July 5th Global Starbucks Day of Action in Philadelphia

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Pabst and Politics

Pabst and politics at the Tritone. The proceeds go to Jobs with Justice and the fund to buy Eduardo a new liver.


JUDGE FINDS MOPAC WORKERS UNJUSTLY FIRED – Meat Processing Workers Find Justice Long Over Due

Philadelphia, PA, May 27, 2008- Judge George Aleman finds that five workers who lead a work stoppage after not receiving the expected Christmas bonus were acting within their rights.

On December 15, 2006, workers at the Moyer Rendering Plant in Souderton, PA were angered to find out that their employer was not going to give out the traditional Christmas bonuses.

“Every year they gave us bonuses. We really looked forward to it to get through the holidays and maybe have something extra under the tree for the kids, “ says Maria Garcia, one of the five workers that was involved in the work stoppage that was fired.

“We did not refuse to go back to work to get bonuses. The workers united to get some answers.” States Maximo Franklin another worker dismissed shortly after the brief strike.

They provide us security but get none themselves

Since the terrorist attacks of 2001, Homeland Security, the National Parks Service, and the City have poured millions of dollars into protecting Philadelphia's most prized historic treasures, Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell. That's meant a lot of money for some area contractors, but ask Charles Wilson if a fair amount has trickled down to the men and women who work as security guards, actually protecting our prized national possessions every day. Charles, who guards the Liberty Bell, is diabetic and though he is a full-time employee of Wackenhut Security Services, the world's largest security company, he has neither health insurance or sick days.

That's why the Philly Progressive community should be applauding Charles and the other brave workers who last week launched the Wackenhut Workers Organizing Committee, a campaign to unionize local security guards with S.E.I.U..

Check out Damon Williams' story from the Daily News on the event that was attended by local Congressional supporters Chaka Fattah and former Veterans Stadium security guard Patrick Murphy. Apparently, the guards voted for S.E.I.U in September but the National Labor Relations Board still hasn't recognized the union, so Wackenhut refuses to negotiate with them. Let's keep up-to-date on this important local issue.

I've noted in the past that Nobel-nominated economist Paul Krugman lays out a compelling blueprint for improving the American economy in his latest book The Conscience of a Liberal, one that is meant to remedy the destructive and economically-polarizing policies of the last three decades. Unionizing the service industries and other low-wage workers is a key element in Krugman's recipe for restoring the American middle class. According to Krugman, tax, monetary, and labor policy initiated by Franklin Roosevelt in the 1930's, and that went nearly unchanged for more than 40 years--even during Republican administrations-- conspired to create America's greatest rise in the middle class, and likewise America's most economically fair society.

However you may feel about Krugman's recent politicking--he's fallen in line with bud and fellow Princeton Mafioso Shameless Sean Wilentz in a series of what I'd call unseemly and unfair diatribes against Barack Obama (Wilentz has been fairly open about seeking an official role as Hillary Clinton's "Arthur Schlesinger Jr.")--his book remains a very, very rewarding read, a level-headed, pragmatic, and yes hopeful prescription for the American economy and polity after the long Second Gilded Age between Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush.

Bringing back the middle class, and FINALLY focusing on the goal of economic fairness should inspire every Progressive in 2008 as we prepare for what should be our best national election in decades. Charles Wilson, S.E.I.U. are on the cutting edge of critical local solutions. Let's give them our support.

Organize, mobilize and unionize!

As a follow up to both of Fabricio’s posts celebrating Dr. King’s life and work I thought I would post some information on union membership in the Philadelphia Metropolitan area as well as link everybody to some new research quantifying the benefits of union membership.

In Metropolitan Philadelphia just under one in four African Americans are members of a union.

Diversity and the Unions

Dave Davies has an article in today's Daily News, with reference materials provided, which outlines the compromise reached on the 'diversity issue' facing the trade unions in Philadelphia. The big union bossess and political bossess got together and hacked together this 'great compromise'. The reality is any step in the right direction equals progress. Is it exactly what we need? No. But, it is movement in the right direction.

I thought it interesting to post the data printed in today's Daily News, regarding minority representation in the trades...

* Asbestos Workers: 6 percent minorities and women, 19 percent city residents. Among apprentices, 9 percent minorities and women, 35 percent city residents.

* Bricklayers: 20 percent minorities and women, 26 percent city residents. Among apprentices, 25 percent minorities and women, 59 percent city residents.

City workers' contract, the BPT, and other priorities: what's best for the city’s economy?

Doron Taussig and Tom Namako at the City Paper put together a cover story (as of last Thursday) that takes the form of a to-do list addressed to Mayoral presumptive Michael Nutter. Great minds think a like apparently as their article hit some of the same marks as my post about the future of Philadelphia’s economy and Michael Nutter.

One point they hit that really seems worth emphasizing is the renegotiation of city worker contracts that will occur next spring. The lines have already been drawn in that battle: the city will not have a whole lot of money to spend on all its needs and city workers don’t want to make any more concessions on health care.

