From Matt Stupak:
I first came to the Workers’ Center as a new union member. I had never been in a union before, and had not been educated about organized labor in my school or life experience. I heard the Workers’ Center was a resource for all work-related issues, and had helped organize my union (the Gimme Baristas’ Union) in the first place.
Shortly after joining, I became involved in my union’s efforts for better pay and working conditions. It wasn’t a bad job, indeed much better than much of the work I’ve had before, but there is inequity in power and voice in every workplace.
I had always felt something was amiss with the relationship between workers and owners. Why do those who do most of the lifting receive the smallest share of the earnings, and the smallest voice in the company?
Organizing the union alongside my coworkers forced me to find new ways of thinking about self-respect, dignity, and power. Fighting for a stronger say in the workplace opened me up to new modes of action and relating to my fellow workers. That tangible solidarity warmed a whole new part of my soul.
I’ve had a chance to see how the Workers’ Center offers that solidarity to all workers, especially those not in a union of their own. Many of us accept exploitation and unfair treatment as the way things are. Our economy has seen a long erosion of worker power, growing inequality, and fewer opportunities for social mobility. When workers decide to fight back, they usually don’t have a union to turn to. Many of us don’t even know what our rights are.
Four months ago, I began volunteering on the Workers’ Rights Hotline to help folks ready to take a stand. I’ve seen many creative ways employers flout or work around laws, and some of the ways to stop them.
At this point I can help most callers with whatever problems they present, but often this help is only possible because of the reputation and institutional knowledge the Workers’ Center has with the New York Department of Labor and other organizations. I learned the Hotline helps workers in this county file more complaints than workers file on their own.
If the Workers’ Center weren’t here, where would these people turn for help? How many experiences of injustice would go unchallenged?
While it’s my personal passion, worker advocacy and organizing is only a part of what we do. From the Living Wage campaign and certification program, to occupational safety and health trainings, this community is stronger and more just because of the Workers’ Center.
TCWC Leadership Team
From Chris Hanna
As a Board Member (called Leadership Team) at the Tompkins County Workers’ Center (TCWC) for the past year, and as a Senior at Cornell University, I want to spread the word about today’s one-day Giving is Gorges crowdfunding bonanza for the TCWC. Many of you are already involved in the workers’ center as monthly sustainers, or simply as supporters of grassroots labor organizing on campus and beyond. Regardless of your level of familiarity with the Workers’ Center, I hope this email gives you a feel for what the TCWC does and why it deserves your support.
I first became involved in the Workers’ Center’s transformative local work as an intern in June 2017. My efforts included building a coalition of businesses in favor of a county-mandated living wage and documenting the stories of working-class folks across the county who are struggling to get by on sub-living wages.
I proceeded to join the Workers’ Center’s board of directors, a position that has allowed me to play a hands-on role in the management of a non-profit organization that confronts local injustices head-on and speaks truth to power. In addition to our efforts to boost wages, we provide a number of services that empower the local working class. This includes holding training sessions on occupational health and safety issues and running a workers’ rights hotline that has recovered over $1,230,000 in stolen wages for local workers. In response to increased immigration-related arrests under the new federal administration, the TCWC became the fiscal sponsor of an immigrant rights’ coalition that provides rapid responses to local ICE raids. The TCWC is constantly evolving to meet the newest challenges of capitalism.
As a grassroots organization, we exist only through the financial contributions of generous community members. With the Supreme Court bolstering attacks on organized labor and state workers rising up across the nation against austerity measures, local labor organizing has truly never been more important. With this in mind, I hope that you will consider participating in the workers’ center’s one-day crowdfunding effort at the following link: https://www.givingisgorges.org/organizations/tompkins-county-workers-center-f27bb780-3b8e-4558-bc40-96e1ac12d27b. If you would like to learn about ways to support our efforts in the long-term, I encourage you to become a monthly sustainer/member/checking us out on social media/encouraging people to reach out to us at the center.
Thank you so much for your time and consideration!