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!!
In this past year we have been able to:
- certify 10 new Businesses as Certified Living Wage Employers, bringing up our total Living Wage Employers to 88 (2,293 workers work for these 88 employers);
- worked with the national organization, Interfaith Worker Justice, to roll out our Living Wage Employer Program nationally;
- had funds from the Tompkins County Living Wage Contingency Fund to expand a Living Wage for County-contracted workers at Foodnet’s Meals on Wheels Program as well as for the Suicide Prevention Hotline;
- trained over 120 local immigrant and vulnerable workers in their Occupational Health and Safety rights (and increasing this number to 180 in the coming year).
We know that we have a long long way to go to achieve our vision, and we’re asking for your support. We will not be satisfied until:
- every single employer in Tompkins County is a Living Wage Employer. regardless of industry;
- until every single one of us is treated fairly in the workplace with the right to organize a union if we so choose.
Our goal of $10,000 between now and the end of the year is simply to sustain the immense amount of work that our victories require and intensify our victories into the near future.
National organizations have reached out to the TCWC seeking our partnership and recognizing us as being an important and visionary grassroots organization. Organizations such as Jobs with Justice; Interfaith Worker Justice; the AFL-CIO; and the Future of Work/Contingent Workers campaign as spearheaded by the National Guestworkers Alliance through its New Worker Alliance.
We ask for your support. Grant money is scarce for community organizing work such as ours that focuses on economic justice. We come to you because we know that you care and support the changes we want to see: locally, regionally, nationally, and internationally.
Please give whatever you can so that we can meet this year’s fundraising goal. You can make a one-time donation, or consider becoming a Monthly or Quarterly Sustainer. No amount is too big or small, since every penny counts in making our community a better and more equitable place to live and work. We want our friends and neighbors to not just survive, but thrive! What’s good for one is good for all!
Click on image below to understand the Vision of the TCWC in ONE MINUTE!
On Black Friday, 2014, 15 (including two locally-elected officials) of the 100 people organizing for economic justice outside of the Ithaca Wal-Mart present a letter to the Wal-Mart Store Manager, Floyd Bump, stating our demand that Wal-Mart pay its workers at least $15/hour and offer full time to workers. (Photo: Paul Gottleib)
More about the Tompkins County Workers’ Center
Community Union Organizers
With at least one-quarter of working families in Tompkins County paid less than a living wage, the foundation of our work is building support for a living wage for all, as well as improving benefits and working conditions for low-wage workers in the local retail and service sectors. The Community Union Organizers (CUO’s) are a leadership group that is comprised of workers from retail and service sectors to help ‘raise the bar’ of what such workers should expect in terms of pay and treatment. Our Living Wage victory with Ithaca College, and specifically the Sodexo Corporation, in the summer of 2011, is a shining example of some of the work of the CUO’s.
Workers’ Rights Hotline
We provide free and confidential information, referral and advocacy assistance to workers who feel they have been treated unfairly. There is no other source for this service in Tompkins County and even regionally, and our client load is now close to 300 annually, increasing every month. Since the inception of this program in 2003, we have won judgments of over $1,230,000 in ‘wage theft’ cases for over 250 workers. As a result of this work we published a Restaurant Owners Manual to foster legal and fair employment practices, which is distributed by the Tompkins County Department of Health. We are also using our Workers’ Rights Hotline as a way to deepen our Membership base and inspire those most directly affected by economic injustice to get involved in community organizing to change our collective situation. Most recently, we have been successful in helping over 100 workers combined organize their own unions (at Tompkins Community Action; New Roots Charter School; and a third one that is just about to be announced)—both stemming from our work on the Hotline!
Living Wage Employer Certification
This program certifies employers who meet our Living Wage Guidelines (updated by Alternatives Federal Credit Union in May 2013 to $12.62/hour with health insurance, and $13.94/hour without insurance). Modeled on Fair Trade certification programs, our program seeks to provide incentives and benefits to employers who pay or seek to pay a living wage. Since 2006, 88 employers, with over 2,900 workers, have been approved for certification (10 new employers in 2014 alone!). The City of Ithaca became a Living Wage Employer in November of 2013! Look for “Living Wage-Certified” in store windows or look on our website for the list of certified businesses.
Service Learning in Social Justice
This program provides service learning opportunities about social justice for hundreds of university, college, and secondary school students in Tompkins County. We provide internships and volunteer experiences to numerous college students at Ithaca College, Cornell University, and TC3. Several years ago, the TCWC has helped to ‘seed’ the Labor Initiative in Promoting Solidarity student-led organization at Ithaca College, a group that has been instrumental in raising issues around Sodexho dining service workers at Ithaca College, their working conditions and their lack of a Living Wage. As mentioned above, this campaign for a Living Wage was victorious in the summer of 2011!
Occupational Health and Safety Issues
Through the support of the Occupational Health Clinical Center (OHCC) and the national Interfaith Worker Justice organization in Syracuse, NY, and Chicago, respectively, the Workers’ Center is educating workers locally on occupational health and safety issues, as well as the services offered by the OHCC. In addition, we have recently been successful in securing Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) funding via the Midstate Education and Service Foundation; this has enabled us to hire a Latino organizer to provide training to local immigrant and vulnerable workers.
Peace and Justice Center
Aware of the need to develop the “infrastructure” for social justice organizing, we support fledgling organizations that advocate for social justice by providing office space and services to groups like Cultura Ithaca project; DIY Resource Center; the Civic Ensemble; Veterans Fellowship of Reconciliation; Ithaca Democratic Socialists of America; MoveOn.org-Fingerlakes Council; Move to Amend: Legalize Democracy.
Labor-Religion Coalition of the Finger Lakes
The Labor-Religion Coalition (LRC) is a collaborative project between the Workers’ Center and Catholic Charities’ Justice and Peace Program as well as local clergy, union members, and members of various faith-based communities. The LRC educates, organizes and conducts outreach among people of faith calling on all to respond to the need for justice in our community. You may have seen our bumper sticker around the community, “A Living Wage Is A Moral Value”.
The Tompkins County Workers’ Center is affiliated with the national Jobs with Justice network (www.jwj.org); the New York State Labor-Religion Coalition (www.labor-religion.org); Interfaith Worker Justice (www.iwj.org); and is the 11th Workers’ Center affiliate of the AFL-CIO.