On the picket line

UFCW on mother of Michael Brown

On Aug. 22, Joe Hansen, international president of the Food and Commercial Workers union, which represents more than 1.3 million workers primarily in the retail and meatpacking, food processing and poultry industries, issued a solidarity statement of support for UFCW Local 88 member Lesley McSpadden, the mother of Michael Brown, who was killed by police in Ferguson, Mo., on Aug. 9.

“At the UFCW, we are a family. When tragedy strikes one of us, it is felt by all of us.” After noting the outrageously aggressive, militaristic police attacks on peaceful protesters, he continued, “This entire episode highlights systemic problems that still plague our nation — abject poverty, the lack of good jobs, an absence of racial diversity in the halls of power. We need to address these challenges head on — and labor has a role to play by offering workers the opportunity for a better life. In the meantime, we stand in solidarity with our sister Lesley McSpadden and join her calls for a fair investigation and justice under the law.”

S.F. taxi drivers vote union

On Aug. 13, San Francisco taxi drivers voted to form the San Francisco Taxi Workers Alliance and affiliate with the National Taxi Workers Alliance. The city had a taxi union before World War II, but it was disbanded 40 years ago. NTWA President Bhairavi Desai told the Aug. 15 San Francisco Examiner: “San Francisco used to have progressive working conditions, in that every driver could earn a medallion and it was a very progressive model. But in the last 10 years, San Francisco has been faced with very bitter attacks, with [rideshares] being the latest.” She said once 500 drivers join the SFTWA, the union will be certified. Also on board the NTWA are drivers in Chicago, Houston and Prince George’s County, Md.

More NYC carwasheros unionize

Despite attempts by both the ownership of the K&P Car Wash and the Association of Car Wash Owners to intimidate them, immigrant workers at the K&P Car Wash in the Bronx, N.Y., remained united and voted in mid-August to join the Department Store Union, an affiliate of the Food and Commercial Workers. K&P employee José Pedro Calderón said the workers organized for better working conditions and respect on the job. Their vote made K&P the ninth car wash to unionize since RWDSU began its WASH organizing campaign in 2012. (aflcio.blog.org, Aug. 21)

San Diego approves $11.50 minimum wage

On July 28, the San Diego City Council approved an ordinance that would raise the minimum wage in California’s second-largest city to $11.50 an hour by January 2017. The minimum for low-wage workers, predominantly women and immigrant workers in the restaurant, hotel and retail sectors, will rise to $9.75 on Jan. 1, 2015, move up to $10.50 the following year and to $11.50 by January 2017. Further increases, beginning in January 2019, will be tied to the inflation rate. The law will increase the average pay of employees earning slightly above the minimum wage by $1,400 annually, pumping an additional $260 million a year into the economy.

California’s hourly minimum wage rose earlier in July from $8 to $9 and is scheduled to climb to $10 next July. California is one of 21 states with a higher minimum wage than the current federal level of $7.25 an hour. The total number of low-wage workers in San Diego is expected to grow from at least 172,000 next year to as many as 214,000 in 2017. The measure also gives an estimated 279,000 workers the chance to earn up to five days of paid sick leave. (Reuters, July 28)

But a caveat to San Diego voters: Don’t sign the deceptive “minimum wage” petition currently being promoted by the city’s fat cat business owners. It is an outrageous, well-funded attempt to derail the just passed minimum wage ordinance.