Thursday, November 17, 2011

Occupy Philly Labor Working Group Statement on the Issue of Relocation from Dilworth Plaza

The Labor Working Group of Occupy Philly is issuing the following collaboratively written statement on the issue of relocation from Dilworth Plaza.

We, the members of the Labor Working Group, stand with Occupy Philly, and respect the decision-making process of the General Assembly.

The Labor Working Group aims to represent the broadest unity in the Philadelphia labor movement, and is comprised of a diverse representation of union organizers and labor activists who have been regularly involved with Occupy Philly. 

The Philadelphia labor community has overwhelmingly supported the Philadelphia occupation. However, we are concerned by developments that may compromise our ability to unanimously defend Occupy Philly at its current location, and wish to articulate a clear position on the question of relocation from a labor perspective. 

We support relocation for the following reasons:

1) Jobs. We recognize that the construction industry has been devastated by the current recession, and right now suffers from over 40% unemployment. This unemployment is creating great hardships for many working families.

2) Access. We recognize that many of our differently-abled brothers and sisters have advocated and fought for equal access to the public transportation hub at City Hall for decades, and are finally seeing their efforts come to fruition through the planned renovation of Dilworth Plaza.

3) Framing. We are concerned that the city has recently been able to use the issue of relocation to divide our movement and distract us from our core message of economic justice and democratic principles. The key issues for Occupy Philly must be movement-building, democratic process, and economic justice--not relocation. We have changed the national discourse; we must continue to do so.

4) Defensibility. The Labor Working Group stands strongly in solidarity with the rest of Occupiers and strongly supports our right to occupy a public space. In order to successfully continue our support and defense of Occupy Philly, however, the entire labor movement must be able to remain united on this issue. If Occupy Philly remains at its current location, the issues of job creation and accessibility issues will make it impossible for labor to sustain that unity. Further, we fear that should the General Assembly choose to stay at Dilworth Plaza, and should a police raid at that location occur, the Occupy Philly movement may be damaged irreparably.

We again reaffirm our commitment to the Occupy movement, and to the decision-making process of the General Assembly. We propose relocation as a strategic act of movement solidarity.

In solidarity,
The Labor Working Group

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Occupy Comcast! Tax the Rich!

On the day of the General Strike in solidarity with Occupy Oakland, local representatives of the 99% - including Gwen Snyder, Jobs with Justice Executive Director, and Diane Mohney, JwJ Community Co-chair - "occupied" the lobby of an icon of the 1%: Comcast Corporation headquarters in Philadelphia's financial district. The Occupiers were demanding that Comcast give back its abatement and pay its fair share of taxes. The rich and their institutions have become the direct targets of the ire of the 99%. See below pictures of the action, which resulted in the arrest of the protesters for "trespassing on private property". When a police officer lining the cordon where the arrested would be taken was asked if there was a contradiction between the rights of free public speech and private property, he remarked that the police were there to serve the private corporation. We were reminded that the Supreme Court recently reaffirmed the "human rights" of corporations in this country, and that it is apparent some "human rights" are more important than others. Today's civil disobedience showed what the 99% think about the justice system imbalance that favors the 1%.

Some of the Occupiers of Comcast HQ in Philly on November 2, in solidarity with the Occupy Oakland General Strike by the 99%. Diane Mohney and Gwen Snyder are seen at the left next to the "father and son" statue.

Many of the 99% were locked out by Comcast guards, but stayed to show their support for those who made it into the lobby.

Since Day One, Jobs with Justice, especially in the person of Gwen Snyder, the Executive Director, has been a steady and vocal presence at the Occupy Philly site at Dilworth Plaza next to City Hall.

As a result of acting in the long and cherished American tradition of civil disobedience, Diane Mohney and Gwen Snyder are arrested, handcuffed and led out of the Comcast HQ.

