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Updated: 23 hours 51 min ago

Facing Deportation for Showing Up to Work

Wed, 06/21/2017 - 16:48

This weekend, instead of celebrating Father’s Day with their children and family, beloved fathers and longtime U.S. residents Hugo Mejia and Rodrigo Nunez spent the special day in a detention center near Oakland, California.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has held Hugo and Rodrigo in immigration custody since May 3. That morning, their employer sent them to work on a new construction project at a hospital on the Travis Air Force Base. At the base, a military official detained and reported them to immigration officers. Now they fear the worst: that the federal government will deport them at any point and tear them away from their families and communities.

The devoted family men call California home and have lived in the United States for more than 15 years. Hugo is a foreman at S&R Drywall and a member of the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades (IUPAT) and Rodrigo is a member of the Carpenter Union Local 713. The construction workers are local volunteers with deep community ties. Hugo lives in San Rafael with his wife, Yadira and his three young kids. His eldest children have been granted protection from deportation through DACA, and his youngest is a U.S. citizen.  He volunteers at his children’s school. Rodrigo lives in Hayward with his wife and his three young kids, all of whom are U.S. citizens. He is an assistant coach for his son Sebastian’s baseball team who also volunteers at his church.

Argued Hugo, “We don’t take anything from this country. On the contrary, we give to this country. It’s not fair to deport us.”

None of these facts have compelled the local ICE field office director to stop their expedited deportation cases or release Hugo and Rodrigo. ICE has full discretion to discharge them from custody so they can reunite with their families while reviewing their cases.

The Trump administration’s ramped up immigration policies could result in more of our friends and neighbors getting separated from their families as a result of reporting to work. Hugo and Rodrigo deserve to watch their children grow up and thrive.

If ICE deports Hugo and Rodrigo, everything that have worked to achieve to sustain their families could be taken away. And the loved ones they leave behind will experience an emotional and economic toll. The Urban Institute and Migration Policy Institute study found that a father’s deportation causes a family’s income to drop an average of 73 percent.

Hugo’s and Rodrigo’s detainment has caused a widespread outcry among labor, faith, and community groups, and elected officials. Jobs With Justice and our network of coalitions are supporting a #FreeHugo&Rodrigo week of action currently underway urging ICE to free both men and halt their deportations.

You can help keep up the pressure to reunite Hugo and Rodrigo with their families with two simple gestures:

1) Make a call to the San Francisco ICE field office to demand that Director David Jennings use his prosecutorial dissertation and release Hugo and Rodrigo now.

2) Encourage your friends and family to do the same.


Categories: Human Rights

Songs of the Resistance

Tue, 06/20/2017 - 17:05

During times of resistance, music provides motivation, meaning, and hope. Songs can be uplifting and inspiring, while others reflect our struggles, injustices, and the challenges we face. The current resistance began in January, and while the challenges we face are immense, we once again turn to music to guide us. We’ve compiled a playlist of a few songs that speak to us, call us to action, and remind us what we’re fighting for in our current moment. We encourage you to read on, and take a listen.

“What’s Going On?” – Marvin Gaye

Marvin Gaye’s seminal album focused on a Vietnam veteran returning home to find his community ravaged by poverty and injustice. Forty-five years later, Gaye’s classic remains a poignant reminder of racial injustice.

“What It Means” – Drive-By Truckers

For two decades, southern rockers the Drive-By Truckers wrote songs about the politics and issues of the South. Their 2016 album American Band might be the group’s most political one yet. Songs discuss issues ranging from immigration to school shootings, and why Black lives matter. “What It Means” is a raw quest for singer/songwriter Patterson Hood to try and figure out why heinous crimes continue against innocent African-Americans.

“Weary” – Solange Knowles

Few albums released last year received as much praise as Solange Knowles’ “A Seat At The Table.” In Julianne Escobedo Shepherds review of the album for, she wrote, “It’s a document of the struggle of a black woman, and black women, in 2016, as Solange confronts painful indignities and situates them historically.” The entire album demands attention, but “Weary” reflects on the fight to end racial injustice, and reminds us to keep a watchful eye on what’s happening in the world.

We The People…”— A Tribe Called Quest

Hip-hop group A Tribe Called Quest delivered a stunning album three days after the 2016 presidential election. We Got It From Here… Thank You 4Your Service was the group’s first album in 18 years, and it reflects the politics and issues of the moment. Their first single, “We The People…” is a politically-charged track, tackling momentous issues like gentrification, immigration, racism, and poverty.

