Labor

Thumbnail image for Activists to Rep. Scott Peters: Do the Right Thing on Fast Track, Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)

Activists to Rep. Scott Peters: Do the Right Thing on Fast Track, Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)

by Doug Porter 04.24.2015 Activism

By Doug Porter

People representing organized labor, environmental and faith groups staged a rally outside the offices of Rep. Scott Peters yesterday, urging him to oppose legislation limiting congressional oversight on trade agreements currently being negotiated.

The demonstration at Peters office is symbolic of a larger political battle being waged over the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership(TPP). Business groups and most Republican legislators are supporting the Obama administration, contending an agreement is necessary as an important counterweight to China’s growing clout in the region.

In Washington on Thursday the so-called Fast Track legislation cleared an important hurtle as House Ways and Means Committee voted 25-13 in favor. A companion “fast-track” bill cleared a Senate panel on Wednesday and both are now ready for action in their respective chambers.

Today I’ll do my best–this is complicated–to give you an overview of what’s going on.

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Thumbnail image for Taxes and Inequality in California: Who Pays a Bigger Share?

Taxes and Inequality in California: Who Pays a Bigger Share?

by Jim Miller 04.20.2015 Columns

By Jim Miller

Last week was Tax Day and with it came the annual ritual of bemoaning our ever-rising taxes and complaining about the endless growth of big government.

Indeed just a few days after Tax Day, I gave a talk at a local college on the history of income inequality and workers’ struggles in which I made a comparison between the stark odds workers face today in the Fight for $15 with the similarly steep hill they faced 100 years ago before the rise of the American Labor Movement and the reforms that came with the New Deal.

As is usually the case, however, a few folks in the audience just could not get their heads around the idea that it was not all government’s fault.

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Thumbnail image for Super Sized #Fightfor15 Protests, Value Meal Press Coverage

Super Sized #Fightfor15 Protests, Value Meal Press Coverage

by Doug Porter 04.16.2015 Activism

By Doug Porter 

I spent most of yesterday traveling around San Diego with roughly three dozen fast food workers. The local version of the nationwide Fight for 15 movement made a statement at ten locations around town, taking to the streets both in North Park and downtown. 

The mostly brown and black workers on the bus were those who’d committed to taking a day off from work (there were others that came and went) to let the world know they wanted a better life. Two were older, having spent more than two decades in the business. Some had families to support. Some brought their kids along. Others were trying to go to community college on a fast food paycheck. All of them believed they could make a difference, even if they were just paying it forward. 

Many of these strikers shared their personal stories with TV and radio station reporters along the way. Some spoke up at the rally capping off the day. But the real story was the amazing level of grit and determination. There was a strong consciousness of this day being about larger issues motivating them as much if not more than their own personal dilemmas. 

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Thumbnail image for SDFP Is Going All in for $15 Today!

SDFP Is Going All in for $15 Today!

by Staff 04.15.2015 Activism

By Staff

SDFP editor Doug Porter will be spending the day at the locations listed below. He’ll be tweeting throughout the day, so check our twitter feed. Doug’s column The Starting Line will return tomorrow with lots of news and analysis of today’s events.

Here’s the list of times and locations for protests on Wednesday:

7 am – Fast Food Worker Strike: 2345 El Cajon Blvd, San Diego, CA
8:30 am – Fast Food Worker Strike: 2829 El Cajon Blvd, San Diego, CA
11 am – Security Officer Event:750 B Street San Diego, CA
Noon – State Workers Event: 1350 Front St, San Diego, CA
1:30pm – City Heights Rising Event: 3795 Fairmount Ave, San Diego, CA
3:30 pm – Home Care Worker Rally: San Diego State University 5500 Campanile Drive San Diego, CA (Between the music building and open air theatre)
4:30 pm– The Big Event: San Diego State University Scripps Cottage Lawn near Hepner Hall 5500 Campanile Dr, San Diego, CA

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Thumbnail image for On Equal Pay Day (and Every Other Day) Trickle-Down Continues to Fail

On Equal Pay Day (and Every Other Day) Trickle-Down Continues to Fail

by Doug Porter 04.14.2015 Activism

By Doug Porter

The second Tuesday in April marks the observance of Equal Pay Day. This calendar date hypothetically represents the length of time past New Years’ Day many women must work at the same job in order to match what men make in a year.

The day is a symbolic means of illustrating the differences in pay existing throughout the economy based on gender, despite legislative actions aimed a rectifying the problem dating back to 1869.  The National Committee on Pay Equity offers up a variety of programs for addressing inequities tied to gender.

