On the picket line

Walmart: Make Gerawan pay the farmworkers!

The United Farm Workers latest campaign, on behalf of more than 5,000 mostly migrant workers who harvest Prima brand plums, peaches, nectarines and grapes, is demanding that Walmart, a major purchaser of Prima fruits, live up to its so-called “Standards for Suppliers.” Walmart claims that its suppliers must pay their workers decent wages and comply with labor laws. But Gerawan Farming, which sells its produce under the Prima brand, is being sued by the workers for minimum wage violations, and the company has not given the workers the raise mandated by the state of California. Though the UFW brought these issues to Walmart’s attention, the world’s largest, wealthiest retailer has hypocritically done nothing. The UFW is requesting that supporters sign its petition on ufw.org demanding that Walmart make Gerawan accountable. If only Walmart would abide by its own standards!

Minnesota raises state minimum wage

It’s been nine years since more than 325,000 minimum-wage workers in Minnesota got a raise. Minnesota is one of only four states whose minimum wage of $6.15 an hour was below the federal rate of $7.25. As of Aug. 1, workers will make $8 an hour, and the minimum will rise to $9 in 2015 and $9.50 in 2016. As of Jan. 1, 2018, the minimum will be indexed to inflation to help workers keep up with the cost of living. Unions and worker organizing centers throughout the state have been rallying and marching for over a year to win this sorely needed wage hike. Though Minnesota politicians praised themselves for passing this long-overdue raise, statistics show that a single parent with two children working full time currently earns an annual salary of just $12,792, which is $7,000 below the poverty line. (mnaflcio.org, April 21) Raising the minimum wage to $9.50 by 2016 will provide another $6,970 for that family — but that’s still below the poverty line. That’s why the national minimum needs to be $15 an hour!

Nurses demand health report on Keystone XL

On March 13, the largest U.S. organization of nurses, National Nurses United, with nearly 185,000 members, called on the Obama administration to issue a report showing that the Keystone XL oil pipeline, which would run from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico, “will not adversely impact the health and safety of the American people” before approving this controversial project. The NNU first announced its opposition in early 2013. “It is for our patients, our members, our families, and our communities that we speak out, and call on the Administration to order an immediate health impact study and not authorize a pipeline that will harm our planet and our health,” said NNU Co-President Karen Higgins, RN, in a press release. Higgins noted that as a result of tar sands pipeline spills in Michigan and Arkansas, residents have reported cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, neurological and respiratory illnesses, as well as persistent coughs, headaches, nausea, eye and skin problems. Tar sands mining pollutants have been linked to cancer, leukemia, genetic damage and birth defects. (nationalnursesunited.org)

On April 18, the White House announced it was postponing a final decision on the project. The media speculated that the decision had to do with not turning off environmentalists before the upcoming midterm election.