Thursday, February 28, 2013

Georgia Politicians are Attacking Unemployed Workers Once Again!

Today, the Georgia State Senate introduced SB 227 an all out attack on unemployed workers in Georgia. SB 227 w​ould make the unemployment benefit cuts imposed by GA Labor Commissioner Mark Butler permanent into state​ law. Furthermore, SB 227 ​would ​expand these cuts not only to school workers, but to all contract and seasonal employees across GA, forcing many into unstable employment​.

These cuts originally imposed by Mark Butler, have put workers in a dire situation. Ever since the cuts were enacted, workers have struggled to put food on the table to feed their families, have not been able to afford medical care, and some have even been evicted from their homes.

We at Atlanta Jobs with Justice ask you to stand with these workers who have lost so much as it is.

We need to stand up to our representatives and prevent them from making this situation permanent for thousands of workers in Georgia.


Senate Bill 227 is sponsored by:
Sen. Millar, 40th District - Northeast Atlanta
Sen. Bethel, 54th District - Dalton
Sen. Albers, 56th District - Roswell
Sen. Crane, 28th District - Newnan

Please click here to send these s​enators and your representatives a message that you oppose SB 227 and the cuts in unemployment benefits.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

We Defeated Attacks on Workers Last Year, We Can Stop Them Again!

Last year, you helped us defeat, SB 469, a major legislative assault on Georgia working families that would have criminalized free speech, eroded workers’ rights, placed undue burden on small businesses and strained already stretched public safety forces.

Well, many of the extreme legislators that supported that bill are at it again. They’re trying to ram through, HB 361 & 362, bills that are almost identical to the legislative attacks from last year and another measure that would further hurt working families and local communities.


The Georgia House of Representatives could pass these bills this week. We need to put pressure on our lawmakers to stop these dangerous measures.

Click here now to tell your legislators to oppose these anti-worker, anti-community bills.


Just like last year, right-wing legislators are pushing these new bills to appease their corporate donors.


HB 361 is eerily similar to last year's bill. At its heart is an attempt to intimidate workers. But it goes far beyond that. It increases penalties for free speech activities, like picketing, puts new, burdensome requirements on small businesses and workers, and ties the hands of local governments from deciding what works best for them when dealing with their workforce.

 
HB 362 is no better. It would restrict the ability of local communities to hire skilled, local workers for construction projects and open the door to contractors from out of state—many of whom would give big money to state politicians in return—to come into Georgia and make a quick buck using a less-skilled workforce.


Instead of attacking working families, our legislators need to be focused on creating good jobs and strengthening our economy. Stand up for working families in Georgia and send a message to your representative and senator now at: go.aflcio.org/we-are-GA

Saturday, February 23, 2013

UWC Delegation Meets With Illegally Fired Gap Inc. Garment Workers.

A delegation of the United Workers Congress met with Illegally fired garment workers at a Gap supplier textile factory called Modelama Exports in Gorgaon, India.

**Sign HERE to urge Gap to rehire the garment workers.**

The area outside of the factory was bustling with activity from garment workers, traffic from the busy street and pedestrians.  Textile workers and allies were passing out hundreds of fliers to those passing by.

There were trucks parked just to the side of the protestors... A garment worker informed me that management had intentionally placed the trucks there to try to block the presence of the protesting workers from the general public.  The below picture shows the back of one of the trucks:
Although the truck seemed to block the view for some of the traffic... It ultimately caused a bottleneck around the protestors, creating more excitement and activity in the area. 

The Modelama factory employs over 1,200 garment workers and is a supplier to Gap Inc. Workers have been organizing a union at the factory. In order to stop the union organizing drive 14 workers and union leaders have been fired and 3 were transferred to a different site.  The dismissals and transfers have been accompanied by forceful pushing, illegal confinement and threats to family members on behalf of Gap supplier Modelama Exports.  The retaliation against workers has been used to undercut the worker's legal and human right to associate into union of their choice.  The blatant nature of the firings and Gap's complicit support of the action left our delegation deeply concerned.

