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SF Living Wage Coalition Honors Teamsters 856 Leader Rudy Gonzalez and SEIU 1021 Political Vice President Alysabeth Alexander

Tuesday, July 28th, 2015

Two emerging, dedicated, young, but experienced and committed leaders in the San Francisco labor community were honored at an energetic dinner last Friday at the long-standing Living Wage Coalition fundraiser.

AlysabethAlexander-LvngWgHnree-2015Alysabeth Alexander is a rank and file nonprofit worker who has been entrusted and elected to represent her members in the legislative and political fields of her union, SEIU 1021, which represents over 50,000 workers in Northern California. She was vitally engaged in the campaign to pass San Francisco’s minimum wage ballot measure for $15 an hour and is leading ongoing efforts to raise the wage in other East Bay cities in SEIU 1021’s jurisdiction. Her passion for economic justice for housing rights, fighting predatory lending, advancing cost of living raises for non-profit workers, and being in the field with the labor movement during the historic Occupy Movement are attributes to her organizing leadership.

 

RudyGonzalez-LivingWageHonoree2015Rudy Gonzalez has recently been elected by his members as Vice President of Teamsters Local 856 and is Director of Organizing. Rudy was the coordinator of the historic organizing drive to win a voice at work for the employees at Edgewood school in San Francisco’s Sunset District. Rudy has been elected to serve on the San Francisco Labor Council’s Executive Committee and represents Teamster members with professionalism and passion.

 

Alysabeth and Rudy are two leaders who represent the future of the labor movement and make me sleep a little better at night because I remember when I was twenty years younger fighting in my union’s visceral organizing campaigns – winning or losing, but always fighting.

Historic Coalition Meeting with San Francisco Federal Reserve Board President John C. Williams

Thursday, July 23rd, 2015

FedReservePhoto-2015A national coalition of the AFL-CIO, the Center for Popular Democracy (CPD), and the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE) was formed to create a campaign to engage the Federal Reserve Bank in all 12 districts across the nation. The campaign’s focus is to create a relationship of ongoing dialogue within the Fed to make sure that the economic needs of ordinary working men and women have a voice at the table. Our goal is to create a grassroots voice to challenge the traditional Wall Street-driven analysis that Fed members rely upon to decide monetary policy.

Our campaign was also designed to advocate for community and labor seats on the regional boards, as well as on a newly created community advisory committee.

With the progressive leadership of Board of Governors Chair Janet Yellen, recently appointed by President Obama, a consumer advocate as well as an advocate for adding economic inequality into the metrics for monetary decisions, we decided to take this opportunity to support worker voices and values.

Our main goals were to initiate a dialogue to counter the national blunt instrument economic data that merely pointed to indications that there is aggregate employment and economic growth without looking at what worker realities really mean.

We would point out:

  • Wage stagnation
  • Underemployed workers & workers working 2-3 jobs
  • New job creation is paying much less than before the economic collapse of 2008

After a coordinated national rally outside all 12 Federal Reserve Branch Banks across the nation in 2014, our San Francisco coalition received an invitation to meet with San Francisco Board President John Williams to address our concerns.

Each city and region has different flavors to their local coalitions and I believe that our meeting last week was historic and groundbreaking. Our local San Francisco coalition strategized for weeks and was fully prepared for our meeting and I believe the results belied our local strategy of engagement.

This national coalition has had meetings in Boston and Kansas City, but in other areas of the country our coalition has been either rebuffed or ignored.

Besides local representatives of the San Francisco Labor Council, CDP, and ACCE we invited Dr. Steven Pitts, labor economist at the University of California, Berkeley, and Derecka Meherens, Executive Director of Working Partnerships USA and co-convener of Silicon Valley Rising, a faith, community and labor coalition that is fighting for housing and economic justice in the South Bay.

Workers from ACCE, UNITE HERE Local 2, and SEIU USWW presented testimony about how the economy is not working for wage earners and that raw unemployment numbers don’t tell the true story of underemployment and creation of verifiable living wage jobs.

At our coalition meeting we asked the San Francisco Fed for four places to engage with our worker coalition:

Don’t Raise Interest Rates
Since the unemployment rate is a blunt tool for measuring the labor market’s strength, we urge the Federal Reserve to evaluate remaining slack by looking at wage growth. Until wage growth is at least 4%, there cannot be any wage-driven inflation pressure. Given the lack of any real inflation threats, there is no need to act prematurely and raise interest rates before the economy has reached full health. We ask that you hold off on any interest rate hikes for the rest of 2015.

