus is the latest in a long series of defeats for the labor movement.

Public employee unions have been on the defensive for a long time.  Private sector unions have already been largely decimated with the except of Building Trades unions in the construction industry.

Labor unions were under attack under Obama on the state level most notably in Wisconsin under Scott Walker but also in several states which became Right to Work became law under which it is not necessary to join a union and thereby becoming a free rider.

On the federal level, conservative opposition blocked a number of labor reforms in Congress. Obama was also the only Democratic President to not have raised the minimum wage. Even George W. Bush raised the minimum wage once it was passed by a Democratic Congress.

In addition, some of the few reforms Obama was able to enact via regulation are being undone by Trump or struck down by reactionary judges interpreting the law for their own ends.

And while unemployment is down, a third of the country is working two jobs to survive due to the uneven economic recovery.

This is what happens when you have a reactionary billionaire class subverting democracy and a crook desecrating the White House.

Labor unions at their height raised the American standard of living to the highest in the world, served as a pillar of the Democratic Party, and funded several progressive causes, including the Civil Rights movement. With their decline, wages are stagnant and we have a generation that will deal with the negative effects of fewer economic opportunities for decades to come.

What is to be done?

It is important to vote of course and call your elected officials to urge them to support you. Donating money allows one more access to politicians and thereby giving advocates the best place to make their case. Advocacy is most effective when sympathetic politicians are already in office and public opinion is on your side.

But quite often the public is divided on an issue and politicians think that being moderate will sway sufficient voters when they are up for re-election.

What has been consistently effective is mass protest, especially when it is disruptive. An example in recent memory would be the airport protest against Trump’s travel ban where massive crowds and cab drivers refused to drive passengers to the airport led to a judge ruling against the ban.

Or think of Rosa Parks defying Jim Crow laws. Her effort sparked the Montgomery bus boycott and its victory which in turn sparked the battles and victories won by the Civil Rights movement which often used civil disobedience to ignite passion in the hearts of people which ultimately helped push the legislation through.

Civil disobedience is where you turn when the government no longer represents you and when you cannot match the money or the insider influence of the other side. And that is where unions and their allies must turn now in the fight for economic justice.

It was through the sit-down strikes led by Auto Workers in Flint which sparked strikes through the country and gave the union the position to make a deal that ultimately raised the living standard for millions in the United States.

It is to civil disobedience that union and their allies need to turn. Mass, disruptive has proven exceedingly effective in red states like West Virginia and Oklahoma where one would not expect unions to win.

In the majority opinion, Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito Jr. wrote that “agency fees cannot be upheld on the ground that they promote an interest in ‘labor peace.’” “Labor peace” is the idea that unions keep workers operating in a docile fashion and avoid unnecessary strikes that disrupt business. We have had “labor peace” for far too long at the expense of everyone who needs to earn a paycheck for far too long.

 

Thank you for reading.

In solidarity,

 

Dan

 

Daniel L. Ulloa

President

American Workforce Association

(908) 421-1422

Americanworkforce1@gmail.com

Americanworkforce.net

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Progress and Strike

Hello All!

I hope everyone is managing the best they can with this crazy weather!

We are making progress one step at a time! We have been connecting with a variety of progressive organizations such as Our Revolution, as well as meeting with lawyers who can provide free consultations to individuals who have encountered labor problems at work.

Our next meeting is Thursday, April 19th at 7 pm at 7 Silvester Ct., East Brunswick, NJ 08816. We plan to discuss narrowing our focus from the broad idea of “struggling workers and 1099 independent contractors” to a more specific sector where we can make inroads and, consequently, more progress.

In addition, we plan to hold a strategic planning session and a SWOT analysis where we will formalize our mission and assess the assets and liabilities of our organization. All are welcome and encouraged to attend (and bring friends)!

Please RSVP here:

https://www.facebook.com/events/107921590052231/

If you can’t make it in-person, use the link below to conference in:

https://zoom.us/j/162124938

DeHoed-Teachers-Strike-Oklahoma.jpg

IN OTHER NEWS: Following the teachers strike in West Virginia, a strike has begun in Oklahoma where teachers and their allies have occupied the state capitol building. They have refused to back down until their demands are fully met.