This pay gap is one important part of a much larger picture of discrimination and inequality rampant in the Millennial Gilded Age.

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Thumbnail image for Let’s Make History: Going All In for $15 on April 15th

Let’s Make History: Going All In for $15 on April 15th

by Doug Porter 04.13.2015 Activism

By Doug Porter

What started out as protests against wages paid to workers in fast food restaurants in a few big cities has become a nationwide movement, encompassing retail, home care, security, child care, and airport workers, along with adjunct college professors.

On Wednesday, April 15th, while much of the traditional news media is camped outside post offices trying to interview the vanishing breed of Luddites using snail mail to file their taxes, these modern-day fighters for fair wages will be protesting in over 200 cities nationwide.

As was true with the civil rights movement of the 20th century, an increasing number of persons of conscience are joining in with those brave enough to challenge an injustice.If you’re aware of the ever-increasing level of economic inequality and sick of the system that primarily rewards those at top, this is an opportunity to spend a few hours doing something more than tsk-tsking at articles posted in social media.

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Thumbnail image for Teachers and Students Fight for 15

Teachers and Students Fight for 15

by Jim Miller 04.13.2015 Activism

By Jim Miller

Last February, in the lead up to the National Adjunct Day of Action, I noted in this column that, “most colleges in America run on the backs of adjunct instructors who don’t receive the same pay for the same work as do the shrinking pool of full-time faculty” and that the “Exploitation of contingent labor is not just a problem for employees at Starbucks, Walmart, and fast food chains where workers are fighting for $15 an hour; it is an epidemic in the academy as well.”

During that day of protest, Fight for 15 organizers stood with us and this week, on 4/15 at 4 PM at Scripps Cottage on San Diego State University’s campus, we will stand with them as teachers and students from across the city will come together with workers, community activists, people of faith, and others to call for basic fairness and economic justice for all working people.

In doing so we will be joining a movement that has taken root across the county.

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Thumbnail image for Fast Tracking the Trans Pacific Partnership: An Offer Congress Ought to Refuse

Fast Tracking the Trans Pacific Partnership: An Offer Congress Ought to Refuse

by Doug Porter 04.09.2015 Activism

By Doug Porter

Over the next few weeks there will be a barrage of opinion on a complicated subject: the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), a deal in the making between pacific rim nations effectively setting the ground rules for most international trade in the 21st century.

Please, don’t let your eyes glaze over. This is important. Congress is about to be asked to grant the executive branch the authority to present the final version of this agreement on a take it or leave it basis. I believe this deal rewards corporate greed and ignores its role in creating inequality.

Today I’ll try my best to present a primer on the battle already underway. There will be international, national and local events concerning the TPP in the coming days. Your personal economic future is what’s at stake.

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Thumbnail image for Can One Union Save the Post Office?

Can One Union Save the Post Office?

by Source 04.06.2015 Activism

By David Morris / Common Dreams

Let’s begin with the bad news. The U.S. Post Office, the oldest, most respected and ubiquitous of all public institutions is fast disappearing.

In recent years management has shuttered half the nation’s mail processing plants and put 10 percent of all local post offices up for sale.  A third of all post offices, most of them in rural areas, have had their hours slashed.

Hundreds of full time, highly experienced postmasters knowledgeable about the people and the communities they serve have been dumped unceremoniously, often replaced by part timers. Ever larger portions of traditional post office operations— trucking, mail processing and mail handling– have been privatized. Close to 200,000 middle class jobs have disappeared.

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Thumbnail image for Will Mickey D’s Dollar Deal Super-Size April 15 Protests?

Will Mickey D’s Dollar Deal Super-Size April 15 Protests?

by Doug Porter 04.03.2015 Activism

By Doug Porter

The national ‘conversation’ about inequality shifted a bit this week with a press release from fast food giant McDonald’s announcing it was planning a pay raise for employees of its company-owned stores.

The significance of the announcement isn’t the extra dollar on top of whatever is the local minimum wage for the less than 10% of the company’s workers. WalMart, Target, and a growing number of other large retailers operations have made similar announcements in recent months.

These pay increases are too little, too late. A study released by Americans for Tax Fairness earlier this week says increases to $9 (in 2015) and even $10 (in 2016) will still leave  workers dependent on food stamps, Medicaid and six other taxpayer-funded programs to survive. And McDonald’s announcement has simply added fuel to the fire in the bellies of low wage workers planning on staging protests nation-wide on April 15th.