“The Lonesome Death Of Hattie Carroll— Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan’s storied career touched on almost every major topic, but his 1964 ballad, “The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll,” strikes a nerve. This song about racial injustice, institutional racism, and privilege, remains relevant today. It recounts the 1963 murder of a Black woman named Hattie, by wealthy and prominent tobacco farmer William Zantzinger. Hattie worked at the Emerson Hotel in Baltimore. She was tending bar one night, when William came in and ordered a drink. Hattie asked that he wait a moment – he refused and struck her on the head with a cane, killing her. William served only six months in jail for senselessly taking Hattie’s life.

This Land Is Your Land” – Woody Guthrie

Woody Guthrie penned the 1940s folk classic as a reaction to families migrating to California during the Dust Bowl. As he traveled across the country, he saw prejudice, poverty, and hatred. His song also was a sarcastic response to Irving Berlin’s “God Bless America,” and to this day it remains an alternative anthem.

“Power To The People” – John Lennon

During the late 1960s and 1970s, John Lennon used his voice to address a variety of political and social issues. His 1971 track “Power To The People” is a call to action, encouraging citizens to march, organize, and speak out. It’s an anthem for all of us joining together in hopes of building a better world.

“I Give You Power”Arcade Fire feat. Mavis Staples

Canadian indie rockers Arcade Fire rarely shy away from the issues and it was no different once the current resistance began, following the election of President Trump. On January 19, Arcade Fire joined forces with legendary R&B singer Mavis Staples to release “I Give You Power.” As our democracy faces enormous tests, the line, “I give you power/I can take it away/watch me,” is haunting. The band promoted the song with a tweet reading, “It’s never been more important that we stick together and take care of each other.”

Our curation is by no means exhaustive. Share with us the songs, artists, and albums that fire you up, give you charge or reassurance these days. Add your favorite picks on Facebook, Twitter, or post in the comments section below.

Categories: Human Rights

Tesla’s Working Conditions Are Anything But Innovative

Fri, 06/16/2017 - 15:48

In 2016, Tesla CEO Elon Musk announced plans to manufacture the Model 3. The sedan is Tesla’s first foray into engineering an electric vehicle for the mainstream automobile market. Consumers who marveled at the company’s ingenuity fell for the opportunity to drive a Tesla at its $35,000 introductory price: Tesla received more than 400,000 preorders for the Model 3.

Elon Musk aspires to lead a clean energy revolution, but he cannot ignite one until he creates a safe and sustainable workplace for those who build his cars.

The 10,000 autoworkers at Tesla’s Fremont, California factory are working at a backbreaking pace to deliver orders for new Model 3 sedans that Musk promised would arrive by fall 2017.

Over the last three years, injuries at the Fremont factory have mounted. Seizures, fainting spells, and chest pains were among the health problems reported by the people building cars for Tesla. Michael Sanchez, a car service technician, herniated two discs in his back working at the factory. The injury resulted in “agonizing” pain so severe; he can no longer grip a pencil.

Tesla consistently puts working people at great risk of injury. In 2015, injuries at Tesla’s plant were 31 percent higher than the national average for the automobile industry. During that period, the rate of serious injuries was double the national average for the auto industry.

Setting health and safety safeguards should be achievable for a technologically advanced and immensely profitable company like Tesla. Since 2014, Tesla spent $10 billion on research and development. For all the money spent on creating innovative cars like the Model 3, the company’s health and safety record remains abysmal.

The most valuable car company in the United States refuses to provide its manufacturing crew with family-sustaining pay. A single parent needs to earn nearly $32 an hour to raise one child in Alameda County. The auto company pays the people who are working around the clock significantly less than what other automakers pay.

Recognizing the unsustainable situation at the plant, Tesla’s employees started coming together to tackle how they could improve their jobs. In an open letter about life inside Tesla’s Fremont factory, Jose Moran explained he and his teammates worked for the car “company of the future under working conditions of the past.”

When people talked about joining in union, Tesla responded by unionbusting. Instead of addressing grievances Musk went on the attack, attempting to discredit Jose in an email to employees. Then management increased everyone’s base pay, but the raise coincided with management pressuring everyone at the plant to sign a confidentiality agreement prohibiting them from discussing wages or workplace conditions.

Tesla’s efforts to silence whistleblowers didn’t sit well with enough people working at the plant. Subsequent news reports about Musk’s defensive posture led to the company to make some recent changes.