The garment workers have a presence every day outside of the factory and are calling on Gap to immediately address this violation of the freedom of association.

Demands:

1) Reinstate all of the illegally fired and transferred workers immediately
2) Reverse the chilling effect that the dismissals and transfers have had on the trust that workers have in being allowed to form or join a union of their choice
3) Redress for the workers and union officers that have been dismissed and transferred 
4) Start a respectful practice of industrial relations between the Modelama Workers Union (MWU) and the Modelama Export management, which includes recognizing the (MWU) as representatives of its members to management
Our delegation will return to Gurgaon to follow up with the garment workers. If Gap continues to support the illegal firings we will take further action in India and back in the US.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

General Strike Rolls Through India.

In the United States the general strike has been all but a myth for decades... In India, there is a 1 day general strike at least once a year.  However, some Indian trade unionists have felt the yearly general strike has become more of a predictable tradition than an ineffective action that leverages economic power to meet the demands of Indian workers.  This years general strike is a shift from those of recent history for a number of reasons:

1) All of the Indian Trade Unions (from left to right on the political spectrum) have come together to participate.
2) This will be a two day strike.

This unity amongst the Indian trade union movement is a big step and is sorely needed to confront the aggressive neoliberal shifts pushed by powerful corporate interests and Indian government over the past 20 years.  The concept is that all trade union federations - regardless of political affiliation or orientation, must prioritize their class interests.  This massive strike of over 100 million Indian workers is a manifestation of this concept.

Our contingent met at the CITU (Centre of Indian Trade Unions) office in Delhi yesterday morning (the first day of the strike), to meet with Indian workers participating in the strike and to understand the main demands of the strike.  It was a whirlwind of activity as workers flowed in and out of the union office, building up numbers before the march.

At about 10:30 am we left the CITU building and began marching throughout the street in two lines wearing CITU visors, hoisting banners and carrying the 10 Point demands of the strike:
10 Point Demands of the Strike
A summary of the main demands include: 1) Protect the right to organize (end retaliation against organizing workers) 2) Stop using contract labor 3) Raise the minimum wage 4) Stop outsourcing labor

We marched for about half a mile before encountering a police barricade.  Some unionists sat down in this area to guarantee that the transportation flow was disrupted.  Others continued on and encountered a line of police at a busy intersection... The CITU members seemed to have a shared unspoken agenda and marched directly up to the police line taking the space so that traffic could not flow through the intersections controlled by us.  Protesters were peaceful and intentional and the police seemed wary of confronting the marchers with force - although there was certainly pushing and shoving at the tip of the line.
We rushed to a meeting after the march and ended up at the wrong location...  The driver of our vehicle informed us that it would not be possible to drive us any further at that time because many intersections and streets were flooded with trade unionists and supporters.  We were still trying to gauge the effectiveness of the strike, but we took this matter of fact statement from our driver as a good sign.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

United Workers Congress Sends Delegation to India

During the last two weeks of February, the United Workers Congress (UWC) is sending a small delegation to India, including three representatives from Jobs with Justice.

The purpose of the trip is to introduce the United Workers Congress as a growing platform projecting the voices of workers not protected under current US labor law, share strategies with leaders of the Indian trade union and social movements and to move conversations that will build the United Workers Congress long-term.

In addition sharing organizing models used to build our base and our power with similar sectors in India, UWC delegates will discuss strategies impacting employment structure/practices, including day laborers (daily wagers), contract workers, self-employed, cooperatives, and labor-community alliances.

Why is this happening now?[i]
The 1980s and 1990s ushered in dramatic economic and political changes resulting in an increasingly “liberalized” and unregulated economy.  National economies have been integrated into the global marketplace, giving rise to intense competition, massive changes in production systems and in employment structures (relationship between employers and workers). These conditions have irrevocably changed the challenges facing the labor movement and workers’ organizations continue to struggle to adapt their strategies and visions to contemporary conditions.  Today, when problems face the labor movement in a national or local context, more often than not, labor organizations’ effectiveness is determined by their capacity to think globally as well as locally.

