Thursday, March 31, 2011

UPenn Student Labor Action Project wins on HEI Workers Rising campaign!

I don't want to brag or anything, but we have some pretty fabulous Student Labor Action Projects (SLAPs) here in Philly. First, our SLAP chapter over at Temple University was recognized as SLAP Chapter of the Year down at United States Students Association's Legislative Convention earlier in March. Now, after years of work and coordination with Unite HERE!, UPenn SLAP has just come out victorious in their campaign to get the University of Pennsylvania to divest from HEI Management, a viciously anti-union hotel management company.

Here's the official statement from UPenn's Executive Vice President:

"Over the past three years, University representatives and I have met several times with student leaders from the Penn chapter of the Student Labor Action Project ( SLAP ). A joint initiative of Jobs with Justice and the United States Student Association, SLAP is working to persuade investors in HEI Hotels ( a privately held hotel management company specializing in under-managed U.S. urban business hotels and resort properties ) to divest from the company in protest of what SLAP describes as unlawful anti-organizing practices and unfair working conditions for employees at HEI properties. Subsequently, Penn’s SLAP chapter, and other chapters nationally, have requested universities pledge publicly not to reinvest in HEI-sponsored funds.

In 2004, Penn participated, along with other endowments and institutional investors, as a limited partner in HEI’s first fund. Penn has not participated in two subsequent funds. Due to confidentiality restrictions, the University does not as a general rule comment on its private investments. However in 2008, four years after Penn's participation, its investment was publicly disclosed, as one of several institutional endowment investors, by a representative of HEI during a company presentation. Shortly thereafter, the Penn chapter of SLAP, as with groups similarly organized on other campuses, raised concerns about HEI’s treatment of its labor force and argued that it was denying workers the right to organize a union. [...]

To clarify Penn’s position: The University has no plans to make future investments in HEI-sponsored funds. Any future consideration of an investment would take into account all relevant circumstances at that time.

SLAP is a joint project between Jobs with Justice and United States Student Association, so you can see why we're feeling pretty proud. - Press Release Distribution

Monday, March 21, 2011

UPenn SLAP members hold Ahold USA exec accountable

Things were so crazy last week with Sunoco that I forgot to share a photo from the rally that the University of Pennsylvania SLAP held in solidarity with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW), a worker-led group of largely immigrant tomato pickers down in Florida who have been waging an exciting campaign to protest the slave wages and mistreatment of farmworkers. Here's a photo, and some background:

Why It Matters (c/o CIW):

Florida farmworkers have long faced brutal conditions in the fields, including sub-poverty wages, widespread labor rights violations, and even modern-day slavery. Today, however, there is hope on the horizon, thanks to the efforts of farmworkers, Fair Food activists, Florida tomato growers, and nine food industry leaders (including Ahold USA competitor Whole Foods) who have joined in support of the CIW's Fair Food principles, including a penny-per-pound piece rate wage increase, a strict code of conduct, a cooperative complaint resolution system, a participatory health and safety program, and a worker-to-worker education process.

Last November, the CIW and the Florida Tomato Growers Exchange (FTGE) signed an agreement to extend these principles to over 90% of Florida's tomato fields. And though the implementation of that agreement is being phased in gradually over the course of this season and the next, many real, concrete changes have already taken root on some of the state's largest farms.

Ahold USA, however, is refusing to do its part, and if they have their way, the unprecedented farm labor transformation promised by the CIW's landmark agreement with the FTGE would be significantly diminished. That's because the solution to farm labor exploitation and abuse contained in the Fair Food principles depends on the participation of all the major purchasers of Florida tomatoes. Each buyer must contribute its fair share – its penny-per-pound – for the pay raise to reach its full potential. Each buyer must commit to direct its purchases to those growers complying with the code of conduct – and away from those who don't – for working conditions to get better and stay better. In the words of the FTGE's Reggie Brown, "Everybody in the system has to be invested for it to work."

Friday, March 18, 2011

Inky column on our Sunoco Action yesterday.

The Inquirer covered our action at Sunoco in today's paper. An excerpt from Mike Armstrong's column:

Elsenhans remained silent as the protesters, who later identified themselves as being from Philadelphia Jobs With Justice, a group that advocates on behalf of workers' rights, were escorted from the ballroom.