Last month,  Tesla replaced its head of human relations, citing concerns over workplace safety and harassment. Musk also tried to empathize with employees. He publicly acknowledged and echoed their distress over long hours and the demand necessary to meet the Model 3’s deadline. To share their pain, Musk even took to sleeping in a conference room not far from the factory floor.

So what reforms did Musk offer as part of his mea culpa? Free yogurt and promised to throw a “really amazing party” following the Model 3’s release.

Yogurt won’t help autoworkers earn enough to sustain their families. Cries of empathy won’t heal Michael’s herniated disk. A party is no substitute for all the hours working round the clock away from loved ones.

Until Musk drops the gag order and gives the people who work for him the freedom to decide to come together in union, his newfound interest in employee well-being rings hollow. Michael, Jose, and their teammates building the Model 3 want to achieve a safer working environment and a fair return on their work. By respecting the working people who make clean energy vision a reality, Tesla can better live up to its mission of advancing a healthier, more sustainable planet.

Categories: Human Rights

Celebrating Champions for Working People at the 13th Annual Eleanor Roosevelt Human Rights Awards Celebration

Fri, 06/16/2017 - 11:34


On Tuesday night, labor rights leaders, advocates, and allies came together at Jobs With Justice Education Fund’s 13th annual Eleanor Roosevelt Human Rights Awards Celebration. This event honors outstanding leaders who have upheld Eleanor Roosevelt’s belief that workers’ rights are human rights. Each of the three remarkable recipients, Paul Booth, Luna Ranjit, and Mark Dimondstein, on behalf of the men and women of the American Postal Workers Union, have sparked incredible change in protecting the rights of working people.

Jobs With Justice Executive Director Sarita Gupta kicked off the awards program, following a lively reception featuring drinks, hors d’oeuvres, and a silent auction. “Tonight is a celebration in the midst of one of the most challenging moments in our lifetimes. It is in the interest of opponents of workers’ rights to divide and fracture our labor movement, and to create lasting divisions across the working class in America,” Ms. Gupta began in her opening remarks. “And yet,” she continued, “I see beacons of hope all around. I’m inspired by all the ways we are uniting together in this unprecedented moment. Our movements are fueling the resistance, taking over the streets, taking over town halls, taking over airports, to confront those who do not want us to have a voice.”

Elissa McBride, the new secretary-treasurer of the 1.6 million member-union AFSCME, presented the first Eleanor Roosevelt Human Rights Award of the night to Paul Booth, a legendary leader in the labor and progressive movements.

Mr. Booth has made incredible contributions in advancing collective bargaining and union rights and developing powerhouse organizers. In his acceptance speech, he highlighted his vast experiences in the labor movement, and called for unions of working people to recommit to organizing. Mr. Booth echoed Ms. Gupta’s sentiments, saying that “crippling labor is the right wing’s top priority in clearing the way to make the rich richer. We must combine unity and organizing to regain power…” and encouraged the audience to “fight until we win.”

Luna Ranjit, co- founder and former executive director of Adhikaar, was presented with the Discount Foundation Legacy Award, which honors an exemplary individual in the worker justice movement. The award provides a $20,000 stipend to the recipient to enhance and sustain their organizing.

Ms. Ranjit launched Adhikaar in 2005 to build power, promote human rights and social justice, and improve the lives of members of the emerging Nepali-speaking community. Under Ms. Ranjit’s leadership, Adhikaar led the charge in getting the Domestic Worker’s Rights Bill passed in New York in 2010, and organized nail salon workers to institute sweeping changes to improve working conditions in this industry.

Ms. Ranjit discussed how her experiences have shaped her in the fight for immigrant and workers’ rights. She highlighted that her privilege as a US citizen enables her to take risks to help her undocumented “brothers and sisters.” Winning this award enables her to take a step back and think about how to contribute to the collective progress of our future. Ms. Ranjit urged the audience to “keep on loving, keep on fighting,” and closed with an Arundhati Roy quote from The Cost of Living, that she said keeps her going.

The men and women of the American Postal Workers Union (APWU) received the final Eleanor Roosevelt Human Rights Award for their successful campaign getting Staples out of the postal business. APWU President Mark Dimondstein accepted the award and took the stage with more than a dozen APWU members and leaders who were involved in the landmark fight that saved good jobs and the future of the public post office.