In the global economy, today, the continent of Asia is a primary stakeholder.  For any social justice movement, Asia must be taken into account and included in any strategy for making large-scale change. Asia holds the largest workforce and the manufacturing base in the world. It is the largest recipient of foreign investment and represents most of the global working poor. According to the ILO there are 555 million working poor, a significant percentage being Asian, in particular women.

While there have been some organizing efforts between the US and Mexico, the US labor movement has not made a large effort to connect with Asia. Some unions and labor leaders have developed projects in specific Asian countries but no plans have ever attempted to connect with a larger Asia or regional strategy.

In 2003, when the World Social Forum International Secretariat decided to move WSF from the Americas continent (from Porto Alegre, Brazil) to a Global South continent, the decision was taken to hold the Fourth WSF in 2004 in Mumbai, India.  The interaction between US-based anti-racist and organizations of color with Indian organizations began for the most part from then on.  Through Grassroots Global Justice, a delegation of labor and community leaders and activists primarily from the US (along with some delegates from Canada, Mexico, Bolivia, and Colombia) came to India.  They represented a variety of grassroots, labor and social justice organizations – some of them are currently in the UWC leadership.

The composition of this delegation was noteworthy at the time, in the context of the US where anti-globalization activists prior to even 5 years before that used to be represented in international events predominantly by white activists from policy and think-tank organizations based in or near Washington D.C.  Among many meetings planned for the delegation, one fruitful engagement was between Jobs with Justice and the New Trade Union Initiative. The two organizations shared a belief in broadening and expanding the scope of the labor movement both within and beyond traditional trade unions, the importance of labor-community alliance, political independence, local autonomy and inclusive democracy, and mutual reciprocity.

The NTUI and JwJ engaged in pioneering collaborative work on bi-national research, exchanges, and workers’ rights tours.  Together, in 2006, they also seeded what has now become the Asia Floor Wage Alliance. Meanwhile in 2008, the work of the Alliance of Guestworkers for Dignity, now National Guestworkers Alliance with Indian workers of Signal International sprang into the scene and opened up new challenges and unprecedented areas of work.  This campaign developed into a bi-national campaign with the NGA organizing the Indian workers in the US and Indian organizations organizing their families back home—and it eventually won protections for the workers as well as re-uniting many of them with their families. The NGA has continued to build on this work, with a primary partnership with NTUI but also with several other partners.

In 2010, labor leaders in the US and in Asia documented their views about international collaboration.  The results of this were shared at a meeting in New York City and the goal of building a US-Asia relationship based on mutuality rather than patronage, on bottom-up rather than top-down process, was affirmed.  In 2010, Ashim Roy, General Secretary of NTUI, attended the US Social Forum and had several dialogues with emerging leaders of a growing new workers’ movement in the US.

Soon afterwards, in 2011, the UWC’s founding took place, with a clear internationalist spirit from its inception.  The leadership of UWC created the pathways for national and international work simultaneously, acknowledging their inevitable connections.

With the future of work trending towards increased precariousness, in the US and around the world, it was critical that the United Workers Congress work with their partners in Asia to develop more comprehensive strategies to win full and fair employment.

Follow us!
Those interested in this trip can track regular updates at www.jwj.org, www.atlantajwj.org, http://cfljwj.tumblr.com/ and other similar sites.
*Originally posted on www.jwj.org/blog
______________________
[i] Adapted from a piece by Anannya Bhattacharjee.  See more at http://excludedworkerscongress.org/our-work/international-labor-issues-campaigns.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Jobs with Justice goes to India!

Representing the Right to Work South within the United Workers Congress.

Stay tuned to the website... Roger will be posting blog updates from India until early March on this website and on the Atlanta Jobs with Justice Facebook Page. Denise Diaz from Central Florida Jobs with Justice will be posting updates to her tumblr HERE

The delegation which consists of Representatives from the National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON), National Domestic Workers Alliance (NDWA), National Guest Workers Alliance (NGWA), Jobs with Justice (JwJ) and the Restaurant Opportunities Center (ROC) seeks to learn from and engage with different sectors of the Indian trade union movement, community organizations and worker organizations.

