On the picket line

‘U.S. labor says: No war on Iran! U.S. out of Iraq’

The United Electrical Workers posted the following Jan. 3 statement from U.S. Labor Against the War denouncing the war threat in the Middle East: “U.S. Labor Against the War stands with the workers of Iran and Iraq, who will be the main casualties of this madness. We call for the immediate, unconditional withdrawal from Iraq and no catastrophic war with Iran. Our members have more in common with the working brothers and sisters abroad than with the Trump administration.” USLAW requests union members: “Reach out to your union leadership to take a public stance against this aggression.”

USLAW was founded in January 2003 as a national organization of unions and labor organizations opposed to the threatened war against Iraq. The organization has since emerged as a network of more than 165 unions, labor councils, state labor federations, allied labor organizations and labor antiwar committees. (uslaboragainstwar.org)

Minimum wage increases in more than 20 states 

The good news in 2020 is that a raise in the minimum wage in more than 20 states and 26 cities and counties will boost wages for more than half the U.S. population.

It’s the largest hike in U.S. history, researcher Yannet Lathrop of the National Employment Law Project told abcnews.go.com on Dec. 31. The minimum wage will hit or surpass $15 an hour in 17 states and three cities and counties.

The Jan. 6 New York Times estimates “the effective [average] U.S. minimum wage is closer to $12 an hour, most likely the highest in U.S. history even after adjusting for inflation.”

Cities that are raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour are Seattle; Petaluma, Calif.; and New York City. Seattle and Petaluma will maintain lower wage floors for smaller businesses, but not New York City. “States and localities understand that costs of living are rising, and minimum wages need to keep up with that,” said Lathrop.

“The Fight for 15 has been really key in driving a lot of these wages.”  What’s “helped has been … getting the public to see that minimum wage increases are really needed,” she added.

Meanwhile, due to a Senate stalemate, the current federal minimum wage of $7.25 has remained the same for 10 years — the longest period without an increase since passage of the Fair Labor Standards Act under the Roosevelt administration in 1938.

Conservative economists oppose increasing the federal rate, claiming businesses will transfer increased costs to consumers by raising prices. “Some firms, like a McDonald’s or other sort of food service or retail outlets, might start substituting things like automated kiosk machines” [instead of workers], said Michael Tanner, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute.

A July report from the Congressional Budget Office argued that increasing the minimum wage nationally to $15 an hour would benefit 27 million people but cost 1.3 million people their jobs. Lathrop doesn’t agree. Noting that New York City wages doubled between 2012 and 2019, she observed: “So those wages doubled, and we did not see businesses closing. We did not see an effect on jobs or hours. But we did see an increase in the earnings earned by workers.”

Victory for over 21,000 education workers at 25 NYC colleges

As of Dec. 18, the Board of Trustees of the City University of New York voted to approve a long-overdue, much-needed, hard-fought 2017 to 2023 contract with the Professional Staff Congress, which represents 21,416 workers in higher education on 25 campuses around the city.

In a statement, PSC President Barbara Bowen wrote, “PSC leaders have already begun pushing the CUNY administration and city and state officials to pay the retroactive salary increases [going back to 2017] and begin paying members at their new salary rates as soon as possible.” Salaries will increase across the board by more than 10 percent by November 2022. And there were no concessions in the contract.

The restructuring breakthrough in teaching adjunct pay was “the biggest gain in equity in the union’s history,” wrote Bowen. By the end of the contract, the minimum for a three-credit course rises to $5,500 (an increase of 71 percent) and for a four-credit course to $6,875. As of next semester, restructuring will include paid office hours for every course. Bowen noted, “Everyone gains when the salary floor for the lowest-paid is lifted.” (psc-cuny.org, Dec. 19)

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