In 2014, the U.S. Postal Service announced a partnership with Staples to shift postal services away from neighborhood post offices to the office supply chain’s retail outlets. President Dimondstein galvanized the 200,000 APWU members to launch a boycott to stop this privatization scheme that would jeopardize public’s right to accessible mail. APWU activists and retirees engaged consumers and built solidarity for their boycott of Staples by leafletting outside Staples stores, organizing a major day of action, and holding thousands of protests.

“The Stop Staples campaign is proof that workers, with the support of friends and allies, can ‘take it to the streets’ and win!” said President Dimondstein. He continued, “I salute and commend every APWU member – active and retired – and the many, many supporters who made this victory possible.”

Jobs With Justice Education Fund would like to acknowledge the generosity of our event sponsors and auction donors, and the work of our host committee who made this evening possible. Thanks to everyone who participated and made the 13th Annual Eleanor Roosevelt Human Rights Awards Celebration a success! We look forward to our continued partnerships moving forward. If you missed out, check out photos from our event, and you can pitch in to support our critical work by making an online donation.

Categories: Human Rights

Victory: New Rule Puts Retiree Savers Ahead of Wall Street

Wed, 06/07/2017 - 15:18

We typically can find a great deal or make smart choices when shopping for everyday goods and services. Sometimes we look to experts, like doctors, lawyers, and investment professionals, to aid us in making informed decisions about our health, our money, and our futures.

Unfortunately, many actors in the financial services industry have scammed working people. They’ve encouraged them to invest their hard-earned retirement savings in funds laden with costly fees and commissions that eat into their future earnings.

Many savers believe their financial adviser must look out for their best interest, but most haven’t been legally required to, until now. A new law that goes into effect this Friday insists investment firms put the welfare of retirement savers ahead of their sales commissions. The fiduciary rule requires that all financial professionals, including brokers and insurance agents, recommend retirement investments that are in their clients’ best interests, instead of those which might pay them large commissions or sales fees.

This consumer-focused solution will help working families keep more of their hard-earned retirement savings. According to President Obama’s White House Council of Economic Advisers, retirement savers lose more than $17 billion a year as a result of conflicts of interest in investment advice.

Now with the rule in place, financial advisers must serve their client’s best interests when providing fiscal advice. Fees must be reasonable and the adviser can’t mislead the investor. By January 2018, financial advisers must disclose all conflicts of interest so that working people can see for themselves whether the manager is self-dealing when making investment recommendations.

The commonsense regulation took years to come to fruition because Wall Street banks and their friends in elected office fought tooth and nail to stop consumer protections that would have any impact on their immense profits. Wall Street firms thrive on lack of transparency and the ability for financial advisers to benefit at the expense of their clients. From lobbying, to launching disinformation campaigns, to suing the Labor Department, these firms worked hard to rig the rules in their favor.

With President Trump in power, the financial industry assumed it would have an easier time preserving the status quo. Trump signaled that he would oblige, ordering the Department of Labor to reconsider the fiduciary rule, which led to a 60-day delay in its implementation. This delay alone cost retirement savers $3.7 billion. What Wall Street didn’t count on was how working people and consumer advocates would stick together to resist its greedy efforts to block the regulation.

For years, a broad coalition of consumer and financial industry watchdogs, seniors and retiree groups, labor unions of working people and community organizations advocated for these safeguards. They’ve been defending the rule since it was first proposed and issued by the Obama Administration.

Groups like Missouri Jobs With Justice have played a key role in protecting the fiduciary rule since the financial services industry started moving a bill in Congress to revoke it. To stop the deceptively-named Choice Act, Missouri Jobs With Justice leaders and allies met with legislators, the media, and community members to explain what was at stake and how local brokerage firms were acting against the public interest. They organized big protests exposing Choice Act sponsors, like U.S. Rep. Ann Wagner (MO-2), for taking huge campaign donations from Wells Fargo Advisors and Edward Jones. Their public education efforts resulted in editorial opinions lambasting Wagner and hundreds of letters submitted to federal decision-makers.

After the November election, supporters of the regulation wasted no time in defending it. Trump’s nomination of Andrew Puzder for Labor Secretary opened up another opportunity. There was little doubt a fast-food CEO with a shameful record of restricting his employees’ rights and wages could be trusted to support the financial well-being of working people. To preserve the fiduciary rule and other critical protections for working people, Jobs With Justice and the National Employment Law Project galvanized working men and women in the fast-food and restaurant industry, women’s rights organizations, civil rights advocates, labor rights groups and consumer watchdogs to campaign to oppose, and derail Puzder from taking office.

