News

31st Annual Labor Day Picnic in Ithaca: Building a Strong Local Economy for Workers

The Tompkins County Workers’ Center and the Midstate Central Labor Council, AFL-CIO, will hold the 31st annual Labor Day Picnic from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Monday, September 1st, in Ithaca’s Stewart Park.

The Workers’ Center and and Labor Council invite the community to join them and enjoy free picnic fare, music, and presentations of awards. This year’s theme is: Building a Strong Local Economy for Workers. Music featuring the famed Richie Stearns and the Evil City String Band.

Labor Movement Logo

For thirty years, this Labor Day event has brought hundreds of workers, their families, and community members together to celebrate solidarity and to recognize the contributions workers make to our community every day.

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, beverages, and ice cream.

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 by responding to this email, via our website, www.TCWorkersCenter.org, or by calling 607-269-0409.

Tompkins County Workers’ Center Certifies Foodnet’s Meals on Wheels as Living Wage-Certified

(Ithaca) The Tompkins County Workers’ Center is pleased to announce that we now have certified 85 employers as being Living Wage Employers, having just added the following:

Foodnet’s Meals on Wheels, 2422 N. Triphammer Road, Ithaca

Foodnet’s Meals on Wheels employ a total of 23 workers; this brings the total of workers, countywide and regionally, who are working for Living Wage Employers up to over 2,905 people.

Foodnet’s ability to become a Certified Living Wage Employer was made possible partially by the Tompkins County Workers’ Center’s campaign, along with Solid Waste workers, Stanley McPherson and Milton Webb in 2013, to ensure that all County-contracted workers (of which Foodnet workers are) are paid a Living Wage. A $100,000 Living Wage Contingency Fund was created in 2013 to help such employers gain the extra income needed to ensure they could pay a Living Wage.

FoodNet executive director Stephen Griffin said of the increase, “We’re really happy to get up to this level, and we intend to keep up with it.” He noted that his board and he have worked hard to make the organization financially sustainable and to create full-time jobs with good benefits, which he sees as crucially important to the organization and to the people FoodNet serves. He recognizes the wisdom of providing decent wages to reduce staff turnover and to make for a happier workplace.

Kiehara Hunter, a driver and food preparer at FoodNet, agrees that her agency is a great place to work staffed by friendly people. As a mother of two young children, she is grateful for the recent increase that brought her wage up to $12.62/hour. “We are helping the needy so it was a very good experience to see that FoodNet is giving us a raise.”

The Workers’ Center initiated the Living Wage Employer Certification Program in 2006 to publicly recognize and reward those employers who pay a living wage. Any employer in the private, public, and non-profit sectors is eligible to apply. With your help, we can provide incentives for other employers in our community! Please go to http://www.tcworkerscenter.org/community/certified-employers/ to find out which employers are Living Wage-Certified, as well as to download criteria and an application form.

Tompkins Workers’ Center Certifies Five New Employers as Living Wage

The Tompkins County Workers’ Center is pleased to announce that we now have certified 84 employers as being Living Wage Employers, having just added the following five:

Town of Danby, 1830 Danby Road, Ithaca
Quintile Biosciences, 19 Brown Road, Ithaca
Miller Mayer Law Office, 202 E. State Street, Ithaca
Ithaca Oral Surgery and Implant Care, 1301 Trumansburg Road, Ithaca
Avalon Homes, 950 Danby Road, Ithaca

The five new Living Wage-Certified Employers employ a total of 233 workers; this brings the total of workers, countywide and regionally, who are working for Living Wage Employers up to over 2,882 people.

LWE

The Workers’ Center initiated the Living Wage Employer Certification Program in 2006 to publicly recognize and reward those employers who pay a living wage. Any employer in the private, public, and non-profit sectors is eligible to apply. With your help, we can provide incentives for other employers in our community! Please go to http://www.tcworkerscenter.org/community/certified-employers/ to find out which employers are Living Wage-Certified, as well as to download criteria and an application form.

