Labor's Edge Articles by Steve Smith
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.
The Antidote to Income Inequality? Workers Standing Together
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."
California’s Unions Step Up for Veterans
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.
FPPC Levies Record Fines Against Dark Money Groups
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."
Three Things You Need to Know about the BART Strike
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).
Career Politician Teams Up With Enron Billionaire to Gut Californians’ Retirement
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.
Close of Legislative Session Brings Real Gains to California Workers
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.
California Legislature Passes Historic Minimum Wage Increase
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.
Bills to Protect Immigrants from Retaliation at Work Head to Governor’s Desk
When immigrant workers speak up to protect their rights and the rights of their co-workers, all too often employers respond by retaliating against – even firing – those workers. Under several new laws, immigrant workers would have important protections in place to stop this exploitation. This week, the California State legislature has passed new protections designed to stop unscrupulous employers from retaliating against immigrant workers who stand up for their rights. The bills await signature by Governor Jerry Brown.
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