On the picket line

Low-wage restaurant workers:

Photo: ROCunited.org,

Photo: ROCunited.org,

Several hundred low-wage restaurant workers and their supporters took to the streets of the U.S. capital on April 15 to rally against the National Restaurant Association, the lobbying group pushing to keep 11 million tipped workers making poverty wages. The protest, organized by Restaurant Opportunity Centers United and its Coalition to #StopTheOtherNRA, included a pop-up “restaurant” that blocked four busy intersections in the D.C. metro area to prevent busloads of NRA lobbyists from meeting with policymakers. The NRA, whose membership includes McDonald’s and other Fortune 500 corporate bigwigs, lobbies against initiatives to raise the tipped minimum wage (a measly $2.13 an hour since 1991!) to the federal minimum wage and give workers much-needed paid sick days.

Protesters called for “One Fair Wage” for all workers. That would help tipped workers, about 80 percent of whom are women, nearly half of whom live in or near poverty, according to the ROC United report released April 14. ­(ROCunited.org, April 15)

Equal Pay Day, April 14

On Equal Pay Day, women’s, civil rights and labor groups observed that women must work 104 days longer — until April 14 — to earn what men earned the previous year. A new study published that day by the National Partnership for Women and Families shows flagrant discrimination exists against all women workers, whose pay averages just 78 cents for every dollar earned by men. This gender-, class- and nationality-based inequality runs rampant through all jobs, careers and professions, from the lowest paid to the highest. But, the study shows, it falls hardest on mothers who work full time, who are paid “just 71 cents for every dollar paid to fathers who work full time, year round. Single mothers are paid just 58 cents for every dollar paid to fathers. And African-American and Latina mothers suffer the biggest disparities, being paid just 54 cents and 49 cents, respectively, for every dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic fathers.” This causes, says NPWF President Debra L. Ness, “real and lasting damage to women, families, communities and our nation.” (nationalpartnership.org, April 13)

What’s the solution? Fight for a living wage for all — just as thousands of workers did the next day!

Bus drivers vote to unionize

Bus drivers on both coasts have organized successful union drives. Double-decker tour bus drivers working for Go New York Tours elected to join Transport Workers Union Local 100 in a landslide vote on April 14. TWU Local 100 now represents over 40,000 drivers in New York City. Among the drivers’ grievances are low wages and denial of bathroom and lunch breaks. (NYDailyNews.com, April 14)

The Teamsters welcomed shuttle bus drivers from five major Silicon Valley, Calif., tech companies on Feb. 17. Drivers at Yahoo, Apple, Genentech, eBay and Zynga voted to organize, citing low wages and unfair scheduling as their main grievances. The drivers seek the same contract won by Facebook drivers earlier that month, which guarantees them $33,000 more annually in wages and benefits packages. The Teamsters now represent some 65 percent of Silicon Valley shuttle bus drivers. “Our next step now is to move forward and pick up the rest of the drivers,” says Teamsters Local 853 Vice President Rome Aloise. (MercuryNews.com, Feb. 27)

Darigold dairy poisons drinking water

On Jan. 14., a U.S. District Court found that Cow Palace, a dairy supplier in the multibillion-dollar Darigold consortium headquartered in Seattle, poisoned the drinking water of thousands of people in Washington’s Yakima Valley. The court found that the dairy consistently ignored U.S. Department of Agriculture recommendations for safe storage and use of cow manure in agricultural fields. As a result, it is estimated that millions of gallons of manure leaked into the residential water supply, endangering as many as 24,000 people. Risks of exposure include cancer, heart disease and stroke.

In a related incident, a Cow Palace dairy worker drowned on Feb. 24 after his truck toppled into a cow manure storage reservoir that had been improperly secured. The United Farm Workers is asking supporters to email Darigold CEO Jim Wegner to demand adequate safety protocols. See the link under Take Action on ufw.org.