Weekly TV Show On Cable Access: What Matters at the Round Table: Working for a Living Wage in Tompkins County

Two workers, Milton Webb and Stanley McPherson, from the Tompkins County Solid Waste Facility, who have helped to spearhead efforts, along with the Tompkins County Workers’ Center, to ensure that all Tompkins County ‘contracted workers’ are paid a Living Wage, host a weekly TV Show on Time Warner Cable.

Tuesdays at 7:30pm and Wednesdays at 9pm
on Community Access TV Channel 13 (w/TWC provided Digital Adapter) & Channel 97-3 (new TV’s)

Length: 30 minutes

Stanley McPherson, right, and Milton Webb, left

Stanley McPherson, right, and Milton Webb, left

For a complete Schedule of shows on Cable Access, go to http://pegasys.webstarts.com/channel_13.html

Tompkins County Stands with Fast Food Workers @ McDonalds in Ithaca: Thursday, May 15th from Noon to 1 p.m.(#fastfoodglobal)

Fast food workers are standing up all over the world this Thursday, May 15th, to demand a Living Wage for all fast food workers, the right to organize a union, and against Wage Theft. In Ithaca, our presence will be at the McDonald’s at 372 Elmira Road on Route 13 close to Buttermilk Falls from 12 noon to 1 p.m.

Join the Tompkins County Workers’ Center and the Labor-Religion Coalition of the Finger Lakes as we stand witness to this growing global movement to hold fast food restaurant owners accountable to the communities they operate in.
5.15.14
From local Unitiarian-Universalist Minister, Darcey Laine: “Recently McDonald’s workers filed seven class-action lawsuites in New York, California and Michigan over Wage Theft violations. One employee in California states that sometimes he was ordered to punch out soon after starting work and to hang around unpaid. [In fact, the New York State Attorney General's office in April 2014 settled for $500,000 with one franchise owner in NYC for exactly the same sort of thing.]

If you are a victim of Wage Theft, or otherwise angry at your low wages, and work in the larger Tompkins County area, please give our Workers Rights Hotline a call at 607-269-0409 or email us at TCWRH@tcworkerscenter.org, or see our Workers Rights Handbook online at http://www.tcworkerscenter.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/may2010wrhb.pdf.

Tompkins County Legislature Approves First Expenditure Out of County Living Wage Contingency Fund

The Tompkins County Legislature, in a 12-1 vote on Tuesday, May 6th, approved the first proposed subcontractor, Foodnet’s Meals on Wheels Program, receiving additional funding of $16,500 to bring its’ 22 workers up to the Tompkins County Living Wage ($12.62/hour with health insurance; $13.94 without).

The Tompkins County Workers’ Center (TCWC) had lobbied long and hard last year, along with the incredible stand taken by ReCommunity Recycling workers, Milton Webb and Stanley McPherson, to get the County to approve a Living Wage Contingency Fund of $100,000 to get the ball rolling on ensuring that all County-contracted workers are paid a Living Wage.

Since this is an ongoing campaign, the TCWC continues to push forward. Thus we ask if you live in Tompkins County and agree that all County-contracted workers should be paid a Living Wage, to sign our petition here. (While TCWC would certainly prefer that all workers in the County get paid a living wage based on having a statutory minimum wage that was a living wage, it is not legally possibly for a County in NYS to have its own minimum wage without specific ‘state-enabling legislation’.)

Monday, 4/28 Workers’ Memorial Day in Ithaca to Feature NY Dairy Farmworker and OSHA Area Director

April 28 is Workers’ Memorial Day, which is when we remember those who have suffered and died on the job from workplace injuries and diseases. Nearly 5,000 workers die on the job in the U.S. every year. This year’s event is in memory of Francisco Ortiz, a Mexican dairy farmworker who was killed on a Town of Ithaca farm on February 5, 2013. Ortiz was pulled into a moving augur, a preventable tragedy. How can we stop these tragedies?