Oklahoma has severely cut its public education budget for years while lowering its tax on oil companies. This has resulted not only in low salaries but in crumbling educational conditions such as lack of textbooks, seats, pencils, paper, and scissors. The cuts have been so deep, in fact, that many schools now only operate four days per week. The low salaries for teachers there have forced many to leave the state. Teachers in Oklahoma are the worst paid in the country.

Currently, in Kentucky, teachers in eight school districts have gone on strike as well to protest a severe reduction in their pension. Teachers in Arizona are threatening to strike as well. These strikes are all being organized with broad grassroots support among union members.

While these places might all seem to be dark red states, they had some Democratic representation during the Obama Administration. Moreover, simply because a state is politically conservative in some parts doesn’t mean labor unions and their allies, including AWA, should have no interest in the economic and labor issues there.

This week marks the 50th anniversary of the death of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in Memphis, Tennessee. King was in Memphis to support a strike by sanitation workers when he was assassinated. King believed that civil rights were entwined with economic justice and had sought to launch a “Poor People’s Campaign” to address economic issues. However, the effort failed after his death. The idea is being revived by the Rev. Dr. Barber, President of the North Carolina NAACP. Stay tuned…

We seem to be at the breaking point where workers will no longer accept death by cuts. When push comes to shove, we must fight back against hypercapitalism which is destroying the middle class.

ABOUT US: The American Workforce Association (AWA) is a community organization with ties to labor unions founded to address economic inequality that has resulted in lower salaries and fewer benefits for the workforce. We welcome input from everyone to grow our leadership team.

In solidarity,

Daniel L. Ulloa
President
American Workforce Association

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February Meeting

We had a productive meeting this past Sunday discussing the progress we have made. New members took part in an engaging discussion and some called in via video conference.

Hello everyone:

We had a productive meeting this past Sunday discussing the progress we have made. New members took part in an engaging discussion and some called in via video conference.

While moving ahead to formally establish ourselves will take time, we planned ways to benefit workers and roll out formal membership and benefits. We also discussed the advances we have made including updating our website and the growth of our listserv.

In addition, Sam Rigotti, who has joined our Board of Trustees, laid out a comprehensive fundraising plan for AWA to begin securing funding.

It was also announced that Roberto Sayers has agreed to join our Board of Trustees. Roberto is the Executive Secretary of CWA 1033 and was the Democratic candidate for council in South Plainfield last year.

I’m also happy to introduce Sayda Tuanama as our new Field Director. Sayda is a Peruvian American who has 22 years of experience with labor union SEIU 1199 as a Senior Lead Organizer. She has worked primarily in New York and New Jersey to mobilize workers and advocate for economic justice. She studied Civil Rights at the University of Inca Garcilaso de la Vega in Peru.

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This Saturday, February 24th, the AFL-CIO is holding a rally in New York City to support workers’ rights and unions as a whole. Increasing union membership is a proven way to raise economic standards.

AWA plans to go to the New York City rally from 11am to 1 pm in Foley Square, at 111 Worth St., New York, NY 10013. We hope you will join us, we’d love to have a great AWA showing there! We want to meet at the front door of Newark Penn Station at 10:15 am.

Please let us know if you can attend.

IN OTHERS NEWS:

A North Carolina judge has ordered Uber to name the drivers eligible to join a multi-state class action lawsuit alleging the company falsely classified employees as independent contractors. This is a great step forward for those fighting for economic justice.

Take care,

 

Dan

Daniel L. Ulloa
President
American Workforce Association
22 Carpenter Terrace N.
2 R
Belleville, NJ 07019
American.workforce1@gmail.com
(908) 421-1422
@American_Work1

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The NLC Labor Summit and the Crumbling of New Jersey

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Congressman Donald Norcross (D-NJ) addressed the NLC Labor Summit Saturday.

By Eddie Rivera

The New Leaders Council’s Labor Summit in Edison on Saturday was a reminder of how New Jersey needs to be a beacon of hope for the labor movement and how far it has fallen. The last eight years with Chris Christie as Governor have derailed the Garden State. New Jersey has fallen behind its neighboring states in every economic measure since the Great Recession. Its credit rating has been downgraded several times. The NJ Department of Labor and Workforce Development has seen its budget nearly slashed to death and belittled in integrity. The bill to increase the state’s minimum wage to $15 an hour was vetoed last summer and the legislature did not override his veto. State residents are unable to make ends meet. It’s nearly impossible to survive with a low minimum wage and high tuition costs. Imagine raising kids while working three jobs and earning an education. This is a great injustice in a state as prosperous as ours.