Establish an Ongoing Relationship with Our Organizations

  • Come to a town hall or union meeting to hear from workers
  • Take a tour of one of the neighborhoods where our members live and work
  • Attend an event where you can meet our members and their families
  • Attend an event where you give a speech to our members and the public and answer their questions about the economy and the Fed

Assign Staff to Help get Banks to Invest in Community Housing
HUD, Fannie Mae, and Freddie Mac, and some other major banks are selling off pools of delinquent mortgages to private equity firms, hedge funds, and other Wall Street entities. We would like to see those mortgages be sold to nonprofits that have raised the necessary capital to compete in this market for the purpose of saving homes from foreclosure and creating affordable housing. We would like the SF Fed’s help in convening conversations with commercial banks to explore this possibility.

Set Up Procedures to be More Transparent in Appointing the President and Board Members
The Board of Directors of the San Francisco Fed includes 8 representatives from banks and corporations and only 1 representative from a nonprofit. It includes no representation from labor, consumer, or community-based organizations. We would like the Federal Reserve to add more voices of those who represent working families to its Board of Directors.

President Williams was very engaged in our two hour dialogue and agreed to (2) and (3) and said that the transparency model (4) initiated by the Minneapolis branch was something he would be committed to pursue.

See the Reuters article that followed our meeting.

The coalition will be planning the best ways to pursue these breakthroughs. Every policy, issue, or campaign the San Francisco Labor Council pursues has multiple labor and community partners.

Thank you Grace Martinez from ACCE for arranging the logistics of the meeting and Ady Barkin from CDP and Eddie Acosta of the AFL-CIO in DC for trekking to San Francisco. And great kudos for Bayview residents Ebony Esler, Pastor Yul Dorn and Kevin Stein from the Community Reinvestment Coalition for making the real and passionate appeals to make all of us realize what this economy really means to struggling working who are still being squeezed out of the American Dream.

San Francisco Historic Legislative Organizing Honored in Washington, DC

Monday, July 20th, 2015

JobsWithJusticeBanquetPhoto2The San Francisco Labor Council and San Francisco’s Jobs with Justice were on the host committee for the Jobs with Justice national fundraiser in Washington, D.C.

Jobs with Justice is a national AFL-CIO labor and community organization initiated by various International Unions in reaction to Ronald Reagan’s unilateral annihilation of the Air Traffic Controllers union when they went on strike for safe working conditions. It was clear to some unions in the 1980’s that we needed to organize deeper relationships within the community to fight the business assaults on workers and their unions. This 1980’s reactive vision is one that many of us in progressive trades unions have taken on aggressively in this new century. (Footnote: The Air Traffic Controllers had endorsed Ronald Reagan for President.)
At the JwJ fundraiser San Francisco rank and file workers from United Food and Commercial Unions Locals 5 and 648 were being honored for their role in our coalition that passed the first Retail Workers Bill of Rights in the United States.

Our San Francisco legislation, passed unanimously by the Board of Supervisors after a year-long campaign, mandates that formula retail stores post their work schedules 14 days in advance so that workers can plan their life schedules for child care, school and other humane ways to live.

This groundbreaking legislation also mandates that part-time workers who are working 24 hours a week and want to work four days a week have to be offered those extra hours before the employer hires another worker.

Based on this groundbreaking victory in San Francisco this law is now being introduced statewide in Sacramento, Minnesota and other communities around the United States.

JobsWithJusticeBanquetPhoto1The fundraiser was held at the beautiful marble-clad Women’s Museum for the Arts on New York Ave. Dinner was an informal mix of three kinds of mashed potatoes eaten in martini glasses – apparently a Jobs with Justice tradition.

Congratulations to Julie Fisher and Mark Ortiz from Local 5 and Sandra Herrera and Michelle Flores from Local 648. They gave great comments in front of a national audience of international presidents, press, and activists. Gordon Mar and Michelle Lim from JwJ, UFCW 648 President Dan Larson, 648 representative Julissa Hernandez and I were honored to be on the stage to support them. The San Francisco Labor Council is proud of these worker-leaders that contributed to this coalition campaign.

Workers and unions need to build on this victory and organize the more than 100,000 non-union retail workers in San Francisco.

Addendum: Maria Elena Durazo, my former counterpart at the Los Angeles Federation of Labor, now Vice President of Unite-Here International Union for Immigration Rights, was also honored. She, Jobs with Justice Executive Director Sarita Gupta, and I are in this second photo at the celebration.