The CP article describes the coming conflict efficiently:

Within five years, the city of Philadelphia will be spending more than one of every four of its tax dollars on what used to be called 'fringe benefits'" — pensions and health care. You can't afford to maintain this rate, and if you don't win some concessions, your hands will be tied by budgetary constraints for your entire first term. But the unions have said they don't intend to accept any benefit cuts — good bennies are practically the point of a public-sector job — and the last thing you want in your first half-year is a public-sector strike that shuts down the city you promised to make work better. The situation is so dire that it's been compared to what Gov. Ed Rendell faced when he first took office, when Philly was on the verge of bankruptcy...One other thing worth mentioning here: Philadelphia's public-sector employees' generous health and pension plans are not necessarily a bad thing. The City of Philadelphia is the biggest employer in the city of Philadelphia. It behooves you to keep 27,778 public employees and 33,500 retirees comfortable.

The authors go on to list a number of other important priorities including violence, addressing prison overcrowding, SEPTA, DHS, ethics, and of course tax cuts:

There are two changes to the city's tax structure that you've backed. One was reducing the business-privilege tax (BPT), a move you tried to make while on council until Street vetoed it. The other is reassessing property taxes, so that properties are assessed according to what they would sell for if a For Sale sign went up today, rather than decades ago.

Now that you're mayor, it would appear that these proposals' time has come. But two things could stand in their way: those upcoming union negotiations, and City Council. There's only so much money the city has to spend every year, and this year, the unions get a shot at it first. If they persuade you to spend more money on them, says tax advocate Brett Mandel, it might be hard to cut business taxes....Passing the BPT cuts, at least, seems doable: It takes nine votes to pass a bill, and eight of the members who voted in favor of cutting the BPT in 2004 remain on council. That means you need to persuade just one of possibly four new council members: Bill Green, Maria Quinones-Sanchez, Curtis Jones or (maybe) David Oh to back the idea. Take them to dinner, compliment their outfits, give them some money for area recreation centers — you remember how this is done, right?

I am somewhat biased in this conversation as I now dating a city worker (well, I have always been dating him, but Joel just became a Library trainee). Aside from the income he brings into our household, his job is important to me because it provides me with healthcare (yea domestic partnership!). I gotta tell you, I really don’t want him to lose his job. And I think you all know how I feel about business tax cuts.

Looking at the situation objectively though, and I guess this is what is what I was trying to articulate in my earlier post about Nutter and the economy, the contract fight is a great opportunity to dissect our collective priorities for the expenditure of city funds.

Do we as citizens and voters support job and benefit cuts for city workers if the money saved will go toward something that enhances our economy and creates a net gain of jobs? Is that really the choice that will be presented to us? What value and services do we as citizens get from city workers?

Messing with the livelihood of the largest pool of employees in the city is a BIG deal. Seems to me like we as a general populace need some tools to better understand what is going on.

As the CP article points out, and as many folks here have pointed out, Michael Nutter has a lot of problems to deal with when he becomes Mayor, and he won’t be able to address them all right away. In that context it is up to us to set expectations accordingly and begin to articulate which things are most important to deal with first, and be able to explain why.

That starts with identifying the issues that will be forced to the forefront (probably this one and and gun violence would be my guess) and all of us (on and offline) listing our priorities beyond those.

a tale of two nursing homes

Earlier today, workers at two nursing homes in Pennsylvania voted to organize with SEIU Healthcare PA. Over 340 workers--RNs, LPNs, CNAs, dietary aides and housekeepers--will be represented by a union. While it's an exciting day for our union, you might wonder why I'm blogging about it on YPP.

The answer is that there was a big difference in these two elections, and the difference was directly attributable to politics.

The first nursing home, in Northeast Philadelphia, is run by a national, private, for-profit company. Workers at that home were subjected to an active fight against the union, orchestrated by their employer. They were subjected to captive audience meetings, misinformation, and subterfuge while on paid work time. The workers who supported the union were not allowed to conduct meetings with their co-workers while on work time, leading most rational people to the conclusion that the company strongly opposed unionization. The workers prevailed in this vote, but with only 56%--a margin that, while a blowout by electoral standards, means they will continue to struggle to get a first contract. (Thanks to Senator Bob Casey for writing an open letter of support.)

At the second nursing home, the county nursing home in Lehigh, the yes side of the equation got 83% of the vote. In that case, the county executive, Don Cunningham, agreed to employer neutrality and an expedited election. The nurses in that home were free to make up their own minds about whether to form a union, and overwhelmingly, they chose to do so. This wasn't the first organizing drive these workers had ever attempted, but it was the first one that ever succeeded.

I worked getting out the vote today in the first home, and we were nervous all day about whether the workers would be able to overcome their fears and stand together. It gave me an important reminder of just what it is that we're fighting for, in working to elect Ruth Damsker and Joe Hoeffel in Montgomery County. We're fighting to make sure that more workers can have the experience of choosing a union--or not--in an environment free of harassment and scare tactics.

SEIU Hits the Streets!

Join two thousand members of SEIU as they march for their health care. The city-wide contract will expire on October 15 and if the bosses around the city are still trying to take back health care or wages, there maybe a massive strike. Come out and march with your favorite janitors and show the bosses that they do not stand alone!

WHAT: March and Rally for a fair contract

WHERE: Dilworth Plaza, 15th St. and JFK Boulevard

WHEN: Thursday, September 27, 2007, 12:00 Noon - 2 pm. (march starts at noon)

Call (267) 250-6480 for more information.

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