In addition, Trump’s presidency has only made it worse. His appointment to the Supreme Court is likely to vote in favor of weakening labor unions while a similar bill is pending in Congress. The regulatory gains made by the Obama Administration in the face opposition are being turned back. His administration is stacked with plutocrats seeking to benefits their cronies at the expense of the American people. As Congressman Donald Norcross (D-NJ) pointed out, there are a handful of individuals in the United States Congress who have been in a labor union.

This weekend’s summit was a reminder to on its laurels in the long war against Hypercapitalism when small gains are achieved. Now is the time to fight for the preservation of the Labor Movement in New Jersey and the country as a whole. We as a state cannot continue to move backward. Now is the opportunity to turn the page and move forward back to the progressive values we in the Garden State hold dear. With so much diversity, New Jersey needs to demonstrate progressivism in all areas of public policy. Each of the panelists has expressed their views on labor with much thought and deliberation.

Without labor, New Jersey cannot function. We need reform to continue robust activity within the transportation, manufacturing, health, education, and customer service sectors. Everyone should be entitled to pension and benefits in their respective fields. I urge everyone to continue the fight for a better New Jersey. Eight years of falling behind the rest of the nation has gone long enough. Let us all come together and make all our dreams come true once again.

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Chicago Teachers Union and Allies Set to Strike Tomorrow

The Chicago Teachers Union and allies plan to strike tomorrow to protest economic and civil rights issues.

The Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) and their allies plan to strike tomorrow, April 1, for one day to protest economic and civil rights issues plaguing Chicago. The CTU has been operating without a contracts for nearly a year as negotiations have dragged on with no end in sight.

Allies such as Fight for $15 which seeks to raise the minimum wage will be joining the teachers in protesting at various sites across the city. American Federation of Teachers (AFT) President Randi Weingarten plans to attend a “teach-in” at Northeastern Illinois University to highlight funding issues in higher education. Other groups will highlight civil rights issues.

CTU is a local of the American Federation of Teachers.

The strike has been declared illegal by Chicago Public Schools (CPS). But CTU members feel that since that have not been receiving their legally mandated raises, their contract is invalid.

No actions have been taken thus far to prevent the strike.

Pushed to the brink

Due to budgetary constraints, CPS has been forced to lay off thousands of teachers and make significant budgetary cuts over the last few years. Some schools operate with no regular nurse to treat ill students, programs for special needs children have been closed, and many after school programs for children have been shut down as well.

This is only the latest in a series of attacks on public sector unions across the nation. The catch here is that the union’s opponent is not a Republican in the city of Chicago, but rather Mayor Rahm Emmanuel who served as a senior aide in the Clinton Administration.

Emmanuel has been an opponent of public sector unions since first taking office in 2011. He was previously close to Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner (R) who attempted to push anti-labor laws through the legislature. Rauner made millions in the private equity market before entering politics.

While under attack from Emmanuel, CTU elected new leaders who have reinvigorated the union at time when many union locals suffer from similar issues.

“A lot of unions have stopped using strikes as weapons. But striking is the most powerful weapon we have. I think our strike in 2012 started to re-energize labor; I hope that continues,” said Sarah Chambers, a member of CTU’s executive board. “We have to actually energize every single union, every single workplace, so our members, the rank and file, are the ones leading these actions.

The CTU has successfully built public support in its fight against Emmanuel by embracing civil rights issues, including the most recent controversy over the shooting of Laquan McDonald 17 times by a police officer. Since the issue over McDonald’s death erupted, Emmanuel’s popularity rating has plummeted.

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SCOTUS Nominee has Pro-Labor Record

Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland has had a consistently pro-labor record as a judge

President Barack Obama chose Merrick Garland, Chief Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit, this week to replace Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court.

At the ceremony announcing Garland’s nomination Obama declared that “I have selected a nominee who is widely recognized not only as one of America’s sharpest legal minds, but someone who brings to his work a spirit of decency modesty, integrity, evenhandedness and excellence.”

While on the bench Garland has been a proponent of judicial restraint in which the judiciary should defer to the Executive Branch. Thus, he supported EPA regulations that require corporations to reduce mercury emissions, regardless of cost. By the same token, he supported 22 pro-labor decisions made by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).