 

From the Desk of Executive Director Tim Paulson

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2015

Richard Leung, 62, former President of SEIU Janitors Union Local 87 and for many years an executive board member of the San Francisco Labor Council, passed away this weekend after a long battle with cancer. During his leadership at Local 87 Richard led the passage of the Displaced Workers Protection Act, legislation that provides job security and organizing rights for janitors and security officers in San Francisco.

Mr. Leung was born in Hong Kong and after immigrating to the Bay Area earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of California, Berkeley. At Berkeley he became an active member of the Asian American student movement and the next three decades of his life were committed to advocating for the rights of service workers in multiple California unions.

Richard was a founding committee member of the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance, AFL-CIO and has served on the executive board of the Service Employees International Union.

After his diagnosis with cancer, Richard arranged to leave legacies for the social causes closest to his heart. He sponsored an essay contest for children of Local 87 janitors. He also established a fund through Give2Asia that supports scholarships for children of migrant workers and grants for labor research. Finally, Richard contributed to the construction of a museum at Donner State Park in Truckee, California, where an accurate history of Chinese laborers in the U.S. is featured.

Richard is survived by his wife, Katie Quan, Senior Scholar at the University of California Berkeley Center for Labor Research and Education, his stepson Eric, Eric’s partner Melynee, and his step-granddaughter Ella-Rayne. He is also survived by his sisters Wiana Choy, Linda Cheung, Beverley Chan and their families.

He has designated and provided for the San Francisco Labor Council, in conjunction with the UC Berkeley Labor Center, to host a labor forum to educate and highlight the legislative and organizing campaigns that San Francisco Bay Area unions have undertaken during the last twenty years.

Information on services to follow.

From the Desk of Executive Director Tim Paulson

Monday, June 15th, 2015

Paulson_Leroy_MLK2009


Leroy King, International Union of Longshore and Warehouse Workers (ILWU) leader and longtime San Francisco Labor Council delegate, has passed away at 91 years old. He died of natural causes at his home in Saint Francis Square in San Francisco’s Japantown, a cooperative complex he helped found to provide homes for union members and their families during a time in the 1960’s when housing discrimination against minorities was still an issue – even in a progressive city like San Francisco. Leroy King joined ILWU Local 6’s warehouse union after WWII and was soon appointed a regional Director for the International Union where he served during the leadership of the legendary Harry Bridges.

Even in retirement Brother King was a friend to the San Francisco Labor Council and helped me personally as Executive Director in our policies and duties. He brokered political tensions at our Martin Luther King Day celebrations; he was a reliable labor steward on the Redevelopment Commission where he served under six mayors from Diane Feinstein to Ed Lee. Leroy King was always available as a mentor to young leaders in our many unions and he had to be a little proud that some of the devastating redevelopment and gutting of the Fillmore District that displaced so many in the African American community, started to make a bit of a return with some of the build out of the Fillmore corridor in the Western Addition.

During my tenure at the Labor Council Leroy stopped by my 2nd floor office in the ILWU headquarters almost every month after doing business on the 4th floor. If I didn’t have to answer more than ten questions about the many legislative and political campaign we were working on I would be relieved. I’d often drive him back to his house in Saint Francis Square.

Leroy King was a legend and historic part of San Francisco labor history.

We will miss our friend.

 

Victory to Edgewood Workers in San Francisco!

Thursday, May 21st, 2015

Victory to Edgewood Workers in San Francisco!

Edgewood LogoCongratulations to the workers at Edgewood Center for Children and Families who voted to join  Teamsters Local 856 last night! The perseverance of Edgewood professionals who simply wanted a voice at work was rewarded with this majority of workers who voted to join a union.

From their Unionize Edgewood Facebook page:

Tonight we stood together and showed confidence in each other. With every YES vote we cast we affirmed that we can achieve more by standing together than by going it alone.

We voted for us, for our coworkers and for a better Edgewood for our clients. And we won the vote!

Want to congratulate these workers? Stop by their  FacebookTwitter pages today.

Happy New Year 2015 from Executive Director Tim Paulson

Tuesday, January 6th, 2015

E-Board-2014 copyThe San Francisco Labor Council’s last Executive Board meeting of 2014 was at Scoma’s Seafood Restaurant on Fisherman’s Wharf on a cold but beautiful evening.

As Executive Director of this diverse Labor Council I will not be going out on a limb to say it was the most convivial meeting of the year. In my 10 years working for the Council this is the first time we met outside a boardroom.

We conducted our official business in an efficient manner. We argued about a few bills and then 30 affiliate leaders and Labor Council staff broke bread, grabbed a glass of wine and decided that in a crazy year where political and union disputes were sometimes impediments to full unity, in San Francisco we could still look each other in the eye and feel in our gut that every one of us was committed to not only fighting for our members but for all workers.

