(Ithaca) The Tompkins County Workers’ Center is pleased to announce that we now have certified 93 employers as being Living Wage Employers, having just recently added the latest three such employers:
- Schlather, Stumbar, Parks, and Salk (law firm); 200. E. Buffalo Street, Ithaca;
- Town of Caroline, 2668 Slaterville Road, Brooktondale;
- Viridius Property, 317 N. Aurora Street, Ithaca
Viridius Properties, the Town of Caroline, and Schlather, Stumbar, Parks, and Salk employ a total of 27 workers; this brings the total of workers, countywide and regionally, who are working for Living Wage Employers up to over 2,957 people.
Says Don Barber, Supervisor for the Town of Caroline: “I am pleased to have the two organizations where I have had leadership roles, Sunny Brook Builders and now the Town of Caroline, recognized as Living Wage Employers. Pulling this off, in the municipal property tax environment combined with the austerity seeking neo-liberal political environment in Washington and Albany, was no small feat. I am pleased to be joined by a Town Board that recognizes government’s role is to serve the people. Paying and encouraging all employers to pay a living wage is honorable service.”
All workers in the State of New York should make a Living Wage. Everyone. The restaurant industry, however, has historically been given a special dispensation that allows it to pay a sub-minimum wage. Now the New York State Hospitality Wage Board has made its recommendations which are a step in the right direction, including increasing all ‘tipped workers’ to $7.50/hour. This is a 50% increase in the tipped wage. This increase is so important because waitstaff in New York currently earn less than half the median wage for all workers; far less than a Living Wage. The Governor and the Commissioner of the Department of Labor need to hear from you by February 20th! The restaurant industry is mobilizing to quash this important increase. That’s why this Action Alert is so important.
The Tompkins County Workers’ Center (TCWC) will hold a Community Celebration on Thursday, February 12th, 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 entire community is invited! The purpose of the celebration is to celebrate our victories in 2014, including:
- our collective victory, starring Milton Webb and Stanley McPherson; the Tompkins County Workers’ Center and its supporters; along with the important work of the County Legislature and County government to ensure that workers at the Casella Solid Waste Recycling facility are all paid a Living Wage (beginning on 2/3/15). This is part of the larger victory as related to the County Living Wage Contingency Fund which saw workers at Foodnet’s Meals on Wheels; Suicide Prevention Hotline; and Tompkins Literacy Partners all being newly-guaranteed a Living Wage as a result of a County contract;
- assisting in the organization of a union, through our Workers Rights Hotline, at the Ithaca Health Alliance, which decided to ‘voluntarily recognize’ the unanimous non-managerial worker desire to organize. Our Hotline handles approximately 300 cases a year, which is quite high given the size of our community;
- educating the larger community, based on a case that came through our Worker’s Rights Hotline as to the prevalence of abuse of laws around ‘salaried/exempt’ workers is in our community and society (as of 12/31/14, a worker living in New York cannot be considered ‘salaried/exempt’ if making under $656.25/week.) Many employers misclassify workers as salaried/exempt as a way to avoid paying overtime;
The Tompkins County Workers’ Center is pleased to announce that we now have certified 90 employers as being Living Wage Employers, having just recently added the latest five such employers:
• Sunny Days of Ithaca, 123 S. Cayuga Street, Ithaca;
• Court Street Chiropractic of Ithaca, 122 W.Court Street, Ithaca;
• St. Paul’s United Methodist Church and St. Paul’s Nursery School, 402 N. Aurora Street, Ithaca;
• Trumansburg Community Nursery School, P.O. Box 18, Trumansburg; and,
• Weaver Wind Energy, 233 Cherry Street, Ithaca.
Since 2003, when the-then Tompkins County Living Wage Coalition (now the Tompkins County Workers’ Center/TCWC) worked with the Tompkins County Legislature to pass a Living Wage Resolution, the following things have happened:
- in 2006, the County became one of our first Certified Living Wage Employers (the TCWC was the first organization nationally to start a Living Wage Employer Certification program). The County was by far our largest Certified Employer at the time (and continues to this day) with over 750 employees;
- in October 2012, Milton Webb and Stanley McPherson, both workers at the-then ReCommunity Recycling (now operated by Casella Waste Systems) approached the TCWC wondering why, if they were working doing the business of the County, that they weren’t being paid a Living Wage (at the time, they were making $8.00/hour). We at the TCWC explained to them that we could mount a campaign to ensure that all County-contracted workers would be paid a Living Wage, but that we would need them as workers to truly make such a campaign a success;
On December 31, 2014, the New York State minimum wage will increase from $8.00/hour to $8.75/hour. The minimum wage will then increase again on 12/31/15 to $9.00/hour in New York. Click on this link to go to the NYS Department of Labor website.