Here is more information about the United Workers Congress: From Exclusion to Power:
The United Workers Congress is a strategic alliance of workers that are either by law or by practice excluded from the right to organize in the United States. We are national networks that represent a base of workers, and also regional networks and individual organizations in industries where there is no national network. 
Vision:
The United Workers Congress brings together sectors of workers who were told they couldn't organize but who went out and did it anyway. They provide inspiring models for innovative labor organizing for the 21st century. Their hard-won victories provide the foundation for a new framework for a new era of building worker power. These organizations are ready for the long-term movement that it will take to expand the rights of workers—both in the United States and around the world—to organize and to exercise their collective power.
The United Workers Congress believes that all people who work have the human right to organize and deserve working conditions of respect and dignity, regardless of the temporary nature of their work, their lack of a fixed workplace, their immigration status, any previous criminal convictions, whether they currently have a job or not, how they are classified or misclassified, or their lack of a traditional collective bargaining structure.
We will seek to overcome discrimination based on race, gender, age, immigration status, religion, sexual orientation and other categories. We understand that these categories are mostly used by employers to divide workers against each other.
We are a part of building, broadening and strengthening the labor movement in the US and abroad.

Friday, February 8, 2013

ATL Student City Wide Action Happening Right Now

Students from 6 Atlanta colleges and universities are delivering letters to their respective university presidents demanding action to address the crisis in unemployment benefits for GA School Workers including campus food service workers, bus drivers, janitors and others.  Georgia Labor Commissioner Mark Butler continues to violate basic state and federal Unemployment Insurance (UI) guidelines and the United States Department of Labor continues to let him do it.  Atlanta students and workers have said enough is enough and are demanding action now.  The letter is below:


Check out the action on Twitter: #letter2thepresidents


Dear
President Elizabeth Kiss of Agnes Scott College,
President Carlton E. Brown of Clark Atlanta University,
President James W. Wagner of Emory University,
President Mark P. Becker of Georgia State University,
President John S. Wilson, Jr. of Morehouse College,
President Beverly D. Tatum of Spelman College:

Colleges and universities furnish students with skills and knowledge to contribute to society. Classes, activities, and events all go towards making well-rounded students. Students are instilled with a sense of social responsibility to be utilized for positive social change within their communities and around the world. We have acknowledged the obligation we have, and we hope you will understand the obligation you all have by the end of this letter.
As students, we take advantage of the workers who serve us every single day. These are some of the most hard-working individuals on campus. There is always a private contract worker actively present working on something to better the lives of students, faculty, and staff. The workers on our campuses depend on their very small wages to provide the necessities for their families and themselves. The unemployment benefits they depend on when students are on break were denied under a reinterpretation of the Federal Unemployment Tax Act. This impacted over 64,000 private contract workers across the state of Georgia.
As students with personal relationships with workers on our campuses, we heard how their lives were affected by the decision first hand. One worker informed us that she and her children were evicted from their home. She had to depend on others to help her take care of her own children. Another worker was forced to use all of her savings for herself and five adopted children. Within two weeks all of her savings were completely gone. Imagine the mental and physical burden workers have been faced with each day they come to campus. They are unsure if they will have something to eat after work, or if they will be able to feed their own children. Some campus workers tried to write an appeal to their companies, and the Georgia Department of Labor, but nothing changed. At the end of their stories all they could do is ask for our help.
We are committed to helping our workers, and making sure they receive the unemployment benefits in which they are entitled. We are reaching out to you, the leaders of our institutions, to ask you for support. We recognize your influence in the state of Georgia and as a leader of these prestigious institutions. You are the primary image and representative of our schools, and not standing up for workers on our campus is a direct threat to the legacy of our schools. We challenge you, the presidents of our institutions to make a public statement on behalf of your students in support of the workers, to hold a meeting for campus workers and students, and to consistently take actions that will reinstate campus workers unemployment benefits. Please, take action now.

Sincerely,

Students of Atlanta