However, on four cases Garland shied away from his philosophy of judicial restraint in favor of pro-labor policies.

The fact that Garland is far friendlier to labor unions than Scalia ever was has serious consequences for unions. Any Supreme Court pick by Obama would likely have ruled on labor’s side when it came to the Freidrichs v. California Teachers Association case which the Supreme Court recently began hearing arguments. Had Scalia lived, the court would have reached a 5-4 ruling against public sector unions and cut off member contributions, a major source of union funds.

Now, the Supreme Court will be split on a decision 4-4 and thus the lower court’s decision in favor of unions will likely remain in place.

Who is Merrick Garland?

Garland is the Chief Judge of the United States Court of Appeals. Educated at Harvard for both his bachelor’s and law degree, he served in the Justice Department during both the Carter and Clinton Administrations. After serving in the Justice Department, he received his appointment to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.

So he’s pretty qualified.

In choosing Garland, Obama sought a figure who would have an impeccable resume and ideally bipartisan support since he previously praised publicly by Senators such as Orrin Hatch (R-UT), who has fought against labor rights for years.

What Happens Next?

It’s going to be a rough fight. In an era of gridlock inducing issues, a Supreme Court nomination is one of the biggest. Since Ronald Reagan nominated Robert Bork to the Supreme Court in 1987, the opposing party has called the decisions of any nominee “too liberal or “too conservative” and many have been defeated. The process has become so dramatic they’re making a movie about it.

Prominent Democrats have already started rallying behind Garland as the first steps to confirming Garland. AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka, United Auto Workers (UAW) President Dennis Williams, and SEIU President Mary Kay Henry have all issued statements supporting Garland. Henry said regarding Garland that “His records shows that he believes in the duty of government to protect regular Americans, and our democracy, from being corrupted by the excesses of the super wealthy and their corporate agenda.”

Senate Republicans have already forcefully declared that any nomination made Obama would be blocked. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa).have they will not even allow the Senate to consider Garland.

Unless Obama tries to build a wall on the Mexican border himself, it’s going to be nearly impossible to get Garland confirmed.

 

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The Decline of American Labor

The New York Times today published an article by Steven Greenhouse describing the decline of the American Labor movement from its height as a cornerstone of John F. Kennedy’s 1960 presidential campaign.

The New York Times today published an article by Steven Greenhouse describing the decline of the American Labor movement from its height as a cornerstone of John F. Kennedy’s 1960 presidential campaign.

The author’s main point is that unions no longer have the power to deliver the votes of the members to their preferred candidate of Hillary Clinton against Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump.

Support among their own rank and file would be far less of challenge to organize than defeating some of their larger foes. Clinton has been making many appearances with union leaders on the campaign trail. Persuasive pamphlets can easily be distributed to members. While many of the rank and file may support Sanders in the primary, he is far less of a threat to their power than Trump.

Turning the rank and file against Trump or any other eventual Republican nominee would only be the top of labor’s clout if it wishes to stay relevant. Even if Hillary Clinton is elected President, unions would need to continue to fight on multiple fronts at once.

The author points to the rise of the Right fueling by the Koch brothers’ money machine Americans for Prosperity as the reason labor has lost ground in Wisconsin, Michigan, and now West Virginia.

The problem for Labor is how to gain an edge at the bargaining table. Or quite simply, how it must learn to play on the battlefield of the 21st century world, which is far more global than the time period when Labor reach its zenith in the mid -20th century.

Furthermore, unions been unable to reverse their ever dwindling numbers. At its peak, one-third of the American workforce was a member of a labor union at the height of the modern industrial era.

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According to the chart above which originally appeared in the Wall Street Journal, the percent of union membership declined from nearly 25% in 1973 to 11.1% in 2014. Without their former numbers maintaining a financial disadvantage has taken its toll.

Labor was assailed from all sides at one point: big and small business owners fought labor in the marketplace while many social liberal interest groups fought for a voice in the Democratic Party.

Granted, labor has made some strategic alliances with all groups at one point or another. Many leaders of unions come from a variety of backgrounds and include women now. An unsound environmental project might also have poor labor standards. Academics in eastern universities often ponder many of the questions of salary and employment that unions worry.

To combat the Americans for Prosperity, labor needs to find a way to increase its support among the general public to help it at the bargaining table both with elected officials and other interest groups.

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