News

BIG NEWS! NLRB Rules That Grad Students Are Employees

The Tompkins County Workers’ Center (TCWC) is very heartened by the decision of the National Labor Relations Board to formally recognize private sector graduate students as employees under federal labor law. The TCWC looks forward to working with Cornell graduate students as they seek union representation.

Cornell Graduate Students United, the union for graduate workers at Cornell University, have been an incredibly active force for organizing students at Cornell, and supportive of larger efforts for workers organizing throughout Tompkins County and the region.

[From American Federation of Teachers press release]: The decision in Columbia University to reverse a controversial ruling of the George W. Bush-era board will add momentum to the large-scale graduate organizing effort at Cornell’s Ithaca and Geneva, N.Y., campuses and will help build on CGSU’s positive and productive relationship with the Cornell administration.

Ibrahim Issa, a doctoral student in electrical and computer engineering at Cornell, said “I congratulate the graduate workers at Columbia University, and I believe that this decision will help improve grad workers’ lives. The ability to unionize will help tighten our graduate community and create a common platform where we can work to defend our rights.”

Maria Sapar, a Cornell doctoral student in biochemistry, molecular and cell biology, said “I’m excited about this decision because I want a union here at Cornell. I want all graduate workers to be guaranteed a positive experience, and I’m confident that the graduate worker union is the best path to get us there.”


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‘Black Lives Matter’ Highlighted at 33rd Annual Labor Day Picnic in Ithaca: Monday, September 5th!

(ITHACA) The Tompkins County Workers’ Center and the Midstate Central Labor Council, AFL-CIO, will hold the 33rd Annual Labor Day Picnic from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Monday, September 5th, in Ithaca’s Stewart Park. This year’s picnic theme is “Labor Rights Are Civil Rights”. (Sign in on Facebook.)

This year’s program will include the music of Black Lives Matter – Ithaca Organizer, Sammus, an Ithaca-based rap artist and producer; along with Featured Guest Speaker, and Black Lives Matter – Ithaca Organizer, Professor Russell Rickford, speaking on the links between economic justice and the Movement for Black Lives, as well as local activist folk singer, Colleen Kattau (Gringa Grooves from the Heart).

The picnic is free and everyone is invited. Everyone is asked to bring a dish to share and to enjoy the free burgers (meat and veggie), hot dogs, ice cream and beverages. Labor Movement Logo

The annual awards have become a highlight of the Labor Day Picnic over the years, and this year will be no different. The Mother Jones and Joe Hill awards are presented to people for their activism, organizing, and sacrifice at work. The Friend of Labor award is presented to a member of the community who has spoken out publicly or taken action in support of working people. The notorious Goat of Labor goes to an especially egregious offender of workers’ rights and/or the value of labor to our common good.

Local human service agencies, Living Wage Employers, and other organizations are welcome to have organizing tables at the event (however, please contact in advance). For more information, contact the Workers’ Center at TCWRH@tcworkerscenter.org, 607-269-0409, or via the website, www.TCWorkersCenter.org

Creating Our Sustainable Future: Living Wage Visioning Contest

(ITHACA) The Tompkins County Workers’ Center (TCWC), with support from the Sustainable Tompkins Neighborhood Mini-Grant Program, announces its first-ever “Living Wage Visioning Contest“.  The Contest is open to Tompkins County residents or non-residents 17 years or older who work in the County.  (The current Tompkins County Living Wage for a single individual is $14.34/hour assuming full-time work.) Entries will be accepted from July 1, 2016 through September 15, 2016, with winners announced on September 30, 2016.

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The first place winner will receive $1,250; second place winner will receive $750; and third place, $500.

Contestants are asked to produce an original creative work that gives artistic voice to their vision of how their life and the life of their family would change if they were paid a Living Wage. The forms of creative work that can be submitted into the Contest include visual art, video, song, poster, poem, short story, or essay.

For contest details: www.TCWorkersCenter.org/LWVisioningContest or contact the Workers’ Center at 607-269-0409 or TCWRH@tcworkerscenter.org

Cosponsors:  The Sustainable Tompkins Neighborhood Mini-Grant Program; the Tompkins County Office of Human Rights; and the Multicultural Resource Center.

To download and distribute our 8 1/2 by 11 flyer for the Contest, click on the link below.