The Occupy Philly encampment at City Hall's Dilworth Plaza by the 99 percenters continues. Supporters of the cause of the 99% - against greed, corruption and the government's austerity measures imposed on the behalf of the richest 1% - are encouraged to visit and experience the occupation of public space to express the grievances of the 99%.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Nov 2 @ Noon, City Hall: Occupy Philly in Solidarity with Occupy Oakland

Below is the proposal passed by the Occupy Oakland General Assembly on Wednesday October 26, 2011 in reclaimed Oscar Grant Plaza. 1607 people voted. 1484 voted in favor of the resolution, 77 abstained and 46 voted against it, passing the proposal at 96.9%. The General Assembly operates on a modified consensus process that passes proposals with 90% in favor and with abstaining votes removed from the final count.
We as fellow occupiers of Oscar Grant Plaza propose that on Wednesday November 2, 2011, we liberate Oakland and shut down the 1%.
We propose a city wide general strike and we propose we invite all students to walk out of school. Instead of workers going to work and students going to school, the people will converge on downtown Oakland to shut down the city.
All banks and corporations should close down for the day or we will march on them.
While we are calling for a general strike, we are also calling for much more. People who organize out of their neighborhoods, schools, community organizations, affinity groups, workplaces and families are encouraged to self organize in a way that allows them to participate in shutting down the city in whatever manner they are comfortable with and capable of.
The whole world is watching Oakland. Let’s show them what is possible.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

From Wall Street to Market Street... Occupy Philly!

Are you ready to Occupy Philadelphia?

In case you've been living under a rock: The Occupy Wall Street is spreading. And it's coming to Philadelphia.

At Tuesday's General Assembly, more than 1,000 people representing Occupy Philadelphiavoted to begin occupation THIS Thursday, October 6th, at 9 am at City Hall.

After the meeting, I was walking back to my bus stop with an organizer I respect a whole lot. He said this:

"I don't buy this whole 'it doesn't count because there are multiple issues' crap. People are mad. We know what we're mad about. And the corporations and politicians that have something to lose, they know what we're mad about, too--and that's why they're trying to dismiss this as meaningless."

I couldn't say it any better. Listen: there is a lot to be mad about. Labor knows it. The unemployed know it. You and I know it. And I genuinely believe that this occupation has the potential to be the opportunity we need to connect together and build our movement.

Will you join us in realizing that potential for true solidarity?

Friday, September 23, 2011

"There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own."

"I hear all this, you know, “Well, this is class warfare, this is…”, whatever. No. There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own. Nobody. You built a factory out there – good for you. But I want to be clear. You moved your goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for. You hired workers the rest of us paid to educate. You were safe in your factory because of police forces and fire forces that the rest of us paid for. You didn’t have to worry that marauding bands would come and seize everything at your factory… Now look. You built a factory and it turned into something terrific or a great idea – God Bless! Keep a Big Hunk of it. But part of the underlying social contract is you take a hunk of that and pay forward for the next kid who comes along."

-Elizabeth Warren via Society Pages

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Rally tomorrow to support Hershey's workers.

Interested in supporting Hershey's workers at their big rally tomorrow?

Fight for Philly is providing free transport and meals to the event, and asked me to share the information with folks:

This is a friendly reminder that we will be going to Hershey to support the courageous J1 Students that been held as captive workers by Hershey’s Chocolate Company.

Please RSVP with We will be providing breakfast and lunch.

We will be leaving by Charter Bus from 846 N Broad Street, at 9:30am and will be returning on the bus at 2pm for a hopeful arrival time in Philly by 4:30pm..

Friday, September 16, 2011

  • Co-sponsored by:
  • Philly Jobs with Justice;
  • AFT 2026;
  • AFSCME DC 47;
  • United Steelworkers Local 10-1;
  • PASNAP (Pa. Assoc. of Staff Nurses and Allied Professionals);
  • CLUW (Coalition of Labor Union Women);
  • AFSCME Locals 1723, 2186, 2187;
  • CATA (Farmworkers Support Committee);
  • Temple University Allied Health Professionals...

