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Labor's Edge: Views from the California Labor Movement

Labor's Edge Articles by Steve Smith


3/14/14

Labor’s Annual Legislative Conference Kicks Off Monday in Sacramento

By Steve Smith, California Labor Federation 

The California Labor Federation and State Building and Construction Trades Council will kick off the annual joint legislative conference on Monday at the Sheraton Grand in Sacramento, with hundreds of union activists coming to the Capital city to make their voices heard on important issues for working people.


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1/13/14

Sacramento Bee Op-ed: Stemming Income Inequality Hinges on Investing in California’s Middle Class

By Steve Smith

There’s a new narrative emerging from right-wingers like Republican presidential hopeful Marco Rubio on the growing problem of income inequality. Rubio and California Republicans like Assemblymember Dan Logue are blaming inequality on taxes on the wealthy and government regulations that protect workers and the environment. Problem is, this new narrative is pure fantasy.

As California Labor Federation leader Art Pulaski and Jessica Bartholow of the Western Center on Law and Poverty wrote in Saturday’s Sacramento Bee, Rubio and company have entered the Twilight Zone when it comes to their phony posturing on poverty and income inequality.


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12/19/13

The Antidote to Income Inequality? Workers Standing Together

Steve Smith

Earlier this month, President Obama called rising income inequality the "defining challenge of our time."  The gap between the rich and everyone else is now the largest since the Great Depression. But many people still view income inequality in the abstract, because it can be tough to put a finger on how it impacts our everyday lives.

In a new Associated Press report, leading economists spell it out clearly. The income gap hurts us all and poses a major threat to the United States economy: "A key source of the economists' concern: Higher pay and outsize stock market gains are flowing mainly to affluent Americans. Yet these households spend less of their money than do low- and middle-income consumers who make up most of the population but whose pay is barely rising."


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11/12/13

Huge “Thanking Our Heroes” Event in OC Caps Union Program to Support State’s Veterans

Steve Smith

A week of union-led volunteer service projects to our nation’s veterans culminated yesterday with an inspiring event in Orange County, honoring our nation’s heroes. I was fortunate enough to join about 3,000 working families and vets at this special event, sponsored by the Orange County Employees Association and OC unions, which was part of the statewide Veterans and Labor – Partners in Service project.

It was truly an amazing day.

The day featured kids making holiday cards to send to ailing vets. The Teamsters Horseman rode Harley Davidsons in solidarity with veterans. There was a food and donation drive. Building and Construction Trades unions offered veterans information on apprenticeship programs. Rep. Loretta Sanchez, along with union leaders, local elected officials and veterans groups, unveiled the new commemorative World War II Medal of Honor postage stamp.


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11/7/13

California’s Unions Step Up for Veterans

Steve Smith

My grandfather, a member of what Tom Brokaw coined the “greatest generation,” was a chief petty officer in the US Navy during World War II, fighting along so many others for nothing less than freedom itself. He made it back. Many of those he served with did not.

Upon returning home, he needed a job. While looking for work is never easy, he found meaningful employment first as a police officer in Washington state and then later at Caltrans in the San Joaquin Valley. Back then, putting veterans to work was a priority. Government partnered with labor unions and employers to create a pathway to careers for veterans who bravely served our country, defending the freedoms many take for granted today.


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10/24/13

FPPC Levies Record Fines Against Dark Money Groups

Steve Smith

California’s Fair Political Practices Commission today sent a strong message to shadowy out-of-state corporate special-interest groups and donors trying to influence our state’s elections by levying record fines for contributions to committees that supported Prop 32 and opposed Prop 30.

According to the Sacramento Bee, "In a campaign finance case watched around the country, California's political watchdog has levied a $1 million fine against two non-profit groups for inappropriately laundering money during last year's ballot initiative wars ... The commission also sent letters to two California committees demanding they pay the state general fund more than $15 million they received from groups that didn't properly report the source of their funds."


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10/18/13

Three Things You Need to Know about the BART Strike

Steve Smith

After months of negotiating in bad faith, Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) management last night left BART workers no other option but to go on strike. What a shame. It didn’t have to come to this.

With all the misinformation swirling about on the BART strike, there are a few things to clear up.

Here are the three things you need to know about the BART strike (h/t to Pete Castelli of SEIU 1021).


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10/15/13

Career Politician Teams Up With Enron Billionaire to Gut Californians’ Retirement

Steve Smith

It’s official. San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed, a career politician with backing from a Texas billionaire and former Enron trader, has filed a ballot measure to strip away retirement security from current teachers, firefighters, sanitation workers and other public servants.

According to the Sacramento Bee: "The Pension Reform Act of 2014 would alter California's constitution to allow state and local government employers to cut pensions for current workers." Essentially, this means politicians would have the power to unilaterally slash the retirement of current workers, breaking a promise made to those workers when they were hired.


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10/15/13

Close of Legislative Session Brings Real Gains to California Workers

Steve Smith

It’s easy to be pessimistic about the future these days. Tea Party extremists are threatening to push our federal government into default. Federal immigration reform is on the back burner until the shutdown and debt ceiling messes are sorted out. In a host of states, anti-worker governors are hell-bent on gutting workers’ rights while giving more power to corporate special interests.

But in California, a decidedly different story is playing out. The end of the legislative session here brought huge gains to workers and their families that boost our state’s economy and bolster the middle class.


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9/13/13

California Legislature Passes Historic Minimum Wage Increase

Steve Smith

California made history last night. With the support of California’s unions, the Legislature voted to raise the state’s minimum wage to $10, the highest minimum wage in the country. The wage will be implemented in two steps: an increase to $9 per hour in July of next year, followed by another one-dollar increase to $10 in January of 2016. Gov. Brown has agreed to sign the bill, AB 10, authored by Assemblymember Luis Alejo.

The wage increase will affect more than 2.3 million California workers, according the Economic Policy Institute. It means that single moms will have a little extra to support their families. It means seniors who’ve been forced to re-enter the workforce will have a little more to help pay for prescription drugs. And it means that all low-wage workers have received validation that their work is worthy of dignity and respect.


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