TCWC Living Wage Contest

CALL TO ACTION: SWEAT Bill in NYS Legislature to Stop Wage Theft

Almost six years ago, a young woman, Ana Ottoson, working at the Green Cafe in Collegetown in Ithaca, brought to our attention at the that a number of her coworkers from Central America and Mexico were being severely cheated out of their wages. We quickly got in touch with our contacts at the NYS Dept of Labor’s (NYSDOL) Immigrant Policies and Affairs Division about this fact and an investigation commenced immediately of both the Collegetown store as well as the New York City store, uncovering over $1 million in Wage Theft. The NYSDOL was never able to recover these back wages as the owners had gone underground.

Now a coalition of Workers’ Centers and other like-minded organizations in New York (both downstate and Upstate) are working to get the SWEAT (Securing Wages Against Theft) Bill passed which would make it easier to collect on fly-by-night employers who leave their workers hanging for such large amounts of money.

CALL TO ACTION!

Two weeks ago, the SWEAT bill passed the Assembly, now we need your help to get it passed in the Senate. Urge Leader Flanagan to put the SWEAT bill, S2232 on the floor for a vote now! (The Legislative Session ends THIS THURSDAY.)

Call (518) 455-2071 and ask to speak to someone about a request for the Senator to push for a bill to be put on the floor for a vote.

Here’s what you can say:

  • “I am a constituent (or a NYS resident) and I support the SWEAT bill.
  • I am calling to ask Senator Flanagan to put S2232, Securing Wages Earned Against Theft (“SWEAT”), on the floor for a vote before the session ends.
  • Wage theft is rampant in NYS, and exploitative employers too often hide or transfer their assets to avoid paying wages they have stolen from their employees.
  • Even when workers win a court-awarded judgment, they are often unable to collect the money owed to them. This bill will strengthen existing law to help workers collect stolen wages.
  • This is not only good for workers and their families, but also for law-abiding businesses and our state’s economy.”

Share this email with your friends and networks!
What is the SWEAT Bill?
More and more workers are getting cheated of our wages. We’re not getting the minimum wage, or overtime pay, or wages for all the hours that we work. Some estimate that $1 billion a year is stolen from workers in New York City alone. Once workers go to the Department of Labor or file lawsuits, employers are shutting down their businesses (only to reopen under another name), “selling” their homes to family members, filing for bankruptcy and emptying their bank accounts. By the time workers win a settlement agreement or court judgment, employers have hidden all their assets and plead poverty. The SWEAT bill will close loopholes in the laws that allow unscrupulous employers to do this.

Cornell Graduate Employees, Cornell Administration Ink Election Pact

Agreement Is Significant Step Toward Historic Election for Graduate Employees at Private University [Taken from Cornell Graduate Students Union website]

ITHACA, N.Y.—The labor union for graduate employees at Cornell University, Cornell Graduate Students United, announced today it has signed an agreement (link is external) with the Cornell administration that sets out a clear path for a campuswide union campaign and election for about 2,300 graduate employees. The pact could open the way to one of the few collective bargaining agreements for graduate employees at a private university.

The code of conduct, while not granting neutrality as requested by CGSU and its affiliates, New York State United Teachers and the American Federation of Teachers, creates formal election procedures, voter eligibility guidelines and a dispute resolution mechanism to help guide the election process. A joint Union-Management Committee, comprising representatives of both the university and CGSU, will be formed to answer inquiries from members of the Cornell community and address issues as they arise. CGSU

By clearing a path forward, the agreement sets out concrete steps to achieving a productive labor-management relationship as the graduate assistants move toward recognition as Cornell workers with a real say over the terms and conditions of their employment.

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Verizon CEO Protest March and Rally in Ithaca Saturday CANCELLED: Unions and Verizon Reach Agreement

Saturday’s march and rally organized by the Tompkins County Workers’ Center (TCWC) and the CWA (Communication Workers of America) in support of striking union members at Verizon has been called off as the unions and Verizon have come to “an agreement in principle” on a new contract.

The CWA is pleased with the agreement. According to the Union: “Striking CWA members have achieved our major goals of improving working families’ standard of living, creating good union jobs in our communities and achieving a first contract for wireless retail store workers.”  For the full statement see http://www.cwa-union.org/news/releases/striking-verizon-workers-win-big-gains

Jake Lake, President of CWA Local 1111 that represents a good portion of the Southern Tier/Finger Lakes, had this to say: “Thanks to all the members, families, other labor unions, coalition partners, and the general public for the outstanding support in our fight for a fair contract against Verizon. When we stand together and fight, we win!”

