Winning a living wage for Milton Webb and the other Recycling Center workers is a great victory. But what about the thousands of other retail, food service, health care, education, hotel, manufacturing and agricultural workers that are still paid poverty wages?
Tompkins is really two counties. While a portion of the population thrives, many more face low wages, growing inequality, erosion of middle-class jobs, housing costs through the roof and the institutionalization of a low-wage service economy.
Our Workers’ Center has struggled with these problems for years. There is only one sustainable and sure solution and that is raising the minimum wage to a living wage. Too many workers in our community cannot get by nor can they support their families adequately on wages that are in many cases as much as one-third less than a living wage.
We are talking about raising the minimum wage to a living wage in Tompkins County for all workers employed in Tompkins County. If you are now paid $8.75 or $9.50 or $12.00, imagine how much another $2,000 to $8,000 a year would mean to your or your family? That’s the additional amount you would get if you actually received a living wage.
We can raise the minimum wage here in Tompkins County. Will it be easy? Hell no! We will need hundreds if not thousands of workers to come and stand with us. Are you willing to “Get Up! Stand Up!” for a living wage? To sign our petition. To join us at the picket line or at a rally. To speak to your neighbors, friends and family. To speak to your County legislator. To help with mailings. To write letters. If every one reading this newsletter is willing to do at least one of these things, we can raise the minimum wage to a living wage in Tompkins County.
The Tompkins County Workers’ Center (TCWC) runs a Workers Rights Hotline. We have had numerous complaints from workers over the years about the increased use of Debit Cards as the way in which workers are being paid (especially in retail and service industries). (Read this excellent Opinion Piece, Another Fight for Fair Pay in New York, in Tuesday’s New York Times.)
Some of the problems with Debit Card payroll are:
*workers being FORCED to accept their wages on payroll cards;
*big banks and other payroll card issuers are charging workers high and hidden fees simply to access their own wages;
*other payroll card abuses.
The New York State Department of Labor (DOL) is presently receiving Public Comment on stringent new rules that the DOL is contemplating that would govern the use of Debit Cards as being a way that workers are paid. The TCWC is asking you, if you live in the State of New York, to send this email (see link below: FEEL FREE TO EDIT the email) to the DOL by Friday, July 31st to register your desire. To Take Action, please click here and feel free to edit your comments: http://afl.salsalabs.com/o/4023/c/200/p/dia/action3/common/public/?action_KEY=10357 (alternatively, emails can be sent to email@example.com)
On Sunday, July 26th, from 6-9 p.m., the Tompkins County Workers’ Center (TCWC) presents the Joe Hill 100 Roadshow! Featured artists are Magpie (Terry Leonino & Greg Artzner), George Mann, and special guests, the Burns Sisters ‘live’ at The Space at GreenStar, 700 W. Buffalo St. in Ithaca.
This concert is part of a national concert tour honoring the centenary of famous Wobbly/IWW singer/songwriter Joe Hill’s execution, and will feature classic Labor and Folk Songs. The concert will support the TCWC’s campaign to Make the Minimum Wage a Living Wage in Tompkins County!
Doors open at 6:00 pm, and the show starts at 7:00. The suggested donation is $15, but no guest will be turned away for a lack of funds! Purchase tickets in advance here by clicking on the ticket and let us know that you’re donation is for the ticket. More information about the event can be found at www.tcworkerscenter.org. More info about the tour itself can be found at www.joehill100.com
The new Tompkins County Living Wage, way beyond what many people are actually paid, makes it crystal clear that Tompkins is really two counties. Too many people in Tompkins County do not have an income that approaches the living wage – many earn as little as half that – and they, their families, and our overall quality of life suffer as a result. The preponderance of poverty-wage jobs in Tompkins County tears at the fabric of our community and increases the tax burden on all families.
Some will say, “It’s too complicated” or “It’s too difficult” or “It will never happen.” But you know what is really complicated and difficult? It is trying to live and even perhaps being a good parent on $10/hour.