Without making official reports, leaders talked about their campaigns and imminent fights.

Unite-Here Local 2 announced their strike at San Francisco International Airport for job security and health care; Teachers talked about their fight to save City College; Building Trades leaders talked about their new PLA’s and the fight at the Housing Authority; UESF teachers announced their 12 ½ % contract settlement. Sign and Display 510 and IATSE 16 reminded us of their prevailing wage legislation.

We talked about the “Formula Retail Workers Bill of Rights,” which passed unanimously at the Board of Supervisors just a few days ago – led by Supervisors Eric Mar and David Chiu – which mandates 14 days of predictable scheduling and rights to more hours for part time workers. An incredible, often unwieldy, coalition fought for these rights with the UFCW and I will be writing more about this historic campaign in a subsequent article.

ILWU warehouse workers announced their organizing and bargaining victories for recycling workers; Teamsters commented on their food processing organizing in the San Joaquin Valley and the ongoing Edgewood private school organizing in the Sunset District; OPEIU reminded us about the ongoing work in Bayview-Hunters Point where, among other programs, some of our 10,000 union members who live in the district are taking City College classes to understand and help implement our historic Community Benefits Agreement. Another OPEIU board member talked about American union unity with Mexican workers over the murder and disappearance of teaching students in the southern state of Guerrero.

We’re still only into our salads and chowder!

Nurses reminded us of their organizing victory at the California Pacific Medical Center (Sutter) where over 1,000 nurses voted to join the union. Firefighters mentioned their fight with management and their outrage over the lack of full ambulance staffing and infrastructure in the City. SEIU USWW thanked us for coming to rallies and civil disobedience actions at Apple and Google facilities for security officers and described how Google now recognizes the union.

We toasted the re-appointment of Larry Mazzola to the Airport Commission and were reminded how many of us attended the Labor Council meeting with Mayor Lee to make sure that happened.

2014NovElectionProp J - Group PhotoWe are proud to be part of the Coalition for a Fair Economy (CFE) that reached the historic agreement with the Mayor, Supervisor Jane Kim and the San Francisco Board of Supervisors that put a consensus minimum wage measure on the November ballot that gets all workers to $15 with the cleanest non-exemption path in the United States.

San Franciscans passed Measure J by 77%. This was more than just an agreement to get $15 on the ballot, but also changed the culture of how labor unions and community organizations can fight together for equity, fair wages, and a voice at work. Organizations involved in the coalition were UNITE-HERE Local 2, SEIU Local 1021, the California Nurses Association, the San Francisco branch of ACCE, Jobs with Justice, Young Workers United, the Chinese Progressive Association, Progressive Workers Alliance and SF Rising (the last two are worker of color & LGBT coalitions of 9 community organizations).

As with the Formula Retail Workers Bill of Rights coalition, the CFE coalition will also advocate for full enforcement. Years ago, working with the Building Trades Council, we helped the Office of Labor Standards Enforcement to monitor and enforce all our worker laws (sick days, living wage, etc.) and we will continue to fight for resources to empower this valuable department.

Scoma’s union servers were passing out the crab cakes and salad when we revisited a long simmering loophole in the 2006 San Francisco’s landmark universal healthcare law, the closest thing the United States has to universal health care with the public option, which required employers to make minimum expenditures towards their employees’ healthcare for each hour worked. (This was the model legislation that our legislative leader Nancy Pelosi used as a template for moving the Affordable Care Act as far as the Congress was able before the United States Senate riddled it with compromises.)

Since the law’s passage, a minority of San Francisco employers have avoided paying hundreds of millions of dollars in required spending by exploiting an unintended loophole.  In 2013 alone over $90 million dedicated to employees was not used to meet workers’ healthcare needs and was, instead, clawed back by employers.

We finally closed that loophole thanks to the leadership of Supervisor David Campos, five other co-sponsors, and the thoughtful coalition of Supervisors London Breed and Mark Farrell. The crux of the legislation was to make the employer spending requirement irrevocable, meaning employers will not receive credit for having met the spending requirement if they reclaim unused money.

The incredible research and policy team guiding this campaign was led by Ken Jacobs from the University of California, Berkeley Center for Labor Research and Education; Paul Kumar, Health Care Consultant to the San Francisco Labor Council; and Ian Lewis, Research Director for Unite-Here Local 2. The full coalition included the San Francisco Labor Council, Unite–Here Local 2, SEIU 1021, OPEIU 3, California Nurses Association, Young Workers United, NUHW, Health Access, Chinese Progressive Association, Jobs with Justice, ACCE, and the San Francisco Organizing Project (PICO), with support from many other community and labor partners.