On Monday, April 28th, a speaker’s panel, followed by community response, will be talking about the dire situation of dairy farmworkers in Upstate New York. The event will take place from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. in the Borg-Warner Room at the Tompkins County Public Library (101 E. Green St., Ithaca) featuring the following speakers:

**Jose Canas: New York Dairy Farmworker; and
**Christopher Adams, Area Director of the Occupational Health and Safety Administration, OSHA, who will explain the Local Emphasis Program, which is to educate New York dairy farm owners about their responsibilities under OSHA and begin selected farm inspections in July 2014.
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The Future of Work

“It is fundamental to any conception of democracy that workers have freedom at work and a voice in the democratic process. Too many of today’s workers lack both. The result: rising inequality, plummeting wages and working conditions, and a national anxiety that defines our generation.” (from the National Guestworker Alliance)

Several weeks ago, TCWC staffers Carlos Gutierrez and Pete Meyers traveled to the Ford Foundation in NYC for a three-day conference on The Future of Work, looking at issues facing an ever-increasing swath of workers whom could be broadly defined as ‘contingent workers’. It was one of those conferences that was both exciting and tremendously depressing. Exciting because of the players, nationally, that are beginning to organize a new response to where we are going as a society, work-wise. Depressing because we, as a society, are entering into an era of work that threatens to seriously undermine workers rights and any ability to live in dignity.

Spurred on initially by the National Guestworker Alliance (NGA), and now joined by Jobs with Justice, and the National People’s Action Network, the Future of Work campaign (under which the TCWC is one of 14 Workers’ Center’s to be participating) endeavors to create a national and international campaign. The proposed campaign addresses the employment issues that are ultimately all interrelated and connected to, as Saket Soni, Executive Director of the NGA says: the “corporate power that is driving this change in employment, which shifts the cost and responsibility to the shoulders of workers.”

We estimate that roughly 50% of the people who contact our Workers’ Rights Hotline are contingent workers in one form or another, and we have built campaigns around some of these cases in the past. Some examples of contingent work, broadly defined, include:
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Living Wage Community Celebration on 1/29!

The Tompkins County Workers’ Center (TCWC) announces that it will hold a Community Celebration on Wednesday, January 29th, from 5:30 to 7 p.m. at the Workers’ Center (115 The Commons/E. Martin Luther King Jr. Street in Ithaca) where free pizza, beer, and wine will be served. The purpose of the celebration is to honor two recent and significant victories in the TCWC’s Living Wage work:

-The successful Living Wage Employer Certification of the City of Ithaca in early December 2013 (the TCWC’s 93rd Living Wage Employer);

-The decision of the Tompkins County Legislature to set up a $100,000 Living Wage Contingency Fund as part of its 2014 Budget in order to begin helping those employers that contract with the County, who couldn’t otherwise afford it, to pay their workers a Living Wage. The County itself is a long-standing Certified Living Wage Employer;
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IMPORTANT VICTORY: Dairy Farmworkers Advocate For and Win Special OSHA Program to Enforce Health and Safety on NYS Dairy Farms

[Editor's Note: This special news is a result of a growing Alliance of Upstate New York Workers' Centers. Rebecca Fuentes works with the Central New York Workers' Center based in Syracuse, and Carly Fox works with the Workers Justice Center of NY. The Tompkins County Workers' Center is proud to be a part of this growing collaboration of Workers' Centers based in Upstate New York!]

By Carly Fox & Rebecca Fuentes

“We are all human beings. We all live under the same sky. The only thing that is different about us is a piece of paper. The owners of the dairy farms aren’t the ones milking the cows. We are milking the cows. We are working overnight shifts, milking hundreds of thousands of cows every day. And we know that the dairy industry in New York State is thriving because of our hard work. All we are asking for is respect.” Augusto, dairy farmworker
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