When she resumed, her remarks centered on the need for women in the workplace to identify mentors, embrace change, take risks, persevere, and give back to others. Her speech was interrupted several more times as individual protesters, usually women, stood and talked to the crowd about layoffs and the loss of health benefits at Sunoco.

Gwen Snyder, executive director of Philadelphia Jobs With Justice, said at least 13 activists with her organization as well as Student Labor Action Project members from Temple University and Swarthmore College paid $125 per ticket to attend the chamber lunch. "We respect female leadership," she said. "She may be a leader, but not the right kind."

Members of the unions representing Sunoco refinery workers in South Philadelphia and Marcus Hook demonstrated for an hour outside the Marriott. Jim Savage, president of United Steelworkers Local 10-1, said he found it outrageous that anybody would honor Elsenhans for actions that have led to longer unemployment lines and a diminished tax base.

VIDEO: Happy St. Patrick's Day, Lynn Elsenhans!

It's not every day we get to ruin the day of a Fortune 500 CEO.

We did yesterday, though!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Lynn Elsenhans is not our role model.

What has Lynn Elsenhans done for your community lately?

Well, if you're from the Greater Philadelphia area, then she's raised your unemployment rates and cut your neighbors' healthcare. She's even risked the lives of working Philadelphians by cutting corners and using an outdated chemical that can form giant, poisonous clouds of acid like this if accidentally released. And it wasn't until ABC shot an expose warning the public that Sunoco did anything about it.

Seriously, guys. Giant, poisonous clouds of acid. Not my idea of responsible leadership.

So you probably get why workers, students, and community members might be confused--baffled, even--that the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce had chosen to honor Elsenhans as a leader who has contributed "significantly to the socio-economic prosperity of the Greater Philadelphia region."

That's where Philly JwJ came in. Some members of USW 10-1, the steelworkers who risk their lives every day at Sunoco refineries, mentioned to us that they'd be protesting Elsenhans action outside the event. (and they did--I'm told it attracted 30 to 40 people).

Well, here at we decided to do a little investigating of our own. Specifically, we sent in 13 activists to call the famously reclusive Elsenhans on her past record. Two of our folks unfurled a banner reading "Real Leaders Don't Destroy Families." Meanwhile, dressed as detectives, other activists searched high and low for responsible leadership.

Unfortunately, it was nowhere to be found.

sunoco event infiltration a success!

15 jwj protesters just infiltrated the paradigm awards event honoring sunoco's lynn elsenhans. Video soon!

Monday, March 7, 2011

Whose recovery?

Have those reports of an econonic recovery felt a bit... removed from your experience, Philadelphians? You're not alone. Philly CBS reports the following on a new poll conducted by Philadelphia Research Initiative:

What makes him think it’s the economy, even though we’re supposed to be in a recovery? The question: “Have you or someone in your household been unemployed in the last 12 months?” Last year, 49 percent said yes. This year, the number is 52 percent.

Over at Working Life, Jonathan Tasini reminds us that we should take a careful look at what indicators pundits are using to make the case that a real recovery is underway:

Right now the share of working-age population that is actively involved in the work force — that is, either in a job or actively looking for one — is at 64.2 percent. That is the lowest labor force participation rate in 25 years, an indication that many Americans are waiting for hiring to get better before resuming the job hunt.

Philadelphians, In New Survey, On A Bit Of A Downer About Philadelphia « CBS Philly

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Stand with Kenneth--Stand up to Sodexo!

It's not really a big secret--Sodexo is evil.

Given the long lists of abuses it shouldn't come as a huge shock to discover that Sodexo has, once again, tried to intimidate workers exercising their legal right to organize. From SEIU 32BJ:

"On February 22, 2011 Kenny Rivera, who works for Sodexo at Good Shepherd, was suspended indefinitely without pay.

His manager claims he gave away free food. Kenny says he did no such thing. Kenny believes this is just pretext for Sodexo to retaliate against him for his efforts to organize his co-workers."

Surprising? No.
Deplorable? Yes.

So take action now--click here to send a letter and take a stand.