Here is the San Francisco Chronicle article that outlines these legislative victories.

Another labor achievement this year culminated with the Board of Supervisors passing an ordinance to require large hospitality industry employers to retain employees for up to 90 days upon a change in control of the hospitality establishment. This was passed without objection by all 11 supervisors. This legislation built upon an ordinance that was passed over 10 years ago to keep worker stability in the commercial real estate industry where building owners, upon changing janitorial and security officer companies, were required to keep the previous company’s employees for 90 days and not create instability, job turnover, and job insecurity for dedicated workers in service sector jobs who had no say in the building owners business decisions to change contractors.

This will ensure much-needed stability to key segments of the hospitality industry, one of San Francisco’s most important bases of employment.

We remembered and complained about the devastating losses in the U.S. Senate and governorships this November (Wisconsin – how could you?!), while California still elected all labor candidates to the constitutional offices and added one more Democrat to Congress.

TomTorlaksonEven Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson, who was attacked with millions of dollars from “privatizer” school “reformers,” won with his biggest margin (70%) in San Francisco because of our political outreach this November.

One big toast was given to President Obama who finally!! acted with an executive order on immigration policy. Millions will not be living in the shadows anymore. San Francisco and the Bay Area Coalition for Comprehensive Immigration Reform never stopped fighting and advocating for reform for our members and all workers. We went to DC; we fasted; we marched; we lobbied; we got arrested. And we will still not stop until there is true immigration reform.

OlgaMirandaAgain, victories like these are rare in the new climate of national Tea Party anger and corporate attacks on immigrants and unions. We should applaud when the American Dream is advanced in our communities with policies to help workers stay in their homes by getting a raise, keeping their jobs, and achieving healthcare coverage. We in the Labor Movement are proud of our collective bargaining agreements that provide workers with a voice at work. We are also proud that we are now expanding collective bargaining in the legislative and political arena for all workers.

Nationally the rich are still getting richer and hoarding their profits and earnings while wages stagnate and health care costs continue to rise – but here in San Francisco the Labor Council can still look at 2014 and be proud of standing up for and winning many battles for workers.

I am grateful to our wonder Labor Council staff: Financial Manager Hang Le To, Community Services Liaison Tom Ryan, sfCLOUT Organizer Conny Ford, Political Director Amber Parrish-Baur, and my Assistant and Labor Council Communications Director Emily Nelson.

Happy 2015! Keep up the good organizing!

Executive Director Tim Paulson Shares Tom Hayden’s Comments on President Obama’s Speech

Friday, September 12th, 2014

THaydenThe San Francisco Labor Council is frequently asked to weigh in on foreign policy issues in ways that are often never presented to promote reasonable debate or establish organizational policy. We are often submitted “resolutions” to take uniquivocable positions that usually divide the movement. I often joke that the San Francisco Labor Council’s “State Department” is quite understaffed and that these resolutions to the President might be so late to get in the mail that Obama will be irritated with me because I know he cannot act until he hears from the San Francisco Labor Council.

I wish that our activists who spend so much time writing policy statements from 30,000 feet in the air would lead and help organize street and work actions to bring more people into the labor movement. I beg for real organizers that we can count on to bring co-workers, friends and family to legislative hearings, civil disobedience actions and picket lines and make phone calls five days a week and walk precincts on Sunday afternoons.

In that light I am willing to risk and share some thoughts from a stellar friend of mine who has devoted much of his life to the anti-war movement. Tom Hayden, one of the leaders of the student movement in the 1960’s and 70’s who turned the American debate about Vietnam, served for many years as an elected California Assemblymember and state Senator to improve the lives of working Californians. Along with Tom Ammiano I would be hard pressed to find any two friends who have consistently fought more for blue collar worker values in California during the last 35 years.

Tom Hayden writes everyday. Here are his recent thoughts on President Obama’s speech on Syria, Iraq, and the Middle East.

Hayden: Where is Obama’s Exit Strategy?
Tuesday, September 9, 2014 at 9:00PM

Tom Hayden on Afghanistan, Drones, Foreign Policy, Iraq

A disturbing omission in President Obama’s proposed Iraq War speech was its lack of an exit strategy. Spokesmen for the White House and Pentagon speak of the mission taking years beyond Obama’s tenure.

Once again our country has been invited to support the “long war” doctrine outlined by key Pentagon officials as lasting as long as 50 to 80 years. This long war is probably both unwinnable and unaffordable, but no president and few politicians have the political willingness to acknowledge failure and end it.

