Unions Pushing Up Wages from Below

4KbHa.St.81Little Rock   I’m not sure whether it’s a backstory, a footnote, or just good organizers grabbing a handle and moving fast and hard with it, but under, over, and around the new push to $10.10, rather than $15.00 per hour, is some good, solid, and exciting union organizing of contract workers in federal facilities around Washington, D.C. and contract workers for LaGuardia, Kennedy, and other facilities under the control of the New York / New Jersey Port Authority.

            After a year of campaigning with protests, rallies, and civil disobedience among contract workers at the airports, led by SEIU building services local union giant, 32 BJ, a letter was made public from the Port Authority ordering big airlines Jet Blue, Delta, United, and American to raise wages by a minimum of $1.00 per hour, eventually making it to $10.10 per hour in line with the new push for the federal minimum.  For good measure they also won retroactive pay for Martin Luther King’s birthday as a holiday.   Given the fact that President Obama’s push in the State of the Union address for progress on raising the minimum wage up to that level was essentially greeted by Republicans in Congress with Bronx cheers and wet rags, seeing unions exert this kind of leadership for the unorganized is critical, and of course it goes without saying that these same contract workers will not miss the message that they might be in a much better place in the future by actually joining 32BJ and going union all the way.

            Ditto for the work by labor federation, Change to Win, in coordinating organizing of federal contract workers in the DC area who have been demonstrating and, yes, striking, for wages for federal contract workers.  I had missed this item on the eve of the President’s address but when I saw a “like” on my blog posted on Facebook by C2W’s Bob Callahan, I took a second to see what Bob was up to, and all over his pages were DC-area stories I had missed of actions by federal contract workers for a $10.10 minimum, including, most importantly, an action with arrests of more than 30 workers, making the demand that Obama make the executive order move on an across the board increase in the State of the Union speech.  Cause and effect?  Maybe yes, maybe no, but as importantly, unions were creating the pressure and the push that makes it easier for such actions to take place.

            Importantly, full recognition that in this era of our weakness, we have to sometimes prove our merit and mettle to unorganized workers and even show them that we can deliver before they are paying dues and under contract, is an important tactical shift that could make a difference for many for much to come in the future.  Change doesn’t come in a vacuum, so props to organized labor for using real worker power to push for power, not just publicity.  

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