  • Workshop Listing:
  • Part 1 of 2: "Contract Campaigns and Bargaining Table Tactics"
  • Part 2 of 2: "Strike Prep"- When and How?
  • Leadership Development, Internal Organizing, Member to Member Networks
  • Assertive Grievance Handling
  • Labor Law for the Rank and File
  • Students and Staff
  • Telling Our Story through Video and Photography
  • Move the Money!
  • Labor and Single-Payer Health Care
  • Organizing Undocumented Workers
  • Organizing Workers using Health and Safety

Mark Brenner, Labor Notes
John Braxton, co-president, AFT Local 2026, USLAW
Kathy Black, Coalition of Labor Union Women, USLAW
Pat Fahy, Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 827, Verizon Striker
Mary Adamson, RN, Temple Hospital Striker, PASNAP
Nelson Carrasquillo, co-ordinator, CATA Farmworkers Support Committee
Tony Perlstein, Longshore Workers Coalition Co-chair
Bill Zoda, PASNAP staff rep
Ray Martinez, SEIU Local 668
Dan Lutz, Teamsters for a Democratic Union
Dynnita Bryant, president, Philadelphia Security Officers Union
Dave Cohen, UE Representative, retired
Lance Geren (Freedman and Lorry)
Paul Prescod, Temple SLAP;
Ryan Nissim-Rabat, organizer with UNITE HERE;
Gwen Snyder; executive director of Philly Jobs with Justice,
Dani Noble, Swarthmore SLAP;
Nantina Vgontzas, UPenn SLAP alumnus
Harvey Finkle, documentary still photographer
Milena Velis, Media Mobilizing Project organizer
Tom Knoche, Health Care Now!
Jessica Culley, CATA
Javier Hernandez, PHILAPOSH

Click on the map to enlarge

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Next time there's a SEPTA strike and you hear people grumbling...

...Remind them of this:

Septa Driver Shot, Drives to Hospital.

"A bus driver for SEPTA drove herself to a hospital after being shot in Philadelphia's Grays Ferry section, KYW Newsradio is reporting."
It's worth remembering that there are a lot more risks inherent to many of the jobs we tend to take for granted than meets the eye. This is a sad example: transit workers often face exposure to street violence and conflict that has been carried onto their vehicle.

Similarly, nurses and social workers encounter extremely high rates of violence during their everyday work. Casino attendants risk respiratory problems from inhaling such high levels of second hand smoke working the floor. Bike messengers work under constant risk of injury or death in traffic, and suffer an increased risk of fertility problems.

Unions have long sought to maximize workplace safety and minimize risk (think how manufacturing conditions have changed since the days of the Triangle Shirtwaist fire 100 years ago). They also play a role in making sure that where risks are taken, workers are adequately compensated and cared for.

It's our responsibility as a movement to remember and remind folks that labor struggle isn't just about contracts and strikes, pensions and wages. We need to be vocal about the fact that while these issues are important, our struggle is also about health and safety--about life and death.

via Philadelphia Business Journal.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

JwJ leafletting about Verizon continues...

Local Jobs with Justice activists will continue to distribute informational leaflets about the CWA and IBEW dispute with Verizon (see previous story below). Join us at the Verizon Wireless store at 1115 Market Street (in front of Reading Terminal) on Wednesday, Aug. 31, from 4:30 - 5:30 pm. We will be there every Wednesday after that at the regular time of 4:00 - 5:00 pm. For more info: 215 264-3553.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Saturday, August 20, 2011

CWA, IBEW Reach Agreement on Bargaining with Verizon; Members to Return to Work Tuesday, August 23

Washington, D.C. - Members of CWA and IBEW at Verizon Communications will return to work on Tuesday, Aug. 23, at which time the contract will be back in force for an indefinite period.

We have reached agreement with Verizon on how bargaining will proceed and how it will be restructured. The major issues remain to be discussed, but overall, issues now are focused and narrowed.

We appreciate the unity of our members and the support of so many in the greater community. Now we will focus on bargaining fairly and moving forward.

NOTE: All Jobs with Justice pickets are cancelled because of this agreement. Thanks to all for your support!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Noontime Strikers' Rally in Center City

An estimated 2,000 striking CWA Local 13000 workers and their allies marched through Center City Philadelphia on Friday, August 19, and rallied in front of the Verizon offices at 900 Arch Street. Along with a spirited showing from CWA members, there was a strong outpouring of support from Jobs with Justice, Philadelphia Council AFL-CIO, Teamsters, Laborers, PASNAP, SEIU, Unite HERE, AFSCME, AFGE, teachers unions, and others. 