So they escalate just enough to pass it along to their successor. It’s war on an installment plan.

As to blame, the current crisis is not due to President Obama’s “premature” withdrawal or short-sightedness by the anti-war movement. It’s the direct consequence of the U. S policy of abandoning the Sunni population of Iraq to a sectarian, oppressive Shiite regime in Baghdad, which we armed, funded and installed in power.

The Baghdad regime built by the Bush and Obama administrations is an ally of Iran and a mortal enemy of the Sunnis, who previously were the privileged class under Saddam Hussein. It’s no accident that the Shiites would take revenge against the Sunnis. The only question is why we maintained the illusions of “pluralism” and “democracy” while the ethnic cleansing of the Sunni population went on under our gaze.

The disenfranchisement of the Sunnis led to the sweeping military counter-attack by the Islamic State and elements of Iraq’s former Baath Party. They cannot be stopped by the Shiites even with U.S. air power. Nor are they likely to be stopped by tinkering with Baghdad politics and rhetoric about token “inclusion.” Only a grant of virtual autonomy to the Sunnis, similar to the autonomy of Iraqi Kurdistan, will provide for the representation, security and power-sharing that Sunnis need in a new confederated and pluralistic state.

The Islamic State (also known as ISIS) grew from the U.S.-funded dungeons in Anbar Province, just as its predecessor, al Qaeda, arose before in the same desert region. There is a key difference between those Sunnis who seek an autonomous role within a new Iraq and those who fighting for a religious Caliphate in which all borders disappear. Those Western officials who want to preserve an Iraqi national state must pay attention to this fundamental ideological difference among the Sunnis and make substantial concessions as rapidly as possible. Otherwise, the future is one of a sectarian civil war in which the American people have no interest.

The Islamic State offensive is also made possible by Syria having become a vast rear base for the insurgency in Iraq. That rear base is made possible by years of Sunni resistance to the minority Alawite regime in Damascus. While calling for the end of the Assad tyranny, the United States has been ambiguous about its desire to overthrow the Assad regime. As a result, the Islamic State has gained power in Syria in a factional proxy war against other anti-Assad elements supported by the West. The demise of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad might divide the ranks of the insurgency between those who demand a change in the Syrian state and those who wish to impose a Caliphate without borders, erasing Syria and Iraq in the process.

Too much commentary has been spent on the violent threat suddenly posed by the Islamic State and virtually none on the question of how to confront the Islamic State at its core political weakness: its rise to preposterous claims of being the new center of the entire Muslim world. That claim to legitimacy is rejected by millions of Sunnis in multiple states, and will lead to internal differences, which will weaken the Islamic State from within.

The reason that the Islamic State wants the Americans and the West to bomb and invade its territory is because they know that foreign aggression is the surest way to unite all Sunnis factions.

So what should Obama be asked to consider?
1) To seek congressional authorization and the widest possible policy debate. Do not go it alone. While claiming sole authority in his speech, the president left the door open to serious Congressional debate, especially if he seeks funding for his plan. Nothing might be more helpful than serious hearings and debate. No matter the outcome, the pubic will be drawn into making choices.

Even if the war is authorized, Congress can debate important conditions: what timelines, whether to fund the one side of a sectarian civil war, or to fight without support from a majority of Islamic countries, among them. Congress can begin by enforcing the Leahy law barring US assistance to any military units committing human rights violations.

2) The president should state, over and over, that there is no military solution. That is a red line, which will be tested by the steady introduction of more American “advisers” in zones of combat. Already at least 1,500 have arrived and their numbers will grow if the Humpty-Dumpty Baghdad regime continues to crack.

3) He should acknowledge that any “boots on the ground” should be Sunni and supported across the Arab world. If that coalition is unwilling, U.S. policy will crater or US troops will be dispatched. There was no announcement of such allied support in the speech, but it’s too early to tell.

4) To conduct aggressive diplomacy at the United Nations, especially including contacts with Iran and Russia.

Above all, remember that the U.S. purpose in Iraq was to “disrupt, degrade and derail” al Qaeda – yet, and after killing thousands of people, the network not only exists but has spread far across the Middle East and North Africa. Oddly, the president gave Yemen and Somalia as examples. Both countries are the scenes of savage, tribal and sectarian conflicts where the American secret war is reviled.

Obama is wrong in asserting that America’s domestic agenda can move forward despite US involvement in multiple battlefields. The greatest tragedy of this conflict is that it will undermine “nation-building at home.”

