Thursday, March 20, 2014

More battles in the war on workers, with some victories

Today's arrests in Albany
A new wave of civil disobedience is sweeping the country as protesters demand a fairer share of the wealth they produce. On Tuesday, 39 Georgians got arrested in the state capitol demanding Medicaid expansion, 17 South Carolinians were arrested in Columbia for the same reason and McDonald's workers held rallies in 30 cities to protest wage theft. Just hours ago, 43 New Yorkers took arrests in the state capitol in Albany, demanding an end to tax cuts for the rich and more funding for education.

The news media dismisses the unrest as a fruitless recycling of the same old tactics. (The Wall Street Journal on today's protest in Albany: "It's an annual event.")

But as Sarah Jaffe points out in today's Washington Post, workers who are rising up are getting results. Writes Jaffe:
...strikes and multiyear pressure campaigns by low-wage workers have some impact on their employers. McDonald’s even admitted as much; the SEC report noted “increasing public focus on matters of income inequality” and worker actions were affecting their public image. Labor organizing, often declared dead on arrival, is having some impact. Even President Obama’s decision to raise the minimum wage for workers under future federal contracts was inspired by seven different strikes by low-wage workers at places such as the Smithsonian and the Pentagon.
McDonald's workers are doing more than protesting: They're suing the company for wage theft. The tactic has worked in other places, notably Baltimore. There, the Teamsters helped Baltimore bus drivers win a $1.25 million wage-theft settlement from their employer, Durham School Services. According to We Party Patriots,
Durham Bus Services operates in 30 states and has been accused of “rampant” wage theft across the country.  Teamsters Deputy Organizing Director Kim Keller says that Durham could eventually be held responsible for “hundreds of millions of dollars” in back pay.
Here's what the Albany protests are about today, according to the All of Us coalition:
Albany works for the super-rich and powerful corporations. If it favors the wealthy and CEO campaign contributors, it’s sure to pass in Albany. On the other hand, common sense legislation the majority of New Yorkers believe in, is stalled by politics.  
It doesn’t have to be this way. We can do better. On March 20th we are going to hold our elected officials in Albany responsible for putting people ahead of campaign contributors. We demand that our basic democratic rights be respected. We can do this. New York has done this before. Together, we can build a New York that works for all of us.
More to come....