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Thumbnail image for ‘Not Nearly Enough': McDonald’s Wage Hike Lambasted as Publicity Stunt

‘Not Nearly Enough': McDonald’s Wage Hike Lambasted as Publicity Stunt

by Source 04.03.2015 Activism

‘The overwhelming majority of McDonald’s workers will still be paid wages so low that they can’t afford basics like rent and groceries,’ says labor leader.

By Deirdre Fulton / Common Dreams

One day after fast-food workers and their supporters called for a nationwide strike to demand higher wages and the right to form a union, McDonald’s announced Wednesday that it will raise pay for about 90,000 of its U.S. employees—only those who work at the 1,500 locations owned by the corporation—as of July 1, 2015.

To be sure, the decision is “fresh evidence of the rising wage pressure in the American labor market,” as the Wall Street Journal, which broke the news, put it.

But workers and labor activists say the move amounts to little more than a publicity stunt, noting that the vast majority of McDonald’s employees will not see any raise, but will continue to earn poverty wages.

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Thumbnail image for Protests on 4/15 Up the Ante in the Fight for $15 in San Diego

Protests on 4/15 Up the Ante in the Fight for $15 in San Diego

by Doug Porter 03.31.2015 Activism

By Doug Porter

It’s no longer about just fast food; the movement for a fifteen dollar an hour wage is expanding to embrace low-wage workers everywhere, along with the larger questions of inequality.

Everywhere includes San Diego, where organizers are planning a full day of actions. Fast food workers from McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s , Subway, Sonic, and Taco Bell will be taking a ‘day off.’ Security guards and janitors will participate in a mid-day downtown protest against an-as-yet-unnamed “bad employer.”

A community-based demonstration is planned for City Heights starting at 1:30 calling attention to the need to decriminalize the poor in addition to the pay demands. At 3pm a bus will leave from the Rosa Parks Park and Performance Annex headed for a city-wide convergence on the San Diego State University campus (map) starting at 4pm.

The rally at SDSU will include support for rolling back student fees and the start of a unionization drive of the 3000 low wage employees of the campus Aztec Shops. (More info)

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Thumbnail image for Indiana’s So-Called Religious Freedom Law: If It Walks Like a Duck…

Indiana’s So-Called Religious Freedom Law: If It Walks Like a Duck…

by Doug Porter 03.30.2015 Activism

By Doug Porter

For a while there I thought Republicans of the sane persuasion (a vanishing species) might prevail on matters relating to the legal status of gay and transgender people. One state after another was giving up on fighting same-sex marriage. 

What with “New Republicans” like Carl DeMaio emerging and the Log Cabin GOP caucus gaining legitimacy, I figured the party brass would leave it the hardcore to draw inspiration from the Obama Derangement Syndrome for the next year or so.. 

Then along came Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, signing a bill shepherded by lobbyists representing anti-gay rights organizations conflating freedom of religion with the right to discriminate. Voila! Now the Guns and God wing of the party has an issue to rally behind. 

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Thumbnail image for California Consumers Gouged for $550 Million at the Gas Pump in February

California Consumers Gouged for $550 Million at the Gas Pump in February

by Doug Porter 03.25.2015 Activism

By Doug Porter

The higher prices Californians pay for gasoline was the focus of a hearing chaired by San Diego’s Sen. Ben Hueso this week.

A report issued by the Consumer Watchdog group alleges consumers were gouged for an extra $550 million at the gas pump during February as the result of a strategy by refiners to keep inventories artificially low. The group came to this conclusion by calculating the difference between US and state prices and allotting for consumption.

Members of the transportation, housing and energy, utilities and communications committees questioned energy industry executives about recent price spikes in California. Earlier this week Californians were paying 84 cents more per gallon than the rest of the nation for their gasoline.

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Thumbnail image for How Privatization Degrades Our Daily Lives

How Privatization Degrades Our Daily Lives

by Source 03.25.2015 Business

By Paul Bucheit / Common Dreams

The Project on Government Oversight found that in 33 of 35 cases the federal government spent more on private contractors than on public employees for the same services. The authors of the report summarized, “Our findings were shocking.”

Yet our elected leaders persist in their belief that free-market capitalism works best. Here are a few fact-based examples that say otherwise.

Health Care: Markups of 100%….1,000%….100,000%

Broadcast Journalist Edward R. Murrow in 1955: Who owns the patent on this vaccine?
Polio Researcher Jonas Salk: Well, the people, I would say. There is no patent. Could you patent the sun?