The Fiscal Policy Institute (FPI) estimates that 7.3% of the Tompkins County population (or 3,800 people) will be directly affected by this increase. On a statewide level, the FPI estimates that 10.1% of the population (or 880,00o) will be directly affected by the increase.
If you are a worker who doesn’t see your wage increase on December 31, 2014, please contact the Tompkins County Workers’ Center Workers Rights Hotline at 607-269-0409 and we will help you to rectify the situation!
(Ithaca) A year and a half ago, Milton Webb and Stanley McPherson, two workers with ReCommunity Recycling (which was taken over by Casella Waste Systems in early 2014), a subcontractor with the Tompkins County Solid Waste Division, approached the Tompkins County Workers’ Center (TCWC) wondering why they weren’t making a Living Wage, considering the fact that they were doing the business of the County, which is a Certified Living Wage Employer. After a joint campaign that was made possible by the teamwork of an absolute variety of players, today we celebrate a huge victory in the step to ensure that all Tompkins County ‘contracted workers’ are paid a Living Wage.
The details of the victory include an allocation from the Tompkins County Legislature’s Living Wage Contingency Fund of $20,000, as well as a commitment to pay a Living Wage coming from Casella Waste Systems. Casella estimates that it will cost an additional $105,000/year to increase all their workers to a Living Wage. The agreement will enable workers at the County’s Recycling and Solid Waste Center to all be paid a Living Wage (presently $12.62/hour or $13.94 without health insurance) beginning in early February 2015. The allocation, just approved at today’s Facilities and Infrastructure Committee by a unanimous 5-0 vote, will now go to a full Legislature vote on Tuesday, January 6th.
This successful campaign is a great example of the ‘concerted action’ of two workers in the workplace acting in solidarity with each other, and in coordination with a community campaign as organized by the TCWC alongside many supportive County Legislative members. As Casella worker, Milton Webb says: “This was a team effort with the Workers’ Center and the Legislature. From the bottom of our hearts, Stanley and I want to say thank you. (Listen to audio: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kKOgY8RcRuM)
As the Tompkins County Workers’ Center (TCWC) enters into its 13th year, we celebrate our victories, and yet realize just how far we have to go in order to fulfill our Vision: a Living Wage and workers’ rights for all. We could have accomplished none of this without you, our loyal supporters. Please consider supporting our efforts today by clicking on the Donate button below. (If you become a Monthly Sustainer, we have 2 Matching Grants that will match what you are able to give over a year’s time!)
A smattering of our victories include:
- successfully exerting pressure on the Sodexo Corporation to pay a Living Wage to all its dining service workers at Ithaca College;
- becoming the first organization nationally to start a Living Wage Employer Certification program;
- securing judgments of over $1.25 million in Wage Theft actions from employers in Tompkins County;
- holding the largest hair salon corporation, Regis, accountable for its illegal ‘yellow dog contracts';
- through our Worker’s Rights Hotline, successfully laying the groundwork for three successful union organizing drives, including one very recent one within the past week. Our Hotline handles approximately 300 cases a year.
We could have done absolutely none of this without you, our loyal supporters in Tompkins County and beyond. We raise an unusually high amount of our funds from our local grassroots supporters such as you, up to 40% in this past year alone!!
Over 100 People Brave Cold on Black Friday in Ithaca to Demand Wal-Mart Take Lead in $15/Hour and Full Time Work
(Ithaca) Over 100 people gathered for two hours in sub-freezing conditions this past Friday on Black Friday in Ithaca, outside of the Ithaca Wal-Mart, to call Wal-Mart to task over it’s low wages and lack of full time work for those workers who want to work full time. Recognizing that Wal-Mart is not the only big-box store to engage in egregious labor practices, the organizers of the rally which included the Tompkins County Workers’ Center, the Central New York Area Labor Federation, AFL-CIO; the Labor-Religion Coalition of the Finger Lakes; and the Midstate Central Labor Council, focus on Wal-Mart because of its leadership our nation’s retail industries.
At the end of the two hour protest, one of over 2200 such protests nationally, fifteen or so of the protestors (including two elected officials, Cynthia Brock, 1st Ward Councilperson for the City of Ithaca and Town of Caroline Board Member, John Fraccia) delivered a letter on behalf of all those outside, and in the community, stating our demands. The text of the letter can be found below.
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