Striking CWA members and their allies wall-to-wall in the 900 block of Race Street in Center City.
Philly Jobs with Justice will have a regular picket in solidarity with striking CWA workers at the Verizon Wireless store, 1115 Market Street (Reading Terminal), on Saturdays and Sundays from 11:00 am to 1:00 pm (or longer). Please stand with us!

Contact Warren with any questions: -or- call/text 215 264-3553.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Verizon Strike Support!

Philly Jobs with Justice will have a regular strike picket at the Verizon Wireless store at 1115 Market Street (Reading Terminal) on Saturdays and Sundays from 11:00 am to 1:00 pm (or longer). Please stand with us!

Contact Warren with any questions: -or- call/text 215 264-3553.

Monday, July 25, 2011

"You Can't Smoke Us Out!"

Last Thursday, workers at Hyatt hotels around the country picketed outside their places of work to demand provisions for job security and better conditions in their new contract. Unfortunately, some protestors had to deal with more than just the heat of a hot summer day.

Management at the Chicago Hyatt turned on the hotel's heat lamps at 7:00 am, blasting the workers with an amount of heat typically reserved for warming the sidewalk in the dead of winter. With temperatures already well into the 80s, the extra heat made conditions on the sidewalk almost unbearable for the striking workers. Nevertheless, they did withstand the heat, and continued their picket for the rest of the day, chanting "You can't smoke us out."

The courage of these workers in the face of deadly heat is astonishing, and truly commendable. However, what this incident says about corporate regard for worker safety and basic human dignity is a terrifying prospect to consider. Any institution that would assault its employees with hot lamps as a punitive action is an institution that poses a serious threat to workplace safety and human rights.

The relevance of Hyatt's transgressions is readily apparent here in Philadelphia, where the Hyatt also has a large presence. Hotels in Philadelphia are notoriously exploitative workplaces and pose some of the greatest opposition to the Earned Sick Time bill. You heard that right: hotels oppose legislation that would allow workers to care for themselves when sick and live with basic dignity. Not too surprising, coming from an employer that imperils its workers' lives in retaliation to a peaceful protest.

Mayor Nutter has recently vetoed the Earned Sick Time bill in Philadelphia, but City Council will have an opportunity to override his veto in September. We need to make sure that they do, and that this bill passes into law. The corporations may not be about to protect their workers, but we sure will!

National JwJ Conference Coming Up!

Coming up in just over 2 weeks is the Jobs with Justice National Conference in Washington, D.C. The conference will include a focus on student and interfaith work, and will feature numerous workshops on the campaigns local JwJ networks are waging across the country.

Specific issues that groups will discuss will be the rights of home care workers, immigrant rights, and exploitation at Walmart. And, looking to the future, we will be having discussions envisioning an economy that we want, with worker power and input, and better jobs for everybody.

We're very excited for the opportunity to come together as a nationwide movement to discuss the issues that are most important to our communities today and to envision a better future. We would love to have you there.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Philly JwJ Heads to the Capitol!

Last Tuesday, July 12th, 4 people from Philly JwJ headed down to Washington D.C. where we met over 700 other activists from around the country. What we all had in common was a dedication to fighting for a better home care system at the first Care Congress in the United States. Caring Across Generations, the emerging campaign, hopes to ensure proper elder care protections while ensuring that the workers providing this care have decent wages, benefits, and conditions. Furthermore, we need to demand the rights of domestic child care workers, providers of an equally essential service. Domestic child care workers are also frequently exploited and abused while providing the necessary care for the nation's children. What everyone in Washington agreed upon is that we need to provide child care workers and elder care workers with the rights and respect that all human beings deserve.

At the conference, we listened to numerous motivating speeches on both the importance of home care and the importance of treating home care workers with dignity and respect. In the afternoon, the attendees either participated in workshops to discuss organizing for home care workers in their community or went to Congress to demand that they protect Medicaid. All of the participants had a great opportunity to meet and talk with other like-minded activists dedicated to this critical fight for worker justice and fair jobs.

Right now, the United States has an aging population and longer life expectancy, meaning that the demand for home care workers is skyrocketing. It is critical that we ensure that the people who need care are able to get it, and able to get it affordably. At the same time, we need to make sure that the people who provide it are treated as professionals providing an essential service, and are paid a living wage.