Workers Support Jerry Brown

Friday, September 5th, 2014

PaulsonTrumkaBrown2010Tonight it became more than clear that Governor Jerry Brown is a California leader for working families. His leadership in inheriting a depression economy that is now creating and recovering more jobs during these last four years is a leadership that the labor movement is proud to support and engage. Funding for our schools and colleges is turning around. With an improving economy the ability to re-build our infrastructure (including an energy-efficient high-speed rail) and improve public services is what Californians want.

In San Francisco politics is never easy, but we recognize that Jerry Brown is a tough and intelligent leader and organizer. Under his  leadership in Sacramento we are on a path to recover the American Dream for hard-working Californians. Vote for Jerry Brown.

And, Jerry, please sign all our worker bills!

Side note: As observed in the “debate” last night, the opponent is a charismatic Wall Street Republican who is clueless about government and democracy — a wolf in sheep’s clothing — who cares more about corporations than workers.  (And who, by the way,  could ever again claim membership in the Republican Party after the idiocy and stalemates under John Boehner that have defined the Republican Party in Washington?)

Vote for Jerry Brown.

Historic Day in San Francisco for Workers

Thursday, June 12th, 2014

Minimum Wage, Healthcare, and Worker Retention

Raising the Minimum Wage – 11-0 with support of Mayor

The San Francisco Labor Council is proud to be part of an historic agreement reached yesterday with the Mayor and the San Francisco Board of Supervisors that puts a consensus minimum wage measure on the November ballot that gets all workers to $15 with the cleanest non-exemption path in the United States.

It wasn’t easy. The organizing was difficult, the negotiating intense, but the coalition was unique, historic and dedicated – labor and community partners fighting to increase the power of San Francisco workers.  This was more than just an agreement to get $15 on the ballot, but also changed the culture of how labor unions and community organizations can fight together for equity, fair wages, and a voice at work.

And yesterday didn’t end with only the minimum wage deal. There is more.

But first I want to be clear about the ballot initiative we will organize to vote for this Fall and what the Mayor and all 11 Supervisors agreed to during yesterday’s press conference and the introduction at the Board of Supervisors meeting.

On May 1, 2015 the minimum wage for all workers in San Francisco will increase to $12.25. (The current minimum wage is $10.76 today and with our consumer price index we will be at $11.03 on January first.)

On July 1, 2016 the minimum wage will be $13.
On July 1, 2017 the minimum wage will be $14.
On July 1, 2018 the minimum wage will be $15.
On July 1, 2019 the minimum wage will be $15 with the consumer price index kicking in thereafter.

After talks with the business community, the nonprofits, and others there was never a desire to phase in any tiers based on business size or definition. All workers will be covered equally.

We agreed to two minor exemptions where the $12.25 will only be indexed – one for city-funded youth programs, and, two, for elderly monolingual immigrants in a housecleaning program where they will also receive health care and sick days during their later years with the goal of securing stability upon retirement.

Our coalition will also advocate for full enforcement. We are proud that San Francisco is the first city in America to have an Office of Labor Standards Enforcement to monitor and enforce our worker laws and we will continue to fight for resources to empower this valuable department.

Shaw San Liu, Chinese Progressive Association

Shaw San Liu, Chinese Progressive Association

The labor and advocacy for this measure was advanced by the Coalition for a Fair Economy (CFE) that consisted of the following organizations who organized a grassroots base of workers throughout the city to collect signatures to put our own measure on the November ballot in order to start a real conversation. The CFE was formed by UNITE-HERE Local 2, SEIU Local 1021, The San Francisco Labor Council (AFL-CIO, a Council of 150 unions), the California Nurses Association, the San Francisco branch of ACCE, Jobs with Justice, Young Workers United, the Chinese Progressive Association, Progressive Workers Alliance and SF Rising (both are worker of color & LGBT coalitions of 9 community organizations). While the Coalition has been working to move forward the minimum wage increase for over a year, many other labor and community organizations added their support during the last couple months of intensive organizing to build an even more powerful force. We had a signature gathering kick-off in the Mission District over a month ago where 100 organizers gathered to launch the campaign.

Until yesterday we were headed toward two ballot measures: the CFE coalition’s initiative versus a version that would take us past 2020 to get to $15.

The power built through the CFE’s grassroots organizing forced the issue at City Hall. And through the many rounds of negotiations and our continued organizing our coalition stayed united about raising standards to the highest in the country and reached our historic compromise, a ballot measure with no major exemptions and the fastest path nationally to $15 an hour for workers.