The Tompkins County Public Library; Ironwood Builders of Ithaca, LLC; and McBooks Press, Inc, employ a total of 53 workers; this brings the total of workers, countywide and regionally, who are working for Living Wage Employers up to over 3,041 people.
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.
The Tompkins County Workers’ Center played an important and supportive role in the larger Tompkins County community in support of the the Ithaca College Adjunct Professor’s campaign. Below is a story from an excellent online news source in Tompkins County, the Ithaca Voice.
ITHACA, N.Y. — Ithaca College’s part-time faculty has voted to form a union, according to Sarah Grunberg, who teaches in IC’s Department of Sociology.
“It’s a huge thing for Ithaca College and for the whole community,” said Grunberg, who has been involved in the push to form a union. “We’re incredibly happy, excited and proud.”
Grunberg is in Buffalo with other part-time Ithaca College faculty, who learned on Thursday about the results of the vote. The final vote was 172 in favor of unionization and 53 opposed, according to Grunberg.
The vote follows several months of advocacy and planning from organizers. Those leading the unionization push have said part-time IC faculty face low pay, long hours and poor healthcare benefits that a union would help correct.
The IC part-time faculty will be joining the national union SEIU, according to Grunberg.
“We’re taking this route to create better standards for all part-timers,” Grunberg said.
As previously reported by the Ithaca Voice: Ithaca College is hardly alone in facing criticism for the level of pay for its adjuncts. Last year, Chronicle of Higher Education reporter Sydni Dunn highlighted a 36-page report from Congress noting the “alarming” state of adjunct labor.
“Contingent faculty often earn low salaries with few or no benefits, are forced to maintain difficult schedules to make ends meet, face unclear paths for career development, and enjoy little to no job security,” the report stated.
The school’s administration has said that it “supports its employees exercising their rights under the National Labor Relations Act to vote on whether or not they wish to be represented by a labor organization.”
Legal Assistance of Western New York, Inc., and the Tompkins County Workers’ Center, are co-facilitating a presentation and discussion focusing on ways to reduce barriers to employment for those who were formerly incarcerated. Please join us at the Tompkins County Library’s Borg Warner Room on May 28th from 4:30pm-6pm. All are welcome.
In most cases it is illegal to discriminate against employees and/or job applicants based on prior criminal conviction, and we hope that in sharing our knowledge we can help support successful reentry efforts in our community.
80% of employers now run criminal background checks before hiring job applicants
Excluding people with criminal convictions from employment and fair pay segregates and marginalizes our communities
In New York, people with criminal convictions are protected by law from employment discrimination, including: blanket policies against hiring people with felony or theft convictions
(ITHACA) We at the Tompkins County Workers’ Center (TCWC) support the effort of part-time faculty at Ithaca College to gain a meaningful voice at work. The growing corporatization of academia in America is making education more and more into a commodity and imposing an employment model on faculty that is more akin to big business than a university.
One effect of this corporate model is that the number of part-time faculty positions has grown astronomically while working conditions – including inadequate pay, non-existent benefits, no job security, a fear of dismissal diminishing academic freedom, and a lack of meaningful input into key decisions – impose heavy burdens on the part-timers.
These undesirable working conditions affect part-time faculty at Ithaca College as elsewhere. Having a part-time faculty union at Ithaca College would be an important step in democratizing the College and improving working conditions. It would also show part-time faculty at other colleges, and even full-time faculty, that meaningful change is possible.
We were shocked recently to learn from a University of California study that because they are not paid a living wage as many as one-quarter of all part-time faculty nationally depend on some form of public assistance. Other studies indicate that despite ever-rising tuition, nearly a third of part-time faculty earn less than a living wage.
Featured in our Spring '07 Newsletter, Greg came to the Center for help in his job where he experienced discrimination. Standing up for himself, and with the Workers' Center, Greg is a shining example of how we must learn to stand up for ourselves, but do it along with others.