Unfortunately, the National Labor Relations Act excludes workers caring for the elderly in their homes with what's known as the "companionship exemption." This disgraceful law means that these workers do not even have the basic minimum wage and overtime protections that most of us take for granted. Furthermore, many providers of child and elder care are abused by their employers and paid far less than any law allows. Thankfully, 21 states have passed legislation including home care workers in minimum wage laws, and 16 states have passed legislation including them in overtime protections. However, this is not enough. It is time to amend the NLRA and end the exemption. And this will just be the first step. The national momentum is gathering, and we intend to ensure necessary protections for ALL home care workers.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

JwJ National Conference is coming up!

Be sure to register now if you'd like to join the Philly contingent down at the conference in DC, August 5-7.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

A Cordial Invitation

Over the next two days, there will be two workshops on Social Security, and all are welcome to attend either or both. The workshops will be in the form of a lunchtime seminar updating participants on Social Security policy, current challenges facing the program, and budget proposals that would attack Social Security and Medicare. They will include a discussion on messaging and how best to spread information about current attacks on Social Security to the public. The workshop will provide fact sheets on general policy questions and specifics involving Pennsylvania. Lunch is free.

Seminar 1:

When: Wednesday, June 29, 11:00 am-1:00 pm

Where: Harrisburg Hilton, Susquehana Room, 1 N Second St, Harrisburg

Seminar 2:

When: Thursday, June 30, 11:00 am-1:00 pm

Where: AFSCME District Council 1199C

1319 Locust St, 2nd Floor, Philadelphia

Please RSVP by emailing ( or calling (717-231-2866) Adam Swope.

A moving video from PhilaPOSH, Philadelphia worker safety advocates

If you missed PhilaPOSH's Workers' Memorial Day this year, you'll want to watch this moving video.

Writes Barbara Rahke, last year's Philly CLUW Woman of the Year and PhilaPOSH Executive Director:

"It was filmed on Workers Memorial Day program. Our goal was to not only educate about the loss of life each year through work-related injuries and illnesses, but to show the strong connections between labor, families and community around safety and health."

Monday, June 27, 2011

Irony: union actor from Target's anti-union flick speaks out

Hope you had a good weekend, JwJers. I have a little gem for you.

This article dates back to last Thursday, but with all the excitement (Interfaith Worker Justice conference! Paid sick days legislation passes in Philly! And we'll get you yet, Walmart!), there just hasn't been enough of a lull for me to find a moment to share it.

Although Walmart's various evils usually get more publicity, Target stores are pretty viciously anti-union, and have been for a while.

Under current laws, companies are allowed to turn their employees into a captive audience for anti-union propaganda films--like Target's 2003 classic, "Think Before You Sign."

Interestingly, Target ended up hiring union actors because... well, because union actors have this reputation for being professional and responsible. Coincidence, I'm sure.

Anyway, Ric Reitz, the actor who plays friendly Target worker "Doug" in this film, recently talked a little bit about his experience with this particular job:
Reitz says when he got the script for the 2003 Target video, the anti-union content struck him as "very awkward."

"You take the job, and you're an actor," says Reitz, a longtime member of AFTRA and the Screen Actors Guild. "Am I pro-union? Absolutely."

Kind of great, right?

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

We Refuse to let Supreme Court Ruling be a Corporate Victory.

This morning, the U.S. Supreme Court released a ruling against female workers at Wal-mart in Walmart Stores Inc. v Dukes. The workers had tried to bring a class action suit saying that nationwide, women had faced discrimination and been denied promotions on the basis of gender, a fact that they attributed to a discriminatory corporate culture on a national level, stating that a sexist corporate culture nationwide made equality impossible. Such discrimination was evidenced by demeaning terms towards female employees, regular comments that female workers didn't have serious career ambitions, and statements that women were less fit for certain types of work.

Had they succeeded, Wal-mart would have had to pay billions in back wages and drastically change its sexist atmosphere. However, the Court found that the group of women was in fact too large to file a joint suit; because the discrimination all took place at a regional level, the women are not able to join forces nationwide to challenge Wal-mart together on a national level.