Due to the pressure and unprecedented progressive resistance in response to Trump’s other extreme nominees and legislation, R. Alexander Acosta was not confirmed as Labor Secretary until Trump’s 98th day in office. Since this was far too little time for Secretary Acosta to begin the process of weakening the regulation, he recently announced that his agency had no other option but to allow the rule to go into effect.

Supporters of the rule shouldn’t let their guard down. As the Save Our Retirement coalition asserted, “retirement savers need an enforceable fiduciary standard and a Department of Labor that is prepared to hold firms accountable for compliance.” The Trump administration still has the fiduciary rule in its sights and will gut or overturn it if possible. But that job now is so much harder with the rule going into effect. So far, the courts have upheld the legitimacy of the rule, thwarting legal challenges mounted by Wall Street. Financial firms are working to put safeguards into place to ensure compliance, and some investment firms publicly signaled they will comply with the new standards no matter what happens down the line.

With these developments, working people will be in a better position to retire with dignity and financial security. Despite the challenges ahead, we continue to prove that by coming together we can go toe-to-toe with Wall Street and win.

Categories: Human Rights

New Rules Create Stability for Fast Food Employees in NYC

Fri, 06/02/2017 - 08:53

On Tuesday, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio signed into law new rules bringing greater security and stability for men and women working in the fast-food industry.

In recent decades, profitable fast-food giants and retail outlets grant the women and men who make them so successful too few hours on too little notice. Working people who experience unpredictable schedules and insufficient work hours struggle to plan their lives, stay on a budget, make ends meet, and be there for their loved ones.

The new laws will deal with these problems by ensuring that fast-food corporations operating in New York City provide cashiers, cooks and servers two weeks advanced notice of their schedules. To help disincentivize fast-food companies assigning consecutive closing and opening shifts (“clopenings,”) the law stipulates that employers must give sufficient rest time between shifts. The rules also put in place protections against companies forcing people to come into work at the very last minute (on-call scheduling).

In the new rules, New York City outlaws on-call schedules for anyone working at any retail or food-service establishment with 20 or more employees. This law builds on the work of the New York Attorney General’s office to stop companies from using abusive on-call schedules that require employees to keep their lives on hold for schedules they may never be assigned to nor compensated for.

The reforms also create a pathway for more people to earn full-time hours, mandating that fast-food employers offer additional work hours to existing part-time staff before making new hires. In the absence of such a law, many retailers and restaurants have refused to create the family-sustaining, full-time jobs that working people need. Despite massive profits, some companies string their employees along in part-time work, promising but rarely granting enough hours for them to make a living.

The set of New York City laws also allow people working in fast food to designate a part of their paychecks to a non-profit organization of their choosing, recognizing that fast-food workers often engage with nonprofit organizations that support their goals to drive change in their industry and better their conditions. This innovative policy gives working people a say in ensuring that the city enforces these reforms. The non-profit provision may also strengthen the ability of working people to advocate for legal protections the next time corporate America comes up with a way to make their lives and working conditions more difficult in the name of extra profits.

The scheduling improvements are all the more important given the hostile climate with conservatives across the country scheming to take away bedrock protections for working people. Members of SEIU 32BJ, Fast Food Forward, RWDSU, the Retail Action Project, A Better Balance, Make the Road, the Community Service Society of New York and ALIGN were among those leading the charge for the New York City Council to pursue these new standards. Commented 32BJ President Hector Figueroa this week, “As the Trump Administration and Republicans in Washington are pushing legislation and regulation that is disastrous for working people, we have been proud to be part of the resistance standing with New York City fast-food workers in the fight for good jobs.”

The momentum to ensure working people in this country can secure better hours and better lives is building. The Big Apple is the fourth and largest city to establish standards improving work schedules in recent years. In 2014, Jobs With Justice San Francisco led the way in campaigning for San Francisco to enact the first comprehensive package of scheduling rules to ensure working people have a better chance to provide for their families.  In 2016, Seattle, Emeryville, and San Jose, CA also passed laws to combat unstable and unpredictable work schedules. Working people and community activists are organizing to pursue similar campaigns in Massachusetts, Oregon, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Minnesota, North Carolina, New Jersey, Washington, D.C., Texas, and elsewhere.

Categories: Human Rights