Friday, June 19, 2015

Charleston massacre demands renewed struggle to uproot racism

Thank you Midge Purcell for this call to action:
Terrorism has always been used against the black community; the paterollers during slavery, the rise of the KKK, police violence on the streets of Ferguson and Baltimore, and for the second time in my lifetime against worshipers seeking the word of God. Our community resists and fights back. It is in our DNA. We always have. We will again. The question is who will join us? It is time for a national movement against racism in every city, village and town in this country. The future progress of this country demands it. The violence inflicted on black men, women and children - physical, psychological, social and economic- must stop. We want peace, jobs and justice.

March calls for hiring to end jobs crisis

People's World

by Joelle Fishman

NEW HAVEN, Conn. -- The power of unity and solidarity filled Church Street in front of City Hall on June 11 as every neighborhood and many unions rallied together behind the banner of New Haven Rising for good jobs for city residents.

The rally and march, the latest action in a four-year campaign, highlighted the fact that of 82,000 jobs in New Haven only 2,000 living wage jobs at $20 an hour belong to residents of the largely Black and Latino Dixwell, Newhall, Hill, Fair Haven and Dwight neighborhoods.

In 2012 the newly elected Board of Alders, including many union members, established New Haven Works to train and locate jobs at major employers. In 15 months 500 people were placed. But now there are another 500 ready and waiting. The rally called on Yale University and Yale New Haven Hospital to hire them now so the thousands more in the jobs pipeline can move forward.

" Let’s be real about who the jobs crisis effects.  Unemployment is 15%.  For our white brothers and sisters – it’s 8%.  For the black and Latino communities, nearly 20%," said Pastor Scott Marks, founder of New Haven Rising. "Employers need to increase their hiring rate – and their focus on hiring from our communities of need," he declared to cheers and applause.

The Carpenters Union gets it, he said, asking the state-wide delegation of 45, mostly white males, to wave their hands. "Give the carpenters a cheer," he said. "We need more carpenters from New Haven to get in the union and then those carpenters can join these carpenters so everyone is working!"

After speeches, a community drill team led the multi racial crowd with many families and children to Prospect and Sachem Streets, the site of two new dormitories under construction at Yale. Against this backdrop, the rally called on the University to hire locally for construction jobs and for permanent union jobs once the dorms are completed.

New Elm City Dream and YCL youth groups were asked to stand in front with the banner from their march for jobs in February, carrying on their campaign for jobs for youth and jobs for all which began in 2010 after 31 young people lost their lives to street violence.

Mayor Toni Harp responded to the crowd in front of City Hall with three messages: One, I am with you, she said. Two, we are working on meeting transportation needs, ending discrimination against those with prison records and removing other barriers for the unemployed and under employed. Three, I will push the three major employers - Yale, Yale-New Haven Hospital, and the City of New Haven, to make these hires, she concluded to applause.

This response was the result of hundreds of house meetings, thousands of individual meetings, and overflow turnouts for the Black and Hispanic Caucus jobs crisis forum and state of the city address earlier this year, as well as an intensive grass roots leadership development program by New Haven Rising.

Two days prior to the rally, Yale University issued a statement that it will hire 500 New Haveners over the next two years. "That's fine," Tyisha Walker, president of the Board of Alders and secretary of Local 35, told the crowd. "But what neighborhoods will those workers come from?"

The unions at Yale including Locals 34 and 35 and GESO the graduate students, are all facing major battles as the university seeks to downsize its unionized staff and expand subcontracting practices. The union contracts expire in a year and a half.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Stealing Wages from Workers Gets More Expensive

In response to an unprecedented community response exposing wage theft in Connecticut, the state legislature passed SB 914. The bill, now awaiting signature from Governor Malloy, was very controversial, passing the Senate by three votes and the House by just one vote.

The bill penalizes unscrupulous employers by awarding double damages for wage theft violations. This brings Connecticut in line with surrounding states and federal statues.

Wage theft has become one of the biggest issues facing low wage workers in Connecticut, especially immigrant workers. Unidad Latina en Accion, an immigrant rights organization in New Haven, with the Immigrant Workers Center, issued a report including stories of those who were not paid for their work as legally required.

Wage theft covers a variety of infractions including nonpayment of overtime, not paying for all hours worked, withholding a final pay check, not paying minimum wage, not turning over tips and misclassifying workers as independent contractors. Restaurant, retail, construction, day labor, long term care, home health care and agricultural jobs are particularly impacted by wage theft violations.

The report explains that "frequently workers take an employer to court and win, but they cannot collect any money, because the employer declares bankruptcy or argues that he has no assets. In thousands of cases every year, Connecticut employers close their businesses and reopen with a different name; transfer property to family members; leave the country with their property; and use other tactics to “disappear” their assets so they can avoid paying the worker what they owe."

Under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) double damages are mandated in cases of proven wage theft. Effective enforcement laws must not only compensate the worker but deter violations by employers. Ten states actually allow treble damages (AZ, ID, ME, MD, MA, MI, NB, ND, VT, WV).

SB 914 continues to allow judges to use their discretion when awarding double damages if they determine the employer was acting in good faith. It does not cost the state money and in fact, allows for recovery of taxes for the state. Business benefits by creating a level playing field instead of one where unscrupulous employers undercut legitimate employers because they pay less for their labor.