Though disappointing, this is by no means a victory for Wal-mart. The Supreme Court said that the women did not qualify as one class. This does not mean that Wal-mart was innocent on the issue of violating women's constitutional rights to equal protection under the law. The inability to file a class action lawsuit may be a setback, but we cannot let it destroy the workers' cases. The road ahead may be more difficult, but that will not deter us from the fight for justice.

Here's what needs to happen next: Wal-mart must change its corporate policy to ensure that no regional authorities can pay women lower salaries or deny them promotions, and they must reform their attitude towards women on every level of administration. Congress must pass the Paycheck Fairness Act to further protect the rights of women in the workplace and ensure that corporations like Wal-mart cannot get away with rampant discrimination. Local organizations must figure out a way for smaller groups of Wal-mart's female employees to seek justice over lost wages and denied promotions. We will not allow Wal-mart to get away with discrimination. We WILL hold them accountable.

Monday, June 20, 2011


Last Thursday, June 16, Philadelphia City Council finally voted on the Earned Sick Time Bill, approving it in a 9-8 vote. Philly JwJ has worked hard to get this bill passed, working alongside over one hundred other groups in the area. It's been a hard fight, but finally Council has recognized a basic right of all workers, and announced that everybody deserves decent sick-leave provisions. If Nutter signs the bill, there will be no more hard decisions between caring for a sick relative and getting a day's pay, or between taking the time to get better and keeping a job. That means that now we need to make sure Mayor Nutter signs this law into the books!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Big Victory for Domestic Workers Internationally!

The International Labor Organization, meeting in Geneva, just reached a great agreement on a convention establishing basic rights for domestic workers everywhere. The final vote isn't until next week, but the ILO is now on the road to setting a key international labor standard. Final passage of the convention would give domestic workers the recognition they deserve, as well as granting certain critical rights. These rights include eliminating discrimination, eliminating forced labor, eliminating child labor, and allowing collective bargaining. The convention would also require contracts, fair hours, overtime pay, and wage protections. These provisions explicitly include migrant workers.

It's time that domestic workers everywhere received these basic workplace rights. If the ILO passes the convention, governments can then ratify it to make it national law. So, let's make sure that the ILO and countries worldwide begin recognizing these key rights!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

States step up to recognize domestic workers!

Here's some breaking news. The California assembly just passed a bill providing nannies in the state of California with their rights as workers and human beings. The bill provides overtime compensation, paid vacation and sick days, advanced notice of termination, and various other critical benefits. The bill is now pending state senate approval. If passed, this bill will be a pioneer in the fight to protect workers who often lack legal recognition and status, and who are constantly exploited, abused, and denied basic human rights in homes nationwide.

California's decision itself follows not far behind similar legislation in New York, effective November 29, 2010. This legislation included domestic workers into major labor laws effecting other workers in the state, set paid leave time, established overtime requirements, as well as enacting numerous other protections. New York City alone has over 200,000 domestic workers doing essential work in the city; this legislation is a huge victory for all of them.

The movement to get recognition and legal protection for domestic workers is gaining momentum. Here in Philadelphia, domestic workers are already taking note and beginning to organize. We're really excited to be a part of this work--stay tuned for more information about domestic worker organizing at Philly JwJ!

Friday, June 3, 2011

Support our faith allies as they pray for Earned Sick Time in Philadelphia this Sunday!

Folks, we are so close to passing Earned Sick Time in Philadelphia!

This Thursday, June 9th, City Council will vote on this important bill, which would allow all workers in the City of Philadelphia to take paid time off if they or a family member gets sick. Such a bill would mean that workers would not have to chose between their health, or their family's health, and their paycheck. It would mean more humane working conditions, and it would mean a safer workplace for all workers.

This legislation is essential for all working families in Philadelphia, and its passage would be a huge victory.

As we approach the vote, we must remain strong and continue showing our support for this critical bill.

Faith allies have been especially powerful leaders in this struggle. Yesterday, leaders held a prayer vigil directly outside of Council Chambers. This Sunday, Living Water United Church will be holding a special service themed around Earned Sick Time--and Council Members are invited.

One way that you can show this support is by coming to this special service in support of the bill.

What: Service For Earned Sick Time
When: Sunday, June 5th, 11:00am-1:00pm
Where: Living Water United Church of Christ, 2006 Germantown Ave, Philadelphia

We hope you can attend, so that we can gather strength and energy together, and show City Council how important this legislation is. Let's make Philadelphia a safer and healthier place for all workers!