Closing the loophole in the Health Care Security Ordinance – 11-0 with support of Mayor

BoardOfSupes copyIn 2006 we passed San Francisco’s landmark universal healthcare law, the closest thing the United States has to universal health care with the public option, which required employers to make minimum expenditures towards their employees’ healthcare for each hour worked. This legislation, written by now Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, was a year-long, hard fought campaign spearheaded by the San Francisco Labor Council and key unions. This employer expenditure requirement has been successful at halting the erosion of employer-sponsored health coverage experienced by workers elsewhere in the nation and in helping to finance the expansion of access to care for uninsured workers through Healthy San Francisco. (This was the model legislation that our legislative leader Nancy Pelosi used as a template for moving the Affordable Care Act as far as the Congress could before the Senate compromises.)

However, since the law’s passage, a minority of San Francisco employers have avoided paying hundreds of millions of dollars in required spending by exploiting an unintended loophole.  In 2013 alone over $90 million dedicated to employees was not used to meet workers’ healthcare needs and was instead clawed back by employers.

Yesterday we closed that loophole thanks to the leadership of Supervisor David Campos, five other co-sponsors, and the coalition of two other Supervisors, London Breed and Mark Farrell.Their amendments navigated a phase-in of eliminating the claw-back of tens of millions of dollars that a small minority of employers had been employing since the ordinance’s inception in 2007.

The crux of the Campos legislation is to make the employer spending requirement irrevocable,meaning employers will not receive credit for having met the spending requirement if they reclaim unused money. Under the amendments crafted by Supervisors Campos, Farrell, and Breed, this irrevocability requirement will be phased in over two years as follows:

In calendar year 2015, 60% of the employer spending requirement must be irrevocable.
In calendar year 2016, 80% of the employer spending requirement must be irrevocable.
Beginning January 1, 2017, 100% of employer spending under the HCSO must be irrevocable.

The coalition that has been working to close the loophole for years is thrilled with this outcome. This legislation is a long overdue victory and will help thousands of San Francisco families afford healthcare coverage and get the quality care they need.

The incredible research and policy team guiding this campaign was led by Ken Jacobs from the University of California, Berkeley, Center for Labor Research and Education; Paul Kumar, Health Care Consultant to the San Francisco Labor Council; and Ian Lewis, Research Director for Unite-Here Local 2.

This coalition coalescing around Supervisor David Campos’s and Assemblymember Tom Ammiano’s initiative included the San Francisco Labor Council, Unite–Here Local 2, SEIU 1021, OPEIU 3, California Nurses Association, NUHW, Health Access, ACCE, and the San Francisco Organizing Project (PICO), with support from many other community and labor partners.

Below is the San Francisco Chronicle article that outlines these legislative victories.

http://www.sfgate.com/default/article/S-F-supervisors-cut-deal-to-close-health-law-5542191.php

Worker Retention Ordinance – 11-0

As these Tuesday, June 7, 2014 votes rolled along we experienced a final convergence of what I will call, in racing terms, a Trifecta of victories. This third workers’ rights achievement culminated with the Supervisors passing an ordinance amending the Police Code to require large hospitality industry employers to retain employees for up to 90 days upon a change in control of the hospitality establishment. This was passed without objection by all 11 supervisors. This legislation built upon an ordinance that was passed over ten years ago to keep worker stability in the commercial real estate industry where building owners, upon changing janitorial and security officer companies, were required to keep the previous company’s employees for 90 days and not create instability, job turnover, and job insecurity for dedicated workers in service sector jobs who had no say in the building owners business decisions to change contractors.

UNITE Here Local 2 and SEIU Locals 87 and USWW were instrumental in fighting for this protection for all workers, whether covered by a collective bargaining agreement or not. This ordinance further secured worker security and stopped the wholesale job turnover by employers who care more about the bottom line than the workers who actually do the work.

This new Hospitality Job Security Ordinance requires new operators of tourist hotels and large food service facilities to rehire the employees who served at that location under the previous management. When a new owner or operator takes over, they will have to offer jobs to the previous employees for a period of 90 days. During that time, they can only terminate workers for just cause.

As a result of this ordinance, hospitality industry employees will have the security of continued employment for a short period of time, during which they could demonstrate to the new employer that they are qualified to do the work required, or find a different job. This would bring much-needed stability to key segments of one of San Francisco’s most important bases of employment.

Summary of San Francisco victories

These days of victory are rare in this new climate of Tea Party anger and corporate attacks on immigrants and unions. We should applaud when the American Dream is advanced in our communities with policies to help workers stay in their homes by getting a raise, keeping their jobs, and achieving healthcare coverage. We in the Labor Movement are proud of our collective bargaining agreements that provide workers with a voice at work. We are also proud that we are now expanding collective bargaining in the legislative and political arena for all workers.

 

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