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Saturday, 11-5: National Kids and Families Day of Action: Join TCWC to Stand Against Verizon’s Corporate Greed!

Please join the Tompkins County Workers’ Center (TCWC) as we stand together against corporate greed and in support of middle class jobs in solidarity with workers from CWA (Communications Workers of America) who are on strike at Verizon. Their battle is our battle too and they need our help. (See fact sheet here.)

Less than a week ago, the TCWC began it’s ongoing solidarity support with the CWA which we ALSO see as building a public and community space for the larger labor movement (both organized and un-organized) to gather together. The excitement at these ‘actions’ is palpable.

We will be standing with these workers and against corporate greed at the Verizon Wireless store in Ithaca, NY (only one of four corporately-owned stores in the Southern Tier), 720 S. Meadow Street in the Tops Plaza at the following times:

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Workers’ Center Certifies Two New Living Wage Employers: The History Center in Tompkins County and IBEW Local #241

(Ithaca) The Tompkins County Workers’ Center is pleased to announce that it has now recognized 107 area businesses and organizations as Certified Living Wage Employers, with the addition of an historic non-profit and an anchor union in the Ithaca community, and the nine workers at these organizations.

The History Center in Tompkins County traces its origins back to 1863 when Ezra Cornell founded Ithaca, New York’s first historical society. While it has evolved through many guises and incarnations during the 153 years since, it represents successive generations of people who have worked together to preserve and share this community’s local history. LWE

Rod Howe, executive director for the History Center, explains that this perspective is part of why the Center chooses to be a Living Wage Employer. “As an organization that collects history, including folks who have any number of occupations over time, we are cognizant of not wanting to be recorded in our own collections as not paying our employees a livable wage that helps them live today and plan for their future.” While the History Center has paid a living wage for some time, they knew it was important formally to become a part of the Living Wage Employer program, too. “The board felt it was very important to know that we value employees. We may not be able to offer all the benefits that we want, but a full Living Wage is at least what our staff is worth.”

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Tuesday, May 24th @ 8:30: NLRB Hearings to Resume Thru Day: CMC Nurses Federal ‘Unfair Labor Practices’ Hearing Begins

What: National Labor Relations Board Hearing Against Cayuga Medical Center (CMC) for federal Unfair Labor Practices (ULPs) Continues

Where: 214 W. State St, Ithaca (County Office for Aging, corner Albany and W. MLK/State)

When: 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 24th. Open to the Public

Come support our nurses! See details below about CMC Nurses campaign.


The unionization campaign launched by registered nurses at Cayuga Medical Center (CMC) in 2015 is ongoing and building momentum with support from others within the hospital and community. Many private homes and businesses in Tompkins, Cortland, and Cayuga Counties proudly display yard signs supporting the union effort (you too can get one at the Workers’ Center!).

Ken Franklin, originally from Ithaca with strong family ties to the community, and organizer with 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, underscores why nurses’ unions are so important. “When RNs have a voice, patient care and health outcomes improve immensely. CMC’s dollars should be spent improving care and defending the health and lives of the community, not fighting a union campaign.”

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Town of Dryden Endorses Push for a Countywide Living Wage

The Dryden Town Board, by a unanimous 5-0 vote, has called on the Tompkins County Legislature to move toward establishing the Living Wage as the Minimum Wage for all employees working within the county borders.  The vote took place at the Dryden Town Board meeting on Thursday, April 21st.

The Town of Dryden  is the fourth local government body to heed the call of the Tompkins County Workers’ Center (TCWC) which has been organizing to mandate the county’s Living Wage of $14.34 as the new Minimum Wage. Both the Town and the City of Ithaca as well as the Town of Caroline previously also voted to also endorse a County Living Wage. Together these locales who support this measure comprise approximately 67% of the County’s population.

“A lot of the work I do in my law practice is to work with the working poor”, said Jason Leifer, Dryden Town Supervisor.  “There are many people working 30-40 hours a week and they are not able to meet their family’s needs and they’re still getting services from the County. The current minimum wage enables big companies to get away with not paying people what they should and the public side has to make up the difference. Had I grown up in Dryden, I would’ve been one of the 46% that received free and reduced lunch in the Dryden Central School District.”

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