This post courtesy of Alison Roseberry-Polier!

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

As If Wal-Mart Wasn't Evil Enough . . .

I am Ali, an intern at Philadelphia JwJ, and I’ll be sending out blog posts over the course of this summer.

Currently, labor conditions and wages in Bangladeshi sweatshops are among the worst worldwide. The minimum wage is $43 USD a month, an amount insufficient for basic needs for workers and their families. However, a workers’ campaign for higher wages faced legal repercussions, including jail time, torture, and possibly the death penalty. Factory owners filed false charges against the leaders, leading to their imprisonment and torture.

Wal-Mart is the biggest purchaser of garments made in these sweatshops, and the United States is the biggest consumer worldwide. Wal-Mart profits greatly from the products made in these sweatshops, and the factory owners are often Wal-Mart subcontractors.

Wal-Mart needs to demand that the workers in these sweatshops have proper wages and benefits, and provide annual reports of workplace conditions. Unfortunately, Wal-Mart refuses to be transparent about international working conditions, ignoring demands for accountability from its very shareholders. Wal-Mart must admit to the injustices in Bangladeshi workplaces and hold itself accountable to its shareholders and the concerned public.

Currently, JwJ is working with UFCW on a campaign for fair working standards at Wal-Marts around the country, and for international accountability for workers’ rights.

Take action: Tell Walmart to stand up for workers’ rights!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

JwJ, Action United, and Coalition for Healthy Families wrap City Hall in signed postcards supporting earned sick time!

This morning, Jobs with Justice members joined other activists from the Coalition for Healthy Families inwrapping City Hall in 10,000 signed postcards asking council members to pass the Earned Sick Time bill. That's right, 10,000 postcards--and we had another 8,000 cards left over!

Check out WHYY's coverage of the action. Who is that lovely person pictured in the article? Why, that's Diane Mohney, JwJ activist extraordinare!

Next Thursday, Jobs with Justice will be organizing a clergy vigil outside Council Chambers. Faith leaders will stand and witness to the moral necessity of this legislation.

Want to help out? Good. We need all hands on deck the morning of the final vote on earned sick time--Thursday, June 9. We're going to be loud enough, big enough, and bad enough to get it through to Council: more than 70% of Philadelphians support paid sick days legislation!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Update: Philadelphians Show Support for Hunger Strikers

On May 23, activists in Philadelphia showed their support for the hunger striking workers and allies in Minneapolis, who are part of the movement seeking dignity and improved conditions for those who clean the floors at supermarkets owned or controlled by Supervalu.

Photo by Eduardo Soriano-Castillo

A delegation of fifteen from Philly Jobs with Justice, Temple U. Student Labor Action Project, PhilaPOSH (occupational safety and health advocates), UNITE HERE, and Solidarity, accompanied Gwen Snyder, executive director, as she attempted to present a letter - from JwJ supporting the workers - to the manager of a Supervalu-affiliated ACME Supermarket. The manager refused to accept the letter, citing a corporate directive, and told the delegation that they were trespassing as he phoned the police. The delegates then handbilled 300 car windshields and explained their concerns to patrons, as the manager frantically paced the parking lot and read our message into his phone. The police declined to respond to the call.

Photo by Eduardo Soriano-Castillo

The event was peaceful and civil, well received by patrons, and obviously disturbing to ACME officials who dare not imagine what might be next.

Supporters can follow this struggle at the web site: and in the pages of Labor Notes. See the initial story below... 