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Thumbnail image for The Uptown Battle for Safer Bike Routes

The Uptown Battle for Safer Bike Routes

by Doug Porter 03.20.2015 Activism

By Doug Porter

There’s a special meeting of the Uptown Planners next Tuesday (March 24) to discuss overriding the SANDAG Regional Bike Plan in Mission Hills and Hillcrest. Cycling advocates are expected to face off against various organizations and people opposed to proposed traffic changes in the area.

This meeting is, I think, symbolic of a larger battle going on over the future of transportation in the city. While all the organizations involved give lip service to the Climate Action Plan’s goal of 18% bike mode share in Uptown by 2035, there are individuals who come across as negative about actually doing anything to achieve the goal.

Despite a growing body of evidence contradicting what some small businesspeople assume about the negative impact of bike lanes, parking spaces and traffic calming measures, when it gets down to an actual plan, all they can say is “no.” (Kinda like the GOP on their alternative to Obamacare, I think.) 

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Thumbnail image for Humane Prosperity or More Economic Inequality for San Diego? Debating Free Trade Agreements Like TPP

Humane Prosperity or More Economic Inequality for San Diego? Debating Free Trade Agreements Like TPP

by Doug Porter 03.17.2015 Business

By Doug Porter

Sometime this spring Senator Orin Hatch will ask the congress to vote on giving the President “fast track” authority in relation to the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP). What this means is that the terms of the treaty establishing ground rules for trade, intellectual property and corporate behavior around the Pacific Rim will be subject to a simple yes or no vote. 

Opponents of TPP and the companion Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) make a big deal out of the fact that the nuts and bolts of these deals are negotiated in secret. As a practical matter I don’t see how a complex agreement between nation-states and corporate entities could be negotiated in public. But we should have a right to know –beyond platitudes– what our government supports in negotiations.  

The crux of this matter is that we’re being asked to trust negotiators to create a mechanism along the lines of previous trade deals. Many of the people who negotiated those earlier deals now admit they failed to provide the promised economic benefits to anybody not owning stock in a multinational corporation. 

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Thumbnail image for The Battle Over the Trans-Pacific Partnership: Elizabeth Warren Strikes Back  Against the Wolves In Sheep’s Clothing

The Battle Over the Trans-Pacific Partnership: Elizabeth Warren Strikes Back Against the Wolves In Sheep’s Clothing

by Jim Miller 03.16.2015 Business

By Jim Miller

Just as the folks in the New Democrat Coalition (NDC) were gearing up to marginalize the progressive wing of the Democratic Party leading up to the 2016 election, Elizabeth Warren struck back with what even CNN reported as “a push to kill major trade negotiations” being championed by President Obama and previously supported by Presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton.

And it’s a very good thing that Warren has elevated the debate over the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) to the national media because proponents of this deal have done everything they can to keep the details secret. As I wrote in this column back in January, the TPP is one of the most under-reported stories in America, and it would affect most of us adversely as “it will increase the outsourcing of U.S. jobs, threaten collective bargaining, undermine environmental regulations, jeopardize food safety, limit access to affordable prescription drugs, and much more.”

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Thumbnail image for Help Us Find San Diego’s Progressive History and Locales

Help Us Find San Diego’s Progressive History and Locales

by Staff 03.13.2015 Activism

By Staff    

A reader from Liverpool, England, wrote us recently requesting our help in finding “hidden gems of progressiveness and places of historical importance I should visit whilst I’m there.”

That request got us to thinking about how much local history we must be blissfully unaware of. So we’ve decided to create and continue to update a page where the local history of progressiveness and protest will come alive for visitors, students and locals.

We’d like your help in putting this together. You can leave us ideas in the comments section of this article or email us at contact@sandiegofreepress.org with the subject line Progressive San Diego. Many thanks!

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Thumbnail image for A Wealth Tax for California?

A Wealth Tax for California?

by Source 03.13.2015 Economy

By Roy Ulrich / Capital & Main

California has one of the highest poverty rates in the nation. According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s main poverty measure, 16.8 percent of all Californians and 23.5 percent of the state’s children lived in poverty in 2013. Yet it also has the most billionaires in the country: 111. The state’s 33,900 millionaire taxpayers (just .2 percent of the state’s taxpayers) have combined incomes of $104 billion. According to the California Budget Project, California has the seventh widest income gap between rich and poor among the 50 states, ranking between Alabama and Texas.

