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.