Labor Notes
Minneapolis Grocery Store Cleaners Launch Hunger Strike

A mad dash to outsource cleaning services to the lowest bidder has cut wages to minimum wage (sometimes less) with no benefits. A Minneapolis worker center announced a hunger strike to protest the conditions. Photo: Alysa R. Friedrich

By Eduardo Soriano-Castillo

Four retail cleaning workers and four community allies will begin an open–ended hunger strike Saturday to ratchet up pressure on the Supervalu grocery chain. The workers, members of a Minneapolis worker center, want the company to negotiate a code of conduct that guarantees fair wages and conditions for the workers who clean its stores late into the night.
The group, led by immigrant workers from Mexico and Central America, also seeks the reinstatement of an illegally fired workplace leader.
“The drastic nature of our action is only equal to the drastic conditions under which retail cleaning workers have to work,” said Mario Colloly, the fired worker. He’s one of the hunger strikers.
After months of requests by workers and their allies for a meeting, and a November march that brought 300 members and supporters to protest in front of several stores, retail cleaning workers in the Twin Cities have said enough is enough. They are organizing with the support of Centro de Trabajadores Unidos en Lucha (CTUL), or the Workers United in Struggle Center, along with faith, community, and union allies.
Kristin Melby, who works on nutrition in the childhood development program in the Minneapolis schools, said she’s joining the hunger strike because “exploitation is happening in my own backyard.”
Melby, a member of the teachers union, said the campaign has built an awareness in the Twin Cities around the poor working conditions of retail cleaning workers, which will grow with the dramatic action. “The energy is building,” she said.
A mad dash to outsource cleaning services to the lowest bidder over the last decades has caused vicious competition among cleaning subcontractors—with severe consequences for workers. Retail cleaners in Minneapolis say wages have been cut from $12 an hour, with some benefits, to minimum wage (sometimes less) with no benefits.
Wage cuts and workload increases have been the most dramatic at Cub Foods, which is run by Supevalu. Other abuses, said CTUL organizer Brian Payne, include sexual harassment, lack of air conditioning or heating, and threats of physical violence.
The industry as a whole is plagued by severe wage theft and human rights violations. Acting on a tip from overseas, the Department of Justice uncovered a slavery ring in Pennsylvania last year where Ukrainian cleaners put in 16-hour days, seven days a week, at retail stores including Target, Kmart, Wal-Mart, and Safeway, for $100 a month. Prosecutors said workers were raped, beaten, threatened, and held in virtual bondage.

Pressure Nationwide

As the hunger strike begins in Minneapolis, delegations of community supporters will handbill customers and deliver letters to managers at 20 Supervalu-owned stores nationwide.
“The workers’ voices need to be heard,” said Gwen Snyder, executive director of Philadelphia Jobs with Justice, which will lead a delegation to an ACME grocery.
The hunger strike is the latest front of a vigorous campaign targeting Cub Foods. Community activists have faced a brutal reaction to their protests. During an in-store guerrilla theater action March 15, demonstrators say a Cub Foods security guard assaulted them before dousing activists and bystanders with pepper spray, including a two-year-old.
The protest demanded the reinstatement of Colloly, who was fired for organizing with his co-workers. “Although the company broke the law when they fired me, I have not given up,” Colloly said.

Code of Conduct

The worker center is demanding a legally binding agreement or code of conduct from stores that subcontract their cleaning work. They want Supervalu to guarantee fair wages, improved working conditions, and the right for workers to organize free of retaliation. The group says it will work out specifics in negotiation—if chain executives will agree to meet.
The Twin Cities faith community has begun a “receipts for worker rights” campaign to remind management of the buying power supporters could withhold.
Peter Marincel, an organizer with Spirit of Faith Church, said congregations are collecting receipts from their purchases at Supervalu-owned stores and delivering them to company decision-makers.
“We want to send a clear message that our values are indeed aligned with our pocketbooks,” Marincel said.
Jennifer Christensen, UFCW Local 1189 secretary-treasurer, said the local backs the cleaners. The Food and Commercial Workers hold contracts for clerks, baggers, meat cutters, and stockers at Supervalu stores.
“Because of subcontracting and the hiring of temporary workers, many of these one-time UFCW members have seen their standards of living completely decimated,” she said. “We want to see all our shops organized wall to wall.”
The Service Employees union has seen success in organizing cleaners in commercial office buildings, but Greg Nammacher, a staffer at SEIU Local 26 in the Twin Cities, says the union hasn’t figured out how to organize in retail cleaning because it’s so splintered and decentralized.
SEIU members and staff have participated in marches, in-store actions, and delegations to subcontractors demanding Colloly’s reinstatement. “We support CTUL and the retail sanitation workers in keeping the pressure on these subcontractors and winning the respect and dignity they deserve,” Nammacher said.