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Thumbnail image for Scott Peters and the New Democrats Take Aim at the Warren Wing of the Party

Scott Peters and the New Democrats Take Aim at the Warren Wing of the Party

by Jim Miller 03.09.2015 Activism

…And Other  Sordid Tales

By Jim Miller

Today a “right to work” bill that will gut the union movement in Wisconsin is likely to hit Governor Scott Walker’s desk and no doubt he will sign it.

While there is much discussion in Democratic circles of how Walker is doing this to position himself even more solidly on the right to please potential Republican primary voters, there is much less discussion about how this latest assault on workers’ rights helps speed the runaway train heading toward plutocracy that is the United States.

Indeed, the very same corporate forces and reactionary billionaires who want to buy the 2016 election are the key beneficiaries of this “right to work” policy, but some Democrats don’t seem to be bothered by that. So instead of standing up for an American labor movement under assault, a group of Democratic neoliberals, the New Democrat Coalition (NDC), is more interested in checking the progressive wing of its own party.

Meet one such Democrat: Congressman Scott Peters.

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Thumbnail image for Faulconer’s First Year: Mostly Doing Nothing, But Looking Good While Doing It

Faulconer’s First Year: Mostly Doing Nothing, But Looking Good While Doing It

by Doug Porter 03.03.2015 Battle for Barrio Logan

By Doug Porter

Unlike the women performing on the field at Chargers’ games, San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer is getting paid for his cheerleading efforts.

The local daily paper ran a puff piece on Sunday, celebrating Faulconer’s first year in office, reporting on the “nearly unanimous praise” for making San Diego a “vastly different place than it was under the tumultuous tenure” of he-who-cannot-be-named-without-contempt.

Largely airbrushed out of history was former interim mayor Todd Gloria, whose reward for leadership following the fall of Filner was to get booted out of the position of City Council President, lest he actually accomplish any items proposed during his tenure.

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Thumbnail image for Gas Prices Rise in San Diego as Refinery Strike Spreads

Gas Prices Rise in San Diego as Refinery Strike Spreads

by Doug Porter 02.25.2015 Business

By Doug Porter 

The average price of a gallon of regular gasoline reached three dollars in San Diego this week, roughly seventy cents more than a month ago. The primary cause of this steep increase is the largest refinery strike in 35 years, a walkout that’s continuing to spread as negotiations have stalled out. 

A total of 6,550 workers represented by the United Steel Workers are on strike at 15 plants, including 12 refineries accounting for one-fifth of U.S. capacity. The central issue in this labor dispute is safe working conditions for the USW members at more than 200 oil terminals, pipelines, refineries and chemical plants in the U.S. 

The American Automobile Association says the steep increase in prices comes on the heels of a record 123 consecutive days of declines. 

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Thumbnail image for Why We’re All Becoming Independent Contractors

Why We’re All Becoming Independent Contractors

by Source 02.25.2015 Business

By Robert Reich

GM is worth around $60 billion, and has over 200,000 employees. Its front-line workers earn from $19 to $28.50 an hour, with benefits.

Uber is estimated to be worth some $40 billion, and has 850 employees. Uber also has over 163,000 drivers (as of December – the number is expected to double by June), who average $17 an hour in Los Angeles and Washington, D.C., and $23 an hour in San Francisco and New York.

But Uber doesn’t count these drivers as employees. Uber says they’re “independent contractors.”

What difference does it make?

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Thumbnail image for A Call to Action on the Labor Crisis in Higher Ed: Colleges Are Running On the Backs of Underpaid Part-Timers

A Call to Action on the Labor Crisis in Higher Ed: Colleges Are Running On the Backs of Underpaid Part-Timers

by Jim Miller 02.23.2015 Columns

February 25th is National Adjunct Walkout Day

By Jim Miller

As I have noted here recently, the successful assault on public sector unionism has marched hand in hand with the surge of income inequality and the erosion of the American middle class. Of course, central to this is the ongoing war on teachers’ unions and the nationwide trend toward austerity budgets in state capitols across the country.

In the world of higher education, what this means is that as we have seen taxes go down for the wealthy and corporations over the last thirty years, budgets for education from K-12 to the university have suffered.

And while the growing student debt crisis has received significant attention, far fewer people are probably aware that in addition to gouging students, colleges across the country are increasingly relying on an exploited army of highly educated part-time teachers in the classroom to help keep their budgets in line.

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